Matt Kavanagh letter to Tom Keell

210 West Rd
Southend-on-Sea
Jan.29/36

Dear Tom

Many thanks for letter & especially for “Bulletin” which will come in very usefull. I did not know Barr had written to you (I have seen him since) He wrote to me asking me to write, & I have no file of “Freedom” by me, only my memory to relie on, I wrote to you if you let me have some-thing to work on, I have told Barr, that its almost certain they will turn my article down, for one of the most important events in the history was the war, & your attitude on it. Talk about Hamlet with the Prince left out, & Freedom with T.H.K. left out. Barr knew nothing about that quarrel, he was abroad in the army at that time.

When my article is read before the Edit. Comm. G Cores will go stark raving mad, I would give a lot to be there, I have not had a really decent row for a long time.

E. Goldman came last Sun, & they had the biggest crowd in the Labour Hall in years, as the brunt of the work fell on me, I as quite proud. I worked for a return visit & succeeded, I want her back early in Feb while their interest is still warm, I sold myself twice as many tickets as all the others together did, I sent your friend Sweetlove 5/- worth. Took 2 for himself and Mrs. S-, but he had put E G up for the night, she’s a celebrity. He wouldn’t give a poor comrade a tanner for his doss.

Barr tells me he is disappointed over S. Wales he was expecting to book up a number of lectures there for the Labour College, but they will not give more than 10/- a lecture, & he will not agree so that is off for the present.

I have been tonight to see a man connected with the “Little Theatre” movement, & he has promised me he will do all he can, to get her dramatic lectures & that we may be able next time she comes here, to get to stay over & lecture Sun. & Mon. I have worked hard in this town its time it showed some results.

I do not get to London much now, as I am getting the old man now, I have been laid up with congestion of the lungs, & as I am all alone in one room, it was a bit rough, & put a stop to my open-air meetings. I hear Cores & Humphries are at logger-heads all the time. G.C. is just where he was in 1912, he still wants to be editor, and there are several others who want to be, & not one of them would turn out to sell the paper, that beneath their dignity. Barr is a level headed man & a good worker but he some job as sect. of the Freedom Group.

I am glad you are keeping well, & hope to see you early in the summer, all being well when I go to see Janet Grove.

Yours Fraternally,

M. Kavanagh

Notes on names

Thomas H. Keell (1866-1938) had been editor of “Freedom” from 1913 until 1927. As the paper begin to financially flounder he moved Freedom Press and “Freedom” from London to Whiteway Colony near Stroud in Gloucestershire. Between 1928 and 1932 he published “Freedom Bulletin” on an irregular basis.

Ralph Barr was a London based anarcho-syndicalist. At the time this letter was written he was secretary of “The Emma Goldman Lecture Committee”. In early 1937 he would become a member of the CNT-FAI London Bureau set up by Emma Goldman on her return from Spain. On the 17th July 1938 he spoke with Emma Goldman, Tom Brown and Mat Kavanagh at a mass meeting in Hyde Park to commemorate the Second Anniversary of “the Revolutionary Struggle In Spain”. Later he appears to have stolen money collected for Spanish refugees – an incident which Ethel Mannin wrote about in the short story “Downfall of a Comrade” published in her collection “No More Mimosa” London: Jarrolds, 1943.

George Cores (1869-1949) had a history of clashing with Keell over what he, and others, felt was Keell’s proprietary attitude towards “Freedom”. They had criticized Keell’s move to Whiteway feeling he had failed to consult the movement in his decision. As a consequence Cores was part of the group that produced the London based newspaper “Freedom” (1930-36).

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) At the time of Kavanagh’s letter Goldman was based in London. In terms of her talk at Southend Goldman obviously was pleased with the result.Writing to Alexander Berkman on 22nd January 1936 she said “the League of Youth for whom I lectured insisted on two more lectures” comparing this with a lukewarm response in Plymouth and elsewhere.

Tom Sweetlove was involved in the Anarchist Eductaion League in 1913-14, and later in support for Russian anarchist prisoners and exiles. A collection of his poems is in the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam.

John Humphrey eventually became the editor of “Freedom” (1930-36). He wrote numerous pamphlets including “The Colour Bar” London: International League of Peoples, nd; “Fascism” London: Italian League for the Rights of Man, nd and “A Letter to Youth” nd (1936?)