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Thread: james (big jim) larkin..liverpool/dublin

  1. #1
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    Mar 2010

    Default james (big jim) larkin..liverpool/dublin

    this man is revered by many dubliners his staue stands on dublins main st (o connell st)..he was the 2nd son of james larkin (1845-87) and mary ann mc nulty(1842-1911).
    big jim was born in the slums of liverpool in 1874.when he was 5 he went to live in co down in ireland.he had a poor upbringing and lived in abject poverty.
    at 12 yrs of age he returned to liverpool and worked on the docks, this is where his dedication to socialism began,and he went on to join the independent labour party and sold its newspaper "the clarion."
    in 1893 he became a foreman docker, but within a year he lost his job because he joined his men on strike.he joined the national union of dockworkers in 1901 and 5yrs later he became its general sept 1903 he marries elizabeth browne in a civil service in liverpool, they went on to have 4 sons.
    in january1907 he went to belfast to organise the dockers in 3 weeks 400 men had signed up to the union,by august the employers where worried and in august they decided to sack any union members this led to a long and bitter strike.
    in 1908 larkin came to dublin and was appaled at the working and living condition that the people of dublin had to endure.he seen that over 20,000people lived in cramped one room dwellings (slum tenements)..a habit of the employers at the time was to pay the men in the pubs.
    larkin was a non-drinker and he was known to have said .."when i came to dublin,i found the men on the quays had been paid their wages in public houses,and if they didnt waste their money there they would recieve no work the next time".
    a yr after larkin had came to dublin 2,700 men had signed up.he introduced the method of "blacking"
    whereby the dockers would refuse to handle work of goods by strike breaking companys.
    big jim was such a popular figure amng the dublin workers that even his own union seen his populrity as a threatand in 1909 they sacked him..this led jim to start his own union the irish transport and general workers union.(itgwu)
    in 1912 he went on to form the irsih labour party with james connolly(excueted for been a leader in 1916 rebellion)..he then went on to win a seat on dublin council but after a month was removed.
    in 1913 larkin led a strike involving carters,dockers, tram workers, and railwaymen..this led the employers to take action against larkin and the union, the employers leader william martin murphy was an influential figure he owned a large dept store a hotel and the irish independnt newspaper.
    he was also a director of the tramway company..this led him to pressurise his workers into signing a pledge not to join a union.those that refused to sign it were "locked out" (including my grandfather).
    and as many as 100,000 workers came out in solidarity..larkin was sent to prison for 7mths and the strikers where defeated..this is still know and rembered by some dubliners whose grandparents struggled through the "great lockout" it lasted 8 mths.
    larkin was released after many protests both in ireland and england,he traveeld to america speaking of workers rights.while in america he was arrested as the govt was worried by the threat of communism, larkin was one of 10,000 people arrested. his trial began in jan his own defence he stated "govt exsists to protect the rights of minorities.the loved and the rich need no protection-they have many friends and few enemies."
    he was found guilty and sentenced to 5-10 in the infamous sing-sing prison in new 1923 the governor of new-york ordered an inquiry into his arrest and trail and he was pardoned.
    he returned to dublin to a heros welcome.
    on his return he found things had changed and he was disliked by the then head of the itgwu (william o brien)in march 1924 he magaged to have larkin epelled from the union.
    larkin went on with his brother peter to form a new union the workers union of ireland.
    he again joined the labour party and became a city councillor and was twice elected to the irish govt.(the dail) 1927-32/1943-44..his last major success against the employer was to win the right to a fortnights holiday for maual workers after a 14 week strike.
    big jim died in his sleep in 1947 and is buried in dublins glasnevin cemetery which is a much visited shrine to a true honorary irishman...

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  2. #2
    Senior Member wsteve55's Avatar
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    Feb 2007


    Saw his statue,when I was in Dublin,recently! I recognised the name,but couldn't remember why,and made a point of looking it up on my return! Good to see he is commemorated.

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    Mar 2010


    Quote Originally Posted by wsteve55 View Post
    Saw his statue,when I was in Dublin,recently! I recognised the name,but couldn't remember why,and made a point of looking it up on my return! Good to see he is commemorated.
    yes wsteve he was a gifted orator and very much his own man,there are also a block of council flats,and a road named after him..peter o toole played his part in the tv series "strumpet city"..which tells the story of dublin tenement life and the events leading up to "the lockout" of 1913.

  4. #4
    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    Dec 2006
    Here, there & everywhere.


    When we played at the Scottie Road reunion, the James Larkin band were there too.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member gregs dad's Avatar
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    Aug 2007


    Paddy Rielly sings about him on his "Fields of Athenry" album

    My Flickr site:

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