James Larkin

James Larkin is a historical hero, a man who made a difference. He is known for establishing the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. James was born January 21, 1876, in Liverpool, England.

He was the second oldest son of Irish emigrants, and had little education. At just the young age of seven, he began to work in the afternoons after school to supplement the family income. For two years, after his father passed away, he was apprenticed to the same firm his father worked for.

After being dismissed, James lived without a job for a time but was able to begin work as a sailor and docker. He had an interest in socialism and in 1893 became part of the Independence Labor Party.

When a strike occurred on the docks, dew to foremen feeling treated unjust, James was one of the few that took part. Losing his foreman job on the docks, he was appointed as organizer with the National Union of Dock Laborers. With his new position and found purpose, he was sent to Scotland to campaign against Chinese Immigration.

James stood for fair conditions for workers. He wanted skilled and unskilled workers to be able to belong to one union that would benefit all of them. In 1907, he was sent to Dublin, where he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

This gave the outline of an eight hour days, pensions for workers at 60 years of age, nationalization of canals and railways, etc. But this was only the beginning for James. In 1913, Ireland’s largest and most significant dispute in history happened, The Dublin Lock Out.

This industrial strike included around 20,000 workers and lasted for several months. The Dublin United Tramway Company is where the strike begun. Tram car men and conductors abandoned their vehicles, and though the company chairman had a plan and had things moving only 40 minutes later, trams would not venture out at night for fear of stoning.

It only took a few days for things to run normally again because James only had 200 of the 800 employees on his side. The aftermath of this strike has left a historical day called Bloody Sunday, August 31, 1913. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

Rioting began the night before, fueled by the failure to stop the tram service and Jame’s speech. By the next morning, between 400 to 600 people were injured due to the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Royal Irish Constabulary.

After the the Dublin Lock out ended, James headed to the United States. Here he became a member of the Socialist Party of America. Again, James made a name for himself, supporting the Soviet Union, getting kicked out of the Socialist Party of America and getting arrested for criminal anarchy.

James returned to Ireland in 1923, receiving the welcoming of a hero and becoming involved in appealing the end of the Irish Civil War. In September of 1923, he formed the Irish Worker League, which was later recognized as the Irish section of the world communist movement.

James Larkin passed away on January 30, 1947, in his sleep in the hospital he was in. Thousands lined the streets on the day of his mass as his hearse passed through. To this day, a statue called Big Jim, stands on O’Connell Street in Dublin.

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