Chronology of the Great Dublin Lockout, 1913-14

by Padraig Yeates, author of  Lockout: Dublin, 1913 (2000)


The Great Dublin Lockout was the culmination of a series of  major urban-based industrial conflicts in modern Ireland. For a time it overshadowed the Home Rule crisis. It evoked strong emotions on all sides and constituted a major challenge to the conservative middle-class Catholic consensus which dominated nationalist politics.


It did not emerge from a vacuum. Several attempts had been made since the 1880s to introduce the ‘new unionism’ to Ireland, aimed at organising unskilled and semi-skilled workers who had traditionally been excluded from the predominantly British-based craft unions. It was 1907 when Jim Larkin arrived in Ireland as an organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL), whose general secretary James Sexton was himself a former Fenian. However the Liverpool-Irishman’s fiery brand of trade unionism, characterised by militant industrial action combined with a syndicalist political outlook, was more than the NUDL could tolerate. After spectacular initial success in Belfast, where he succeeded briefly in uniting workers in a demand for better pay and conditions, Larkin proceeded to organise NUDL branches in most of Ireland’s ports. It was his handling of a Cork docks strike in 1908 that provided an opening for his dismissal. Sexton accused him of unauthorised use of union funds to issue strike pay before the NUDL executive had sanctioned it. Larkin was imprisoned for embezzlement following a court case where Sexton was the main witness for the prosecution.


Far from destroying Larkin’s reputation, however, his imprisonment made him a hero for a generation of young Irish socialists who campaigned successfully for his release. Once free, Larkin set up the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) at the beginning of 1909. Dublin became the centre of gravity for the new union, which rapidly became the largest in the country. In the first half of 1913 an aggressive campaign of industrial action in Dublin resulted in wage increases of between 20 and 25 per cent for groups ranging from dockers in the port to agricultural labourers in the county. So successful was the campaign that the Lord Mayor, Lorcan Sherlock, prompted by Dr William Walsh, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, proposed a conciliation board for the city. The Chamber of Commerce had nominated its members and Dublin Trades Council was about to nominate its members when the Lockout began.


The prime mover was Ireland’s leading Catholic nationalist businessman and former anti-Parnellite MP, William Martin Murphy. He had been ill in early 1913, but when he discovered that Larkin had been recruiting members in the Dublin United Tramway Company (DUTC), of which he was chairman, Murphy began to root them out systematically. He began by summoning the workers to a midnight meeting in the Antient Concert Hall in July 1913, and gave due warning that any man who stayed in the ITGWU would be sacked. The late hour was to ensure the tramcar operators and conductors could all attend after services stopped running for the night. They could reflect on Murphy’s warning on the long walk home.


Murphy subsequently began dismissing employees suspected of ITGWU membership in the DUTC and in another of his major businesses, Independent Newspapers. Larkin advised his members in the DUTC against going on strike, but when the handful left said they would leave the union if he did not sanction industrial action he allowed them to ballot on 25 August 1913 in the ITGWU headquarters at Liberty Hall. They struck the next day, 26 August. He told them to stop the trams at 9.40am when most of the vehicles with ITGWU crews would be in the vicinity of Nelson’s Pillar on Sackville (later O’Connell) Street the nexus of the system. Murphy had the trams up and running within the hour with the use of ‘scabs’ or strike-breakers.


The following days saw numerous rallies in support of the strikers, stoning of the trams, the arrest of strike leaders for making seditious speeches and the proclamation of a meeting Larkin called for 1pm on Sackville Street on Sunday 31 August. Other trade union leaders tried to defuse the situation in the city, where widespread rioting had broken out, by organising a march from Liberty Hall to the union’s recreational centre, Croydon Park in Fairview.


Larkin had other ideas, however. He had himself smuggled into William Martin Murphy’s Imperial Hotel on Sackville Street and he managed to speak briefly from the balcony on the first floor before being arrested. Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) constables on duty outside baton-charged the crowd, leaving 400 to 600 seriously injured, many of them respectable middle-class mass-goers. It became known as Bloody Sunday.


The next morning the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) began in Manchester. Delegates were appalled at reports of police brutality, confirmed by eye-witness accounts from Dublin Trades Council representatives who described in graphic detail what had happened. The TUC pledged total support for the Dublin workers. During the Lockout over £93,000 was sent in cash, food and fuel by the labour movement in Britain, enabling the strikers to hold out until January 1914. Without this, the tramway strike would probably have spluttered out within a couple of weeks.


Lockout: diary of events



19 July  William Martin Murphy, President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company (DUTC) calls his workers to a midnight meeting in the Antient Concert Hall in Great Brunswick (now Pearse) Street. He warns them that he will sack anyone who is a member of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). Over the next 6 weeks he dismisses l  hundreds of employees.

21 July Management issues notice to employees in the parcels department of the DUTC and tells them only to re-apply for their jobs if they are not in the ITWGU.



15 August  Murphy sacks forty men and boys in the despatch and delivery office of the Irish Independent. Newsboys refuse to sell Independent newspapers and delivery vans are attacked. Murphy offers a reward for information leading to arrests and convictions of those involved.

17 August  Dublin Farmers’ Association agrees to increase weekly wage for agricultural labourers from 14s to between 17s and 20s for sixty-six- hour week and to use ITGWU members to cart produce to city markets.

22 August  Murphy visits the headquarters of the British government in Ireland, Dublin Castle, and is promised support from Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the military if he goes ahead with his plan to force a showdown on Larkin and his union

26 August  The first day of Royal Dublin Horse Show sees all trams on Sackville Street stop and the strike begin. Workers seek pay rises ranging from 1s to 2s a week. Murphy brings in ‘scab’ crews to operate buses with DMP escorts to provide protection. Trams are stoned and company has to stop services after dark. Mass meeting held in Beresford Place outside Liberty Hall. Thousands attend. Larkin says this is not a strike but a Lockout.

28 August  DMP detectives raid the homes of Larkin and other trade unionists who addressed rally outside Liberty Hall. They are charged with incitement before Police Magistrate E.G. Swifte. Swifte is a substantial shareholder in the DUTC. Dozens of trade unionists are charged in the police courts with intimidation, obstruction and stoning trams. Another rally is held outside Liberty Hall where Larkin calls for a mass demonstration on Sackville Street on Sunday 31 August.

29 August  Swifte proclaims the meeting on Sackville Street and Larkin burns a copy of the proclamation at rally outside Liberty Hall. He promises to speak on Sackville Street on Sunday, ‘dead or alive’. The police baton charge the crowd.

30 August  James Connolly, who has come from Belfast to help run the strike, is arrested and charged with incitement. He tells Swifte ‘I do not recognise the English government in Ireland at all’. Swifte tells him he is talking treason and sentences him to three months. Riots break out in Ringsend and spread to Great Brunswick Street, then the north inner city around Liberty Hall. Fifty-year-old labourer John Byrne is beaten senseless by police on Butt Bridge and 33-year-old labourer James Nolan is attacked by police on Eden Quay. They are taken to Jervis Street hospital where both men die of their wounds.

31 August  Dublin Trades Council and senior DMP officers agree the unions can hold a rally at Croydon Park in Fairview. Larkin goes to the Imperial Hotel and attempts to address crowd on Sackville Street. Police baton charge causes between 400 and 600 injuries. Trade unionists returning from Croydon Park attack police. Cavalry deployed in O’Connell Street and infantry in Inchicore to contain rioting.



1 September  The TUC conference in Manchester is appalled at ‘Bloody Sunday’ reports in newspapers and delegates pledge support for ITGWU men locked out in Dublin. Meanwhile more employers lock out ITGWU members.

Dublin Corporation discusses the crisis. It is dominated by shopkeepers and small businessmen who support John Redmond and Home Rule. They do not like unions, but many are appalled by the behaviour of the police. The Lord Mayor Lorcan Sherlock calls for a public inquiry, while Dr James McWalter, whose surgery ‘was crowded with absolutely harmless, inoffensive citizens returning from devotions, who had all been batoned’, proposes that the DMP and RIC be withdrawn from the city.

The Coroner’s inquest into the death of James Nolan takes place. He was a member of the ITGWU, which paid for his family to be legally represented. Several witnesses give the numbers of the policemen who attacked Nolan, but the case is adjourned. There are disturbances outside Jacob’s biscuit factory as ITGWU members on the afternoon shift are turned away at the gate. Rioting resumes on both sides of the Liffey.

2 September Seven people die when two tenements at 66 and 67 Church Street collapse. Three children die, including six-year-old Elizabeth Salmon. Her seventeen- year-old brother Eugene died when he tried to rescue her. Eugene Salmon was one of the ITGWU workers locked out by Jacob’s.

3 September  The funeral of James Nolan takes place. Thousands follow the coffin to Glasnevin cemetery. A guard of honour is provided by 200 striking tramway workers in uniform and Keir Hardie, Britain’s first Labour MP, attends.

William Martin Murphy unveils his strategy to smash the ITGWU at a meeting of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Over 400 employers agree not to employ members of the ITGWU. Over the next few days thousands of workers are told to sign forms resigning from the union or disassociating from it if in another union. 1500 men laid off in the coal trade alone. Larkin is released from prison on bail. He faces charges of riot, unlawful assembly and sedition.

Keir Hardie, addresses a mass meeting in Beresford Place and warns Dublin Castle that the Labour movement will back Larkin and the strikers against any move to crush them.

5 September  The funerals of the Church Street victims are held. William Martin Murphy is given police protection. Effigies of him are burnt in the city by angry crowds.

6 September The female suffrage paper the Irish Citizen expresses concern at the plight of women workers locked out by Jacob’s and their families. It says ‘A conflict which suddenly throws out of employment over 600 girls cannot fail to be of deep concern to all who are interested in women’s conditions of work’. It reminds readers that Larkin has always promoted women’s rights, and contrasts his position with that of John Redmond, who refuses to seek votes for women in the promised Home Rule parliament.

7 September  British TUC and Labour Party leaders join speakers from the Dublin Trades Council at a mass rally on Sackville Street to assert freedom of assembly. It is one of the largest demonstrations ever seen in Dublin. The leaders later meet with employers in an unsuccessful bid to end the Lockout.

8 September  The poem ‘September 1913’ by W B Yeats appears in the Irish Times.

9 September  James Connolly goes on hunger strike in Mountjoy and Larkin takes the ferry for England on his first fundraising tour.

13 September  Connolly is released from prison after escalating his protest to a hunger and thirst strike. A rally is held outside Liberty Hall to celebrate his release. He is too weak to attend.

Industrial unrest spreads to County Dublin where agricultural labourers riot in Finglas, walk off the St Lawrence estate in Howth and place pickets on farms across the county. Some farmers seek police protection.

14 September  Larkin tells a mass open air meeting in Manchester: ‘I have got a divine mission, I believe, to make men and women discontented . . . Hell has no terrors for me. I have lived there. Thirty-six years of hunger and poverty have been my portion . . . Better to be in hell with Dante and Davitt than be in Heaven with Carson and Murphy . . . I am out for revolution, or nothing’.

15 September  Ten thousand railwaymen in the English west midlands, and three thousand workers on Merseyside, black goods from Dublin in spontaneous, unofficial, strikes. Among the ships stranded is the SS Hare with a consignment of Guinness for London. British union leaders order the men back to work while another TUC delegation travels to Dublin to renew negotiations with the employers. The strike suffers a further setback when Dublin railway workers reject a call by the Trades Council to join the strike. They are still recovering from a lockout organised by William Martin Murphy and the chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway, Sir William Goulding, in 1911. With the railways running, goods can be transported through other Irish ports.

The Coal Merchants’ Association buys a motorised lorry and finds it can deliver forty tons a day, as much as nine carts. More lorries are imported and Murphy sets up a fund to help smaller employers buy motorised vehicles.

18 September  The Irish Women’s Franchise League transfers its weekly open-air meetings from Foster Place, beside the Bank of Ireland, to Beresford Place, beside Liberty Hall as a mark of solidarity with the strikers.

21 September  James Connolly, who is deputising for Larkin, tells the press: ‘We are willing – anxious, in fact – to have a Conciliation Board’.

22 September  The employers formally reject Lord Mayor Lorcan Sherlock’s proposal to set up a conciliation board. Only three of the city’s six Irish Party MPs are willing to support his initiative. The army begins regular strike-breaking duties, taking over escorts for deliveries to state bodies and publicly funded institutions.

In Liverpool, TUC leaders negotiate the release of the strike bound SS Hare. Dockers agree to unload the Guinness cargo and the ship is re-stocked with food. The TUC orders 12,500 loaves to be baked at the Co-Op bakeries in Belfast and Dublin for delivery at the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company’s old Manchester shed on the South Wall.

27 September  The SS Hare docks with £5,000 worth of food supplies. James Seddon, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC, and Harry Gosling, President of the National Transport Workers’ Federation (NTWF), accompany the ship. It sails into Dublin flying the NTWF colours.

The Lord Mayor convenes a meeting in the Mansion House to collect funds. Initially only £106 is raised. Later a total of £6,482 is raised. The money is distributed through parish committees that vet applicants to ensure no help goes to strikers’ families. Applicants can also be disqualified if they refuse an offer of work as a strike-breaker.

The British labour movement raises over £93,000 to help the strikers and their families. Another £13,000 comes from other sources, mainly British Labour and Socialist Party branches, Irish unions and trades councils.

29 September A Board of Trade inquiry opens in Dublin Castle, chaired by Sir George Askwith, a civil servant and industrial arbitrator. The tribunal also consists of Sir Thomas Ratcliffe Ellis, secretary of the British Mine Owners Association and J. R. Clynes, chairman of the Gas Workers and General Labourers’ Union. At the hearings Larkin engages in sharp exchanges with William Martin Murphy, George Jacob and the employers’ legal counsel, T.M. Healy MP. Larkin tells the tribunal that accommodation in Mountjoy prison is better than in the tenements. In his attack on the employers he declares: ‘We are determined that Christ will not be crucified in Dublin by these men’.

While the tribunal sits many workers appear in the Dublin Petty Sessions for intimidation, obstruction or failing to pay rent. The bench is dominated by employers and landlords, who impose fines, prison sentences and evictions.

Farmers decide to bring in the harvest themselves in some parts of County Dublin. The ITGWU is prevented from holding a protest march through Swords. Arson attacks on crops and farm buildings begin.



4 October  A second food ship, SS Fraternity, arrives from Britain.

5 October  The Parliamentary Committee of the TUC decides it will stop sending cash to Dublin, but will continue to send ships with food and fuel. This marks the beginning of a policy to distance itself from Larkin, who is refusing to cede leadership of the dispute to the TUC.

Askwith’s tribunal recommends that workers abandon the sympathetic strike weapon and employers their lockout. It proposes a conciliation and arbitration system to resolve disputes. After a brief adjournment the unions accept the findings ‘as a basis for negotiation’, but the employers reject them.

6 October  The Miners Federation  national conference in Scarborough calls for a general strike in Britain to support the Dublin workers.  A Northumbrian delegate says he favours ‘syndicalism, anarchism or even nihilism, if by those means we can combat Murphyism’. The motion is passed with only one dissenting vote.

7 October There is widespread criticism of the employers’ decision to reject the Askwith recommendations, most famously in an open letter by the artist and writer George Russell (AE) in the Irish Times addressed to ‘The Masters of Dublin’. In it he issues a warning to ‘the aristocracy of industry in this city, because like all aristocracies, you tend to grow blind in long authority . . . You may succeed in your policy and ensure your damnation by your victory’.

Former Irish Party MP Tom Kettle, now Professor of National Economics at University College Dublin, organises a meeting in the Mansion House to call for a ‘truce’ in Dublin’s industrial war. His Industrial Peace Committee includes Oliver St John Gogarty, William Orpen and future 1916 Proclamation signatories Joseph Plunkett and Thomas MacDonagh. The only employer representative is Edward Lee, who publicly challenges Murphy’s lockout strategy. Kettle asks the audience: ‘Does anyone think that hatred and uncharitableness are foundations on which we can build a great city… We cannot live an eternity in a state of war.’

Guinness boat crews refuse to handle ‘tainted goods’ in the port and are dismissed. Guinness chairman Lord Iveagh refuses to join Murphy in locking out workers, but the board donates £100 to the Dublin Employers’ Federation contingency fund.  Although a teetotaller, Larkin rejects calls to boycott Guinness products.

10 October  Larkin is guest of honour at a rally in the Memorial Hall, London, where he tells the audience that British trade union leaders were ‘about as useful as mummies in a museum’ because they refused to sanction sympathetic strikes in Britain. Dora Montefiore, a leading British socialist and feminist, proposes that strikers’ children can be cared for by British families until the strike was over

13 October  A delegation from the Industrial Peace Committee meets Dublin Trades Council, which agrees to a ‘Truce’, if the employers agree.

The Toiler appears. It replaces the Liberator, produced in August. Both claim, like the ITGWU’s Irish Worker, to represent the workers’ cause, but most of their stories attack Larkin. The Liberator’s aim was ‘to restore the esteem in which the Dublin Trades Council was held’ before ‘bogus socialists’ took it over. The Toiler claims that Larkin is the illegitimate son of James Carey, who had informed on the Fenian group, the Invincibles.

14 October  Secretary of the Dublin Employers Federation, Charles Coghlan, issues a statement that it is impossible to deal with the workers ‘due to the domination of the legitimate trade unions by the Irish Transport Union’.

15 October  Police battle strikers in Bray harbour to protect coal imported by Heiton & Company.

18 October Another food ship, the SS New Pioneer, arrives at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay with 30,000lbs of food stuffs.

Posses of strikers begin hunting down ‘scabs’. In Luke Street strike-breakers flee their homes and 300 workers riot in Denzille Street when the DMP rescue a strike=breaker at Wallace’s coal yard.

Dora Montefiore arrives in Dublin to bring strikers’ children to foster homes. Three hundred British families have offered to take them. She has several helpers, including Lucille Rand, daughter of a former US Senator and Governor of California, Henry Gage and Grace Neal, a founder the Domestic Workers’ Union in London. They talk to mothers in Liberty Hall, where, Dora Montefiore recalled, ‘The passage leading to our room was blocked from morning till evening with women and children’.

20 October  The first group of six children accompanied by their mother take the mail boat to the country cottage of leading suffragist Emmeline Pethwick Lawrence in Surrey.

Tramway workers begin returning to work. Many are threatened with eviction from DUTC company houses and car men (drivers) face having their licences revoked by the DMP. The DUTC only takes back ‘men with a good record’.

21 October  Archbishop Walsh condemns Dora Montefiore’s scheme and says that any women willing to part with their children ‘can be no longer held worthy of the name of Catholic mothers’.

22 October  Lucille Rand brings fifty children to Tara Street baths to be washed and ‘clothed with English charity garments’, as the Evening Herald describes them.  A large mob led by five priests from St Andrew’s church in Westland Row arrives. The priests say they are acting ‘on the directions’ of the Catholic Archbishop Dr Walsh. Most of the children are prevented from travelling to England and Rand is arrested on suspicion of kidnapping children. The complaint has been lodged by Josephine Plunkett, the wife of Count Plunkett. One group of eighteen children is successfully smuggled aboard the SS Carlow at the North Wall that night. At an evening rally in Beresford Place Larkin declares the clergymen ‘a disgrace to their cloth.’ He adds that the ‘religion that cannot stand a fortnight’s holiday in England does not have much bottom or very much support behind it’.  Murphy’s newspapers begin publishing the names of parents who consent to their children participating in the so-called ‘Dublin Kiddies Scheme’.

23 October  Lucille Rand is brought before the Police Magistrate in Kingstown and charged with ‘receiving’ eleven-year old George Burke, knowing him to be stolen. Dora Montefiore appears as a defence witness, but is herself charged with feloniously taking away George Burke with the intention of depriving his father of his custody. Both women are remanded on bail.

Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) organise patrols with priests at railway stations, Dublin port and Dun Laoghaire to prevent the ‘deportation’ of children. The shipping companies offer priests ‘every facility in seeing that no children are being smuggled away’.

8,000 ITGWU members march through Dublin in protest at the employers’ rejection of the Industrial Peace Committee’s initiative. Women marchers head the parade with banners stating ‘Our men shall not give in’ and ‘Women workers locked out by the sweating employers of Dublin’. Increasing numbers of employers use their positions as Justices of the Peace to issue firearms licences and revolvers to strike- breakers.

24 October  On Larkin’s advice Dora Montefiore agrees that the next batch of seventeen children should be sent to Catholic homes in Belfast,  but they are prevented from boarding the train at Amiens Street (now Connolly) station by ‘A compact, shouting, gesticulating, fighting crowd of Hibernians’. AOH leader John Dillon Nugent tells a rally that ‘We are patient with poverty; we are patient with the violation of our rights; but . . . we have no patience with them who would deprive the little ones of their faith’. There are clashes with ITGWU members outside Liberty Hall.

25 October  A last attempt to take children out of Dublin is made by Francis Sheehy Skeffington and Mary Lawless from Kingsbridge Station. An AOH mob led by Nugent and priests seize a boy, and three younger children flee after their father is attacked. Sheehy Skeffington is so badly beaten that the DMP intervene and arrest the assailants, including Nugent and two priests.

26 October  Larkin tells a mass rally in the Phoenix Park held on the eve of his trial for sedition that ‘The priest who says I dared to allow a child to be proselytised is a liar in his heart.’ Robert Williams, secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Federation, promises £2,000 to relieve immediate distress in the city. He is part of a TUC delegation in Dublin to discuss a new peace initiative by Archbishop Walsh.

27 October  The DMP raid Liberty Hall and seize union records. Larkin is arrested. Large crowds gather outside Green Street courthouse where mounted police maintain order. The handpicked jury only takes thirty minutes to find Larkin guilty of sedition. He is sentenced to seven months.   Two thousand workers gather outside Liberty Hall in driving rain that night to protest at his imprisonment. A procession of priests and Hibernians march past singing ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ to drown out the speakers. The DMP keep the two sides apart.

Former Parnellite MP Pierse O’Mahony (The O’Mahony) tells a meeting of the Industrial Peace Committee in the Mansion House that ‘even if a victory were ultimately won by the employers it would not lead to permanent peace in this city’. He warns that ‘organised labour is always more moderate than disorganised labour’.

Dr Walsh tells a meeting of the Society of St Vincent de Paul that three city parishes are providing 2,450 breakfasts daily in their schools, double the usual number and 2,045 children had been clothed in four other parishes. He says the most fundamental objection to the Dublin Kiddies Scheme is that sending children to England ‘will but make them discontented with the poor homes to which they will return sooner or later’.

28 October  James Connolly takes over leadership of the ITGWU while Larkin is in prison. He announces the end of the Kiddies Scheme, saying the money spent on boat and train fares would be better spent on food in Dublin.

T.D. Rudmose Brown, Professor of Romance Languages at Trinity College, writes to the Irish Times protesting at the attacks he witnessed on Dora Montefiore and her helpers. He suggests that ‘All this seems to provide an interesting foretaste of the joys of unfettered Rome Rule to which we are hastening’.

29 October  A large group of strike-breakers from Britain arrive at the North Wall to work for T & C Martin timber merchants. Rumours spread that the TUC plans to reduce aid to Dublin.

Dora Montefiore and Lucille Rand appear in the Northern Police Court and the Attorney General agrees to hold over the kidnapping charges after the women give undertakings to leave Ireland. Lucille Rand subsequently appears to have suffered a breakdown. AOH members join with the clergy in celebrating the end of child ‘exports’ to England. The Order declares it will set up a union to replace the ITGWU.

At a meeting outside Liberty Hall Connolly says that if Larkin is not released the labour movement in Dublin will send men to Britain to campaign against the Liberal government in a series of forthcoming by-elections. He warns employers that if they bring any more strike-breakers into the port ‘the streets of Dublin will run red with blood’.

A Liberal meeting in Poplar Town Hall, London, is broken up by protestors demanding Larkin’s release and Edward Carson’s arrest. Dublin Castle drops sedition charges against Dublin trade union leaders P.T. Daly, William O’Brien, Tom Lawlor and William Partridge . So far, 158 workers have received prison sentences and/or fines for rioting, and there have been 114 convictions for intimidation in the Dublin courts. The average sentence is six months.

Major G.B. O’Connor, a former Unionist parliamentary candidate in Dublin, condemns the ‘cowardly’ refusal of the six sitting nationalist MPs to repudiate the behaviour of the priests and their supporters.



1 November  A prison letter from Larkin is published in the Irish Worker. He writes that ‘This great fight of ours is not simply a question of shorter hours or better wages. It is a great fight for human dignity. For liberty of action, liberty to live as human beings should live’. He advises workers only to heed the advice of ITGWU officials James Connolly, P.T. Daly, Michael McKeown and William Partridge while he is in prison.

George Bernard Shaw tells a meeting in the Royal Albert Hall, London, that he is there ‘as a Dublin man to apologise for the priests of Dublin’. These are ‘very simple and ignorant men in the affairs of the country’ allowing themselves to be made ‘the cat’s paw of a gentleman like Mr Murphy’. At the same meeting James Connolly calls once more on British workers to vote at every by-election ‘against the Liberal jailers’ until Larkin is released.

3 November  A group of women recruited in Crumlin to pick potatoes in north County Dublin march from Portmarnock railway station to Kinsealy chanting ‘Down with Larkin’.

Sixteen-year-old Mary Ellen Murphy from York Street is arrested after giving ‘a box in the face’ to another girl and calling her a ‘scab’ for passing the picket. As there is no room in Mountjoy women’s prison she is sent to the Sisters of Charity at High Park, Drumcondra, where they run a Magdalen laundry. Connolly denounces the move as jeopardising the girl’s virtue by making her associate with ‘fallen women’.

4 November  The ITGWU buries James Byrne, the branch secretary in Dun Laoghaire (Kingstown) after he dies of pneumonia. He contracted it on hunger and thirst strike in custody after being arrested on 20 October  for alleged intimidation of a labourer at Heiton’s coal depot. He claimed he had been framed. Over three thousand workers marched to Deans Grange cemetery to bury Byrne in an unmarked grave.

Fr Patrick Flavin of the Sodality of the Sacred Heart in Dun Laoghaire criticises the doctrine of the sympathetic strike and recruits men to his own Workers’ Union. Several men appear in the Police Court charged with assaulting Francis Sheehy Skeffington at Kingsbridge station, but charges against the AOH leader John Dillon Nugent and the priests are dropped. Sheehy Skeffington refuses to testify; ‘If more astute persons . . . cannot be put in the dock, I don’t want to press for punishment against these men’, he tells the court.

5 November  A delegation from the Dublin branch of the Shipping Federation visits Colonel Renny-Tailyour, the senior manager at Guinness’s. The Federation is the biggest employer body in Britain and tells him it plans to bring more strike-breakers into the Alexandra Basin the next day. Dublin employers demand that the Admiralty put ‘a Gun Boat or a Destroyer in the Liffey for protection against violence’ when the Shipping Federation brings ‘free labourers’ into the port. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell, rules out any naval involvement.

6 November  The Shipping Federation vessel SS Ella arrives in the Alexandra Basin with the first consignment of strike-breakers on board. The port is heavily guarded by the DMP and RIC. The military are on standby. The SS Ella is joined by the Lady Jocelyn and the Paris. By the following Monday, 10 November, there are 600 strike-breakers operating in the port. Many sleep on board the depot ships for safety.

Birrell announces the establishment of the government inquiry into the housing conditions of the working class promised after the collapse of the Church Street tenements two months earlier.

7 November  Murphy calls to Guinness’s and asks for financial aid, as otherwise ‘it would be impossible to keep together the employers’ interest in Dublin’.  No commitment is given, but before the end of the year Lord Iveagh privately gives £5,000 to the employers’ fund.

11 November  The Cabinet discusses the Lockout and its adverse effect on by-election results in Britain. Birrell is told Larkin’s seven-months sentence is ‘excessive‘.

The Industrial Peace Committee formally winds up its activities. Its final statement says ‘The employers feel their duty to themselves makes it impossible for them to pay any attention to the claims of Irish workers, or to public opinion in Ireland’.

12 November  Connolly pulls all of the ITGWU dockers out of Dublin Port. He says there have been ‘a dozen messages today from various firms asking for permission to unload their goods, and saying that if it was refused they would have to dismiss their men. All the better; if it were fifty firms involved it would serve their purpose just as well’.

13 November  Larkin is released from Mountjoy and is furious to find Connolly has called out the dockers in his absence. He was holding them in reserve as a final bargaining card. At a meeting outside Liberty Hall that night Connolly tells the crowd: ‘The next time we go out for a march I want to be accompanied by four battalions of our own men . . . Why should we not drill men in Dublin as well as in Belfast?’.

14 November  The Shipping Federation holds a general meeting to review the Dublin situation. Several firms are unhappy at the stance of Dublin employers, but £5,000 had already been spent supporting the Lockout and it was felt to be too late to draw back. £9,967 in total would be given to Dublin employers before the dispute ends. Like Lord Iveagh’s donation, details were kept secret.

Sympathetic action resumes in some British ports. Dockers refuse to load coal on the Ella when she returns to Liverpool to collect more strike-breakers. Railway workers in Wales refuse to handle ‘tainted goods’ from Dublin. But the action does not spread. Other workers await the outcome of a meeting between Larkin and the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC in London on Tuesday 18 November.

16 November Larkin launches a propaganda campaign in Britain ahead of meeting the TUC Parliamentary Committee. He tells a crowd in Manchester that ‘Jails are nothing to the horrors of the slums and the degradation going on in Dublin day by day’.

17 November  Two leading members of the Dublin Employers Federation, builders John Good and Henry McLoughlin, travel to London to address the United Kingdom Employers’ Defence Union (UKEDU), set up to create a £50 million fighting fund to smash sympathetic strikes. McLaughlin tells them that ‘The union we are against is the union of Syndicalism and terrorism, and the whole secret of the Dublin strike is written in the one word, “Terror”.’

In Dublin Lady Arnott tells the newly formed Women’s Unionist Club that the present troubles in the city were but ‘a prelude to the riot and strife and, perhaps, horrors unthinkable’ that would follow Home Rule.

18 November  Larkin, accompanied by William O’Brien and Tom McPartlin from the Dublin Trades Council strike committee, meets the TUC Parliamentary Committee. They want the TUC to agree to hold a special delegate conference. They hope the conference will support sympathetic action. The TUC agrees to hold a conference, but only delegates from unions affiliated to the TUC can vote. This excludes most Irish unions, including the ITGWU.

Larkin continues his tour in Britain attacking the TUC leadership, while Connolly urges ITGWU members in Dublin to attend a meeting of the Civic League, being established by former members of Tom Kettle’s Industrial Peace Committee, to discuss the establishment of a ‘Citizens’ Army’. The idea is that of Captain Jack White DSO, who wants ‘to keep unemployed men fit and self-respecting’. White agrees to a proposal from Connolly that he train ITGWU members.

19 November A protest meeting is held in the Metropolitan Hall, Dublin, over the dismissal of G.H. Walton, an employee of publishers M.H. Gill and Son for proselytising. A member of the Church of Ireland, Walton had been assisting at the Dublin Free Breakfasts for the Poor on Sunday mornings at the Metropolitan Church Buildings. The Society of St Vincent de Paul and other Catholic lay groups threaten a boycott of the company if it continued to employ Walton.

Connolly tells a meeting in Beresford Place that ‘any man who means in future to become a member of the Transport Workers Union must be prepared to enrol himself in the Citizen Army . . . we want our men to be trained and drilled, so that when it comes to the pinch they will be able to handle a rifle; and when King Carson comes along here we will be able to line our own ditches.’

20 November  Baskin farm in Raheny is attacked and crops harvested by strike-breakers are destroyed, along with the main barn. The owner, Miss Sarah Carey, is awarded £700, one of many claims for malicious damage by farmers during the dispute.

22 November  There are now nine hundred strike-breakers in Dublin Port and the depot ships are no longer capable of accommodating all of them. A house in Sheriff Street near the Port entrance and two more houses on Beresford Place at the opposite end to Liberty Hall are taken over. They are placed under permanent police guard. Many of the strike-breakers have come from other parts of Ireland as well as from Britain. When Lord Talbot de Malahide’s estate workers strike, he has no problem acquiring replacements from Balbriggan.

23 November  Larkin publishes an attack on the TUC leadership in the Daily Herald in his opening salvo to win the vote at the special delegate conference. He calls on Herald readers to tell their union leaders ‘they are not apologists for the capitalist system’. The TUC paper the Daily Citizen responds by telling readers Larkin ‘does no service to his cause, or to the cause of Labour, by sowing distrust between leaders and followers’.

Over 12,000 march in Dublin’s annual Manchester Martyrs commemoration, including large trade union delegations invited to participate by the chairman, veteran Fenian Tom Clarke. The Ancient Order of Hibernians and United Irish League boycott the event

24 November  The Local Government Board begins its inquiry into the Housing Conditions of the Working Classes in the City of Dublin. There is widespread outrage as shocking statistics show that the number of people in bad housing had now reached 118,461 and 13,800 people were living nine or more to a room. It subsequently emerges that seventeen city councillors are leading slum landlords, seven of whom are running for re-election in January.

The Citizen Army begins drilling at the ITGWU recreational centre in Croydon Park. It has enrolled 1200 members by 27 November and holds its first march through the city that day. They block trams but there are no incidents.

25 November  The Irish Volunteers are formed at the Rotunda Rink. Some Citizen Army men disrupt proceedings by heckling Lawrence Kettle. Besides being secretary of the Volunteers organising committee, he is Dublin City Treasurer and a son of Andrew Kettle, who had been one of the first farmers to bring in strike-breakers. Detonators are thrown and blows exchanged before the Citizen Army men are expelled from the meeting as the crowd sing ‘God Save Ireland’.

27 November  One-hundred-and-fifty leading Unionist businessmen in the ‘three Southern Provinces of Ireland’ issue a joint statement warning of the commercial dangers of Home Rule. The largest group comprises Dublin employers.

28 November Southern Unionists hold a mass rally in the Theatre Royal, Dublin in opposition to Home Rule. Over two thousand attend. They are addressed by Edward Carson, MP for Trinity College and the Conservative Party leader Bonar Law. The other Trinity MP, John Campbell says ‘I would rather suffer under the whips of Larkin than under the scorpions of Joe Devlin [Irish Party MP and leader of the AOH]. I honestly believe that I would have a greater chance of liberty, of personal judgement and of conscience under Jim Larkin and the Irish Transport Union, than I would under Joe Devlin and the Molly Maguires [nickname of the AOH]’.

Bread shortages loom in Dublin when ITGWU labourers refuse to deliver flour to bakeries using ‘free labourers’. Connolly tries to negotiate a return to work for dockers on condition that they would not handle ‘tainted goods’ from companies such as Jacob’s. His offer is rejected as all the employers have now recruited ‘free labourers’.

Connolly is criticised at a meeting of dockers in Liberty Hall for calling them out. Some permanent men had been earning up to £3 a week because of work diverted from strike-bound companies. They were now trying to survive of 10s-a-week strike pay. They demand Larkin’s return from his anti-TUC campaign in England to run the strike.

Havelock Wilson of the National Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union negotiates a return to work by members in Dublin over the head of local branch secretary George Burke, who supports Larkin. The union offices are moved from Liberty Hall to Commons Street.

28 November  Two strike-breakers with Tedcastle McCormick coal importers fire shots after being attacked by a crowd at Burgh Quay around 6.30 pm.. At least eight rounds are fired and fifty-year-old Bridget Rowe of Waterford Street is shot in the face while watching the disturbance from the steps of the Tivoli Theatre. At 11.30pm more shots are fired by strike-breakers and an off-duty DUTC conductor from the top of a tram in Sackville Street after a crowd of 500 surround the vehicle and try to immobilise it. Fittings are wrecked and the crew threatened. All the charges against the strike-breakers who fired the shots are subsequently struck out by the Police Magistrates, who fine and imprison prosecution witnesses on the basis of their own evidence.

30 November  The Sunday Independent carries a cartoon of a worker pointing a gun at a barrel of gunpowder marked ‘English Trade Unions’ and ending up heavily bandaged in bed under the slogan ‘To hell with contracts’ after it explodes. The latter phrase had been attributed to Larkin.



1 December At the quarterly meeting of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce drapery store owner Edward Lee tries to force a debate on the Lockout by proposing a motion that ‘while determinedly opposed to the principle of sympathetic strikes’ the Chamber, ‘in the interests of peace and good will, ought to withdraw the agreement they asked workers to enter into in respect of the ITGWU, which the workers consider infringed their personal liberty’. The Chamber decides not to put the motion to a vote.

2 December  Seventy ITGWU dockers return to work and unload the Antiope, which had been strike- bound for ten weeks. It contains grain for Shackleton’s mill in Lucan, the first company to lock out its workers.

Larkin and William O’Brien are called to a meeting in London of the Joint Labour Board, consisting of the TUC Parliamentary Committee, the Labour Party Executive and the General Federation of Trade Unions. They reluctantly agree to one last attempt to find a settlement before the special delegate conference on 9 December.

4 December  New talks begin between TUC, employers and the Dublin strike committee, but the employers insist on meeting with the TUC separately from local union leaders. The employers refuse to give any guarantees that all workers will be re-hired and want guarantees from the TUC that it will not assist unions that misbehave.

6 December  The TUC team brings Dublin unions and employers together for one last attempt to resolve the dispute. The TUC publishes figures demonstrating how much help has been given to the ITGWU. This is to counter Larkin’s accusations of lack of support. They show that at the end of November 14,968 workers in Dublin were being supported by TUC funds, of whom 12,829 are ITGWU members.

7 December  Dublin union leaders offer to guarantee ‘no form of sympathetic strike or other strike will be entered upon until the matter in dispute has been the subject of investigation by a local conference of employers and workers representatives’. But the employers will not guarantee strikers their jobs back. They say they will make ‘a bona fide effort to find employment for as many as possible and as soon as they can’. At 6am the talks collapse.

More strike-breakers arrive in Dublin port and the Irish Times announces that Dublin stores will be well-stocked for Christmas as goods are being brought in by rail via Belfast, Newry, Dundalk, Drogheda, Rosslare and Cork. Despite support from National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) members in Britain, Dublin railwaymen still refuse to join the dispute.

8 December  TUC negotiators, as well as the Dublin Trades Council representatives Connolly, O’Brien and McPartlin, have to sail on a boat crewed by strike-breakers to make the TUC conference in London on time.

9 December  The special delegate conference of the TUC opens in London. Nearly six hundred delegates representing 350 TUC-affiliated unions with 2.5 million members gather for the debate on the Dublin Lockout. It quickly becomes a personalised clash between Larkin and his opponents on the TUC. The key debate revolves around a motion from the TUC leadership calling on the Joint Labour Board to convene a special conference in Dublin of all unions involved in the dispute to ‘consider the entire position, with a view to a united policy by which the dispute might be brought to a successful conclusion without the sacrifice of any trade union principle’.  Jack Jones of the Gasworkers and General Labourers’ Union proposes a more militant motion calling upon ‘all unions having members engaged in transport work, either on land or on sea, to notify the employers . . . that on a given date they will refuse to handle blackleg cargo or merchandise going to, or coming from firms which have locked out the workers of Dublin’. Delegates representing 203,000 workers vote for Jones’s proposal, while the vote against imposing a blockade on Dublin is 2,280,000. Motions are passed calling for the release of strikers from prison and an end to the importation of strike-breakers, but the conference’s outcome represents a significant repudiation of the sympathetic strike strategy.

10 December  Connolly addresses a meeting of NUR men in Dublin. He tells them that ‘Irishmen have been smashed up by Englishmen before, but they have always come up smiling’. They agree to stay out a little longer, but in Swords farm labourers attend a meeting of a new Independent Labour Union sponsored by local farmers.

Connolly pens a furious article for the socialist magazine Forward. He says the help of the British workers over the previous four months represented the Labour movement’s ‘highest point of moral grandeur . . . But sectionalism, intrigues and old-time jealousies damned us in the hour of victory and officialdom was the first to fall to the tempter. And so we Irish workers must go down into Hell, bow our backs to the lash of the slave driver, let our hearts be seared by the iron of his hatred, and instead of the sacramental wafer of brotherhood and common sacrifice, eat the dust of defeat and betrayal. Dublin is isolated’.

By contrast, Connolly and Larkin’s erstwhile ally Robert Williams writes of the TUC conference in the NTWF’s Weekly Record that ‘We have now to regret that an epoch making movement has been temporarily stultified by Larkin’s want of good judgement, foresight, and tact’. Bob Smillie of the Miners Federation, angry at Connolly’s reference to aid from Britain as ‘fetters’ on the revolutionary potential of the Dublin working class, reminds him of the £1,000 a week in ‘fetters’ that miners supplied to keep Dublin’s revolutionaries going.

12 December Connolly phones Ernest Guinness and asks if he will take back boatmen dismissed in October for refusing to handle ‘tainted’ goods. Guinness refers the case to his father, Lord Iveagh, and says the situation is ‘very hard on the [dismissed] men’, but Lord Iveagh decides against reinstatement, believing they must serve as an example. Jacob’s also rejects pleas by Connolly to take back strikers. Four hundred women remain permanently blacklisted.

Renewed violence erupts in the city as strikers react angrily to developments and strike-breakers fire on them.

16 December  Five thousand men march from Liberty Hall by various routes to Croydon Park and about one thousand are drilled by Captain Jack White before marching in review past Larkin and Connolly. That night in Beresford Place Larkin says ‘scabs’ were not the only ones who could carry revolvers through the streets. He adds, to cheers, ‘When we have our brigades organised we will control . . . all the means of wealth, so that the workers and the producers shall share equally in the wealth of the world’.

17 December  A Joint Labour Board delegation arrives for a last attempt to resolve the dispute. It meets with all the unions at the Dublin Trades Council Hall in Capel Street. The delegates demand full reinstatement of all their members.

18 December  The meeting resumes and drafts four key points:  1. Withdrawal of the employers’ demand for workers to renounce the ITGWU     2. Consent to a commitment by the unions to refrain from any sympathetic strike action if a Board of Wages and Conditions of Employment is established by 17 March, 1914               3. No union member will be refused employment and no ‘stranger’ will be employed until all the ‘old workers are re-engaged’.    4. The plight of any worker not re-employed by 1 February 1914 will be considered at a special conference on 15 February 1914. This represents considerable movement by the unions from their demand for immediate reinstatement of all union members and a refusal to give an unconditional no-strike guarantee when talks broke down on Sunday, 7 December.

Talks resume with employers in the Shelbourne Hotel while a few streets away serious shooting incidents occur. In one of them a leading ship broker, John Holwey, vice-chairman of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, is shot accidentally by a strike-breaker as he passes an affray on Poolbeg Street. He is not seriously injured. In the other incident  a strike-breaker fires his revolver into the roadway in front of a crowd as a warning and a ricochet hits sixteen-year-old Alicia Brady in the hand. She is a member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, locked out of Jacob’s.

At the talks, William Martin Murphy, Charles Eason, master builder John Good and George Jacob dominate proceedings and insist on their right to retain ‘free labourers’ recruited during the Lockout. They will give no commitments on the number of union members who could expect re-employment. Their only concession is that no former employee will be refused work on the basis of membership of a ‘particular union’, in other words the ITGWU.

19 December  The Daily Herald publishes an appeal from Larkin calling on ‘rank and file’ trade unionists to repudiate ‘a black and foul conspiracy’ by the TUC to betray Dublin. Direct contributions to the Dublin Trades Council strike fund rise from £1,125 for the whole of November to £1,700 in the next two weeks, but it is no substitute for the £10,000 a week that had been coming from the official Labour movement.

20 December Talks between the TUC and employers collapse. Two strike-breakers are arrested after firing into a crowd on Sheriff Street.

The Irish Worker attacks ‘free labourers’ in terms that prefigure those used a few years later to characterise the Black and Tans. Free labourers represented ‘some of the lowest elements from the lowest depths of the criminal population of Great Britain and Ireland: this scum of the underworld have come here excited by appeals to the lowest instincts of their natures’. The paper rejoices that one of those shot was the ship broker, John Holwey.

Free labourers brought before the courts in shooting incidents continue to be treated leniently. One strike- breaker who fired on a crowd on Sheriff Street was fined £2 and another is ordered to pay a surety of £20. The same magistrate imprisons an ITGWU member for a month after he trips up a DUTC cleaner and another striker receives a month’s hard labour for throwing a stone at a tram.

22 December  The TUC ships £9,009 8s 9d worth of food to Dublin for the Christmas holiday period. The shipment is accompanied by James Seddon, one of Larkin’s principal targets in his attacks on the TUC. Seddon plans to spend Christmas in Dublin distributing food.

23 December  Bailiffs try to evict Larkin’s family from their rented home at 27 Auburn Street. He is out on union business, but his wife Elizabeth barricades the doors and refuses to leave. Solicitors for the ITGWU obtain a stay of execution.

Most strikers’ families are now living on 4s or 5s a week. Since September an estimated £400,000 has been lost to Dublin’s working class communities in wages. About £17,000 has been received in strike pay, £50,000 in provisions and another £10,000 in other contributions. Meanwhile, the city-centre shops bulge with luxury Christmas goods.

25 December   The Christian Union feeds 550 men and women, the Mendicity Institution 1,000 men and the ITGWU throws a giant Christmas party for 5000 strikers’ children at Croydon Park with the assistance of James Seddon.

Trams running on Christmas Day are stoned on the High Street and a DMP man is thrown into the Liffey after scuffles between strikers and the police. Members of the congregation leaving Christmas mass at City Quay parish church join in the fracas on the side of the strikers.

29 December  Two hundred workers at the Morgan Mooney fertiliser plant in the Alexandra Basin become the first large contingent of ITGWU manufacturing workers to abandon the strike. However, Larkin has managed to ensure they return on their old pay and conditions.

The Miners Federation, the biggest contributor to the Dublin fund, issues a circular to members asking if they wish to continue making contributions. Durham miners’ MP John Wilson says Larkin has become ‘inflated with pride . . .  and . . .  threatened to stop the whole of our industries’. Wilson denounces the sympathetic strike tactic as ‘a boomerang policy, in that the greatest suffering falls on workmen’.




4 January  The ITGWU buries its latest martyr, Alicia Brady, the sixteen-year-old Jacob’s factory worker had contracted tetanus from her gunshot wound received on 18 December and died on New Year’s Day. Thousands follow her funeral cortege from her home to Glasnevin cemetery, where Connolly says ‘Every scab and every employer of scab labour in Dublin is morally responsible for the death of the young girl we have just buried’.

5 January  Nominations close for the Dublin municipal elections. Ten Labour or Larkinite candidates are nominated along with Walter Carpenter as a Socialist Party of Ireland candidate. Only three candidates are well-known strike leaders. These are Thomas McPartlin of the Carpenters’ Union, P.T. Daly, secretary of the Irish Trade Union Congress and Tom Foran, general president of the ITGWU. Nevertheless, the Dublin Strike Committee now pins its hopes on winning seats to achieve a breakthrough in the dispute. The revelation that many sitting councillors are slum landlords is a further boost to the Labour campaign.

The Commission into the Dublin Disturbances opens. Augustine Birrell reneges on a promise to appoint a working class representative and Larkin tells trade unionists not to testify before what he predicts will be a whitewashing exercise. There are seventy-nine civilian witnesses, most of them middle class, and 202 police witnesses. Most of the civilian witnesses’ testimony is highly critical of the police.

7 January  The Parliamentary Committee of the TUC finds there is only £1,500 in hand for the Dublin strike fund and writes to William O’Brien, treasurer of the Dublin strike committee, informing him that ‘remittances for this week would be the only ones that could be forwarded to meet the strike pay of the Dublin workers unless the rank and file responded more generously than at the present time’. Food shipments continue until February.

10 January  The most prominent eyewitness at the Dublin Disturbances hearing, Liberal MP Handel Booth, withdraws in protest at the ‘tainted atmosphere’.

The Lord Mayor, Lorcan Sherlock, who is running for re-election, warns citizens that ‘Socialism is gradually making its way in Dublin; there is a growing feeling to disrespect even religious institutions, and clever Socialists are prostituting the labour movement and dragging it along the road to perdition’.

13 January  Larkinites hold a torch-lit procession through the city.

14 January  Polling day in the municipal elections.

15 January  When the votes are counted, the Larkinites secure 12,026 votes to 16,627 for the Nationalists (Irish Party),  but only win one seat. Amongst the reasons are: the property franchise means a lot of workers do not have a vote; the Larkinite candidates spurn clientelist politics and fail to organise a door to door canvass, relying on the Irish Worker and mass meetings to get their message across; too many candidates are put forward in some wards; the weight of a hostile press and clergy tells against them, plus some Nationalists run on a ‘Home Rule Labour’ platform to confuse the issues.

Nevertheless, the Larkinites came within 150 votes of winning four seats. The one successful candidate was Henry Donnelly of the Coachbuilders’ union, who won a seat in the Labour stronghold of New Kilmainham. But the high hopes entertained by the Larkinites during the election campaign meant they felt their electoral failure all the more. One consolation was that P.J. McIntyre, editor of the anti-Larkin black propaganda paper The Toiler, only secured eleven votes when he ran in New Kilmainham.

16 January  A convoy of coal carts belonging to Heiton & Company is attacked by a mob on Abbey Street. Five free labourers are dragged from the vehicles and beaten ‘unmercifully’. The beatings only stop when a strike-breaker fires shots. One of the horses, a coal cart and lorry are hijacked by the mob.

17 January  Two free labourers, Thomas Harten and George Maguire, leave the safety of the Employers’ Federation House at 2 Beresford Place to go for a drink. They are attacked on the quays. Harten is kicked to death and Maguire badly beaten. The Dublin Employers’ Federation offer £100 reward for information leading to apprehension of the culprits. Police charge Thomas Daly, an unemployed coal labourer, with Harten’s  murder. He is already facing assault charges over attacks on two other ‘scabs’. The murder case against him quickly collapses, but he is given two years on the assault charges. By contrast, Patrick Traynor, the man who shot Alice Brady in front of numerous witnesses, is acquitted, while James Lewis, who shot John Hollwey, is found guilty of grievous bodily harm but released on his own recognisances and allowed to return home to Wales. The only death connected with the Lockout publicly condemned by the Lord Lieutenant, Aberdeen, is that of the strike-breaker Thomas Harten.

18 January  Strikers gather at Croydon Park where Larkin advises them to go back to work on the best terms available. His one injunction to them is not to sign the form renouncing the ITGWU. The next day 1000 dockers try to return to work, but only half are taken back.

19 January  The SS Hare brings one of the final food consignments to Dublin. Huge queues gather outside Liberty Hall next morning for food tickets

21 January  The TUC Parliamentary Committee tells Larkin and fellow Dublin strike leaders that no further material aid would be forthcoming. There are violent clashes in the city. One of the worst is when a group of strike-breakers arriving in a body for work at Tedcastle & McCormick’s is attacked on Tara Street. They are subjected to a shower of bricks, bottles and stones. Shots are fired on both sides. Twelve strikers are arrested. Following this incident Tedcastle & McCormick reopen negotiations on a return to work, as do several other companies.

23 January  The collapse of the Lockout overshadows the mayoral election on Dublin Corporation. William Partridge launches a ferocious attack on the re-elected Mayor, Lorcan Sherlock, for his betrayal of Dublin’s workers. Sherlock’s response is: ‘Who would believe that anything I could have done would move Mr William Murphy?’

27 January  The annual general meeting of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce gives a vote of thanks to William Martin Murphy on his Presidency and commissions William Orpen to paint his portrait. There are queues outside Liberty Hall for strike pay, but the only help available is some food parcels and one- way tickets to Glasgow, which about 100 ITGWU members avail of.

31 January  The United Building Labourers’ Union members return to work and agree to sign pledges renouncing the ITGWU.

3 February  The DUTC annual returns for 1913 show a fall in profits of 16 per cent and dividends are reduced from six per cent to five per cent.

16 February  The report of the Commission on the Dublin Disturbances is published and is indeed a whitewash exercise. It praises the police for their ‘conspicuous courage and patience’. Without ‘their zeal and determination, the outburst of lawlessness which took place . . . would have assumed more serious proportions and been attended by far more evil results’.

18 February  The Local Government Board of Inquiry into the Housing Conditions of Dublin’s Working Class is published and is unsparing in its description of the social crisis in the capital. It names the slum landlords on the corporation.

1 June  Larkin is elected President of the Irish Trade Union Congress. He tells delegates, ‘The employers know no sectionalism. The employers gave us the title of “the working class”. Let us be proud of the term. . . . Let us be comrades in the true sense of the word and join with our brothers the world over to advance the cause of the class to which we belong’.


Some concluding remarks

Dublin was a poor, culturally conservative backwater of the United Kingdom in 1913. It was a city divided by religion, politics, class and culture. Although it was expected to become the capital of Home Rule Ireland in a very short time, it was a very British city – much more so than Belfast.

The accepted political consensus was that everything must be subordinated to the Holy Grail of Home Rule. For example the Irish Party opposed votes for women because it would offend many conservative male nationalists, it opposed the extension of the British welfare state to Ireland because it would antagonise the Irish ratepayer and taxpayer who would have to foot the bill, and it abhorred Jim Larkin for his lack of social deference, syndicalist politics, Scouse accent and for fracturing the image of an Ireland united in its quest for greater self-government. For men like Murphy, Larkin personified all that was vulgar and repugnant about Anglo-Saxon materialism.

Murphy and his supporters had nothing against ‘respectable’ trade unions and Murphy had helped fund the Dublin Trades Council in 1884. But he questioned the wisdom of allowing unskilled and semi-skilled workers the right to join unions because he believed they generally lacked the intelligence and education not to be led astray by demagogues such as Larkin.

Dr William Walsh, the Catholic Archbishop and a generally progressively minded prelate, was more open minded and was anxious to create structures that would provide a conciliation and mediation system in the city. He came very close in 1913 but Murphy would not be diverted from eliminating the threat he believed Larkinism posed to his business empire and to his vision of what constituted Irish nationality.

Murphy would have broken the tramway strike relatively quickly except for two things. One was Bloody Sunday, which enraged liberal as well as socialist opinion in Britain, as well as Ireland,  and the other was his determination to break the ITGWU through the use of the Lockout tactic.

There were many unintended consequences of this strategy. One of the most paradoxical was that the aid from Britain and the interference that came with it propelled separatist tendencies within the Dublin trade unions. Another was that radical nationalists, already becoming disillusioned with the Redmondite project, saw the behaviour of the nationalist ruling elite in waiting as confirming all their worst fears. Far from being repulsed by Larkinism they sympathised with it. W B Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and AE all sided with the workers, as did every signatory of the 1916 Proclamation.

The power of the Catholic Church, demonstrated by the ruthlessness with which it suppressed the Dublin Kiddies Scheme, gave Southern Unionists a foretaste of what Home Rule would be like. The outcome of that battle gave fair warning that the rights of parents and children would be secondary to those of the Hierarchy in an independent Ireland.

It was the advent of the First World War that saved the ITGWU. The labour shortages and conciliation machinery introduced by the British government gave the whole trade union movement a lifeline and James Connolly provided a martyr. Larkin’s sojourn in America during the critical years from 1914 to 1923 marginalised him while Connolly became the dominant icon of the Irish left. The defeat in 1913 certainly helped disillusion Connolly with the continued efficacy of constitutional politics and helped make him a committed advocate of armed insurrection when the First World War broke out.

The central issue at stake in 1913, the right to Collective Bargaining still does not exist in Ireland although it is a fundamental legal right in 24 of the 27 EU member states. How far the collective memory of the Lockout still exists in Dublin is an open question but it is one to which answers might be obtained by exploring the city’s oral tradition and seeing how the families of the men and women of 1913 regard the Lockout today – and how their own family fortunes have fared since.


© Padraig Yeates