The effect of the great lockout on Co. Kildare
At 9.40 a.m. on Tuesday 26 August 1913, the lifeblood of Dublin’s transport system – the trams – stopped running. Striking conductors and drivers, members of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), abandoned their vehicles. They had refused a demand from their employer, William Martin Murphy, of the Dublin United Transport Company (DUTC), to foreswear union membership or face dismissal. The company then locked them out. Within a month, union leader Jim Larkin, had called out over 20,000 workers across the city in sympathetic action. This titanic struggle was played out in a city with the worst slums and the greatest poverty of any capital in northern Europe. The struggle involved 100,000 men, women and children, or roughly, a third of the city’s population. While mainly concentrated in Dublin city its effects would spread to the north Kildare towns of Leixlip, Maynooth and Celbridge and touch on many other parts of Co. Kildare.
Dublin in the year 1913 was a divided city and presented a picture of extraordinary contrasts. The gracious 18th century capital, once regarded as the second city of the British Empire, had descended, for the ordinary working family, into a crumbling, hungry and seemingly endless round of toil and want. Against this misfortune was an opulent and largely isolated middle class, secure with servants and a certainty that the new electric trams, motor cars and latest inventions from industrial England would only sweeten an already secure existence.
The Government inquiry into Dublin housing conditions, held in November 1913, revealed that in the city 5,322 tenement houses accommodated 25,822 families, or a total population of 87,305. No fewer than 20,108 families occupied one room each, 4,402 of the remainder had two rooms each. The recent census showed a population of 304,802, so that more than a fourteenth of the entire inhabitants of Dublin were living in dwellings unfit for human habitation. The census of 1911 had also revealed that 45,149 persons, or about one-seventh of the city’s inhabitants, belonged to the unskilled labour class who had to rely on the poorest paid and most casual employment.
Since the famine Ireland was pouring out emigrants to America, Britain and beyond, but those who were too poor to pay their fare out of the country drifted to Dublin. For the two decades prior to 1911 the city population increased by 20,648 persons, including many hundreds of Co. Kildare migrants. Dublin had once possessed thriving industries and commerce but restrictions were imposed on Irish manufacture and trade in the interests of English competitors. Once a thriving metropolis, Dublin was now an open festering sore. The death rate in Ireland’s capital was 27.6 per 1,000 – the highest in any city in Europe, the next highest being that of Moscow, at 26.3 per 1,000. In Calcutta, in the presence of plague and cholera, the rate was only 27 per 1,000. An earlier report on Dublin’s infant mortality revealed that professional and independent classes suffered to the extent of .9 per 1,000; the middle class, 2.7; the artisans and petty shopkeepers, 4.8; while for hawkers, porters, labourers, etc., the death rate was no less than 27.7.
The influx into Dublin of a huge volume of rural labour depressed wages and added to the tragedy of the slums. The average wage at the time for an adult male worker was 18 shillings a week, though 15s and 16s were often paid. Some employers were able to pay men as little as 14s for a 90-hour week, while women received 11s. One-fifth of this was spent on the rent of a miserable room. The workers of Dublin had fought for years for better working conditions and pay, resulting in a Shops Bill passed in 1910, which limited working hours to sixty per week – five and a half days. In the late 1900s Liverpool-born Jim Larkin, tall, impatient and dynamic, sprang upon the city, organizing the workers into trade unions. He had formed a new union – the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union – representing those engaged in the distributive trades in December 1908. The formation of the new union drew antagonism from the Dublin employers, but the workers, men and women, claimed the right of self-determination and objected to employers choosing whether they should join a union or not. William Martin Murphy, the strong-willed owner of the Dublin Tramway Company, said that he had no objection to the workers forming a ‘legitimate union,’ but he would not tolerate men joining a ‘disreputable union’ led by an ‘unscrupulous man’. On 21 August about 100 workers in the Tramways Company received the following notice:
As the Directors understand that you are a member of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union whose methods are disorganizing the trade and business of the city, they do not further require your service.
This was a direct challenge to the existence of the ITGWU. The first six months of 1913 were punctuated with strikes by men demanding higher wages. There was unrest in the silk and poplin manufacturing trade, the building trade and with the printers and the craft unions. Foremost, in the struggle for better pay and conditions for the general workers, was Jim Larkin and the ITGWU. Despite Dublin pay rates being way behind British wages, the claims of the ITGWU, representing the tram workers, were quite modest. The workers were looking for: a one-two shilling rise for conductors; two shilling rise for drivers; the working day to be capped at nine hours, or seven hours on Sunday; every man should receive his eighth day off, instead of the twelfth day; and finally, a week’s paid holiday a year. In his monumental work Lockout Dublin 1913 Pádraig Yeates noted: ‘These were hardly revolutionary demands.’
On the same day that the tramcar workers walked out, the flour-milling firm of Shackleton and Sons, in Lucan, Co. Dublin, told employees it had become aware that many of them had joined the ITGWU. This was a family-run firm, whose roots were in Ballitore, Co. Kildare. The Anna Liffey Mill was managed by three brothers – William Edmundson, known as ‘Willy,’ John and George Shackleton. (George Shackleton, of Ballitore, had taken the opportunity to set up improved mills and new milling establishments to be nearer to Dublin’s major port facilities, and to access foreign grain and markets. He acquired the Lyons Mill at the 13th Lock on the Grand Canal and the Grange Mill at the 12th Lock in the 1850s and entered into possession of the Anna Liffey Mill in 1860. The Ballitore Mill was closed in 1875.) Willy, the eldest, was something of a political eccentric. He had served on the Sinn Féin executive from 1907 to 1909, though he was attracted by its protectionist policies rather than the radical social policies that other members espoused. Shackletons now told their employees they must choose between their jobs and ‘Larkin’s union’. The men refused to foreswear the ITGWU and by the evening the mill was closed and pickets placed. William Martin Murphy wrote a letter to George Shackleton in reference to the housing and feeding of the mill staff and the fear of molestation of workers when leaving work and passing the pickets. On 28 August an official statement by the firm was issued, which stated:
It having come to the knowledge of the firm that some of our men had joined Larkin’s Union the men were informed that they could only retain their employment by ceasing to be members of Larkin’s Union. The men, having elected to remain members of Larkin’s Union, are now on strike. The mills are stopped for the present, but arrangements have been made to supply customers orders as usual.
Over the next couple of days George Shackleton received letters of support and sympathy from several quarters. Messrs. Shackleton had been unwilling to fill up the places of the strikers, and notified them that Saturday 31 August, was the latest date up to which they would be taken back if they complied with the company’s conditions. When the strikers did not return new employees began carrying out their work. The incidents at Shackletons suggest that some members of the Dublin Employers’ Federation needed little prompting to accept William Martin Murphy’s strategy of locking out workers. Murphy had been involved in an earlier successful lockout at the Great Southern and Western Railway, in 1911, and since had secured the support of other large employers for a citywide lockout of ITGWU members. The Irish Times praised the example set by the DUTC and Shackleton’s mill saying that if other employers followed suit ‘the strike would soon be at an end in Dublin’.
Strikers resented the workers who continued to operate the trams, and fights often took place between them. In fact, only a small number of tramway workers walked out: about 700 of the 1,700 in the company. The Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) protected the trams, and workers who were not on strike, and also escorted ‘scab’ labourers, many of whom were brought in from Britain. For their ‘service’ in protecting the trams William Martin Murphy gave the police the privilege of free rides on the trams, a privilege they enjoyed until 1938. The majority of members of the DMP were before enlistment either farmers or farm labourers – the bulk of recruits being from Co. Wicklow (1,166), Co. Kildare (1,133) and Co. Dublin (1,100).
On 28 August the police arrested Jim Larkin and four other leading trade unionists. Over the next two days many clashes took place and fierce baton charges resulted in numerous injuries. This reached its peak on Saturday night, 30 August, when, after a particularly brutal police charge, in the city centre, one man, James Nolan, a transport union member, was fatally injured. Another transport union member, John Byrne, died a few days later from head wounds received from a police truncheon. When Larkin was released on bail he called for a mass meeting in Sackville Street on Sunday, 31 August, which was promptly banned. However, Larkin vowed to address the meeting ‘dead or alive.’ An evening and night of rioting followed with the police launching forays into some of the poorer parts of Dublin, leaving 200 civilians and thirty police injured.
Many people began to gather in Sackville Street on Sunday and at midday Larkin appeared at a balcony window in the Imperial Hotel – owned by William Martin Murphy – and spoke to the crowd briefly. Uproar broke out on the street below and police savagely attacked the crowd in heavy baton charges. Somewhere between 400 and 600 civilians were injured in Sackville Street in the course of a few minutes. Only forty people were arrested, among them Jim Larkin. The event was quickly dubbed ‘Bloody Sunday,’ and led to further rioting in the city. The violence of the police aroused general indignation and led to the formation of the Irish Citizen’s Army by Captain J. R. ‘Jack’ White, Jim Larkin, and James Connolly.
The Citizen’s Army attracted recruits from the Dublin workers, and from trade unionists and socialists. Among them was George Geoghegan, who was born in the Curragh in 1881. He lived in Cork Street, Dublin, and was employed at Inchicore Railway Works. Geoghegan was a member of the Gaelic League, a trade unionist and bandsman with the Citizen’s Army St. James’s Band. He was killed in action at City Hall, during the Easter Rising, on 26 April 1916. Aged thirty-two he left a widow and three children. James ‘Jim’ O’Neill, of Leixlip, was also prominent in the Citizen’s Army. He was Quartermaster of munitions in the GPO, during Easter 1916, and was interned in Frongoch Camp, Wales. Jim O’Neill was appointed OC Citizen’s Army after the death of James Connolly, a position he retained throughout the War of Independence. He died in South Africa, in 1952. The several hundred members of the Citizen’s Army drilled with broomsticks and hurleys in Croydon Park, Marino, the grounds belonging to the Union. Over the long autumn of 1913 the Citizen’s Army marched alongside their comrades, guarding their demonstrations against attack from police. They also indulged in street battles with police and dispensed rough justice to strike-breakers.
On the morning of 1 September three workers in Jacob’s, one of Dublin’s largest employers, were dismissed for refusing to handle flour from Shackleton’s, the Lucan milling firm in dispute with the ITGWU. That same day Jacob’s locked out nearly a thousand employees at its biscuit factory in Bishop Street. Though the workers had been unionized since 1911, a notice had been put up on Saturday prohibiting the wearing of the ITGWUs Red Hand badge. When hundreds of women workers failed to report for work on Monday morning, and some of those who did refused to remove their union badge, the company declared a lockout. Later the Dublin United Transport Company locked out 250 engineering workers at its Inchicore works, after the bodymakers refused to repair trams damaged in the weekend riots.
At Wookey’s linen mills in Leixlip, thirty-six men walked out after the owner, Frederick W. Wookey, told them to resign from the ITGWU. There had been no dispute: Wookey had simply bumped into an employee in the village on Sunday and noticed that he was wearing a Red Hand badge of the ITGWU in his lapel. The man worked for thirty years at the mills and said he wore the badge only on his days off. Wookey told him that he would not tolerate him or any of his workers wearing the badge or being members of the Union and to consider himself dismissed if he continued to remain in the union. The following Monday morning (1 September) Union members of the mill turned up wearing their badges. On seeing them Wookey called on them to remove their badges or get off his premises. The thirty-six men involved walked out. Wookey told twelve women employees, who were not in any union, that he had no work for them until they could persuade the men to abandon their membership of the Union.
Frederick W. Wookey, of Weston Lodge, Leixlip, was a formidable sixty-one year old justice of the peace and waterflock manufacturer. He lived in a thirteen-roomed house, Weston Lodge, with his wife, Fanny, and their seven children, all of whom were born in Leixlip. His father, Francis Wookey, had managed the mills from as early as 1877. The flock mill, positioned on the south bank of the Liffey, alongside the famous Salmon Leap, was Leixlip’s largest employer, with a staff of around fifty. The mill cut up old clothes and turned them into stuffing for mattresses, padding, etc. It also made mattresses, exporting them from Dublin port. According to local historian John Colgan in Leixlip, County Kildare, Vol. I:
Mill employees worked from 6am to 6pm each Monday to Friday, with a half-hour break for breakfast and three quarters of an hour for lunch. They were summoned to work by a hooter going at 5.40am. They also worked Saturdays from 6am until 2pm. Boys and girls aged 14 to 16 years were paid 3 to 5 shillings per week; women, 4 to 7 shillings per week and men (who were carters, packers, etc.) 12 to 16 shillings per week.
Both Wookeys and Shackleton’s goods were ‘blacked’ in the sympathy strikes which were a feature of Larkin’s campaign. One of the Shackleton’s drove a steam wagon to the Dublin docks to collect grain and had no Quaker compunctions about bringing a loaded gun with him, which, it was remarked, he fortunately did not use. In the middle of September two employees of Daniel Buckley, general trader, Main Street, Maynooth, refused to handle a wagon load of flour which had arrived at the railway station from Shackleton’s mill at Lucan. After receiving twenty-four hours notice to consider their action, the men, who did not belong to any union, were dismissed. They were not replaced and their duties were performed by Mr. Buckley and his shop assistants. On 15 September Buckley wrote a letter to ‘Mr. Shackleton re unloading of Shackleton goods in Maynooth’. Daniel Buckley was a founding member of the GAA, Gaelic League and the Irish Volunteers in Maynooth. In 1906 he changed his name to the Gaelic version, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, and was fined for having his name in Irish above his shop and on his handcart, which at the time was illegal. His views on the strike were not recorded. Ua Buachalla led his company of Irish Volunteers to fight in Dublin during Easter Week 1916 and was elected in 1918 as a Sinn Féin T.D. for North Kildare.
MaryLawless, a strong unionist, was a friend of the Dublin strikers. She resided at Lyons House, near Ardclough, and asked her father, Lord Cloncurry, for a cow to provide milk for locked-out workers. Lord Cloncurry promised Mary that she could have her cow if she drove the animal to Dublin herself. He thought this would put her off, but he did not know of the generous substance of which his daughter was made. With a pair of stout walking shoes and a stouter heart Mary Lawless drove her cow right up to Liberty Hall to provide milk for the workers and their children.
As early as 30 August the Kildare Observer had reported that in addition to the tram strike attempts were being made to get men employed at harvest operations in the counties of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow to go out on strike. The conservative Observer said, ‘Foolish people who are endowed with little foresight will, of course, respond to the call, but any workingman who takes thought with himself will be slow to follow their example. Everyone ought by this time to know how futile those badly organized strikes are, that no benefit can possibly arise from them and that their only purpose is to bring grist to the mill of organizers and ruin and misery to unfortunate dupes and their families.’ There was very little unrest in the countryside, however, but on 21 October, when a threshing machine belonging to Mr. J. N. Wardell, Stacumney, Celbridge, was about to start working at the farm of Mrs. O’Connor, at Newcastle, the casual labourers engaged for the occasion refused to work in response to a call out from a representative of the Irish Transport Union. It was stated that the men’s action was due to the fact that the men in charge of the machine were non-union men. The machine was removed to the premises of Mr. Tracey at Roosk, where the threshing operations were carried out two days later with the aid of neighbouring farmers who turned out to assist.
The Observer also reported that Frederick Wookey had intimated to a number of his late employees that unless they gave him an undertaking to return to work he would be reluctantly compelled to take on other staff. However, up to that time Wookey had not given any official notice to those on strike.
On 11 and 13 September George Shackleton received letters from David Cook, Glasgow, in reference to supplying men during the strike and for wages for men employed during the strike. On 22 October Willy Shackleton announced that he was resuming normal business at the Anna Liffey Mill with ‘new staff’. This provoked nightly processions in the village, culminating in a riot when police cleared the streets with batons. On the night of 23 October the striking workers of Shackleton’s held a meeting and demonstration in Lucan. The procession was headed by the Lucan Fife and Drum Band, and at 10.15 p.m. halted outside the residence of Willy Shackleton, which was attached to the mill. There was a large force of police present, but they didn’t interfere with the crowd as no incident of a riotous or unlawful nature came to their notice. Willy Shackleton – a courageous man – stood in the doorway of his residence, a .45 revolver in his hand. The band struck up some airs. Several in the assembly threw stones at the windows in the residence and mill and succeeded in breaking many panes of glass within range, but because of the commingled music and shouts from the crowd the noise of breaking glass was drowned out.
On the following morning the police were shocked by the report of the window-breaking and were determined that no further band performance or like demonstration would be allowed to take place. Fifty extra police were in duty in the town, on the following night when another procession marched to Lucan accompanied by the Leixlip Fife and Drum Band. The Leixlip band, it was stated, was unaware of the events of the previous night. The demonstrators arrived in the village about 9.00 p.m. As they passed the RIC Barracks they were joined by Head Constable Phillips and a force of twenty-five constables. At the Liffey bridge the police went in front of the procession and Head Constable Phillips informed them that they would not be allowed to proceed further in that direction.
Altercations followed, and after a few minutes those on the outskirts of the crowd proceeded to throw stones and any ‘such materials as around, the workman’s hand had readiest found’. Head-Constable Phillips immediately ordered the police to draw batons and charge. The crowd withstood the rush unflinchingly, and a wild, confused conflict took place in which ten policemen and a dozen civilians were injured. In the course of the conflict the big drum was taken possession of by Sergeant Lyons, who gave vent to his feelings of exultation by putting his foot through it. The kettle drums were also kicked around the road by the police and rendered practically useless. Three men – Thomas Mills, J. Mulready and P. Lowry – were so seriously injured they required medical attention. They were attended by Dr. Daniel Hampson, who stitched the wounds inflicted by the police batons. A number of men, including J. Cullen, Philip Daly, and Peter Dunne, received minor injuries. Of the police Sergeant Lyons, received the most serious injuries.
According to the 1911 Census Thomas Mills was forty-six and a labourer in a wool factory. He lived in Lucan. J. Mulready was possibly James Mulready (16) of Leixlip, then a scholar, but two years later probably a worker. P. Lowry was possibly Patrick Lowery (29) of Lucan. The census recorded that he was a ‘cripple unable to work’, but his father was employed as a domestic labourer, his brother an agricultural labourer, and three sisters employed respectively, as a wool weaver, a factory darner and a factory weaver. Dr. Daniel Hampson (27) was a medical practitioner in Lucan, and a native of Co. Kildare. There were two Cullen families in Lucan and both had a James Cullen with siblings employed as labourers and warpers in one family and as woolen factory workers in the other. Philip Daley (43) was a flax miller, from Westmanstown, Lucan; Peter Dunne (30), an agricultural labourer from Tobermaclugg, Lucan. John Shackleton later received a threatening letter from an anonymous writer.
In October a large strike rally was held in Croydon Park, and James O’Neill led the Lucan and Leixlip contingents who marched to Dublin. They had formed another band and every man was armed with a serviceable stick. Lucan is over six miles f
rom Croydon Park and the local police – heavily-built, middle-aged men – who marched with them found the journey hot and tiring. At the gates of the Union grounds the police were refused admission, but the Lucan and Leixlip men had rest and refreshments. Later in the evening they came out and marched with the rest of the Citizen Army men to Beresford Place. The Lucan police, who had waited outside, fell in with them again. Arriving at Liberty Hall the Lucan and Leixlip men left the main body and began their homeward trek. They had got as far as O’Connell Bridge when the Lucan police sergeant approached Jim O’Neill. “Listen,” he said, “you’re not going to make your men march back to Lucan, are you? My men can’t stand it. I’m willing to pay their tram fares home!”
British troops had been drafted in to escort essentials like coal to military barracks, hospitals, prisons and government offices in Dublin. On October 1913 the Irish Times reported that fifty floats belonging to Messrs. Wallace Brothers were loaded at the Ringsend depot by troops and under an armed escort escorted through Westland Row, Brunswick Street, D’Olier Street and the quays to Kingsbridge where fifty tons of coal was railed to the Curragh Camp. Cavalry, carrying carbines, preceded the consignment and it was followed by a contingent of armed infantry. Pedestrian and tram traffic was completely suspended while the carts were passing, but the work was carried out without any interference on the part of those on strike.
By this time the strike had also spread to Dublin port and the Leinster Leader of 25 October 1913 reported that an order from Philadelphia for drawing-room carpets from The Kildare Carpet Company factory at, Mill Lane, Naas, were held up at the North Wall Depot. The carpets arrived at the Great Southern and Western goods railway station at the North Wall and were loaded on a vehicle and taken the short distance to the Burns Line of steamers on the quays. From there the carpets would go to Glasgow, the port from which Irish made goods were shipped to Philadelphia. The men in charge of the vehicle carrying the carpets were what was known as ‘free’ hands and when they arrived at their destination they were stopped. They were told the carpets were ‘tainted’ on account of their being handled by the carriers’ non-union employees and if they were accepted for shipping a general downing of tools would follow. Under these circumstances the carpets had to be brought back to the Great Southern and Western goods railway station where another route was found and the goods shipped to Britain and then the US.
Despite the setbacks support for the lock continued to be evident as the Leinster Leader of 29 November described in a report ‘Cheers for Larkin. Scene in Naas.’
On Tuesday evening last at six o’clock, as a number of girls were coming from the Naas Carpet Factory, they raised lusty cheers for Larkin as they emerged from Corban’s Lane and crossed the Main Street. The occurrence, needless to say, created a bit of a sensation, and gave some people the impression that there was a strike on, but their conjecture, however, had no real foundation. As the girls ran wildly through New Row in the direction of their homes, they continued to cheer, and their cheers were answered by residents who appeared at their doors, by counter cries of “Down with Larkin,” whereat the girls indulged in vociferous shouts of “Up with Larkin.” The incident ended with the arrival of the girls at their respective homes, and no further Larkinite demonstration took place.
The lockout continued to effect deliveries of material to and from the Naas carpet factory – and also to other manufacturing firms – which was already in serious financial trouble. A letter to the editor of the Kildare Observer, from one of the directors of the Kildare Carpet Company, Lady Geraldine Mayo, of Palmerstown House, was received on December 9th 1913:
Dear Sir,- May I trespass on your space and inform those friends who so kindly helped by giving me money and goods to start the Hostel for girl workers at the Carpet Factory that I have closed it. Owing to the general unrest and the difficulties that must ensue to all industries in Ireland, the directors of the Carpet Factory have decided that at present they cannot employ a greater number of hands than are available from Naas. I trust that times may improve, and that the Hostel may be re-opened under better circumstances in the future.
This signaled the end of Lady Mayo’s involvement and the Kildare Carpet Company, Ltd. soon after became the Irish Lace Depot, with registered offices in Dublin. The premises may have been idle for a while after 1913, and was bought by the Maguire family in 1922.
On 6 December the Kildare Observer reported that: ‘A number of men and women residing in Celbridge, who are employed in Mr. Wookey’s woolen mill, Leixlip, are during the continuation of the strike, being escorted to and from their work by the Celbridge and Leixlip police.’
In Britain, also beget by labour strife, Dublin was looked upon as a beacon of light by militant workers who held mass rallies, made collections, and sent food ships so the strikers could keep up the fight. But with the failure of the British Trade Unions to come out in sympathetic strike, the cause of the Dublin workers was doomed. By January 1914 the unions had lost the battle, lacking the resources for a long campaign. Supplies of money and food from Britain dwindled away. The unions had come close to winning, but when the Shipping Federation agreed to throw its weight behind the coal importers and other cross-channel operators the writing was on the wall. On the morning of 12 January 1914 nearly a thousand men, most of them dockers, reported for work. It was heralded as the end of the dispute. Six days later the leaders of the ITGWU met secretly. They advised their members to return to work, if they could do so without signing the hated employers’ document. Many were able to do this, but some employers still refused to take back workers who did not sign the document.
Two days later, the Builders Labourers Union – about 3,000 men – surrendered to the employers and signed the documents promising never to join the ITGWU. This was the turning point and the strike was seen as over. Other workers slowly drifted back to work on the employers’ terms. The Irish Times reported on 9 February 1914:
During the week the eighteen hands who struck work in the Leixlip Woolen Mills returned to work. It appears that at the commencement of the Dublin labour troubles Mr. Wookey, proprietor of the mills, intimated to his workers that he would not see his way to keep them in his employment if they continued to be members of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Eighteen men immediately struck work, but a number of others remained loyal, and the mill was kept running. The men who were reinstated during the week have renounced the Irish Transport Workers’ Union. There are a number of men still out who are anxious to return, but Mr. Wookey can find no employment for them at present.
The labour movement lost the battle, but in the long run, it won the war: the lockout meant that there was no going back to the horrors of pre-1913 Dublin. The great lockout which had been called forth by William Martin Murphy to crush the ITGWU, had failed. The employers had not won a total victory. Despite the return to work the ITGWU would go from strength to strength. Workers who had promised never to join the ITGWU slowly began to drift back into the union, and within a short time the ITGWU was the largest union in the city.
The real winners were the poor of Dublin. The social conditions which were the first cause of the trouble would no longer be tolerated. The sacrifices of the thousands of poor Dublin families during the lockout slowly began to pay off, as more attention was paid to improving housing, health and sanitary conditions in the city. The situation did not improve overnight, but took time. No longer could the wealthy classes ignore the poverty of their own city. The time for change had come.
An American historian, J. D. Clarkson, later wrote: ‘In the deepest sense, “Larkinism” had triumphed. The Dublin struggle had fired the hearts and minds of the working classes throughout the length and breadth of Ireland … Most significant of all, the most helpless classes had learned the lesson of its power and in the learning had proved itself worthy of Ireland’s bravest traditions.’
The lockout was more a clash of personalities and ideals. The self made millionaire, William Martin Murphy, was calculating and relentless in pursuing the destruction of the union, while the charismatic union leader, Jim Larkin, was arrogant, egotistical and reckless. The lockout was unnecessary, but inevitable given these two headstrong personalities. But the two principle figures never again reached the same degree of public influence. Murphy died in Dublin, in 1919, aged seventy-three. He had spent his last years in semi-retirement. Larkin left Ireland for a tour of America in 1914 and did not return until 1923. He returned to a changed Ireland, one he was not happy with. Larkin fell out with his old colleagues in the ITGWU and founded a new union, the Workers Union of Ireland (WUI). He remained dissatisfied with his country, and died in 1947, a disappointed man.
The Wookey family was beset by tragedy. Second Lt. Frederick Maurice Wookey died of wounds received at St. Eloi, France, on 15 March 1915. He was twenty-seven years of age.
Frederick Wookey died on 16 July 1918, aged sixty-eight, and was buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Leixlip. His widow, Fanny, sold Weston Lodge and prepared to move to England, where she had relatives. On 10 October 1918 Fanny boarded the R.M.S. Leinster, the Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire)-Holyhead mailboat. Just four miles (6 km) outside Dublin Bay the Leinster was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. Over 500 people perished in the sinking, among them Fanny Wookey.
Note: Co. Kildare Federation of Local History Groups will hold their annual AGM and Seminar in Kilcullen Heritage Center on Saturday 12 October 2013 at which author and historian Padraig Yeates will deliver a lecture on the Dublin Lockout. All welcome.
On the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Dublin Lockout we publish an essay by James Durney on its effects in Co. Kildare