Jim Larkin was born into a poor family in Liverpool, England on January 21, 1876. His family moved to the small Irish village of Burren a few years later. This modest background helped to set the stage for the passionate ideals that would shape the rest of his life.
Growing up in poverty, Larkin’s work life began early. In order to supplement the family’s meager wages, he started work when he was just seven.
As a teenager, Larkin lost his father. “Big Jim” as he would later be known was deeply affected by the poverty and deprivation of his early years. So, by the time that he was a foreman working on the docks in 1905, it was perhaps unsurprising that he became involved in a strike on the Liverpool docks. Read more: James Larkin | Ireland Calling and Jim Larkin | Biography
It was his involvement in that strike that led to a position with the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). This continued until a rift developed between him and the group after a strike of Belfast dock workers. Out of this came Larkin’s creation of his own union in Dublin in 1908.
That new group, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU), quickly became a major force in the labor movement of the nation. In addition to establishing a labor union, Larkin also created the pro-labor newspaper “The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate” in 1911.
ITGWU remained a major force until 1913. That was the year of the Dublin Lockout. The outcome of the lockout was a devastating loss for ITGWU. This prompted Larkin to travel to the United States in an attempt to raise money.
While in the U.S., Larkin’s political sympathies and activities landed him in trouble. He was caught up in the First Red Scare, arrested and imprisoned for three years. In 1923, Larkin was deported back to Ireland after receiving a pardon.
He arrived back in Ireland to an enthusiastic welcome. However, there ended up being a rift between him and the union that he had founded.
Larkin died in 1947. He is still remembered as an important part of Dublin’s history.