Jim Larkin and the Rise of the Workers’ Union

James Larkin (also known as Jim Larkin) was an activist from Ireland. He was a founding father of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

His family emigrated from Ireland’s County of Armagh and lived in Liverpool. He was born in 1876 in Liverpool, England.

Since they struggled with work and money, Larkin family lived in a poverty stricken part of Liverpool which nowadays would not be deemed suitable for a family with children. Jim was working as soon as he was allowed to.

He went to school in the morning and then went to work afterward to support his family’s income as much as he could. It was very common in working class families back in those days. Larkin’s father died when he was fourteen years old, and Jim applied for an apprentice’s position in the company his father worked.

This post lasted only two years before Larkin was dismissed. Unemployed for a while, but later found a job on the docks as a sailor and a docker.

He became a dock foreman in 1903 when he was 27 and in the same year married Elizabeth Brown.

Beginnings in Labour and Unions

Jim Larkin was interested in socialism, so he joined the Independent Labour Party. He was a part of the strike on the docks in Liverpool that took place in 1905. A position on the strike committee cost him the job, but National Union of Dock Labourers was impressed with his actions.

In 1907 Jim Larkin had his first big task in front of him as a part of the trade union movement in Ireland. He traveled to Belfast to organize the dock workers for the NUDL. Under his leadership, the task was a success and Protestant, and Catholic workers joined forces.

They came out en masse, and the Royal Irish constabulary had to step in at one point. However, the strike did not achieve anything significant for the dock workers at that time.

Later in Life and Legacy

Larkin was later expelled from NUDL, so he created IRGWU or Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. In 1911 he was able to create a newspaper called The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate. Jim Larkin worked with the Irish Labour Party in 1912 and was later elected to Dublin Corporation. He couldn’t keep the s post for a long time, sine back in 1910 he had gotten under police scrutiny and had a criminal charge attached to his name.

In early 40s Larkin returned to Labour Party. The trade unions were on the rise, and he served in the party in Ireland during 1943 and 1944.

In 1947 Jim Larkin passed away in his sleep. He was administered extreme unction by Father Aloysius Travers and Archbishop of Dublin; John Charles McQuaid celebrated his funeral mass in the Catholic Church. There were thousands of mourners in the procession to the Glasnevin Cemetery.

Larkin left a legacy for others to follow. He believed in Labour party and trade Unions. His life was dedicated to making other people’s lives better because he had seen poverty and wanted something better for his successors.