The Lockout

The largest industrial conflict in Irish history.

In Dublin City in 1913
The boss was rich and the poor were slaves,
The women working and the children hungry,
Then on came Larkin like a mighty wave

Ballad of James Larkin, written by Donagh McDonagh.
In 1913, Ireland was in turmoil.  The country was divided by the issue of Home Rule – self-governance for Ireland.
In the capital, where a third of the population lived in appalling conditions in city centre tenements, employment was casual and insecure, people worked for meagre pay and trade unions were poorly organised.

Postcard of 'Big' Jim Larkin

Postcard of ‘Big’ Jim Larkin

Enter Jim Larkin, who arrived in Ireland as Organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers.  The union’s mission was to take industrial and political action, to give a voice to the working classes and improve their lives.

However, employers did not stand silently by.

A warning shot was fired when William Martin Murphy sacked hundreds of staff suspected of union membership.

In response, at 9.40am on 26 August, drivers and conductors left their trams on O’Connell Street to protest at the plight of their fellow workers.

Following the tram workers’ actions, Murphy ‘locked out’ strikers and installed non-union workers, labelled ‘scabs’ by trade unionists.

This marked the beginning of the industrial conflict that would become the Dublin Lockout.

Ultimately, some 20,000 workers were involved in strikes and lockouts.  Thousands of other casual and self employed workers faced destitution because of the knock-on effects of the dispute.

Anger and violence spread through the city.

The final days of August saw an increasing sense of disorder in Dublin.  This culminated in the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ (31 August 1913) when members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary injured between 400 and 600 people in violent baton charges on O’Connell Street.

My father was a Larkin man. He had the drum belonging to the first Jim Larkin band.


“I was born in the Rotunda Hospital in 1910. My mother and father lived in a house on Merchants Road down on the docks but we moved out of there in 1913 – the year of the big strike and Jim Larkin.

My father was a docker and a very hard worker he was. He was also the Drum Major in Larkin’s band.  They were known as “The Suffering Ducks” because of the hardship they went through to keep the band and the union together.

My father used to say to my mother: “I’m bringing the band down to Sheriff Street tomorrow to cheer up the people”.  All of the people used to come out of their houses to listen to them and when they were finished playing they would go into Garvey’s Pub in Commons Street where they would get stupid drunk.  My mother used to say he only brought them down there so they could go into the pub for a drink.”


“Me and my pals used to follow the crowds.  One day in 1913, we saw crowds of people going up to O’Connell Street so we followed them.

That was when the Dublin Metropolitan Police arrested Jim Larkin, the banned trade union leader at the Imperial Hotel (later, Clery’s Department Store).

The police baton charged the strikers and people who were just standing there, watching.  There were hundreds injured.

They were bastards, them DMP and the Royal Irish Constabulary.  They batoned men, women and children, they did.”

Proclamation prohibiting meeting 1913

Proclamation prohibiting the meeting of Larkinites to take place on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street)

The Dublin Lockout 1913

Dublin Metropolitan Police and Royal Irish Constabulary attacking the crowd on ‘Bloody Sunday’ (31 August 1913).

"I was born in the Merchants Road area. There were seven girls and one boy in the family but we were evicted because me Da was a Larkinite. We moved to Commons Street."


Do you have family memorabilia or stories about life in the North Inner City? We’d love to hear from you: