James Larkin: Historical Figure

James Larkin may have had the luck of the Irish. Indeed, Larkin was an Irish activist and labor leader. He started the labor organization known as the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

The ITGWU became the largest labor union in the region. But where did it all start? Perhaps it began on January 21, 1876, in Liverpool, England. For it was there that James Larkin was born.


He grew up there in the slums. He did not get much of an education. Instead, he worked a number of different jobs to supplement his family’s income.

As the years went by he moved up in the working ranks. He took the position of foreman at the Liverpool docks. Politically, he became interested in socialism. He believed that workers were generally not treated fairly by those who employed them.


Larkin was not all work and no play though. He met a woman named Elizabeth Brown and married her in 1903. They would eventually have four sons.


Larkin signed on with the NUDL (National Union of Dock Labourers). Two years after his marriage, in 1905, he would take the full-time position of trade union organizer. The labor organization reportedly often became concerned about his supposedly militant methods of striking. Two years later this resulted in his being transferred to Dublin, Ireland.


It was in Dublin that Larkin launched the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. It was his dream to bring together all the skilled and unskilled industrial laborers in the country. He would next go on to create the Irish Labour Party. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

Larkin led several strikes with the ILP. The most famous of these was the Dublin Lockout of 1913. He led over 100,000 workers on a strike that went on for approximately eight months and garnered the workers fair employment.


The ITGWU soon disbanded following the success of the lockout. Immediately following the start of World War I, Larkin held a huge anti-war protest. In addition to the initial demonstration, he went to the U.S. in 1914 to solicit money to battle the British.


Larkin was arrested and convicted of both criminal anarchy and communism in 1920. He received a pardon and then deported back to Ireland in 1923. He founded the WUI (Workers’ Union of Ireland) and in 1924 was officially recognized by Communist International. Larkin worked well into the 1940s. On January 30, 1947, he died in Dublin, Ireland.

Learn more about Jim Larkin: