Courage is not reserved for those of us who are lucky to have been born rich. James Larkin is one of the people, though born poor, faced the challenges head on. He was born in 1876 in the slums of Liverpool. He was a son of Irish parents. As a youth, he worked hard to supplement the family income, which was barely enough.
James had no formal education to help him get better employment, regardless, he was dedicated and hardworking, and landed a job at the Liverpool docks as the foreman. Larkin is historically known for his tireless fight for the rights of workers; both skilled and unskilled. He is often referred to as Big Jim.
While working at the docks, Jim Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). As a socialist, he eventually became a full time organizer of the Trade Union Organizers. While at NUDL, his approach was that of strike action, which did not auger well with the NUDL members.
He was, thus, sent to Dublin where he went ahead and formed the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). Larkin’s idea was to unify all Irish workers in one union to represent their needs. All workers, both skilled and unskilled, were unified and represented by ITGWU.
Through ITGWU, Larkin fought for the rights of all Irish people. He lobbied for pensions to be given to people when they reached retirement age. He outlined that people should work eight hours a day. He also demanded that all transportation mediums be nationalized so that they could be accessible to all workers.
Transportation mediums like canals, railways and all other means became available to the Irish workers. Jim’s slogan when he started being an activist was “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”.
Larkin later formed the Irish Labor Party, which he used to bring the workers together and call for major strikes from time to time. One of the major strikes that James organized is the 1913 strike that lasted for eight months.
The strike made approximately 100,000 workers to put their tools down until they won the right to fair employment. At the verge of World War I, Larkin organized demonstrations fighting against war.
To finance his activities, he traveled to the US so that he could raise enough money to fight the British. He was later deported back to Ireland after being convicted of communism and criminal anarchy, and he was later pardoned while at the US.
Although he is remembered as one of the legendary trade union activists, James was a married man and a father to four sons. He got married to Elizabeth Brown in 1903.
His wife passed on in 1945. During his lifetime, he did not drink, smoke or even gamble, but he occasionally took a cigar or a pipe. The 1930s were very tough for Jim since even the Catholic Church was against communism, an idea that Jim stood for.
He remained active until his last day. In 943, he was elected the Labor TD for the North Eastern region of Dublin. James died in 1947 and, though he was ambiguous about reconciliation with the church, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid came to his aid at his deathbed and finally conducted the requiem mass for him.
Jim Larkin – Biography and The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin