Jim Larkin, the Irish folk hero, was born in England on January 21, 1876. Until 1911, he didn’t do a whole lot in his role as a leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), but once he was on his own as a leader in the union, things began to change.
In May of 1911, Larkin launched the Irish Worker, which was a newspaper, of sorts, that focused on the plight of workers in Ireland.
When the Great Labour Unrest of 1911 occurred, he got to work growing the ITGWU from 5,000 members to 15,000 strong, and then went on to exert a strong influence over Congress to form the Labour Party.
In 1913, Jim Larkin began to spread the ITGWU into the Dublin trams where stable workers existed, but the employers there did not want the union to be a part of their sector, in any way at all.
This was a part of what initiated the war of 404 employers versus more than 20,000 workers and put Larkin into the spotlight as a national hero.
Eventually, the labour party was defeated in a Lockout, and Larkin wanted to move on from what he saw as a dying cause in his country. In 1914, he moved to the United States, and while many expected him to return shortly after, he had other ideas.
While he was in the United States, Jim Larkin became a socialist public speaker, but he found it hard to make much money doing so. During 1915 until 1917, he received funding from Germany who was interested in his public speaking efforts as a way disrupt United States munitions.
Eventually, he joined up with the Socialist Party and worked from within to change it into a communist part of sorts. In 1919, he was jailed for criminal anarchy and spent some time locked up in Sing Sing.
In 1918 and for some years after, Jim Larkin tried to make his way back to Ireland but had a hard time doing so. He was jailed again, but in 1923, he was pardoned and sent to England. After this, he went back to Ireland and eventually lost his wife, Elizabeth, who had had enough of the life he wanted to live.
He also lost his place in the ITGWU but became a leader in the newly formed Workers Union of Ireland (WUI). In his older age, he was said to have slowed down and relax more, but he will never be forgotten as one of Ireland’s greatest folk heroes.
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