James Larkin is one of Ireland’s most famous socialist activists, trade union organizers and local heroes. He was born in Liverpool on January 21st 1867, to James Larkin and Mary Ann McNulty who were originally from Ireland.
They’re being two James’s in the family, James Jr. was known by many as Jim Larkin and later as “Big Jim.” Jim was poor and didn’t receive a formal education so he began working at a young age.
James senior died when Jim was only 14 years old, which put even more pressure on him to support his family. Jim later became a sailor and worked on the docks where he became familiar with working conditions, wages, and unions. He eventually joined the Independent Labor Party and participated in strikes. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and James Larkin | Ireland Calling
He was a hard worker and quickly ascended the ranks to become Dock foreman. This enabled him at the age of 27 to marry and support Elizabeth Brown and their two children James Jr. and Denis who would eventually follow in their father’s footsteps and become activists in their own right.
Jim’s participation in organizing strikes and his dedication to the worker union led to his election as a permanent union member for the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). Jim’s philosophy was always to organize non-violent strikes, which earned him the friendship and support of famous personalities such as, William Butler Yeats.
Larkin is responsible for creating the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, which helped Irish workers get better working conditions, pensions and the eventual nationalization of railways and other means of transport.
Jim is most famous for the Dublin Lockout in which he and James Connolly organized strikes that included over 100,000 workers. This led to the formation of the Irish Labor Party and eventually fair employment for all. His non-violent approach spread to anti-war activism and his travels to America.
Larkin toured America to raise funds and spread awareness of Ireland’s fight against the British. While in America, Big Jim joined the Socialist Party of America and after his friend James Connolly was executed during the Easter Rising strikes in Ireland he formed the James Connolly Socialist Club in New York City.
Jim’s involvement in communist activities led to his deportation back to Ireland where he would face criticism for his strange behavior. James’s lifestyle in America made him egotistical and many left his side. James would fight for the welfare of Irelands workers until his death on January 30th 1947.