Jan 28


Larkin statue

(‘Big Jim’ Larkin died was born 150 years ago on the 28th January 1874). What follows is an unedited extract from an essay by Joe Mooney and the late Sarah Lundberg, completed as part of the Alternative Visions Oral History Project. The final essay was one of two they contributed to “100 Years Later: The legacy of the 1913 Lockout” published in November 2013. This extract looks at the legacy of Larkin, whose influence is memorably described by an interviewee as ‘a radical ghost’.)

“His name endures on our holiest page”

 On the main thoroughfare of our capital city stands the iconic statue of Larkin, the centre of attention. Not a bad achievement for a man labelled in his day as “A menace to the peace of Ireland” and “the devil in human flesh.” Born of Irish parents in Liverpool, he had been a dockworker and was already an experienced trade unionist when he arrived in Ireland. He was an organiser for the National Union of Dockworkers (NUDL) and had been active in Scotland before arriving in Belfast in 1907. He was to come to greater prominence here, leading a strike that foreshadowed many of the tactics soon to be adopted in Dublin, and he had some success in overcoming sectarian divisions in the docks and shipyards. His brand of trade union militancy did not sit well with the leadership of the NUDL, and they soon parted ways, with Larkin moving on to found the Irish, Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU) in Dublin.

 So, what was Larkins brand of trade union militancy? Soon to be identified as “Larkinism” it was recognised as a form of syndicalism, then a common current in the international Labour movement.

 In 1911, the Dublin Correspondent of The Times offered this summary:

“For the present it is enough to say that the object of Mr.Larkins Union is to syndicalise Irish Labour, skilled and unskilled, in a single organisation, the whole forces of which can be brought to bear on any single dispute in the Irish Industrial world.”


Larkins fellow trade unionist James Connolly had been an organiser for the syndicalist Industrial Workers of The World (IWW) in the United States. In his “Socialism made easy” he very ably articulated the principles of Industrial unionism –

“that natural law leads us as individuals to unite in our craft, as crafts to unite in our industry, as industries in our class, and the finished expression of that evolution is, we believe, the appearance of our class upon the political battle ground with all the economic power behind it to enforce its mandates.”

 And he stressed

“Every one who has the interests of the working class at heart…should strive to realise industrial union as the solid foundation upon which alone the political unity of the workers can be built up and directed toward a revolutionary end.”

While Larkin himself produced no comparable body of written work, this vision of a trade union movement as a vehicle for a revolutionary, socialist transformation of society was one he shared. Connolly himself would later state that “Our fight in Ireland was neither inspired nor swayed by theories nor theorists. It grew and was hammered out of the hard necessities of our situation.”

 And as one contemporary commentator claimed: “Yet the school in which Larkin had been made and moulded as a labour revolutionary had been one of pitiful and sometimes terrible realism.”

 Both men shared a desire for “less theory and more action” and ‘Larkinism’ delivered this action, with the tactics of sympathetic strikes and the backing of tainted goods becoming key weapons in an escalating of Industrial conflict.

 The playwright Sean O’Casey was part of North Dock community during these years, and half a century later would write:

“Before Larkin came it was the bosses determined the hour the worker should begin the work; the time they should end the day; the food they were to eat; the sort of home they’d live in; the kinda clothes they were to wear (I never saw a worker wearing a tall hat!).We workers went through life with our heads down; if one dared lift a head to look a boss in the face, it was time to go, for, if he didn’t, a day after he would be handed his docket and the foremen of the job pointed out the road to him. The bosses are humbler now. Now the workers have a say about the hours they work, the pay they get, the homes they live in, the clothes they wear, though the cap still suits us far better than the glossy tall hat.”

Larkin arrived in Ireland in 1907 and seven tumultuous years later he left for America and would not return for almost a decade. While we are considering the legacy of Larkin a century after his role in the Lockout, it is worth noting that his mythological status had already been achieved at this early stage and would be passed on through the generations and was not something that was created over time. In fact, in subsequent years his many human failings became more prominent, his behaviour and role was not always a positive one, but this has not taken away from or in any way diminished his influence or reverence.

Jim Larkin (centre) in Belfast in 1907, with the Dockers and Carters strike committee.

Jim Larkin (centre) in Belfast in 1907, with the Dockers and Carters strike committee.

 Jim Larkin died in 1947, and his funeral was attended by thousands of workers across the city. Sean Oliver’s father was a child during the Lockout:

“For Dad, it was like the death of a god, also for his entire working class generation. Ever after for my father he was like a radical ghost, telling him what to do when he was in trouble … trying to get better wages . . . Larkin was a god to them. Any time my father got into trouble, and my god he got into trouble, he was nearly sacked several times; it was all about that union, all about bringing it back to Larkinism.”

Larkin rallies the working class


This, written in 1919, illustrates the stature he had already received by this time:

“Jim Larkin is the greatest figure in Irish Labour mythology. He has of course very human and realistic significance also, but his first association –possibly we ought to say concussion-with the Irish mind in general was distinctly mythological. To many he is non-human and mythological still. Historians used to hold the view that only after long periods of time do fighters and heroes become transhumans, colossal, legendary, in the racial imagination; latterly there has been a tendency to adopt the theory that the process may be swift if not immediate: that a bold or revolutionary individuality may become a figure of myth and marvel in his own era or the one succeeding it.

Whatever we may think of the general application of the theory there is no doubt of its truth in the case of Jim Larkin. He was a legend in less than a year after he had broken with British trade union officialism to extend his labours amongst the under-men in Dublin and throughout his native land.”

 The author also provided a less prosaic and more direct assessment of Larkins appeal to the Dublin workers:

“The folk in question had been mostly ignored or given up as hopeless by the older trade unionist leaders. In sooth it would not be unfair to say that these were not wanted or even considered by the majority of the strict and conventional unionists. Solidarity was little of a philosophy in those days amongst those who had guided the placid course of the unions, and it certainly did not extend to the “lower” ranks of toil. The majority of the “aristocracy of labour,” the proud and exclusive skilled artisans and craftsmen, had scant feelings of kinship with the weaker brethren, the dockers, carters and casual labourer, who lived mostly in slums, and were dominated and victimized by slum-owners, money-lenders, publicans and more.” 

larkin liberty hall

 Sean Oliver recalls his first manager in the bar trade

“who came to Dublin in 1910 and worked in the pub at the top of Kevin st in 1911…he told me that Larkin had inspired starving ill paid live in barmen to get off their knees and fight for decent wages and decent conditions.”

 Tommy Dunne’s family were amongst the workers locked out in 1913. His grandfather was a dray-man, and an early recruit into the ITGWU. His own father was always conscious of the great sacrifice and suffering of the time when he spoke of Larkin:

 “He just said he was what they needed, you know, there was nobody else to bring them up, to push them. He said it was amazing how many people, that were hungry and all, that went out for him. They were really bad; my father could never understand that …. He was a light for them at the time, I can understand that. The circumstances of employers having the upper hand, making people see that, they had the guts to go out with Larkin, and to follow him, which they thought was right at the time. In the aftermath, some of them would have been sorry, because of the devastation afterwards. Having nothing, trying to make ends meet, you know.”

During the Lockout the Dunne  family were among 62 East Wall families  evicted

During the Lockout the Dunne family were among 62 East Wall families evicted

According to the author and socialist, Liam O’Flaherty, writing in 1927: “The Dock Workers idolized Larkin. Somebody has said of him that he ‘seized the Dublin Workers by the scruff of the neck’ and made them stand erect.” 


Sean Oliver himself became active in the Trade union movement, and remembers an important moment:

“I joined the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, as it was then. I was one of the very last people to have seen it, the old liberty hall. I walked in and I couldn’t get over it, I was twenty two, twenty three years of age. When I went in and saw it I couldn’t believe the dirt and the dust, and yet it was full of history. And the next thing it was gone!”

 He also recalls the impact when “Strumpet City” was first published in 1969:

 “The novel was discussed endlessly. Elderly men were proud to have read it, perhaps the only novel they’d ever read, because they had lived through it.”

"The Risen People" - East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group commemorate 1913 Lockout

“The Risen People” – East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group commemorate 1913 Lockout

Sharing a recent bus journey with a retired North Wall Docker, travelling along the South quay we discussed the deaths of Nolan and Byrne in 1913. Looking over at the new Luas Bridge being constructed across the Liffey, he mentioned the campaign to name it:

 “I was asked what did I think of the name, calling it the James Connolly Bridge. I was against it; it should be the Jim Larkin Bridge. Everybody knows what Connolly done, but it was Larkin, he was the one, he started it all.”


A short video of 1913 Lockout commemoration in East Wall featuring “The Day they set Jim Larkin Free” by Black 47 (courtesy Larry Kirwan / Starry Plough Music):


(Statue photograph courtesy of East Wall photographer Karl Larkin).


CONTACT: eastwallhistory@gmail.com


Dec 12

“It’s not goodbye… see you later Lisa” – December 21st @ the Youth Club

Lisa is leaving

A message from East Wall Youth :

“As you may have heard Lisa is finishing up in the youth club… it’s time for her to move on from East Wall Youth please come and join us on Thursday the 21st of December at 6pm in the youth club to wish her all the best for her next adventure Hope you all can make it as we know she would love to see you all before she goes”.


Dec 03


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Oct 16

East Wall Halloween Festival 2023

Halloween 01

Halloween 02

Halloween 03

Halloween 04

Oct 16

October 2023 at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

Drinking Habits


And for the remainder of the month the fantastic new phot exhibition by James Rickard and Eddie Byrne will be on display, check it out when you are attending these shows.

James and Eddie

Framed prints can be ordered, and all proceeds are donated to the hospice.

Oct 16

Remembering Philip Chevron on his 10th anniversary -

Say A Song

A very special tribute event was held to celebrate the life and legacy of the great Dublin songwriter at the Sean O’Casey Theatre earlier this year. The annual Sarah Lundberg Summer School is held in memory of our friend and colleague who took her own life in 2014, and we felt that this event was one she would have loved, and was an appropriate tribute to the both her and Philip.

To mark Philips 10th anniversary on the 8th October we were delighted to share this playlist of all the contributions from that event, featuring family, band-mates, friends and collaborators all remembering him in their own way.

(A big thanks to Louis Maxwell, GracePark Productions and Conor McKenna for their great work recording and editing this content).

Sep 27

CAREER L.E.A.P. recruitment – next program starting October 2nd, 2023


Last call for Career Leap which is starting this Monday October 2nd. Are you unemployment and 17-25. We have the program just for you. Give Aimee a call on 0870980953 to secure the last few places we have.


Applicants can apply here: Career LEAP Application Form 2023 – Google Forms



Sep 24

“No Coward Soul : Jack Nalty (1902-1938)” by Steve Nugent .


No Coward Soul Front

First published twenty years ago (2003), “No Coward Soul” was the first comprehensive account of the life of Jack Nalty made available. Written by his nephew, Steve Nugent, his research ensured that the full story of his uncle achieved it’s rightful place and was not simply a few references found in accounts of the Spanish Civil War. Steve’s dedication to this work is all the more extraordinary given that he was living in Canada and in a largely pre-internet age tracking down the pieces of Jack’s life and finding people who held pieces of the story was no small feat.

This weekend the 85th anniversary of Jack Nalty was commemorated in East Wall, It is worth mentioning that the date of Jack’s heroic sacrifice (23rd September) was also the date of Steves birthday. Steve sadly passed away in 2017.

The book is long out of print, but we are delighted to make it available here to read online or download :



To mark the 80th anniversary of Jack’s death a plaque was unveiled in East Wall near the former family home. A new booklet “In pursuit of an Ideal” was published. While featuring additional material, this volume was based on Steve’s work and would not have been possible without his original inspiration.

It can be read online or downloaded here:

Jack Nalty In pursuit of an ideal

Nalty plaque

Sep 20

Jack Nalty – East Wall sports champion (and Republican soldier)

“Jack [Nalty] always gave of his best”


This year marks the 85th anniversary of the death of Jack Nalty , an East Wall man who died at the Battle of the Ebro on 23rd September 1938. A Republican , socialist and trade unionist , Jack had fought in the War of Independence and Civil War , and as an ITGWU organiser represented 600 workers in Dublin Port oil companies . In 1936 he volunteered to join the International Brigades to support the Spanish people against Fascism , and on the day when the Brigades were withdrawn from combat he was shot dead,having returned into danger to assist two British volunteers.

Jack Nalty with Dublin City Harriers third from left front row)

Jack Nalty with Dublin City Harriers third from left front row)

During the years 1925 to 1933, he also pursued another interest, a long distance runner with the Dublin City Harriers, winning championships on numerous occasions and even representing Ireland in 1931. The records of the club reflect his achievements:

In the seasons 1925-26 and 1926-27, he won the Seven Miles Cross-country Club Championships.

In 1927-28 he dead heated for the title and won it again in 1932-33.

Jacks medals (courtesy: Nugent family)

Jack Nalty medals front (2)

He is listed in individual performances in Cross-country Championships:

In 1927-28 – Second in the County Dublin Senior.

In 1928-29 –Third in the County Dublin Senior (“Nalty ran with great determination and finished a good third”).

In 1930-31 – Third in both the National Senior and the Connacht Province Senior.

In 1931 he received International honours when he represented Ireland in the cross country team at Baldoyle, County Dublin.

National Cross-country team 1931 (Jack in number 57)

National Cross-country team 1931 (Jack in number 57)

Following his death, the annual record of the Dublin Harriers recorded:

“Our season closed on a sad note when the Club members learned of the death of Jack Nalty in Spain, Sept. 23rd 1938. Jack always gave of his best; his name adorns many of our club trophies. R.I.P.”

Join us on Saturday 23rd September @ 1.30pm to commemorate Jack Nalty and his fellow Dubliner Liam McGregor (Inchicore) who died on the same day.

Jack Nalty and Liam McGregor commemoration

Assemble: St Josephs co-ed school , East Wall Road.

(Image: Dublin City Harriers , including Jack Nalty. Image courtesy : Nugent family / East Wall History Group)

Sep 10

“From the Calton to Catalonia” – Interview with playwrights John and Willy Maley

The Sean O’Casey Festival 2023 is delighted to present the Irish premiere of this acclaimed play by John and Willy Maley. Set in the 1930’s during the Spanish Civil War, it is based on the true story of their father James and other family members.

The story switches between a fascist prison in Spain and the tenements of Glasgow, as volunteer James and his comrades are facing possible execution, while their mothers, wives and sisters face a different struggle at home.

From the Calton


SO’C: Can we just start off by asking you about your fathers’ experience in Spain, as this is central to the story of the play?

 “Our father James Maley (1908-2007) was born in Glasgow, in the East End, populated by Irish immigrants. His father, Ned, came from Mayo as a young man. James joined the Communist Party on 16 February 1932, learned to use a rifle in the Territorial Army from 1934, and went to Spain in 1936 as part of the International Brigades to defend the Spanish Republic against General Franco’s fascist coup. As part of Machine Gun Company No. 2 of the British Battalion he was captured at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937 and held prisoner for several months before being released as part of a prisoner exchange. While he was incarcerated, a propaganda newsreel was shown in a Glasgow cinema and seen by his mother, who persuaded the projectionist to cut two frames from the reel. We grew up with these two images in the house – our father on the back of a lorry with his comrades, then lined up in a prison yard. When my father came back to Glasgow he had copies made for his comrades.”  

Newsreel footage - James Maley captured at Jarama February 1937 (front right)

Newsreel footage – James Maley captured at Jarama February 1937 (front right)

Newsreel footage- Prisoner James Maley (front row first right)

Newsreel footage- Prisoner James Maley (front row first right)

SO’C: Your father of course was only one of many Scottish volunteers, but is it fair to say that Glasgow seems to hold their memory in a particular high regard?

“Glasgow provided a large proportion of the British volunteers for Spain and hosted the city’s only significant socialist monument in the shape of a founding member of the Basque Communist Party, Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, better known as La Pasionaria, arms upraised, overlooking the Clyde. It was commissioned in 1974 by the International Brigade Association, which the help of the Labour movement in Scotland, and was finally unveiled on 5th December 1979 after the usual right-wing red-baiting. The sculptor, Arthur Dooley, was a communist and a Liverpudlian, best known for his sculpture of the Beatles depicting the Madonna cradling the band with the inscription: “Four lads who shook the world.” Dooley had a few church commissions in his portfolio, including one at Toxteth, and there’s a religious feel to La Pasionaria’s upraised and imploring arms. She is a kind of Madonna figure, and the men and women she salutes shook the world.”

La Pasionara / International Brigades memorial, Glasgow

La Pasionara / International Brigades memorial, Glasgow

SO’C: What was it that made you decide- this story needs to be told on the stage ?

“In 1990 Glasgow was European City of Culture. The publicity generated by Tory PR machine Saatchi and Saatchi was all empty corporate slogans. The real history of Glasgow as the hub of Red Clydeside, as a workers’ city, a European city, and a crucible of internationalism was glossed over. We didn’t have far to look for a subject that captured all the elements of the city that we felt were being excluded. We decided to home in on the extraordinary role played by men like our father and his comrades in the fight against fascism in Spain. The Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the anti-fascist activism of the 1930s, and in particular the part played by the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), a dress rehearsal for the Second World War, was a forgotten episode.” 

James Maley with La Pasionara statue, Glasgow.

James Maley with La Pasionara statue, Glasgow.


SO’C: And once you had the idea it very quickly made it to the stage. Did you think that three decades later it would reaching new audiences?

“The production history of the play is quite patchy, as you’d expect for a play that began as a community project, modestly funded by Glasgow City Council, yet the play has persisted through word of mouth. The play opened at The Pearce Institute in Govan on 3rd December 1990 and has been revived several times over the years, most recently in 2016 as part of Celtic Connections Music Festival in Glasgow. To mark the 30th anniversary of the original production in 2020 there had been discussions about Irish and Scottish productions, but of course COVID changed all these plans.” 

Glasgow tenements, the Calton. So similar to Dublin.

Glasgow tenements, the Calton. So similar to Dublin.


SO’C: One of the aspects of the play which really appeals to us is the similarity with the classic works of Sean O’Casey. The contrasting struggles of the men in the prison and that of their women family members in Glasgow is central to the dynamic, and of course, it’s also a very funny play, despite the subject matter. Was this a deliberate approach?

“Our influences in terms of theatre were O’Casey’s tragicomedies, Brecht’s epic theatre, and John McGrath’s agitprop. These playwrights addressed political history in ways that we found satisfying, blending comedy and seriousness, using songs and speeches, mixing intimate moments with the impact of politics on families and friends. We were aiming for something we jokingly referred to as ‘commie-tragedy’ – the treatment of a socialist past that was already part of history, and a closed book for many. We were writing at a time of deep reaction under a British Tory Government that had been in power for over a decade. It was not an easy time to be talking about communist activism, but it was as ever a vital time to be addressing the rise of the Right and the very real and continuing threat of fascism. In that sense the play has never gone out of fashion.” 


SO’C: Another obvious similarity with O’Casey is the authentic use of language. His Dublin characters on stage spoke like working class Dubliners and your characters speak like working class Glaswegians. Did you see that as an issue for others who might want to stage it?

 “We wrote the play in the Glasgow accent we heard around us, for a Glasgow cast and a Glasgow production. We expect an Irish cast to make it their own. We’ve never been precious about language and appreciate that the play can be updated, adapted, and the characters made to speak in different voices from the ones we had in our heads when we wrote it. This was just our version of Glaswegian, and was never set in stone. We’ve always seen actors as the proletariat of the theatre, and since they’re the ones out there on stage speaking the lines you have to give them some license to roam and find their own voice in the script. The lines are there to trip off the tongue, not to trip the actor up, so actors can make it work for them – make their own music as it were. There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a Scottish playwright sitting at the back of a theatre during rehearsals asking an actor if there was an apostrophe in the script and if not why did they put one there. That’s not us. Theatre is collaborative and the script is a green paper, not a blueprint.” 


Recreating history at the Sean O'Casey Theatre

Recreating history at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

SO’C: And I think it’s important for us to add that since we first discussed this upcoming festival production with yourselves you have been nothing but supportive and generous in your approach, and the actors have jumped in with both feet to their roles.

 SO’C: Now this is a very important question and one that cannot be avoided. Your family have Irish roots, you were born and bred in Glasgow, so tell us, there has to be a Celtic story in there somewhere?

“James Maley was a lifelong Celtic fan, and when he boarded the packed double decker bus in George Square in Glasgow in December 1936 to go to Spain he saw several neighbours and others he recognised as Celtic supporters. Celtic FC was home to radicals and republicans, as well as more conservative Catholics. At a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland and Scotland was backing Franco, Catholics and Celtic fans like Maley, the son of an Irish immigrant, took a stand for the traditions they felt represented what was best in the club’s history – defence of the underdog. In prison in Spain my father often wondered how his team were doing. Better, he hoped, than his side in the conflict in Spain.” 

maley celtic

Celtic fans pay tribute to James Maley following his death in 2007

Celtic fans pay tribute to James Maley following his death in 2007

SO’C: And finally, one last question. Your father lived to the ripe old age of 99. He personally is remembered in print, in song and on stage, and those who fought alongside him too are commemorated. What is their legacy?

“For decades, the International Brigade Association (IBA) held meetings to commemorate the role of volunteers in Spain. As the last of the veterans passed away a new expanded organisation emerged. The International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) exists to preserve the memory and promote the politics of commitment integral to those who went to Spain. And of course, in Ireland there are groups like Friends of the International Brigades (FIBI). In Spain itself, the Law of Democratic Memory offers the prospect of Spanish Citizenship for descendants of members of the International Brigades. The lasting legacy of the volunteers for Spain is the example they set of anti-fascist resistance, their ordinary heroism, and their willingness to lay down their lives for a just cause, the cause of the Left.”   



“From the Calton to Catalonia”  by John and Willy Maley will be part of the Sean O’Casey Festival 2023.

 From Wednesday 13th September to Saturday 16th September  

@ 8pm   Sean O’Casey Theatre, St Marys Road East Wall. 

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