A month into the Dublin Lockout, almost 20,000 workers had been put out of their jobs and faced trying to survive on their weekly strike pay of 5 shillings. Some 80,000 men, women and children were affected and thousands were starving.
The British TUC decided they couldn’t stand idly by and pledged to send food aid to the capital. 100 years ago this week, the SS Hare set sail for Dublin with a cargo of £5,000 in food supplies. The ship was met by huge crowds eagerly waiting on the docks.
The Arrival of the SS Hare by historian, Niamh Puirseil
It was a massive relief operation. Two hundred British workers spent three days preparing 60,000 packages of food at the Manchester co-op. Each package contained potatoes, tinned fish, sugar, margarine, tea and jam. These rations were intended to feed a family of five for a week.
The packages were loaded onto a small steamship, the SS Hare, which left Manchester on a Friday evening. As it sailed, workers began to prepare for its arrival at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay on the South Wall where volunteers would take delivery of 12,000 loaves of bread during the night.
Those eligible for aid had been given a ticket telling them to ‘apply at the South Wall from noon’ but the first workers arrived at the shed at half five in the morning. Over the next few hours, thousands of men, women and children made their way to the south quays where they waited patiently in the drizzle and rain, joined by press photographers and reporters from across Britain and Ireland.
Delayed by fog, the Hare arrived after 1 o’clock on the 27th of September 1913 - decked in bunting and the banner of Transport Workers Federation.
A couple of hundred volunteers from the Transport Union moved in to police proceedings and formed a cordon around the ship as it was unloaded while a dozen or so police kept an eye at a distance.
Tenement dwellers with only a shawl to cover them queued patiently alongside women wearing bonnets and decently dressed housewives who could afford gloves and ribbons. Single labourers as well as boys and girls of all ages and sizes also joined them in the queue.
It was almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon before the first packages were handed out.
One by one, the filed into a yard beside the store house where they presented their food ticket before collecting their package and a loaf of bread. By 9 o clock that night, around 9,000 packages had been given out, while others were put aside for distribution in Dun Laoghaire, Clondalkin and Swords.
The food was badly needed but it was received without enthusiasm. The people waiting were tired and, despite their circumstances, they were proud. Though it was sent in solidarity, not pity, many were uncomfortable receiving English charity.
The Irish Independent (which was owned by William Martin Murphy), relished the workers’ discomfort, reporting of ‘demoralising scenes on the quays as English food doles were served out.’
The strategy continued though, with the Fraternity arriving a week later with deliberately less fanfare – and a further nine food ships would follow in the coming months.
Between September 1913 and the following February, British workers raised over £93,000 for the Dublin workers, two thirds of all the funds raised during the Lockout.
Charity did not always begin at home.