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Strikes, riots, arrests and recrimination: How the week unfolded
Unpleasant scenes in Dublin as police baton-charged a group of labour demonstrators on O'Connell Street on August 31st Photo: Photo: Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 6 September 1913

Strikes, riots, arrests and recrimination: How the week unfolded

Published: 2 September 1913

The last week has been a turbulent one for Dublin. It has been a week of striking workers, defiant employers, mass rallies, police-baton charges, arrests and recriminations. This timeline of events traces the extraordinary developments of a week when a dispute involving workers at the Dublin United Tramways Company ended in scenes of chaos and violence on the main streets of the city. 

August 26th

9.40am:  It is reported that 200 employees of the Dublin United Tramways Company have declared a strike. At 10am, members of the Irish Transport Union, mainly conductors and motormen, stop their trams at Nelson’s Pillar. They then proceed to the Company Offices where they hand in their tickets, cash boxes and the tram driving handles. Traffic in the area quickly comes to a standstill, and crowds gather. Strikers have been arrested and charged with causing an obstruction.

Mounted police are called to clear the area surrounding Nelson’s Pillar. A large contingent of police on foot patrol are also in evidence. It appears that as many as seventy tram cars were abandoned by strikers. It is reported that the Tramway Company has brought men from across the city to clear the abandoned trams.

12pm: The Dublin United Tramways Company claims that it has cleared all the trams that were abandoned by strikers, and that the service is now running normally.

2pm: The Dublin United Tramways Company has announced that no trams will run after dark this evening. They claim they are maintaining a service every seven minutes to Ballsbridge to allow people to attend the Horse Show.

Company claims only 160 men on strike, but an official at the Transport Union has stated that 800 men have ceased work.

8pm: Strikers gather at Customs House. James Larkin and other speakers address a large gathering of striking tram workers and their supporters at the rear of the Customs House. Mr O’Brien tells the crowd that if the tramway men show the same determination in the coming days, as they had shown today, they would break the Tramway Company to smithereens. The fight was not one that only affected tram men but trade unionists across Ireland, and every trade unionist should take up the challenge.

10pm: Dublin is reported as peaceful this evening and the crowd gathered for the strikers' meeting has dispersed in good order. A heavy police presence on the streets of the city has been noted. The army has been confined to barracks but have been ordered by the civil authorities to stand in readiness.

The headquarters of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union. (Photo: National Library of Ireland, KE 202)

August 27th

8am: The Dublin United Tramways Company has announced that twenty additional trams are running this morning, and that a full schedule is functioning normally across the city. Some workers have reportedly joined the strike this morning, but their places have been taken on the trams by men who have been on the company’s books for a number of months and have been trained as motormen or conductors.

11am: Strikers leave Liberty Hall, marching through Sackville Street in the direction of Great Britain Street. It is reported that pickets have been active.

4pm: It is reported that trams have been attacked in different parts of the city. A tram car on Arran Quay has had its windows smashed, while on the same line an attempt was made by a crowd of strikers to wrest a driving lever from one working motorman. That line was subsequently closed until police protection was afforded to ensure a normal service could resume. The Inchicore-Westland Row service was also halted for a while after missiles were thrown at the trams. One man, reported to be a striking fitter from the Tramway company, has been arrested.

6.30pm: All trams in the city have been withdrawn from service for the evening. It is reported that a procession of strikers and their supporters, planned by the Union, has been banned by the Police. Although the Union appeared to agree to respect the ban, Mr Larkin has now stated that the march will take place, along with a monster demonstration on O’Connell Street on Sunday. It is also reported that Union members working in the Tramways power house at Ringsend have also joined the strike.

A constable riding in the front of a tramcar to protect it from any potential threats from the disgruntled employees of the Dublin United Tramway Company.
(Image: Illustrated London News [London, England], 6th Sept 1913]

August 28th

8am: Tram Company reports a normal service in operation. Rumours are circulating in the city that the strike may spread to other sectors, with the Shipping Federation apparently considering the advisability of declaring a general lockout.

10am: Strike Leaders Arrested. Prominent leaders of the ongoing tram strike have been arrested. Early this morning Messrs J Larkin, PT Daly, W Partridge, W O’Brien and Mr T Lawlor were arrested at addresses across the city by detectives of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

3pm: It is reported that the tram service on the following lines has been abandoned for the day: the Kingsbridge service on the Northern Quays, and the Inchicore service from College Green. The Southern Quays service to Kingsbridge has just reopened. Five cars will run on that service for the remainder of the day, and all will run with police protection.

4pm: The Union leaders arrested this morning have appeared before Mr Swifte, KC, and charged with seditious libel and returned for trial. The accused were allowed out on bail

10pm: James Larkin and other Union leaders who were arrested and charged today, have appeared at a public meeting at Liberty Hall. Larkin has reiterated his commitment to a mass demonstration on Sunday, and implored the crowd to join him there ‘in defiance of the police and their hired assassins’. Shortly after the meeting concluded clashes were reported between the police and a crowd that had marched from the direction of Liberty Hall. The crowd were rushed by the police, forcing them across O’Connell Bridge and down Bachelor’s Walk. It is reported that fighting took place along the Quays, and that the police engaged the crowds with drawn batons. The crowds are now reported to have dispersed.

August 29th

4pm: Mr Swifte, Chief Divisional Magistrate, has issued a Proclamation banning the meeting planned by James Larkin for Sunday.

10pm: It is reported that a crowd of 10,000 strike supporters gathered this evening at Beresford Place. The meeting was addressed by James Larkin who burnt a copy of the Proclamation banning Sunday’s planned demonstration in support of the strike. As the crowd dispersed there were reports of clashes with the police in the O’Connell Bridge area, and it is rumoured that a number of assaults took place. The city is now reported to be quiet.

A Proclamation issued by Mr Swifte, Chief Divisional Magistrate, banning the meeting planned by James Larkin for Sunday, August 31st.
(Image: National Library of Ireland, EPH L)

August 30th

12pm: It is reported that the Jacobs Biscuit Factory has been closed by its owners. It appears that a number of workers refused to handle a load of flour from Shackleton and Sons of Lucan, which has locked out its Union employees, and as a result the owners have decided to close with immediate effect. This is one of the largest lockouts by an employer in the current round of industrial disruption.

2pm: A warrant has been issued for the arrest of James Larkin in light of what the police have deemed his seditious act last night when he burnt the proclamation banning Sunday’s proposed demonstration. At present the authorities cannot locate Larkin.

6pm: It is reported that trams carrying supporters to the Shelbourne football match came under attack this afternoon. Police responded in great numbers, and a number of licensed premises and other businesses in the area have closed their doors. A number of ambulances have been in attendance and eyewitnesses have stated that a large number of injured persons have been taken to hospital.

8pm: Clashes have been reported in the areas around College Street and Liberty Hall. Large numbers of police are on the streets.

10pm: Rioting reported on O’Connell Street and on surrounding Quays. Reports of violent scenes in Abbey Street and Talbot Street. Additional police have been brought to the city centre from outlying areas. There are reports of injuries following a number of baton charges by police.

11pm: It has been reported that a man, named as James Nolan, has been severely injured tonight in the city centre disturbances. It is said that a police patrol was walking the area and that they attacked Nolan. It is not believed that Nolan has any involvement in the current strike, but rather that he was an innocent bystander. It is believed that Nolan was struck a number of times by the police, even as he lay on the ground.

The charge filed against Larkin, P.T. Daly, Thomas Lawlor, William O'Brien and W.P. Partridge, August 1913.
(Image: National Library of Ireland Ms 13913)

August 31st

9am: James Nolan, the man who was involved in a serious altercation with the police last night, has reportedly died from his injuries at Jervis Street Hospital.

11am: Large crowds gathering in city centre. Huge police presence in and around O’Connell Street to enforce proclamation banning demonstration. No sightings of James Larkin.

1.30pm: James Larkin has appeared on a balcony of the Imperial Hotel. Reports suggest that he had been disguised as an elderly gentleman to avoid detection and arrest.

2pm: Superintendent Murphy and a body of police have reportedly rushed the Imperial Hotel and arrested James Larkin. A crowd subsequently gathered outside the hotel and cheered Larkin. It appears that the police have baton charged protestors in an attempt to clear the area.

3pm: Large crowds are still gathered in the O’Connell Street area, and the scene is described as violent. A group of people, numbered at around thirty, are hemmed in by police at the junction of Prince's Street and O’Connell Street. It is said that they are being batoned by the police and a number of serious injuries have been sustained.

6pm: Disorder has spread to many parts of Dublin, and police are involved in regular clashes with demonstrators. Serious rioting has broken out in Inchicore, where trams have come under attack. Although police have attempted to clear the streets with a number of baton charges, they have now called for the support of the army. The West Kent Regiment, currently stationed at Richmond Barracks, have been sent to Inchicore to restore order.

10pm: There are still reports of widespread disorder across the city, and violent scenes were witnessed earlier on Parkgate Street, Camden Street, George’s Street and Queen Street. It is estimated that as many as 300 people have been injured in clashes with the police.

Jim Larkin, still in disguise, being led away by police outside the Imperial Hotel.
(Image: Bureau of Military History 1913-1921, Military Archives)

September 1st

10am: It is reported that 40 men employed by the Port and Docks Board at the Custom House stores have been locked out for supporting the tram workers.

11am: The Irish Times has referred to the events in and around the city centre of the last few days as a ‘an orgy of lawlessness and cowardly crime’. The paper also prints a letter from Count Markieviez in which he compares the police baton charges on Sunday to the events of ‘Red Sunday’ in St Petersburg. The Irish Times acknowledges that some innocent bystanders were batoned by the police, but that these incidents did not amount to evidence of police brutality as the streets were thronged with strikers and the idle. It concludes that the police used reasonable force to deal with a violent crowd.

12pm: It has been confirmed that workers have been locked out at the following businesses: W and R Jacob, which has shut completely, the tramworks at Inchicore where all men striking have been dismissed, Tedcastle, McCormack and Co., the coal merchants have locked out 100 workers, and Wookey and Sons of Leixlip have shut their operations.

3pm: James Larkin has appeared in court. He was still dressed in his disguise that he wore on Sunday. He has been charged with inciting a breach of the peace.

5pm: The Inquest begins into the death of James Nolan who died on Sunday morning from injuries he received in Saturday night’s disturbances. The cause of death was a blow to the head which fractured his skull and resulting haemorrhaging. The Inquest heard witnesses recall that Mr Nowlan had been struck by a police baton.

8pm: It is reported that a force of policemen stationed outside the Jacob’s Factory, where workers have been locked out, have come under attack from a crowd throwing stones.

10pm: Disturbances reported in Redmond’s Hill and Wexford Street. Shop windows were smashed, and attempts have been made to tear up the tram rails. The police are reported to be dealing with a riotous crowd in Capel Street. A number of arrests have been made. So far this evening 37 civilians have been taken to hospital for treatment to wounds received during the disturbances.

'Terrible Riots in Dublin'
(Image: Dubln City Public Library)


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