The History Show

The History Show

Sunday, 6pm

The History Show Sunday 14 April 2013

Women and Children of the 1913 Lockout

This week, we focussed on the women and children of the 1913 Dublin Lockout - the most serious industrial dispute in Irish history – and a defining point for our society.

The women were wives, mothers, strikers and leaders. We tend to think of it as an adult male event yet, apart from the wives and mothers who were affected by the strike, more than 1000 women were directly involved

And then there were the children. Helpless infants, impoverished youngsters and members of the workforce from the age of 12.

One of the major factors which contributed to the ignition of the dispute was the dire circumstances in which the city's poor lived.

A third of the people in the city were living in slum conditions, but as we heard on the programme, the working class women who were reduced to extreme poverty by the Lockout were not a one dimensional group of shawl wearing derelicts.

The Lockout began on the 27th of August, 1913 and almost immediately, many families were feeling the economic strain as wages disappeared overnight. When the primary schools re-opened after the summer holidays, many children were already hungry.

The lives of children at that time posed a very different set of challenges than we see a hundred years later. Surviving into adulthood was a feat in itself because infant mortality rates were very high. As our guest, Francy Devine explained “the biggest challenge for a working class child was to be able to grow big enough to be able to digest a chip”. After that, they be able to feed themselves.

Children who went to school had left by the age of 12 and were experienced workers by the time they had reached 15.

The Lockout which lasted almost 5 months involved 300 employers and about 20,000 workers. When you take their families into account, we’re basically talking about 80,000 people who were affected.

Lockout Programme Features

Tour of Tenement Dublin

Chris Corlett who’s an archaeologist with the National Monument Service took Colette Kinsella on a pictorial tour of some of the darkest parts of Dublin at that time.

The Political Women of 1913

Zoe Comyns explored some of the forgotten female names of 1913 such as Delia Larkin, Rosie Hackett and Helena Moloney.

Imagining the children of 1913 a century later:

The lives of children in 1913 posed a very different set of challenges that seem almost unimaginable to youngsters a hundred years later as Rhona Tarrant discovered when she asked pupils of Kilconly Primary School in Ballybunnion to imagine children’s lives during the 1913 Lockout.

Newpaper Reports from the Lockout

Newpaper Reports from the Lockout

Here are selection of extracts from newspaper reports during the 1913 Lockout.

Irish Times 29 September 1913

Distributing the food

While the cargo was being thus discharged the number of workers in waiting was constantly augmented. There were all sorts of poor people- men and women and children. There they stood quietly enough until a sufficient quantity of the food was in the store to allow the distribution to begin.

This was possible at a quarter to four. The agte of yard beside the store was then opened . For a time the crowd were so eager to enter that they blocked the entrance. But a long double queue was formed and the people were admitted one by one .In the yard they gave up their food tickets, or otherwise satisfied the trade union official grouped around the entrance to the magic storehouse.

Then they field into the building along the barriers within, and out through an exit at the other end. On the other side of the barriers stood workers of another class- drapers assistants who were devoting their half day to this task of distributing bread and potatoes and groceries. To each of the recipients was handed twenty pounds weight of food, a bog of potatoes a loaf a parcel of butter, sugar, tea, jam and fish and to some who had children biscuits also were given.

A Striking procession

Many were the degrees of poverty represented by this striking procession. Here were seen the wan dweller in some noisome tenement wrapped in a shawl and huddling a baby to her breast; the carters wife who had a bonnet as well as a shawl; a decently attired housewife with gloves and ribbons evidently ill at ease on such an errand; the single labourer who announced that he was coming for his ‘grub for’ the week the married Docker whose wife was waiting at home unable perhaps to walk so far; boys and girls of all sizes and ages, form children whose heads did not show above the barriers to striplings who must soon find work- all were reduced to a common level by dire necessity that knows no law. Little was said as the procession went through the store.

Each person had quite enough to do to grasp his loaf and box and bag. Most of the noise in the building came from the men who were still discharging the Hare and supplying the drapers’ assistants with the rations to keep the procession moving through the store. For hours the scene was much the same. The faces changed, but there was a sad aspect to it all.

Outside the spectator saw the long queue go in-orderly and patient- at one door, and also the stream of the supplied of the supplied emerging form a side street. He could not but be moved to pity. The poorest woman dislikes to carry a loaf uncovere4d to do so is to proclaim her poverty to the world. But here were respectably-attired women who thus humiliated before the curious crowd of onlookers; for many had not thought of bringing baskets to carry the provisions. Fortunately there was room at the top of the potato bag for some more.

When at a distance from the centre of distribution a number of the humblest recipients stopped to examine the contents of the grocery boxes. One tattered woman appeared to be dividing her tea with a friend who was not so lucky herself. Indeed, those of the poor who were about but, were unentitled to have a portion of the food must have been envious. Not far form the door of the shed sat a pallid woman and her daughter, utterly forlorn looking wonderingly upon the bustle around.

In addition to the supplies given to individuals at the store, large quantities of food were entrusted to delegates to convey to Kingstown, Clondalkin, Swords, and other outlying districts where members of the Transport and General Worker’s union are disemployed. These supplies were carted to their destination and then distributed.

At eight o’clock on Saturday night the hare’s cargo had all been landed. At nine o’clock the number of person who had been relieved must have been about 9,000. Mr Sodden and Mr Gosling have announced that further supplies of food will arrive from Manchester towards the end of this week, but these will not be conveyed in special ships. It is also announced that Messer’s Rowntree have given a quarter ton of cocoa And Messer’s Cadbury half a ton for the sues of the disemployed.

Irish Times 9 October 1913

Association for the relief of Distressed Protestants.

This association carries son amongst Protestants a work similar to that carried on amongst Catholic Charities by the St Vincent de Paul. Grants are made of money to assist all necessitous cases and during the winter months coal is distributed. The secretary informed out representative that there is a never ceasing demand for help form the poor of Dublin. No relief is give of any kind to a person who is on strike; the association leave that to the strikers’ trade union. Since the present labour unrest began however many claims have been received from people who have been disemployed through no fault of their own but simply because the strikes have been the means of diverting the work that these poor people performed to other channels. In every case of genuine distress the is making grants to help people to tide them over in the present crisis.

Freemans Journal 13 October 1913 (p. 10)

So serious are the reports of the destitution among the poorer sections of the inhabitants of Dublin, especially that portion which is outside trade union influences, that the Irish societies in London are moving to appoint a joint committee here for the purpose of organising a relief fund to work for the purpose organising a relief fund to work in co-operation with the Lord Mayor of Dublin in assisting those women and children who are entirely dependent on voluntary aid. The initiative in the matter has been taken by the Gaelic League of London, which has invited the other Irish Bodies to send representatives to a conference to be held this week. ….

Further Lockout Reading and Viewing

1913 A Capital in Conflict: Dublin City and the 1913 Lockout just published by Dublin City Council.

This book explores aspects of the social, political and cultural life of Dublin at a defining point in Irish history during the 1913 Lockout. Certain personalities loom large such as James Larkin and William Martin Murphy, Delia Larkin and James Connolly, Charles Cameron and Hugh Lane, but it is the ordinary people of the city, the children, the women and the men, who shine through the pages of this volume.

1913 Lockout

A new play by Ann Matthews

The New Theatre

15 to 20 April


45 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Tickets: €15/€12

New Theatre Website

Directed by Anthony Fox

Cast: Alison Fitzpatrick, Ian Meehan, Patrick O’Donnell


Darkest Dublin

A book of photographs from 1913 edited by Chris Corlett (Wordwell)

On next week's programme......

On next week's programme......

Our book club will be discussing the enduring classic, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE which is 200 years old this year. So get reading.

Blighted Nation - Another chance to hear landmark series

Blighted Nation - Another chance to hear landmark series

Blighted Nation - Landmark series re-examining the Great Famine

The Great Famine which struck Ireland in the middle of the 19th century was the biggest social catastrophe in Irish history.

Blighted Nation Website

Studio Guests discuss 'What were the experiences of the women & children of the 1913 Lockout?'

Studio Guests discuss 'What were the experiences of the women & children of the 1913 Lockout?'

Our studio guests were historians Ann Matthews (whose mother was a child of the Lockout), Leeann Lane and Francy Devine contributors to a new book of essays “A Capital in Conflict: Dublin and the 1913 Lockout” which has just been published. And and we were also joined by historian, Shane McThomais of Glasnevin Museum.

They talked about living conditions in Dublin in 1913, how women and children were affected, schooling, poverty, charitable donations, Evangelical Christians, the TUC food fund, the degradation of queuing for food, penny dinners, Kiddies Scheme, the political women of the Lockout, the knock-on effects of coal shortages, did families have better lives after the Lockout?

About The Show

Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past.

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Join us on Sundays from 6.05pm for The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1.

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