In 1876, James Larkin, also known as “Big Jim,” was born in Liverpool England. Larkin is one of the most prominent social activists that England has produced, although he was of Irish descent.
James Larkin and Mary Ann McNulty left for England in order to have a better life. However, the larkin family always lived in the slums of England.
What motivated Larkin to become a social activist? What moved him to become a trade union leader? Fortunately or unfortunately, Jim Larkin experienced a life of deprivation. He started working at the age of seven and held several jobs.
He, for instance, worked as a butcher’s assistant, paperhanger and as a French polisher. Because he received little formal education, he had little opportunities. However, some jobs, although they involved hard labor, payed well.
Larkin ended up in the docks of Liverpool. Yes, Larkin received little schooling, but he was highly intelligent and brave.
He also had a strong sense of social justice, ideal which he developed from a young age. In 1905, he was one of the few foremen to participate in the famous strike that took place on the Liverpool docks. Larkin was fired due to his participation.
However, his actions impressed the National Union of Dock Labourers. Over time, he was recruited by the union and sent to Scotland so that he could unionize workers.
After successfully creating unions in Glasgow and Preston, he went to Belfast in order to unionize the city’s dock workers. Jim Larkin was charismatic, courageous and really influential, for he was even able to unite both Protestants and Catholics.
He was too joined by coal men and carters. After also organizing thousands of workers in places like Dublin and Waterford, he created his union. Larkin thought that Ireland needed a union that was not British-based, so he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1908.
At the time, less than 10 percent of Irish workers were backed by a union. This figure significantly changed after Larkin got involved in social causes.
Larkin also founded several other unions and organizations. He, for instance, founded The Irish Worker and the Irish Labour Party.