One hundred years ago today Jim Larkin left for the USA

While I am inadvertently using a title that sounds like the opening lines to a song (following on my last blog post perhaps a song isn’t such a bad idea!), this blog post is the first in a series I will be doing on Jim Larkin’s time in the United States. These are based on research I conducted for my chapter titled “‘Real Irish Patriots would Scorn to Recognise the Likes of You’: Larkin and Irish-America” in David Convery (ed.), Locked Out: A Century of Working Class Life (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2013). Unlike other accounts of Larkin’s time in the states, my chapter attempts to detail the marginalised voices of Irish-American workers in places such as New York, San Francisco and even Butte, Montana. It looks at how the Catholic Church, the Socialist Party and Irish heroes like Larkin interacted, especially the language deployed by each group to sway or dissuade the Irish-American community from supporting one or more association. Over the course of the next few weeks the forthcoming posts will take a look at some of these primary sources in detail and assess the historiographical interpretations of Larkin’s eight and a half years in America.

Larkin left Dún Laoghaire on the 23 October 1914 for Liverpool before departing for the United States on 24 October 1914 aboard the s.s. St. Louis. On foot of the Lockout in 1913 and the beginning of the World War British intelligence agencies closely watched Larkin’s movements fearing industrial unrest because of his strong anti-conscription convictions. Below is one of the Dublin Metropolitan Police reports dated the 26 October 1914.

DMP Report Larkin departing

Dublin Metropolitan Police detectives report Larkin’s departure for America.

These details speak to how closely they scrutinised him and points to the establishment’s fear of the man, “Larkin is about 40 years old, 6 feet 1 inch high, clean shaven, shallow complexion, long nose, black hair turning grey, usually wears black serge suit and soft black hat. His luggage consists of two portmanteaux, and a black trunk.” These details were dispatched to British agents in the states who were directed that “he must be watched and shadowed and his speeches taken down while in the States.” The British deployed their international spy apparatus in the hopes of obtaining evidence of Larkin’s collaboration with “the Enemy” so that he could “be arrested on his return”. However, on foot of developments in Britain these plans changed and would result in Jim Larkin unexpectedly staying in the United States for eight and a half years.

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About Alan Noonan

Alan Noonan is currently a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress. He received his PhD in history from University College Cork, and has experience as a historical consultant and researcher. He has been awarded several fellowships including the Glucksman Government of Ireland Fellowship at New York University, a Mellon Fellowship at the Library Company in Philadelphia, and a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of American History.
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