He was beloved by many, and perhaps hated by more, but few can deny the ultimate positive influence James “Big Jim” Larkin had on the history of Ireland.
Jim Larkin rose from the dregs of poverty to become one of Ireland’s most significant labor leaders. He embraced Marxism and Communism, but ultimately, it was the poor, hard-laboring Irish worker that he cared about most. He just wanted a fair shake for everybody. Larkin is credited with coining the phrase, “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/books/the-definitive-biography-of-big-jim-larkin-372254.html
Larkin was born into poverty in Liverpool, England, where his Irish parents had immigrated to find work. What little work there was paid poorly. When he was a child, young Jim Larkin went to work early at a series of grueling jobs to help support his family. He was able to get a rudimentary grammar school education by attending part time.
Jim Larkin’s father, James Larkin Sr., died when his son was just 14. The year was 1890. That meant his educational days were over and a lifetime of hard work for low pay began.
Jim Larkin eventually worked his way up to the position of foreman on the docks by the time he was in his early twenties. That’s where he began organizing his fellow workers to strike – to fight back against the wealthy business class and owners who were content to pay little more than slave wages to rank-and-file Irish and British citizens.
It turns out that the poorly educated Larkin had a significant, natural talent for public speaking and excelledl at inspiring others with fiery rhetoric. Jim Larkin rose quickly through the ranks of organized unions to become a major player in the explosive labor movement of the early 20th Century.
Larkin remained controversial throughout his life. He made bitter enemies among the wealthy elite, but also ran at cross purposes with many of his fellow labor champions. By the time he died in 1947, however, Larkin came to be recognized as one of the most important figures in the Irish-English labor movement, and indeed, the world.