Retrieving memories of the 1913 Lockout
The 1913 Alternative Visions Oral History Group was set up in September 2012 to collect stories from people whose families, communities or unions have memories of the 1913 Dublin Lockout and to consider the legacy of the Lockout in the light of 100 years of subsequent history. The project is sponsored by various trade unions and is led by oral historians Dr Ida Milne and Dr Mary Muldowney. Interviews will feed into a book due for publication in 2013 to celebrate the centenary of the Lockout.
Humanity has a wonderful way of making sense of the world: it tells stories. In this commercialised world of ours we tend to think of stories as products. Stories are novels, plays, films, songs or soaps. But everyday we tell each other stories about what has happened to us, what we think about it, and why we think it took place. By telling stories about the world we are trying to make sense of the lives we lead. As the great American writer Harry Crews once said, stories are our way of saying who we are in this world. They express how we believe the world works, the right way and the way that is not so right. Stories are our understanding of ourselves. They are our way of saying who we are.
The 1913 lockout is a pivotal moment in the history of the Irish working class. The story of that event is part of the story of the Irish working class, not only in 1913 but also in the independent state that followed ten years later. The forces that rallied against Larkin and the ITGWU were the same ones that carved the constitution, administered the industrial schools, and proffered emigration as a safety valve. As to who and what exactly emigration was protecting, well, to make sense of that we have stories.
The oral history of the 1913 lockout project provides a platform for the Irish working class to explore its sense of itself with its own voice. There are no gatekeepers. There is no middle class presenter drenched in caveats and excuses, ready to emasculate the tale that frankly has nothing to do with them. Almost twenty-five years ago the Inner City Folklore Project undertook to record the stories of the people of working-class Dublin. Those recordings, over 300 in total, stand as a testimony to the vision and dedication of Terry Fagan. The 1913 lockout project is part of this tradition, of allowing ordinary people to sing their own song. It is a tradition that deserves our support.
Dr. Conor McCabe
UCD School of Social Justice
Do you have a family or community experience of the 1913 Dublin Lockout? Or have you come across stories showing how the Lockout affected your family, your workplace, your trade union, your community and Dublin society, even many years afterwards? If you are interested in helping the 1913 Oral History Project by sharing memories or old photos, letters and other material from the time, please get in touch with the team leaders, Ida Milne and Mary Muldowney. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Mary Muldowney (0877988330) or Ida Milne (0872207994) directly by telephone.
Image top: Tadhg O'Sullivan.