Emmet O’Connor on Jim Larkin: sign up now for the John Halstead Memorial Lecture

Dr Emmet O’Connor is to deliver the Society for the Study of Labour History’s first annual John Halstead Memorial Lecture on the topic of Jim Larkin, the Irish socialist and trade union leader. The event takes place on Saturday 29 October at 2.30pm, and all are invited to join us for the online event.


How British was Big Jim Larkin? How international was Larkinism?
Born in Liverpool in 1874, Big Jim Larkin always insisted that he was Irish. None have ever challenged him on the claim, or seen him as anything other than a uniquely Irish figure. And yet, there was a British dimension to Larkin’s outlook. Liverpool gave him a love of soccer and travel, and shaped his interest in socialism and literature. He first went to Ireland in 1906 as an agent of a British trade union and remained keenly engaged with British Labour up to his departure for America in 1914. During the Dublin lockout in 1913, Larkin demanded aid from British workers with a sense of entitlement that no other Irish Labour leader would have entertained. Larkin’s ‘fiery cross’ campaign made the lockout a part of British labour history. Larkinism too should be lifted out of a purely Irish context. One might argue that it was not only a subset of the ‘Great Labour Unrest’ than shook British industrial relations between 1911 and 1914, but a reflex of international trends in industrial conflict and growing support for syndicalism between 1890 and 1914.

Dr Emmet O’Connor
is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Ulster. He has published extensively on Irish labour history, and is the author of a number of books on the Irish republican, socialist and trade union leader James Larkin, including the first full length biography, Big Jim Larkin: Hero or Wrecker? (Dublin: UCD Press 2015). Dr O’Connor is an honorary president of the Irish Labour History Society and from 1983 to 2001 he co-edited its annual journal, Saothar.

John L. Halstead Memorial Lecture
John Halstead was among the earliest members of the Society for the Study of Labour History. From the turn of the 1960s and for some sixty years thereafter he played a prominent role, holding almost every post and doing every job required to make a success of the Society. At the time of his death in October 2021, he was one of the Society’s vice-presidents, and continuing to make a significant contribution to its work; his knowledge of the organisation’s own history was especially valued. We decided to name our annual lecture in John’s honour as a mark of our respect for John and in memory of a great friend who continues to be sadly missed. This year’s is, therefore, the first in what we hope will be a regular annual series of John L. Halstead memorial lectures.
Read more about John Halstead here.

Come and join us
All are invited to join us online on Zoom for the lecture. Due to restrictions on space, a limited number of places will also be available at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, for those wanting to be present in person. Priority for in-person tickets will be given to SSLH members.


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