Saving kids, saving souls
A plan to relieve the pressure on locked-out families by caring for their children in England provoked the ire of the Catholic Church, writes Theresa Moriarty
He rebuked mothers prepared to send away their children, “without security of any kind that those to whom the poor children are to be handed over are Catholics, or indeed people of any faith at all”.
The next day a group of children preparing to travel to London was thwarted, by angry priests and crowds at the Tara Street baths; on Westland Row trains and on the Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) boat. There Rand was arrested and, with the children, detained by the police.
Later, ITGWU dockers, carrying children on their shoulders, forced a way through more angry crowds mustered at the North Wall, not simply by clerical opposition, but by Ancient Order of Hibernians mobilisations, and put 20 children and accompanying adults on the Liverpool boat.
The streets and squares, the railway stations and quaysides were contested territory all week. At Amiens Street station, where children were trying to go to Catholic homes in Belfast, the same roaring, assaults, pushing and dragging led to police stopping parents and children from boarding the train. Hibernian crowds attacked a group at Kingsbridge that weekend to prevent a father sending his two young sons to stay on Lord Cloncurry’s Kildare estate.
Even the archbishop returned to the argument, worried “this fantastic policy” would make the children “discontented with the poor homes to which they will sooner or later return”.
By then the “kiddies” scheme was called off. Its funds were redirected to feeding the children at Liberty Hall, overseen by Grace Neal and Delia Larkin. Between November and February, the “kiddies” fund fed 3,000 children every morning in Liberty Hall, “2,907 children and maternity cases” were clothed and from December 12th, dinners provided to nursing mothers, employing a staff of 22, among them “locked out and victimised” young women workers.
The “kiddies” scheme, publicly announced and organised openly, had been financed independently, by street collections, from theatre queues and at sports grounds, through raffles and donations. It appealed to women, and to those unable to make financial contributions, but who could feed another mouth at the table. Private family custom in times of domestic crisis was transformed into public forms of industrial solidarity.
October’s events were conducted at a time of rising crisis. Always in the background loomed Ireland’s contested future – Home Rule or Ulster rebellion. Locked-out Dublin faced more immediate concerns. The strike-breaking ship, the Lady Jocelyn, was already being tracked recruiting along the English coast, when Montefiore first raised her idea.
And, through it all, Liberty Hall was awaiting Larkin’s trial. He was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment on October 27th. Only one week had passed since enthusiastic meetings had greeted the three English organisers’ plan.
Their straightforward presentation, starvation or solidarity, became a point on which Dublin divided.
Theresa Moriarty is a researcher, who has published articles on early Irish women’s trades unionism, Delia Larkin, the Dublin lockout and trades unions during the first World War.