Dublin boys sought shorter hours and caning ban

 

YESTERDAY MARKED the 100th anniversary of the East Wall schoolboys’ strike in Dublin. On September 13th, 1911, teachers arrived at the East Wall Wharf national school to find an intimidating message chalked on the door.

It read: “Any boy cot going into school and not following other schoolboys examples will be killed by order Strike Strike Strike.”

Pickets were placed near the school and boys paraded around carrying flags while chanting their demands.

These included “shorter hours, cheaper books and an end to canings”. The strike lasted three days.

Those pupils who attempted to enter the school were branded “scabs” and pelted with stones and cabbage stalks.

The age of boys involved was between eight and 13.

The event was marked at the school yesterday when sixth-year pupils were told by teachers of what happened there 100 years ago.

The strike by the pupils will be commemorated next month at the Seán O’Casey Centre in East Wall.

The schoolboys’ strike took place against a background of growing industrial unrest in Dublin at the time, which eventually led to the 1913 Lockout. The effect of trade union militancy on the boys was highlighted by then local parish priest Fr Brady who said: “Strikes were in the air at the time, and the residential quarters of the general strikers were all around the school.”

Current East Wall residents Joe Mooney and Sarah Lundberg are working on a local history project that includes an examination of original school records.

Mr Mooney yesterday posed the question whether the boys involved were “Bash Street kids or children of the revolution?”

He answered it thus: “There was a touch of both about the events of 1911.

“I believe their demands were reasonable, and their methods were clearly influenced by the trade union movement which was very active at that time on the docks.”

Mr Mooney felt the schoolboys were well-versed in the tactics of “Larkinism”.

Ms Lundberg thought the demands made by the strikers were “reasonable. Schoolbooks were expensive for working-class parents, school buildings were uncomfortable for long hours and excessive discipline is never welcomed by children”.

The boys were also aware that “schoolbooks were free in England, and were clear in their desire to be treated fairly”, she said.

Publicly the boys’ actions were dismissed as mischief and there are no records of any investigation into the strike.