The second exhibition I visited at the National Library of Ireland was about the Great Lockout that took place in 1913 and early 1914,
The lockout was initiated when the Dublin United Tramway Company, owned by industrialist and newspaper proprietor William Martin Murphy, a leading Catholic nationalist businessman and former anti-Parnellite MP, sacked employees he suspected of membership of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). In response, on 26 August, the tramway workers went on strike. The dispute escalated rapidly with other employers locking out workers who refused to sign a pledge not to join the ITGWU. By late September, 20,000 employees were involved across the city.
The exhibition, which is being shown in the Library annex on Kildare Street, didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know about the events of 1913 and 1914, but they had some interesting documents on show and some interviews with various people.
The exhibition draws upon our extensive historical and literary collections. It combines original documents, such as Jim Larkin’s hastily scribbled advice to union colleagues on the eve of “Bloody Sunday”, with multimedia presentations. Through the exhibition, visitors can share the experiences of those who lived through the Lockout, gaining a greater understanding of the issues facing the people of Dublin in 1913, and hear the opinions of present day commentators through short films and interactive touch screens.
Documents and video interviews from the exhibition can be seen on line here.
The building, which is on the corner of Kildare Steet and Leinster Street, is interesting in it’s own right. It was originally a gentleman’s club (the Kildare Street Club) and the exhibition area in what was once the club’s Coffee Room.
Italian Gothic in style it has particularly distinctive windows. The stonework above the windows is in alternate colours and the columns have ornate carved bases and capitals featuring rather eccentric carvings of monkeys playing various sports the members used to participate in. (For a close-up of a pair of monkeys playing billiards and some further information see here)