For two weeks in 1919, the city of Limerick went on a labor strike. During that time, the strike committee managed the workings of the city, including food supplies, and it even began printing its own currency.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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welcome to stuff you missed in history glance of production of I hurried use, how stuff works, pillow and welcome to the pan cast on how we try and I'm Tracy Wilson I just got back from Ireland. It looks like you had a great time. I did I like a very spoil person for having gotten to go in that trip, and we went all over the place while we were there, but we ended up through just kind of some legit eggs spending a really lovely afternoon in Limerick. While we are waiting on some friends to meet up with us too, to move on to our next destination and while we were at a pub there, we met this really lovely couple who were kind enough to chat with us for a bit and during our. Mercedes in our new friend Maria mentioned day, historical event that took place in Limerick. There was utterly fast leading to me ass. She spoke
by mentioning that in the nineteen teens, the city had very briefly printed its own currency and of course I was immediately intrigues and she gave me. Run down of it, but of course, lake. In a pub conversation of fifteen minutes, where there's much laughing and talking about other things, you don't get all of the stuff, so I ended up looking into it and it unveiled itself to be a pretty fascinating moment. It was probably also on her because they just did like a hundred years thing in April, like a festival around. It will talk about that at the end and it is it's really fascinating. I feel it gets one of those things that people in Limerick all knew about, but I had not heard of it being so. This seems like a good thing to kind of me share with the world outside of Ireland, because it's a really fascinating piece of irish history, and so this episode isn't thanks to Maria by any chance she's listening. Thank you for both lovely conversation in a great idea am also I just wanna olive Ireland for being incredibly friendly and welcoming, I had nothing but great interactions and experience
would literally every single person we met, so it is really quite delightful. So we are talking today about this event, which was called the Limerick Soviet, and it has number of moving parts and some overlap in terms of different movements. They get a little too the lesson: is that even to this day get they did over over how much one or the other was an influence, but in April twenty steam am in March, twenty eight team. As a Saturday classic, we had an episode the Easter rising of nineteen. Sixteen Emmett. That episode will give you a little bit of additional context for the events that are going to talk about today, because it it was a lot of the things that were happening, leading up to what happened here. It's not a necessary listen before this one, but it just. First, a little snapshot of what was playing out in Ireland politically right before the Limerick Soviet happened, so check it out. If you want to get a little more of an in depth approach to this one, to talk about the events that led to the Limerick Soviet it'll help to first talk about Robert Burns.
he went by Bobby Burne was born on November, twenty eighth eighteen, eighty nine in Dublin, his father died when he was still boy and his mother moved herself and her son to Limerick. That was where she was originally from Bobby joined the civil service in one thousand, nine hundred and seven at the age of eighteen to work in the limerick, General Post Office and after working at the Kinsale any court post office as a sworder and then in banned in also coming cork. He returned to the GPA in Limerick in October of nineteen eleven when he was posted in limerick. He started working the telegraph operator- and it was a map position that you started sharing information. He gathered on the job with intelligence officers of the irish volunteers, that was the precursor to the Irish Republican Army. You wanted Ireland to be free of british rule. The volunteers formed the paramilitary groups that was intended to destabilize the power of the british government in Ireland.
That is a super quick version yeah and if you are ever looking at documents that outline kind of what this happen. Sometimes it's a fluid when they start calling the volunteers that Irish Republican Army, even though they hadn't actually see formed in under that name, yet observe you're looking at most on quite match up. That's what's going on there, over the next several years. Bob became more and more involved with irish volunteer movement, so much so that the royal irish constabulary you haven't seen that abbreviated is our. I see became interested in his activities in nineteen seventeen. He was placed on a list of post office employees that the police believed were disloyal to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Burne was kept under surveillance by the authorities in the fall.
One thousand. Nine hundred and eighteen post office management met with him to discuss the number of allegations of seditious activities that were on record in the years since one thousand nine hundred and sixteen he denied all these charges, but was fired from his position. yeah. They suddenly unfurled a list of things and they were not things he did at the Post office in his job. They were things that he had been spied on. And recorded is doing in his his normal life and, in addition to his association with the republican militia, was also a very active member of the Trades council. He was a trade unionist and he was local and Ireland's Labour movement, his work, organizing his fellow post office workers in a union.
was undoubtedly also a factor in his dismissal. On January, thirteenth nineteen nineteen Burne was at home in his mother's house when the home was rated by the hour. I see police search to the premises they found a firearm and ammunition and Bobby was arrested. He made no answer to these charges because he thought the authorities involved were part of an occupation of Ireland and that he wouldn't be given a fair judgment. Bobby Burne was kept in custody without sentencing and while in prison, he campaigns to be given political prisoner status on February. Fourth, after several weeks in custody, Burne was finally sentence to twelve months, hard labor burn letter rebellion in the prison the day after his sentence was handed down. He and fifteen other prisoners, all of whom they believe that they should be held as political prisoners rather than as criminal convicts barricaded their cells and they smashed the furniture within, and they sang republican songs loudly enough to draw
out in the street, outside it took several hours for the police to settle things down and as a result of the protests, the men involved were punished with strict measures they were shackled to their beds. Some had their boots taken away and visitors were no longer allowed to bring them food or clothing. Some are put in solitary confinement and they went on a hunger strike in protest as new of what was going on in the prison circulated. It catalyzed a number of discussions among Limerick leaders. The city council met and discuss the treatment of the prisoners. The incarcerated men had told visitors that they had no issue with the mayor or the prison guards, but that they wanted to be categorized as political prisoners and that fact, plus pamphlets. They were circulating about the men's poor treatment, including being forced, FED gay
support for them. There was also a meeting of the Irish Post Office Clerks Association to discuss secret reporting on staff burn hand, as you recall, been fired, based entirely on accusations that he had denied with no formal process for him to do. and himself in a resolution, was written up and sent to Lloyd, George Uk Prime Minister at the time, as well as leaders of the postal service calling for Bobby burned to be reinstated in his position they, also called for an end to this idea of secret reporting. Bird eventually became so ill that he was moved to the Limerick Union Workhouse Hospital and kept under armed guard. This move was performed under the criminal administrate an act of nineteen fourteen, meaning that, though he was no longer in a prison facility, he was still in legal custody. The hospital didn't want to take him, though they were concerned that if he died in their facility, they would be held responsible instead of the police.
Ultimately, they had no legal power to prevent this move. As the hospital administration was Freddy over having burn in their care. Plans were being made to break him out at a club on Gerald Griffin Street Petard, I'm commandant of the Irish Limerick Battalion brought together battalion officers from the organisation to put together a rescue for Berne and that was scheduled for April. Sixth, the guard stationed at the hospital would be tied up. They would grab Bobby Berne and then they would take him to a safe house. No battalion officers were to participate in this mission, starting at about who p m on April six, the volunteers led by Michael Stack, started arriving at the hospital in small groups. They pretended that they were visiting various patients, several dozen assembled and some were out of
hospital grounds and others on the ward, where burns being held a funeral carriage was waiting for burning his liberators at the hospitals, morgue doors around the back. Yet I was to be there getaway car and we're gonna talk about how this rescue effort played out in just a moment, but first going to pause for a little sponsor break miles and Jack from work. We recorded a pike has together in the masters ex third ass. You might remember alive deadly remember I want to take this opportunity just straight for in a straightforward way, talk to people about what the Mazda CS. Thirty looks like. Ok, looks like it's constantly emotion. It has beautiful design like water built. That really mean like it's got its making way
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there would be a signal whistle blowing after a number of the group had made their way to the areas near burns bed again all pretending that they checking in another patience, and once that whistle blew the plan would jump into action and his men had planned and prepared, but even so when he blew the whistle the hospital just really erupted and see what pandemonium for one there were bystanders who were actual visitors to the patients in the ward and they all started running when they heard this whistle. For another thing, the guards either side of burns bed were armed and they have their weapons drawn. Stag later said that one of the constables name spleen turned and shot burn as he lay in bed and that stank fired at Splain in response stag, so fatally shot another constable, Martineau Brian, as the policemen drew his weapon while the volunteers were carrying burn out of the hospital a prison Morton named John Marconi, who was also assigned to the hospital told that story differently. He said that, while the constables did
their guns drawn neither of them fired in his version. The two policemen grappled with the crowd They rushed at them as burned got out of bed. Marconi was tramp. and he lost consciousness, so his account can it drops off there? He can, two long enough to once again make a lunch and try to capture burn. He had not left the hospital yet, but he then received a blow to the head that left him dazed and by the time he regained his senses from Matt Burne was gone burn supporters were able to get him out of the prison, but the funeral carriage was gone. Instead, they commandeered a small carrot. being driven by a local named John Ryan. You took Berne and his rescuers to his home in County Clare Burn, died from the gunshot that The bullet that killed him may have actually been from one of his rescuers guns. The story about that has shifted over the years, but at the time it was below.
Eve that he was shot and killed by police. So the public was outraged on April ninth, three days after burns death, the protests in the city led to the declaration of martial LAW in Limerick. The city was barricaded with checkpoints that required especial permanent from the military to pass through and to get a permanent. Each person had to report to a military office at seventy eight O Connell Street and have their address rob am personal appearance recorded. The whole city was cordoned, excluding the area north of the river Shannon and that created a unique problem. Many of the city's laborers work, the Thumb gate area north of the river and two major factories which were walkers distillery and the cleaves there We were also north. This barricade that many more than five thousand workers from both sides of the river we're going to have to get military issued passes just to get to their jobs and in some cases they were going to have to pass through checkpoints like forty
The day the day after the declaration of martial law on April tenth, Robert Burne was laid to rest and his funeral took place as they Johns Cathedral and he was buried in Mount Saint Lawrence Terry, the entire city shut down and thousands of people came out into the streets to pay their respects to burn the limerick, trades and Labor Council led by President John Cronin with delegates for the city's trade unions, met on Sunday April 13th to discuss the problem. This meeting went on for twelve hours and the end result was a plan for a strike that Strike committee issued. The following statement quote the workers of Limerick, assembled and council hereby declare cessation of all work from five, a dot m on Monday April 14th, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen as a protest against the decision of the british government in compelling them to procure permits in order to earn their daily bread. By order of the Strike Committee Mechanics Institute in Destin,
Fifteen thousand workers participated in this strike. You'll sometimes also see that number listed as fourteen thousand or somewhere in between, and at this point, the population of Limerick was around thirty, eight thousand, so that was a very significant number. Essentially, the entire city went on strike. Even the pubs closed down initially. Some work, for example, in dairy and bacon factories was allowed to continue, but only for the first day of the strike, and that was so that the existing supply, their didn't simply spoil and go to waste, or, I would presume stink of the entire town. The trade councils strike plan was detailed and carefully thought out. Committees were established to ensure that Limerick had some kind of infrastructure during the strike in isolation within the barricades there were people managing food distribution and other daily needs. Food depots were set up with fixed price grocery
profiteering during the strike was strictly outlawed and to ensure that no one tried to check up prices to take advantage of this situation agreed upon prices for all goods were posted on flyers around the town, so that the population was kept informed about what they should be paying for any given staple item of grocery. Additionally, the council, which convened every morning, made allowances for people to work in bakeries and for stores to open for limited after hours to sell necessities all in the interest of keeping the city going without regular supplies coming in. They also make deals with local farmers to provide produce directly to the city and circumvent the usual distribution channels. Volunteers did smuggling some supplies from the countryside and in some cases they faked funeral procession with fear
other supplies being carried in the coffins instead of bodies, but these were regular, dependable and the Trades Council was not involved in them. A police force was set up by the Trades Council as well as of finances. Sub. And it was decided in the second week of the strike that Limerick would prevent its own money, So under the leadership of Trade Council. Treasurer James Casey Currency was printed in one five and ten shilling denominations and Casey signed each note. The trade union Congress had sent their treasurer, who said that the two you see back the limerick currency, so basically they were gonna. Make good on payments on all of these notes. In this way, strikers could be issued currency and shopkeepers of businesses approved to open, agreed to accept that, Currency businesses that were permitted to open did so with signage that stated that they were operating under the approval of the strike committee. Vehicle we're not allowed to drive on the roads about a permit from the council. There was also a regular
a paper that was run to keep everyone informed about the strike and that Labor Council is doing such as called the workers bulletin and coming up we're going to talk about how this strike became international news. But before that, we're going to take a little break and hear from one of the sponsors that keep stuff you missed in history class going. This episode is brought to you by Mazda and the Mazda CX. Thirty, a truly remarkable suv. The Cx30 is size three advil in the city, while still having the interior and utility to go anywhere at any time. Encouraging and active lifestyle than one thing Mazda has done is design a vehicle. That is meant to enhance your experience of moving through an environment not to shut you away from it. There are fewer distraction. See me focused on the inspiring drive that you are currently on they really wanted to craft and experience in the form of this vehicle. There's a hundred eighty six horse power and a hundred eighty six foot pounds of torque, so it also has
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Finland is a fuelling. Stop for pilot J C p would, as he made this journey, but would had she's played in the ocean off the Welsh Coast, so the journalist that had assembled in Limerick essentially had no story, so they turned instead to covering the strike and it was something of a feel good story. This it was non violent and it had been carefully thought out. So it was the easy to write about it in a supportive light One journalist from the United States named Ruth Russell had been touring Ireland and writing about its political situation when she arrived in Limerick and nineteen twenty. She published a book about Ireland and she recounted meeting with the head of the Strike Committee, John Cronan, to get his explanation of what the strike was about per his talk with Russell Cronan either felt they were Track for a long term. Governance by the workers, or he was making it sound that way for the international press. So here is
Ocean of Ruth rustles account, starting with a quote from Cronan. He says quote: why did we form it? Why do we pit people rule against military rule, of course, as workers we against all military, but our particular grievance against the british military is this. When the town was unjustly proclaimed. The court was drawn to leave out a factory part of town that lies beyond the bridges. We had to ask the soldiers for permits to earn our daily bread you have seen how we have thrown the crank into production, but some activities are permitted to continue Baker. are working under our orders. The kept press is killed, but we ve substituted our own paper. He held up a small sheet which set in large letters the workers bulletin issued by the Limerick proletariat quote. We have distributed food and slashed prices. The farmer send us their produce. The food committee has been able to cut down prices. Eggs, for instance, are down from a dollar two sixty six
a dozen and milk from fourteen to six cents, a court in a few days, we will engrave our own money beside. There will be an influx money from England about half the workers, are affiliated to English unions and entitled to strike pay. We have the way felt the sympathy of the union, men in the army sent to guard us a whole. Scotch regiment had to be sent home because it was letting workers go back and forth without passes and we have told no one else. The national executive can All of the Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress will change its headquarters from Dublin two Limerick then, if military rule is an abrogated, a general strike of the entire country will be called. Of course, the workers bulletin also wrote about the strike in a positive light and commented as issues like food depots and currency were worked out, that the strike would quote, show the world what irish workers are capable of
doing when left on their own resources. We should mention also that the Soviet, as it was being called, was not exactly tied to the russian Revolution, though that name was borrowed again by the press from the events that had been playing out in Russia as czarist rule was overthrown. The idea of a Soviet as a council form from workers was being applied to the limerick strike and its governance by the Trade Council and as labour strikes, had also been a significant part of the russian revolution. The name really stuck after journalists used it. Thomas Johnson, he was the leader of Ireland's Labour Party rolled into town, hoping to represent the trade organizations and negotiators wish, and he had to get a permit from the military authorities to pass through the barricade to do so. When the local Trade Council told him they wanted. A national strike for workers. Rights Johnson explains that two formerly mount such a strike. A national convention, would have to be held,
side, and while there was support in other municipalities, that support was not universal, though most you as agreed that the situation in Limerick was untenable and unfair to laborers and that they had every reason to strike him. Even you know, every valid reason to call for a national effort. There is also some very real concern that the strike was harming laborers and barely even including since the british military that it put the barricade in Place Edition There was a real concern that a national strike would lead to violence, to make things even trickier. Ashen vain didn't offer support for the strike and for the Soviet, the labour Eddie, was acting on its own and that wasn't something they were interested in up to that point. The leaders Labour Party and trade unions were working to develop relationships with the leadership of champagne, and they were hoping for the parties support in the strike she's saying wanted to leave campaigns em for Labour
mobilize to support them. They were much less enthusiastic at the thought of workers actually having control and since there was also a lot of overlap of the nationalist volunteers which, as I said, what eventually evolve into that Irish Republican Army and labour rights advocates of the time. There is also some murky miss about motivations and leadership related to the strike, the history of sheep Shane and the IRA, as its paramilitary arm, is long and complicated and controversial with internal disagreements and splits its lake. Once you start looking at it. have you diagram it out? I mean it becomes a tree pretty quickly, because different factions will separate off because of disagreements and then with mad faction they will separate into two or more branches, and it continues like that. But at the time of the Limerick Soviet them when tears, inches Fain were closely aligned and as reminder, Bobby burn, whose death had been the catalyst for this whole event had been a member
in and a member of the limerick, trades and Labour Council, and it has been a group of violence Here's your often see had set as an irish mission that planned his escape from the hospital. The strike committee itself sought to distance their efforts, firms in vain and use the workers bullets and to do so on Monday April, twenty first the bulletin ran a blurb. That said quote the English press is doing its level best dubbed the strike action vain one and hopes that the working class will be fooled. This strike is a workers strike and has no motion vain than any other strike against tyranny and inhuman oppression and Tommy soldier is not our real enemy, and we wish him to understand. He is merely a tool of his imperialistic capitalistic government. In the midst of discussions with the now Non Executive of the Irish Labour Party Trade Union Congress, tiredly new idea was floated as an alternative to pursuing a national strike to labor.
They really really did not want, and it was really just increasingly apparent that they were not going to. Let that happen in this plan was to completely evacuate the city of Limerick. The idea was that in leaving the city and show? It would make a strong statement visually, and it would also send a message that the people of Limerick would rather leave their homes than live under british martial law and though this was bold idea. It was also fairly nutty. It did not fly for a number of reasons. Including the immense logistical load of finding places to relocate and entire cities population even temporarily. Meanwhile, british trade unions were working actively against the strike. Some of these Indians manage workers in Ireland and able to exert their influence to urge anyone in their unions to forego participation, there was support for Limerick Labour Strike throughout Ireland and many people donated money to the cause. But there was just no way for these funds to reach the striking workers. Additionally, it was spared
apparent that, even though the strike committee was doing pretty well in running things, that the situation could not last forever, Limerick just didn't have the infrastructure to continue to operate independently for very long independently behind. Kate Syllabuses, Martineau work. I would know national strike forthcoming and resources being stretched. Pretty thin. A meeting took place with multiple local leaders, as well as the straight committee in attendance were Stephen O, who was Limerick, Mare, Dennis Helen, Am Catholic, Bishop of Limerick and General Griffin, commanding officer of the Limerick Garrison and after these negotiations and agreement was reached that, if the strike Committee called an end to the strike and then, if there was no trouble in the days that followed, the often see it listed as a week. The barricades and the checkpoint set up would also end so on April, twenty fourth, the strike ended and a week later, Limerick residents needed no permits to move in and
their city, while the strike ended without loss of life and the workers and Strike Committee could consider it a when there also plenty of people who see it as a loss and the last hundred years there has been a great deal of theorizing about what might have been if the committee had continued to develop a worker led government, instead of compromising with the british authorities, On May twenty ninth of two thousand, mainly Robert Burn Memorial Park, was opened in twenty fifteen. A documentary about the Limerick Soviet was made, and just a couple of months ago, as a reference to the top of this episode. The city of Limerick marked the one hundred year anniversary of the strike, with a huge series of events, titled Limerick, Soviet one hundred a festival of ART and activists Do you have listener bail to take us out? I do and just buy magical coincidences also about Ireland to Ray. It is for my listener Lori who sent us a lovely care package, because she has also been traveling. She said, greetings Tracy and Holly.
To write you for over a year now, but life seemed to get in the way. Too often. I know that feeling she says, I have been a listener for many years and finally have a connection to a pike s to write you. I visited linen March. Twenty eighteen, with my best friend of thirty years, to celebrate turning forty that year. Imagine my delight when you're classic episode before I left was on the east arising in Dublin, while visiting Dublin I was able to visit many of the sites associated with the war for irish independence, Stevens Green, the General Post Office and killing him jail. While at the Little Museum of Dublin they had a copy of the nineteen. Sixteen proclamation for independence up on the wall, picked up a postcard copy of it for you and then she talks about came in the history of Dublin
about while they were here and she sent us some great stuff summoned, which talks about was vikings being in Dublin before most of the history we have talked about related to irish industry, as she said, there's a postcard with this a fabulous proclamation on it, as well as a beautiful postcard. A couple of other beautiful postcards ass. She sat so it was super duper fun to get this. It was actually sitting on my desk when I got back from Ireland and it felt like magically. Ireland had arranged it up that that was not the case. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you worry for all of these delightful trees and for kind of making. It feel, like my trip, lasted longer than it actually did. If you'd like to write to us, you can do so in history. Pie cast a house of works, dot com you can ask, find us everywhere and social media as missed in history and missed in history. Dot com is also armed website. Do you can subscribe to the pond ass? We should like it. If you did, you can do that. Add the Iheart radio, app apple podcast or wherever you listen to the project
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