Working Women, Trade Unionism and Politics in Ireland, 1830–1945

  • Maria Luddy


Among the episodes of Irish women’s trade union activism rescued from the archives by Theresa Moriarty is an account of a strike in Carroll’s tobacco factory in Dundalk. About 200 women worked in the factory in 1912 and were paid around four shillings a week. The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), which had organised the women workers, sought an increase of one shilling a week for them. Carroll’s responded by telling the women that they were being put on piecework, something the management promised would enable the women to increase their weekly wages by 50 per cent. The women refused and 50 workers went on strike on 5 January 1912. The strike lasted for nine weeks. In that period the town witnessed a group of women picketing the factory daily, confronting those women workers who continued to work in the factory, attending weekly union meetings held in the town square, and engaging in what the local newspaper termed ‘discreditable’ conduct. Their actions were reported with horror by the local press. On 13 January, the Dundalk Democrat observed:

There were some exciting and discreditable incidents in Dundalk on Saturday night in connection with the strike at Messers Carroll’s tobacco factory. A number of girls who had worked during the strike, whilst engaged in the usual Saturday night promenade or shopping were attacked by those who had left off duty, and came in for rough treatment. One girl, whose name was stated to be Lennon, came in for a good deal of abuse at the hands of the strikers and she was obliged to find refuge in Messers Fakin’s shop in Clanbrassil street. It was only when the Very Rev. Father Corcoran interceded for her that she found it possible to make her way home, in the company of the Rev. Gentleman. Another girl was pursued into a shop and the windows smashed. The father of a girl who remained at work was assaulted by some of the girl strikers and male friends. Still another girl was badly mauled going home through Church Lane. As a consequence of this violence Messers Carroll have made arrangements for their employees to sleep and eat on the premises. The girls who went to work on Monday morning — about 150 — did so an hour earlier than usual, so that the strikers who had assembled at the usual hour to indulge in what they called ‘peaceful picketing’ were disappointed.

On several evenings the girl strikers and their sympathisers paraded the town in crowds, booing and hissing at the houses of those who remained ‘on’. Some stones were thrown and the windows of the workers’ houses (which were guarded by the police) broken. Messers Carroll’s are protected by over a dozen police. It is stated that some 50 extra police are stationed in Dundalk during the week with two district inspectors. The rate payers will have to pay for these.1


Trade Union Irish Woman Woman Worker Police Report Tenant Farmer 
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© Maria Luddy 2005

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  • Maria Luddy

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