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Matt on Strike


It has been stated more than once that Matt Talbot was a strike breaker, who took no interest in his fellow workers' struggles for better conditions. This is not true.

Jim Larkin

In 1900 there was a strike of 500 Dublin dockers. At that time Matt was a temporary employee of the Port and Docks and his name is on the list of the forty two workers from that concern who went on strike. The dispute dragged on for most of the summer finally the men dispirited and beaten drifted back to work in batches of five or six. The men had lost several weeks wages and saw no prospect of their modest demand a rise of sixpence a day on their daily pay of four and sixpence being met. Matt Talbot did not go back when the strike ended. His stand at this time thirteen years before Jim Larkin and the General Strike of 1913 is worth noting.

It is also interesting to note that his reading prior to 1913 while still being spiritual also included history and biographies such as History of the Roman Empire, History of Peter the Great of Russia and in the years preceding the 1913 strike he seems to be very preoccupied with workers rights and read several books on socialism and the labour movement including, Between Socialism and Capitalism, and A Living Wage and a Family Wage.

By 1909 he was a permanent employee of T&C Martin's and a member of the Builders Labours' Branch of The Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In the General Strike of 1913 an attempt by the leaders of the Employers' Union to break sympathetic strike tactics, resulted in workers not previously involved coming out. Martin's workers went on strike in September, Matt Talbot with the rest.

James Larkin addressing a crowd

A man who had his doubts about going out on strike asked Matt's opinion. Matt said how he had read and prayed about it and that he was particularly convinced by a book he had read which stated that, 'No man has the right to starve a worker into submission.' He had great admiration for Jim Larkin; and when asked for his opinion on the strike he would say, 'I do not know enough to judge, Jim Larkin knows the rights and the wrongs of it.' He did not go on the picket line, but this was not unusual as men nearing their sixties were not asked to, nor did he collect his strike pay and when his follow workers discovered this they brought it to him every week

A cheque to Matt of fifteen shillings from the Irish Transport and General Workers Union

Matt used it to help strikers with young families; he sensed when they were in difficulties and would make his offer of money 'to tide you over' in a delicate and tactful way.

Matt was a fully paid up member of The Irish Transport and General Workers Union for the rest of his life. In 1923 Matt became very ill and was unable to work. He received his sick pay, fifteen shillings from the I.T.G.W.U. the receipts for which we still have.

 Archbishop of Guadalajara, Francisco Oroczo

A short few years after Matt's death in 1934 during the Mexican rebellion the Archbishop of Guadalajara Francisco Oroczo who had great regard for Matt, would often use his life as an example in his sermons, said of him. "We need never fear communism if the workers of the world would emulate Matt Talbot."