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The organisation and activism of Dublin’s Protestant working class, 1883–1935

  • Martin Maguire

Extract

Protestant working-class loyalists have been found not only in Belfast, behind the painted kerbs and muralled gables of the Shankill Road and Ballysillan. Recent research has found working-class loyalism in the Ulster hinterland of mid-Armagh. However, most of what has been written on southern Protestantism, beyond Belfast and Ulster, has been on the gentry class. Yet Dublin was once the centre of organised Protestant opinion in Ireland and had, in the early nineteenth century, an assertive and exuberantly sectarian Protestant working class. This paper is based on a study of the Protestant working class of Dublin, and examines its organisation and activism as revealed in the City and County of Dublin Conservative Workingmen’s Club (henceforth C.W.C.). The club owned a substantial Georgian house on York Street, off St Stephen’s Green where the modern extension to the Royal College of Surgeons now stands. The club was sustained by a core of activists numbering around three hundred, the usual print-run for the ballot papers at the annual general meeting. The Protestant working class numbered 5,688 in the city in 1881. The county area numbered 4,096, making a total of 9,784 Protestant workingclass men. The city and county total of about 10,000 remained stable up to the census of 1911. Combined with the Protestant lower middle class of clerks and shopkeepers, the potential to be mobilised by the C.W.C. numbered over 20,000. The club records are used to relate the experience of the Dublin Protestant working class firstly to the more familiar working-class loyalism of Ulster, and secondly to working-class Toryism and the concept of the labour aristocracy.

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1 Jackson, Alvin, ‘Unionist politics and Protestant society in Edwardian Ireland’ in Hist. Jn., xxiii, 4 (1990), pp 839-66.

2 Buckland, Patrick, Irish Unionism 1: The Anglo-Irish and the new Ireland, 1885–1922 (Dublin, 1972); d’Alton, Ian, Protestant society and politics in Cork, 1812–1844 (Cork, 1980).

3 Hoppen, K. Theodore, Elections, politics and society, 1832–1885 (Oxford, 1984), p. 312 ; Hill, Jacqueline, ‘The Protestant response to Repeal: the case of the Dublin working class’ in Lyons, F. S. L. and Hawkins, R. A. J. (eds), Ireland under the union: varieties of tension (Oxford, 1980), pp 3568 ; idem, ‘Artisans, sectarianism and politics in Dublin, 1829–48’ in Saothar, vii (1981), pp 12–27.

4 Maguire, Martin, ‘The Dublin Protestant working class, 1870–1932: economy, society, politics’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, University College, Dublin, 1990).

5 The club’s records are now deposited in the Representative Church Body Library, Dublin (MS 485). They consist in the main of the minute books of the management committee, 1900–10 and 1921–35; the minute books of the political committee, 1885–95, 1899–1914 and 1919; the honorary secretary’s copy-out letter book, 1884–95; annual reports for the years 1883, 1886–8 and 1893; and various accounts, subscriptions and membership ledgers.

6 Maguire, Martin, ‘A socio-economic analysis of the Dublin Protestant working class, 1870–1926’ in Ir. Econ. & Sot: Hist., xx (1993), pp 3561.

7 Jackson, Alvin, The Ulster party: Irish Unionists in the House of Commons, 1884–1911 (Oxford, 1989), p. 200.

8 Irish Times, 22 July 1883.

9 Pugh, Martin, The making of modern British politics, 1867–1939 (Oxford, 1982), p. 16.

10 McKenzie, Robert and Silver, Alan, Angels in marble: working-class Conservatives in urban England (London, 1968), p. 39.

11 Conservative Workingmen’s Club (henceforth C.W.C.) Annual Report, 1883–5,1892; C.W.C. Letter Book, 20 Oct., 8 Dec. 1885.

12 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1883.

13 Foster, R. F., Lord Randolph Churchill: apolitical life (Oxford, 1981), p. 41.

14 Irish Times, 22 July 1883.

15 Ibid., 2 Feb. 1889.

16 Pugh, Martin, The Tories and the people, 1880–1935 (Oxford, 1985), p. 13 ; Jackson, Ulster party, p. 196.

17 Pugh, Tories and the people, pp 12,215.

18 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1883.

19 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 15 Oct., 4 Nov. 1904.

20 Jackson, Ulster party, pp 204–5.

21 Dublin City and County Conservative Workingmen’s Club constitution and rules (privately printed, n.p., n.d.), rule no. 1.

22 C.W.C. Letter Book, 7 Nov. 1891; C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 12 Dec. 1902, 12, 18 Aug. 1904, 9, 19 Mar. 1906.

23 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 2 Nov. 1900, 3 Nov. 1905, 2 Oct. 1906.

24 C.W.C. Letter Book, 23 Feb. 1884.

25 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 19 Jan. 1885; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 11 Mar., 18 Aug. 1887, 23 Jan. 1889.

26 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 28 Aug., 6 Sept. 1901.

27 McKenzie & Silver, Angels in marble, p. 137.

28 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 29 Oct. 1891.

29 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1883.

30 Pugh, Tories and the people, p 8.

31 Hoppen, Elections, politics and society, pp 287–8.

32 Hill, ‘Protestant response’, p. 47.

33 Joyce, Patrick, Work, society and politics: the culture of the factory in later Victorian England (Brighton, 1980), p. 93.

34 Pugh, Tories and the people, pp 8, 28–32.

35 Dublin City and County Conservative Workingmen’s Club constitution and rules, rule no. 2.

36 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1888; C.W.C. Letter Book, 24 May 1893; C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 23 Apr., 30 July, 27 Oct. 1909, 10 June 1910.

37 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 11 Mar. 1885, 6, 8 Apr. 1902; Irish Times, 3 Nov. 1885.

38 C.W.C. Letter Book, 7 May, 4–22 June 1886.

39 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 24 May 1901, 7 July 1902, 21 Aug. 1903, 15 June 1906.

40 Ibid., 26 Feb. 1904, 24 Mar. 1905, 19 Mar. 1906.

41 Ibid., 4 Mar. 1904.

42 Ibid., 3 Apr. 1903, 9, 13 May, 4, 11 Nov., 2, 9 Dec. 1904.

43 Foster, John, Class struggle and the Industrial Revolution: early industrial capitalism in three English towns (London, 1974), pp 203-4.

44 Ibid., pp 237–8; Gray, Robert Q., The labour aristocracy in Victorian Edinburgh (Oxford, 1976), pp 136-43; Crossick, Geoffrey, An artisan élite in Victorian society: Kentish London, 1840–1880 (London, 1978), pp 61, 134–64.

45 Strauss, E., Irish nationalism and British democracy (London, 1951), p. 234 ; Bell, Geoffrey, The Protestants of Ulster (London, 1976), pp 1723.

46 C.W.C. Letter Book, 12 May 1886, May 1888; Irish Times, 22 July, 3 Sept. 1883; C.W.C. Annual Report, 1886, 1892.

47 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 1 Jan. 1885.

48 Ibid., 13 July 1900, 20 June 1901, 14 Sept. 1906.

49 Ibid., 1 Apr. 1885, 21 Apr. 1905.

50 Ibid., 27 Apr., 11 May 1906.

51 Andrews, C. S., Dublin made me (Dublin, 1979), p. 20.

52 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 15 Jan. 1904.

53 Ibid., 23 Oct. 1903, 14 Oct. 1904, 6 Feb., 22 Sept., 17 Nov. 1905.

54 C.W.C. Members’ Subscriptions Book, 1923–5; C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 23 May 1902, 22 Sept., 17 Nov. 1905.

55 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 4 Mar. 1904.

56 Ibid., 18 Mar. 1904.

57 Ibid., 14 Sept. 1906.

58 Ibid., 4 Sept. 1904.

59 Church of Ireland Temperance Society Minutes, 1879–88 (Representative Church Body Library, Dublin, MS 146).

60 C.W.C. Letter Book, 30 Oct. 1888.

61 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 17 July 1889; C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 12 Sept. 1902, 23 Oct. 1908; Church of Ireland Gazette, 23 Oct. 1908.

62 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 27 May 1904, 21 Apr., 31 July 1905, 2 Mar. 1906.

63 Ibid., 18 Nov. 1904, 27 Jan., 25 Sept. 1905, 10 Sept. 1909, 15 Apr. 1910.

64 C.W.C. Letter Book, Nov. 1887.

65 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 29 June 1900.

66 Ibid., 18 Oct. 1901.

67 Ibid., 20 Sept. 1901, 12 Sept. 1902, 17 Mar. 1905.

68 Ibid., 15 Mar. 1901, 16 May, 7 Nov. 1902, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1903, 6 May 1904.

69 Ibid., 1 Nov. 1901, 2, 16, 23 May 1902, 13 Feb. 1903.

70 lrish Times, 21 May 1884. Barton recycled this speech to quell dissent when he was imposed on the mid-Armagh constituency in 1891 (Jackson, ‘Unionist polities’, p. 843).

71 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 4 Feb. 1885.

72 C.W.C. Letter Book, 3 Jan. 1887; C.W.C. Annual Report, 1887. William Moore was later one of the leaders in the reconstruction and militarisation of Ulster Unionism and ended his career as Northern Ireland lord chief justice.

73 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1888; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 27 Jan., 10 Feb. 1888.

74 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 23 Jan. 1889.

75 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1892.

76 C.W.C. Letter Book, 27 Feb. 1886.

77 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 1 Apr. 1895.

78 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1892.

79 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 4 Apr. 1899, 2 July 1902, 19 Jan., 15 Feb., 22 Apr. 1904.

80 Ibid., 19 Feb. 1906.

81 Ibid., 7 May 1907.

82 Ibid., 15, 30 Sept. 1911, 15 Jan. 1912.

83 Walker, Brian M., ‘The Irish electorate, 1886–1915’ in I.H.S., xviii, no. 71 (Mar. 1973), pp 359406.

84 Pugh, Modern British politics, p. 7; Blewett, Neal, ‘The franchise in the United Kingdom, 1885–1918’ in Past & Present, no. 32 (1965), pp 2756.

85 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1883.

86 Irish Times, 16 Nov. 1885.

87 Jackson, Ulster party, p. 41.

88 Buckland, Irish Unionism I, app. A, pp 302–8.

89 Hoppen, Elections, politics & society, pp 386–7.

90 Freeman’s Journal, 30 Nov. 1885.

91 Letter from William Merry, Irish Times, 30 Nov. 1885; C.W.C. Annual Report, 1886.

92 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1886; C.W.C. Letter Book, 19 Mar. 1886.

93 C.W.C. Letter Book, 6 June 1886.

94 This account is based on C.W.C. Annual Report, 1886; Irish Times, 6–10 July, 11–12 Aug. 1886; Freeman’s Journal; Dublin Daily Express.

95 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1887.

96 Ibid.; C.W.C. Letter Book, 11 July 1887.

97 C.W.C. Letter Book 10 May 1888.

98 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 20 June, 19 Sept. 1902, 14 Jan. 1910.

99 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1886.

100 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 2, 21, 26 Oct. 1887; Dublin Daily Express, 4, 10 Oct. 1887.

101 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 2 Oct. 1887; Irish Times, 4 Oct. 1887; Dublin Daily Express, 7 Nov. 1887.

102 The state of Ireland, being sketches of the operation of the emergency committee of the Grand Lodge of Ireland (Dublin, 1881).

103 Ibid.; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 16 Nov. 1887.

104 Dublin Daily Express, 14 Nov. 1887.

105 Ibid., 12, 14 Nov. 1887.

106 Ibid., 27 June 1887, ‘C.W.C, meeting’.

107 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 16, 25 Nov. 1887.

108 Ibid., 19 Jan. 1888.

109 d’Alton, Ian, ‘Cork Unionism: its role in parliamentary and local elections, 1885–1914’ in Studia Hih., xv (1975), pp 143-65.

110 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 16 Sept. 1891.

111 Ibid., 29 Oct., 21 Nov. 1891; C.W.C. Annual Report, 1892.

112 C.W.C. Letter Book, 21 Nov. 1891; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 10 Feb., 19 Apr., 24 Aug. 1892.

113 C.W.C. Annual Report, 1892.

114 Ibid.; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 4 Jan. 1893.

115 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 19 May 1892; C.W.C. Annual Report, 1892.

116 The Unionist Convention for Provinces ofLeinster, Munster, Connaught, June 1892: report of the proceedings, lists of delegates, etc. (Dublin, 1892).

117 C.W.C. Letter Book, 24 Feb., 3 Mar. 1893.

118 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 6 Mar. 1893; C.W.C. Letter Book, 24 Feb. 1893.

119 C.W.C. Letter Book, 13 May 1893.

120 Gibbon, Peter, The origins of Ulster Unionism: the formation of popular Protestant politics and ideology in nineteenth-century Ireland (Manchester, 1975), p. 136 ; Patterson, Henry, Class conflict and sectarianism: the Protestant working class and the Belfast labour movement, 1868–1920 (Belfast, 1980), p. 29.

121 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 9 Oct. 1893.

122 Ibid., 17 Feb., 10 Mar. 1894.

123 C.W.C. Letter Book, 6 July 1894.

124 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 9 Oct. 1893, 14 Apr. 1894.

125 Ibid., 11 Feb. 1895.

126 Ibid., 4 June, 22 July 1895.

127 Boyle, J. W., ‘The Belfast Protestant Association and the Independent Orange Order, 1901–10’ in I.H.S., xiii, no. 50 (Sept. 1962), pp 117-52; Buckland, Patrick, Irish Unionism 2: Ulster Unionism and the origins of Northern Ireland (Dublin, 1973); Jackson, Alvin, ‘Irish Unionism and the Russellite threat, 1894–1906’ in I.H.S., xxv, no. 100 (Nov. 1986), pp 376404 ; idem, Ulster party; Patterson, Class conflict.

128 Jackson, Ulster party, pp 222–9.

129 Maguire, ‘Socio-economic analysis’, pp 36–40.

130 Jackson, Alvin, ‘The failure of Unionism in Dublin, 1900’ in I.H.S., xxvi, no. 104 (Nov. 1989), pp 337-95.

131 Patterson, HenryIndependent Orangeism and class conflict in Edwardian Belfast: a reinterpretation’ in R.I.A. Proc, lxxx (1980), sect. C, p. 4.

132 Jackson, ‘Failure of Unionism’, p. 380.

133 Irish Times, 13 July 1900.

134 Patterson, Class conflict, p. 60; Crawford, Robert Lindsay and Braithwaite, Richard, Orangeism: its history and progress: a plea for first principles (Dublin, 1904).

135 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 6 July 1900.

136 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 18 Sept. 1900; Irish Times, 18 Sept. 1900.

137 Jackson, ‘Failure of Unionism’, p. 387.

138 Patterson, ‘Independent Orangeism’, p. 5.

139 Ibid., pp 2–3.

140 Miller, David W., Church, state and nation in Ireland, 1898–1921 (Dublin, 1973), pp 110-11.

141 Irish Times, 22 Dec. 1903.

142 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 4, 15 Dec. 1903, 7 Jan. 1904.

143 Crawford & Braithwaite, Orangeism, p. 7.

144 C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 3 Nov. 1903.

145 Dublin Daily Express, 20 Nov. 1903; Irish Times, 20, 21 Nov., 9 Dec. 1903.

146 Irish Times, 23 Nov. 1903.

147 Ibid., 27 Feb., 1 Mar. 1904; Dublin Daily Express, 1 Mar. 1904.

148 Dublin Daily Express, 2 Mar. 1904.

149 Irish Times, 7 Mar. 1904.

150 Dublin Daily Express, 1, 3 Mar. 1904.

151 Irish Times, 1 Mar. 1904.

152 Ibid., 5, 9 Mar. 1904.

153 Dublin Daily Express, 1 Mar. 1904; C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 4, 7, 11 Mar. 1904; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 11 Mar. 1904.

154 Walker, Brian M. (ed.), Parliamentary election results in Ireland, 1801–1922 (Dublin, 1978), pp 160, 164.

155 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 20 May 1904; C.W.C. Political Committee Minutes, 25 June, 26 July 1904.

156 Irish Times, 20 May 1904.

157 Ibid., 18 Jan. 1905.

158 Ibid.

159 Maguire, ‘Dublin Protestant working class’, pp 158–76.

160 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 7 June 1910.

161 Ibid., 20 Apr. 1919.

162 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 29 July 1921, 21 Apr., 30 June 1922.

163 Ibid., 27 July, 12 Aug. 1921, 26 Apr. 1922.

164 Ibid., 31 Oct. 1923, 4 July 1924.

165 Ibid., 16 Nov. 1923, 28 Nov. 1924, 24 Apr. 1925.

166 Buckland, Irish Unionism 1, pp 272, 282.

167 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 17 Nov. 1922, 31 Oct. 1924.

168 Ibid., 27 July 1921, 14 Jan. 1922, 26 July 1933.

169 Ibid., 11 Sept., 16 Oct. 1925, 3 June 1927.

170 O’Sullivan, Donal, The Irish Free State and its Senate: a study in contemporary politics (London, 1940), pp 155, 428–9.

171 Walker, Brian M. (ed.), Parliamentary election results in Ireland, 1918–1992 (Dublin, 1992), p. 51.

172 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 5 Jan. 1927, 11 Jan. 1928, 16 Jan. 1929, 15 Jan. 1930.

173 Ibid., 6 Nov. 1925, 1, 8 Nov. 1929, 7 Nov. 1930, 6 Nov. 1931, 4 Nov. 1932, 27 Oct. 1933, 19 Oct. 1934.

174 Jackson, ‘Unionist polities’, p. 866.

175 C.W.C. Management Committee Minutes, 23 Nov. 1927.

176 Ibid., 24 Apr. 1935. The City and County of Dublin Conservative Workingmen’s Club survives today as an amiable social venue, the Conservative Club, which forbids any song or discussion of a political nature.

177 My thanks go to Professor Mary Daly, Dr Alvin Jackson and Dr Fergus D’Arcy for their assistance and encouragement, and to the board of the Lord Edward Fitzgerald Memorial Bursary for a generous research grant.

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The organisation and activism of Dublin’s Protestant working class, 1883–1935

  • Martin Maguire

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