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Lockout Lucan Strike, Strife ... and the Shackletons

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By Gerard O'Connell, with Brian Daly
© May 2019

“The sweet choristers of the air, the solemn tones of church bells, the loud sounding horn of the factory, Rousing the weaver from his calm sleep to the busy loom, the pleasure-seekers, with song and laugh and Instrumental music, revelling in this lap of Nature, give to Lucan a distinct and local splendour” 1
Rev. William S. Donegan, Lucania 1901.
1 Mary Mulhall, Lucan and Lucanians (Dublin, 1996), p. 1.

Part I Introduction - Difficult Decision
Part II Lucan before 1900
Part III The Growth of Lucan 1900 - 1915:
Mills, Landed Estates and Tourism
Part IV The Lockout Begins in Lucan
Part V Trouble in Lucan
Part VI) Conclusion - Lucan’s Hidden History

Part I - Introduction
Difficult Decision

Wednesday 27th August 1913
The pleasant autumnal morning sunshine did little to lift William Shackelton’s gloomy mood. As he ate breakfast in the large drawing room of his comfortable home in Lucan he knew that trouble was brewing.

Along with his brothers, George and John, he was in charge of the running of Shackleton and Sons Mill located on the banks of the river Liffey in Lucan. Shackletons Flour Mill was a thriving, well run and progressive mill. It gave employment to approximately 60 people in the greater Lucan area and used the latest cutting edge technology. The Shackletons were viewed as benevolent employers who treated their workers well.

The Shackleton brothers had enjoyed a privileged upbringing and were now successful entrepreneurs. Aside from the usual commercial stresses associated with the running of any enterprise the Shackletons had little to worry them. But today was different. William and his brothers knew that they were going to take a very difficult decision in the mill. What disturbed William most was that the “difficult decision” that would have to be taken was not economic - it was human.

William and his brothers were preparing to lock out some of their workers. They were about to do the unthinkable - treat their workers in a harsh and cruel manner. As Quakers the Shackletons believed it was their moral duty to care for their workers. Now they were organising to throw a large number of them out of work. The Shackleton brothers well knew that the consequences for any worker that they “locked-out” would be calamitous. Dire poverty and homelessness were very real potential consequences for any locked-out worker. What William and his brothers could not have realised was that the lockout at their mill would be the fuse that would ignite similar lockouts all over Dublin and in the process propel Lucan and the Shackletons into the very epicentre of early twentieth century, radical societal change.

Part II
Lucan before 1900

Before the onset of The Great Famine (1845-51) Lucan was a relatively prosperous place. While the famine did have some effect, it seems that Lucan did not suffer to the same extent as other areas. Although much of the agricultural land of Lucan adjoined that of Leixlip, it was in the bordering county of Kildare where the potato blight decimated the crop in1846 2. In Lucan both the early and late crops of potato suffered only a 10% loss through the effects of blight 3.

The relative wealth of both pre and post-famine Lucan can be seen from population statistics. The population of Lucan in 1841 stood at 563 inhabitants in the town and 576 living in the rural hinterland of Lucan. In the taking of the next census in 1851 there was a marginal change from 563 to 535 inhabitants in the town while the number of people living in Lucan’s rural hinterland fell from 576 to 474.

2 Padraic O’Farrell, A History of County Kildare (Dublin 2003), p. 95.
3 Relief commission papers, 1845 (N.A.I., MS RLFC4/9/63).

The above is a sample taken from the publication.

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