The Central Bank of Ireland have officially launched their latest collector coin on the 24th September marking one of the country’s most pivotal anniversaries, that of the Great Lock-out which occurred one hundred years ago and paved the way for better working conditions for many laborers – not only in Ireland but eventually all around the industrialized world. Attended by many guests from the Irish numismatic & art community – including several previous designers of Irish collector coins, as well as the grand-daughter of Jim Larkin – the proceedings got under way at an unusual but nonetheless very interesting venue in the center of the city.
The Glasnevin Cemetery Museum’s award winning structure, located at the main entrance to the grounds.
Held at one of Dublin’s most historical locations, that of the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, the cemetery itself being the final resting place of the Lock-out’s organizer, Jim Larkin (1876 – 1947) a native of Liverpool, England of Irish heritage. The Museum itself, with its contemporary and award winning design for architecture was added to this immense sprawling space in April 2010 as part of an overall restoration project which began in 2005. Many of Ireland’s most notable persons and national heroes are buried here including Daniel O’Connell, (1775-1847) often referred to as Ireland’s Liberator and for whom, had it not been for his efforts, the city’s first ever non-denominational cemetery which came into existence in 1832 would not have been founded. O’Connell’s own imposing memorial at Glasnevin dominates the landscape with its round tower, added in 1847 and reaching a height of 170 feet, it is situated just at the entrance to the grounds.
Opening the event on the day was John Green, Chairman of the Glasnevin Trust who spoke of the importance of the anniversary, as the protest for better working conditions and its aftermath affected directly those grave-diggers who eventually won the right of one guinea (21 shillings) a week and the right to sick days off when needed. Mr. Green handed proceedings over to the next speaker, The Central Bank of Ireland’s Governor Patrick Honohan. Mr. Honohan commented on both the significance of the anniversary to the Irish State as well as those historic figures who were involved in the lock-out and the impact it would eventually have in Ireland. The Governor continued, “The story of the lockout, the fascinating personalities involved, the distress and hardship suffered by workers seeking to organize themselves in the early days of broad-based trade unions – All of these things deserve to be known and remembered.” After the Governor’s words, he presented low-numbered strikes of the coins to the Chairman of the Museum’s trust, Mr. Green as well as to the designer of the coin itself, Mr. Rory Breslin. (Read an interview with Rory Breslin.)
Chairman John Green, Sculptor Rory Breslin and Governor Patrick Honohan during the presentations and official launch of the latest collector coin.
As part of the presentation, a reading from Actor Jim Roche, a frequent portrayer of Jim Larkin who re-enacted one of Larkin’s more memorable speeches delivered during the bleakest chapter of the lock-out when it seemed that the strike itself would be ended before any real conciliation would be made by the employers & management. Larkin who founded the Irish Transport and General Workers Union also co-founded the Irish Labour party just one year before the Lock-out and would travel to America detailing his experiences to many an audience with labor and the circumstances which lead to the action undertaken by his countrymen in Dublin.
Actor Jim Roche re-creates the iconic pose which is forever associated with Jim Larkin – both on O’Connell Street and on the latest collector coin.
The coin, while not dedicated specifically to the memory of Jim Larkin, who was instrumental in organizing this historic event, is featured prominently but, not in a manner one would usually think to be utilized. Larkin’s likeness is actually seen from the back, as though one were looking through the symbolic (and in many cases very real) locked gates while Larkin is addressing the masses of crowds who gathered to hear his speeches of encouragement and support for their actions. The coin’s innovative design was created by Irish sculptor Rory Breslin, the Lock-out coin was his first-ever numismatic project.
The memorial of Jim Larkin himself, as seen from the back, the statue is located in front of the General Post office on O’Connell Street.
The “Lock-out” centennial anniversary coin goes on sale today – you may order this coin directly from the offices of the Central Bank of Ireland, for more information, please visit their website at: http://www.centralbank.ie/paycurr/collector/Pages/Coinsets.aspx
The silver collector coin, with a face value of €15 is struck to proof quality with a mintage of 10,000 pieces.
My thanks go to the Currency Centre of the Central Bank and Margaret Daly, Manager of the department for her kind assistance with this article. My thanks also go to the management & staff of the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum for their kind assistance on the day. For more information on the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum and to tour the grounds – a must for anyone tracing their heritage in Ireland, please visit their website at: http://www.glasnevintrust.ie/