The recent articles in Solidarity on James Connolly and other aspects of Irish labour history bring to mind what some have called the “great Irish novel”: James Plunkett’s Strumpet City, adapted for TV by Hugh Leonard and broadcast in Ireland in 1980 and then the UK. Strumpet City covers the period from 1907 to 1914, taking as its central event the Dublin Lockout of 1913. Connolly doesn’t make an appearance (he was in the USA for some of this time) but we are offered a surprisingly bravado performance from Peter O’Toole as the famous labour leader Jim Larkin. For me, however, the TV adaptation is stolen by David Kelly’s portrayal of the irascible destitute Rashers Tierney.
This epic historical drama takes us through Edward VII’s (Peter Ustinov) visit to Dublin in 1907 and the Lockout, where we follow the worker Fitz and his family as they struggle to survive
In 1914 Fitz, who is now blacklisted, is seen in his British army uniform waving goodbye to his wife Mary as he takes the boat to England. We never find out whether Fitz survives the war, but the stage is already being set for the 1916 Easter Rising.