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02 October 2012

Labour History on Irish Waterways – Snippet 8.

The Newbridge branch of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union was busy in the early 1920’s trying to bring all canal workers into the brotherhood, and defending rates of payment. A letter to head office on 27th April 1923, outlined a grievance.

A Chara,

There has been trouble here in the Canal Section over a couple of boats on the Grand Canal on which non-union and arrears members are employed. The boats referred to are – 18M, and No.23 Horseboat. We want to have those boats held up on reaching Dublin.

Trusting you will be able to have this done,

Mise do chara,

M.Mac Gabhann,


The reply was posted on 30th april.

A Chara,

Yours of the 27th inst. to hand asking us to stop a couple of canal boats. We ‘phoned Thomas Street on the matter, but they say they ought to have some definite particulars as to where the boats will discharge, whether they are Companies’ or private traders’ boats, and exactly when they will arrive in Dublin. Word will be passed to men along the harbours to look out for the numbers you give, but naturally, we cannot expect to do any real business with the crews unless we can send a delegate to the right spot to catch them. Please, therefore, give us the definite particulars asked for.

Yours fraternally,

General President.

The Newbridge office took up the case of two members in a letter to Union Headquarters on 3rd July 1924.

A Chara,

A complaint has been lodged here by two of the Canal Workers Section – John Domican and John Hixon, Robertstown, that they were employed by the Grand Canal Company cleaning up the drains on the canal banks at 36 shillings per week, and that this week they were informed that they were reduced to 30 shillings. They refused to work for that rate and ceased work. The Co. Council rate for all such work is 38 shillings per week.

Mise le meas

The reply from the Grand Canal Company was sent on 14th July.

Dear Sir,

I am in receipt of your letter regarding the employment of John Domican and John Hixon of Robertstown, and in reply wish to say that these men were not employed at a rate of 36 shillings per week. These men were employed as casual men cutting weeds and unloading clay from boats. In the case of John Domican, he applied for work at our Dublin office and was told he could have work in the Robertstown District at 5 shillings per day, later, when a vacancy occurred he would get a position as engine man, which was his usual work. Through an error in our Cashiers office, a full weeks wages at 5 shillings per day was paid Domican and Hixon although they worked only five days and five and a half days respectively. This error was afterwards adjusted. These men received the usual wages we pay to casual men for work of the kind in the country. There was no question of dismissal in the case, the men wanted more wages and left work.

Yours truly,

H. Phillips,

General Manager.

Bibliography: From the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (Canals Section) files, lodged at the Irish Labour History Museum and Archive, Beggars Bush, Dublin 4.

Joe Treacy 2012.


Last Updated ( 13 October 2012 )
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