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Peter Larkin (1880–1931)

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

IWW men, 1920 [Larkin is in the second row from the back, fourth from the right]

IWW men, 1920 [Larkin is in the second row from the back, fourth from the right]

photo from Mary Glynn, the girl in the second row from bottom, per Verity Burgmann

Peter Larkin (1880-1931) dock labourer, gaoled trade union leader and Communist 

Birth: 21 July 1880 at Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England, son of Irish-born parents James Larkin, labourer, and Mary Ann, née McNulty. Marriage: 15 February 1909 at St Francis Xavier’s Church, Everton, England, to a widow, Annie, late Hay, née Traynor. They had one daughter and one son. Death: 15 May 1931 in hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Said to be related to Michael Larkin, one of the Fenians who was involved in activities in relation to political independence for Ireland and was hanged for a murder the group did not commit.
  • Union organising on wharves in Dublin.
  • Arrived in Australia in 1915. Worked in mines at Broken Hill, New South Wales. Was a paid organiser for Sydney local branch of Industrial Workers of the World [the Wobblies]. Wife and daughter arrived in Sydney in 1916.
  • Travelled to Western Australia and northern NSW to promote the principles of IWW to semi-skilled and unskilled railway construction workers. Member of IWW and prominent soap boxer for IWW in Sydney.
  • Prominent speaker opposing conscription. On 13 September 1916 was sentenced to three months in prison under the War Precautions Act.
  • Larkin was one of twelve IWW members arrested on 22 September 1916 on charge of conspiracy to commit arson. Part of police evidence included a police shorthand reporter recording a fiery public speech including knowledge of Irish affairs and referred to the burning down of Sydney. On 2 December 1916 Justice Robert Pring sentenced him to ten years in prison with hard labour.
  • After an inquiry and report by Judge Norman Ewing ordered by John Storey’s Labor government Larkin was released from jail with other IWW prisoners on 3 August 1920.
  • A foundation member of Communist Party of Australia in November 1920, became public speaker for CPA throughout NSW and Queensland.
  • Deported and returned to Britain and Ireland in May 1922, the £106 expenditure for which was paid by the Australian government.
  • Politically active in Ireland in relation to independence, together with brother ‘Big’ Jim Larkin, sister Delia and nephew Jim Larkin.
  • Spent time in the United States of America agitating for the release from jail of brother Jim for his public speeches there.
  • Cause of death pneumonia, myocarditis and cardiac and respiratory failure.

H. J. Gibbney & A. G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 2 (Canberra, 1987); Barrier Daily Truth, 19 May 1931; Australian Worker 27 June 1931 p.1; Recorder, June 1973 No.64; information from Frank Cain 1991.

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Citation details

'Larkin, Peter (1880–1931)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 February 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

IWW men, 1920 [Larkin is in the second row from the back, fourth from the right]

IWW men, 1920 [Larkin is in the second row from the back, fourth from the right]

photo from Mary Glynn, the girl in the second row from bottom, per Verity Burgmann

Life Summary [details]


21 July, 1880
Liverpool, Lancashire, England


15 May, 1931 (aged 50)
Dublin, Ireland

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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