James Larkin’s trial for larceny of union funds 1909
An important group of two small quarto manuscript notebooks compiled by Francis Healy, the barrister who defended Jim Larkin and other trade union officers on charges of conspiring to steal union subscriptions at a Cork police court, August 1909.
The case against Larkin and his colleagues James Fearon, Denis Sullivan and Daniel Coveney relates to 1908-9, when Larkin founded the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, having been expelled by the British-based National Union of Dock Labourers. It was alleged that Larkin and his colleagues had collected subscriptions in Cork intended for the Dock Labourers Union and had applied them without authority to the new Irish union. The charge was probably inspired by Larkin’s enemies among the dock employers, but a labourer was produced in court to say his subscriptions had been misapplied. The Cork police court found a true bill against the defendants. When the substantive trial was held in Dublin in 1910, Larkin was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. The case had serious consequences for another defendant, James Fearon. Given six months with hard labour, he suffered a breakdown while in prison and was removed to a mental institution for some time.
The details of the episode are obscure, and the present notebooks offer useful evidence for a fuller account. They include contemporary news cuttings of the court evidence, extracts from the Larceny Act, detailed notes probably of evidence given in court, and lists of questions probably intended for use in court. (During the hearing, the prosecutor at one point referred to ‘a book’ from which he alleged Healy was reading while conducting questions – very probably this notebook). The notebooks refer only to the Cork hearing. There is also some material relating to other matters in which Healy was involved.
Francis Healy (1872-1931), a cousin of Tim and Maurice Healy, was a well-established Cork barrister and an active nationalist. A co-opted member of Cork County Council and a friend of William O’Brien, he defended separatist prisoners charged under the Defence of the Realm Act, and was deported after the Easter Rising (see the Dictionary of Cork Biography).