Thomas Farren

(11/12/1879 - 26/02/1955)

Thomas Farren, trade unionist and politician was born in Thomas Place (now demolished where Dolphin’s Barn Fire Station is) and then lived on Crumlin Road until he passed. He was born on 11 December 1879 in Dublin and raised in a family of trade and labour, with his brother John Farren also becoming a notable figure in the trade union movement, Thomas embarked on a journey that would shape Irish labour history.

Beginning as a stone mason, Farren’s passion for trade unionism led him to join the Stonecutters Union of Ireland. His dedication propelled him to the position of general secretary by 1912. In the tumultuous times of the 1913 lockout, Farren played a pivotal role, overseeing the administration of the strike fund and contributing to crisis resolution efforts.

Farren’s political ascent gained momentum when, in 1915, he became the first Irish Labour Party parliamentary candidate in the Dublin (College Green) by-election. Though he faced defeat, securing 1,816 votes against his opponent, his campaign marked the Labour Party’s commitment to women’s suffrage, Irish neutrality, and the resistance to partition. In 1915 and 1916 he was president of the Dublin Trades Council.

An unwavering nationalist, Farren’s activism extended to participation in the Easter Rising of 1916 as part of the Irish Citizen Army. Interned after the rising, he later engaged in discussions with British leaders, including Prime Minister Lloyd George, in an attempt to secure the release of other Irish trade union leaders. Despite these efforts, the dream of a peaceful compromise remained elusive.

In 1920 he came a member of the Dublin Corporation and as president of the Irish Trades council and instructed train drivers not to drive British militia or munition. Farren’s association with the Irish Trade Union Congress showcased his leadership acumen. He became the president of the Congress in 1920 and, concurrently, a member of the Irish Free State Seanad in 1922. His political tenure continued with a re-election in 1931, and he served until the abolition of the Free State Seanad in 1936.

In the aftermath of the Stonecutters Union of Ireland’s absorption, Farren’s affiliation with the ITGWU burgeoned. He held the position of secretary for the Dublin no. 5 branch (building trade) and was instrumental in the transformative phase of Irish labour during the presidency of the Irish Labour Party from 1919 to 1921.

Farren’s commitment to social justice endured, and he ardently campaigned for improved living conditions and social welfare for the Dublin working class during his tenure in the Irish Free State senate. His persistent efforts towards the welfare of the working class culminated in his appointment as a workers’ advisor to the International Labour Office in 1924.

The later years of Farren’s life were not without political tribulations. A disagreement within the Labour Party in 1944 prompted a split, with Farren objecting to the influence of British-based unions in Ireland. Advocating for the formation of the Congress of Irish Unions in 1945, he continued to champion Irish-centric trade unionism.

Thomas Farren’s journey came to an end on 26 March 1955 at “Johanna Ville”, Crumlin Road, after a prolonged illness and just 12 days after his wife Nellie died. His legacy endures in the annals of Irish labour history, a testament to his unwavering dedication to the cause of the working class and his pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of Irish trade unionism and politics.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Trade unionist who lived on Crumlin Road.