100 years ago Wexford was a fundamentally different place. Most males worked in the foundry industry in Wexford town. The best known is Pierces but there were others in Selskar and the Star. In 1911 the employers locked out their employees as they wanted to join a union. In this case the ITGWU. Richard Corish was the main shop steward who worked at the Star Foundry in William St. Together with Connolly and Larkin he worked tirelessly to ensure that workers could be
represented by the union of their choice. The lock out resulted in immense hardship for many houses in Wexford. In those days foundries closed at Christmas and wouldn’t re-open until March. For many families managing on limited means was the order of the day. The lock out meant that for over 6 months most families had no income in Wexford during a long cold dark winter. During that period Michael O'Leary a local man going about his business in the street was baton charged by the RIC during a riot. He died as a result of injuries received.
It is difficult to imagine the type nowadays the restricted lifestyle people led. Families coped with the hardship because they understood that when it was over that things would be better and that the sacrifice was worth it. In those days few families paid tax, nor had bank accounts simply because incomes were so low. Wexford’s foundries dominated the Irish production of farm machinery. To this day ploughs survive restored by their owners as a testament to the skill of the craft of ironwork in a by gone day.
The next 6 months will see a number of events marking the centenary. Mayor Davy Hynes officially opened the road which appropriately contains SIPTU’s Wexford HQ. Peter O’Leary grandson of Michael, spoke of his pride at the opening of the road. Many of the O’Leary family were there and it was great to see a good turn-out in the community to mark a hugely significant piece of Wexford history.