Labour World

August 2, 2013 · 3 comments

in Guest Bloggers,Newspapers

Intro by Justin Furlong, NLI Newspaper Librarian

This is the fourth in a series of blogs connected to a joint project (Newspaper Descriptors Project) by the National Library of Ireland and the Newspaper & Periodical History Forum of Ireland (NPHFI). The project aims to provide short descriptors or pen notes for the newspaper titles listed in our Newspaper Database here at the National Library. The descriptors include such information as publication dates, proprietors and funding, editors and significant journalists, circulation figures (if known), comment on the newspaper’s political affiliation, and mention any histories written on the various titles.

We’re delighted to share this short piece on Labour World written by Carla King, DCU historian and NLI reader…

Labour World

First issue of The Labour World on Sunday, 21 September 1890

The Labour World enjoyed a short but influential career as a penny weekly. It first appeared on 21 September 1890 and its last edition was published on 24 May 1891. It was owned and edited by Michael Davitt and published in London, its readership in Britain and Ireland. The newspaper was registered on 17 July 1890, with an office at No. 263, the Strand, London. The initial shareholders were: Davitt, D’Arcy Reeve, William Saunderson (proprietor and editor of The Democrat, which went out of publication when the Labour World appeared), and Rev Mr Seymour. Others joined as shareholders shortly after, namely Mr Sherlock, the journalist Bennett Burleigh, Richard McGhee and James Rourke. The initial capital was £5,000 but in September it was raised to £10,000, at which time Davitt increased his shares to 600.

The paper initially appeared successful, with 60,000 of the second edition ordered. However, its support declined in the bitter atmosphere of the Parnell Split. Davitt initially ran the paper himself, seeking contributions from friends and associates, but when he became involved in the Parnell Split and his health broke down the paper was managed by Charles Diamond. Eventually Davitt handed over editorship of the paper to Henry Massingham on 2 May 1891 but the paper only survived for three further issues.

Labour World

Robbery of Labour and Social Injustice. Detail from The Labour World masthead.

The Labour World was aimed at working men and women and covered a wide range of subject matter, including labour issues, news, sporting items, a women’s column, drama criticism, book reviews and serialised fiction. It was not affiliated to any political party but favoured the radical wing of the Liberal Party and Home Rule, and it also publicised Davitt’s Irish Democratic Trade and Labour Federation, founded in January 1890. It also became a mouthpiece for Davitt’s criticisms of Parnell.

Publications about the newspaper are:

  • Laurence Marley, Michael Davitt: Freelance Radical and Frondeur (Four Courts Press, 2007), ch. 3 ‘Crusading journalism and the Labour World’
  • Carla King, ‘Always with a pen in his hand…’ in Ciara Breathnach and Catherine Lawless (eds), Visual, Material and Print Culture in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts Press, 2010), pp 186-97.

Carla King
St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

Michael Davitt

Unflattering depiction of Michael Davitt by John D. Reigh in United Ireland, a pro-Parnell newspaper. NLI ref. United Ireland 1892 August 13 (A)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Póló August 5, 2013 at 10:24 am

This newspaper series is fascinating and a great resource. Full marks.

In keeping with my habitual attention seeking, I would like to refer to a publication whose life was as short as that of Labour World, but which dates from a more recent, though fast fading, period.

The Shanganagh Valley News was published between June 1958 and February 1959, serving the Ballybrack/Shankill area of south Dublin.

It consisted of a stencilled 2-4 pages with articles, opinions, letters, competitions and paid advertisements. It had a run of around 50 copies and was read both locally and abroad, as copies were sent by locals to family members overseas.

The editor/manager was 14 year old Paul O’Dwyer (Pól Ó Duibhir) and the paper was produced in Broadstone by Miss Murray under the direction of Luke O’Dwyer. Sara O’Dwyer was the principal advisor to the editor on content. The paper was briefly mentioned in the national press at the time.

It started out costing 1d. but quickly rose to 2d. and the Christmas (bumper) edition went as high as 3d. (These prices wouldn’t register on a Eurograph but each 1d. was approximately the price of a Woodbine cigarette at the time.)

It was funded from sales, and profit (= gross sales revenue) was donated to the Shanganagh Boys’ Club.

The paper had a number of, subsequently distinguished, contributors including Alan Dukes (former Minister for Finance and leader of the Fine Gael party) and Barry Murphy (former Commissioner and head of OPW).

The first issue, and extracts from subsequent editions, can be read online.

And the connection with Labour World?

Michael Davitt lived in Ballybrack for some of the last two decades of the nineteenth century.


Bean an Phoist August 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Have to object, Pól, on the grounds that the competition questions for girls in your first issue were soppy! 🙂


Póló August 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm


Made me cringe reading that back. One of the things I was tempted to change/hide (incl grammar, Irish), but as I explained I have sacrificed my good name in the interest of historical accuracy.

Maybe get a medal some day from Aos Dána or Tommy Graham. 🙂


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