Who Was Tommie Larkin

Who was Tommy Larkin?

As the 1972 membership card of the Tommy Larkin’s Hurling Club shows, this Club is named after two Tommy Larkins. One was Tommy Larkin of the Sauders’ Fort fame. The other was the late Very Rev. Thomas Larkin, P.P., of Ballinakill. He played a leading part in G.A.A affairs in Co. Galway in the 1920’s and ‘30’s and it was he who coached the great Tynagh teams which won ten Co. Galway senior championships and supplied the backbone of the Galway team which won the All-Ireland of 1923.

Fr. Tom Larkin, Ballinakill was one of the most devoted lovers of all that was Irish – Games, Music, and Dancing. He fostered Hurling in Ballinakill in the ‘good old days’ and in all East Galway when he was Chairman. He died in 1949, aged 58 R.I.P.

To research the other Tommy Larkin we must hark back to the darkest days of landlordism in the mid 1880’s when Lord Clanricarde’s conduct towards his tenants, especially in the Woodford area had in the words of the Chief Barron Pallas “aroused the indignation of the empire”. Even the London ‘Times’ commented: ‘Lord Clanricarde has treated his tenants with incredible baseness.’

In the two years, 1883 and 1884, Clanricarde drew the huge total of £47,000 from his properties in South East Galway. When a disastrous drop in the value of livestock occurred in the following year, the hard pressed tenants applied for a reduction in the rents. When their applications were treated with contemptuous indifference, the tenants entered into a strict combination of resist Clanricarde’s demand for payment in full. Their action was of paramount importance in the agrarian history of Ireland.

The tenants entered into a common agreement to stand by one another to the end and to resist the landlord’s unjust demands.

Plan of Campaign
The tenants of Woodford parish thus put their ‘Plan of Campaign’ into action and honoured their pledges to it, to the letter. Clanricarde met the challenge with boldness and at his request a large body of Constabulary, of more than 500 in number, was drafted in for the purpose of evicting tenants in the area. The people met this attack by every means in their power, short of armed-resistance. They barricaded houses listed for sacking and made them into little fortresses, the best-known of which became ‘Saunders’ Fort’. The farms were garrisoned by a number of young men of the district and amongst the bravest was young Tommy Larkin.

For their spirited resistance seventy-five young men of Woodford were arrested and lodged in gaol where they were treated as ordinary criminals pending their trails at Sligo.

Packed Juries
By means of packed juries the greater number were found guilty of the charge of resisting the bailiffs and were sentenced to severe terms of imprisonment with hard labour varying from six to eighteen months by the same Chief Baron Pallas who had earlier spoken harshly of Clanricarde’s treatment of his tenants.

Kilkenny Gaol
Kilkenny goal was so overcrowded by the numbers of prisoners, that an epidemic broke out and young Tommy Larkin fell seriously ill and was cruelly neglected. He died in prison without the solace of priest or doctor, unattended and uncared for by any relative or friend. His mortal remains were taken home for burial and thousand lined the funeral route in the greatest public demonstration of sympathy and solidarity ever recorded in rural Ireland. Tommy Larkin’s heart-broken father, on returning from the funeral, found a writ of ejectment awaiting him.

A coroner’s jury found that Tommy Larkin died from the neglect of the prison authorities. But what did the death of one brave young man mean to the Government of the day? Nothing and no further notice was taken of the matter by the authorities.

But the name of Tommy Larkin lives on and endures in the minds and hearts of a once stricken countryside and is now carried in pride by the young hurlers of his native place.