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Strumpet City

About the Book

Published by Gill and Macmillan, Strumpet City depicts a pivotal event in Irish social history – the mass lockout of trade unionists by employers in 1913 – and has a wonderfully memorable cast of characters – not least the city itself. One reviewer commented – “if Ulysses is Dublin’s odyssey, Strumpet City is Dublin’s epic”. The same reviewer is of the opinion that if anyone is seeking the Great Irish Novel – they need look no further.

James Plunkett commented that the novel ‘is a picture of Dublin in the seven years 1907 to 1914. Against the backdrop of social agitation, it is about the attitudes of various strata of society—from Dublin Castle and people of property down to the destitute poor and the outcasts. Joyce wrote about the moderately middle class, and O’Casey about the slums of the period. I was concerned with finding a form in which all the elements could fit.’

From the destitution of Rashers Tierney to the solid, aspirant respectability of Fitz and Mary, the priestly life of Father O’Connor, and the upper-class world of Yearling and the Bradshaws, it paints a portrait of a city of stark contrasts, with an urban working class mired in vicious poverty.

Strumpet City is the great, sweeping Irish historical novel of the 20th century.

About the Author

James Plunkett Kelly was born in Sandymount in Dublin in 1920 and was educated by the Christian Brothers at Synge Street. He began writing short stories as James Plunkett in the 1940s, many of which were published in The Bell.

First published in 1969 while Plunkett was working as a producer at Radio Telefís Éireann, Strumpet City is acknowledged as his masterpiece. It was later made into a popular television series starring Peter O’Toole, Bryan Murray, Donal McCann, Cyril Cusack and David Kelly.

Plunkett drew on his city centre working-class background as well as his experience in the labour movement as inspiration for the book. While working as a clerk in the Gas Company, he became active in the Workers’ Union of Ireland. In 1946 he became branch and staff secretary and worked under Jim Larkin until Larkin’s death in 1947.

Plunkett also wrote three radio plays, including Big Jim, also set in the 1913 Lockout in Dublin. It provided the basis of the stage play The Risen People, produced by the Abbey Theatre in 1958. He died in 2003.


Bread and Roses: Strumpet City Revisited

Recorded at St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle in April 2013 and presented by Seán Rocks, listen to the full Arena special on RTÉ Radio One dedicated to Strumpet City by James Plunkett, to mark this year’s ‘Dublin: One City One Book’. Featuring readings by actor Bryan Murray, discussion by Christine Dwyer Hickey, Diarmaid Ferriter and Peter Sheridan. Music performed by RIAM orchestra with conductor Proinsías Ó Duinn.

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