Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2021-01-05

"Our Mickey": The Story of Private James O'Rourke, VC.MM (CEF), 1879-1957

Document type Article
Author Dooley, Michael Kevin
Journal Labour / Le Travail
Volume 47
Date 2001 Spring
ISSN 0700-3862
Pages 171-184


Discusses the life of Michael James "Mickey" O'Rourke, a miner, soldier, and labor activist, who received the Victoria Cross, Canada's highest military decoration at the time, for serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during World War I. One of the few survivors of Canada's 7th Battalion, O'Rourke returned to British Columbia after the war and led a longshoremen's strike in Vancouver in 1935. The war, however, left him with chronic chest problems that limited his ability to work. Despite his status as a war hero, he received a disabled veteran's pension, which was based on the wage rates of unskilled labor. O'Rourke, consequently, lived in poverty before passing away as an indigent in a Veterans' Affairs facility in Burnaby, British Columbia. His portrait hangs in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.