A Tribute to Matt Talbot

Statue of Talbot near Dublin’s Talbot Memorial Bridge, Dublin, Ireland. CC photo from Wikipedia.

Matt Talbot was born in Dublin, Ireland. Matt left school at the age of twelve and went to work in a wine merchant’s store in order to help his family financially. He started sampling the wines at work and one-year later, at the age of 13, he was a hopeless alcoholic. For the next 15 years he would drink alcoholically in the pubs and bars of Dublin spending all of his earnings and running up debts. When his wages were gone, he scammed and scrounged for money. Often, he would pawn his own clothing and footwear for alcohol.

When he was 28, he resolved to never drink again. Rejected by his drinking friends and in an “alcoholic moment of clarity”, he committed to staying sober for three-months. At the conclusion of that period he committed to three more months. Ultimately, he would maintain his abstinence until his death, 41 years later. There is evidence that Matt’s first seven years of sobriety were especially difficult. Especially hard was avoiding his former drinking places. He began to pray as intensely as he used to drink. He found strength in prayer, began to attend daily Mass and he repaid all his debts scrupulously.

Matt was a hard and conscientious worker. He would often take on the toughest and hardest jobs without complaint. He was respectful to his bosses without being a sycophant. He would often advocate for his fellow-workers during employee disputes. During a work strike Talbot refused his strike pay, saying that he had not earned it. Later he accepted the money, but asked that it be shared among his fellow strikers.

With forty-one years of sobriety, he died on June 7, 1925 – three days and ten years before the program of A.A. was born. Today substance use disorder clinics, treatment centers and youth hostels all over the world are named after Matt Talbot. Talbot is credited with saying…

“Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink. It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on Him.” – Matt Talbot


John Donovan is the Director of the Recovery Community Network in St. Cloud, MN.  John is a person in long-term recovery with over 41 years of sobriety.  He blogs and lectures frequently on recovery and recovery related issues.  

Last Updated on May 3, 2020

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