The Clongorey Evictions
Levelling the Houses.
Official Description of the Holdings.
A detailed description of the Clongorey evictions from a contemporary newspaper account is below. The article below includes detailed descriptions of the holdings, the families affected and other individuals involved on both sides of this well known episode in late 19th Centuary Kildare.
The Leinster Leader, Saturday 15 February, 1890.
Evictions were resumed at Clongorey on Friday last, and, as briefly reported in our last issue, twelve families (sixty-six persons) were thrust out of their homes. Sub-sheriff Daly was assisted by the agent, Thomas HB Rutledge, the bailiff Sweeney, and eight emergency men protected by sixty policemen in command of Removable Forbes, County Inspector Loch, and District-Inspectors Brook and Menahan. There was little excitement, only a comparatively small crowd being present. Amongst the sympathisers with the tenants were – Rev A Kinsella, PP, Carragh; Rev J Dunne, CC, Clane; Messrs John Malone, CTC, Newbridge; EM Hurley, Solicitor do; JT Heffernan, PLG Kildare; PJ Doyle, President Co Kildare GAA; M Gogarty, Clerk, Naas Town Commissioners, &c.
The character of the holdings from which the tenants were evicted on Friday may best be judged from the official report of Mr RM Barrington, MA, LLB, County Court valuer to Judge Darley, at the June Sessions, when the rents of the tenants were reduced by over 30 per cent. Mr Barrington’s observations on each separate holding will be found their proper places, and his general observations on the condition of the holdings will serve as a preface here. He said:-
All the holdings inspected were, or had been at one time “cutaway bog” – that is, moory laud, land left after the turf has been removed, which land is stated to have been reclaimed by the tenants and their predecessors. They are mud cabins, and many of a wretched description, especially the houses of Patrick Coffey and Thos Kelly.
A great flood took place in 1886, doing much injury to the tenants in Blacktrench. Thomas Kelly’s cabin was partly thrown down, and injury was done to two others, this was probably an exceptional flood, but the land of the tenants in Blacktrench is low-lying, and a bad fall for water.
I believe if some of the tenants had their land for nothing they could not live by it. Their income is mainly derived from other sources, I am informed, one of which is cutting turf and selling it in Newbridge. The tenants whose holdings I inspected were, many of them, related, and their holdings had been altered in some cases, either by changing part from one to another, or by encroaching on the cutaway bog. The boundaries therefore, were difficult to ascertain at first; but I have attached a map which, I hope, clearly shows the lands and the tenants’ names. The question of free turbary is an important one. The tenants claim it as a matter of right, but since they declined to settle with the landlord he has withdrawn this privilege and warned them off the bog.
The ancient name of the district was the Bog of Mounds. An attempt to drain the vast moor left after the turf was cut away had been made by the tenants, but proved a failure, as the soil is below the level of the Liffey, which runs by the property. From the nature of the soil a light frost in the Spring burns the crop, and in this way the tenants have often lost an entire year’s crop.
The tenants adopted the Plan of Campaign without consultation with any person. It was in operation on the property for some months before they called in any outside aid, and the first identification of any member of the Irish party with the movement on this property was at the meeting addressed by Mr Clancy. MP, and Dr Kenny, MP, towards the close of 1887. No one could have a second thought about the justification for the Plan of Campaign being adopted that year. The rents are due in May. Some months before, the corn and crops which were to realise the rents were destroyed by the floods; the houses of the tenants were thrown down and their crops ruined or carried away; they were left poorer than beggars. The poor bog men brought to ruin by the circumstances of the property, which the landlord charged them high rent for, were offered – such of them as had not gone into the Land Court – a reduction, of ten per cent for punctual payment; those of them who had the impudence to seek for a fair rent in the Land Courts were refused any concession whatever. This was the terrible situation with which the ruined rents of Clongorey were put face to face in the summer of 1887. Since the flood deprived them of house and property, of home and crops, they had literally been starving on the land. An estate committee raised subscriptions and patched up their houses; they obtained seeds on credit from generous shopkeepers and hoped when the harvest came to pay them back, and to pay the kind people who had given them the wherewithal to keep body and soul together. When the harvest came the landlord demanded all that the harvest brought them – in many cases a great deal more. At the very first meeting to consider their position they decided to ask for only 35 per cent. off non-judicial and 25 per cent. off judicial rents. This was lower than the average reductions given in the same year over the county where farms were good, and where there were no floods to spread desolation on the land. The landlord met it by an offer first of 15 per cent, afterwards increased to 20 per cent. off non-judicial rents; to the judicial tenants he would give no reduction whatever. The tenants then abated their demand to 30 per cent. and 20 per cent, hoping for a settlement on those terms. The agent next offered to sell the land at 22 years’ purchase, requiring the tenants to pay all the lawyers’ fees. Afterwards he reduced the scale of purchase to 20 years of the rent, still, however, insisting upon the tenants bearing all costs. The tenants offered 18 years’ purchase, but their advance was rejected. The late Mr. Mansfield made overtures for a settlement in the way of arbitration. The tenants accepted the suggestion, but almost immediately that they did, the negotiations were broken off by the brother of Mr. Maher, of Ballinkeale, who was himself ill at the time. The followed the evictions and house burnings and the other heartrending scenes which have made the name Clongorey memorable throughout the kingdom.
Mr Barrington’s report deals with the tenants evicted on Friday and a few others who are yet to be evicted. Dr Daley suggested to the landlord that he calculate the arrears on the basis of the rents as fixed by him, but the landlord’s solicitor refused. Judge Darley said in court on the occasion, “These are very poor tenants; they built the house themselves; reclaimed the land, which is cut-away bog, and it is absurd to tell me that these tenants can pay.”
The eviction party arrived about eleven o’clock, and at once set to their foul work.
The first tenant evicted was Thomas Fox, with nine in family. The holding consists of 6 acres, 2 roods, at a rent of £6 15s 9d, of which one year’s rent was due to May, 1889. At the June Sessions Judge Darley fixed the judicial rent at £4 18s, but the revised rental never came into operation. The Poor-Law valuation of the holding is £5. Mr Barrington, the official valuer, in his report to the judge, said that Fox’s farm is reclaimed moor, cultivated fairly well. The land is subject to floods, and the house was frequently injured. It was actually thrown down in October, 1886, and the roof was since supported on a framework and props with the walls precid together, the landlord having refused to give the tenant any help to repair the damage. The same flood carried away eleven acres of hay, one of oats, and about half-an-acre of potatoes. As compensation for this destruction, the landlord offered the tenant a reduction of 10 per cent. At this house, while the Sheriff was communicating some information to the reporters, a policeman came up and shoved them rudely back. The sheriff said he was giving them information and asked that they might be allowed to remain. The county inspector immediately came upon the scene and asked the magistrate to put back the reporters.
Sheriff – I am giving the reporters information.
County Inspector (to policeman) – You have got your orders.
Policeman – I have; but the sheriff –
County Inspector – If you have, then, why don’t you carry them out?
Sheriff – I am giving information to the reporters, and I wish them to be here.
County Inspector (to policeman) – If you don’t do it, I will get another man to carry out the orders.
The reporters were then put outside the cordon.
Thomas Fox Kelly was the tenant whose holding was next visited. The extent of the farm is 5a 1r 21p. The old rent of £3 11s 8d was reduced by Jugde Darley to £2 5s, which is 5s below the valuation. The tenant is evicted for three years’ arrears of the old rent. He has a family of three. Mr Barrington’s report upon the condition of this holding is: – “Reclaimed moor, 5a 1r 21p; mud cabin, built by tenant; fairly cultivated.” The flood of 1886 took away or destroyed an acre of turnips, an acre of rye, and half an acre of potatoes. The house in which the tenant lived was completely demolished. He prised up the roof, and the house, up to the time of the eviction, consisted of a frame work, supported by props.
William Rourke, with his wife and nine children, was next evicted. He held 5a 2r 22p at a rent of £3 16s 9d, which was reduced by Judge Darley to £2 4s, the valuation being £2 10s. He owed four years’ rent. Mr Barrington made the following observations on this farm: – “Reclaimed moor, 5a 2r 22p; mud cabin built by tenant; part uncropped; tenant unwell, and not able to cultivate entire.”
After a call at the house of Mary Kenny, who was ill in bed, the evicting party went to the residence of Patrick Murray, who holds 3a 3r 4p at a rent of £3 0s.7d, five years’ rent due. He lived in the house with his sister.
Elly Kelly, 22a 0r 38p. The old rent was £14 17s 5d, and she owed three years at this figure. In June Judge Darley fixed the fair rent at £10 12s. The valuation is £13. Mr Barrington’s report runs: – “Tenant claimed £10 for damages twenty years ago, and not, allowed, £25 for buildings, and £5 for top-dressing. The holding is used in manner best suited to its productive powers, and soil shows evidence of improvement. It is tillage land; medium soil, 5a 2r; thin soil 6a; reclaimed moor, 10a 2r 38p.” The tenant lost half an acre of turnips with potatoes and hay by the flood of 1886, the total loss which she sustained being estimated at £15 – over a year of the old rent, and more than 50 per cent over the fair rent for the one year. The landlord offered her a reduction of 10 per cent off the old rent, at which she was unable to pay. The tenant, her son and daughter-in-law, and their three children were inmates of the house. She is an old, feeble woman, who was confined to the bed until quite recently, and it was an affecting sight as she was helped out of the house. The door was on the latch, but it was not opened promptly one of the emergencymen inserted a crowbar under it. In prizing it up be loosened the portion: of the porch above the lintel, and this falling brought the entire porch with it, which struck him on the legs. He escaped unhurt, however.
John Kelly used to pay a rent of £13 5s 8d, which Dr Darley in June last reduced to £9 15s. The area of the holding is £23 Or 32p, and the valuation of £10 0s. The tenant owed three years of the old rent. He has four in family. Mr Barrington thus describes the holding: -“Medium soil, 7 acres, 2 roods; poor, thin soil, 2 acres, 2 roods; moor, 13 acres, 0 rood, 32 perches; mud cabin built by tenant; cultivated fairly, but portion uncropped.” The tenant lost hay and oats, value £16, by the flood of 1886.
James Kelly, brother of the last named tenant, to whom was sublet 5 and a half acres of the farm, was, with his wife and four children, also evicted.
Eliza Kelly held 22 acres Irish at a judicial rent of £22, the valuation being £18 10s, and her old rent, £24 16s 4d. She was decreed for two years’ arrears. Her aunt and two sons lived in the house with her.
Margaret Dunne, eighty years of age, with her son, daughter, and son-in-law, were next evicted. She held three acres, at a rent of £1, to which it was reduced by Judge Darley from £1 10s. She owed three years rent. Mr Barrington’s observations are: “Mud cabin or dwelling-house built by tenant; 2 roods medium soil; 2 acres, 2 rods reclaimed moor; cultivated fairly well. An acre and a half of hay was destroyed on this tenant by the flood of 1886.
Bryan Dunne has six in family. His rent of £2 12s 6d was reduced by Judge Darley from the old rent of £3 16s 8d, of which he owed three years’ arrears. The area is 5 acres statute, and the valuation £1 15s. He lost two acres of hay in 1886. Mr Barrington’s observations on the state of the holding are: “Thin soil, 4 acres; reclaimed moor, 1 acre; well cultivated; cabin built by tenant.
Mary Kelly has six in family. She held six acres at a rent of £3 5s, reduced by Judge Darley to £2 9s. Owing to the character of the soil her potatoes are much subject to blight, and most seasons had to be sold for half their value. Mr Barrington reported on the holding –“Reclaimed moor, 6 acres; mud cabin built by tenant; fairly cultivated, but poor land.”
At the house of Kate Daly, Father Kinsella informed the sheriff that he had prepared the poor woman for death the day before. Dr Murphy, of Newbridge, told him that she was suffering from gastric fever, and that her removal would be dangerous to life. Unfortunately they had not secured a certificate not anticipating the evictions that day, but he would get a certificate that evening.
The sheriff postponed the eviction, Father Kinsella undertaking to forward the certificate by that evening’s post. Mrs Daly’s rent is £2 15s. She lost by the flood in 1886 £15, and was offered 10 per cent reduction on the succeeding half year’s rent by the landlord.
The last eviction was that of Patrick Coffey, of Tankardsgarden, who has eleven in family. The area of the holding is 2 acres, the old rent £1 18s 6d, reduced by Dr Darley to £2. Mr Barrington remarks of the holding: – “Reclaimed moor, 2 acres; all tillage land; house built by tenant; cultivated fairly; a very poor holding on the edge of the bog.
On Saturday the eight emergencymen were engaged with hatchets and crowbars cutting the roofs off the houses and levelling the walls of the houses from which the tenants had been evicted. A small crowd collected, but they made no demonstration of any sort. The emergencymen cheered as each roof fell in. There were no policemen on the scene. On another part of the property eleven additional houses were being built to afford shelter to the evicted tenants. Many hands were engaged upon the work, and before we go to press the tenants were enjoying the shelter of these houses.
(From “United Ireland”)
The extermination of the inhabitants of Clongorey, the estate of Mr Penthony O’Kelly, was last week resumed and nearly completed. Fifty-five persons in all were made homeless. It was on this estate, it will be remembered, that the emergencymen, one night, assisted by the police and petroleum, made a bonfire of a little village. County Court Judge Darley is an unadulterated Coercionist. He is as keen a sympathiser with rack-renting and rack-renters as there is in Ireland. Yet, even his disgust and indignation were aroused by the extortion enforced and the misery produced on the Clongorey Estate. He suggested a compromise to which the landlord, or rather the landlord’s creditors’ trustees, refused to listen, claiming, like Shylock, the full penalty of the law. They have got the full penalty, they have got human misery and suffering and tears in lieu of money which they cannot hope for by evictions. Removable Forbes, with sixty police, paid by the public, assisted at this most creditable performance on behalf of the Government. There was no resistance or disturbance, we read. But the cordon of police found useful employment in preventing the members of the Press present from seeing and making public the details of the savage evictions. Removable Forbes offered to get his police-sergeant to supply them instead with a fac similie copy of the account prepared for use by the Castle; but this delicate attention they respectfully declined. The day after the evictions humble homes of the tenants were one by one dismantled and levelled with the ground. Crowbars were used this time instead of petroleum, as less essential and quite effective.
[From The “Freeman.”]
It has been suggested an explanation of the activity shown in levelling the houses of the evicted tenants at Clongorey, that Mr Matthias Aiden Maher, of Ballinakeel, Enniscorthy, is endeavouring to commend himself to the favourable notice of Lord Zetland. who, like him, is addicted to the pastime of the turf. Horse-racing and tenant-hunting are the aristocratic sports of the day. Lord Londonderry was reasonably zealous in promoting both, and probably Mr Maher is not mistaken in thinking that he has discovered the short way to the good graces of Lord Zetland.
The Leinster Leader, Saturday 15 February, 1890.