Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Eviction

Donegal Studies - History of Donegal - Landlords of Donegal
Landlords of Donegal
Many of the families who owned the major portion of the land in Donegal right up to the end of the 19th century could trace their presence in the county to the first half of the 17th century, to the Ulster Plantation and the Cromwellian settlement, amongst them the Murrays of Broughton, the Conynghams, and the Brookes. The whole of South West Donegal along with some of the bets land in the county in former Magh Eine, now known as the northern part of the Barony of Raphoe was set aside for Scottish settlers, while the southern part of Raphoe Barony was given to English settlers. The northern third of the Cenel Chonaill territory, now known as the barony of Kilmacrennan was left for servitors and native Irish.
Following the defeat of the O’Donnells in the first decade of the 17th century no time was lost in dividing up their lands through the Plantation. Donegal Castle was given to Sir Basil Brooke, an officer in the English Army, along with the older castle at Lough Eske and the precincts of Donegal Friary. The castle as one sees it today is in essence Brooke’s castle, with only the tower reminding us of the O’Donnells. The O’Donnell lands around Ballyshannon were given to Sir Henry Folliott, the captain of the English garrison in the town. Interestingly Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh, the biographer of Aodh Ruadh, was allowed to keep the Ó Cléirigh hereditary lands until 1609, but this was only a short reprieve; "being a mere Irishman and not of English descent or surname " he was dispossessed at the end of that year.
The Brookes, unlike their relations in neighbouring Fermanagh, did not use the grant of land to build a local empire. The Brookes also failed to emulate other major landowners in the county who were to retain their lands until the Land Acts of the late nineteenth century brought an end to the Irish landlord system; the major part of the land in the south of the county was held right through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by three main families: the Murray of Broughton, the Conollys and the Conynghams.
One George Murray of Broughton, in South West Scotland was one of a group of Scotsmen who received much of the the land in the South west of the county. By 1618, however, these were forfeit, and the Baronies of Banagh and Boylagh were granted to a relation of his, John Murray from Cockpool, created Earl of Annandale in 1624. The Murray of Broughtons got the land back in the 1660s, after a longrunning and complex legal dispute. The Murray of Broughton or Murray Stewart Estate, between Donegal, Ardara and Killybegs covered large parts of the parishes of Killaghtee, Killymard, Killybegs, Kilcar and Inishkeel, and totalled about 65,000 statute acres.
In addition to Murray of Broughton Estate there were the Conollys who owned the town and parish of Ballyshannon as well as pockets of land elsewhere in Donegal - east of Donegal Town, part of Killybegs Town, and the southern part of Sliabh Liag - and in between the Marquis of Conyngham who owned most of the land from Mountcharles and Inver up to the Rosses. The most famous member of this family was William 'Speaker' Conolly, the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons 1715-1729 who built the palatial Castletown House in Co. Kildare using revenues gathered from his Donegal Estates.
At the time of the Plantation the lord deputy of Ireland Sir Arthur Chichester was granted 170,000 acres in Inishowen [in 1610], in effect taking over all of the O'Doherty lands following the killing of Cathaoir Ó Dochartaigh in 1608. The English authorities hoped that Chichester would do for this part of Ireland what Richard Boyle had done for his similar sized estates in Cork and Waterford, introducing English tenant farmers, building and sustaining Protestant towns such as Bandon or Youghal. This did not happen, although Derry matured into a sizeable and relatively prosperous city. Chichester sublet to energetic and ambitious English soldiers, such as the Henry Hart, Henry Vaughans and George Cary, whose successors retained much of Inishowen for almost four centuries. Joyce Cary, the 20th century writer, is descended from the Carys who were granted a lease in the Redcastle area soon after the Plantation.
In the north of the county the Earls of Leitrim were one of the major landowners, and the 3rd Earl of Leitrim has, along with John George Adair, gone down in history as an example of the wrong sort of landlord. Other prominent landowners included Wybrant Olpherts a Dutch officer in Cromwell's army, the Stewarts in the Letterkenny and Ramelton area, the Duke of Abercorn in the north-east of the county, and in the early 19th century Lord George Hill.
Lord George Hill has generally been regarded as a 'good' reforming landlord, yet there was a chasm in understanding between Hill and his tenants. Hill was a junior member of the Hill family who gave their name to Hillsborough in Co. Down, and bought his property in Gaoth Dobhair between 1838 and the early 1860s, leaving him with a landholding of 24,189 acres or 55% of the parish.
In 1856, less than a decade after the Famine, a group of men, under the banner of the Molly Maguires, raided the house of James Lillico, a Scotsman who worked as a shepherd in the townland of Altan near Dunlewey. They were protesting at the spread of sheepgrazing in Gaoth Dobhair or Gweedore which was driving local tenants off the land, according to the Daily Express at the time "like the American Red Men". This was the first action in what became known as the 'Gweedore Sheep War'. The smallholders in the area faced ruin both because of the loss of what good land there was in the area to grazing, and to the imposition of police taxes. The Sheep War happened on the cusp of the old and new worlds. The outrage of local people at what was happening was due at least partly to a view of land as not being private property, but as being a communal resource, yet they had to resort to a form of modern organised resistance, similar to trade unionism, to fight it. While the smallholders paid a heavy price, by 1860 their resistance could be said to have been successful, with most of the sheepgraziers gone from the area.
The events in Gaoth Dobhair were eclipsed a year later when John George Adair, the landlord of the Glenveagh estate, and builder of Glenveagh Castle, evicted forty seven families from their smallholdings in Derryveagh. In November of the previous year Adair’s steward, James Murray, was murdered in an isolated part of the estate near Glenveagh Cottage. Murray was, according to a local magistrate, a "violent and hard-tongued man", and had no shortage of enemies. His murderer was never brought to justice, but Adair, alleging a conspiracy amongst his tenants, used the killing to evict his tenants. The scene was covered by local and national papers, the Londonderry Standard recording
" The first eviction was one particularly distressing, and the terrible reality of the law suddenly burst with surprise on the spectators . . . Long before the house (of a widow named McAward) was reached loud cries were heard piercing the air, and the figures of the poor widow and her daughters were observed outside, where they gave vent to their grief in strains of touching agony. "
One hundred and fifty of the people walked to Dublin where they were to take ship to a new life in Australia. A number of relief funds had been set up in Sydney and Melbourne some years earlier to help Irish emigrants to come to Australia. Some of the descendants of victims of the Derryveagh evictions have been traced, and a group of them visited the area in the early 1990s.
The landlords of the south of the county come out of the Famine better than many of their compatriots throughout Ireland, or indeed in the north of the county. Few of them earned the respect of their tenants as did John Hamilton of Brownhall, a large estate south of Donegal Town on the shores of Donegal Bay. Hamilton, "this recklessly generous landlord" as a recent biographer calls him, had around 1,200 tenants on his Brownhall lands, with a further 1,100 on the other side of the Croaghs in Glenfin. The name ‘Brownhall’ seems to have come from the family’s original home of Broomhill in Lanarkshire. The Hamiltons trace their line from Gilbert of Hamildone, and were related by mariage to the Stuarts, the royal line of Scotland.
John Hamilton’s concern for his tenants from the time he inherited the estate in 1821 until his death in 1884 was well recognised during his life. As early as 1841 Fr. Eugene McCafferty wrote that he hoped "that the Lord may grant you happy and lengthened days here among a people to whom you are and always have been so useful". His successor as parish priest of Donegal and noted opponent of landlordism, Fr. John Doherty, wrote, a few years before Hamilton’s death that "his many social virtues, the kindliness of his disposition, and the natural warmth and goodness of his nature have endeared him to his tenantry". Hamilton himself claimed that not a single one of his tenants had to go to the Workhouse, and only one died of starvation. Perhaps the most eloquent testimony to how his tenants felt about him is the causeway to St. Ernan’s island, where his house was located, built by them as a token of their esteem.

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