Evictions by new Beara landlord

In the 1800s, many families in Beara lived under the burden of excessive rents and the threat of eviction. The situation worsened in the late part of 1881 when the Puxleys and Lord Bantry carried out sweeping evictions in the Allihies and Eyeries areas. In that year several families in those areas were evicted. Others were thrown out of their ancestral holdings in neighbouring villages.

During the past week we got an indication of the conditions under which the people of Beara were condemned to live in the later years of the 1800s, and for many years after. Following the evictions carried out by landlords Lord Bantry and Puxley in 1881, there was a lull before a new landlord decided to carry out evictions in the Rossmacowen area. At the time of the third Lord Bantry, parts of his Berehaven property in Rossmacowen and Bere Island were put up for sale in the incumbered Estates Court, and were purchased by an Englishman, Lord Charles Pelham Clinton.

The notice of the sale read as follows: In the Court of the Commissioners for Sale of Incumbered Estates in Ireland. In the matter of the Estate of the Right Hon. Richard Earl of Bantry, Divisse of Robert Hedges Eyre, deceased, Owner and Petitioner. Rental and Particulars. That Portion of the Berehaven Estate Called The Island of Bere, in the Bay of Bantry, held in fee. Situated in the Barony of Bere, and County of Cork. To be sold by auction, by the Commissioners For Sale of Incumbered Estates in Ireland, Pursuant to the Order of Sale, hearing date 23rd October, 1852, At Their Court, No 14, Heneirietta Street, Dublin, on Friday, the 25th day of November, 1853, at the hour of twelve o'clock at noon.

It appears that Lord Clinton bought the lands without being made aware that there existed arrears of rents on the property, which Lord Bantry later proceeded to recover from Lord Clinton's tenants in Bere Ireland. Lord Bantry's agent and bailiffs arrived on Bere Island and began to round up and seize animals in lieu of the rent owned. This news upset Lord Clinton, who got his agent, a Mr. John P. Pendergast, to write a letter of protest to Lord Bantry. "My Lord, You are already aware that the business that brought me to Berehaven was the seizing of Bere Island by your bailiffs on the morning of 8th September in execution of nearly 200 civil bill decrees, obtained by your lordship against your late tenants, the islanders, at Bantry Quarter Sessions in January last, for sums amounting in the whole of £1,800, found to be due to your lordship for rent and arrears of rent.

It does not concern your lordship to by what accidents Lord Charles Clinton was prevented from seeing, personally of by deputy, to the condition of his new purchases, until the month of August last, when his Lordship, in company with his newly appointed agent, visited them, and was received by their inhabitants with a warmth that indicated fully as much joy at getting rid of the old landlord as at becoming the tenants of a new one."

The letter of protest was so long that it was published in pamphlet form, and went on to describe some of the skirmishes which took place in the course of taking cattle from the poor tenants. Of Rossmacowen, the letter describes a scene there: "The last driving of your lordship's so overcrowded the great circular pound for Rossmacowen that the place was a pool of gore, and the bellowings of tortured cows could be heard at the top of Hungry Hill.

In 1904 Lord Clinton's agent, a Mr Saunders, organised evictions in the Rossmacowen area. According to a report in the Cork County Eagle in May 1904, "If anticipation errs not, the people of Castletown and its neighbourhood will soon have the opportunity of witnessing those painful scenes which were only too prevalent during the days of the Land League, for there have been several notices served on the Clinton estate.

On May 30th, the same paper reported 150 armed police under the command of County Inspector Hamilton and District Inspector Armstrong from Bantry, had arrived at Castletown on board the steamer Princess Beara. On the following morning the paper reported that the police force, now 200 strong, drove east from the town to Direeny which is in the Adgriole parish while the sheriff and six bailiffs, and still more police, were travelling out of Glengarriff.

When the news of the evictions became known, hundreds of people waited in the hills around Rossmacowen, and had been alerted by the sound of horn, most of them armed with pikes and staves. When the evictions began, Canon McDonnell P.P. in Castletownbere, of which Rossmacowen is a part of, and Mr James Gilhooly M.P of Bantry, advised the people gathered in protest, not to break the law.

One of the people evicted was Con Murphy of Holly Hill. The reporter of the Cork County Eagle wrote, "The bailiffs, after receiving orders, started at the end of the house with their crowbars, throwing it down. The doors were barricaded with white thorn bushes whilst inside were a number with boiling lime and water to give the bailiffs a dose. After a considerable amount of the house was undermined, this tenant settled with the Agent's clerk who was present by paying two years' rent. The proceeding more or less infuriated the other tenants."

Courtesy of the Southern Star