Fáilte Romhat

  Evictions at Castleview

Evictions at Castleview

 LANDLORDS, Crowbar Brigades, and evictions are to the present generation nothing more than a phase in Irish history. To our forefathers they were a very live issue.

A landlord class, descendants of, and successors to, the Elizabethan and Cromwellian planters exacted from the Irish farmers the last possible penny in rent. Failure to pay on the appointed day meant starvation on the roadside or the emigrant's ship to America.

The sean-fhocal "cos don tiarna n bia don leanbh (rent for the landlord or food for the child) demonstrates clearly what in the opinion of the Irish mother, were the most pressing needs.

Landlordism reached the peak of its infamy around 1880. Donegal had its Lord Leitrim; Tipperary its Woodcock Garden, while the tenant-farmers of Clonakilty district had to deal with Bence Jones of Lisselane; Francis Bennett, Magistrate; and Miss Hungerford of the Island. Rents were high; prices were low. Evictions were the order of the day.

One stout defence of a homestead against the bailiffs and peelers inspired those who may have been faint-hearted, and nowhere was a greater stand made than by Tim Hurley, of Castleview - the homestead now occupied by the O'Learys. Then, as in all periods of danger, the priests strove for the people. Rev, Fr. Lucey, P.P., and Fr. O'Leary, played an active part in the Land War, acting as mediators on all possible occasions and when mediation failed, supporting the farmers in their fight against tyranny.

Briefly, the story of the siege of Tim Hurley's Mill at Castleview, is as follows.

Hurley, whose valuation was 42. had to pay a yearly rent of 110. He offered the landlord 40 - all he could spare for the half year - and Fr. Lucey asked him (Bennett) to accept double the valuation as a fair rent. To all entreaties the reply was: "Devil a penny."

The evicting force came in the early forenoon to find the house locked and barricaded against them, while the yards and adjoining fields were crowded with sympathetic neighbours and townspeople who had been summoned by the ringing of Church bells and blowing of horns.

To a demand for possession, Tim Hurley replied that if they wanted possession they'd have to fight for it. When the bailiffs rushed with a battering ram against the shuttered parlour window, they were met with showers of scalding water from the upstairs windows. The eviction failed!

That night Head Constable Brooks and members of the R.I.C., returned to Castleview, where they found Tim Hurley, with a carpenter and seven men cutting and removing trees from Tim's farm. All were arrested and charged with larceny of timber. They were released on bail with the exception of Tim Hurley who was lodged in Cork Jail, charged with possession of gelignite.

The gallant defence of Castleview created nation-wide interest. "United Ireland," a newspaper of the period, sent a special reporter to Clonakilty, and devoted almost a whole page to the event.

Reporter: "How did the police act (at the eviction)''?

Mrs. Hurley: "Well, Mr. Carr got his men ready to fire when the bailiffs could not succeed in getting up to the men above on account of all the mortar and stuff that was thrown down on them, but my husband said he was ready to die for his house and to fire away."

The following extract from "United Ireland," gives an idea of conditions prevailing in the Clonakilty district in 1886.

"Every man of intelligence I have seen has told me that if the rent could be worked out of Castleview by constant industry and economical tact, Tim Hurley and his wife were the people to do it. The other mills of the district had long since gone to ruins, yet by hard work and pluck Tim Hurley managed to aid the plough by the mill-wheel, and but a short time ago put in a fine set of carding-machines, the price of which he was striving to pay off when his landlord attacked him. In full knowledge of all this, Bennett's answer to all appeals was "Devil a penny, Devil a penny."

He elucidated his meaning a little more on one occasion, however, when he declared to the Catholic Curate then stationed here, that if there were seven years of famine and the people were dying by the ditches, he would not grant one penny reduction.

Bennett stands by no means alone in inflexibility and deafness to the demands of reason and justice. A lady named Hungerford, also holds the sceptre with rigid grasp and sways in manly style over a dominion called the Island. There were at one time 16 families living among the 500 acres that comprise the area of this isle, but needless to say, they are vanished from the homes that sheltered them. A few tenants remain, much against the grain of Miss Hungerford.

One of these, Pat McCarthy, holds 31 acres for which he pays 54 5s., his valuation being 25 16s. It was well-known how this poor fellow was oppressed and several appeals were made to his task-mistress, but without avail. To one, from Fr. Lucey, she replied that she had as much right to her rent as Pat McCarthy had to his coat - a right which she asserted by processing him on the 29th March for the rent due on the 25th, and pursuing the matter further by seizing his stock and driving them to the pound. McCarthy got Fr. Lucey to go to the bank with him to raise money to meet Miss Hungerford's demand. The priest went to the pound and released the cattle, the boys decorated them with rosettes and green ribbons, the populace turned out and escorted them to the Island.

In the 1880's the principal cash crop in the district was barley which was purchased in its entirety by Deasy's Brewery. 1885 was wet, yield was low and quality very poor - so poor that the brewery couldn't use it for brewing. Farmers had to cart their produce to Bandon and there sell it for distilling at a sacrifice price.

Comparative figures were:-

1885: Barley, 12 barrels per acre @ 11/6            6 18s. 0d.

1888: Barley,   8 barrels per acre @   8/-              3   4s. 0d.

By the brewery books I saw where thousands of barrels had been purchased last year, up to this date (30/10/1886), eighty barrels have not yet been entered for 1886. Oats, which last year brought 5/- per cwt., fetches 3/3d. at present besides falling away in quality. Yet these facts are lost upon the local landlords. In one instance Fr. Lucey, P.P., went bail that he himself would pay a certain tenant's rent if the latter failed to do so, as soon as he would sell his crop, and was smartly told by Miss Hungerford that she needed no interference from the clergy."

C. O'RUAIRC.

Clonakilty District Past & Present  - A Tourist guide to the area -[158 pages, forward dated 1959] The guide was published by the Southern Star Ltd for the Clonakilty C.Y.M.S.

My thanks to Henry McFadden for providing this information.

Conor O'Rourke also wrote the History of Clonakilty. He was a well liked and respected teacher in the Clonakilty Boys National School. He was the principal when I attended the school.