Newspaper Reports of Evictions in Gweedore, Co Donegal, 1886
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The Derry Journal, Friday Morning, August 13, 1886
Page 8, second column
EVICTIONS IN GWEEDORE
GWEEDORE, TUESDAY NIGHT. This morning, at nine o'clock, the Sub-Sheriff of County Donegal, accompanied by a strong force of nearly 200 constabulary, proceeded from the Gweedore Hotel to Brinlack, at the base of Bloodyforeland, to carry out the evictions on the property of Mr. Dixon. The procession of fifty cars of constabulary presented a most formidable appearance, but was out of place. The district is now almost entirely emptied of the adult population, which is scattered all over the kingdom in quest of employment, and there remain at home, for the most part, only old men, old women, and ragged children. It appeared to me as if the Sheriff could have very well spared the entire force for Belfast, where it would seem to be most required. After a journey of two hours, the party came upon the scene of their labours for the day. Happily the Sheriff was empowered to readmit the tenants on this estate as caretakers, and thus was saved the inhumanity of overturning the families on the road-side. On this estate there were eleven ejectments, which included eighteen families. The amount of rent sought to be recovered was £61, and the costs, now including the Sheriff's fee, amounts to the same figure. The formality of taking possession and re-admitting the tenants occupied the whole day. The half of the cases were in the townland of Glassagh, which is contiguous to Brinlack. I learn that nearly all of the families proceeded against to-day are in the workhouse during the summer, and have been in receipt of charitable sources in various ways, and I never saw any place more unsuited for cultivation than this and around the Bloodyforeland; it is simply bog and granite, and lies on a sloping ground from the shore to the mountain side, exposed to the full fury of the wild Atlantic that beats unceasingly around it. The day was entirely uneventful. The natives did not manifest any interest in the proceedings, there being at any time not more than twenty persons grouped about at a distance. The constabulary seemed fatigued after the journey of yesterday, and enjoyed the granite hassocks so thickly strewn about for their accommodation. The force is under the supreme command of Mr Beresford, R.M., and is officered by County Inspector Garrett, of Derry; District Inspector W. White, Moville, Mr Gillman, Ardara; Mr Tweedie, Dungloe; and Mr Sullivan, Dunfanaghy.
GWEEDORE, WEDNESDAY NIGHT. To-day the Sub-Sheriff resumed the execution of evictions in this district on the property of Captain Hill, in the townland of Tor. This wretched hamlet lies far away in the mountains, and presents no inducement for habitation except the wildness and solitude. Everything around it forbids human settlement, and to all appearance those who have taking up living here are in a state of semi-starvation, owing to the now well-known causes. Within the past six years the people sank into great destitution, and rents were paid but irregularly. The slight reduction granted by the Land Court did not materially alter matters, and several families fell into arrears. Amongst these were widow Mary Doogan and John Devenny, against whom the proceedings were directed to-day. Mary Doogan has been unable to pay any rent for some years, and the amount of rent due upon the decree is £7 8s 6d. Considerable effort has been made to get the landlord to re-admit the tenants as caretakers, but unsuccessfully; hence eviction with all its vigour must take place. Mary Doogan was quite unable to pay a shilling, the main part of her crop was put in by charity, she having obtained 8 cwt of seed potatoes, and 8 stones of seed oats. She also received substantial assistance otherwise, and the remainder of the last bag of relief meal was amongst the chattels which were put upon the street to-day. The agent is staying at the convenient distance of Downpatrick, and is outside the range of treaty or terms, so there is no alternative but to carry out the letter of the law. It was easy to empty out poor Widow Doogans house. It contained but a few sticks, and some articles of rickety furniture, an old dresser, the frame of a 'big wheel', and a pot with some Indian meal stirabout in it - the remains of the morning meal, which the poor family had to discontinue abruptly on the appearance of the Sheriff and the police. The foregoing things were removed and thrown in a pile outside the door. The fire was extinguished and the door was made fast, and for the first time in her life the poor widow dare no approach her home and her fireside, and she gave way to her feelings in crying and weeping, and in a short time her strength failed her and she fell into a faint which lasted for several minutes. Eventually she rallied, and she and her three children were taken in charge by some friends, who kindly undertook to minister to them a little consolation and comfort. In the midst of their sorrow and trials "fall in" was heard along the line of the Constabulary, and the procession moved on to the home of that of John Sweeny. Here sickness and poverty are. The wife has been confined about ten days ago, and she is seriously ill. This visitation makes her condition worse. A small family of six were around the fire, the infant restless in her arms on the sick bed, and the poor husband was like one distracted. These surroundings appeal successfully to the big heart of the sub-sheriff, and for the present at least, he grants a reprieve, and will come again later on. The way now lies two miles off to Stranarvar, where is the next case that of Widow McPaul. There are three years rent due upon her, and the decree is for £3 10s 2d. Costs now are £4 17s 4d. Those people look wretchedly poor. The window space in the kitchen is stopped with turf. The space at the end of the kitchen, for the cattle, when they were in it, sinks about two feet under the level of the rest of the floor. A few boards placed between two crude walls hold a few pieces of broken delf. Some short heath is strewn on nine rough boards stretched upon two walls, with a little sacking covering it, which passed for a bed, and the room of the house is bare and empty. The few moveables are now placed out, and the closing up of the house is next. The bailiffs carry granite boulders and make up the spaces as best they can, but when the work is half up the party is withdrawn, and the piled up stones tumble down again, and the poor people take courage and raise a shout of exhultation that ingress and egress are still available without contravening the law. These lands stand in the midst of a bleak moor, and are approached by a bawn (made as a 'relief' in 1888), which stretches for a mile from the main road, and an acre of bog in such an outlandish place is very useless indeed. The land Court fixed the rent of this holding of Margaret McPaul at 16s 6d, whereas for twenty-seven years she had been paying regularly a rent of £8 16s 6d. Yet all this is now forgotten, and the fee-simple purchase of the holding already made by excess payment count for nothing for the poor widow, and having failed to pay only 3s 10½d she is unmercifully thrown on the street with her widowed daughter-in-law and eight children friendless and penniless. After an adjournment for luncheon on the attractive purple heath-clad mounts, the work was resumed at the cabin of widow Durnion in Cronaguiggy. This aged widow and her daughter, the only member in the family, awaited their fate with great courage. Having no means of meeting the amount of the decree, they had no alternative but to allow the law take its course. This was shortly done, and the two helpless women were left homeless at the mercy of a cold and unsympathetic world. The distance to the next case was too considerable to reach before the hour for discontinuing operations, and the party returned to Gweedore for the night. Only three cases were dealt with during the day, at the moderate cost of £150 to the Queen. The days' proceedings now concluded, each case having resulted in a nil for the landlords, and the services done him by the Government will cost it the handsome sum of £300. The amount of rent sought to be recovered is only £16. This is surely a questionable use of public money.
GWEEDORE, THURSDAY NIGHT. To-day the Sub-Sheriff, with the same force of constabulary, under the same officership, and command as the previous days, resumed the work of eviction on the property of Captain Hill, in the townland of Carrick. "The Brigade" was astir at early morning, and finding myself in the rear by a mile of a long procession of cars on a narrow road, I had to abandon my conveyance, and get up with the Sheriff by taking through fields, and picking my way at breakneck speed over granite boulders, swampy bog, and risky dips and elevations of fences of turf and stone. It is simply impossible to give a pencil picture of Carrick. It is one huge flag of granite covered irregularly with patches of bog, the whole strewn over with boulder stones, like broken waves in a chopping sea. One thing, it was never intended for cultivation. Nature's aim has been wildly violated by any attempt on the part of man to put it to such a purpose. The landscape is to me, at least, indescribable, but the scenes that marked the proceedings of to-day in their saddening and depressing influence, I am utterly unable to picture. "Man's inhumanity to man" was to me never more touchingly exemplified. There were no persons present to witness the early scenes except a few from the immediate adjoining houses. The whole place seemed filled with only constabulary and cars and drivers. Anthony Gallagher was the first house visited. This poor man has been already previously evicted, and has failed to redeem within the prescribed period, and the present ejectment is on the title. The house and its surroundings show strong evidence of want. There is a large pile of empty sea shells outside the house, telling how much this article has contributed to the maintenance of the little household. Gallagher has no means of paying the amount of the decree or any part of it, and out he must go. The Sheriff's bailiff clears out the house with a remarkable freshness and rapidity, it being their first job for the day. Gallagher's wife shows every sign of racking grief and pain. She had been several years in America, she lost her health there in her efforts to bring aid and succour to her poor parents at home, which took all she had managed to save, a little money. Her first work after returning home two years ago, was to improve a little the condition of her struggling parents, and to rescue them from the hand of the exterminator. Last winter she paid the landlord a considerable sum to save her father from ejectment proceedings. By this, and by other means she was soon left empty handed. She married Gallagher hoping to find a home and rest from toil and slavery in the servitude of strangers, but she has been cruelly disappointed. To-day she seemed to loiter within the cold walls of the empty house with remarkable longing, and she wept and sobbed as if her heart would break. Eventually she was induced away from the place, and for some time she was sustained in her fainting condition by the encouragement and sympathy of kind friends. The whole picture would rend a heart of iron, and what will become of these poor creatures? The next case is that of Widow Kathleen McCafferty; she and her daughter are the sole occupants. The little cabin consists of only one apartment of remarkable tidiness and cleanliness. Kathleen owes £3 4s for rent, and £8 17s 4d for costs. She is herself old and sickly, and the representative of the landlord undertakes the responsibility of re-admitting her as caretaker. In the next three cases, tenants were unable to pay, and the dreadful monotony of emptying houses and fastening the doors is gone through. Gallagher, one of the three, give expression to his feelings when he found himself and wife and child on the street, and the doors of their little home barred against them, by saying in a warm tone that he and his family would yet, please God, occupy a house when the wicked system of which Captain Hill was the personification would be no more. In the next case the tenant was gone to his eternal rest, but his sentence is carried out against his son. There was no dwelling on this holding, but a new house, as yet unfinished, has been lately put up, and now its doorways are built up to prevent occupation. Before three o'clock ten houses had been cleared, and possession was taken of two small holdings, on which there were no buildings. In one case an attempt was made to evict a family without proper authority, but, by the interference of the parish priest, the thing was set right, and the eviction was abandoned. The error in filling the order saves another family as well from the hardship of being driven from house and home. In the cases of Charles McCafferty and Neal McCafferty, the tenants were put back as caretakers owing to the illness of members of their families. Neal McCafferty occupied a sod hut entered by a door less than four feet in height. The roof is supported inside by sticks and planks placed at various angles on the floor to prop it. The place is low and confined, and full of smoke. To ordinary minds eviction or escape out of it in some way would seem an immense relief. In the last case the tenant had gone to America six years ago. He was a weaver, and the loom was standing in its place to-day in apparently good condition. It took the bailiff a good time to take it down and put it on the street. The friends of the tenant do not consider the holding worth cultivation, and they have refused to pay rent for it. In only one case to-day has been heard the clink of coin. Daniel McFadden, who has been several times to America, and is a little better off than many of his neighbours, offered half the amount of the decree, and it was gladly accepted. It was the first money touched since the proceedings commenced on Tuesday morning. It amounts to about £3 5s. On account of this part payment McFadden is re-admitted as caretaker. Nearly all of those proceeded against to-day have been in the workhouse during the summer, and have been also sustained by relief in various ways. At three o'clock the curtain falls and the drama will be resumed to-morrow where it is left off to-day.
The Derry Journal, Monday Morning, August 16, 1886
Page 5, fourth column
THE GWEEDORE EVICTIONS
Clearing out the Peasants
GWEEDORE, FRIDAY NIGHT. Evictions proceed with unabating vigour, and the patience of the people seem much strained. In one or two cases to-day there was an unusual display of feeling on the part of the tenants turned out. This produced a sterner attitude on the part of the force, and a close packed cordon of men was drawn around each house to be operated upon, which effectually prevented the approach of anyone from without. The work commenced at Lunniagh, where it was left off last night. In the first case the extreme course of turning the family out was departed from owing to the age and infirmity of the tenant, a widow of over 80 years of age, who has been bedridden for some years. The formality of giving possession to the landlord and putting the tenant back as caretaker was gone through. In the case of Margaret Boyle, an unmarried woman, the house was carefully closed up and padlocked. Margaret and her brother make up the family. The brother is off in Scotland, and Margaret betook herself to another small place they hold on an island. The sheriff's bailiff drew the staple of the door and removed every moveable article within the house, and the place is handed over to the landlord. In the next case the tenant, who is a widow, was re-admitted caretaker. The sub-sheriff next proceeded to the house of a widow, Mary Gallagher. Mary seemed to feel her position with anguish, approaching desperation. She violently complained of the action of this landlord, and challenged his title to a crop planted by charity, which she avowed to belong to the parish priest first of all men. She had struggled to maintain life and support her family since the death of her husband, many years ago, till they had just come to the age when they would be able to help her. By November she would be in a position to do something; now she was unable to command a shilling. Her two eldest boys were in Scotland, her other three children were at service in the Laggan. On these she built her hopes, and if the landlord waited on the arrival of her earnings she might be in a position to redeem, but he would not. The time for redemption had passed, and he now proceeded for recovery of land and premises on title, and Mary Gallagher should get no quarter. The work proceeds, and the poor woman became very much excited. She is clamed for the moment by the priest, and she leaves the house to the bailiffs. They persue their work with all despatch, preserving their balance with great difficulty over the uneven and hollowed earth of the worst description. I noticed shells on one corner of the house which evidenced one of the wants in which this poor woman allayed the pangs of hunger. About four pounds of Indian meal was on a tin dish in a hole in the wall. I did not see any other article of good food. The potatoes have not yet ripened. The poor woman had also a small grain of tea on top of an old dresser that rested obliquely against the rough wall. In removing the dresser the bailiffs tossed this grain of tea in a gripe at the door, and over this the woman lost control of herself, and in a great rage ordered the bailiff to gather up the little tea. This official not minding what she said, the woman struck him with her clenched hand. One would think that a shell had been dropped amongst the force. There is great excitement, and the usual lounging and indifference are laid aside. There were only a few women and children present, with a very small number of men and boys. The house being cleared, one of the estate bailiffs came up with boards carried specially for the purpose of barricading the doors. For a long time after the party left, Mary and a small group of sympathising neighbours remained listlessly squatted on the ground at the gable end of the house, which was Widow Gallagher's hitherto, but which is now pronounced by the law to belong to Captain Arthur George Sandys, Blundell-hill. The evicting army next environ the wretched cabin of Charles Gallagher, Magheragallon. There seems an unusual anxiety on the brow of every office, and the orders ring out firmly and sternly. It is the green award on the bog that surrounds Gallagher's house, and the tramp of the companies forming around the house is inaudible, but in a short time there is a black wall of constabulary standing around and outside the almost equally black walls of Gallagher's wretched dwelling. Charles, his wife, and six small children are inside, and their very appearance would plead mercy and compassion to any heart. They spent a considerable part of the summer in the odious workhouse, and they have been living on charity, as Gallagher himself stated, since Christmas Eve. They seemed not to realise the situation until the troops had joined around the house and until the sheriff entered; then a heart-rending, piteous, shrieking cry rises from within the walls from the poor mother and children; the mother becomes simply frantic, and continues her terrible wailing. Even after being removed from the house she runs around like one in despair, and she indulges in wild, angry threats against the bailiffs. "Mind that woman, lose not sight of her at your peril," are the words addressed by an unfortunate sergeant. The house is cleared, or rather it is satisfactorily ascertained that there is nothing to clear. The pile of boards at the door was not worth 1s. A huge granite stone is put down on the top of the bright fire, and it is quenched, probably forever. The boards are produced and the doorway is barricaded. The law is carried out and also the wish of landlord, except in so far that the instructions to pull down the walls of any house against which the ejectment was on the title if the door of said house had been removed or put out of the way, were not complied with.
Poor Charles Gallagher is out by the roadside to-night, and he has not a shelter or home in the world. There remains only the dreaded workhouse for himself and his weak family. The next house visited was that of Mary Gallagher, an unmarried woman, who is the sole occupant of the small cabin on the holding. It contains hardly anything in the shape of furniture. There is a pallet of a sort of grass on the floor on one side of the fire, with two rough bags thereon, which is the poor woman's miserable bed. She inveighed vigorously against the agent, and threatened some obnoxious official with the contents of a tin vessel that was sitting on the little fire. She was removed however, to the outside and put beyond the protecting cordon by a swarthy, weather-beaten sergeant. There being very little to do, the work is rapidly accomplished, and the black mass is again on the move. On the next holding, there being no house, the extraordinary formality of lifting a handful of bog and giving it to the representative of the landlord, repeating at the same time some form of tradition, is gone through by the sheriff. The next two cases possessed no feature of interest, the tenants being readmitted caretakers owing to the age and infirmity of some members in each case. In the next case the form of giving possession without a dwelling was repeated. There was a considerable walk to the next case, that of Jack Boner, of Ardnegappany. Jack happens to have a wretched dwelling on another small place, and he treated the sheriff with supreme indifference, and left this hovel in the moor with its door open and untenanted. The house is placed down in a hollow in the bog, and is hardly visible until one almost steps over it. The holding is known as a "new cut," and was held by Boner at 25s rent until it was reduced by the Land Court to 10s. In the last house visited to-day there was an old woman of over 80 years, very ill, which warranted the exercise of a discretion to re-admit as caretaker, and this was done. There are still 50 cases to be gone through. More than half of that number is scattered over four very inaccessible islands lying in Gweedore Bay. A continuance of those painful scenes may be therefore expected for some days. To-day the result in money was nil, and all visited were the recipients of public charity in some shape during the year.
GWEEDORE, SATURDAY NIGHT. It is a source of immense relief to everybody that all the work of extermination, which has been steadily prosecuted here for the last five days, is stayed for even one clear day. Many poor families rejoice that they can pass another Sunday in the undisturbed possession of their little houses. Though unexpected progress was made to-day, fifteen cases having been put through, there still remain to be executed ten cases on the mainland and thirteen on the islands. Already preparations are being made for transporting the constabulary in sufficient strength to effect a landing on the islands on the first suitable day. The sad fate of the Wasp is still present to one's mind, and cannot but exercise a strong influence on men undertaking a similar expedition in very view of the spot where the ill fated gunboat perished, nor is the sound of Innishirrer in any sense less dangerous than the sound of Tory. All the constabulary boats along the coast are requisitioned for this service, and to-day the constabulary from Arranmore returned to their station to bring round their boat early on Monday. Everything going well and weather permitting, it is expected that the work will be finished by next Wednesday, and that the forces will be withdrawn. In the fifteen cases disposed of to-day eight families were put back as caretakers, in two cases there were no habitations, and five families were turned out. Hugh Doogan's family was the first flung upon the roadside. This man complained bitterly that he had not got credit for the last payment of rent which he made, and that if he had this prosecution did not lie. He foolishly paid the money to one of the bailiffs of the estate without getting any receipt, and the thing is now conveniently forgotten, and Doogan is the sufferer. Doogan's wife is a frail woman, of chronic delicacy, and it was generally expected that this circumstance itself would obtain for him readmission as caretaker, but no, the law must be carried through to the bitter end, and Doogan and his wife and child are put out of house and home. The next case, in which a thorough clearance was made, was that of Neal O'Donnell. The parents of this family died within a few years, and there are now but two sons and one daughter in the family. The elder boy is in Scotland, and the younger boy and girl witnessed to-day the painful scene of the pitching of everything they possessed on the street, and breaking up all the fixtures they had made in their once happy, if not comfortable home. The house contained more chattels than any as yet gutted, and the scene was the more distressful on that account. The sullen silence and suppressed feeling with which the young man watched the proceedings at some distance was remarkable and touching. The young girl demeaned herself the same way - neither said a word. It was a sad scene, which visibly affected many present. That silent young man will assuredly yet avenge the wrong that has been done him. We next come to the case of Widow Rose O'Donnell. This poor woman had been in the Workhouse for about a month in order to reach to the time the potatoes would be mature. She looks the picture of starvation diet as she sits down on the floor with her hands folded, the only child she has at home being at her knee. The rest of the children are at service. She pleads delicacy, but all to no purpose, she must go out. The house is shortly cleared, the work being anticipated even to the extinguishing of the fire; the door is barricaded with boards, and the procession moves on to the next house at which the formality of giving possession and putting back as caretaker is gone through, owing to the age and infirmity of the tenant, Widow Coll. Owen Coyle's is the next case, and he and his wife and family of small children are flung on the street despite all entreaty for mercy. Then follows a few cases in which tenants are put back as caretakers, owing to age and sickness, and the townland of Dore is finished.
We next proceed to Knockastolar. This townland looks all granite rocks, without any land, and its inhabitants judging from their appearance are exceedingly poor. There is an adjournment for luncheon, and every one chooses a suitable seat on the granite rocks around. Here upon these occurs an incident deserving notice. While all are lying around enjoying their luncheon a literary treat is supplied by a small lad of eight years reading aloud for all a stirring article out of this week's issue of the United Ireland, "For bare Life." The lad was cheered at intervals as he brought out with marked emphasis the important parts of the article. Much praise was lavished on the young lad for his masterly performance, and the constabulary marked their appreciation by literally loading the boy with coppers on resuming. A few families were put out, and put back as caretakers on the ground of illness and old age. We then come to the wretched house of *Daniel O'Donnell; he too, and his family had been to the workhouse during the summer, and all his crops was put down by charity seed. It is the third time the house has been cleared for the last thirty years. O'Donnell and his wife and three small children look very miserable; they are wretchedly clothed, and starvation is graven on their faces. There is only one bed, a few boards, a few sacks, and one single blanket supplied last April by Father McFadden. The poor wife and children were crying. O'Donnell himself, a man of strong powerful frame, seemed to make a great effort to suppress emotion. At last the poor fellow gave way, with the exclamation, "Oh! God, is it not hard that a man must calmly bear to see himself openly robbed of all he has and his wife and children thrown out to die." The next case was that of a holding without a dwelling, and with it ended the work to-day. Few of the peasants took any interest in the proceedings except those of the townland in which the scenes lay. Those that did appear not only to-day but during the week, gave strong proof of very general destitution and poverty. Nearly all the men and boys were without shoes, and men, women, and children, were very sparsely clad with clothes.
The Derry Journal, Wednesday, August 18, 1886
THE GWEEDORE EVICTIONS
MORE PAINFUL SCENES
[Telegram from our Special Reporter]
DUNFANAGHY, MONDAY NIGHT. In real truth it now occurs to one to exclaim "How long, oh Lord, how long" are the helpless peasants of this distracted district to be harried with unceasing persecution at the hands of the landlord class. For full eight days, have an army of Constabulary been marching and counter marching over it, aiding and abetting greedy landlords in extorting impossible rents, and all to no purpose. Sixty evictions have already been executed, affecting as many as eighty families, by an armed force of officers, sergeants and constable, to the number of nearly 200, and only £4 have been realized. Every one seems thoroughly satisfied that they are doing their duty efficiently and well, but to a thoughtful mind, the whole things looks a monstrous farce. The administration which tolerates such an abuse of responsibility is intrinsically bad, and must eventually come to pieces. There is no one that has witnessed the black masses of Constabulary carried along on 150 cars over the roads and byeways of Gweedore for the last eight days, but deplores the shortsightedness of the Executive which directs this foolish and unnecessary display. If familiarity begets contempt, it is not surprising that the poor people of Gweedore would heartily despise this persistent dangling before them of the strong arm of the law. I can't conceive anything more supremely silly that a sub-sheriff and his half dozen bailiffs, an RM, County and District Inspectors, a Head-Constable, and a number of sergeants, and 100 men, marching up a hill to besiege a poor widow and her two daughters in a miserable mountain cabin with nothing to disturb or alarm them but the rattle of their own accoutrements. To come to the details of today's performance - the party moved out from the Gweedore Hotel at nine o'clock, and proceeded to Meenacuing. Having arrived there, they advanced upon the house of Widow Catherine Doogan, The unexpected visit at this early hour caused evident alarm in the family. The tenant, an old woman of ninety winters, lay in a very prostrate condition by the fireside. Her hollowed cheeks, sunken eyes, and emaciated appearance, bespoke her old age and destitute condition. Misfortunes seem to have crowded upon her in the evening of her life, but the last was more crushing than any that had yet befallen her. After a serious conversation between the priest and the authorities, it was agreed that the dying creature should be re-admitted as caretaker, and be allowed to live her days within the walls that sheltered her during life. She was borne in the arms of her two daughters to the outside of the door to conform to the formality of the law in taking possession, and it was a most touching scene. The next case differs little from the preceeding, except that in this second case, the tenant who is also a poor widow, has at home only two helpless children. She is herself afoot, and moving about through the little house, but with great effort. She is able to make her words understood and her one arm seems to hang powerless by her side. The creature is partially paralysed. She and her little children are weeping bitterly. Her eldest daughter is herd in the "Lagan." After considerable importunity she too is allowed to resume possession as caretaker. The party now return to Meenderrygamph, the townland in which the Gweedore Hotel is situated. There is a "sentence of death" against Denis Coll, who occupies a tumbled down looking hovel in the middle of a line of wretched dwellings on the top of the hill that forms the background of the much-belauded hotel. The long procession of cars is drawn up at the foot of the hill, and "the brigade", escorted by Battalion No 1, scamper up the hill to the scene of action. One of Coll's boys, half-naked, is crying at the gable of the wretched house. Within, the father, mother, and the rest of the children are in tears. I have not often seen such evidence of deep misery. There is not even a stool in the house; there is but one bed, with only heath and a relief coverlet. The wretched mother holds the infant child in her arms, and some of the children try to hide themselves out of view, which is easily done, as there is not a ray of light except what is admitted through the door. It was arranged to let this wretched family resume possession for six months, and a form of agreement is executed for this purpose. The poor man has to sign his hand to this form. He approached with his shaggy uncombed head, and his uncouth gray beard, now never shorn, in a old thread bare torn coat, with loose thin trousers, ending below the knee in a tattered irregular fringe, and in bare feet, and with trembling hesitation, as if sacrificing his life, he touches the pen with sobs and tears, and extinguishes the tenancy he has held so long. The entire family are now just outside, and the nakedness and raggedness of the father and mother and the four children become strikingly evident in the glare of midday light. Even the priest, after all his efforts, is surprised and shocked, and he passes some money into the hands of the old man with emphatic instructions for him to go to the fair, which is held today in the neighbourhood, and buy covering for the children.
We leave this dismal place and take our course to Carrick, a townland of seven miles off, where we were upon last friday. Is it to give more panoramic effect to the manoeuvres, or to waste time that things are done thus? No; but last night there came to the sub-sheriff from the landlord's solicitor, another ejectment for execution in the same townland in which he was on friday. After some time this place is reached, and the body marches up to an empty house, containing only some loose sticks and an old life-buoy. The work is rapidly gone through, and the party again on the move to the next case, which is three miles off, in the townland of Magheraclogher. The tenant, Neil O'Donnell, is in America for the past six years, His wife last heard from him in March, when he excused his delay in returning home, on the ground that he desired to bring back as much money as possible, and that present times were pretty hard. There are four small children, the two eldest, aged thirteen and eleven respectively, are at service in county Derry. Last week the poor mother got news of the illness of the child of eleven, and she was making arrangements to go down to county Derry to see her. She and her little children are only after returning from the workhouse. She has one calf and two sheep. Today is a fair day known as Jack's Fair, four miles off. This distracted woman has been expecting the Sheriff for some days. This morning the first movement of the evicting army was in the direction of Mount Errigal, so that she concluded that they would not reach her tiday; so she took one of her two sheep to the fair to get a few shillings to bring her to see her little daughter in County Derry. The counter-move of the army brought her case within those to be dealt with about ten o'clock today, when the house is surrounded. There are only the two small children and their aunt. In the absence of the tenant's wife there is little room for negotiations, and the order to clear the place is carried out. The small pot of potatoes, of certainly not larger size than marbles, for the dinner of the little children, which is boiling on the fire, is amongst the first things removed. There is also about a half pound of Indian meal in a broken bowl. Just outside the little children are crying piteously at the door. The poor mother is at the fair, with no knowledge of what is going on, and when she returns she must meet her weeping children out on the street, with the home that she left in the morning barred against her eyes. Sad and strong men had to conceal their tears of sympathy that filled their eyes. The whole scene is a picture of indescribable sadness, and one feels relived in getting away from such depressing surroundings.
In the next case, that is Cormack Doogan, after a lengthy discussion on the man's claims on being readmitted caretaker, this was done. Our way now lies two miles to the south, to the townland of Meenaduff. On our way we pass Claudy Bridge, so well known to anglers and tourists, and at this bridge a woman to all appearance in wild despair, with her shawl on her arm, and her disheveled hair floating in the breeze, runs furiously by in the direction of Magheraclogher. She is the unfortunate woman whose home had been cleared out but an hour before, while herself had been at the fair. The news reached her at the fair, and she gave over her sheep to the care of some acquaintance, and with her womanly weakness, strengthened by excitement and despair, she raced with marvellous power and rapidity over rivers and rocks and fields in the direction of her home that was, but is no longer. In her headlong career at the above place she encounters the desolation army, and in anguish and horror she learns that she is too late. At this juncture she meets her unfailing friends, the priests, who speak to her words of cheer and consolation, and sad and broken-hearted she continues her way to the place of her last joy and happiness now become a scene of her sorrow and desolation.
The evicting party have now reached the house of Manus Gallagher. Manus is a poor man with a small weak family. In his efforts to maintain life during the summer he had to subsidise all other resources by recourse to the Workhouse. Two of his children, though very young, not yet ten years, are hired in the "Laggan." There are many things to plead mercy for Manus, but out he must go - he and his wife and three children. The clearing of the house is of easy achievement. It contained but a very few articles of wretched furniture, and the work is soon completed.
We next come to the house of Hugh McBride, in the same townland. This house presents a novel feature. It is stated it was formerly in possession of the landlord's bailiff. Twenty four years ago it fell into the hands of McBride on condition of paying £1 rent for it in addition to the rent of the holding, the landlord to maintain the house in a satisfactory state of repair. McBride managed to pay his rent regularly until recent bad years, when he found it impossible to pay his rent and live. More than that, the landlord failed to fulfil his part of the undertaking, the repairing of the house. McBride himself had expended over £4 in setting things right from time to time, and his efforts to get work done by the landlord party failed; and he refused to pay any more rent until the landlord showed that he really intended to maintain the house in proper repair. Hence came his prosecution. McBride defended at Quarter Sessions, but he got scant hearing, and a decree for possession was granted. Today McBride could not pay one shilling. His two boys are in Scotland and he himself expects to go to the harvest on a free passage in another fortnight. He felt disposed to give an assurance of doing all he could to meet the liability in November, but this would not save him now; so the work of extermination proceeds, and all his effects are put outside, and he and his wife and two children are homeless tonight. The poor mother and the children wept bitterly, and the poor man himself shed tears at intervals as he saw his property wrenched from his possession, and thrown on the street under the gaze of the world. In his contention with the representative of the landlord, of the merits of the case, he said, "You can have it, and take it with you in a wagonette to the hotel." Thank God it is three o'clock, and these barbarities must cease for today.
[Our despatch of Tuesday's proceedings (telegraphed last night) did not reach in time for our first edition. The report will appear in Friday's Journal.]
The Derry Journal, Wednesday, August 20, 1886
THE GWEEDORE EVICTIONS
The morning, following the transmission of previous despatch, the Sub-Sheriff revisited Gweedore for carrying through the ejectment against John Sweeney, which he postponed on this day week owing to the illness of Sweeney's wife, after her confinement twelve days previously. The doctor was called in on that occasion to justify the postponement, and to give a certificate to the effect that he expected the woman would be fit for removal in a few days. The "army" turned out in its full strength, and after an hours' driving reached the scene of action. Poverty has overtaken Sweeney in recent years, and he has been unable to meet obligations other than the payment of an impossible rent. An ejectment was obtained against him so far back as last January twelve months. This ejectment was executed last May twelve months. Sweeney was unable to redeem within the prescribed period, and last January an ejectment on title was obtained against him. It was this ejectment which wrenched from him his house and improvements, and all his interest in the place, as well as the landlord's, that was put through today. The place is approached through a very crooked, narrow lane, and after considerable difficulty the army was formed around the wretched house. The inside of the cabin bespoke the hard struggle its occupants must have had for existence. There is but one room, at the end of which the little stock are housed. There is no light, except what comes through the door and the opening in the roof by which the smoke is supposed to escape, but through which it does not, electing to make its way through the door instead. The poor wife, though still very weak and sickly, was out of bed today when the sub-sheriff arrived. After a short talk and discussion the removing of the few things within the cabin was begun. The work went on, and the poor wife, with her infant in her arms, twin children of three years, and two other children of about six and eight respectively, were put out on the street. The doorway was barred, and the frantic husband and broken-hearted wife, and the five children, too were homeless. It was a dreadful scene, and exceedingly painful to witness. It may possibly cut short the days of the good, amiable wife and mother.
The force rushed to their cars, and the dismal procession was soon driving at a rapid rate down the wild mountain defile. From Crolly to Tor is a deep defile of nearly five miles in length. On the left hand, as one ascends, there is a lake at the foot of the mountain. From this lake there flows a river, which the road crosses by means of a wooden bridge within a few yards of its source. The bridge was made of four wooden girders, sheeted with two-inch planks, and protected at both sides by a wooden rail, and some delay occurred owing to the bridge having suffered damage.
The intended scene of the further proceedings is nine miles from Tor, and the Sub-Sheriff did not arrive there till after one o'clock. There were three families to be evicted, but happily for all concerned there was in each of the three families an aged, bedridden old woman of over 80 years, unfit for removal. Hence, there was only the formality of taking possession, and re-admitting tenants as caretakers to be gone through. The inhabitants of the townland assembled around the scene, and I was pleased to notice the industrious habits of the girls and women. Nearly every one of them were plying away their knitting needles, making socks or gloves. All the cases on the mainland are now dealt with except one, and tomorrow morning the Sub-Sheriff will visit the Island. How the force will be transported it is impossible at present to say. The event will be interesting as the first attempt to carry out evictions on the islands off the Donegal coast, and the first time Government boats have been used for such a purpose since the melancholy Wasp disaster, nearly two years ago. I hop to forward a full report of the proceedings on Thursday next.
(Telegram from our Special Reporter)
Gweedore, Wednesday Night - The scene of eviction proceedings today were the islands in Gweedore Bay. The morning was very hazy and a thick fog lay upon the land and sea. The number of boats available for transport was small as compared with the number of men which those in command deemed necessary for the expedition, hence an advance guard of about forty men was sent forward to occupy the island to be attacked, and the boats returned to help in transporting those remaining. There were three government boats engaged in this service, the Arranmore Constabulary boat, the Bunbeg Constabulary boat, and the Bunbeg Coastguard boat. It was not expected that the Coastguard boat would be given to such duty, as the fate of the Wasp was supposed to have taught the Admiralty a lesson never to be forgotten as to supplying its boats for eviction purposes on the north-west coast of Donegal. The sheriff and his two bailiffs were carried in one of the constabulary boats; the landlord party, agents and bailiffs, accompanied by police protection, had a private boat of their own.
The Island of Innishinney was the first visited. As we approached the island and the fog lifted the army of occupation could be seen in two tiers, the one on the ricky shore, and the other on an elevated sand bank, looking very much like cormorants on shelving rocks, peering into the sea. This island is little more than a huge sand bank, skinned with grass, and bent, and various herbs. It is held in common by several tenants, chiefly for grazing purposes, and no tenant's share is fixed or determined. There is a smaller portion of the island on the south side, cut off from the main part by a neck of sea. This small part is the common area on which are built the hovels used by the tenants during the few months they reside on the island, and is accessible on foot only at ebb tide, such as there was today when we visited. There is one family residing permanently on this island, and there were no people to witness the proceedings today, except a few members of this family, and even they did not cross over the strand from the detatched portion of the island where their house is. The agent of the estate, the Hon. Somerset Ward, Downpatrick, arrived at the Gweedore Hotel last night, and accompanied the evicting party toady. Shemus Bawn, the bailiff, pointed out the houses on the island. The first was that of Teague McCadden (McFadden?), a wretched hovel containing nothing but some loose sticks, with daylight appearing here and there in holes in the roof, and quite unfit for human habitation. The door is made up with rough granite boulders, and the honourable Mr Ward is asked by the sheriff to take possession, which he approaches to do, but which on second thought he declines, having regard no doubt to the valuelessness of the offering. He substitutes Mr Robinson, who had been acting for him for the past eight days. When this ceremony is gone through, a protest is entered against the sufficiency of the execution, inasmuch as it assumed to give possession of house and land, and that the house was not built upon the land nor contiguous to it, but divided from it by the sea intervening, besides that the land held by the tenant was an undivided share of the whole island, and could not, therefore, be fixed or determined on the ground, and could not therefore, be handed over to the landlord. It was contended in a word that owing to the thorough rundale in which the several tenants held the island it was impossible to evict one tenant without evicting them all. The Sub-Sheriff judged the execution sufficient.
The house of Daniel O'Donnell was taken next, and that of Neil McBride third. These were also cleared of the few moveable articles they contained, and the holdings with houses thereon were dealt with. The party then cross the neck of strand which divides the houses from the grazing and cultivated land, and the sheriff proceeded to give possession of the lands held by James Gallagher and Mary Sweeney. The bailiff could do no more than point out the half of the island in which their portions lay, and in attempting to give possession of James Gallagher's portion, the sub-sheriff was actually handing over Hugh Mulligan's potato field.
Having finished with Innishinney, the party made their way to Gola Island, where there was an ejectment against three tenants who hold on tenancy jointly. There is only one dwelling on the holding. The occupier is an Ellen Mulligan, an aged and infirm old woman. She was in bed on one side of the fire; her daughter was quite ill in a bed on the other side, and six small children were squatted at the fire between, while the son-in-law and some sympathising friends kept watch at the door. Possession is taken, and the tenant is readmitted as caretaker. During the time of filling up the necessary form the poor woman became very weak, and almost fainted, so much was she affected by the situation.
The force is being transferred to Innismean, the third island, and there being but the one case in Gola there is little delay there. In a short time Innismean is reached; the inhabitants are all grouped together outside the houses, which are built together in a cluster. It requires an expert to point out the houses, and the bailiff, 'Ernon og', is in more or less of a difficulty. He succeeds in pointing out two houses correctly, these are dealt with by readmitting the tenants as caretakers. In the one case there was a large family of little children; in the other there was only the tenant and his daughter. The tenant is an exceedingly old man; his naked arm, when he put his hand out to sign his mark, was like that of a skeleton. He seemed pleased that he was empowered to continue possession for six months, as he felt sure that long before that time, he will have gone to his last home, the grave. The bailiff is not able to point the remaining three houses to be evicted on the island, and to the relief of everyone, especially those who were expected to be evicted, and were not, the little squadron pull away from Innismean in the direction of Innishirrer.
This island is a most inaccessible one, and when there is any storm it is girt about by an unapproachable broken sea. Today the sea was quite flat, having fallen suddenly last night, and landing on Innishirrer was quite easy. Notwithstanding, the boat carrying the sub-sheriff made two unsuccessful attempts, and after considerable delay, the inhabitants to their great disgust, saw the sub-sheriff's head rising up above the precipitous bluff, where in their sweet knowledge of seafaring these warriors attempted a landing. Having landed the sub-sheriff they pulled away with all their strength, and after taking their time to breathe freely, and to fully realise the peril in which they were, they cast about for a safer landing place, which they eventually found. Meantime the proceedings go on. Six families are to be evicted. The bailiff succeeded in pointing out five of them and the parties were put out of possession and readmitted as caretakers. In two cases of these the houses were most miserable with not an article of furniture. The sub-sheriff sat on an upturned old creel while filling his papers. In one house the husband was away in Scotland, and his poor wife was struggling as best she could to maintain herself and ten small children until his return. In the sixth case the bailiff was unable to point out the house, and it was abandoned. I was told that the old rent of this island before it came into the hands of the late Lord George Hill was only £4, and that he raised it to £20. I believe the Government valuation is about £4 10s. A few years ago the present landlord made a reduction of 10s in 25s. The inducement for residing on this island to all has been the facility it gives of making large quantities of kelp. But this industry is not now worth pursuing. These islanders have lying on their hands unsold six tons of the kelp manufactured this year, and cannot get a market for it. The small quantity they did succeed in selling this year, they were obliged to sacrifice at 30s per ton, whereas in past times it fetched in some years as high as £7 10s per ton. This is a sample of how everything is opposed to the success of these people in maintaining life.
Having finished so far as they able to proceed, the party betook themselves to their boats and made for the mainland. All persons were struck with the want of quay and boat slip accommodation on those islands and the mainland opposite; there is not a foot of such accommodation in either place. It was suggested in conversation that the Government would have served the locality much by expending on such works the expense of this expedition, and that the landlord would succeed better in getting rents by improving the condition of his tenants in this and other ways, instead of expending money in useless and profitless litigation.
Thursday Night - This morning the sub-sheriff executed the last of the long list of ejectments which has engaged him for now eleven days. He was accompanied by a small escort of fifty constabulary. When he arrived at the spot, Magheragallon, he found the house shut up, and no one residing in it. The tenant happily for himself, has another small place up in the mountain, and he resides there for the greater part of the year. Probably he was not aware of the proceedings today; in any case, he did not appear, and the wretched cabin was cleared of all its contents and possession given to the honourable Somerset Ward himself, who was in attendance.
This closes the scene of the Gweedore evictions in August 1886, the Army of occupation is withdrawn, and profound peace again prevails, one may reasonably ask 'Cui bono?' The entire result in cash out of this costly business is £4. Is the game worth the candle? During the entire time no one ever once suggested that those poor people could pay. Many of the families evicted have already provided sod huts for themselves on the holdings or near to them. What next?
TO BE CONTINUED..............
People Mentioned in the above articles:
Widow Durnion and her daughter, Cronaguiggy - evicted
Widow Margaret McPaul, widowed d-i-l and 8 children, Stranarvar (2 miles from Tor) - evicted
John Sweeney, wife, 10 day old infant and 6 children, Tor - eviction stayed because of the health of the wife
Widow Mary Doogan, three children, Tor - evicted
Anthony Gallagher and wife, Carrick - evicted (background on wife)
Widow Kathleen McCafferty and daughter, Carrick - readmitted as caretaker
Gallagher, wife and child, Carrick - evicted
Charles McCafferty, Carrick - readmitted as caretaker
Neal McCafferty, Carrick - readmitted as caretaker
Daniel McFadden, Carrick - paid half rent owing and was readmitted as caretaker
Margaret Boyle and brother, Lunniagh - evicted
Widow Mary Gallagher, 5 children in service, Lunniagh - evicted
Charles Gallagher, wife and 6 small children, Magheragallen - evicted
Mary Gallagher, Magheragallen - evicted
Jack Boner, Ardnegappany - evicted
Hugh Doogan, wife and child, Dore - evicted
Neal O'Donnell & wife deceased, 2 sons and a daughter in family, Dore - evicted
Widow Rose O'Donnell, one child at home and the rest in service, Dore - evicted
Widow Coll, Dore - readmitted as caretaker
Owen Coyle, wife, small children, Dore - evicted
Daniel O'Donnell, wife and 3 small children, Knockastolar - evicted
Family of Daniel O'Donnell, wife & 3 small children -
Information from family :
They where evicted from their house for a year and my great grandfather build a hut out of turf beside their home and they got back in to they're home the year after.
The day the black and tans where going to put them out of their home a woman from Dore was in their home, and when the black and tans came on the street they threw a pot of boiling water over them - they never came back
The above articles were transcribed by me from photocopies of the Derry Journal, sent in by Sheila Connolly
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