Newspaper Reports of the Gweedore Evictions 1886
These reports were submitted by Sheila, transcribed by Lindel, and form part of the Donegal Genealogy Resources Website
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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 preoceed 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.
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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