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Ireland's land
class struggles
emigration, etc.
Religous Tolerance

Updated 12 Dec 2000

From various postings to Genexchange County Cork mailing list
Denis Grant
Peter Langley
michael cronin
Jane Lyons
Colman Ahern
Rhona Panton

Refer also to Land Records
Refer also to Lismore Papers

Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 03:03:43 EDT
Subject: [Cork-L] Ireland's land, class struggles, emigration, etc.
Hello All,

I am in rare form tonight, as I have a number of things rolling around in my brain (no, not marbles) concerning Ireland in the 1800's, it's people, emigration, land ownership, etc. Oft times when I am in a quandry as to how and why a situation existed, it helps me to 'talk it out', and since you all are my genealogical 'family', I hope you don't mind the imposition. My own family stare at me with a vacant look in their eyes when I begin talking about such, "oh God, here she goes again"....... (I can't see you all, so I don't know if you'd be staring at me the same way. I hope not.)

Living my entire life in the United States, I am well aware of the class divisions among the population. I am not that well informed as to how the populations of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. are "divided", if at all.

As those of you who live here in the US are also well aware, there are various levels of poverty and wealth among the population. On the bottom are the poorest of the poor; they are homeless, they own nothing but the clothes on their back, and survive anyway they can. Then there are what our government calls the working poor. God knows how these people eat every week and keep a roof over their heads, because I don't know how they manage.

Then we have the middle class, and within that middle class there are also the distinctions of lower, middle, and upper, middle class. The lower might not be able to afford to buy or lease a new Lexus or Mercedes Benz, but generally they are working and can afford to have a decent car and pay the insurance for it. Whereas the upper middle class is more likely to be in a position to have the Lexus or Benz....nothing wrong with this at all, these people work hard for their money and enjoy it.

Then we have the rich. I don't know much about these folks because I don't travel in these circles (grin), however, there seem to be the moderately wealthy, who can afford a beautiful home in a classy, upscale development in the suburbs of New York or Los Angeles, up to the obscenely wealthy, like Bill Gates and the Rockefellers. Please, don't email me telling me I shouldn't be making social commentaries about wealthy people, I'm just trying to establish a point here, albeit in a probable long-winded way.

Ok, now, if you will, follow me back to Ireland 160, 150 years ago.

County Cork, 1840. What's going on with the population? The Irish population is the largest the country has ever seen in its' history, almost 8 million. After almost 3 centuries of wave after wave of English invasions, most of the arable land itself no longer belongs to the Irish; usurped early on by the English, and over the succeeding few generations held by them and their heirs . The old Irish 'Rundale' system of the father passing his land onto his children is long gone. Huge estates of thousands of acres each are now held by the most upper class, wealthiest Anglo-Irish landlords.

(The following is just for example's sake) One landlord might hold 10,000 acres. He then has under him 10 Irish tenants, each holding and being responsible for 1,000 acres each. These 10 Irish tenants, in turn, divide up their acreage among hundreds of poorer tenants who work the land. HOWEVER....the majority of this divided up land is to be used to grow various grains, most of which was being shipped out of Ireland to England, but the small Irish tenant farmer seemed to be accepting of this situation, after all, they had been 'given' rights to a nominal amount of acres for themselves to grow potatoes, maybe some oats, to feed their families. Generally, the amount ot acres each small tenant farmer held for his own was maybe abt. 10 to 15 acres. And of course, even though he'd been given the 'right' to farm this land, he still had to pay rent to be there.

Alright, so now we have a wealthy upper class in the landlord of the estate, the middle class of Irish (the 10 under the landlord), with the majority of the population being the lower class, the tenant farmer, with his 15 acres of potatoes, trying to fatten the pig to pay the rent.

This is the rural picture. If we go into the major townlands, we see almost a similar situation, but slightly different.

The wealthiest people of the major townlands (the members of parliament, the attorneys, etc.) held most of the properties in town. They in turn rented to the merchants. By the 1840's, 1850's, many of the long time, well established merchants had become what we might consider middle class. They had skills and products that the wealthy needed, and paid for. Some of our ancestors were carpenters, saddle and harness makers, bakers, ironworkers, etc. In other words, being established in business and quite possibly having even been able to save a bit of money, while they weren't wealthy by any means, they were able to pay their rents, they were surviving, maybe even comfortable, and undoubtedly worked very hard to keep that status. They were the middle class, again, in varying degrees, but middle class.

When the blight of the potato famine hit Ireland, who were the first to suffer, the first to be driven from their meager lands, the first to die, the first to emigrate? The poorest of the poor. For those of you who have found your ancestors name on an immigrant ship list in 1846, 1847, '48, to about 1851, from a Canadian port, or the ports of New York, Baltimore or New Orleans in the US, or the lists of ships that made it to Australia........what does this tell you of the resilience of your ancestors? They fled a situation where they felt sure they would perish, and the majority of them made their way into new worlds where they flourished. This can also possibly tell you other things, such as, they were likely among the poorest, and if you know where they came from, there is possibly some type of landlord's records to be found. Boole Library at UCC holds some very interesting landlord/tenant records, as does the National Library of Ireland, and probably many other smaller county archives that I am not aware of.

So, on to the middle classes, the guys like the 10 Irish tenants under the landlord, and the comfortable merchants. Have all of you reached a point in your research where you've discovered what the occupation of a certain ancestor was? Was your great-great grandfather a carpenter, possibly with a business established for 25 years by 1850? Was he middle class and comfortable enough to provide for his family during the most difficult times of the famine? If he and his family did eventually emigrate from Ireland, possibly at a later date, do you have any idea why?

There were many Irish, middle class and poor, who survived the famine times and just stayed put in Ireland. Obviously.

It is at this point that I am confused, although I've read the history of the various Land League movements, and their aim to secure the "Three F's; fair rent, fixity of tenure while rent was paid, and the right of free sale of one tenants holding to another."** How were these remaining Irishmen (and women) to get their land back? How could they ~afford~ to get their land back?

"In 1876 an official analysis of the rents of Irish landlords was used by Michael Davitt to show that of the 19,288 men who owned Ireland, 110 owned over 4 million acres (20 percent of the country) and 1,878 others owned over 9 1/2 million acres. Altogether, nearly 70 percent of the land of Ireland was owned by fewer than 2,000 people, while some 3 million tenants and labourers did not own any significant property at all." **

You know, there was so much upheavel in Ireland during the decades following the famine as these events progressed, the Land League and agrarian rebellions, it just keeps coming back to me something similar to what Robert was asking the other day.....what other kinds of records might possibly be available? What kind of landlord records, what kind of RIC (Royal Irish Constubalary) records might be available?

For those researching Irish ancestors who DID NOT emigrate during the famine, but possibly much later in the 1800's or even early this century, besides the census and church and civil records, do records exist for anything surrounding these persistent, often violent, attempts by the Irish to reclaim their land? If so, where are they? If any do exist, are they most likely still buried in boxes in a musty basement storage area of some library or archive?

Alright, I certainly have gone on long enough, and if you didn't begin reading this post with a vacant look in your eyes, you might have that look now. To those of you who are not interested in this type of historical subject matter, I apologize for the length of this post. But then again, I probably lost you way back in the first few paragraphs anyway.

For those of you who've stuck with me on this one, I accept all responsibility and criticism for any incorrect information, and most certainly would appreciate anything constructive any of you might want to contribute to furthering my, and hopefully other listmembers, knowledge of these events in our ancestors lives.

Take care all,
Philadelphia PA.
( **Taken from 'A Short History of Ireland' by John O'Beirne Ranelagh)

From: "Denis Grant"
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 04:42:35 -0400
Subject: [Cork-L] Ireland's land, class struggles, emigration, etc.

A few points. This is a classic pattern not only applicable to Ireland. It always involves concentration of landownership initially by conquest and the outright theft that goes with it. It is worth mentioning that the same movement was going on in England, Scotland and Wales at the same time. Thus the Highland Clearances in Scotland which replaced the clans with sheep (for the Wool trade). In England the Enclosure Movement when hundreds of thousands of acres of common land (i.e., the commons of the people of England) were Enclosed to the benefit of aristocratic landlords through the most nefarious parliamentary racketeering. Just like the modern Irish aristocracy who enjoy the high life as absentee landlords, so likewise the Dukes od the British realm enjoy enormous incomes based on the same pyramid system you describe. Thus for example the Duke of Westminster is reputed to take £400,000,000 annual income from his London properties alone. Prince Charles, as Duke of Cornwall was enjoying a similar amount from the Cornish tenantry 20 years ago. Likewise the Duke of Kent, York etc. all enjoy incomes from these Dukedoms. They are not pretty titles for the tourists.

None of this of course is a topic of inquiry for our modern 'economists' or indeed for the modern equivalents of the gombeen men who rule in Dublin. They have all done very nicely from Green Toryism. It is the same in every ex English colony where a bunch of home boys get to rule on behalf of their English paymasters, India, South Africa etc. All business as usual.

By the way have you noticed how the class nomenclature is shifted to make the ruling class disappear? Thus unemployed and poverty stricken will call themselves the working class; the working class will always call themselves middle class (everyones middle class now routine) and the ruling class can then call themselves upper middle class. Hey presto there is no ruling class.

As for studies of all this - it is phenomenon known as the transformation of agriculture into capitalist agriculture, and thus the expansion of urban populations for growing urban industrial production. This underlying process is obscured and distorted in Ireland not only by the famine but also by the draconian measures employed to retard the development of Irish industry during the 18th and 19th centuries. (e.g., exports could only pass through English ports denying direct trade between Ireland and other trading nations.

As for records there is material to be had. Some interesting asides in the Petty Southwell Correspondence of 1676-1687 (William Petty early political economist and high ranking official in Ireland possessed of large Irish properties in Kerry where he established ironworks, fisheries and a considerable trade in timber, Southwell owned part of the Port of Kinsale, these both being benefits of the Cromwellian Settlement). Probably the best source would be the work of the early Irish socialists such as Connolly and there may even be modern studies. Oh ... and Marx and Engels On Ireland.


Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 14:23:16 EDT
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Ireland's land, class struggles, emigration, etc. In a message dated 10/10/99 4:42:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time,

Denis and all,
I was very interested in these points you've made. I honestly am not familiar with the stuggles of Scotland for her people to try to hold onto their lands, but I appreciate the way you have described how aristocracies, worldwide, will keep the lower classes "in their place", so that the rich continue to get richer, on the backs of the poorest in the society.

This same pyramid class structure has been ongoing for centuries, through all kinds of civilizations, and continues today. There might be the top 10 percent of a population who hold most of the wealth of almost any nation you'd care to examine.

But what you say here that I have quoted you above, specifically concerning the "draconian measures employed to retard the growth of Irish industry during the 18th and 19th centuries,"-- this was done purposely by the English aristocracy to keep Ireland as England's main source of agriculture and farm products, while England was busy building itself into an industrial powerhouse. They did not want Ireland to industrialize, precisely for that reason, so they could feed their own people.

From what I've gathered from the reading I've done, the mass of the English lower class population was not "informed" for a long time through any type of news media, ie. The London Times, that there was a famine in Ireland, nor, even if they did know, might they have cared. Because, to attempt to be fair, I imagine the lower classes of the English population were also caught up in their own daily struggle to survive, not paying too much attention to what their government was doing in Ireland.

Please don't anyone misconstrue my intentions for my last post, or this one. I am not trying to blast the English common people, nor am I trying to instigate a huge debate about how 'injurious' the English have been to the Irish. History is history-and you can read hundreds of accounts of this history, all with a slightly different slant, or viewpoint to it. My main objectives for even writing my initial post were these questions:
1) What other kinds of record resources might be available from this time period for those searching for their Irish ancestors?
2.) How did the common Irish people finally, after how many generations, afford to get their land back?

Can we concentrate on these 2 issues, for now, at least?
Philadelphia PA.

From: "Peter Langley"
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 14:30:58 +0100
Subject: [Cork-L] Class System

My word Anita, you were in form last night and you seem to have been doing a lot of reading and in depth research as well. I am sure we will be hearing from Jane Lyons on this subject also.

One of the main problems with Irish History is the history books, which, if you read with an open mind and take in every word, give a fairly accurate account. However, they are written in such a way as to leave you with the impression that the countryside was populated by only two classes of people. 1. The rich absentee landlords and
2. The poor native Irish who lived in mud walled cabins and were continually being evicted.

Firstly don't hold up the Rundale system as being perfect, it resulted in the land being divided between all the sons, until the holding got smaller and smaller, you then got a distant relation who had done well for himself turning up and buying the portions or simply taking them over and renting the land out all this long before the plantations, and the coming of the English landlord who merely replaced the native Irish landlord the tenants seeing little or no difference, in some cases they were better off in others worse.

That aside, as you have managed to ascertain Anita, there were many different social classes in Ireland in the middle of the last century. The social structure in the towns and cites was probably very similar to towns and cites in the States at the time and fairly similar to the Ireland of to-day except the rich were richer and the poor were poorer.

In the countryside the position was different. Starting at the top.

Many lived in luxury in their huge country mansions, clothed themselves well, dined on a wide variety of food and had a large number of servants employed to take care of them. Their children were well educated, the sons often schooled in England to enter the professions or became officers in the British Army. Daughters were usually educated at home by private tutors. Some landlords (but only a few) were absentee - they rarely visited their estates but lived in luxury in Dublin or London employing agents or middlemen to run their estates and collect rents from the tenant farmers.

Rented over thirty acres. They had a lease or contract with the landlord which stated that as long as they paid their rent they would not be evicted or thrown off their land. Their families were well fed on a diet of meat, potatoes, vegetables and milk. They could afford to have their sons educated while their daughters helped their mothers at home. They hired labourers to help with the work on the farm. Some of them were middlemen who sub-let land to smaller farmers.

They rented between 5 and 30 acres from the landlord, his agent or sub rented from large farmers. They lived in a one or two roomed thatched cottage which contained little furniture. Their diet consisted of potatoes, milk and sometimes fish such as herring. Christmas was the only time they ate meat. On the farm they grew crops to pay the rent and potatoes to feed the family, thy also kept some pigs and a cow or a few goats.

These were agricultural labourers who worked for a large farmer. In return they were given an acre of ground upon which to build a cabin and grow potatoes. The rent could be as much as £5 per year and would be taken out of their wages. They lived in a one roomed mud cabin with a thatched roof, little or no furniture, sleeping on straw on the floor. They would have lived all the year round on potatoes with sometimes some milk.

These were travelling labourers who found work wherever they could. Frequently unemployed they lived in extreme poverty in falling down hovels.

The Devon Commission was set up in 1844 to investigate living conditions in Ireland. In 1845 it reported: The Agricultural labourer of Ireland continues to suffer the greatest privations and hardships, he is still badly housed, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid for his labour. In many districts their only food is the potato and their only beverage water; their cabins are seldom a protection against the weather; a bed or blanket is a rare luxury and in nearly all cases a pig and a manure heap their only property.

These came in somewhere on a level with small tenant farmers. Stone masons, Carpenters, Black Smiths etc. They would have lived in stone walled houses rented from the landlord.

It is the Cottiers, Spalpeens and in certain areas the small tenant farmer who were worst affected by the famine.

Growing up on a farm in Co. Waterford in the 1950s, I remember the farm workers putting in a row or two of their own potatoes in the potato field, they also got a quart of milk or so every day, and whenever my father slaughtered a pig a portion would go to the men. I know it was a hundred years after the famine, but life was still hard and I don't believe things had changed that much.

Hope somebody can find something useful here.

Peter in Fermoy.

From: "michael cronin"
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1999 10:09:14 +1300
Subject: [Cork-L] Class System
Awhile back there was a discussion on this list about the class system, I've been reading Thomas Keneally "The Great Shame" (Australia: Random House, 1998) and thought this summary might be of interest, it applies to rural Ireland in the 1830s.

1. Spalpeens (translates as ‘penny scythes’): The lowest of society, lived in the mountains or bogs emerging to find work for a short time in summer.

2. Class III families (as classified by the 1841 census): Had neither land nor capital, included cottiers and the like. This class amounted to 80% of the population. They would rent ‘conacre’ (usually about 1/8 of an acre) year by year to grow potatoes and would supplement their income with some paid labour in the summer months. Even so many were in a state of semi starvation over summer.

3. 40 shilling tenants: Prior to Catholic Emancipation the minimum< qualification to vote was a lease with a minimum annual value of 40 shillings but the vote was not secret and so the landlord could control who the tenant voted for, this gave the tenant a ‘political value’ to the landlord (ie the more tenants the landlord had the more votes he could command). On Emancipation the qualification was raised to £10 this not only disenfranchised the tenants but they also lost their value to the landlord, and therefore their security of tenure.

4. £10 tenants: These were the larger tenants and voters but there were very few of them, in the 1830s there were only 92,000 male voters or about 1% of the population.

5. The landowners, gentry and nobility.

Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 15:31:14 EDT
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Class System

I thank you very, very much for taking the time to explain the various levels of underclass of the population during this time in Ireland. This, truly, was what I was attempting to do with my initial post, but obviously I missed a few important points working from my limited knowledge. I appreciate the way you have detailed these 'layers' of the underclasses.

I suspect this last group, the Spalpeens, might be similar to a group that to this day exists here in the U.S. Here they are reffered to as migrant workers, but what they are called is irrelevant, it's the work they do that is the same. Most of these workers come into the US from Mexico and the Central American countries during the harvest times, to work on the farms. The work is backbreaking, the pay is poor, and the living conditions in many cases is sub-standard. This doesn't speak well for the American farmers who employ them.

There is term I've heard used in Ireland in regards to a certain class of people who are called 'Travellers'. They roam about the countryside in caravans searching for work. Would this be the same group of people as the Spalpeens? Just curious.

Peter, what you wrote about the Tradesmen suprised me. I really would have thought they were somehow better off than the way you describe, as being equivalent to small tenant farmers. But I am grateful you explained it the way you did, as it is now much more clear to me, and hopefully to others as well.

Thank you very much for your help.

Reply-To: "Shauna"
From: "Shauna"
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 16:07:26 -0400
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Class System

Anita, "Travellers" are what we used to call gyspies in the 50's when I was growing up in Dublin. They were not liked by the majority of people, they would camp were ever they liked and leave it filthy. Rumour had it that they would steal the washing off your clothes lines. They would travel the country in colourful wooden horse drawn caravans in which they lived. Today they are called travellers and ride around in mobile homes - still unwelcomed by the locals and still leaving litter and a mess when they move on. To us children they were "romantic"!


From: "michael cronin"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:05:36 +1300
Subject: [Cork-L] Land ownership
Hi Anita and others,

Firstly I would like to say that I learn more from this type of discussion than from six months of book reading. Understanding the class system and the associated system of land ownership is fundamental to understanding how our ancestors lived and why they behaved in the way they did. So Anita thanks for starting this off.

On the subject of land ownership:
In the case of my own family they leased about 200 acres from an English landlord (the Duke of Devonshire a member of the British royal family, does anyone know if he ever set foot in Ireland?) using Peter's scale this would make them large tenant farmers. The lease (purchased by my family in the 1850s) took the form of a title, like any land title it had value and could be bought and sold, to further complicate matters it could be subdivided and parts sold off, or more land purchased could be amalgamated into the title (I assume if more than one landlord was involved then more than one title would be required). The family themselves always referred to this leased land as 'owned'.

The greatest problem I have had is in finding out what land was held, the valuations do not give an address for the landholder. For example Griffiths lists about five pockets of land (in my general area of interest) in the name of Thomas Cronin, I have identified at least one of these is my Thomas Cronin but there is no way of telling if the others are the same person, a relative, or a complete stranger!

Getting back to land ownership: It was not until the land act of 1903 that tenant farmers started to acquire land in their own name. This act was designed to encourage the landowners to sell to their tenants. Can anyone tell me how? I have a document that refers to some land that was subject to a "purchase agreement" under the 1903 land act but rent was still being paid. The same document also refers to land that was subject to rent paid to the Irish Land Commission can anyone tell me what that is?

Michael Cronin

Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 19:51:26 -0400
From: Sharon
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Ireland's land, class struggles, emigration, etc.
Hi Anita,

Thanks for the great historical sociology lesson today. One think you didn't mention was the impact religion had on this entire economic situation. The Protestant throne of England didn't like the Catholic religion of Ireland, so it was the 85 percent of the population that were Catholic that became the "poorest of the poor". It was the varying Protestant denominations that were allowed to become middle class, live in town, own horses, go to school. If you were Church of Ireland or Church of England you got the best treatment; if you were Catholic you were discriminated against. more so in the 1700s than in the 1800s.

The Irish poor tenants would scrap and save and do anything to get land. When the land laws were finally passed in the 1880s, they pooled their money and bought land. Land was the most valued possession, and if the younger generation didn't believe it or want to work the land that was considered unthinkable.

But not every son got to inherit land, only the oldest. So the younger sons were left to their own devices to make their way in life, as no one wanted to divide land into parcels too small to feed a family. So the younger sons went to town or abroad to find work, maybe in a factory, maybe in the military, maybe to sea, maybe to the church or maybe to America or Australia to find land of their own. Daughters had the choice of marrying a man with land or going off somewhere to find factory or maid work abroad.

My grandparents chose to leave Ireland. My grandfather was a third son. He joined the British Merchant Marines and learned to hate the British. He finally jumped ship in America.

My grandmother was sponsored to come to Boston by her Aunt who came a generation before. She worked here in restaurants and then in a candy factory to send money home to Ireland to bring over her younger sisters and brothers. Only one brother returned to Ireland, the oldest son, when it was his turn to inherit the land. And, I might add, he outlived them all, in the healthy country lifestyle of rural Ireland.

My grandfather's oldest brother got the farm he was born on, but had no children. When he died, my father was offered that farm. But Irish laws forbade absentee landlords, and my father was born here, so he was not about to start over in a new country as a farmer. So the land went to another nephew, and sat fallow many years when the nephew could not work the land. Last I heard, a grandnephew is going to agricultural school and taking over the family farm, almost 100 years since my grandfather left County Cork.

Sharon Centanne
Irish Genealogical Research Instructor and Website Designer

From: "Jane Lyons"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 09:34:58 +0100
Subject: Ireland's land, class struggles, emigration, etc.
You were in rare form all right :-) and good questions too.

I've got a few books published by Trinity College on Famine records which include coverage of estate records and what info exactly there is to be had from each long as an estate was an estate during the famine period it is mentioned and they say the full period covered for.

I'll pull them over the next few days and send to th elist. As far as I know many of them will not have ben copied by the LDS....few have been transcribed or published.

Some records are just mentioned by county or person, so that in oder to be ablet o track down who owned what and possibly where if you go through something like the Tithes then you see who the landowners might possibly have been in an area and can check to see if there are any records for that person for any county or just generally for that persons estate and then go look at the estate recrods to see if there is anything on the county you are interested in.

If you know what I mean......


From: "Jane Lyons"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 09:45:36 +0100
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Class System

LOL - couldn't keep out I couldn't.

but - I haven't got anything to add really to what you have said here, except from what I see of the educatoinal system - I think there was a bit more than home education going on - too many private schools even in small areas - but that's another topic altogether......

You've explained it beautifully and the piece about you father says it all - at least to me.

For every group you have listed here there were 'Good' people and 'Bad' people - those who cared and who didn't care....those who shared and helped and who didn't share and help.....Religion has no part to play in this caring and sharing

Just like we have today - people are people and there's been no difference through history no matter how we've changed genetically....

The history books tend to forget to tell us about the good people, same as when we turn on the news today all we hear about is the bad going on in the world. Good does not make headlines.....

and so the world judges Irish History by all the bad they're read about it.........

The only problem is that they all think that there were only poor catholics and no poor protestants and that disease and famine only hit the poor stayed away from the poor protestants and the rich landlords......

can you imagine disease ever being as picky as all that?

While I agree that yes, the history books do depict what actually was happening, there are too many who read them with closed minds, minds full of what they have heard from their ancestors - stories passed down from generation to generation.....and these stories - they were romanticised, added to - we're well known for our embellishment on any story. Any Irish who goes abroad - no matter how they complained about it when at home - they pine for the place - and that's just today.

That's just us for you

Jane ;-)

From: "Jane Lyons"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:16:44 +0100
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Ireland's land, class struggles, emigration, etc.
I've been watching but not commenting on a 'discussion/battle' going on in another list re the poor Irish Catholics and the Penal Laws....and wondering about this which pops up every so often on lists......and how emotional people get about the whole irish history......

and a few comments sprung to mind........which I didn't pass on - but which I will here. There seemed to be a nice discussion /learning process going on with Anita's first post and it would be grand if it was to continue.

I have three children - two of whom have finished with our junior school system: Each of those two have learned their Irish history in a pretty unbiased way - so our books are today. Yet, for each child, when they hit the bit about how the English took over Ireland - whichever bit first - came home ranting and raving about what was done to the Irish - how we suffered, how they hate the English, and Protestants and all that went with them.

Each child had to be sat down and talked to about the past, about our neighbours, friend, relations, religions - about how we don''t ever take any notice of the relgion of another - what they came from, where they came from , where they live, their nationality.....good people and bad we have English friends and relations, we have friends who are rip roaring orangemen, we know people who are the opposite - and we don't hate any of them or hold our past against them, that they had nothing to do with the past. That while it is shown in the history books that this happened Irish catholics, there were poor Protestants as well, that they suffered too.........

I also have a friend who comes from a border county, whose brothers have been in prison because of involvement with the IRA - my friend is very anti british - and because I have seen the impact 'learning' our history has had on my children, I gained an understanding of environmental impact in a county I know nothing about where the people not only learn this history but live it.....

Not all Irish have moved on.

A few years ago there was an article in the European edition of the 'Economist' in which Ireland was described as the 'Leading Light of Europe' the article dealt with our economy - but it compared us to our closest neighbour and said that Ireland had progressed so far and was way ahead......."because the Irish had moved on from their History" - we chose to remember it but not to live it.

I have transcribed about 50% of the graveyards in what is known as a 'Planted' county. As I move through any one - I think about the people, you find catholics and Protestants in each of the older ones - c. 1700 stones.up to 1850's or whenever there were separate graveyards for the area. These Catholics were not poor catholics.they could afford to erect headstones, the Protestants likewise. They erected headstones *beside* one another....they came from the same townlands......they buried many of their children all a few days of one another......they all died quite young by todays standards

All that being said - they were just people.

I am also working my way through wills for the same county......catholics and Protestants alike made wills.....and catholics and Protestants alike donated money or charitable things to the poor in their neighbourhood.

Course - then there were the others.....

The history books and papers on history - yes, they present pictures of our past.

*But* every picture is in general subjective......maybe it is a general picture of what went on - but still subjective, the historian can neglect to mention some things, For every court case on any topic today - there will be an expert of some sort or other brought to court to give his/her opinion on something. Each and every 'other party' involved in any court case, in which there is going to be an expert witness, will find themselves another expert witness to present their side of the story.....

Two experts - giving two different interpretations of the same thing. Who is to be believed? The one who presents the most credible, appealing/believable testimony of course.

That's basically it - Life and History

There are two sides to every story and every person can look at the same thing and see it differently.

We know our history - we can't do anything about it, we can't change the past, we can learn from it, we have to move on - because not to do so would result in us all being bitter, twisted people.....

and the Irish are not that.....


Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 13:27:41 +0100
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Land ownership
Morning All,

Re the current discussion, a "gombeen" , and I quote the Oxford History of Ireland: - "Small-town profiteers and extortionate hucksters, known as "gombeen men", held many of the rural poor to ransom." The rural poor were the losers at the end of the Land war, not to mention their cousins, the urban poor. And the poor were both Catholic and Protestant, no religion had a monopoly on poverty.

Re the Land records, I can only refer ye to Grenham or any other good Irish roots Guide and their chapters on Land Records, the Valuation Office and the Registry of Deeds in Dublin. Buying property in Ireland always involves a search through these records carried out on behalf of the buyer. Surviving Estate records are held in various repostitories, many local ones are held by Cork Archives Institute such as the Earl of Bandon and the Bowen-Colthurst.

There is'nt any "easy" access to this records, you either have to come to Ireland and search them yourself or else commission someone to search them for you. Sounds harsh, I know, but the effort is worth it. Searching through hours of dusty old paper and finding that one name, some small piece of the jigsaw? As we say in Cork "sure, nothing bates it!

Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 08:48:31 EDT
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Class System
One comment about Jane's post-

"the history books do depict what actually was happening, there are too many who read them with closed minds, minds full of what they have heard from their ancestors..."

The sad fact is that in the US the history books and world history classes do not cover Irish history. If the famine was mentioned there was no explanation of the penal laws, land ownership or any of the factors leading to this disaster.

I believe there is a move afoot to add this information to the school curriculum along with the holocaust and more Native American history. We should all support this.


Reply-To: "Shauna"
From: "Shauna"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 16:06:57 -0400
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Class System

Amy, what is even sadder is that there is a whole (perhaps 2 or 3) generations of Irish born & educated (albiet Protestants) who went to school in the Republic and NEVER, NEVER were taught Irish history. We only learnt about England and Europe. I regret to this day that although I had a wonderful education in Dublin it was not complete in the fact that nothing was ever mentioned about Ireland - our own country. But, I know that times are a-changing and even the Protestant schools in the Republic are now teaching Irish history - but as you know it really all depends on the teacher's point of view. History is still a very SUBJECTIVE subject - no matter where you are in the world.


Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 14:07:49 -0800
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Class System
From "Our Like Will Never Be There Again" by Laurence Millman. Published l977, Little, Brown and Co., Boston.

"Hatred of the tinker, I think, is hatred of the past. The more violent it is, the greater the need to blot out past images, to lie about origins, to sever the connections between history and one's person. To be anonymous. For tinkers are like survivals from past generations of rural Ireland, tattered and sustained by drinking, deposited on the self-regarding present by the warp of time and their traveling. Constant movement suspended their growth, and isolated them from the centers of money and knowledge; the endless road taught them perseverance. Owning very little, they clung to their natural customs as other people do to their possessions. And after a time, they came to be considered the people of another country (for the past is another country). An unearthly region where there are hexes and fortune telling, and a few men making things out of tin. A mysterious region: tinkers are somehow supposed to remain healthy by eating soot."

- still unwelcomed by the locals and still leaving litter and a mess when they move on. Hm........Are ye sure that ye didn't mean some of Irelands politicians?!!

Colman Ahern,

Date: 10/11/99 5:24:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: (Rhona Panton)
To: (List Server)

Just a thought on this topic. Like everything else there are two sides to a story or history and then numerous versions, plus out there someplace is the truth.

My ancestors were very poor, tenant farmers and travelling farm workers. they immigrated to Canada in fits and starts between 1820-1860 (most between 1830-1849). Once in Canada they continued to farm and eventually were able to obtain land and settled in Ontario. These very poor people came from SW Cork mainly Skibbereen and Bantry. However, in contrast to all the 'history lessons' I have seen, these people were PROTESTANT. With names like Bryan and Woulf most likely they were converts vs any of their ancestors had ever lived out of Ireland. We think this may have occured about the time of Wesley (Methodists) as he had a mission station in Skibbereen. Family stories insist they were Irish vs English-Irish.

One of the reasons these very poor people left was because of religious prejudice. Yes, England may have ruled at that time but that made no difference when you were poor. Discrimination, like today is a two way street and Catholics were equally bad when it came to discriminating against Protestants - the hatred of today existed then also. Rhona

From: Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 20:38:29 EDT Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Land ownership Hello All!!!

I want to thank all of you who have contributed to this recent discussion about land ownership, class struggles, etc. Like Michael said, sometimes I learn more from discussions such as this than from 6 months of reading books.

Don't get me wrong, I ~~love~~ my books. :-) And many of your responses, ideas and suggestions have prompted me to go back to those books in the last 2 days and take a good look through them. I don't know how many of you can relate to this, but the only quiet time of day I usually have to read is when I'm ready to go to sleep. Consequently, when I am pushing myself to stay awake because I'm very interested in something, "oh, just a few more pages",

of course, what I'm trying to read doesn't always 'sink-in'. But when I read Denis' post about the Wyndham Act of 1903, a light bulb went on in my head! I remembered reading about it, but the importance of it didn't 'sink-in'. Thanks for the prompt Denis! And here I have the answer to one of my questions. Brilliant.

Michael writes: "It was not until the land act of 1903 that tenant farmers started to acquire land in their own name. This act was designed to encourage the landowners to sell to their tenants. Can anyone tell me how? I have a document that refers to some land that was subject to a "purchase agreement" under the 1903 land act but rent was still being paid. The same document also refers to land that was subject to rent paid to the Irish Land Commission can anyone tell me what that is?"

It seems there were a number of Land Acts introduced following a minor recession during the mid-1800's. As tenants began to fall behind on their rents again, the Land League reorganized and their support grew stronger. Still, it took almost 50 more years, and many League campaigns, and many small concessions from the Parliament during those years, before the substantial Land Act of 1903 was passed. "By 1921, as a result of the Wyndham Act, the government since 1903 had advanced nearly A3100 million; over eleven million acres had changed hands, and over 250,000 tenants had bought their land."

So, this is how the people of Ireland got their land back. And, just as an aside, I found it interesting to read that those Irish who chose (or didn't have a choice) to remain in Ireland in the decades after the famine, but already were much older, might not have possibly benefited from this Land Act, but their children did. Because so many of the Irish tenants had emigrated, there was more land for those who remained.

Michael, even though you might be confused as to which ancestor of yours leased, and eventually purchased, which property, I think it is wonderful that you even have these records at all! My ancestors rented in the town of Mallow. If I ever have the time in Ireland to do so, I will pursue trying to find any kind of records such as this, but it very likely would be a case of me going round in circles, grasping at air, as I doubt any of these records exist. They weren't farmers, they didn't own land.

And for the proud Irish, to own the land they work seems to be an inextricable part of their psyche.

I thank all of you for helping me understand these issues.
Take care,
Philadelphia PA.

From: "Denis Grant"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 21:18:10 -0400
Subject: [Cork-L] Class System

Thank you for the timely caution. There is probably a wealth of oral tradition in this group that would benefit us all. I seem to remember also that they have some language peculiarities preserved from the past. I remember durin my early childhood in Cork City that the women would often have their 'fortune' told by them. They also repaired pots and pans and sold paper flowers.

Later I found them also to be present in England, usually making a living in the 'scrap' business. They had a terrible reputation for drinking, fighting and thieving. As a young idealistic socialist student in the sixties I invited one of their young women into our home and allowed her to bath and fed her. My partner picked out some clothes for her and did her hair. For the whole time she could never stop asking if we could give her this object or that object. An ingrained habit no doubt.


From: "Denis Grant"
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 23:17:11 -0400
Subject: [Cork-L] Religious Tolerance

When growing up in Cork City my father had many Protestant friends in the Railway and also Jewish friends in his music interests. His father had been a British soldier stationed in Ireland who 'converted' to Catholicism. There has always been a healthy suspicion of denominationalism in my family. Many people aren't aware that there has always been a healthy mix of all denominations in the Dail and I believe there has been at least one Jewish Mayor of Dublin. Not so in the North where religion has been used as a political rallying cry.

As for your Beale, the Quakers have always taken their religious beliefs seriously and literally. This is why they are prepared to go to jail as conscientious objectors rather than bear arms. As a young student in Britain I was fortunate to have a great English Quaker Charles Swaizland as my personal tutor. He taught me more of life and learning than anyone. Last I heard he was secretary of the Anti Slavery Society - yes it still exists.

You might take a look at 'Protestant Society and Politics in Cork 1812-1844' Ian d'Alton, Cork University Press 1980.


From: "michael cronin"
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 21:56:06 +1300
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Land ownership- Irish Land Commission
Do I understand this right?

With the agreement of the tenants (and why wouldn't they) the landlord sells to the commission and takes a 12% bonus. The tenants then continue to pay rent to the commission in a sort of 'rent to buy' scheme. Does anyone know how long it would take to pay off? and what happened to the scheme in 1921, I can't see the Irish government being too happy about paying the landlords the extra 12%!

Michael Cronin

From: "Denis Grant"
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 13:20:19 -0400
Subject: Re: [Cork-L] Land ownership- Irish Land Commission
Good questions. The answer probably depends on what exactly was the agreement reached in London which was so contentious as to precipitate a Civil War in Ireland. Up to now we have been mesmerized by the Six Counties element of this agreement. But what other matters were contained in it? What does the agreement and whatever addenda that came out of the detailed negotiations cover? What was the discussion of the fate of the great landed estates of the Aristocracy in Ireland and indeed the continuance of these titles?

I could go on. Does anyone know if ALL of these agreements were made public or are some of the records still secret.

Come to think of it, the Irish National revolution must be the only one in history that allowed the defeated occupier to maintain a landed estates system based on the occupiers system of Nobility. Business as usual.

Any thoughts?

From: "Valerie"
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 22:54:28 -0400
Subject: [Cork-L] Ireland's land, a couple of questions
Hi Anita and All,

Just want to tell you how much I have enjoyed and appreciated the recent discussions.

My ancestors did not leave Ireland until my parents' generation. I was born in Ireland, but we moved to England when I was a baby – for lack of jobs in Ireland. Since I began this quest into my family history, time and again I have questioned why my ancestors stayed during the famine years. How did they survive? What occupations did they have which enabled them to squeeze out a morsel of a living? I'm only back to marriages in the 1880's and 90's. It seems most of the men had trades – shoemaker, harness/saddle maker, horse trainer. Women were knitters, dressmakers (I realize there's nothing much available about the women.)

I have three questions regarding these occupations:
a) Would these trades have been passed on from parents and would there be apprenticeship records anywhere?
b) What was the difference between a "labourer" a "farm labourer" and an "agricultural labourer"? All terms I've seen on various census films.
c) Would a "cattle dealer" in the 1890's work for someone else?

Thanks so much for your time.

Valerie – London, Ont.

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