THE IRISH TIMES Friday, January 20, 1905 p.3
QUESTION OF SALE TO TENANTS – BLAKE-FORSTER ESTATE. DECISION OF ESTATES COMMISSIONERS.
Yesterday Estates Commissioners Wrench and Bailey sat at the offices of the Estates Commissioners, 26 Merrion Street, for the purpose of giving judgment in the cases of the sale of the two estates of the Scottish Union and National Insurance Company to the tenants in the County of Clare, at Dooras, and islands off the coast, and in the County of Galway, at Kinvarra. The property was formerly owned by Francis O’Donnellan Blake-Forster and Fanny and Henrietta Blake-Forster, and was taken from them by the Insurance Company who, as mortgagees, bought in the Landed Estates Court on the 30th July, 1902.
Mr. A. Samuels, K.C., appeared for the Insurance Company, the owners.
Mr. Valentine Kilbride, solicitor, represented the tenants both on the Clare and Galway properties.
The case arose on an application to the Estates Commissioners, to declare as an estate for the purposes of the Land Purchase Act, the lands in the County Galway, and in the County Clare, known in the Land Judge’s Court as the Blake-Forster estate, upon which there are a large number of tenants.
Mr. Samuels, K.C., said with regard to the Galway portion of the estate there were 78 holdings altogether, and of these there were only 15 on which agreements had been signed. All the others were held under judicial rents, that is to say, there were 63 judicial tenants on the estate. Suggestions had been thrown out that these were bogus agreements, and the matter had been made a political text by certain people. It was most unfortunate, he thought, that politicians should have interfered whilst the matter was pending.
Mr. Commissioner Bailey – We have nothing to do with that.
Mr. Samuels said that, as a matter of fact, the agreements had been fixed at a lower rate then even the corresponding judicial rents.
Mr. Wrench, in delivering his judgment, said:
Mr. Samuels has argued that where all the agreements come within the 1st section of the Act, as in this case, the Estates Commissioners have no discretion, but must declare the lands comprised in the application and estate for the purpose of the Act. This appears to me to be a purely legal question which should be determined by the judicial commissioner, and, if the parties so apply, it must be referred to him in accordance with Sub-section 1 of the 23rd section; and even if they do not so apply it should, in my opinion, be so referred to us. Pending the result of the judicial commissioner’s decision as to whether the Estate Commissioners have discretion in the matter or not it appears to me that it would be decidedly indiscreet of us to discuss beforehand the course we might properly adopt.
Mr. Commissioner Bailey, in delivering judgment for Commissioner Finucane and himself, said:
The vendor in this case lodged an originating application to have declared as a separate estate for the purpose of the Irish Land Act, 1903, certain lands which are set out in the first schedule to the application, and are situate in the Barony of Kiltartan, in County Galway, and in the Baronies of Burren and Corcomroe, in County Clare. The lands to which this application relate have not now come before the Land Commission for the first time. They formed Lots 2, 3 and 4 of a property which was for sale in the Land Judge’s Court in the matter of the estate of Francis O’Donnellan Blake-Forster, owner; Hester Blake-Forster and others, petitioners, and in respect of which the Land Judges issued a request under the 40th Section of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1896, on the 21st November, 1897. The Land Commission (Commissioners, Lynch and Wrench) made a report dated 30th June, 1899, respecting the Galway portion of the lands no for sale – known as the Kinvarra property – which was comprised in Lot 2 of the Land Judge’s rental, and the circumstances thereof, portion of which report is as follows: – “There are 77 holdings on this lot, and only six exceed £10 in rental value. They are, with a few exceptions, most inconveniently arranged, consisting of detached plots which, in some cases, are a mile or more distant from each other. Many of the holdings comprise from 20 to 30 different patches, and many of the parcels are held in common. The lands have been divided without any regard to their future profitable working, and any clearing or fencing done has added little to the letting value of the land.”
They particularly noticed one holding on the lands of Crosshooha, No. 12 to 13v on the map, occupied by Kate Moylan, in which there were 23 lots, besides undivided shares of the foreshore, and went on to say; –
“Having regard to the character of this estate, and the manner in which the holding have become sub-divided, and the undivided shares in which many of the plots are held, we are of opinion that, with the exception of four holding on the townland of Ballybranagan, none of the holdings on this lot could be sold to the occupying tenants under existing conditions, and that the case is one in which, as a condition precedent to sales under th 40th Section of the Purchase of Land Act, 1885, should be put in force with a view to the proper rearrangement of the holdings comprised in the lot. It further appears to us that advances under the Land Purchase Acts upon an estate so circumstanced would not be adequately secured, and that there would be no possibility of recovering instalment, or reselling holdings in the event of default.”
The Land Judge caused that report to be returned, stating that the Congested Districts Board had refused to buy the property, and requesting the Land Commission to estimate the prices at which the holdings could properly be sold on the occupying tenants. The Land Commission, in their further report, dated 5th November, 1900, stated with respect to this property that, with the exception of the townland of Ballybranagan, none of the holding should be sold to the occupying tenants, under existing conditions, that the holdings should be rearranged under the provisions of Section II of the Action of 1885, and that no advance could be made under the Land Purchase Acts on an estate so circumstances, and they said that as no rearrangement had been made, they assumed that the Land Judges contemplated offering the holdings to the respective occupiers without the suggested rearrangement upon the terms of cash payments. With a view, therefore, to assisting the Land Judge in forming an estimate of the selling value of the lot, they inserted in their original report, opposite each holding, the price at which, in their opinion, the holding might be sold for cash, but even a sale for cash they thought could not be made unless the question raised in their former report as to the rental and maps had been disposed of. The price of the holdings, if so sold for cash, in respect of which agreements for purchase have now been lodged under the Act of 1903, was then (in 1899) estimated by the Land Commission at £7,243, or 15.5 years’ purchase of the then existing rents. Subsequent to the date of the report the Scottish Union acquired the property which was conveyed to them by the Land Judge on the 30th July, 1902, and they now ask that it, together with certain other lands in County Clare, already referred to, be declared a separate estate for the purposes of the Act.
There appear to be now on the Kinvarra property 78 tenants, of whom 63 had judicial rents fixed by order of the Court form 1888 to 1898, and 15 by agreements and declarations to fix judicial rents lodged on 11th April, 1904, which were not filed till 11th July, 1904, so that it is questionable whether these tenancies, at the date of signing the purchase agreements i.e. 4th May, 1904 were holdings subject to judicial rents fixed or agreed to…