The Connacht Tribune, 23rd April, 1910 p.3
SHARPE ESTATE STRUGGLE – KINVARA’S RALLY ROUND NATIONAL STANDARD
Magnificent monster meeting – other estates involved in the fight
Not for many a year has such a display of enthusiasm been witnessed in Kinvara as that which characterised the monster meeting held on Sunday last under the auspices of the United Irish League and of the Town Tenant’s League. It was as if the town of the Auld Plaid Shawl had suddenly thrown off the lethargy that has hung over it for the past decade, and once again taken its proper place in the agitation for a people’s rights, and as if her sons had girded on their armour and taken their position in the fighting race of this nation.
The monster meeting had a two-fold purpose; primarily, it was called to protest against the action of the Sharpe Trustee in pressing and securing decrees at Gort Quarter Sessions against tenants kept in a condition of poverty by exorbitant and unjust rents, but its secondary purpose was more important still. It was called to band the people together under the banner of the National organisation – the first step on the road to victory. That the meeting served its purpose was manifest from the resonant spirit of unity and of kinship that prevailed amongst men who, as the member for South Galway said, had been divided in the past.
Next in point of importance is the work of Mr Thomas P. Corless, D.C. on whose shoulders the weight of the organising work lay, and that of Mr. C. W. Cogan, United Irishman’s League organiser, who for some days previous to the meeting had been organising the dissent. Faction had done much to demoralise the National organisation throughout Galway in the past, but that sinister spirit is now being crushed under heel. The people are beginning to recognise the truth of the axiom that in unity is strength. The policy of division is an odious one; if a national emergency, perhaps a National opportunity, was to find the people split up into cliques and opposing factions, defeat and disaster would be the result. Hence the work of Mr. Cogan possesses a profound importance for the people of South Galway. We trust that during the coming weeks his mission amongst them will be crowned with an abundance of success. On next Sunday he will visit Kilbeacanty and in the interval will be busy interviewing local Nationalists and offering valuable suggestions as to the conduct of the campaign.
Though Mr. Coughlan Briscoe, the General Secretary of the Town Tenant’s League, at the last moment wired that he could not attend on account of the meeting at Westport, the meeting did not lack speakers. Incidentally, it might be mentioned that the action of Mr. Briscoe in notifying the organisers of the meeting of his inability to attend until the last minute was the subject of some comment locally. The energetic member for south Galway, Mr. Wm. Duffy, M.P. attended the meeting in spite of difficulties that would seem almost insurmountable. On the day before when Mr. Duffy notified the Whip of the Irish Party, Mr. Pat O’Brien, of his intention to proceed to the meeting at Kinvara, Mr. O’Brien consulted the leader of the Party, and afterwards communicated to Mr Duffy Mr Redmond’s wish that “under no circumstances was he to be absent from the party on Monday.” But Mr. Duffy managed to meet both the calls of his party and his constituents. He immediately crossed to Ireland, and after the meeting on Sunday, he drove to his home at Loughrea, and thence to Woodlawn Station, where he caught the night mail so that he was back again at Westminster and able to cast his vote with his party on the momentous division on Monday last.
Although the morning was fine and clear, during the afternoon a continuous drizzle fell, and occasionally there were heavy showers. Under such unpleasant conditions was the meeting held, but the weather distracted in no way from the prevailing enthusiasm or from the success of the proceedings. The contingents, which had come from every point of the compass, remained throughout the proceedings; and if their enthusiasm affords an indication of their determination, victory may safely be presumed on their side.
Amongst those on the platform were;
Mr. T.P. Corless D.C.
Rev. Father Keeley, C.C.
Rev. H. Corcoran C.C.
M. O’Donohoe J.P Co. C., president G.A.A.
W. O’Reilly, Athenry
M. Hynes J.P.
J. O’Dea, Dooras
C.W. Cogan U.I.L.Organiser
T. Quinn, Gort
Rev. F. Burke, Gort;
Augustus Johnston, Kinvara
J. Kilkelly, Kinvara
Michael Hynes J.P
Patrick Lambert, Gort Boart of Guardians
Martin Coen D.C.
P. Keane, T.C. Loughrea
John H. Glynn,
John E. Hazel
The following are the names of a few of the contingents which attended;
Kilbaceanty U.I.L; Loughrea; Ardrahan; Beagh U.I.L. (with band); Athenry; Carron; New Quay; Ballyvaughan; Kilfenora; Gort. Green banners were erected upon the platform and across the street bearing appropriate mottoes.
THE CHAIRMAN’S SPEECH
The Rev. Chairman, who was heartily received on coming forward, said; I thank you very much for having invited me to occupy the chair on this occasion in the presence of a large and influential meeting of our fellow countrymen. Here today are gathered the bone and sinew of our own grand Celtic family; the flower of our race;
“A bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
If once destroyed can never be supplied.”
We have assembled here today for the purpose of rooting you deeply and firmly in the soil, and of making you proprietors of your holdings – aye, princes in your native land;
“Breathes there a man among you today with soul so dead,
Who never to himself had said
This is my own, my native land.”
The immediate object of holding this public meeting today is to make an effective protest against the action of the agent who, on the property which is now in the hands of the Trustees, and which was hitherto owned by a man named Sharpe (groans). He has served processes and writs on some of the most independent men on the estate in this town. The tenants have considered the rents unfair and oppressive, and therefore refused to pay them until they would have obtained the reduction which they had demanded and which, in this case, have been deemed reasonable and just. The agent, however, did not grant the reductions he ought to have made, but instead of that issued processes and writs against the tenants, thus treating honest and respectable men with contempt and forcing them into revengeful and unnecessary costs (boohs). We demand here today in the presence of this meeting the reductions that were granted to the tenants, namely, a reduction of 45 per cent before the property had passed from Blake Foster into the hands of a mortgagee named Sharpe, an Englishman. We will insist on obtaining these reductions and we shall never cease to agitate and assert our just claims until we effect our purpose, and secure to the tenants a fair settlement and just rents (cheers).
These tenants have been doomed to a servitude hitherto unknown in this part of the country, and subjected to the most humiliating and ruinous rents that distress and straiten them, and that are far in excess of the rents collected on the other estates within this district. The tenants on this estate have defended their processes and exposed them, for a cruelty that is excessively wanton, and that recalls the tyranny which was crushed and broken by the exertions of a people struggling to wrest from an alien race justice and freedom (cheers). Nor shall we pay any rents until these deductions have been obtained. All the tenants of this estate are bound to unite together and put forth their strength and energies in order to reduce the rental of this property, the trustees of which have dealt out to the tenants harsh and cruel treatment. If the tenantry work earnestly and steadily and combine in their efforts, they are bound to succeed, and the tribunal of public opinion will reprobate the action of the trustees of this estate and condemn them for their exaction and rack rents (cheers). If the tenants had brought this estate into the land courts they would have been relieved of exorbitant rents, and the reductions which had been granted to them by Blake Foster would have been fixed by the courts. who are unable to withstand a combination of sturdy Irishmen, marching steadily to be free and to shake off oppression, conquering and to conquer? (Loud cheers). We are determined to persist in our just demands and righteous cause until our efforts are crowned with success and our grievances are remedied and victory is achieved. (Loud cheers).
“The star of the West is not rising in its glory;
And the land that was darkest shall be brightest in story.”
12th April, 1910
Dear Mr Corless,
I regret I am not able to be present at your meeting next Sunday. The object of the meeting, to secure the rights of the town tenants and to induce the landlords of Kinvara to sell to the tenants their houses and lands, has my best wishes and sympathies.
I hope your meeting may be a great success.
I am, yours faithfully,
Thomas Burke, P.P.
House of Commmons 12th April, ’10
I should be pleased to attend your meeting on the 17th inst but regret that as I will not be in Ireland, it will not be possible for me to do so.
With best wishes for a successful gathering,
House of Commons, April 12
Dear Mr Corless,
I am grateful for invitation to meeting on 17th inst., and regret exceedingly that it’s impossible for me to attend, as there never was moreoccasion that every man of the Party should be here for the next few weeks.
With best wishes,
I am, sincerely yours,
Westport to Corless, Kinvara
Success to meeting. Keep a grip of your homes. If evictions are attempted I will be with you.
8th April, 1910
Dear Mr Corless,
I very much regret that I have an important appointment Sunday, April 17th, and cannot go to Kinvara.
House of Commons, April 10
Dear Mr Corless,
I am sorry I cannot attend the Kinvara meeting on April 17th as all this month we shall be obliged to remain in London for very important Parliamentary work. I need not say I wish you every success, and have full sympathy with the objects of your meeting. I shall be happy to help your good member, Mr. Duffy, all I can.
Yours very truly,
38 Upr. O’Connell Street, Dublin
29th March, 1910
I am in receipt of your letter and I greatly regret that it is not possible for me to attend your meeting on the 17th April,
The following resolutions were proposed by Mr. T.P. Corless;
That we, the Nationalists of Clare and Galway in public meeting assembled, are of the opinion that the time has come when the tenants in towns should be protected by legislation from oppressive rents, and with a view to this the Town Tenants’ Act should be amended.
That we express our strongest condemnation of the action of the Sharpe Trustees in refusing a reduction in the rents, and by taking legal proceedings against a number of these tenants by issuing processes and having them decreed at the recent Quarter Sessions in Gort; and that we pledge the tenants victimized, our moral and financial support; and that we express our strongest determination to insist upon the trustees selling the land and houses on the estate to the Congested Districts Board, as many land and house lords have already done.
That we renew our demand for the restoration of our native Parliament in College Green.
That we express our unabated confidence in the Irish Parliamentary Party under the distinguished leadership of Mr. John E. Redmond, M.P. (cheers) and offer them our heartiest congratulation upon the able manner in which they have secured the control of the English Parliament; that we pledge our loyalty and devotion to the Party, whose brilliant abilities and untiring energies have been devoted to the cause of Ireland. That we are determined to re-establish a branch of the United Irish League in Kinvara.
That we call upon the Nationalists of every district in South Galway to assist Mr. C. W. P. Cogan, the official of the U.I.L., who is at present in the district re-establishing good working branches all over the constituency, and we appeal to the people to support the organisation, as we are fully convinced that it was through the instrumentality of that organisation everything was gained, and will be gained for the Irish people.
That we take this opportunity of thanking our worthy representative, Mr William J. Duffy, M.P. for his unceasing labours on behalf of his constituents and Ireland generally, and that we extend him a hearty céad míle fáilte to this district. (Loud cheers).
MR. T. P. CORLESS’S SPEECH
Before speaking to the resolutions which I have the honour of proposing, I desire as one of the organisers of this monster demonstration to congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on your magnificent attendance here today, and to bid you a hearty céad míle fáilte to the town of the Auld Plaid Shawl (cheers). The promoters of this meeting never anticipated that you would respond so nobly in your thousands to the appeal I made on their behalf to you to rally to the standard of the Sharpe tenants, who are engaged in the fight with the worst form of absentee landlordism that ever blighted the hopes of blasted the prospects of a people rightly struggling to be free (applause).
As one of the first tenants singled out by the Sharpe trustees for legal proceedings, and decreed at the Gort Quarter Sessions because, I believe, of my connection with the Town Tenants’ Association since its inception in this district, I desire to convey to the trustees and their advisers that if they think they can frighten the tenants by striking at the leaders of the combination, they never made a greater mistake in their lives. (Loud applause). I am determined in the interests of the town tenants – aye – and country tenants too – to fight this out to the bitter end, regardless of the consequences until the treatment of the Sharpe tenantry is known from one end of Ireland to the other. The tenants are groaning under a rack rent unequalled on any estate in the West of Ireland for over fifty years. The tenants are taxed on their own improvements. Many of them have not as much land as would feed a lark; a great many more have no accommodation such as yards, and still they are compelled to pay rents trebled by Mr Harry Comerford in the early ‘sixties, and continued down to the present hour.
To give an idea of how Mr Comerford treated the tenants it is only necessary to remark that he used to make it a point to go around the estate and suggest to a rather primitive people to whitewash their houses, and when that was done, increased the rent three hundred fold (groans). When Michael Davitt (cheers) unfurled the banner of the land for the people at Irishtown, and the tenants, backed up by the no rent manifesto, asserted their rights and demanded a reduction, the landlord caved in, and conceded the tenants demand of 25, and in some cases 30 per cent. The property eventually passed under the jurisdiction of the late Judge Monroe, and he supplemented the reduction on the application of Mr McInerney, K.G. by giving a further abatement of 20 per cent, making 9s or 10s to the pound.
The present owners as the chief mortgagees on the property purchased the estate about twenty years ago when Mr Henry Emerson (groans), solicitor to the Property Defence, or Emergency Association, was appointed agent, with Mr. T. A. D. Murray, the grabber of Ballykata (groans) as second in command. The reduction then ceased and as Mr. Emerson was solicitor to the trustees, as well as agent, “processes”, in the words of T. D. Sullivan, “in scores and more, were nailed on every poor man’s door” on the estate and the old rent restored. Like all the evil brood that came before them they disappeared, but not until they had the dirty work done for the landlord. Messrs Kirwan and Son were next appointed,and, as we have reason to know, they are no improvement on their predecessors. They have refused a reduction or a sale to the Congested Districts Board, but if the people only emulate the example of the brave men of Ballinderreen, and keep their counsel to themselves, the day is not far distant when the people can celebrate in triumph the deliverance of a people from the iron heel of landlordism and all the evils that follow in its train (loud cheers).
The fight on the Sharpe estate is a question that should interest everyone in the district, as our fight today may be yours tomorrow. Landlordism is the same everywhere, and the Wilson-Lynch tenantry at Duras and Aughnish are groaning under the same burden – cruel rack-rents and an unmerciful agent – that we have to reckon with in Kinvara. I appeal to the manhood of Kinvara and Duras, whose patriotism is as true today as ever it was, to unite as one man and close up their ranks, and show to the world that no matter what little differences have divided us, on one thing at least we are in thorough agreement, that there is no room for faction or an All for Ireland League in this district (cries of “Down with faction” and cheers). Let us pledge our fealty today by practical work and financial support to the Irish Parliamentary Party and its distinguished leader, who are represented here today by our own tried and trusted representative, honest Willie Duffy (A Voice: “Cheers for him.”) The day is not far distant until the cause ennobled by the life blood of Emmet, sanctified by the teaching and sacrifices and the patriotism of the Young Irelanders of ’48, and handed down to us as a priceless heritage by Allen, Larkin and O’Brien from the scaffold at Manchester, is brought to a glorious finish. Then, in God’s name, let the young men in the parish fall into line;
“And you, the weary in the strife,
Who brave the bursting of the gale,
Rise up renewed, refreshed to life,
And aid the cause that shall not fail.”
The Chairman seconded the resolutions which were passed amid cheers.
ADDRESS FROM THE G.A.A.
Mr. Michael O’Donohoe, J.P., Co.C., President, G.A.A. then came forward and read the following;
Address of welcome to Mr. W.J. Duffy M.P. from the members of the G.A.A.
On behalf of the G.A.A. in this parish, we beg to tender you a most cordial welcome to our town. At this crucial period in the history of our country it is fortunate that we have in Parliament a member who possesses honesty, ability and talent to represent us. We believe as a true lover of your country we can always count on your efforts in any movement that tends to benefit its interests. We feel that we can always rely on you with confidence and safety. We again bid you warm welcome, and assure you of our deep regard and esteem, and that you have no more sincere friends than the members of our Association.
We are, yours respectfully,
Michl. O’Donohoe J.P.,
M.C.C. Presdt. Co. Board G.A.A.
Pat Fahey, Hon. Secretary
Michael Quinn, Treasurer
MR. DUFFY’S SPEECH
Mr William Duffy, M.P., who was received with ringing cheers, said;
Rev. Chairman and fellow-countrymen, once again I have pleasure and high honour of meeting the kind and warm-hearted people of Kinvara, in common with the vast gathering of people from all the surrounding districts, who have trooped into Kinvara today to manifest their sympathy with, and support of, the Duras people in the just and laudable fight they are putting up for the acquisition of their homes and business establishments on exactly the same terms which obtain in the country in regard to agricultural land.(cheers). I look upon your presence here today, and the many signs of brotherhood and enthusiasm which mark the meeting, as a clear, emphatic, and unmistakeable sign of the perfect unity and splendid national feeling which permeates the people of this particular corner of South Galway. I have one regret, which I am sure you share with me to the full, and that is in reference to the absence of the loved and patriotic priest of Kinvara, who presided on the occasion of our last great meeting, but who, unfortunately, is incapacitated today through illness, which we all deeply and profoundly regret, but which, we hope, may be of a mere passing and ephemeral character (cheers).
I desire to thank you with all my heart for the warmth and cordiality of the reception which you have accorded to me. Personally, I know I have done little or nothing to deserve it (“No, no.”). To men like your humble servant, who are daily engaged in a struggle for the right of the people and the liberty of the country, it is an indescribable comfort and consolation to find that the people everywhere fully understand and thoroughly appreciate the efforts which are being made on their behalf by the present band of men who represent them in Parliament, and if men like myself have not found it convenient to visit as often as I would wish, important centres like Kinvara, it was not due to any feeling of indifference, but rather to the inexorable necessity of attending to more general work which made it impossible for me to be everywhere.
I thank you heartily for the vote of confidence passed in the Irish Party. I interpret the resolution in that sense, for no public man was ever called upon to make fewer sacrifices for the people’s cause than I have been, and yet out of the generosity of your warm Celtic nature, you give me credit for a world of good intentions. I will merely say in acknowledgement that I regret opportunities did not come more frequently in my way whereby I could show the ever-faithful people of Kinvara, and the electors generally, how eager, how willing, how anxious I was to assist them and do their work, if opportunity would only come along and take me by the hand (cheers).
UNITY AND BROTHERHOOD
Now, fellow-countrymen, you will remember my last visit to Kinvara was timed at a moment when the people were engaged in a movement for the improvement of the pier and harbour accommodation of the town. With an ability and an energy that never seemed to tire, Mr. Corless, Mr. O’Donohoe, and a number of your public men, kept hammering away until those in authority, who at first were obdurate and unyielding, were obliged to give way and carry out certain useful and substantial improvements in the public waterway to the town (cheers). Today I visit Kinvara again on the invitation of the same men, and in futherance of a great and beneficent work, and though your exertions have so far not yielded the results anticipated, I believe that the spirit of unity, of brotherhood, of united action which made your efforts so successful on the last occasion, shall crown your efforts now with still greater success (cheers). And let me add that I am delighted to witness such a spirit here today and to see united upon the one platform for the common cause, men who have been divided in the past (renewed cheers). That augurs well for the future, and with such a combination of public men for the common cause, victory is yours (loud cheers).
Now, let me briefly survey the circumstances connected with the demand presently put forward by the town tenants of Kinvara. The town of Kinvara, in the main, I believe, was the property of O’Donnellan Blake Foster up to about thirty years ago. It was then one of the most thriving and prosperous business towns in Galway. It had a magnificent market for potatoes and barley. I believe that the turnover along in corn in the year amounted to about twenty thousand barrels, leaving in the district something like 15,000 pounds. Even today, though the market to a great extent has been ruined, the name and the character of the barley and potatoes grown in the Kinvara district have earned a national reputation, as may be gleaned from the fact that, in open competition with the rest of the kingdom at the Royal Agricultural Show in Dublin, the barley and potatoes have frequently won the gold medal. Well, in view of this great turnover in barley and other crops Kinvara enjoyed up till a few years ago, the splendid trade you had, markets on two days of the week, commencing in September and running on into February, which I need not now point out were a source of enormous wealth to the town and the money sent into circulation in the way of employing labour and paying for the corn sold in the markets, built up your town to such an extent that twenty years ago it was, as I have stated, one of the busiest and most prosperous commercial centres in the West of Ireland. We know what happened.
Unfortunately the great firm of Persse’s, which was in the habit of purchasing all the corn, came to smash, with the consequential result that no one came any longer to buy the corn at Kinvara. Buyers fortunately came from other places and set up agencies in different districts around, but the result was most disastrous to Kinvara, as the trade was diverted to other centres and the market practically ruined. In view of this sad state of things the town tenantry approached the landlord and received an abatement of 25 per cent in their rents. Later on, when the estate went into Chancery, so manifest was the downward tendency of the town at the time, a judge of the High Courts was constrained to allow a further abatement of 20 per cent, making a reduction entirely of 9s in the pound.
MONSTROUS STATE OF TYRANNY
Unfortunately, a change of ownership of the town took place shortly afterwards, for the town portion of the estate and the townland of Inisroo was purchased by the principal mortgagee, a gentleman from London named Mr. William H. Sharpe. What happened? The first act of Mr. Sharpe was to appoint as agent of the property a gentleman who was notorious at the time as the most virulent and aggressive land agent in Ireland, namely, Mr. Emerson, of the celebrated firm of Dudgeon and Emerson. No one need be surprised at the extraordinary management of the estate by this gentleman. His first act was to raise the rent 45 per cent to what it was before they had received the abatements, and then he proceeded for the hanging gale (groans). I venture to say a quieter or more patient people couldn’t be found than the people of Kinvara, to submit so meekly to such a monstrous state of tyranny and injustice (loud cheers). The worm will, however, turn when trod upon and the people of Kinvara, seeing the terrible straits to which they were driven – the loss of trade and the destruction of their markets – the deterioration in value of all the houses in the town, the increased rack-rent of 45 per cent, and the obvious wiping out of the town in a short time unless some steps were taken to bring the rent down to a fair and let live rent.
In view of all this, after the death of Mr. Sharpe some time ago, when a new agent was appointed, the tenantry in the town met, and in view of the altered circumstances, they decided that it would be impossible for them to continue paying the rent as fixed, and they demanded of the trustees such a reduction as would bring their rent down to the standard they were at before the emergency agent clapped on the rack-rents, which they found impossible to pay, and which they will not pay until full and strict justice is done to them (cheers). In reply to that request, I understand the tenants have been informed that the trustees are willing to sell the agricultural portion of the estate, but as no mention was made of the town holdings, I presume it is intended to screw the old rac-krents out of the town tenants, and deny them the right of acquiring their houses in the same manner as the agricultural portion of the estate.
A CRITICAL SITUATION
Briefly I have now reviewed the negotiations between the tenants on the Sharpe estate and the trustees. I understand a large number of the the tenants are under notice of eviction, and this meeting has been convened today for the purpose of directing the attention of the Government to the critical situation which has arisen, and to ask the Government, through the Congested Districts Board, to come West to Kinvara to exercise the compulsory powers vested in them – to take over the Sharpe estate, and thus save the town and the district from a great quarrel, which, if it goes on, is certain to plunge all concerned – trustees, Government and people – into a fight of sad and almost irremediable consequences, of which nobody at this meeting today can forbear (cheers). We are here today to show out sympathy with the town tenants, which we believe to be both fair and just. We pledge them all the support in our power in fighting for their emancipation(loud cheers).
I have been informed that there are other properties in the immediate neighbourhood of Kinvara which stand in aid of a readjustment as between the tenants and landlords (A voice: “The grabbers are worse!”). One of the estates brought under my notice this morning is a small estate located part in the town and partly out of it, the property of a distinguished lady living in the town, and I am happy to be able to make the announcement that the lady has consented and pledged herself to one of your reverent friends to allow a reasonable portion of the land which is in close proximity to some of the tenants on the estate, to be taken over by the tenants at the expiration of a reasonable term (cheers), subject to the existing rent, but subject further, to re-valuation whenever the Congested Districts Board or the Estates Commissioners come down for the purpose of determining what would be a fair rent. That seems to be a very satisfactory solution of what must otherwise be a very serious difficulty; and I do hope that the people of the town and the people of that estate will take into account the promise made by this lady, and that pending the coming of the Commissioners to take over this land from her, that this dispute will not lead to any unpleasantness in the district.(hear, hear). But while I express that opinion, I say that unquestionable there is no possible excuse for withholding these few acres of land as accommodation for the people who stand in need of it in the town; and I hope that the lady in question, and I am perfectly sure she will, will see the necessity of placing these shop keepers in possession of accommodation land they stand so badly in need of, and which will be a very valuable asset to them in the future in enabling them to live, and to meet their liabilities (cheers).
THE LYNCH PROPERTY
There is one other property in the neighbourhood to which I wish to make reference – the property of Major Lynch (boohs). The state of things that was brought under my notice in connection with that property is almost incredible. The unenconomic tenants on this property, (Mr. Duffy said amid cheers), were compelled to enter into competition with the big fat graziers of the country. And yet the land in Kinvara on which these tenants had to exist was a veritable sea of rocks, and some of this land was subject to a rent of 2 pounds an acre. To think that such a thing existed today was one of the greatest mysteries of the age (cheers). Mr Duffy wondered what kind of Land Commissioners visited Kinvara 10 or 12 years ago when they were called upon to determine the value of these holdings? He had not a shadow of a doubt that they were landlord’s men (cheers), and that was all the greater reason why they should demand that the Congested Districts Board would come down to Kinvara, take over this land on the Major Lynch estate, as they were taking other estates, forcible and compulsorily, and give the unfortunate tenants some small bit of relief (cheers). While this condition of things existed, he understood that two not inconsiderable were to be found; and he asked Dublin Castle that day to take a note of the fact (groans for the note-taker) that the meeting was held for the express purpose of putting forward in clear and concise terms the demands of the people in the immediate neighbourhood (cheers).
THE POLITICAL SITUATION
And now a few words in regard to the general political situation. The hour of battle so long and so anxiously looked forward to has at last arrived. In the course of a few weeks Parliament will be dissolved and we shall be in the thick of a General Election. Whatever divided opinion there may be in England in respect to the issues to be submitted to the electors, fortunately for the Irish people the issue involved in the coming election is of such simplicity that there is no mistaking the broad straight line that divides the parties in this momentous contest. There is virtually but one plank in the Irish platform. There is only one question before the Irish people, but that is broad enough to comprehend all the rest. What we ask and demand is that our country shall henceforth be governed in Ireland, by Irishmen, for Irishmen (cheers). In this great question all others are involved. When we shall have regained our legislative independence there will be an end to coercion, to the possibility of awful evictions and to the weeding process that is going on with such disastrous consequences to the population of our country, and with the establishment of an Irish Parliament will commence an era in which Irish industries will be fostered and promoted, the stir and bustle of trade restored to partly deserted marts like Kinvara, and comfort and plenty brought home to the hearts of our honest, hard working Irish toilers (cheers). The present is not a time when Irishmen are called on to seek for what is visionary and impracticable. The victory is all but won and we all know when an army is on the point of scoring a great victory, it would be an act of the greatest treachery for any of the rank and file, much less for any of the distinguished leaders in command, to prove false to their colours by deserting to the camp of the enemy. I know the fate such men would received were they to visit the town of Kinvara (loud cheers).
In the South of Ireland you have a man who, no doubt, formerly occupied a prominent and distinguished position (“O’Brien – and groans). A man who today is using his great abilities to disrupt and destroy the Irish movement (“You have O’Donnell in Galway”- and groans). It is clear to me at all events that no spirit of faction enters into this meeting today (cheers and a voice “O’Donnell is not a Galway man”), and if those gentlemen came to Kinvara they would get a hot reception (renewed cheers).
No, fellow-countrymen, we are on the point of victory. Nothing more is needed but one great forward movement by a united Ireland under the generalship of Mr. Redmond. It is men like you, honest with one another, loyal to the organisation, faithful to your leaders, who have brought the Irish question so remarkably to the front that no British politician can pretend to ignore it, and you have only to be staunch and firm now; to persevere in the course you have pursued so steadily during the past thirty years, to witness the realisation of the nation’s hopes and the beginning of an era of freedom and prosperity for our long-misgoverned country (loud and prolonged cheers.)
FATHER CORCORAN’S SPEECH
Rev. Father Corcoran, C.C., who was received with much cheering, said it gave him great pleasure to have the honour of addressing such a large an enthusiastic meeting. No person should take more interest in the material and moral welfare of the people than the priest, and the more closely the priest did so, the more closely he followed the footsteps of his Master(applause). For that reason they should attend to the welfare of the people in their own parish. Their Rev. Chairman had delivered to them an eloquent and patriotic speech, which, if people took to heart, would benefit them immensely. The people of this parish have been driven to pay exorbitant rents by extortionate landlords. That applied not only to the people who held land, but also to the holders of houses. Their rents have been increased by one hundred-fold, and it was the duty of the people to agitate, and never cease agitating, until their just demands were acceded to (Cheers). The people who have been driven from their homes are forced by the Englishmen who grabbed them to pay these rents. “How long,” said the speaker, “is such a state of things to exist?” Just as long as the people will it, and no longer (cheers). Ireland sober was Ireland free (renewed cheers). If the people stood united they were bound to succeed. Their rents have been increased, and their appeal to get the benefits of the new Land Act have been made in vain. The landlords have refused to sell.
The same thing also applies to the households. The people of this parish are the most patient in the world to submit to such an injustice. (A voice: “Cheers for Father Corcoran.”) Their industries were decaying, and Ireland, one of the most privileged countries in the world, has its sons emigrating to foreign countries to make a livelihood. (A voice: “Groans for the grabbers.”). If Kinvara received its rights, instead of having it in its present deplorable condition, it would be a beehive of industry, as it was in the past. Until the inheritances of their forefathers were restored to them they would never rest satisfied, and Ireland would then raise from its position of one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest (applause).
Ireland was drained of its wealth by the landlords, and the money spent in foreign countries. In conclusion, the Rev. speaker exhorted his audience to stand by the side of the Irish Party (loud and prolonged cheers.)
THE ORGANISER’S SPEECH
Mr. C. Cogan, U.I.L. Organiser, said they could not hold that meeting in defence of their rights without having a descendant of “Jeremy Stringer,” the famous Government note taker, among them (laughter). However, he was quite welcome to write down what they had to say. Some thirty years ago, when the Kinvara property was purchased by H. Comerford, the rent roll was increased by him from £300 to £1,100 per year. The slightest approach to sanitation by lime-washing the premises was sufficient pretext for him to treble the rents. The rents continued to be paid until the no rent manifesto enabled the tenants to combine and demand a reduction from the landlord, Mr. O’D. Blake Forster (a grandson of H. Comerford), which was willingly conceded, of 5s, and in some cases of 6s.8d in the pound off the rent. When the property passed into the hands of the Receiver Judge, Mr. Justice Monroe, a further reduction of 1s in the pound was given on the application of Mr. C. McInerney, K.C. When the property was sold to the present owners about 20 years ago, and Mr. Henry Emerson appointed agent, the reduction was knocked off, and the hanging gale with it. Mr. Emerson was succeeded by Mr. T.A.D.Murray, the grabber of Ballykale, who was under police protection wherever he went, and his services were soon dispensed with. Messrs. Denis Kirwan and Sons were next appointed agents, and they ceased holding a rent office in Kinvara and made the tenants go to Ballinderreen to pay their rent.
The collapse of Persse’s distillery and the consequent loss of trade, interfered so much with the trade and prosperity of the town that the tenants couldn’t stand it any longer, and decided last October on demanding a reduction of 45 per cent. on the rents then due. The Rev. Father Burke wrote the agents on behalf of the tenants, demanding a reduction, and the agents replied that they sent on the letter to the trustees, who were considering the matter. After a few months the agents wrote enclosing a letter from the solicitors to the trustees, Messrs, Reekil, Munster and Weld, stating that as there were many family charges on the property, no reduction could be given. Fr. Burke again wrote the agents asking them to sell to the Congested Districts Board and Mr. Briscoe also wrote the agents on behalf of the tenants. Mr. Kirwan wrote saying the question of sale was, he thought, one that was not within the range of possibilities, as the town could hardly come under any class of the new Land Act, and that if it could be pointed out to them that the Land Act would apply to the town, the agents would be very pleased toconsider the matter.
The tenants next memoralised the Congested Districts Board to buy the town and their reply, through Mr. Briscoe, was, that as the town was not mainly agricultural, the Board could not deal with it. The next move on the landlord’s or trustees’ part was to process the tenants and decree two of them in Gort. The tenants in the Duras portion of the estate, the majority of whom are the holders of farms, the average size of which is about seven acres, and in some cases five acres, have to pay up to 2 pounds per acre, while over eighty acres of fattening land in Newtownlynch and opposite the tenants’ doors, is set to a grazier ten miles distant. The agent, Mr. Alfred Hazel, is a regular despot, and the tenants, if they don’t pay the rent up to date are processed with the regularity of clockwork. The tenants asked the owner to sell on different occasions, and he demanded 26 and 27 years purchase, notwithstanding the fact that he sold property in the same parish under the Ashbourne Act for 15 years purchase. An absentee grazier from Ballinrobe holds over 500 acres of grazing farm beside two of the most congested villages in the parish, Cappamore and Newtown.
In a district where fuel is so scarce and turf commands such a high price, if the neighbouring tenants were only allowed to cut the hazel and other worthless timber in it, it would be a great boon to them. Adjoining Killina is the extensive farm of Shanganagh, owned and grazed by Walter Shawe Taylor, Castletaylor, containing over 600 acres, and with no one living in it except the herd. As the tenants around are in a congested district, the landlord should clear out and the land should be divided between the people in the villages of Ballybuck and Killina. The tenants around should combine and emulate the patriotic example of the men of Ballinderreen who, without any outside help, compelled Count Blake to sell out over 3,000 acres, and compelled Messrs. Kirwan and Sons, and the St. Georges of Tyrone to clear out the graziers and stripe the land to the steps of the “Court”. Before doing so, Messrs. Kirwan processed the tenants and decreed them, but such was the combination amongst the tenants that the bailiff refused to point out the lands, and the decrees were never executed.
VOTE OF THANKS
A vote of thanks to the Chairman was on the motion of Mr. W.Duffy, M.P. seconded by Mr.C.Cogan, passed with acclamation. In conclusion he asked the people to establish a branch of the League in their parish, and support it (loud cheers).