Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland

By W. E. Vaughan | Go to book overview

5
Estate Management

i. Ideas and Means

In June 1861 a sub-inspector of constabulary in County Donegal submitted a report to the county inspector on the management of Lord Leitrim's estate.1 He could, he claimed, 'write for a week and tell the hardships the people on the earl of Leitrim's estate have to suffer'. He confined himself, however, to giving 'a few particulars'--running to ten pages of manuscript-- of how Leitrim and his bailiffs oppressed a people 'who, if permitted to avail themselves of the rights of British subjects, are a quiet, obliging, and well disposed peasantry'. In January 1860, for example, a corn stack, belonging to a man named Gamble, was burned by accident; 'but Lord L. and his bailiffs said it was maliciously done, and valued it at £5, which sum Lord L. ordered his bailiffs to collect off the towntand'. The tenants 'dare not say one word, as they would be put out if they did'. To the injury of oppression, Leitrim added the insult of wanting to appear popular. A grand illumination for his visit to Milford in May 1861 was 'got up by order of Captain Baker [the agent], who sent Alic Russell round to each tenant with an order that a candle was to be in each pane of glass in the front of each house'. On another occasion when Leitrim wanted signatures for a petition to the House of Lords alleging that life and property were insecure in north Donegal, he told his head bailiff

to go round and have each tenant to sign it; or for him to stand on a rent day in the agent's office, and as each tenant comes in, he (the bailiff) says 'Come Mck, the Lord wants you to sign this paper as he is going to show it to the Queen' and the poor tenant replies, 'Sure it is myself that's a bad writer. Will you do it for me?'

Eight years later in 1869, apparently in connection with inquiries being made by the government in preparation for the land bill, Richard Hamilton, the poor law inspector in County Donegal, submitted a report on Leitrim's estate that amplified that of 1861.2 Every April 'notices to quit are served on all the tenants' and 'it appears from the rate books . . . his lordship has ninety-nine farms, containing 4,995 acres and valued at £822 a year, on this estate in his own hands, from each of which it is presumed an occupier has been withdrawn.' The effect of this system of management

____________________
1
Larcom papers (NLI, MS 7633, no. 94).
2
National Archives, RP 1869/5078.

-103-

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