Decatur Daily Republican
Monday Eve, July 9, 1888
OVERCOME BY THE HEAT
John O'Connor, a well-known Irish
resident, was overcome by the heat Saturday evening with the mercury at 98, and
died within a short time, in the 48th year of his age. Mr. O'Connor was in the
employ of Dempsey & Giblin, the paving contractors on Webster street, and at
4:30 o'clock was working with Henry Acker leveling gravel at the south end of
the street near the Whitmer residence. At that hour he felt oppressed by the
heat and suggested to Mr. Acker that both should quit work, as it was too hot.
Mr. Acker assented, but just then another wagon load of gravel came and it was
spread out. Mr. O'Connor then disappeared. The contractors came around and paid
off the man, Mr. O'Connor being absent. It was supposed he had gone home and no
search was made for him. A dog was heard barking shortly before 7 o'clock and
Mr. H.M. Whitmer went out to his barn, where Mr. O'Connor was found in an
unconscious state. With the aid of friends Mr. Whitmer recovered him to a cool
place but he soon expired. Dr. Cass Chenoweth was summoned and as the cause of
death was plainly apparent, it was not deemed necessary to hold an inquest.
Undertaker Perl removed the body to the home of the deceased on East Wood
street. Mr. O'Connor was a native of County Galway, Ireland, and came to America
in 1864. He had lived in Decatur since 1874. He leaves a widow and five
children- Michael O'Connor, of the postoffice and mail carrier force, Patrick,
Thomas, and Mary O'Connor. He was an industrious and frugal citizen and leaves
July 26, 1888
THE VANDELEUR EVICTIONS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,- I have returned from county
Clare, where I have learned more of the real Irish question in a week than it
would be possible to learn in the House of Commons in a year. I do not expect
that at the period of the Session at which we have arrived there will be any
opportunity of discussing the Vandeleur evictions in the house, and I therefore
beg that you will allow me to place before your readers a glimpse of what I have
actually seen with my own eyes during the past week in this the most disturbed
district in Ireland. When on Saturday, the 14th inst., I made up my mind to see
the Clare evictions for myself, the first thing I did was to pay a visit to the
Under-Secretary at the Castle. I saw Sir West Ridgeway and told him what, along
with a friend, I intended to do- that I was going west representing nobody and
no side of the controversy, being simply desirous of getting at the actual facts
and seeing an eviction campaign and all that it meant for myself. One thing, and
one thing, only I asked at the hands of the Castle authorities- viz, that they
would facilitate as much as possible the work I had undertaken. On Sunday I
reached Ennis; Monday and part of Tuesday were spent at Milltown Malbay, where I
visited Hannah Connell, Michael Mangan, and other victims of the League. On
Tuesday evening I reached Kilrush, and the evictions commenced on Wednesday. The
facts I am now about to relate are the result of inquiries on the spot from the
landlord, the tenants, the authorities, and from clergymen and others. I shall
try to tell a plain, unvarnished tale, setting naught down in malice and
The quarrel out of which the present condition of
affairs has arisen dates as far aback as the year 1873. The tenants and their
friends put it in this way. In that year the late Colonel Vandeleur served
notices whereby the rental of the estate was increased by something like 25 per
cent. To many this meant more than appears on the surface, the rents in some
cases being almost doubled. This is the first part of the tenants' case. Their
second charge is that 10s. an acre was put on reclaimed bog.- ie. bog reclaimed
by the tenants- that bad times came, that they lost cattle, and gradually fell
into arrears. This, when everything is boiled down, is practically the tenants'
case. The answer of the landlord runs thus:- As to the bog, he points out that
turbary went with each farm either free or at a nominal rent-that the
reclamation of bog means the cutting of free turf and selling it, and on the
arable land being reached the tenant claims it free also. As to the bad times
and the tenants' losses he declares that he never pressed a single tenant and
that he helped them in all their difficulties.
Such, roughly speaking, is the case pro and con, and I
feel bound to say that from the day I set foot in Clare to the day I left I saw
not a single sign of poverty or distress. The land was on the whole good,
excepting that between Ennis and Milltown; the crops abundant, the people
well-dressed, the cabins and cottages substantial and fairly comfortable. As to
the actual facts of the present war there can be no question. I have seen eight
tenants dispossessed, and one caretaker noticed, and with your permission I
shall take them one by one.
Reversing the order of procedure I shall take the last
case first- that of Michael Connell. I shall never forget the scene I witnessed
at this man's house on Friday last. It was a glorious day. The house stands on
the brow of a hill. Below, the stately Shannon rolls to the sea. Far in the
distance is Leep Head, and beyond one can see the white crests of the Atlantic
breakers. I seldom looked on a lovelier sight. Far as human eye could reach
there was not a house to be seen that did not give evidence of substantial
comfort. The grass in the fields was up to a man's knees, the roads were black
with crowds of well-dressed people, and the house itself was surrounded by
Hussars and red-coats. What did all this mean? Here was a man living in a
veritable Eden. His forefathers had lived there before him, his aged mother
actually by my side. He held 45 Irish or 72 statute acres of good land. The
Government valuation was £33 13s. and he had never gone into court to have it
questioned or revised. Connell had this farm at 9s. 4d. per statute acre, and
Mr. Hodder, R.M., who was for several years a Land Commissioner, and was
secretary to the Cowper Commission, agreed with me that at such a rental the
tenant-right in county Down would fetch £20 an acre. But this is not all.
Connell owned and was decreed for 2 1/2 years' rent, £84 2s.6d., due and ending
March 31, 1887. Another year has since become due, but under the "hanging
gale" system is not payable until 1889. To this man Captain Vandeleur
practically said, "Give me one year's rent due up to March 31, 1886, less
32 1/2 per cent, and plus £2 7s.6d. law costs. I will wipe out six months'
arrears, and not ask the year due up to March 31, 1887, until arrangements can
be made." In other words, he said, "Give me instead of £84.2s6d., the
sum of £22 14s.3d., plus law costs and you may stay in." The offer had
been made in writing. I heard it made to the tenant. But what does this man
elect to do? He refuses the offer, barricades his house, places eight or nine
children, some of them under five years of age, inside as a garrison, walks
coolly to the field smoking his pipe, while his children are in deadly peril.
Was he able to pay? The fact is he had paid- but to the Campaign fund, and his
story is that he had not the money was probably true. But if he had not got it,
others had taken possession of it, and there was hay enough in the fields to pay
the entire rent demanded.
Now this case is typical of the whole evictions. It
illustrates the Plan of Campaign, and shows what it is better than any words. I
have given the landlord's offer. Here is what Michael Connell offered through
the priests and the Plan. He said to Captain Vandeleur, "I owe you two and
a half years' rent up to March 31, 1887, and for that you have obtained a
decree. Give me a clean receipt up to that date, and I will pay you one year's
rent, less 20 per cent, you paying the law costs and half the county cess."
In other words, Connell asked that for a debt of £84 2s.6d. the landlord should
take £27, pay the law costs, £2 7s.6d. and half the county cess, which half
amounts to 1 1/2 per cent on the valuation. In the House of Commons I called the
Plan of Campaign where it had succeeded "successful villainy." I am
not able to apply any milder name to a proposal such as I have described. In
conversation with a Roman Catholic clergyman, and after hearing the case of the
tenants from his lips, I pointed out what their offer really amounted to. His
reply was "Yes; but you must bear in mind that the Plan has been in
operation for 18 months and they have not been able to cultivate the land as
would otherwise have been the case." I thought it a curious admission, but
I could not see my way to debit the fact to the landlord. In all fairness I
pointed out that such a fact out to go to the debit of the Plan.
Let us now go back and take the cases in order. The
first eviction was that of Patrick M'Inerney. It was the case where the
landlord's offer amounted to least, M'Inerney is a substantial farmer. He farms
32 Irish or say 48 statute acres. The Poor Law valuation was £28 5s. , the
judicial rent was £30 15s. He owed £61 10s., or two years' rent. As I have
said, the landlord's offer in this case did not amount to so much as in the
other cases and for this reason- M'Inerney was not so much in arrears. He owed
two years' rent up to March 31, 1887. The landlord, therefore said to him,
"Give me one year's rent due up to March 31, 1886, plus £2 7s.6d. law
costs; upon that being done, I will give you such an abatement as, with that
already decreed by the Land Commission, will equal 32 1/2 per cent, and the rent
due for 1887 can stand until arrangements are made." Here there was no
wiping out of arrears. But, on the other hand, the rent was judicial and a
reduction of 32 1/2 per cent was guaranteed.
M'Inerney, however, who was away on another farm near
Kilkee, elected to go out. The house was an excellent one. The land was good,
and all the appointments those of a comfortable, well-to-do tenant. His
daughters were as well dressed as city girls would be. Their hair was fringed,
they wore high-heeled boots, and had fashionably-cut dresses. I mention these
facts to show that in evictions it is not poor cottiers who have gone to the
wall. It is well-to-do people, who have made the money, who "can pay, but
who will not pay because they have been told not."
The next farm visited was that of James Finnucane. He
held 25 Irish or 37 statute acres. The Poor Law valuation was £28 5s., the old
rent £26, judicial rent £20. He owed £50, or 2 1/2 years, and the value of
his tenancy was fixed by the Court at £250. To Finucane the landlord made the
same offer as in Connell's case. He said, "Give me the one year's rent up
to March 31, 1886, plus law costs, £1 14s.6d. and minus reduction of 32 1/2 per
cent and stay on. I will wipe out six months' arrears, and you will not be asked
to pay the 1887 rent until arrangements are made." To this the tenant
replied through the Campaigners, "Give me a clear receipt up to the 31st of
March, 1887, and I will pay you one years' rent minus 20 per cent reduction- you
paying the law costs." The result was that Finucane went out and
deliberately sacrificed his tenancy of £250.
The next case was that of Michael Cleary, and a most
instructive case it was. I had the story form his own lips. Fourteen years ago
he held a small farm under Colonel Vandeleur at Ballymacrennan. The rent was £8
5s. per annum. The farm at Carrandota fell vacant. It appears to have been a
most desirable holding, for the landlord was offered £500 for the mere
possession. He have it to Cleary with an admirable house and everything complete
for nothing. Cleary paid the outgoing tenant £50, spent £40 on the house, and
£70 in building out-offices, &c. He had improved the land by carting sand
and sea-weed and removing boulders. This was Cleary's own statement. What the
Land commission thought of matters may be gathered from the action of the Court.
Cleary held 32 Irish or 48 statute, acres. The valuation was £28; the rent
£35. In 1883 he went into Court and the Commissioners refused to vary or alter
the rent, but declared his tenancy to be value for £300. He owed 2 1/2 years'
rent up to the 31st of March, 1887. Precisely the same offer was made on both
sides and rejected, and this man actually elected to go out and sacrifice his
tenancy valued at £300 by the Court.
The next case was even more absurd. It was that of a
caretaker named James O'Flannigan. He held 15 Irish acres, and was evicted five
years ago for four years' rent. Re-instated as caretaker he has paid absolutely
nothing since. The poor man himself appeared roughly broken down by ill health.
But his wife, an enthusiastic Campaigner, would permit of no terms. I ventured
to ask her if she knew any part of the world where people would be allowed to
hold land and a house for nine years without payment of anything? "Sorra a
know I know- but pay I won't until the others do." That was the answer I
received from this fierce-looking Amazon, and I dare say it was much more
satisfactory to me than to Captain Vanedeleur. It served to show clearly what
the game was.
On Thursday, the house of Patrick Spellissy was first
visited. Spellissy's case was as bad, indeed, rather worse, than the others. He
held 25 Irish, or 37 statute, acres. The Poor Law valuation was £19 15s. The
judicial rent was fixed at £20 and raised on appeal to £23. In addition to
holding this farm Spellissy is a road contractor and a car owner. In fact he is
a comfortable well-to-do man in every sense of the word. The land, however, did
not strike me as being so good as most of that previously visited, and the house
was certainly not equal to Cleary's or M'Inerney's. Spellissy owed three years'
rent up to the 31st of March, 1887, so the office of the landlord in his case
was specially liberal. He was asked to pay one year's rent and law costs, £2
7s. 6d., minus 33 1/2 per cent reduction, one year's arrears to be wiped out,
and time given to pay the 1887 rent. How any man could refuse such an offer
passes my comprehension. But the same offer was made all round to the tenants
and rejected. And so Spellissy sacrificed his all.
The next case was that of James Madigan. His judicial
rent was £15, the valuation being £15 10s. He owed 3 1/2 years' rent and
rejected the same offer. Patrick Madigan was the last case of the eviction and
the saddest of all. He held 16 Irish, or 24 statute acres. The poor Law
valuation was £23 10s; the rent, £29 10s. He, too, owed three years' rent, was
offered and rejected the same terms. But it is sheer folly to talk about his
rejection of the terms. The landlord's demand in this case amounted to £19 19s.
I asked Madigan "what he was willing to pay." He said he would pay
£20 to stay in. This was actually more than what was demanded. In my presence
the agent offered to take £20, and fix his rent at that figure. But by this
time the tenant had been warned to stop the parley, and he could only say he
would if the others did so, and that he would see if any others would consent
This is, so far, an accurate statement of the facts.
Let me now deal with the incidents of the evictions. First, as to the
combination. Mr. Morley stated on Saturday at Morpeth that combination in
England and combination in Ireland were not far apart. I wish Mr. Morley had
been with me last week. Not a single tenant evicted was unable to pay his rent.
Not a single man failed to say that it would not, to use Finucane's words,
"trouble him to pay." Why, then, did they allow the law to take its
course? Simply because they dare do nothing else. One tenant, who admitted he
could pay his rent ten times over, said- I took the words down:-"I could
pay ten years' rent, but I should pay it dearly, for it would be with my
life." Another sent a man to Mr. Studdart begging not to be evicted, and he
"would pay when the troubles were over." "Will you go and speak
to Mr. Russell," said the agent, "I will agree to what he
decides?" "Do you want me to be murdered?" was the reply. Does
Mr. Morely know of anything like this in England? But I may be asked what about
the poorer tenants? That there are poor tenants on the estate no one can doubt.
But I unhesitatingly state that Captain Vandeleur has no notion of acting in any
but the most generous spirit with such. It is the Plan which insists on
well-to-do men getting absurd reductions that operates against a settlement
suitable to the poorer tenants.
Second, as to resistance offered by the tenants.
Resistance is all nonsense now, and the sooner all concerned realize this the
better. Bodyke cannot be repeated. The battering ram has settled all that, and
those who advise resistance in future are culpable in the highest degree. In
these cases the resistance was never serious. It was even ridiculous, and the
only thing I regret in connexion with it is the demolition of Clary's house by
the ram. He id not build it, but it was a pity the door was not forced. I cannot
help saying this, although I know there are two valid defences. The Sheriff
expected a repetition of Bodyke, and in that case entrance by door would have
been perilous. In the second place, it was meant to be an example, and it
certainly told upon Connell and the others. But all the same, I wish the house
could have been saved.
Third, I think the friends of the tenants were wrong in
ordering them to give no information. Both the priests and Mr. Hilliard made a
mistake in that attempting to shut out the tenants' cases as stated by
themselves from the consideration of myself and others. They did not succeed in
doing so, but all the same their attempt so far prejudiced the tenants'
I have unduly occupied your space, but the importance of
these evictions cannot be overrated. I stated in my piece in the House not long
ago that I dreaded evictions. I affirmed that the English people would authorise
evictions where they were just-that they would not tolerate them where they were
unjust. I went to Clare to see for myself. The sights I witnessed were
inexpressibly sad. But let it be clearly understood that these evictions were
not by the landlord. They were forced by the Campaigners. But for the Plan not a
single tenant need have been displaced. I care not who its author or concocter
may be, it is the cruellest weapon that was ever forged. If Captain Vandeleur
cannot recover his rent from such tenants after making such terms, then there is
no such thing as property left, and Ireland may be handed over to Carlyle's
dictum- and the last man may pay the last man. At the door of Mr. John Dillon,
and the priests of Clare, who have aided and abetted this mad work, lies the
blame of every eviction that took place last week, and that may yet take place
on the Kilrush property. I said to myself, as I descended the slopes of
"This day's black
fate on more days doth depend,
"This but begins the
woes, others must end."
Talk of combination, of the strong bearing the
infirmities of the weak! It is a revolution with cupidity as its base and
dishonesty as its backbone, and if all the priests of Clare stood, breviary in
hand, to sanctify the transaction, this is the only verdict that can be
pronounced by any honest man.
Dublin, July 21.
P.S.- I think that it necessary to add that, from Colonel Turner down to the
humblest policeman, everyone discharged his duty in an admirable spirit.