Ireland Old News


 Washington Post
Washington, D.C.
March 1, 1908

Persse Tells His Troubles to London Society
Claims for Himself the Distinction of Being "the Most Persecuted Man in Ireland" - Says He Risks His Life by Speaking Out, but is Tired of Living. Clash with the Land League.

By Wireless Telegraph to the Washington Post.

     London, Feb. 29 - Henry Persse, a farmer and justice of the peace of Woodville, County Galway, Ireland, in emulation of Lord Ashtown's record as a victim of nationalist outrages, has been thrilling fashionable audiences in tory drawing rooms with a tale of his alleged sufferings. He calls himself the "most persecuted man in Ireland," and describes in detail a system of boycott and persecution by the Irish Land League, with which he has been in conflict.

Government Attacks Story

     The result of an investigation made by the police was reported in the House of Commons this week by the attorney general for Ireland, who stated that the sole ground for this conspicuous example of terrorist methods and story of midnight attacks was a stone thrown through a fanlight in Woodville House and a great deal of subsequent shooting on the part of Persse and his servants.
     Though the truth of Persse's story is thus attacked and his posing as a martyr has caused laughter in many quarters, the fact remains that the case has aroused much interest. Mr. Persse is a son of Dudley Persse, J.P., D.L., of Roxborough, near Loughrea, and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, after which he served in the Indian police. Coming into a legacy, he returned to Ireland, and his troubles began. After a recent talk in the drawing room of the Duchess of St. Alban's, he made public a summary of his story. Among other things he says:

Life Always in Peril.

     "I am the most persecuted man in Ireland. I am speaking publicly now at the risk of my life, but I am so tired of my life that I may as well be shot as continue to live as I have done recently.
     "Three years ago I took on a long lease a farm in County Galway, a farming and residential property, and put into it most of my little fortune. To-day the league prevents me from farming it. I cannot live there in safety. I have to pay a large rent and heavy taxes. I am being ruined.
      "Before I took possession I was well known and popular in the district, in which I have spent most of my life. My family has lived there since the year 1609. Not a word of warning was given to me, but as soon as I signed the agreement trouble began.

Guarded By Police.

     "My labourers told me they had been called before the local branch of the league and forbidden to work for me; tradesmen were forbidden to sell to me, and nobody dared buy the produce of my farm. My life was threatened. My place is guarded by the police, and while there I am watched by three other policemen, especially detailed to protect me personally. They follow me everywhere the moment I step outside of my own door. In a word, I am boycotted by neighbors to whom I have given no offense, at the order of the league, which has no cause of complaint whatever against me. There has never been an eviction on my farm, and I took it on the death of the former occupier.

Won't Sell Him Food.

    "I receive all my supplies by parcels post or by train. The man I send to fetch them has to be accompanied by an escort of police. The men I send to work in my fields must also be escorted by armed policemen.
     "A man bought timber from me last year, but a day or two afterward wrote declining to accept delivery. He had been intimidated. From another man I bought fuel. His house was fired into because he had sold to me. When I was about to begin mowing, my fields were planted with iron spikes, hundreds of them, which prevented the use of a mowing machine. A grave was dug, provided with a headstone, and decorated with flowers.
     "I was awakened in the middle of one night by the noise of a great crowd below. They were driving off my cattle. As I opened the door they surged past, sweeping the cattle with them. Though they had three encounters with police, they succeeded in carrying off eleven out of fifty head. That crowd was under almost military direction. I heard the regular words of command given.

Waiting for a Bullet

    "In the first year I sublet some small lots of my land. The holders were thereupon summoned before the local branch of the league and formerly tried, as though by a properly constituted court of law. They were ordered to give up their holdings and apologize. They did so. The proceedings were reported and the letters of apology printed in full in the local papers.
     "Three policemen have stringent orders not to let me out of their sight. Policemen are stationed at the lodge and patrol around the house all night. We sit alone at night these winter evenings, my wife and I, in a large, still room of that country house, silent and anxious, not knowing at what moment a bullet may come crashing through the windows. So far they have done nothing more than fling a stone. I keep in my bed room two loaded revolvers and a loaded rifle.
     "The motive of those who instigate these outrages is simply that they want the land themselves. Till they get it, it shall be boycotted. It shall be made so useless that nobody will take it, and after a certain time the holder will consent to sell to the land commissioners.
     "What chills us to the marrow of our bones is the practical repeal of the peace preservation act. Revolvers and arms are being sold all over the country. But Mr. Birrell says the country is peaceable. At the next rising it will be found that the people all have weapons. I have come to England to bring these facts before the public and to arouse sympathy with those who are suffering like myself. If I cannot succeed, I may as well die."


Submitted by C.J.L.


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