On the 21st October 1879- 141 years ago on this date- a meeting of concerned individuals was held in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, County Mayo, to discuss issues in relation to ‘landlordism’ and the manner in which that subject impacted on those who worked on small land holdings on which they paid ‘rent’, an issue which other groups, such as tenants’ rights organisations and groups who, confined by a small membership, agitated on land issues in their own locality, had voiced concern about.

Those present agreed to announce themselves as the ‘Irish National Land League’ (which, at its peak, had 200,000 active members) and Charles Stewart Parnell (who, at 33 years of age, had been an elected member of parliament for the previous four years) was elected president of the new group, with Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt, and Thomas Brennan being appointed as honorary secretaries.

The leadership had ‘form’ in that each had made a name for themselves as campaigners on social issues of the day and were, as such, ‘known’ to the British authorities ; for instance, Michael Davitt, who was born into poverty in Straide, Mayo, on the 25th of March, 1846 – at the time of the attempted genocide – was the second of five children, and was only four years of age when his family were evicted from their home over rent owed and his father, Martin, was left with no choice but to travel to England to look for a job. Martin’s wife, Sabina, and their five children, were given temporary accommodation by the local priest in Straide. The family were eventually reunited, in England, where young Michael attended school for a few years. His family were struggling, financially, so he obtained work, aged 9, as a labourer (he told his boss he was 13 years old and got the job – working from 6am to 6pm, with a ninty-minute break and a wage of 2s.6d a week) but within weeks he had secured a ‘better’ job, operating a spinning machine but, at only 11 years of age, his right arm got entangled in the machinery and had to be amputated.

There was no compensation offered, and no more work, either, for a one-armed machine operator, but he eventually managed to get a job helping the local postmaster. He was sixteen years young at that time, and was curious about his Irish roots and wanted to know more – he learned all he could about Irish history and, at 19 years young, joined the Fenian movement in England. Two years afterwards he became the organising secretary for northern England and Scotland for that organisation and, at 25 years of age, he was arrested in Paddington Station in London after the British had uncovered an IRB operation to import arms. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, on a ‘hard labour’ ticket, and served seven years in Dartmoor Prison in horrific conditions before being released in 1877, at the age of 31, on December 19th.

Almost immediately, he took on the position as a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB and returned to Ireland in January 1878, to a hero’s welcome. At the Castlebar meeting he spoke about the need “…to bring out a reduction of rack-rents..to facilitate the obtaining of the ownership of the soil by the occupiers…the object of the League can be best attained by promoting organisation among the tenant-farmers; by defending those who may be threatened with eviction for refusing to pay unjust rents; by facilitating the working of the Bright clauses of the Irish Land Act during the winter; and by obtaining such reforms in the laws relating to land as will enable every tenant to become owner of his holding by paying a fair rent for a limited number of years…”

The new organisation realised that they would be well advised to seek support from outside of Ireland and, under the slogan ‘The Land for the People’ , Michael Davitt toured America, being introduced in his activities there by John Devoy and, although he did not have official support from the Fenian leadership (some of whom were neutral towards him while others were suspicious and/or hostile of and to him) he obtained constant media attention and secured good support for the objectives of the Land League. (Incidentally, Davitt died at 60 years of age in Elphis Hospital in Dublin on the 30th of May 1906, from blood poisoning – he had a tooth extracted and contracted septicaemia from the operation. His body was taken to the Carmelite Friary in Clarendon Street, Dublin, then by train to Foxford in Mayo and he was buried in Straide Abbey, near where he was born.)

At a meeting in Ennis, County Clare, on the 19th September 1880, Charles Stewart Parnell (of whom the British were to describe as “..combining in his person all the unlovable qualities of an Irish member with the absolute absence of their attractiveness…something really must be done about him…he is always at a white heat or rage and makes with savage earnestness fancifully ridiculous statements..”) but who was also looked at in a wary fashion by some of his own people as he was a Protestant ‘Landlord’ who ‘owned’ about 5,000 acres of land in County Wicklow and his parents were friends of and, indeed, in some cases, related to, the local Protestant ‘gentry’, stated – “Now what are you to do with a tenant who bids for a farm from which his neighbour has been evicted? Now I think I heard somebody say ‘Shoot him!’ , but I wish to point out a very much better way, a more Christian and more charitable way…when a man takes a farm from which another had been evicted you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of the town, you must shun him in the shop, you must shun him in the fairgreen and in the marketplace, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in a moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of his country as if he were the leper of old, you must show your detestation of the crime he has committed..” and another man in the leadership of the ‘League’, John Blake Dillon (who was also a member of ‘The Young Irelanders’ War Council) will forever be associated with introducing the word ‘boycott’ into the English language as it was Dillon who was the most active in organising such campaigns.

Two years after it was founded (by “men of no consequence”, according to the catholic church, which opposed the League with all its might) Charles Stewart Parnell’s sisters, Anna and Fanny (pictured), established a ‘Ladies Land League’ (on the 31st January 1881, which, at its full strength, consisted of about five hundred branches and didn’t always see eye-to-eye with its ‘parent’ organisation – in its short existence, it provided assistance to about 3,000 people who had been evicted from their rented land holdings) to assist and/or take over land agitation issues, as it seemed certain that the ‘parent’ body was going to be outlawed by the British and, sure enough, the British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, introduced and enforced a ‘Crimes Act’ that same year, 1881, (better known as the ‘Coercion/Protection of Person and Property Act’) which made it illegal to assemble in relation to certain issues and an offence to conspire against the payment of rents ‘owed’ which, ironically, was a piece of legislation condemned by the same catholic church which condemned the ‘Irish National Land League’ because that Act introduced permanent legislation and did not have to be renewed on each political term.

And that same church also condemned the ‘Ladies Land League’ to the extent that Archbishop McCabe of Dublin instructed priests loyal to him “..not to tolerate in your societies (diocese) the woman who so far disavows her birthright of modesty as to parade herself before the public gaze in a character so unworthy of a Child of Mary…” – the best that can be said about that is that that church’s ‘consistency’ hasn’t changed much over the years!

In October 1881, Westminster proscribed the ‘Irish National Land League’ and imprisoned its leadership, but the gap was ably filled by the ‘Ladies Land League’ until it was acrimoniously dissolved on the 10th August 1882, 19 months after it was formed. And it should be noted that the anti-republican State parliament in Dublin, which was created by a British act of parliament, is still involved in the business of landlordism…


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.

Cathal Goulding, Dublin (Stafford), 8 years penal servitude.

Seán Stephenson, London (Wormwood Scrubbs), 8 years penal servitude.

Manus Canning, Derry (Wormwood Scrubs), 8 years penal servitude.

Joseph Campbell, Newry (Crumlin Road), 5 years penal servitude.

Leo McCormack, Dublin (Crumlin Road), 4 years penal servitude.

JP McCallum, Liverpool (Stafford), 6 years penal servitude.

Kevin O’ Rourke, Banbridge (Crumlin Road), 5 years penal servitude.

Eamon Boyce, Dublin (Crumlin Road), 12 years penal servitude.

Philip Clarke, Dublin (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

Paddy Kearney, Dublin (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

Tom Mitchell, Dublin (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

John McCabe, Dublin (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

Seán O’Callaghan, Cork (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

Seán Hegarty, Cork (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

Liam Mulcahy, Cork (Crumlin Road), 10 years penal servitude.

Hugh Brady, Lurgan (Crumlin Road), 3 years penal servitude.

(END of ‘In Jail For Ireland’ ; Next – ‘British Occupation Challenged’, from the same source.)


‘By Downpatrick goal I was bound to fare

on a day I’ll remember, feth;

for when I came to the prison square

the people were waitin’ in hundreds there

an’ you wouldn’t hear stir nor breath!

For the sodgers were standing, grim an’ tall,

round a scaffold built there foment the wall,

an’ a man stepped out for death!’
(from here.)

Thomas Paliser Russell (pictured) was born in Cork, to an Anglican family (his father was a British Army Officer), on the 21st of November, 1767 and, at just 16 years of age, he joined the British Army and fought under the Butchers Apron in India for about five years, but resigned because of ‘…the disgust and indignation which filled him on witnessing the extortions, the cruelties, the usurpations and brutalities which were carried out and sanctioned by the government under which he served..’ and he returned to Ireland. In the late 1780’s he schooled himself in science, philosophy and politics.

In 1791, at 24 years of age, Thomas Russell and a group of like-minded individuals – Protestants, Anglicans and Presbyterians – held a public meeting in Belfast, out of which was formed ‘The Belfast Society of United Irishmen’ (the organisation became a secret society three years later), and one of his colleagues, Sam McTier, was elected as ‘President of the Society’. Also present were Theobald Wolfe Tone (who gave Robert Simms his nickname, ‘Tanner’), William Sinclair, Henry Joy McCracken, Samuel Neilson, Henry Haslett, Gilbert McIlveen, William Simms (Robert’s brother), Thomas McCabe, Thomas Pearce and Samuel McTier, among others.

He and his comrades set about organising a militant resistance to the English political and military presence in Ireland and his actions brought him to the attention of Westminster and, in 1796, at 29 years of age, he was ‘arrested’ and imprisoned in Dublin before being transported to Fort George, near Inverness, in Scotland, where he was held until 1802 (forcing him to miss the 1798 Rising).

He took a leadership role in the 1803 Rising and was again imprisoned by the English for same, this time in Downpatrick Jail ; he was ‘tried for High Treason’, found ‘guilty’, hanged and then beheaded at the gate of that prison on the 21st October, 1803 – 217 years ago on this date. He was 36 years of age. His last words were “I forgive my persecutors. I die in peace with all mankind, and I hope for mercy through the merits of my Redeemer Jesus Christ.” His body lies in Downpatrick Churchyard.

‘Into our townlan’ on a night of snow,

rode a man from God knows where…’


By John Drennan.

From ‘The Magill Annual’, 2002.

After all, it is much easier to follow legal advice than to make tough decisions oneself, especially when those decisions pose a difficult choice between social morality and tempting political expediency.

If your lawyer makes the nasty choice for you, it’s always possible to point the finger later on. This is why politicians and their legal advisors have such a cosy and mutually beneficial relationship. Meanwhile, within the media, the tentacles of the law library have stretched to the point where journalists are now experiencing the curious phenomenon of having incontrovertible facts excised from articles on the grounds that these are ‘libellous’. In the ideal discourse of legal ethics, these laws are needed to protect the widows mute and the defenceless chimney sweep but, unfortunately, here in the real world, Ireland’s smothering libel laws attract a great deal more Beverley Cooper-Flynns to the Four Courts than they do chagrined chimney sweeps.

Overwhelmingly male? Devotees of an impenetrable scholastic language which is used to exclude the outside world? The preserve of one class? Defenders of the powerful and the wealthy against the voiceless masses? Censors of a free press? Feared by politicians and worryingly unaccountable? These descriptions were all, at one point in modern Irish history, levelled at another large Irish institution whose day has now passed but, in our inimitable way in this State, we are happy to live unquestioningly under the template set up by the new secular ‘church’ of the legal profession… (MORE LATER.)


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.

“A Chara,

The following statement has been released for publication. Please publish it in full or not at all…

It is of equal importance that there shall be common agreement on the means to be used, the strategy to be employed and the opportunities to be availed of to drive the British out. If political leaders came to agreement on these fundamentals there would be a headlong rush of them back into the ranks of the Republican Movement.

To select any one of the political splinter parties and claim it has some greater merit or that the measure of its national content is greater than some or all of the others is mere pretence. It does not require a very close analysis to reveal the fact that, in matters affecting the artificial division of the national territory or, indeed, on questions affecting the welfare of the nation, there is little if any difference between the parties.

In some cases, such as the ‘Anti-Partition League’ and the ‘Anti-Partition Association’ where, ostensibly at least, an effort was made to achieve unity with or amongst political leaders, the effort was fore-doomed to failure simply because of the political manoeuvering for kudos and control by party adherents within these organisations. It must be realised, therefore, that the Republican Movement cannot be aligned with leaders who designedly ascend the political rostrum to gratify personal ambitions or to vent personal spleens in preference to rendering service in the field of national endeavour…” (MORE LATER.)

Thanks for reading – Sharon and the ‘1169’ team. Hope you are as ‘safe’ as you (hopefully!) have been and that you can make sense of the confusing ‘advice/rules and regulations’ being dumped on State citizens by the ‘experts’ in, and associated with, Leinster House. ‘Cause their left hand doesn’t appear to know what their right hand is doing.

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
This entry was posted in History/Politics. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.