Major P. Kirwan’s Property, County of Galway
TO THE EDITOR OF THE FREEMAN.
SIR — Some time since I read in the Freeman’s Journal certain speeches and reports, which were well calculated to prejudice the public mind against my father, Major P. Kirwan, as an Irish landlord, in reference to the proceedings which he has been obliged to institute to obtain possession of the lands of Lisscannanane, a denomination of his property in the county of Galway. As I find these speeches and reports have been widely circulated by the public press, I am very reluctantly obliged to submit this statement to the public — and in so doing, trust I shall satisfy every person whose good opinion it is desirable to possess — not only that my father has neither acted harshly, or from want of good feeling, in adopting the course he is forced to take in this case, but that he could not do anything else short of relinquishing his right to the property. Liscannanane contains about 570 Irish acres, 200 of which are arable, 150 of summer pasturage (under water in winter); the rest is bog.
In the year 1803, the entire lands were leased by my grand uncle to 43 tenants, which lease expired in May, 1844.
These 43 tenants from time to time sublet portions of their holdings at profit rents, and nothing that my father could do, would prevent them from continuing the sub-letting.
Some time about the year 1832, pending the lease, my father finding the lands sublet to such an extent, and many of the under-tenants therein living in a miserable way, proposed to some of the occupiers that if they would remove to the lands of Knockdoe and Ardgaineen, other denominations of his property in the neighbourhood, he would give them land at a reasonable rent, money to build houses thereon, and permit them to cut turf on the bog of Liscannanane, as there was none upon the lands of Knockdoe or Ardgaineen. But only one person accepted that offer – all the others refused to leave the lands of Liscannanane.
Between the years 1832 and 1844 the subletting was continued; and upon the expiration of the lease in May 1844, it was ascertained there were 110 families living on the lands – 80 of whom held portions of it; the remaining 30 merely occupied cabins without having any land attached thereto. And notwithstanding that it was well known the lease should expire in May 1844, when my father would be entitled to the possession of the lands with any crop then in ground, yet the lands were shortly previous to May 1844, fully cropped, and when the lease expired, my father instead of taking the crop, permitted those of the occupiers for whom no holdings were provided on Liscannanane, to take their crops free of all rent.
Shortly after the expiration of the lease my father had those lands of Liscannanane surveyed and parcelled out into fifty-two separate holdings, averaging about four acres each of arable and one and one-half acre of pasture (summer grazing, besides bog), upon which he intended to build so many houses at his own expense, and they were given to fifty-two families, who were selected from the old occupiers and their descendants. To seven of the twenty-eight families for whom land could not be provided at Liscannanane under the new arrangement, he, at the same time, renewed the offer he made in 1832, of alloting them land at Knockdoe and Ardgaineen, but only one family would accept his offer. The same land was then offered to any six of the aforesaid twenty-eight, but was declined by all. By this it will be seen that every one of the twenty-eight families had the offer of land elsewhere. Two respectable men from the estates of landlords in the neighbourhood were afterwards thankful to be allowed to hold portions of this land.
Notwithstanding the new arrangement to which I have referred, the twenty-eight families would neither leave Liscannanane, nor allow the fifty-two families to till such portions of the land as they (the twenty-eight) held previous to the lease expiring.
Under those circumstances, my father was obliged to bring an ejectment on the title in the superior courts, to remove all persons from those lands of Lisscannanane, except the 52 families he had so selected as tenants. defence was taken to it by several persons, and after my father had incurred much expense in preparing for trial, the defences were withdrawn in July 1845, within a few days of the trial taking place. And my father, after such bad treatment, allowed those very persons who had so taken defence to remain in possession of their holdings until the month of November, 1845, and take thereout the crops which they yielded in the interim.
In that month the sheriff went to the lands to give my father the clear possession of them under the habere which issued for that purpose; the people offered much resistance to the obtaining of it, but eventually the possession was taken.
The aforesaid twenty-eight persons shortly afterwards re-entered upon the lands, and now hold them by force against my father; he has, therefore, been obliged to bring the present ejectment to evict them, and twenty of them have taken separate defences to it. Before doing so, however, my father offered to divide a sum of 200l. amongst them; to forgive them all rent due since May, 1844. All this is admitted in a report published on the subject in the Galway Mercury of the 29th April last.
My father has no object whatever in the present proceedings, but to provide his tenants with such holdings as he deems to be necessary to maintain them, and their families comfortably, and the average quantity of land allotted to each of the 52 families aforesaid, is not in my opinion, more than sufficient for that purpose.
Upon the expiration of the lease in 1844, there were no improvements whatever made on the lands and the bog annexed to them of considerable extent, on which the original 43 tenants had only the right of turbary for themselves and families, was in great part cut away by the undertenants and others, and the turf sold by them in large quantities. I shall in conclusion merely refer to the fact, that some few months since my father’s land agent received an anonymous letter threatening him and his son with instant assassination if any of the people were removed from Liscannanane, from which it is evident that no reasonable terms which my father could offer would be accepted by those people or induce them to leave the lands, though by so doing they would be benefited materially.
My father’s state of health is such at present that he is unable to attend to business, but I am well aware of all matters relating to the subject of this statement.
I am your obedient servant,
RICHARD A. H. KIRWAN.
Fitzwilliam-street, May, 1846.