Donegal Ireland land evictions
My BOYLE family originated from Donegal Ireland. As yet, I haven’t really thrown myself into research of their lives in Ireland. But, as is the case with most fellow researchers, I do know the story of how the farmers were chased off their land and many made their way to Australia. But as yet I am not sure exactly how that story relates to PATRICK BOYLE and his family.
The following story was posted on the Why Donegal? Facebook page. When I read it, I felt a shiver of horror, at what it must have been like for those peasants who were driven away. How they must have wondered what was going to happen to them.
The paragraphs below are printed exactly as written and posted by Why Donegal.
On the morning of 8 April 1861, land speculator, John George Adair began seizing the lands and homes of 47 families in Derryveagh in the District of Gartan.
Anticipating mass resistance, Adair enlisted some 200 policemen, inspectors and a 10 person ‘crowbar brigade’ from County Tyrone to remove the settled from their homes and destroy the houses.
Though evictions were common in the 1800s if families caused trouble or consistently failed to make rent, mass evictions were rare.
Even then, evicted persons were allowed to sell their rights to the land, giving them some money to find shelter elsewhere.
The people of Derryveagh were not afforded this opportunity.
An eye witness account in a local newspaper, recorded how the Widow, McAward, and her seven children, were the first to be evicted.
“Long before the house was reached, loud cries were heard, piercing the air…frantic with despair and throwing themselves on the ground, they became almost insensible, and bursting out in the old Irish wail – then heard by many for the first time – their terrifying cries resounded along the mountains for many miles.
“They had been deprived of their only shelter – the little spot made dear to them by association of the past – and with bleak poverty before them and with only the blue sky to shelter them, naturally they lost all hope and those who witnessed their agony will never forget the sight.”
When the evictions ceased on 10 April 1861, The Derryveagh Eviction Report noted that 47 families and 244 tenant farmers were cleared off 11,602 acres in the valley.
“By two, Wednesday afternoon, the terrible work had been accomplished and a deathly silence descended over the whole area. The Derryveagh District had been cleared of people and Adair had accomplished what the ravages of the Great Famine had failed to do.”
Among the evicted family names listed in The Londonderry Standard on 10 April 1861 were : Bradley, Callahan, Doherty, Doohan, McAward, and Sweeney.
In the midst of the tragic events, a local newspaper reporter remarked on how peacefully families went, choosing not to resort to violence.
Most were made homeless, while others were taken in by relatives, nearby landowners, and sent to Letterkenny workhouses.
Some families were aided by priests and funds were raised in Dublin, France and Australia in support of the evicted. Adair organized a work-scheme with a local church and The Australian Donegal Relief Fund, founded by Australian Michael O’Grady to send all able-bodied men between the ages of 16-28 to work in Australia.
On 18 January 1862, several Glenveagh families left Donegal in pursuit of life down under, first stopping in Dublin before embarking on the long journey ahead.
A dinner was held at the Dublin Hotel to honour them and Gweedore priest, Father McFadden issued a farewell address.
It was said that “a finer body of men and women never left any country.”
143 Derryveagh and 130 Gweedore residents boarded the steamer Lady Eglinton, and were given a plot of land upon their arrival in Australia. Those who chose to stay found a much harsher fate.
The county, country, and world were made aware of the gross injustices inflicted by Adair, causing uproar in the British Parliament, and subsequent police investigations.
Still, Adair was never charged for a crime and became known as “Black Jack,” infamous throughout Ireland and England, and as far as the US and Australia.
He had been enchanted by he beauty of Glenveagh when he first visited in 1857, and began the acquisition of 28,000 acres of land which would become the Adair estate including the districts of Gartan, Glenveagh and Derryveagh.
In 1870, Adair went on to build Glenveagh Castle on the shores of Lough Veagh, near the eviction sites.
When he died in the US in 1885, his American wife had his gravestone inscribed with “Brave, Just and Generous.” Legend has it that the large rock was later struck by lighting and shattered to pieces.
In 1979, Glenveagh Castle was left to Ireland by its last private owner, Philladephia, US native and artist Henry McIlhenny, whose ancestors came from Milford.
Bren Whelan’s image from the Derryveagh mountains looks back towards the Gartan area and the scene of the evictions.