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The Evictions at Mitchelstown

August 19, 1881 — Glasgow City Hall, Glasgow, Scotland


I said a few words, and although few they seem to have made up in quality for what they wanted in quantity. I said that “Mr Gladstone — was a hypocritical, bloodthirsty miscreant, who is having the Irish people murdered at home to gratify his own vanity.” . . . Mr Gladstone has brought in and passed what he called, and what the English and Scotch people, and probably the Welsh also, if we knew what they were talking about, would call a beneficent healing measure for Ireland.
The Land Bill is a long and complicated measure, but I think the kernel of it is this. There are three Commissioners who have the power of fixing the rents in Ireland on the application of landlord or tenant. These Commissioners are all landlords’ men more or less — and it is quite certain that they will only reduce rends, if they reduce them at all, to what they believe the tenant would pay if there were no Land Court at all. {Gladstone knows that while the Irish tenants have the Land League at their backs they will not be in any hurry running to the three landlords who constitute the Land Court. He therefore must try to crush the Land League, to crush the Irish tenants, and to force them as the only resource to see what his Land Court will do for them.
I have seen with my own eyes the means he takes in Ireland to force the tenants into the arms of the Land Court. On the 8 th  of last month I was in Cork, and I there heard that there were to be evictions carried out in the property of Lady Kingston at Mitchelstown, and I went to see how these things were done. The first object that met my eyes was a very large army. There were red coats, green coats, foot soldiers, and horse soldiers. . . . . I did not know at first what all the army was for, but I afterwards found out that it was to protect the Sheriff against me  —
I may say that all that I did was to advise the tenants not to pay rent . . . On the third da the resident magistrate thought he had had enough of that kind of thing. It was too slow for him. So the police were ordered to draw their batons, and the soldiers to canter along the road terrifying and scaring out of their wits unfortunate poor old men and women who were not quick enough to get out of their way. Then the bailiffs began to smash the furniture. I don’t know whether you know the orthodox way to remove a man’s furniture in Ireland when he is being evicted. It is to take a crowbar and to smash the article until it is reduced to such proportions that it can be thrown out of the window, to save the trouble of carrying it downstairs.
The fourth day, these proceedings had their natural effect. The people threw stones at the policemen. They would hardly have been human if they had not been provoked to do something of the kind. I was not there on the fourth day, but having read in the newspapers that things were getting pretty lively I returned on the eighty day. We were stopped . . .
I suppose they stopped us to prevent us hurting the Sheriff. We did not care to stop there all da looking at the soldiers. They were not amusing. So we turned into a field, intending to get on the highway again. But four policemen came down the field and intercepted us. They told us, with their batons drawn, that we were not to attempt to cross the hedge into a field nearer the Sheriff.
There was a hay field near in which a man named O’Keefe was making his hay. He was one of Lady Kingston’s tenants who had renegaded and paid his rent. He thought that my making our acquaintance he might be able to rehabilitate himself in the public esteem, for if a man pays his rent, making no resistance, he is more or less boycotted. He called on us to come into his field; but I knew better than accept the invitation. He then began to walk towards us.
I don’t suppose he wanted to fight the four policemen. I imagined that he wanted to be introduced to me. But the four policemen thought he was a crowd obstructing and intimidating the Sheriff, and they shouted to him, “Get out of that with you” — that was to say, out [of] his own field. Not content with that, they jumped over the hedge, rushed on him, and beat him with all their might. He stood his ground bravely, and walked slowly backwards, the three young fellows beating him with their batons; and when they had got him to the other side of the field one of these gave him a crack on the head which just missed fracturing his skull (that was what the doctor said) and then left him. The four policemen then returned and gave us information that if we went into that field we should get the same.
And now I just wish you to remember how all these things are done. It is to terrify the Irish people to give up the means by which they have hitherto succeeded in reducing their rents . . . . I hope the tenants on Lad Kingston’s estate have inaugurated a new era. Eight of those tenants who could have paid have suffered themselves to be evicted, and I see that they intend to remain out. By giving up their houses they have set an example which I hope in six months will be universal all over Ireland. Then the people will be under no necessity of accepting the Land Bill; the landlords will be beaten with a vengeance. I would therefore ask you to see that the tenants on Lady Kingston’s estate who remain out and those who follow their example incur no unnecessary loss or suffering. . . . Do you back them up, give them your money, and encourage them; don’t give give them up till the very last moment.



Source: Glasgow Herald, 30 August 1881.