Disturbances and Distress

The evictions didn’t provide a solution to the land problems in Bodyke. An agreement on rent was reached, whereby about one third of arrears was paid and abatements were granted on judicial rents. But in November 1891 Colonel O’Callaghan, in financial difficulties, stopped the abatements. By 1892 many tenants had difficulty in paying rents, and had fallen into arrears.

The two-page letter below is a
tenant’s letter to the landlord’s agent,
asking for more time to pay his rent.

A tenant’s letter to the landlord’s agent, asking for more time to pay his rent

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A tenant’s letter to the landlord’s agent asking for more time to pay his rent

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Rent is paid, but has to be borrowed

Rent is paid, but has to be borrowed.
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Colonel O’Callaghan had decided on a ‘distress policy’ i.e. the seizure of goods and livestock in lieu of rent. Special bailiffs were appointed to carry out the distress but they frequently met with violence.

The four-page letter below shows the
deposition of Patrick Dwyer, the Limerick
bailiff, who accompanied Colonel O’Callaghan’s
land agent, Stannard MacAdam, onto the
lands at Lisbarreen in March 1893. The sworn
statement illustrates the difficulties of
carrying out a distraint of goods in the
highly-charged atmosphere that prevailed.

Deposition of Patrick Dwyer, the Limerick bailiff

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Deposition of Patrick Dwyer, the Limerick bailiff

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Deposition of Patrick Dwyer, the Limerick bailiff

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Deposition of Patrick Dwyer, the Limerick bailiff

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Having duly distrained the chattels of the tenant, the bailiffs proceeded to sell the chattels (usually livestock) at public auctions.

Auction notice announcing the sale of the seized chattels of John Liddy of Clonmoher

This auction notice announced the sale
of the seized chattels of John Liddy of
Clonmoher who had been evicted from
his holding in 1887, along with his family
of six. His judicial rent was fixed at
£28.0.0 at the time of his eviction
though his actual rack rent was £48.10.0
.
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In an effort to thwart the bailiffs in seizing the correct animals, the tenants would switch livestock on their respective holdings, often leading to the wrongful seizure of an animal. Colonel O'Callaghan was sued by some of his tenants for damages resulting from the wrongful seizure of farm animals by his agents.

Colonel O’Callaghan is summoned to appear in court over the wrongful seizure of Darby Tuohy’s livestock

Colonel O’Callaghan is summoned
to appear in court over the wrongful
seizure of Darby Tuohy’s livestock
.
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In November 1893 Colonel O’Callaghan evicted eight tenants for non-payment of rent and caretakers were installed to prevent reoccupation. In Spring of the following year, the landlord’s cattle were put to graze on the evicted farms.

Daniel Ryan agrees to act as caretaker for the house of an evicted tenant

Daniel Ryan agrees to act as caretaker
for the house of an evicted tenant

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A series of cattle poisonings took place in Clonmoher during the summer and early winter of 1894. Colonel O'Callaghan's son, Captain George O'Callaghan, has left us this graphic account of the scene at Clonmoher: "On Tuesday the 3rd [July 1894], the place presented a deplorable appearance. Eleven beasts lay dead and dying. The dead carcasses were greatly swollen, and the torn appearance of the sward around showed how the unfortunate animals had suffered. One still alive had in its agony dragged itself down a hill and lay dying in a ditch into which it had fallen." In all, a total of sixteen cattle died under strange circumstances at Clonmoher.

The two-page laboratory report below,
compiled for Colonel O'Callaghan in
February 1895 by Walter Thorp,
attributes the cause of death in the
case of the particular bullock under
examination to be due to arsenic poisoning.

Laboratory report compiled for Colonel O'Callaghan in February 1895

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Laboratory report compiled for Colonel O'Callaghan in February 1895

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The Land Acts of the first decade of the 20th century enabled tenants to buy out their holdings, but negotiations between the Bodyke tenants and Colonel O’Callaghan broke down. In 1909 the Land Commission acquired the Bodyke section of the O’Callaghan estate compulsorily and tenants eventually purchased their farms. The proposal of tenant ownership, put to the meeting in Scariff in 1880 by Fr Murphy, had become a reality. Its implementation, however, signalled the end of the Big House and the landed estate in Ireland.