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‘Notice to Quit’ Exhibition, De Valera Library, 9th-21st February 2004

A National Photographic Archive’s exhibition, 'Notice to Quit', featuring photographs of Irish evictions during the late 1880s, is on display at the DeValera Library, Ennis, from 9th to 21st of February 2004. Locations in counties Clare, Kildare, Donegal, Galway and Wexford are included. The County Clare photographs were taken on the estates of Colonel John O’Callaghan in Bodyke and the Vandeleur Estate in Kilrush.

The images, which were taken between 1886 and 1890 by photographers from the Dublin-based Lawrence Studios, are among the first examples of photojournalism in Ireland. They provide a unique record of the Plan of Campaign, a tenants’ rent protest that subsequently led to hundreds of evictions. A selection of the Clare eviction photographs can be viewed in the library's online collection.

The campaign, which was organised by leading nationalists, received widespread coverage in British and Irish press during the late 1880s. On some estates, where rents were withheld, the landlords evicted tenants with the active support of members of both the militia and the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many of the eviction scenes featured in the exhibition depict the use of force against the protesters. Lantern slides of these eviction scenes were used as a political propaganda tool against Queen Victoria. During the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in 1897, Maud Gonne orchestrated public displays of images of evictions and deaths from starvation by projecting them on to the exterior of a building in Parnell Square in Dublin city centre.

The Plan of Campaign was first brought to public attention by John Dillon in a speech to tenants on the Woodford estate in County Galway on 17 October 1886. Dillon, and other prominent nationalists William O’Brien and Willie Redmond were the leading figures in the organisation, which was principally focused on gaining more favourable rents through a programme of collective bargaining. Some members of the Catholic clergy also participated actively in the Plan of Campaign which took place from 1886 to 1891 against a background where agricultural prices generally had fallen. Fr. Murphy and Fr. Hannon were prominent organisers of the Plan of Campaign in the Bodyke area. The Campaign was concentrated principally in the south and west of Ireland.

The Campaign leaders selected estates where landlords were asked to reduce rents to a more acceptable level. If the landlord refused or if the tenants didn’t agree with the offer, they withheld payment. The rents, at the agreed ‘fair level’, were then paid into a central fund to provide support to tenants who were evicted as a result of their actions. The evictions of protesting tenants are among the many scenes that feature in this exhibition.

The William Lawrence Photograph Collection is one of the most heavily used collections in the National Photographic Archive. The National Library purchased the collection, comprising 40,000 glass plate negatives, in 1943. Clare County Library's Local Studies Centre in Ennis holds copies of the Clare photographs from the collection. A selection of these can be seen in the library's online photographic collection.
The Lawrence Studio opened on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) in Dublin in 1865. Its founder, William Lawrence, had a thriving portrait business but it is the studio’s topographical views that are best known today.

Lawrence’s most prolific photographer, Robert French, travelled around Ireland capturing images of almost every small village and town in the country. The Lawrence Studios began selling postcards, souvenirs and viewbooks of his photographs from the late-1860s onwards. While the views were primarily aimed at tourists, they provide a huge amount of information on Irish architecture and social history to the modern day researcher.

Official exhibition launch: 6.00pm, Monday, 16th February.

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