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Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers CSORP -
Outrage Reports, Co Clare for the years 1826 and 1829-31.

by Michael Mac Mahon


The Outrage Reports relating to Co. Clare listed in this paper have been extracted from the series of Chief Secretary’s Office Outrage Reports now on line in the Irish National Archives Website. The National Archive Call No. for each file, a brief description of the contents, the number of pages, and the range of dates within which the letters or reports contained therein were written, is given in each case.

The material consists largely of reports from chief constables, magistrates and members of the public relating to crime in various parts of the county in the period 1826 and 1829-1831. This was a time of straitened economic conditions, widespread unemployment, rising population and increasing agrarian protest by secret, sworn societies. It was also the decade that saw the formation of the Catholic Association, the O’Connell election and Catholic Emancipation.

The secret societies operated under a variety of names, Ribbonmen, Moonlighters, Rockites, Whiteboys etc, but from late 1829 ‘Terry Alts’ was the term used almost exclusively in Co. Clare. Sometimes described as ‘the poor man’s trade union’, the tactics of these agrarian activists included night-time raids, levelling of walls, maiming of cattle, posting of illegal notices, digging up pasture, arson, assault, robbery, abduction, rape and murder. The violence might be directed against a so-called middleman, strong farmer or grazier, but sometimes even against a cottier or labourer who had taken up a patch of ground from which another had been evicted, or who worked as a herd or labourer for a proscribed employer.
Though nocturnal activity and disguise was the hallmark of agrarian crime throughout the country at large, what was remarkable in Clare was the large number of daytime gatherings, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, openly digging up pasture in order to turn it into potato ground. For instance, on 4 April 1831 it was reported that a ‘gathering of 2,000 individuals, some carrying arms, was observed at the digging up of 60 acres of grasslands in the vicinity of Broadford (CSO/RP/OR/1831/1171). On 3 November in the same year the chief constable at Ennistymon reported that approximately 200 men marched past the police barrack at Lisdoonvarna, ‘in excellent order two deep – with spades shouldered, a green flag in front’ (CSORP)/OR/1829/629). It is estimated that 600 acres of land in Clare were turned up in this manner by men with spades in 1831.(1)

Apart from agrarian crime, the papers contain reports relating to various other matters pertaining to law and order, including faction fighting, illicit distillation, sectarian conflict, pleas for police protection and requests for assisted emigration from those subjected to intimidation &c. All in all, they throw much light on society and law and order in County Clare in the pre-famine decades.

(1) E.T. Craig, The Irish land and labour question, illustrated in the history of Ralahine and co-operative farming (London1893), pp. 4-18.


Outrage Reports, Co Clare for the years 1826 and 1829-31 (PDF)

National Archives CSORP (external link)




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