The House of Carew, to speak in the parlance of modern marketing, had radicalism as its logo: the analogy, with its intimation, merely, of gloss and image, does not, perhaps, focus sufficiently on the genuine substance and astounding longevity of this liberal disposition, extending over several generations. I now enter a caveat: the radicalism of the Carews was circumscribed by principled rejection of certain kinds of fundamental change and in 1852, the annus horribilis of the Carews, a deficit of radicalism would confound the endeavour of young Robert Shapland Carew to secure election as a member of Parliament for Co. Wexford. The dilemma of the Carews was that while trading in radicalism as their political franchise, they, given their caste and lineage, sought to put boundaries to the march of radicalism. As a general observation, the mood of post famine Ireland was altered; as we shall see in later essays, the popular mood became truculent and laced with a muted antagonism to the civil authority. An electoral Reform Act of 1851 had extended the franchise obviating the need for freehold estate as a qualification for exercising the franchise; a wider swathe of tenantry was thereby entitled to vote.
While the legal entailing of the estate and the unwritten rule of prim-geniture prescribed that he should succeed both to his father’s estate and represent the family name and interest in the political fray, young Robert Carew was the victim of a congenital physical disability of which the illegible and laboured scrawls of one of his letters (written long after he succeeded his father as Lord) in the Patrick Kennedy collection in the Folk Lore Department at University College, Dublin1 are symptomatic. His speeches, as reported, are terse and lack the critical play of ideas, emotions and theatrical gestures that enabled his father—like a splendid actor—to sway an audience to his cause. While his father was an extrovert, a braggart and given to an easy affability with crowds the younger Carew was emotionally distant from the crowds, slightly reclusive and tempted to, on occasion, make the odd wry and misplaced allusion to classical myth.
His manifesto, issued from Castleboro, and first published in the Wexford Independent on March 6th of March 1852 (and repeated there- after for several weeks, like the other manifestoes) is a mix of anachronistic libertarianism and (on the land issue) progressive conservatism attired as reined- in radicalism. It opens with banner headings about “Civil and Religious Liberty”, “Progress and Reform” and the intended resonance is the memory and myth of the Carews2, in the darkness of the Penal era, alone of the Protestant potentates (the Colcloughs of Tintern and possibly the Harveys exempted) asserting the principles of Catholic emancipation. The unique and exciting triumph of the 1818 election when the two Liberal candidates, young Carew’s father and Colclough were returned as the members for Wexford abided still in living memory. Fr. Redmond of Arklow, in a letter of April 7th, 1852, wrote of the honour of the Carews:
“The name of Carew has always been associated in my mind, with the ideas of untarnished personal honour and of a faithful maintenance of the principles of civil and religious liberty….More than thirty years ago, I beheld the hills of Wexford blazing with bonfires for the return of “Carew and Colclough” to represent that county in Parliament3”
Such radicalism, while admirable in the past, was by 1852 redundant, even anachronistic; to have it as a central plank of an election campaign resembled generals preparing for a war long since over. As early as the mid 1830ies there were disturbing signals that the Carews could not take the loyalty of the Catholic peasantry for granted; the Wexford Conservative was alert to this threat to its old adversary:
“Lord Carew was their friend and supporter before and after Emancipation was granted, yet in 1834, when the Agitators and priests commanded them, his Popish tenantry spurned his advice and voted for Mr. Waddy in preference to Mr. Harvey who had his Worship’s interest4.” The grandson of Laurence Sweetman of Ballymackessy who spent his life in America in a letter written late in his life claimed that Lord Carew angrily accused his grandfather of encouraging his tenants to vote against Cliffe the brother of Carew’s wife, in the 1835 election and that Sweetman replied that his convictions would not allow him to support the anti-Catholic campaign of Cliffe. The younger Sweetman tended to be reckless in regard to detail or confused about it and in his letters to the fanatical nationalist Canon Pat Murphy of Glynn may have exaggerated any morsel of anti-authoritarianism on the part of his family but even withstanding that caveat I still feel that his letter does reflect some serious disquiet between the Castleboro family and the Catholic leaders in that period5
Young Carew could, also, get caught by friendly fire, such as from the letter, in his favour, addressed from Breeze Hill (pseudonym of Hugh O’Neill the pompous and legendary schoolmaster at the Carew school at Cloughbawn) to the Wexford Independent; the confusion of distinct historical eras, the unnecessary recall of an atrophied atavism and the lurid imagery could create the kind of miasma that would discourage moderate Protestant voters:
“The Hon. Mr. Carew, when sixty years ago, assisted only by the noble-hearted William Harvey of Kyle, he was the first Protestant in this county, who dared raise his voice in favour of concession to his persecuted Roman Catholic countrymen, when their priests were hunted, like wild beasts even to the death6” The claim that priests were hunted as late as 1790 is outlandish.
Priest hunting in 1852 could only be discerned, only, in mirage, in the heat of the hustings. What the first Lord Carew called the great Act of Catholic Emancipation had completed the process, begun with the relief acts of the 1770’s, of removing legal disabilities on that community, legalities slowly becoming mere artefacts of an infernal, callous and cruel era now wasted into oblivion: the Catholic clergyman of 1852 was most unlikely to seek shelter in the cavern of a windswept mountain or in a fox covert, in the bogs of Ballymackessy.. Fr. Tom Furlong had, by 1846, moved into a palatial residence at Cloughbawn—one might presume that Lord Carew made a substantial donation to its construction
The myth, memory and name of the Carews as the dauntless defenders and avengers of the Catholic people still held a residual electoral traction as many of the more senior clergymen (and some younger ones) were in thrall to the mystique of the Castleboro quasi- dynasty. At the height of a fierce controversy over alleged evictions on their estate, several clergymen signed a statement in favour of Carew,s beleaguered candidature; this was published in the Wexford Independent and Greene, the editor and proprietor, promised further augmentation to it. However, there were no further additions to this list:
Andrew Barden, Archdeacon, P.P. Tintern
John Dunne P.P. Ballindaggin
Francis Prendergast P.P. Davidstown
Thomas Furlong P.P. Killegney
Peter Dunne C.C.
John Colfer C.C.
Martin Doyle P.P. Graig and an elector of the county
James Walsh P.P. Ross
Patrick Crane O.S.A.
PhilipCullen P.P. Rathangan
Peter Corish P.P. Bannow
William Codd R.C.C. Hook
John Dunne C.C.
Philip Mayler P.P. Kilmore
James Fanning C.C. Kilmore
John Barry P.P. Crossabeg
Thomas Stafford P.P. Castlebridge
M. Moran P.P. Blackwater
Patrick Marshall P.P. Clongeen
Thomas Busher P.P. Oilgate
William Roche C.C. Ballindaggin
Clement Reville P.O.S.F. Wexford
William Murphy C.C. Wexford
Peter Barry C.C. Mayglass
John Furlong D.D. New Ross7.”
I am a little cautious about this list. Fr. Furlong and Fr. John Colfer of Courtnacuddy as recipients of Carew largesse would be obviously disposed to support the Carews: aside from the more altruistic and philosophical motivations, the practical political consideration of bringing the Catholic clergy onto their side would—in part at least—have influenced the Carew commitment to building Catholic schools, chapels and presbyteries. Fr. Meylor of Kilmore was linked by kinship and blood to the Fitzhenrys (Meylor Fitzhenry was their common ancestor, in an era when such matters were of account) and therefore to the Carews. Fr. Prendergast of Davidstown was Fr. Colfer’s superior and, at the very least, received money from the Carews for church building, some years later. Fr. Corish in Bannow was a beneficiary of the largesse of Thomas Boyse, who was connected to the Carews by marriage. The Curates in Ballindaggin and Kilmore may have felt obliged to follow their superiors’ example Fr Dunne of Ballindaggin was reared in the Courtnacuddy area on the Carew estate. One signatory lived outside the county. Potentates, in this era, made profligate investments in their political ambitions: between them Carew and Colclough spent £35,0000 on their campaigns of 1818.
This phalanx of support might well have swayed the Catholic electors towards Carew if the rest of the clergy had remained passive: the unprecedented development of this election was that many of the clergy were positively—and with firm coercion—acting for rival candidates. Fr. Redmond of Arklow, in a letter of to the Wexford Independent excoriated them:
“It was a sad spectacle to see Catholic clergymen bringing up batches of electors to plump for some favourite forgetting in their insane rivalry the common enemy8.”
A peripheral reason for the debacle of 1852 was that the paradigm of the House of Carew—a cosmos of cottiers, labourers and tenants in clamorous praise of their lord and master, an ebullient public person with a feint likeness to Don Quixote—as advocated by its acolytes was misplaced in the incipient egalitarianism of post Famine Ireland. Patrick Kennedy (alias Harry Whitney) in a letter to Greene’s paper of June 14th, 1852 gives such a vignette but a perverse mind—such as that of the present author—could, on the contrary, discern there collective imbecility, a veneration of social hierarchy as defined by lineage and hereditary prescription—and a confusion of education and indoctrination:
“I once formed a unit in Mr. O’Neill’s school, where swelling the procession from Clonroche to Castleboro on Lord (then Mr.) Carew’s triumphal return from the Wexford hustings; and the heartfelt joy shown by the dense, and shouting and exulting crowd all along the shady road and roused to the highest pitch when on arriving at the castle, he presented his eldest son to the affectionate and enthusiastic multitude of his humble friends9.” The presentation of infant heir was calculated to bring forth an exultant and idolatrous response from the crowd; it was a trick to set the Carews apart from ordinary humankind and to invite the people to worship them. It was tried again and worked for the last time at the celebrations of the birth of the heir to the young Carew then the second Lord Bob Carew in late 1860. Young Carew, the candidate in this election, was that eldest son and only recently born (in 1818): Kennedy was adept at subliminal suggestion; the image of the re-birth of a quasi-dynasty (that of the Carews) is woven onto the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. Kennedy’s excessive resort to hyperbole and untruth to exalt the Carew cosmos mars his writings.
In the modern era political leaders remunerate articulate people to spin the news in their favour: there is no doubt that Pat Kennedy, Hugh O’Neill (the master of the school at Cloughbawn), Ned Carroll the Courtnacuddy born horticulturist and newspaper editor and Fr. Tom Furlong the pastor of Killegney acted as spin-doctors for the House of Carew: the conundrum is whether they did so at the behest of the Castleboro family. With the exception of Fr. Furlong these men owed their careers to the patronage of the Carews, a matter all three proclaimed repeatedly to the world. Fr. Furlong in his grim parish would have relished the largesse of the Carews. He may have been born on their estates at Taghmon and the Carews may have educated him. In the letter already quoted Pat Kennedy relates how the first Baron Bob Carew put him on the road to success:
“afterwards by his favour I was sent to the Education Society in Dublin, was promoted to a school on another part of his estate and when I afterwards removed to this city was presented with a considerable sum of money beyond what I was entitled to.” The mildest interpretation that one can put on this is that the Carews aided talented young men to achieve their potential and assumed that by their professional services they would enhance both the Carew estate and the work for the wider objectives of the Castleboro family. I would stop short of saying that that they made a cynical calculation to deliberately create spin-doctors for their cause.
The fundamental causation of the 1852 debacle (the defeat of young Carew) was the enigma of tenant right to which Carew, in his manifesto gave a literal and categorical assent:-
“With regard to the Landlord and tenant question, I should wish to see a bill carried by which the tenant might be encouraged in developing the capabilities of his holding and I think it a right and fair principle that at the expiration of his tenure, the tenant shall be amply compensated for the capital he has invested in the improvement of his farm”10. In a subsequent letter, young Carew, in an allusion to the Ulster custom explained that “In this county there is neither law nor custom in the matter and it is right that the tenant should have the protection which Sharman Crawford proposes to give11. He envisaged tenant right as, in its removal of a manifest injustice, affording extra stability to the prevailing system; he baulked, perhaps in a subliminal way, at any fundamental alteration of it: --
“Any Bill that may be brought forward, which secures to the tenant the results of his industry whilst it at the same time protects the Owners and Occupiers in their just rights will meet with my support”12.
The radical elements in the Tenant League regarded tenant right as a concentration of pan Catholic/Nationalist forces, in a tactical ploy to achieve a limited objective; the potentialities of this measure (to them) beckoned towards the utter subversion of the land system. In that context, Carew was conservative. A report of the Mayglass Tenant Protection Society, with the Rev. Peter Barry in the chair was concisely prescient as to the course of this election:--
“This committee are pledged, as are most of the clergy of the county to support Mr. Grogan Morgan. There was a difference of opinion as to the merits of the Hon. Mr. Carew or Mr. Nunn, some for one and some for the other and some for neither; so if a League candidate presented himself, he would be supported jointly with Mr. Morgan who gave his vote conscientiously and supported no particular party”13. Morgan actually was of the Liberal tendency and in a loose coalition with Carew, to whom he was related This represented a shift of this group away from Carew as at an earlier meeting in late March “there was evidently a feeling in his favour” but the reason for supporting him was less than dramatic: “that he contributed to the Christian Brothers Institution in New Ross” and had promised it an annual donation14. Patrick Mc Mahon, a journalist and barrister of sorts working in London, waited in the wings, as the radical standard bearer.
The radicals of the Tenant League now had Carew in their sights and in a campaign of vilification – maliciously adroit, grotesquely comical—purportedly based on a scrutiny of court records, they challenged Carew over alleged evictions on the Castleboro estate.
In a coherent but desperate endeavour to limit the damage, the agent on the Carew estate, William Russell Farmar of Bloomfield, in a letter to the Wexford Independent15 responded to an outrageous statement by a Tenant Protection Committee meeting at Wexford on the 23rd of March 1852—it referred to “The evictions and other means applied by Lord Carew of ridding his estates of the old inhabitants by advertisements in the Edinburgh offices for Scotch farmers and his recent importation of them16.” The defect in Farmar’s reply is that the reader would inevitably see through its plausibility. He responded to allegations about four particular holdings.
Farmar pointed out that there was only one Scotch tenant on the estate (Elder I presume) and outlined how he came to be there:
“Lord Carew through my hands lent the tenant a considerable sum to purchase sheep; this sum with his entire stock, crop and everything portable he shortly afterwards carried away by night though not ever pressed for rent and not giving possession before he went of course we were obliged to eject16.” Bill Farmar always contrived an explanation that Lord Carew sought a decree to evict for technical reasons only! The farm was then let to a Scotch tenant “at a higher rent than the previous one.”
On another farm “the late occupier, although not ever threatened with ejectment also ran off by night taking all his goods; he, thus, also compelling us to eject to recover possession. The tenant’s land was drained for him, timber and slates were given him for house and offices.” My suspicion is that, even if threats of eviction were not made, the two tenants involved may have seen such proceedings as eventually inevitable: it is of course very possible that tenants may have acted with outright cynicism in such situations.
On the third holding, a farm “of excellent land” at 7s an acre the creditors placed it in Chancery and it was underlet to strangers who paid no rents so the Court of Chancery allowed it to be evicted.
The fourth holding consisted “of four smaller added together”. One occupier of these holdings after Lord Carew gave him £30 went voluntarily to America; “not being able to live there even though paying no rent.” This is, I think, a roundabout way of saying that a clearance of a kind was taking place on the Carew estate and it would seem that a man in that situation would have little option but to accept the money offered and depart; it would cost the Carews money also to take the tenant to court so an inducement to get a tenant to go voluntarily was a convenient means to achieve the same end.
A second occupier of one of these holdings was given “£10 from Lord Carew which enabled her to provide for herself instead of starving on a smallholding, which she was unable to cultivate.” Farmar does not specify how she managed to live on £10; she may have taken a job but she could have done that while still staying on her smallholding; in other words Lord Carew did not provide a magical solution as Farmar implies.
A third occupier of one of these holdings was “forgiven all arrears and given another holding.” I presume that he was given a bigger or better holding: it seems obvious that relentless sub-dividing had created unviable holdings.
The fourth man was offered either £10 or a house and one acre free for life. Again it is difficult to see how this man could live on £10 or how alternatively he could maintain himself on one acre. One is effectively talking of minimal or indeed token inducements to clear the estate of wretched tenancies and in most cases of the tenants themselves.
On the 1st of May 1852 Bill Farmar17 replied to letters written by James Johnson, of the Wexford Tenant Protection, which were published in newspapers either indifferent or inimical to Carew. Farmar, a dour and opulent man, was not lumbered with excessive social vision; in this letter he does, however, enunciate certain—slightly humane—principles to underline a landlord’s obligation to his tenantry. On another occasion, in his role as agent to a clerical landowner he claimed to observe similar precepts: --
“I asserted that Lord Carew did not dispossess any tenant who was able to hold and properly cultivate his land and live even if forgiven arrears, that we had only got one Scotch tenant and that so far from being desirous of getting rid of Irish tenants Lord Carew exerted himself to retain them” The reference to racial background of tenants is our introduction to a new issue in the land agitation: as the devotional revolution augmented, the fear of Catholic zealots (sometimes justified) that the religious character of Irish society could be altered by an influx of non-Catholic tenants. Using a creepy diplomacy, Farmar proceeded to insist that the landlord could not commit himself, exclusively, to philanthropy:--
“that where a tenant becomes totally unable to cultivate the land, where he holds it only to destroy its productiveness without benefit to himself and moreover pays no rent for a very considerable period the landlord, in such cases, is to be allowed the privilege of saving his property from useless waste, by ejectment or other means, so long as he acts with humanity according to the circumstances of each case”. He added that the landlord was not responsible for the import to tenants of “calamities which resulted as is universally known, from an awful visitation of Providence”. He asserted, at the end of his letter, that no tenant was driven to the poorhouse. He, further, claimed that there had been only one Scottish tenant on the estate—a man called Elder; a farm at Tomfarney “we disposed of” to another Scottish man, a Clarke. The size of Clarke’s farm—given as circa 154 acres in the Griffith’s Valuation of 1853—may have infuriated those Catholics on tiny tenancies. Farmar then attempted a rebuttal of Johnson’s allegations, item by item, tenant by tenant
1. William Ryan of Coolnacon; failure of potato crop and a large arrears. He was given £5 and had a work bill due to him paid; he left voluntarily and blessed Lord Carew “for his kindness”. For comparison purposes, a Thomas Neill was given £7 by the authorities at the Enniscorthy Workhouse to emigrate to Canada in 1845
2. Michael Hennessy of Old Ross made some effort to pay arrears of two years rent and was not disturbed.
3. Laurence Parle of Chapel; got his crop and left voluntarily.
4. Paul Rushford of Old Ross on making an effort to pay arrears was left undisturbed.
5. Denis Cahill of Old Ross; despite four and a half years of unpaid rent he was still in his cabin on a small garden.
6. Luke Walsh of Coolnacon; he was given £2 to leave (voluntarily) his plot of 1 acre and 2 roods.
7. Patrick Breen of Forrestalstown was given £6 to leave his plot of 6 acres and 2 roods, which was exhausted. He went to America.
8. Thomas Grace of Tomanearly emigrated to America and left his wife behind; three years arrears but Lord Carew gave the abandoned wife £1.
9. Daniel Lacy of Courtnacuddy went to America before ejectment, the land was untilled with arrears of four and a half years.
10. Patrick Allen and Laurence Doyle of Tomanearly; ejectment was here used as a legal device to break a lease “by consent of the parties” and both were still in possession.
11. Margaret Kennedy and Thomas Jordan of Tombrick.. The latter was merely a cottier on the holding. Kennedy had clandestinely removed her cattle and corn from the land; there were two and a half years unpaid rent. She was about to throw down the houses before ejectment. The land was untilled.
12. James Byrne of Wheelagour. He never paid a penny for a house and an acre and went to another house in the neighbourhood.
13. Patrick Ronan of Clonroche. Despite four and a half years rent he was, at the request of Fr. Tom Furlong given another trial .
14. James Kelly, Loughlan Doyle, Darby Kavanagh, Patrick Kelly, Loughlan Doyle, James Kelly, William Kelly, Patrick Kelly, John Sullivan, Catherine Devereaux (three are the same persons repeated). Farm at Knockmore; two ejectments. Occupants: Loughlan Doyle and William Kelly.; they ran off. Doyle left a wife behind but kept a loan of £30 from Lord Carew. Kelly, in leaving, took his stock with him. All the others are cottiers; two of them are still in Carew’s employment and in the same houses.
15. Philip Cogley of Poulpeasty in arrears since 1848 for his plot of three roods and fifteen perches.
16. Patrick Brian of Poulpeasty; in America for two years; his wife owes four years rent.
17. Judith Dunne of Rathfilane; she paid one year’s rent but four years rent is owed.
18. E. Clancy, Wm. Clancy of Coolnacon; several year’s rent was owed but due to the difficulty of determining “which was the tenant” no decree was obtained.
19. Clara Coady, Martin Byrne of Raheen; there were four and a half years arrears of £121 5s, 5d (old money). Byrne emigrated to America and left his wife helpless behind with Clara Coady. Lord Carew gave her a house and three acres of land.
20. James Lacy, Michael Madden, John Maguire of Clonroche. The tenant, James Lacy went to America and the land was gone to waste; the other two were “merely parties to be served to obtain possession
Kinshelagh of Poulpeasty would prove to be one of Farmar’s sorest irritations; the local Curate, Fr. D. Doyle weighed in with visceral attacks on the Carews, prompted by this eviction. Farmar explained that £147, 18s, 0d were owed and that, in May 1848, he got only £10 of one’s year’s rent bill of £64,7s, 7d and a promise to pay the rest in the fall of the year; on October 25th, he sought “further time” and, shortly afterwards, he cunningly removed “all his cattle”. The legal remedy of “distress was laid on what property he left”; Kinshelagh countered by this simple expedient: the “greater part of the corn and hay was removed by night” and the bailiffs—put there by Farmar, I Presume—were kept off by force. Kinshelagh had given Farmar a bill of exchange that he later dishonoured leaving the estate agent liable for the money owing to Carew.
In his missive of 13 May 1852, Farmar18 wrestled with the crazy enigma of Marks Kehoe of Tomfarney, “the far famed and memorable Marks Kehoe of Tomfarney”, as Ned Carroll dubbed him, in derision and exasperation. He now owed £188 and farmed “22 acres of naturally excellent land on which Lord Carew expended a considerable sum in drainage, without any additional charge”. At the time of his attempted ejectment, he owed £54,5s, 9d and “he had taken benefit of the Insolvent Act”; decrees were held against him but he was given another trial and was still at Tomfarney. Carroll alleged that Kehoe was paying reduced rent, a matter that angered his neighbours, who were required to pay the full rent19.
The controversy over the Widow Kehoe’s land deeply angered and disturbed Farmar, that foulest and darkest of calumnies as he regarded it. Hugh O’Neill stated the Carew version of the story: in 1846 Martin Kehoe “owed nearly three years of rent—his land was in a state of exhaustion from lack of manure.” Lord Carew gave him money to procure seed corn but Kehoe got into the hands of usurers as one might expect. The loss of all the local papers of the period except the Wexford Independent makes it impossible to get to the exact truth of the matter but it does seem that on the basis of litigation instigated by the usurers (I presume) Kehoe went to jail and died shortly after his return. Farmar offered the widow £16 to give up possession or a house and acre rent free for life and a job for her daughter at Castleboro20.
The Carew spin invariably and inevitably exonerated the family of Castleboro of culpability for the hideous matter of eviction: the decrees were required for reasons of legal technicalities; the tenants left voluntarily and blessing Bob Carew for the aid or money given to them; any action taken was intended to relieve the tenant’s distress and besides nobody went to the poorhouse. The option of emigration may have emboldened the more brazen tenants to defy and manipulate the Carews as is evident from Farmar’s account but it also enhanced the spin that the Carew apologists engaged in. It sounded better to say that a man and his family had emigrated than to say that they went to the poorhouse or now dwelt in the ditch. The small sums of money offered to the tenants to give up possession were in lieu, effectively, of the cost of talking legal proceedings for a decree to eject them. The offer of a house rent-free and/or a job on the estate to defaulting tenants hints a more humane strategy of ending tenancies than that of driving the tenants off the estate altogether. The procedures outlined by Farmar are a euphemism for a partial clearance of the more wretched tenancies—if not the tenants—from the estate: these tenancies seem to have been an outcome of endless sub-division under the relentless demographic pressures of pre-famine Ireland If Lord Carew merely meant to relieve their distress why did he not give them the bit of money and let them have their tenancy rent free for life? It is of course an absurd question but I pose it to ridicule the implication of the Carew apologists that Bob Carew was motivated by outright altruism! That these tiny applotments were held directly from Bob Carew is proof that the middleman system had disappeared since previously these tenancies would represent leases from a middleman.
The irony is that Farmar’s apologia, despite its reasoned approach and vestiges of humanity, was of necessity electorally damning to Carew in that it effectively conceded that tenants were assisted off the estate; the radical agitators would scorn my euphemism! The Carews would be duly reminded of this at the next great controversy of the campaign.
A major public meeting, of the Catholic and farming interests, to concert strategy for the coming election convened in the Abbey Grounds in Enniscorthy, in late May. The radicals of the Tenant League came determined to introduce the issue of having an outsider named Pat Mc Mahon stand to espouse a more radical policy on the land question while the supporters of Grogan, Morgan and Carew (the latter two cousins of each other) sought equally to manipulate it to achieve an endorsement of their favourites. John Greene’s allegation of manipulation by the radicals was not balanced by an acknowledgement of identical intent on the part of his friends. The 78-year-old Fr. Tom Furlong of Killegney, “that venerable, consistent and sterling patriot, the Nestor of this distinguished diocese” (Greene’s encomium to him in the Wexford independent), after consultation with other conservative figures, complacently assumed the chair. His introductory remarks indicate a mindset unable to comprehend the protocol let alone the—sometimes-bewildering—challenge of democratic debate and decision-making:
“that they had assembled for one of the most important purposes that could engage the attention of freemen—that of selecting fit and proper persons to represent them in Parliament, not to represent the wishes or promote the views of a party or faction but to reflect truthfully the sentiments of the whole people. Heretofore the independence of this noble county had been properly maintained by the union of the people and he fervently hoped that they would ever be guided by the same principles. They had five candidates in the field. His individual opinion”21—
Fr Furlong’s sublime concept of “the whole people” transcending the mere parties and factions was disingenuous since he himself spoke for a party—the Carews and if his words were not cut off he would have given his individual opinion (an inappropriate thing for him to do) that the meeting should support young Carew and his cousin Mr. Morgan. The defiant intervention of a spokesman of the Tenant League movement abruptly curtailed the expression of Fr Furlong’s opinion:
“James Johnson interposed and said that the Rev. T. Furlong had no right to be in the chair; that it was a packed meeting”. Fr. Furlong angrily retorted: --“No Sir, I am for no party but for the public good and my object is to counteract the very thing that you accuse me of. I endeavour to represent public opinion and not my own individual feeling.”
A priest intervened to say the blindingly obvious and contended that there was not chair:
“ For his part he considered that where the Rev. Mr. Furlong made himself active in the support of one party; it would be prejudicial to have him continue in the chair. He hoped that the reverend and respected man (Rev. Mr. Furlong) would not consider it unkind of him (Rev. Mr. Parle) to take the course he did (great noise and disorder).” There was renewed uproar as Johnson once again shouted at Fr. Furlong: -- “You are the chairman of a party” to which Tom Furlong replied: “No sir I am not—I deny it emphatically22.”
On the proposal—“for peace sake”—of a Captain Percy Harvey and seconded by Mr. Sweetman, the magistrate (possibly, the Ballymackessy man), a Mr. Devereaux took the chair23. While Matthew Maylor of Kilmore (a kinsman of the Fitzhenrys, and also –I think—of the Carews) later wrote solemnly of “a wanton and unworthy indignity upon the most venerable and venerated pastor in the diocese”24, there are scant indications of any outcry over the debacle to Fr. Furlong. He was in Jack Greene’s memorable phrase a pastor of the old school and at that stage of his life possibly confused: time itself had passed Tom Furlong by and he could not adjust to the tedious reality of conflicting views in a democratic situation—it would no longer suffice for Tom Furlong merely to look into his own heart! The wording of part of the report may suggest that the elderly priest was not fully conscious of his abjection and humiliation as he continued to assume, after his deposition, that he had some enigmatic power of veto; in response to the issue of a radical candidate, Fr. Furlong asserted:
“I must put my veto on that whilst there are two gentlemen in the county who have fully come up to the wishes of the people. The nomination of a stranger could only be to create division and bad feeling”25.
When a speaker referred to cruel landlords, in order to affect a contrast with the exemplary discharge of such responsibilities by Morgan and Carew, a Mr. Thomas Whitty “observed that there have been plenty turned off Lord Carew’s estate”26. This kind of coruscating wit was characteristic of the campaign of the Tenant League. The pressures and exigencies of the campaign had by now effected a slight metamorphosis on young Carew, himself; in a sure sign of mounting panic, he had re-invented himself as an incipient separatist: in a letter to the meeting, he not only supported Sharman Crawford’s bill and “the glorious principles of Catholic Emancipation” but seemed to anticipate the future Parnellite strategy of an independent Irish party:--
“that I consider a strong and independent Irish party indispensable and that I shall co-operate by every means in my power in the formation of such a party27.”
The obvious potentialities of such a development are separatist and tend towards an independent Ireland. It was, precisely, the issue of Repeal of the Act of Union that forced Carew to stand down as member for Waterford on a previous occasion, as a priest from that city explained, in a letter, to Greene’s paper:--
“the “repeal” pledge became a test with most of the liberal constituencies of Ireland. The excitement became so great in favour of that all absorbing question that Mr. Carew yielded to the pressure and sooner than divide a constituency, hitherto united, he and his respected colleague retired from a contest that would probably terminate in their return28.” The first Lord Carew in contrast to his father favoured the Union and was edgy about Repeal although hinting that he might his mind if the political wind blew strongly enough in that direction—he had the flexible psychology of a modern politician but I am not sure if his son could do likewise.
My judgement, albeit a tentative one, is that aspects of the Tenant League campaign against Carew were scurrilous, malicious and deceitful. It is possible that inducements were made to or/and coercion brought on individual tenants to exculpate and commend Lord Carew publicly. Nevertheless, the number of tenants that were angered by Johnson’s claims—and prepared to state so publicly – was sizable.
Joseph Dalton of Old Ross, in a letter to Greene’s paper, bluntly declared that (contrary to Johnson’s allegation) he was not evicted but had been given a new lease of 16 years at 16s per acre29. His letter to the local media is a direct and total refutation of the allegations made by James Johnson of the Tenant League in regard to him: “that I was one of the tenants evicted by Lord Carew, off his estate on Old Ross, as may be seen on reference to the Records of the Barrister Court for this county in the year 1845 if this veritable gentleman is to be credited.” After complimentary references to Lord Carew and his agent Bill Farmar Joe Dalton set the record straight:
“I have to state that I never was then or at any other time evicted and that 14 years since, when my former lease expired, I got a new lease of my farm from his Lordship at the moderate rate of 16s per Irish acre although he could at that time have readily got one pound five shillings per acre for it from any other solvent tenant.” He informs us that Lord Carew had purchased the Old Ross estate from Colonel Ram. He concluded that at Woodstown or Castleboro “on business, he always treated me with the greatest courtesy and kindness and always on such occasions making me partake of the best refreshments and other hospitalities.”
Michael Connor of Tomfarney, agreed that an ejectment had indeed been obtained against him but for a technical reason: my suspicion is that, in this and similar cases, the ejectment order was revoked, possibly, on condition that the tenant would in gratitude, write to the papers to confound Johnson. It is, also, possible, that Connor is telling the truth!
“I had been ejected, it is true, but for my own benefit. First to detach from my farm 15 acres of bad land; second in order to enable me to get rid of a troublesome workman who had a small holding under me which he sought to make perpetual”. The letter later refers to Carew’s “good and amiable agent, Mr. Farmar”. Connor tells of seeing his name, listed on a placard in Enniscorthy, as an evicted tenant and the letter concludes with scraps of autobiographical detail: “I was let without my father at the early age of thirteen years, with two younger sisters and a widowed mother whose health was too much impaired to counsel or assist me in the management of a large farm.” The circumstances of the time could place a heavy burden on very young shoulders.
John Bligh of Clonroche’s letter is also, slightly, enigmatic.
“I held one acre in the townsland of Chapel under the Rt. Hon. Lord Carew and for which I paid no rent for ten years previous to my giving it up nor did his lordship ask or demand from me one penny of rent for my holding during that time. Conceiving that I might do better by carrying on my trade in a public place, his Lordship generously gave me ten pounds and annexed my acre of land to another farm adjacent”31. Is this the same John Bligh who served as process server, and was once brought before the Assizes on a charge of sheep stealing? His role as an agent of the law may have induced the Carews to treat him more leniently? An alternative reading of this letter is that Lord Carew gave Bligh £10 to leave his holding and, presumably, go to live in Clonroche: it looks suspiciously like a clearance of another of those wretched tenancies. My added suspicion is that is that Hugh O’Neill may have ghostwritten these letters after pressure was applied to the tenants involved to assent to signing them.
James Clancy of Coolnacon, in a bitter reply to “James A. Johnson’s lying placard”, flatly denied that he was evicted32. George Mc Cloney of Old Ross stated likewise33.
As already indicated, Ned Carroll (as a matter of inevitability) bumbled into the controversy. The purpose of his letter—an awkward piece of propaganda—was to demonstrate that a de facto form of tenant right had traditionally existed on the Carew estate; I am not sure if he succeeds in doing that as his excessively long sentences and prodigious verbiage obscure the intended meaning. His rejoinder to James Johnson is however a trifle witty:
“I will begin with the case of my old and esteemed relative, Luke Devereux, said to be evicted with two families from Courtnacuddy, where I was born and reared. For the last century there was not a man named Luke Devereux born or reared in Courtnacuddy but one and he poor fellow is rotting in his grave in the quiet churchyard of Rossdroit nearly one fourth of that time.” He then proceeds to outline an outlandish interpretation of tenant right:
“He before his death divided his farm between his eldest son John and his second eldest daughter Mary. They both got married and had families. Poor John long since died but his wife and sister with their families live in their respective homes yet holding portions of their lands, having sold their interest in the other portions to their relatives and their neighbours adjoining them, according to the tenant right custom—a custom I saw in practice in the same townland over 40 years ago34.”
What Carroll is describing is the sale of the residue of a tenant’s lease, a procedure that required the assent of the estate agent on the Carew holdings. Tenant right involved the landlord having to compensate a tenant at the expiry of a lease for improvements made by the tenant. The most obvious precedent for tenant right in this locality was the trees legislation, so deftly outlined by Arthur Young, in which a tenant could ask a jury in a court to determine the value of trees sown and registered as such by him; those bitter adversaries the Rev. Jim Gordon the second rector of Killegney and the future first Lord Carew registered trees under this legislation.
The Carews were acutely conscious of a likely populist perception of them as aliens and foreigners who had usurped an indigenous culture. Any perception that they were assisting off (I speak euphemistically!) impoverished members of that older community could easily arouse the kind of atavism, racial bile and religious mania that underlined the Defender input to the catastrophe of 1798. On July 7th, 1852, Lord Carew wrote a letter of gratitude to Laurence Sweetman for having arranged for the tenants of the estate to sign a petition in “refutation of the calumnies against Lord Carew”. It is the epistle of a man desperately scraping for proofs of the acceptance of himself and his kind as the revered and natural leaders of their community; it leaves open the possibility of their dislodgment:--
“When my house was burning my friends, tenants and neighbours came forward in a manner which made me proud of them and of Wexford….My family has resided here for generations known and loved by you and your forefathers and I trust the time is far distant when the name of Carew will have ceased to be loved and respected”35. If one is genuinely of the people then one automatically assume that one’s neighbours will try to stop one’s home burning down! Farmar wrote a similar letter to the papers after a fire at Bloomfield but I presume that the crowds at Castleboro would have been a bit more sincere in their effusion of affection and succour.
The sincerity of those who signed the petition is, sadly, doubtful: even as late as the beginning of the twentieth century people signed petitions and made oaths, sometimes as a matter of form and often because they deemed it prudent to do so! In 1910, the men of the Co. Wexford took the pledge to abstain from all alcoholic drink, without any appreciable outcome. (The names of the tenants that signed are, for the most part, Catholic). Sweetman, as a kinsman of Jeremiah Fitzhenry of Borohill, would obviously favour the Carews: he had personally known Lord Carew since his childhood, according to a speech made by him at the celebration for the birth of the heir to the second Lord Carew in 1860. I presume that he became acquainted with the future Lord Carew during visits to Ballymackessy to Billy Fitzhenry (Jeremiah’s father who served as estate agent on the Carew estate for over 60 years). Lord Carew, as County Lieutenant, undoubtedly appointed Sweetman as magistrate to the local petty sessions at Clonroche.
The petition signed by priests in favour of young Carew is predominantly representative of the senior clergy; the younger ones were at least muted as regards the election and some of them were vociferous in the campaign to elect the Tenant League candidate Pat Mc Mahon: in this area the frontal conflict of views between Fr Tom Furlong and his curate Fr. Dennis Doyle was painfully obvious and paralleled by incandescent rows between Fr. Doyle—on behalf of evicted or wronged tenants—and respectable parishioners. Fr. Doyle was a gifted and devious controversialist whose campaign of vituperation targeted, among others, Clonroche’s most solemn, sententious and domineering citizen Hugh O’Neill: there is something perversely comical about his jibes at the old patriarch:
“O’Neill, I believe lives in Clonroche, is an ex-schoolmaster—a tenant of Lord Carew’s, two of his family got situations as teachers of National Schools through the interest of Lord Carew and I should say a third, if not already after getting a situation, is expecting it. He belongs to that class of persons, who are in the habit of intermeddling in other people’s affairs36” It is worthwhile studying nineteenth century history to get a quote like that! O’Neill did not directly refute Fr. Doyle’s claims but got in a pointed observation of his own: “I am the proprietor of the house, in which their (his sons) schools are kept, under the management of the Rev. Mr. Furlong P.P. Mr. Doyle’s respected and venerable superior37.” He continued:
“I live at Clonroche, in my own castle built by my own honesty earnings, not the earnings of “en ex-hedge schoolmaster wrung from the pockets of the poor for their children’s education but the more Liberal reward of the nobility and gentry for my care and attention in instructing their children through the course of a long life”. O’Neill’s reference to the nobility and gentry is a measure not only of the social conservatism of the Gallican philosophy which he espoused but, more pertinently, of its anachronism in an age of franchise reform and nascent democracy. Or that is the interpretation appropriate to that quotation because O’Neill, like the wind, shifted his position as regards the pedigree of the children in his care: in a previous letter he had stated that Bob Carew had established the little school at Cloughbawn in 1817 as part of his obligation as a major proprietor to provide for the education of the humbler classes38.
O’Neill, like a good father, boasted of his children, especially of one of his daughters who was “the only first class female teacher in the county39.” The performance of two of his sons at Clonroche school later on would give him little to boast about: their fondness for the alcohol may have related to the fact that their father owned a pub in Clonroche. One of the above quotations indicates that O’Neill built his house in Clonroche; according to the House Books in the National Archives his house was outside the village boundaries on the road down to Cloughbawn; his sons may have taught in the house of or attached to the pub (the Boro Inn is a sort of continuum from it).
O’Neill was flinty on the issue of eviction. He methodically illustrated the outrageous exaggeration in figures used by James A. Johnson in his attacks on the Carews for their evictions.
Johnson alleged that 32 families were evicted in 1847; according to O’Neill not one occupant was turned out. Johnson alleged that in 1848 that 43 families were evicted but O’Neill countered that six left their holdings and that four were evicted. Johnson alleged that 49 families were evicted in 1849 and O’Neill claimed that only 4 were evicted. Johnson alleged that 38 families were evicted in 1850 while O’Neill put the figure at 3. Johnson claimed that 24 families were evicted in 1851 and O’Neill said that 8 left their holdings and 2 were evicted. According to Johnson 35 families were evicted in 1852 and O’Neill claimed that 4 left their holdings and 1 family was evicted.
On Johnson’s count 216 families and a total of 1086 people had been cleared off the Carew estate from 1847-1852 and driven to the poor-house, the grave or to emigrate. On O’Neill’s count 14 families were evicted40.
O’Neill is clearly disingenuous in his statistics as the families leaving their holdings undoubtedly did so, in most cases, under duress—they were effectively cleared off. Nevertheless the inflation of the misery involved by James A. Johnson was a despicable electioneering trick. The really depressing aspect of O’Neill’s commentary is that he was at ease with the eviction of his neighbours during the grimmest years in modern Irish history: the eviction of any family from their home has to be horrendous, especially if they had to go to the roadside in the intimidating climatic conditions of the nineteenth century. O’Neill wrote that he lived “within twenty minutes walk of the scenes of evictions so disingenuously and unfairly magnified in Mr. Johnson’s communications” O’Neill could charge himself with been disingenuous as well! He boasted of how he visited the homes of the people, “educated their children and was generally consulted when they had any affairs of moment to transact41.” Did they consult him when presented with decrees of eviction in order for him to explain the contents of such documents? O’Neill by these apparently casual remarks wishes to discretely suggest that he was of the people and for them whereas in reality he was in top echelon of the petty local establishment. O’Neill sometimes repeated the same statement in different letters, perhaps because some of his intended readers might not have access to each issue of the paper.
O’Neill concluded with an observation about Marks Kehoe “who remains in the quiet and undisturbed possession of his farm and who had on many occasions those two years past expressed his gratitude both to Lord Carew and the honourable Mr. Carew; this he has lately repeated in the presence of more that 100 persons.” This statement contradicts the estate agent Bill Farmar who in his account of alleged evictions on the estate (reply to Johnson quoted above) indicated that they had obtained decrees to evict him and that Kehoe had taken benefit of the Insolvent Act to stay the eviction indefinitely. It is incredible that Marks Kehoe would feel a sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Lord Carew; if he made any such expression it would be an empty gesture or a ploy to curry their favour.
The men of that era had no qualms about taking a farm from which a neighbour was evicted. When Charlie Roe was evicted from his farm at Knockstown John Cullen took it (he later had a pub in Clonroche) and became embroiled in a crazy row with his priest Fr. Dennis Doyle of Poulpeasty or Donard; a matter best explained by the opening paragraph of John Cullen’s letter to the local media:
“ a letter written by the Rev. Denis Doyle Donard in which it is stated among other charges equally false that Charles Roe was not allowed either the timber of his house or all of his manure but that both were carried away and appropriated to the use of John Cullen, the present occupant of the land except a small part of the manure previously sold by Roe to Dr. Stock for 8s42.” Cullen was accused of not leaving as much of the timber from the house as would boil Roe’s supper.
Cullen answered the first charge with this psuedo-legal blast:
“Now there are ten people that are ready to swear that Doctor Stock had carried off to Rathfilane the whole and entire manure belonging to said Roe and left none behind for any other person to take away. The man employed by Dr. Stock for that purpose, is also ready to swear that the whole of the manure consisted of about twenty-eight loads and to the best of his judgment and reconciliation, he did not leave one shovelfull behind, being desirous to perform his duty to the purchaser.”
His answer to the second charge was that he had taken the timber from Roe’s house because it was at risk of rotting so:
“I brought it to my own house—had it thrown in the yard but not for my own use.” Roe and his family came the next day to collect it. I am not sure if Cullen is telling the truth in regard to the timber. There are two astounding aspects to the story. It is difficult to comprehend that anybody could attach such importance to a few planks and a heap of farmyard manure—that indicates the sheer scarcity of commodities of any kind and the lack of money to buy them. The other matter is that despite his eviction Charlie Roe and his family was still about; we have no indication as to how they survived—perhaps their neighbours gave them alms. The taboo against taking evicted farms, a powerful force during the land wars in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, does not seem to have deterred men from taking such farms then. John Cullen became a wealthy and respectable businessman in Clonroche later on.
The loose coalition of Carew and Morgan broke apart, as the election of Mc Mahon became a probability; it was assumed that the second seat was between Morgan, Carew and Nunn. As things turned out, the sundering of the Liberal/ Catholic vote by four candidates enabled Mr. George, with fairly solid Protestant support to take the second seat. Young Carew was shouted down as he attempted to speak at the nomination of candidates at Enniscorthy and besides he lacked a Parnellian defiance of such a situation, to say the least! A passionate letter from Fr. Tom Furlong, which he was unable to read out, then, was published in the local papers; the greater part of it expressed his contempt and anger at receiving and an anonymous placard:
“A few days ago I had, I will not say the pleasure or gratification of receiving an anonymous placard, in which the barbed arrows of calumny have been discharged in no unmeasured manner against the Hon. Mr. Carew; but I trust they will fall pointless and harmless! We should always suspect the patriotism of the man who writes under false colours and lest the scribblers and dealers in atrocious slander should make the slightest impression on any of the electors I will portray the Hon. Mr. Carew’s character in a few words and this I can do with the fullest confidence as I have more opportunity than many of knowing it.” He concluded that Carew “is a gentleman of the strictest honour and integrity” and that he “will, with the utmost confidence, stand sponsor to all his political opinions43.” This letter was first published in the Wexford Independent on the third of April 1852. The suspicion then was that supporters of the Conservative candidates were distributing them.
Fr Furlong’s letter repeats the mistake made by him throughout the campaign: his inability to comprehend that while he as both a recipient of their largesse and the pastor of the parish at the core of their estate would favour the Carews other people outside the Carew estates might not feel similarly inclined. The indignities suffered by him at the public meeting in Enniscorthy in late May did not bring forth a massive wave of protest in his favour even from clerical colleagues. Fr. Matthew Maylor of Kilmore a kinsman of the Fitzhenrys of Ballymackessy and therefore of the Carews wrote of “a wanton and unworthy indignity upon the most venerable and venerated priest in this diocese44.” A Fr. John Furlong D.D. (possibly a relative) protested that “The rude and wanton affront put on the respected Pastor of Killegney Rev. Thomas Furlong made a deep impression on my mind45.”
In the event, Carew secured a mere 1,300 votes, or thereabouts, from a total poll of circa 8,000; a result that carried the implication that his candidature served only to split the Catholic vote, thus enabling Mr. George to take the second seat The 1852 election, as a portent for the future, suggested that either a Protestant or a landlord would find it difficult to secure election ever again for the County Wexford
1. Professor Daithi Hogan kindly invited me to look at them.
2. In the Wexford Library.
3. The Wexford Independent the 10th of April 1852.
4. The Wexford Conservative the 3rd of January 1834.
5. Photocopies were kindly shown to me by Billy Sweetman.
7. The Wexford Independent the 19th of June 1952.
10. The Wexford Independent the 3rd of March 1852.
11. The Wexford Independent the 24th of March 1852.
12. The Wexford Independent the 3rd of March 1852.
13. The Wexford Independent the 24th of May 1852.
14. The Wexford Independent the 31st of March 1852.
15. The Wexford Independent the 10th of April 1852.
16. The Wexford Independent the 10th of April 1852.
17.The Wexford Independent the 1st of May 1852.
18. The Wexford Independent the 15th of May 1852.
19. The Wexford Independent the 12th of June 1852.
20.The Wexford Independent the 22nd of May 1852.
21.The Wexford Independent the 29th of May 1852
22 Ibid 21.
23 Ibid 21.
24 The Wexford Independent the 5th of June 1852.
25. The Wexford Independent the 29th of May 1852.
26. Ibid 25.
27. Ibid 25.
28. The Wexford Independent the 31st of March 1852.
29. The Wexford Independent the 5th of June 1852.
30. The Wexford Independent the 19th of June 1852.
31. The Wexford Independent the 23rd of June 1852.
32. The Wexford Independent the 30th of June 1852.
33. The Wexford Independent the 12th of June 1852.
34. The Wexford Independent the 12th of June 1852.
35. The Wexford Independent the 14th of July 1852.
36. The Wexford Independent the 26th of June 1852.
37. Ibid 36.
38. The Wexford Independent the 19th of June 1852.
39. The Wexford Independent the 26th of June 1852.
40. The Wexford Independent the 9th of June 1852.
41. The Wexford Independent the 9th of June 1852.
42. The Wexford Independent the 26th of May 1852.
43. The Wexford Independent the 21st of July 1852.
44. The Wexford Independent the 5th of June 1852.
45. The Wexford Independent the 16th of June 1852.