In March 1887, The Times published a series of articles, "Parnellism and Crime", in which Home Rule League leaders were accused of being involved in murder and outrage during the land war. Eventually, Parnell's name was fully cleared and The Times paid a large sum of money by way of compensation after Parnell brought a libel action. His principal lawyer was Charles Russell, who later become Lord Chief Justice. The also examined at length the violent aspects of the Land War and the Plan of Campaign. This is interesting as we find 3 different testimonies in this Commission from people from Beagh; Edward Flanagan of Hollywood, Michael Hoarty of Laughil and James Ford of Tubber.
Edward Flanagan, a man of about 30 according to newspaper reports, was examined before the Parnell Commission in London on 14 November 1888. He lived in Dublin just before the commission investigation. He swore he had never been a Fenian, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a 19th-century revolutionary nationalist organization. In 1870 he went to the U.S. and got employment at Pittsburg at the Jersey steam works. His brother introduced Edward to Stephen Joseph Meany of Clare.
Stephen Joseph Meaney (1825-1888) was a poet, journalist and Nationalist born in Newhall, near Clarecastle, Co. Clare. He was a journalist for numerous papers, such as the Clare Journal, the Freeman’s journal, Irish Felon, Irish Tribune, Limerick and Clare Examiner, New York World etc.) Daniel O'Connell asked that Meany report on all of his speeches back in the 1840s. Later in life Meany was a Fenian and was active in Clan na Gael and the American Land League, after emigrating to the U.S. In the 1870's and 1880's he spent time in Ireland, delivering lectures on nationalist issues.
Meaney was president of the National League, a nationalist political party in Ireland, founded in October 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell which replaced the Irish National Land League. Edward saw Meaney presiding at a meeting in Pittsburg in 1879, and he saw him preside at 2 meetings in New York in 1885. Meany had collected money from Flanagan in Pittsburg, money for firearms for the West of Clare, in 1870. Reputedly, O’Donovan Rosssa and Patrick Ford accompanied Meany in his fund raising. While in the U.S. he became a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, as did his brother. The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is an Irish Catholic fraternal organisation. Members must be Catholic and either born in Ireland or of Irish descent. He paid $1 a week to be a member.
Edward had returned to Ireland from 1882 to 1885. He lived then in Ireland with his brother, who had taken a farm at Hollywood, near Shanaglish, of which John Rochford had been dispossessed in 1883. Hollywood is a local name for a northern portion of Gilroe townland, which borders the south of Laughil townland, where Michael Hoarty lived.
People in the area changed their conduct towards Edward’s brother after he took possession of the farm. Edward described it; ‘There was faction against faction, and disunion amongst the people, and an honest man could not live there safe at that time if he was not in with the crowd’. Edward’s brother was not ‘in with the crowd’ after taking the farm, and the family were boycotted, whereby everybody in the parish withdrew from commercial & social relations with the Flanagan’s as a punishment/protest. It was reported that they had to travel ten miles to Ennis for provisions as a result!
Edward Flanagan stated that only John O’Halloran and Michael Hoarty were loyal to him after he was boycotted. Hoarty’s cars and turf were subsequently burned, and all that was in his house. Hoarty lived but a mile from Flanagan. He was present in Hoarty’s house when it was attacked, which will be described further below.
Edward then returned to America for 3 months, after which he once again returned to Ireland. Flanagan again subscribed to the organisation fund raiser in 1885 in aid of the distressed in Ireland. Meany reputedly gave Flanagan two revolvers in May 1885, after he had returned to the U.S. He was again returning home to Ireland after just 3 months in the States, and was to give the guns to a Mr. McInerney, a shopkeeper in Ennis. He left in June 1885. He testified that he saw Meany, O’Donovan Rossa and Patrick Ford at a meeting of the Ancient Order of Hibernians at Sullivan’s saloon, corner of 42nd Street, and it was at this meeting he got the revolvers from Meany. However, he never delivered them, instead keeping one for himself, and gave the other to a steward on-board the steam liner on which he returned to Ireland. Flanagan was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for 3 months.
Flanagan testified that he never attended meetings of the Shanaglish branch after he came back, but he saw a resolution about himself in the Tuam News i.e. he was no longer being boycotted. Curiously, in his testimony, he said he had not written to his brother, or to Meany, since he returned in June 1885.
While in prison, he claimed he did not give any information to the police or anybody else. He was summoned the previous May (1887) to give further information, and claimed he ‘was taken up in Cork when he thought he would emigrate to America’. He had given evidence at the preliminary enquiry, before the Commission began.
Flanagan was cross examined by Mr. Michael Davitt in London on 17 November 1888. In cross examination, it was noted that, although living in Clare since 1885, Flanagan had never heard of Stephen Joseph Meany’s death. This did not prove well for his honesty of character, as Meany’s death was big news at the time, and his funeral in Drumcliffe, Ennis in February of 1888, drew crowds of thousands. The Weekly Freeman’s Journal newspaper described Flanagan as a ‘young fellow with a repulsive smile, and generally of a forbidding aspect’, probably because he was so forthcoming in his answers, and the newspaper was a known nationalist one. His statements also indicated a combination for criminal purposes between the Nationalists in Ireland and those in America, and did not help Parenll’s pursuit of clearing his name in the Commission.
Interestingly, in contrast, they described Michael Hoarty as a ‘friendly’ witness for the Times, but he proved to be a Tartar in their hands. ‘His evidence, on the whole, was very damaging to the Times’.
Michael Hoarty, of Laughil townland, Co. Galway, remembered joining the Land League at ‘Killagiln’ in 1878/1879. The Irish National Land League was an Irish political organisation of the late 19th century which sought to help poor tenant farmers. Its primary aim was to abolish landlordism in Ireland and enable tenant farmers to own the land they worked on.
Dr. Geoghegan moved to Dublin afterwards to finish his duties, but had remained ‘secretary as long as the Coercion Act remained in force…about two years’. He returned 12/13 months afterwards, and had left about the same time as the passing of Mr. Forster’s Coercion Act. According to Hoarty, there were 9 other men on the committee besides himself, all of them respectable farmers living about the neighbourhood. He was the ‘youngest of them’.
The Committee was to get reductions from the landlord down to those in Griffith’s Valuation. The committee passed resolutions to try and keep the people united among one another not to pay unfair rents. For people that paid more than the fair rent, the committee implored others in the parish to boycott them. However, Hoarty in his evidence did not admit to the Committee passing any resolutions for people to be boycotted. The people in fact were paying the rents secretly, which defeated the whole idea of a united front. Despite this, the Land League committee decided against punishing this secret act of betrayal.
People who took an evicted farm were also to be boycotted. The boycott involved not to ‘use any freedom with him’, or buy or sell to him, or even to have any communication with a man. Hoarty did not remember that any names of persons to be boycotted were mentioned at meetings of the committee. Among the people who attended the meeting, in a house belonged to Michael McMahon, were;
McNamara, Pat Ford, Michael Gaherty?, James Hagerty, Pat Holmes, and John Geoghegan.
They also held public meetings. Stephen Joseph Meaney, was there in Michael McMahon’s house, and the stationmaster, Mr. Mahony was there. After Meany’s speech in Beagh, ‘an order was posted on the chapel gate as to the boycotting of Mr. Lattey’.
Hoarty remembered Mr. Lattey being boycotted and another man named Sheehan. Sheehan had been boycotted because he had taken a farm that was up for sale, but Hoarty did not know what Sheehan had done wrong – according to him, the previous tenant of Sheehan’s farm had ‘skedaddled to America with 4/5 years rent’. A notice was posted at the chapel gate about it, and a notice mentioning a boycott against Lattey’s meadows, although Hoarty later claimed that the Land League had nothing to do with the latter notice. Hoarty remembered that he was told of the notice relating to the boycotting of Lattey, but he was positive that Lattey’s name had not been mentioned at the meeting of the committee on the previous Sunday, nor had Sheehan’s.
Hoarty admitted to being a Fenian, for about 4 months, back in 1879/1880. He informed that they were all old men on the committee of the Land League. He did not know of any other members of the League being Fenians. He did testify that there was a great many about the neighbourhood who were Fenians. He thought there was no ‘Ribbonmen’ or other secret societies in the area.
In July 1886, 25 feet of Hoarty’s turf was burned, and on 17 October 1887 Hoarty’s home was attacked by ‘Moonlighters’. He believed his home was attacked because he was friends with Michael Flanagan, and Hoarty was boycotted for talking to Flanagan, a boycotted man. Hoarty also stated that ‘Flanagan had been a neighbour of mine. I knew he had been backward and forward to America. It was not he who swore me in as a Fenian’.
Michael Cahill, Michael Brannelly, James Reilly and Michael Noone were all indicted for having attacked Michael Hoarty’s home with blackened faces and with firearms on 16 October 1887. On 15 October, Edward Flanagan was visiting, and slept in Hoarty’s house. Hoarty left the house at 5am to tend to cattle, bringing his gun with him, leaving behind his 86 year old mother and Edward Flanagan. Shortly afterwards, Edward Flanagan left the house and raised the alarm after the attack, where they then spotted 5/6 men leaving. Hoarty fired a shot into the air and the attackers fled. Edward Flanagan testified that not all of the attackers had been disguised, and he recognised one as Michael Cahill, a man he had met 3 years earlier at a football game. Cahill lived 10 miles away from Hoarty’s home. Cahill and a disguised attacker both carried revolvers. They ordered Flanagan out of the bed and to search Hoarty’s house for firearms, and afterwards fired shots at the back door and breaking a pane of glass in a window. The disguised man then said ‘This is not the man, Hoarty is lame’. Flanagan recognised the other 3, as he had known them 10 or 15 years. Edward Flanagan himself was not a Land League member, but knew these men were connected as he saw their names in the local paper, and he saw them attending the League room, near the church.
Since May last, Flanagan was living with the police in Cork and Dublin. Since he gave information to the police (after being caught trying to smuggle the revolver into Ireland from the U.S.) his brothers and mother had been ‘unfriendly’ to him. Tom Flanagan, brother to Edward, gave evidence that he lived near Hoarty. Mrs. Honor Flanagan, Edward’s mother, was also deposed, and informed the court Edward was about 31 years of age. Mary Quigley, Edward’s sister was also called as witness, and told the court that her brother was known to lie often. Patrick Divinny, a neighbour to Hoarty, also gave evidence that Michael Cahill had been on his lands at 7am the morning of the attack. Sergeant Creagh, stationed at Shanaglish R.I.C. Barracks, later arrested Michael Brannelly, and found at his house a membership card of the National Land League which showed Brannelly had been elected a member of the ‘Michael Davitt branch of the National League’ at Shanaglish in 1885. The card was signed by James Doherty, secretary.
Those that committed the attack on Hoarty were punished for it, and some were children of some members of the Land League. Michael Brannelly and Michael Noon were convicted for the ‘Moonlighting’ outrage on Hoarty’s house, were ‘auxiliary’ members of the National League. They got 6 months in Tullamore Jail for their crime.
Hoarty believed that the outrages that occurred in his neighbourhood were not as a result of the Land League, but instead from outsiders or Moonlighters. ’Moonlighting’ was the tactic of night time raids on farmers threatening anti-landlord agitation, and were essentially ‘bands’ of farmers’ sons in the area. It seems highly unlikely that there was no connection between the Land League and the attack on Hoarty’s house, as Hoarty himself suggested in the Commission enquiry. At this stage it is important to note that Hoarty said he never joined the National Land League, but that he was a member of the ‘old land League’. There difference between the two, was primarily, the Land League, headed by Michael Davitt, demanded a policy of resistance to the payment of rent, while the National Land League, headed by Charles Stewart Parnell, had no such policy.
People felt they could not live and pay the rent they were under, a feeling that existed as long as Hoarty could remember, at least according to his testimony. In 1878/1879 there was a great deal of distress in his neighbourhood according to Hoarty. According to a Mansion House Relief Fund Report ‘Gort, Co. Galway – sufferings of the people intense-small farmers, tradesmen, and labourer; poor crops, no employment, and some actually starving’. Hoarty said that Captain Shaw Taylor and Mr. Lattey had made moves to relieve the people of the area. It is also worth mentioning at this time the Irish famine of 1879 was the last main Irish famine. The 1879 famine caused hunger rather than mass deaths, due to changes in the technology of food production, different structures of land-holding, income from Irish emigrants abroad which was sent to relatives back in Ireland, and in particular a prompt response of the British government, which contrasted with its response in 1845–1852. This Famine was mostly felt in the West coast, particularly in Connacht.
James Ford was formerly in the army, and was a native of Tubby (Tubber), County Galway. When he left the army he went to work for the late Mr. Robert John Lattey, who had a good deal of land in his own hands, and used to let the grass.
End of the Land War and Plan of Campaign
The late 19th century witnessed major land reform, spearheaded by the Land League under Michael Davitt demanding what became known as the 3 Fs: fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure. Parliament passed laws in 1870, 1881, 1903, and 1909 that enabled most tenant farmers to purchase their lands and lowered the rents of the others. From 1870 and as a result of the Land War agitations and subsequent Plan of Campaign of the 1880s, various British governments introduced a series of Irish Land Acts. The acts set the conditions for the break-up of large estates and gradually devolved to rural landholders' and tenants' ownership of the lands. It effectively ended the era of the absentee landlord, finally resolving the Irish Land Question.
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