Tag Archives: agrarian outrage

UPDATES: ‘Blood,’ ‘Snow’ and the Irish Proclamation

I want to update three blogs from earlier this year. Links are provided to the original post. It’s also a good time for me to say, “Thanks for reading!”

Thanks for repairing ‘Deed of Blood’

In May, I wrote about finding the missing passages of a 19th century political pamphlet, “A Deed of Blood,” which had been cut from the text of a copy I borrowed from the University of Notre Dame. I received a nice note from Therese C. Bauters, supervisor of Interlibrary Lending Services, at ND’s Hesburgh Library:

I received your return of “Deed of Blood” and thank you for your good will in sending us the missing pages (cut out).  Why anyone would ruin material is always beyond my understanding. The Notre Dame Libraries appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending the information to complete this title.  We will have it prepared and bound together.

Cover of the 1888 pamphlet.

Cover of the 1888 pamphlet.

More on ‘Alfred D. Snow’ crew list

In March, I wrote about the wreck of the ship “Alfred D. Snow” near the Wexford coast in 1888, based on my review of U.S. consulate in Ireland records at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The Cork consulate’s documentation included a list of the 28 missing crew. Later reporting contains several discrepancies in the men’s names, including the lone Irishman aboard the ill-fated ship. I reached out to John Power, author of “A Maritime History of County Wexford.”

“The receiver of wrecks in Wexford at the time was William Coghlan and the Lloyds agent was Jasper Welsh. The two were very intelligent in collecting information because they visited every shipwreck around the Wexford coast [in those] days. They would have supplied the report to the local People newspaper.

Power sent me a clipping from the newspaper, published three weeks after the tragedy, with “the correct list of the crew,” including “Michl. O’Sullivan, a native of Ireland, aged 38.” The crew list in the consulate’s records, which is undated, shows the Irishman as “Thos Lloyd” (or Floyd) of “Ireland England.”


Crew list from 'Alfred D. Snow' at U.S. consulate office in Cork, 1888.

Crew list from ‘Alfred D. Snow’ at U.S. consulate office in Cork, 1888. The Irishman is the last name on the bottom image.

Irish American Partnership and ‘Proclamation Day’

In January, I heard former Irish President Mary Robinson speak at the fourth annual Nollaig na mBan breakfast in Washington, D.C.  The event is sponsored by The Irish American Partnership, which distributed copies of the 1916 Irish Proclamation to the guests. As part of the nation’s centennial commemoration, the Irish government and national school system encouraged students to “write a proclamation for a new generation.”

In its “1916 Commemoration Report,” released in April, the Partnership reports that $12,000 was raised at the breakfast for Ireland’s first presidential library, appropriately honoring the Republic’s first woman president–Robinson. It also reproduces two of the student proclamations, one from the Tarbert National School in North Kerry. This  is six miles from where my maternal grandmother lived until her emigration four years before the Easter Rising. The Tarbert students wrote, in part:

…we shall undertake the responsibility to keep our rivers, lakes and coastline unpolluted. … We wish to promote and preserve the Irish language throughout all the counties of Ireland. We treasure our history and culture, our myths and legends, our poets and musicians, our Irish dancing and Gaelic games.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson gave the keynote speech at the fourth annual Nollaig na mBan hosted by the Irish American Partnership. The event celebrates Irish and Irish-American female leaders and the positive impact they have worldwide.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson gave the keynote speech at the fourth annual Nollaig na mBan hosted by the Irish American Partnership. The event raised $12,000 for her presidential library.



Finding the missing passages of ‘A Deed of Blood’

Land-related violence in late 19th century Ireland was euphemistically known as “agrarian outrage.” Mutilating a rare political pamphlet about those crimes might be called librarian outrage.

For several years now I’ve been exploring Ireland’s Land War period, 1879-1889. In particular, I’ve focused on the 1888 murders of farmers James Fitzmaurice and John Foran, which occurred within six months and just a few miles of each other in the northern section of County Kerry. Both men were condemned as “landgrabbers” for leasing property after other farmers were evicted. In the case of Fitzmaurice, the previous tenant was his brother.

Cover of the 1888 pamphlet.

Cover of the 1888 pamphlet.

In the 1880s, the Irish National League (or Land League) was waging a campaign to break the grip of absentee landlords, who controlled hundreds of thousands of acres. Farmers were told to refuse paying their rents until the League negotiated lower rates and other rights. When landlords evicted tenants for these or other reasons, the League provided financial assistance and housing. It also declared that the acreage should not be leased by other locals and remain fallow.

Because Fitzmaurice and Foran did not abide these strategies, they were condemned by League officials and subjected to social and economic ostracism, or boycotting. Notices of their offenses were posted near the leased property and at local market places. Each man received limited police protection, but both fatally waved off the security. (Read my piece on the Foran murder for The Irish Story.)

The 68-year-old Fitzmaurice was shot point blank by two assailants near Lixnaw, Kerry, on 31 January 1888. His daughter Nora, about 20, witnessed the murder in the “cold grey dawn of morning,” according to a 16-page political pamphlet, “A Deed of Blood,” published a few weeks after the crime.

“A Deed of Blood” was produced by the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, an alliance of Irish businessmen, landowners and academics who sought to preserve the existing political ties with Great Britain. The group was formed in 1885 to oppose efforts by Charles Stuart Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party to win land reform and limited domestic autonomy, called home rule.

The pamphlet featured original reporting and quoted from newspaper coverage of the Fitzmaurice murder. It appeared in mid February 1888, shortly after two men were charged with the murder, but before their trial, conviction and execution by hanging at the end of April. For the ILPU, the crime was “yet another link … added to the strong chain of evidence connecting the National League with the latest murder in Kerry.”

Probably only a few hundred copies of “A Deed of Blood” were ever printed and distributed, most likely in London and Dublin. Two copies of the pamphlet are listed on WorldCat, the online global library catalog: one at the Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame, the other at the University of Manchester Library in the U.K.

I obtained Notre Dame’s copy of the pamphlet through an interlibrary loan and was disappointed to learn that “some pages [are] cut,” according to the library’s notes. A total of three paragraphs are clipped from two pages, creating a gap-tooth effect that also disrupts the narrative flow on the opposite pages.

So I reached out to the University of Manchester to obtain intact copies of the four mutilated pages. Here are the missing passages:

  • Cut from the bottom of page 10 is a reference to the 12 June 1887 resolution against Fitzmaurice by the Lixnaw branch of the National League, which was “unanimously adopted.” The missing section at the bottom of page 9 describes “threatening notices” against Fitzmaurice posted near the disputed property on 6 April 1887.
  • The cut section at the top of page 11 continues the resolution against Fitzmaurice from the bottom of page 10. It is attributed to the 18 June 1887 issue of the Kerry Weekly Reporter. Missing from the top of page 12 is the headline ‘The Landlord’s Story,’ which quotes from a letter by Mr. S. M. Hussey.
  • Cut from the middle of page 11 is the text of an October 1887 resolution against the future victim, which calls on the public to show their “disapprobation of the conduct of James Fitzmaurice, who has been so base and inhuman as to grab his brother’s land.” From the middle of page 12 is part of Hussey’s letter that Edmond Fitzmaurice’s farm “seemed hopeless” because “he either could not or would not pay his rent.”

The ILPU later republished the pamphlet in a collection of its works from 1888, but without small details such as the drawing shown below. This version is available online through the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

I’ve sent copies of the four intact pages of the University of Manchester pamphlet to the University of Notre Dame with my interlibrary return. I know this isn’t the type of text many readers or researchers seek on a regular basis. When they do, however, they should get the full story of “A Deed of Blood.”

Page detail from 'A Deed of Blood.'

Page detail from ‘A Deed of Blood.’

On hurling … and moonlighting … in Ireland


Hurling is expected to be included on the Unesco list of the “world’s intangible cultural heritage” in 2016, The Irish Times reports.

Unesco defines “intangible cultural heritage” as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.”


I always enjoy Dan Barry’s pieces about Ireland or Irish America in The New York Times, including his latest on the very Gaelic sport of hurling. (Barry’s 2013 story about Duffy’s Cut is linked in my last post.)

The lede of the hurling story, datelined Kinvara, in County Galway, is a little curious, or ironic, to my thinking:

Thirty men battle on a deep-green field, each one wielding what looks like a field hockey stick moonlighting as a broken oar.  (My emphasis.)

Of course Barry is using the verb moonlighting in its common definition of a secondary job. But the word has origins in the nighttime agrarian violence of late 19th century Ireland. It was the guerrilla warfare or terror tactic of rural nationalists fighting against the English land tenure system.

The-Hurling-Match. Painting by Martin Driscoll.

The Hurling Match. Painting by Martin Driscoll.

Barry hints at some of this background as he outlines hurling’s history:

For a while, the game enchanted the gentry, with landlords fielding teams to play other estates. But they gradually distanced themselves from the game, either having concluded that such Irish pursuits were beneath them or suspecting that hurling smacked of rebellious nationalism.

The game’s hold had loosened by the mid-19th century. The Roman Catholic clergy disapproved. The police distrusted large gatherings. Some areas used matches to settle scores. And the wholesale death and emigration caused by the Great Hunger, the potato famine, darkened everyday life in places like Kinvara.

But in the early 1880s, Michael Cusack … began championing Irish customs, at a time when English games, especially cricket, were growing in popularity. His crusade coincided with a renewed push by Irish nationalists for home rule. He and others soon established the Gaelic Athletic Association, which provided a nationwide structure for Irish sports based on parishes and territorial boundaries, all with an implicit rejection of English ways.

The game survived, and even thrived, in the destiny-determining decades that followed, through the audacious acts of rebellion, the Irish War of Independence, the civil war.

There is certainly plenty of evidence of nationalist sentiment within the ranks of the fledgling G.A.A., especially in the west of Ireland. For those interested in the subject, I recommend “Forging A Kingdom: The G.A.A. in Kerry, 1884-1934,” by Richard McElligott; and “Land, Popular Politics and Agrarian Violence in Ireland: The Case of County Kerry, 1872-1886,” by Donnacha Sean Lucey.

A search of Hansard, the official record of British Parliamentary debates, returns hundreds of hits for the term “moonlighting” from the 1880s into the early 20th century. For example, from May 1887: “The Government say they want to put down exceptional crimes—such as murder, firing into houses, mutilation of cattle, and Moonlighting.”

That is not to say that all hurlers or other G.A.A. participants were moonlighters. But some of these young, single men likely did engage in such activity, and everyone living in Ireland at the time was aware of the term. Surely nobody in late 19th century Ireland would have described a hurley, or camán, as “moonlighting as a broken oar.”

I don’t know if Barry and the Times‘ editors are aware of the historical meaning of moonlighting. I’ve dropped him a line to ask and will post his response, if any. It’s use here certainly isn’t incorrect. And at least the story doesn’t mention anyone boycotting the hurling matches for being too rough and tumble.

But that would be another blog post.


The Foran murder in Kerry, 125 years ago

As July draws to a close I must note the 125th anniversary of the Foran murder in County Kerry.

“Terrible Murder Near Listowel,” the Kerry Sentinel headlined on August 1, 1888. “A Farmer Shot Dead in Broad Daylight.”

Late 19th century view of countryside near Listowel. Knocanore Hill in the background. 

Late 19th century view of countryside near Listowel. Knocanore Hill in the background.

John Foran, about 60, leased a farm in Coolaclarig townland, three miles north of Listowel on the east side of Knocanore Hill. He was ambushed on a Sunday afternoon, shot six times by an assassin who emerged from the woods at the side of the road. The murder was witnessed by his 15-year-old son and three hired laborers who were traveling with Foran in a horse cart on the way home from Tralee.

“The circumstances in connection with it are undoubtedly of a most appalling character and would leave one to fancy we were living in the medieval ages, among a tribe of barbarians, rather than in this nineteenth century, among a civilised [cq] and Christian people,” the Sentinel said. The murder also was reported in other Irish papers, as well as publications in England, Australia and the United States.

Foran had been boycotted by his neighbors for several years after taking over the lease to the Coolaclarig farm from the previous tenant, who was evicted after falling behind in his rent to the absentee English landlord. Foran was a victim of “agrarian outrage,” a euphemism for violence associated with the land struggles of the period. His was the second such murder in north Kerry that year, and both killings would become grist in subsequent Parliamentary elections.

A man was arrested, charged and put on trial for Foran’s murder that fall. The victim’s son gave conflicting testimony about his identification of the accused. The three laborers said the couldn’t identify the shooter. “Too much smoke,” they claimed. The Crown dropped the case in early 1889.

The case became fodder for political pamphlets in the 1891 Parliamentary elections, and continued to be discussed at Westminster over the next 20 years. The evicted tenant was eventually restored to the property, even given a grant to buy cows and other supplies.

Nora Foran Scanlon, one of the victim’s daughters living in Pittsburgh, wrote to British and Irish Free State government officials requesting return of the farm or financial relief as late as 1925. In the letters, she also attempted to use the death of her eldest son in World War I as further justification for some type of compensation. Her pleas were rejected.

The Foran case illustrates a number of social and political realities of the period. My research continues. Anyone with additional information please contact me through the blog.