Evictions in Castleisland

Material relating to nineteenth century eviction in Kerry forms a large part of the O’Donohoe archive.  Much of it relates to the period of the Irish National Land League, gathered during Michael’s study of the Kerry Sentinel newspaper.


One document, entitled simply Evictions, reads like a roll call of the period 1878 to 1887, each name opening up its own tale of despair so often unheard in the collective cry of indignation and injustice.1


‘Burn their dens, smoke them out like vermin’: Michael O’Donohoe’s document on evictions


In another document, Michael synthesised material on the subject from a number of published sources including the work of Castleisland historian, T M Donovan, who witnessed eviction scenes firsthand.2


Castleisland historian, T M Donovan witnessed ‘British law at its worst’


Early nineteenth century eviction


Less conspicuous in the collection is material relating to early nineteenth century eviction, which failed to gain the press coverage that strengthened only with changing times.


One voice that did find its way into print in the mid nineteenth century was that of ‘Kerriensis’ who wrote, with discernible anger, of the occurrences in the Castleisland neighbourhood and the conduct of landlord, Henry Arthur Herbert.


‘Kerriensis’ described the ‘shameful’ eviction of John Harold from Clydane in 1853:


Harold resided on the land from his infancy …  Mr Herbert’s reply to him when he represented that his family had resided on the lands over 200 years, was that they had been there long enough.3


Henry Arthur Herbert of Muckross, MP and Landlord, sketched in 1854


Describing Henry Arthur Herbert’s leases as ‘shams’, ‘Kerriensis’ continued, ‘I could have told you of the wholesale depopulation at Carrigeen, at Brosna, and at Scartaglin … his tenants are possessed of as little real liberty and are as slavishly servile as the serfs of Siberia’.4


Ordnance Survey maps show Carrigeen before and after the Famine


‘Kerriensis’ named others evicted from the locality:


I could have told you of the evictions of Maurice Roche, George Rice and Michael Eversfield from Coolnageragh, of John Barry from Bawnaskehy, of Arthur Sealy from Lisheenbawn, of John Ahern and John Leahy from Ballynahally, of Richard McCarthy from Clydane and of hosts of others which sent some of them to seek that livelihood in a foreign land that was denied them at home and more to a premature grave.5


Michael O’Donohoe Project Committee Chairman, Johnnie Roche, is a living link to those evictions which, unacknowledged in print, found place in family histories:


Maurice Roche, evicted from Coolnagearagh, was my great grandfather and he got the same response when he appealed – “If you’re there that long, it’s time to get out”. He was evicted some years before he died of ‘the fever’ on Christmas Eve, 1848. My grandfather was the youngest of nine, aged four years.


Johnnie Roche pictured in 2016 outside the former residence of his grandfather near Sandville


Tales of eviction, where the line between truth and fiction is fine, offer some testimony to the period. One example of local nineteenth century literature of this kind is Norah Moriarty, the work of Tralee author, Miss A M Rowan.  It was described as ‘a chronicle of every phase of the Land League Movement from 1879 to 1885’.6


Appeal for help for a young family in 1888



1 IE MOD/55/55.1/55.1.106.  Further reference to eviction in IE MOD/7, IE MOD/41, IE MOD/58, IE MOD/70 (Sam Hussey evictions), IE MOD/77.
2 IE MOD/15/15.3/15.3.3. 
3 Extract from a letter to the Tralee Chronicle, 7 April 1857 (letter also quoted on this website in 'Dooneen Water Supply' with note on 'Kerriensis').  Some thirty years on, on the night of 19th April 1881, a party of ten armed and disguised men broke into a house at Clydane, residence of a bailiff in the employ of Henry Arthur Herbert of Muckross.  They searched for warrants and before they left, cut off the bailiff's ears.
4 Carrigeen at Inchynapoagh townland, Brosna. Families recorded in the Tithe Records of 1823 included John Quinlan, Denis Casey, Patrick Casey, John Connor, Thomas Connor, Patrick Leane, Daniel Leane and Margaret Connor. A 1938 tale in The Schools' Collection described how 'Houses were numerous in Carrigeen in former days and many old ruins are still to be seen there.  The people who inhabited those houses which are now in ruins went either to America or Australia during and subsequent to the Famine years 1845-47' (Brosna (C), Volume 0449, pp474-475).
5 Ibid.  Maurice Roche, George Rice, Michael Eversfield and John Barry had all applied for registration to vote.
6 Norah Moriarty: or, Revelations of Modern Irish Life. (1886, 2 vols) by Miss A M Rowan. Further reference to Miss Rowan, see Memories of Old Tralee (2016) which also contains a note on Miss Rowan's cousin, Lucy Anne Thompson of Sandville, who was boycotted from 1880. Another novel, Castle Doonagh, or Agents and Evictions by J F O'Donnell had 'a closeness to the facts of Irish life'.  It was serialised in The Lamp in 1872. Biographical note on J[ohn] F[rancis] O'Donnell (1837-1874) in IE MOD/A23.  See also The "Monster" Misery of Ireland, a practical treatise on the Relation of Landlord and Tenant (1844) by John Wiggins.