Monday, April 2, 2018

Splinters fell on me

‘Went to Mohill Poor House. Was shot at in the Main Street of Mohill by James Murphy from the door of his house in that town about half past one in the afternoon. The ball struck the house near me, the splinters fell on me. James Murphy was arrested and committed.’ William Sydney Clements, the Third Earl of Leitrim, one of the most hated landlords in Ireland at the time, was assassinated 140 years ago to the day. His diaries, of which only brief extracts have been published in an anthology, testify to both his callous behaviour towards tenants and threats to his life.

Clements was born in Dublin in 1805, and educated at Sandhurst. He was commissioned an ensign in 1824, served in Portugal in 1826-1827; and, in 1831, he was appointed a captain in the 43rd Light Infantry. On the death of his elder brother in 1839, he became Viscount Clements and a Member of Parliament for County Leitrim. Then, on his father’s death in 1854, Clements succeeded to the title Third Earl of Leitrim. He retired from the British Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and spent the rest of his life looking after his estates - 90,000 acres in the counties of Donegal, Galway, Leitrim and Kildare - and living at Lough Rynn Castle, Leitrim. However, in time, he became an overbearing landlord evicting tenants at will, and was much hated. He fought strongly against Gladstone’s Irish Land Act of 1870; and, after a row with the Earl of Carlisle, he was deposed from his position as a justice of the peace. After surviving various assassination attempts, he was murdered along with his clerk and driver on 2 April 1878 - his murderers were never caught. A full account of the murder can be read at the Lough Rynn website. Further biographical information is available at the same website or at Wikipedia.

On his death, Clements left all his property, including a set of diaries, to a cousin (not to his siblings, or indeed to his nephew who was the heir to his title). The diaries were handed down through the generations and a few pages of extracts appeared in Diaries of Ireland - An Anthology 1590-1987 by Melosina Lenox-Conyngham (Lilliput Press, Dublin 1998). The author cites the following source: ‘From a transcription by Marcus Clements, owned by Charles Clements.’ Some pages of the anthology can be read at Amazon. Here are several extracts from Clements’ diaries (as found in the anthology).

18 April 1857
‘Went to Dublin and to Killadoon. I was shot at passing through Tooman. Two copper caps snapped. The gun or pistol missed fire. I went into the house of the widow Burbage and her son Mch’l Burbage appeared to be the person who had done the act.’

21 January 1858
‘[Tenant rights meeting in Milford] Engaged all the Public Houses. Police came in - about sixty. People came in two mobs of about two hundred strong each. The meeting held on the hill above the town - not on the estate.’

17 July 1858
‘Evicted Widow McRann of Eskerkilen and obtained possession from the sheriff.’

13 September 1860
‘Received a challenge from James Murphy by post. Sent to Mr Wm Jones [Murphy’s landlord?] who called on me. I gave him the letter I had received from James Murphy and called on him to protect me.’

15 September 1860
‘Went to Mohill Poor House. Was shot at in the Main Street of Mohill by James Murphy from the door of his house in that town about half past one in the afternoon. The ball struck the house near me, the splinters fell on me. James Murphy was arrested and committed.’

8 October 1860
‘Received an address from the town and neighbourhood of Mohill to congratulate me on my escape from assassination.’

4 December 1860
‘Leave Lough Rynn at 7.30 a.m. Arrived Manorhamilton at 1 p.m. Received rents. At night a tar barrel was burned and a band played through the town to greet my arrival.’

6 March 1861
‘Inquired into the cutting off of the tail of Thompson’s cow in Farnaught. Found that there was every reason to believe that the tail was cut by young Malachy Fanning and his brother Charles. Thos Cunnion of Farnaught and Edward Corr of Farnaught were with Malachy Fanning in his father’s house. The father Fanning was absent. Ordered that Fanning pay Thompson £1.’

12 May 1863
‘Went to Doaghbeg with Wilson [his bailiff], gave notice to Michael Martin No 10, Pollet and Pat’k Kelly No 8 that I would evict them; also to Wm McAteer, Doagh Beg, I would evict him and to Dennis Boyce of Ballinacrick that I would remove him for harbouring McGinley who was evicted.’

’17 January 1870
A robbery took place this night - two shirts, two pocket handkerchiefs taken out of the Bleach Green at Killadoon - some lemons taken from the Green House & some of the Gardener’s tools.’

20 January 1870
Went to the garden and examined the footmarks of the man who had been there on Monday night. I took a model of them and compared with Rutherford’s and remarked his mode of walking which left no doubt of his being the man.’

26 March 1871
‘Leave Derry bv the 6.20 train - changed carriage at Omagh and was unable to find a privy fit to be used. At another station, I think Ballybay, they were going to remove me from the carriage but the Station Master civilly allowed the carriage to proceed. Dundalk - the carriage was again changed. The privy at Enniskillen was also unfit for use.’

The Diary Junction

No comments: