Awful extermination of tenantry at Ballinlass

13th March 1846
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When it came to profit, grazing cattle was more lucrative than having tenants. Having lived in Ballinlass for generations, reliably paying rent, was of no consequence; Marcella Netterville Gerrard, was hell-bent on clearing her land. On this fateful morning, 67 ‘comfortable, clean, and neatly kept habitations, with snug kitchen gardens either before or behind them’ were demolished and all 447 inhabitants of Ballinlass 'scattered over the neighbourhood, residing in the ditches or anywhere they can find shelter’...

The townland of Ballinlass (civil parish of Ballynakill) near Mount Bellew Co Galway, suffered one of the Great Famine's most notorious incidents.  It was the single most merciless eviction Ireland had seen at the time, especially as the tenants had been paying their rent in full and on time. Universally condemned, it caused shock and disbelief even among the landlord class.

On Friday the 13th of March, 1846, shortly after dawn, a party of bailiffs consisting of "12 carts, each having four men as levellers, and in each cart a supply of spades, pick-axes, and crow-bars, brought out with the military and the police" arrived at ‘the place marked out for destruction.’

Despite the tenants' protestations and insistence that they had their rent money ready for payment (their repeated efforts to pay their rent having been refused) the soldiers and police began systematically to demolish all 67 homes in this townland. The only resistance was the sounds of men cursing, children screaming with fright, and the wild wailings of the women as they clung to the doorposts ‘from whence they were dragged by the bailiffs’. Scattered among the ruins were items of broken crockery, household furniture, cooking utensils and farming implements. The stick-and-blanket shelters some had erected the night before in anticipation, were also torn down. The people were driven out on to the roads. That night some returned and erected crude shelters against the remaining walls of the cottages. The bailiffs returned the next day and completely destroyed all trace of the cottages (including the foundations). They were left with no recourse but to spend the weekend sheltering in the ditches, huddled around fires in "parties of ten to fifteen". 

The Roscommon Journal was first to report the incident...

 

AWFUL EXTERMINATION OF TENANTRY [Roscommon Journal: 14 March 1846]

To add to the misery of the wretched peasantry of this unfortunate country, the landlords are ably contributing to their bitter draught. Day after day we hear of families, aye, hundreds of wretches turned to die in the ditches by their heartless oppressors, the landlords of this country. Not later than yesterday, we are told Mrs. Gerrard dispossessed not fewer than four hundred and forty-seven wretched beings-turning them upon the world and razing their huts to the earth. A poor man whose family was lying in fever implored to have the walls of his cabin left up in order to shelter them-but to no purpose. A poor woman with her child at her breast, was not even allowed time to quit her domicile, and in the act of running out a beam fell, and, we are told, killed the infant in her arms. If we are correctly informed, Mr and Mrs Gerrard have dispossessed upwards of two thousand human beings within the last few years.  CORRECTION 26 March: We cannot omit correcting an inaccuracy which occurred in our last publication, relative to a child having been killed at the wholesale extermination of Mr Gerrard; the child still lives, we also forgot stating that the poor wretches had their rents in their hands, and implored the military officers, who commanded the detachment, on the sheriff, to receive it, and not remove them.

 

 

THE EDITOR OF THE DUBLIN EVENING POST [Tuesday 24 March 1846 ]

I regret to find that your paper, in general so remarkable for accuracy, contains some errors, of detail, in reference to the recent eviction of tenantry by Mr. Gerrard, as the clearance did not take place in this county, nor, to the best of my belief, have either Mr. or Mrs. Gerrard any property in any part of this county, nor within some miles of its frontier. Mr Gerrard resides at Gibbstown, in the county of Meath and is a man of large property and a very extensive grazier; he is not a Catholic, but a very anti-Catholic, gentleman.

— Mrs Gerrard has a large estate in her own right, as heiress of the Netterville estate, in the county of Galway. It is said that she manages it exclusively herself, without reference to Mr. Gerrard, and I have heard, from good authority, that she has, from time to time, evicted fully one thousand families. In the late clearance which took place within a mile of Mount Bellew, upwards of two hundred families were dispossessed. 

It also said, that Mr. or Mrs. Gerard (or both) have an uncontrollable fancy for converting tenanted lands into pasture, although this must cause a good deal of trouble, and cannot yield much profit. The best excuse for such a fancy is, that it is a species of "monomania,” as, indeed, I believe that it is. 

 

The Freeman's Journal sent their journalist for a full report.

 

John Gerrard wrote to the Roscommon Journal stoutly defending his actions.

 

 

The Times of London commented ‘ shows the sublime indifference to social considerations of which no one but an Irish landowner is capable.’

 

On April 3 1846 the Belfast Newsletter reported that the story was ‘perfectly correct and the numbers dispossessed by no means exaggerated ...In a state of misery not to be described, scattered over the neighbourhood, residing in the ditches or anywhere they can find shelter’.

 

SEE:  mountbellew.com  and LANDLORDISM IN IRELAND. LETTERS ON THE EVICTION OF THE GERRARD TENANTRY

 

READ:  Marcella Gerrard’s Galway Estate, 1820-70 by Tom Crehan [Four Courts Press].

Comments

  • My great-grandfather Patrick Kilmartin was one of those evicted.

    FNQ Jen

    Friday 12th July 2019, 03:00AM
  • I think my ancestor, Edmund Fallon, was also evicted. 

     

    Debedah

    Saturday 14th September 2019, 05:34AM
  • Hi Debedah

    I have a copy of the booklet referred to above "Marcella Gerrard's Galway Estate, 1820-70" by Tom Crehan, which contains a list of the evictees.  I checked and your Edmund Fallon is not on the list.  Maybe he lived there earlier, but there is another possibility.  There seem to have been two townlands called Ballinlass, maybe he lived at the other one.   Cheers  Jen

    FNQ Jen

    Saturday 14th September 2019, 08:12PM
  • Hi Jen 

    My wife thinks one of her relatives may have been evicted at ballinlass, there names were Patrick and James mchugh

    Saturday 8th August 2020, 01:26PM
  • See my post above - no McHughs listed in the booklet.

    FNQ Jen

    Sunday 9th August 2020, 01:59AM
  • Dear Jen,

     

    I'm curious if there are any Nilands or Hefferans listed in the booklet. These are surnames of my 3rd great grandparents from Galway.

     

    Mary Jo Thompson

     

     

    MJ Thompson

    Monday 5th October 2020, 09:50PM
  • Hi Mary Jo

    No Nilands or Hefferans listed, but I am interested in your Niland connection.  My great-grandfather Patrick Kilmartin was about 13 when he was evicted along with his parents and siblings.  The next record we have of him is in Bishop Auckland, Durham, England in 1862, marrying Bridget Niland, who came from the same area of Ireland.  Her parents were John Niland and Catherine Dooley, who married at Killascobe in 1840 and moved to England in about 1850, first to Derbyshire and then on to Bishop Auckland.  What do you know about your Nilands?

     

    Cheers

    Jen

    FNQ Jen

    Monday 5th October 2020, 11:10PM
  • My second great grandfather, Bernard Niland, was born sometime between 1832 and 1835 in County Galway. The story told to my mother was that he emigrated by himself between 1847 and 1850. The first document we have for him is the 1860 Wisconsin census. He is working in Whitewater, Wisconsin as a labourer. A George Niland, 21, is living with him. He married Gracie Hefferon/Heffron  in 1860 in Whitewater Wisconsin. She had emigrated from Belmullet, Mayo, though her family was supposedly from Galway. She came with her mother, Catherine Heffron nee Garrity and two brothers, John and Michael. Gracie and Barney had seven daughters and one son. They lived in a town founded by Irish immigrants called Erin Prairie where he was the town clerk. Bernard "Barney" Niland died  30 Aug 1877, aged 42, during an epidemic of some kind. He is buried at Saint Patrick's Cemetery Erin Corner, St. Croix County, Wisconsin, United States of America.

     

     

    MJ Thompson

    Tuesday 6th October 2020, 01:06AM
  • I haven't been able to get back past John Niland who was probably born around 1817 going by the age he gave on censuses later in life.  So I can only go on names handed down to his children - as in many other cultures, the Irish tended to name children for their forebears, so related families often had cousins named for mutual grandparents and great-grandparents.  John named his sons Martin, John, Patrick, Thomas and Joseph - no Bernard/Barney or George.  So I think there is unlikely to be a shared ancestry in the 1700s / 1800s.  Thank you for sharing your info - it was worth a try.

    Cheers

    Jen

    FNQ Jen

    Tuesday 6th October 2020, 06:24AM
  •  Hi Jen I was wondering if  a Michel Ward and Celia Sloper could be Hopper her last name not sure which one is right were they in the  evactutees list they had a son Francis born in 1846.  Thanks SUSAN Hill

     

     

    Susan

    Wednesday 21st October 2020, 08:48PM
  • Hi Susan

    No, not on the list.

    Regards Jen

     

    FNQ Jen

    Saturday 24th October 2020, 02:54AM
  • Hi Jen 
    I've just found out that my Donohoe's were from Ballinlass - I've searched and can't find any lists. 
    Would it be possible if you could pease check to see if they are the list in your booklet?
    Thanks 
    Trish

    trish063

    Sunday 8th November 2020, 01:26PM
  • I checked and Donohoe is not on the list.  I understand that there are two townlands called Ballinlass - maybe they lived at the other one, or maybe at the same one but at a different time than the eviction.

     

    Cheers  Jen

    FNQ Jen

    Monday 9th November 2020, 05:56AM