In March 1856, the Rev. Fr. Peter O'Connor appealed to Guy Lloyd Esq. of Croghan House for support in extending the thatched house known as Croghan Chapel which had become inadequate to the wants of his congregation (mostly tenants of Lloyd). Fr. O'Connor was himself a tenant on Lloyd's land at the Hermitage, and the land upon which the chapel stood was also owned by the landlord. Guy Lloyd, point-blank refused and a full-on conflict ensued (see here for the fallout, and the reciprocal mud-slinging).
In August 1856, to add fuel to O'Connor's fire, Lloyd then fired 20 Catholic labourers for refusing to show up to work on the Feast of the Ascension (August 15). Fr. O'Connor wasted no time taking the story to the press and the news spread quickly. The Catholic clergy and public were so outraged, donations poured in from all over Ireland, England and beyond, towards the Croghan Labourers' Fund (established by Rev Peter C O'Connor RCC). The 22 Croghan Labourers' names are listed here.
THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD
County Roscommon was one of the worst-hit by the Great Irish Famine and Croghan's cottier class perished from starvation and disease. It wasn't until the wake of the famine, in 1851, that Fr. O'Connor was transferred to Croghan. Highly educated and confident, he soon proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with. The story of "an evil landlord and the curse put upon him by Fr. O'Connor" lives on in local memory today.
What follows is a fascinating illustration of the Catholic church's dramatic rise in power in Ireland as a consequence of the famine. O'Connor campaigned for more than a year, cleverly using the press to further his cause. He become quite the "influencer" of his time...
A VILLAGE MAGNATE [The Nation, September 06, 1856]
Athlone, Aug. 26 1856
Rev. P. C. O'Connor, CC, Croghan, Boyle.
My Dear Father Peter—I send you £5 to aid in supporting the poor labourers who have so nobly professed their faith on our Blessed Lady's day despite the persecutor who would <]o:>m them to starvation.
Until I read your letters I did not believe there was in the diocese any man claiming the position of a gentleman, and professing Christian principles who would be capable of exhibiting such ruthless bigotry. It was enough for Mr Lloyd to insult, as he did, on a recent occasion the entire Catholic community, this last act of rampant intolerance will not be soon forgotten. I was quite pleased with your private and public letters, I hope you will not desist until you exhibit Guy Lloyd in his true colours, and place him in his proper character before his Catholic and honourable Protestant neighbours. I remain my dear Father Peter— yours sincerely George J. P. Browne, Bishop of Elphin
Longford, Aug. 23. 1856.
Rev. Dr Sir—I have tho honour to acknowledge the receipt of your note of yesterday's date, asking my subscription for the poor labourers who, in this enlightened age of civil and religious liberty, are deprived of employment for having obeyed the dictates of conscience. In writing to Carrick-on-Shannon this day, I have requested Dr Danson to hand my mite to the Rev. Fr Barrett. This I conceived to be a shorter and safer course than to send the same through the post. You will please to accept the assurance of my sincere thanks for having acquainted me of the matter, and thereby afforded me the opportunity of subscribing to so meritorious an object, whilst, with great respect. I have the honour to remain, Your very obedient servant, Rt. Rev. Monsignor John Kilduff (St Mel's Cathedral).
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NATION [September 20, 1856; Page: 16]
Croghan, Boyle, Sept. 17, 1856.
Dear Sir—By the insertion of the enclosed letter, one from the Lord Bishop of Kerry, the other from M. Sweeny Esq, 60 Dame street, Dublin, and the third from some noble-hearted being who writes under the name of "W. K." — you shall greatly oblige
Yours faithfully, Rec. Peter C. O'Connor R.C C.
Tralee, Sept 14, 1856.
Rev Dear Sir—Accept the enclosed £1, for your pour labourers who refused to work on the Feast of the Assumption. Yours faithfully, David Moriarty, Bishop of Ardfert & Aghadoe
60 Dame St, Dublin, Sept. 8. 1856
Rev, dear Sir—I beg to enclose you a Post-Office order for £5, as a token of sympathy for the poor fellows who are so ruthlessly persecuted for conscience sake. Now in the time for those who love and revere the glorious Mother of God, to show their loyalty by supporting these poor people who are suffering for her sake. I only regret that my limited means do not admit of my adding a few more cyphers to this trifle. I remain, Rev. dear Sir, Your obedient servant, M. SWEENEY.
Dublin, Sept 14, 1856.
Rev Dear Sir—I beg your leave to enclose a £5 note towards your charitable fund for the relief of the poor Croghan labourers who have been thrown out of employment by Mr Lloyd for honouring the Blessed Mother of God by refusing to work on her festival. Respectfully yours, "W. K"
THE CROGHAN LABOURERS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NATION. Dear Sir—I beg to send for insertion the enclosed letter from the great Archbishop of the West, on the subject of the Poor, but noble Croghan labourers, so tyrannically thrown out of employment by Mr Guy Lloyd, JP, DL, because they manfully refused to work for him on the Feast of the Assumption. Would to Heaven that the broad, and the wise, and the patriotic sentiments so powerfully enunciated in His Grace's letter, were adopted and sternly acted on by every liberal Constituency in Ireland, and thus a deadly blow would be struck at the sordid system of sordid place-begging—then those representatives who are only too happy to have a country to soil, would soon be _iguominously consigned to that obscurity from which they should never have emerged—then a stop would be soon put to the scenes of brutal atrocity so often enacted and patiently borne in Ireland. Then the historian would no longer have to tell how the cow, and the hog, and the sheep were carefully fed and fattened in their snug stalls whilst the homes of thousands on thousands, made in the image of the Great God, were tumbled with the crowbar and battered to the ground—how the fire was quenched by ruffians before their face; and, lastly, how the young and the old—so often gay and cheerful round that hearth—were mercilessly driven out to die as they did—die, like dogs, for the want of the common necessaries of life, along the dykes and the ditches of this fertile and beautiful land. May the Great God grant that, by the adoption of the great Prelate's views, the day is not distant when the words of the poet shall cease to be applicable to this unfortunate country:— "Man's inhumanity to man Make countless thousands mourn."
I have the honour to be, dear sir, Faithfully yours, Peter C. O'Connor, C.C. Croghan, Boyle, Sept. 30, 1856.
Tuam, September 23, 1856.
Rev. Dear Sir—Your zealous appeal on behalf of the poor and intrepid confessors of Croghan has duly reached me. I lose no time in forwarding my mite to help to alleviate their sufferings and encourage them to perseverance. Allow me to remark that such exhibitions of distempered bigotry in continual conflict with meek and patient religious fortitude, are not confined to your part of the country. Freaks equally cruel and fantastic have been played in other places too, with no other result than to show forth the utter discomfiture of their agents, the fidelity of the persecuted cottiers and a still firmer attachment to the religion for which they are enduring such miserable persecutions. But whilst we deplore the blindness of those poor bigots who may not know what they are doing, we should not forget that a portion of tho blame which is entirely cast upon them may be reasonably shared with different persons. Against those infirmities of which the indulgence becomes dangerous to order, good Laws generally provide so as to guard them from the injurious consequence that might result from unrestrained licence. And if the zeal of a proprietor becomes so excited as only to tolerate apostates from their creed on those lands from which the conscientious tenants are evicted it then becomes the duty of the law-makers and law repealers, and law reformers, to consider seriously tho bearing of a law on the public weal which allows a licence so destructive to humanity and religion. As it is not the evildoers alone that sin, but likewise those who consent to their evil doings, it is a serious question whether some of our law-makers who are sent into the great Legislative Council by those very people who are thus aggrieved, may not in some measure, bo parties to the inhumanity and religious persecution, of which so many of them are the victims.
And if it be an obvious conclusion that from apathy or some other cause no serious attention has been devoted 10 rectify the terrible evils that result from such irresponsible and cruel caprice as to send God's creatures adrift upon the world because they refuse to show dishonour to the Mother God. Then the question comes further home beyond those lawmakers, to those who send them to parliament, who should conscientiously inquire if they had done their duty in endeavouring to have those bad laws annulled, anil the religion of the people protected. Should they arrive at the conclusion that those solemn duties were not performed by those to whom they were confined, would not they too be parties to those persecutions if ever again they were to send to the legislature those who could connive at such deed injustice. This is a question which ultimately comes home to us all. You are with a most laudable zeal exerting yourself to check this evil in your district, and applying for subscriptions in favour of those whose courage in defence of their faith is not less noble than that of their brave countrymen who return with barren trophies from the war. Another clergyman makes similar efforts on behalf of his flock equally persecuted. Yet those efforts to stay these great evils must be feeble and inefficient compared with the salutary influence of which a change in the law would be productive. If then, the freeholders do their duty—if they make their representatives honest by being honest themselves, and by refusing to share in any sordid patronage which may be the price of the neglect of guarding the religion and the homes of the people—you and several other devoted and pious priests will witness the disappearance of this fell spirit from the land, and be spared the painful necessity of soliciting subscriptions to shield your flock from such dire persecutions.
I am, Rev Dear Sir, Your faithful servant, John, Archbishop of Tuam
THE CROGHAN LABOURERS [Nation, November 08, 1856; Page: 12]
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NATION Dear Sir—I beg to send for insertion of the enclosed letters. The Great Fair of Croghan passed off on Tuesday calmly and peaceably. There was no riot—no offence or crime—there was not one single blow struck in the immense multitude—and yet the men of Croghan, according to the truculent and mendacious Mail, are nothing but assassins and murderers! I have the honour, dear sir, to be, With esteem, faithfully yours, Peter C. O'Connor, C.C. Croghan, Boyle, October 30, 1856.
Castle Dawson, county Derry, October 27th, 1856.
Rev. Dear Sir—Enclosed is the mite of one who admires the heroic Christian conduct of the ever-memorable Croghan labourers. AIso all Catholics follow their example in paying honour to the Immaculate Mother of God! Wishing the Almighty to speed you in the good work of sustaining these worthy men against the Souper, and raising a fund to make them independent of their persecution. I am, Rev, dear Sir, your obedient servant, A Catholic
The Tablet office, 33, Lower Abbey-street, Dublin, 27th October 1856.
Rev. Sir—I beg leave to send you the enclosed Post-office order for £4 0s 6d in your favour. This sum is for the Croghan labourers and has been received here from M A McDonnell, Esq, Barrister, Liverpool, who says no part of it was collected, or rather subscribed, by poor men. The Rev Mr O'Neil, the parish priest, gave 10s, and I have given a guinea. I am, Rev sir, your obedient servant, Patrick O'Byrne.
Armagh, October_28th, 1856.
Rev. Sir— I beg to give you the enclosed mite for the noble-hearted labourers of Croghan. May God guard them against the persecutor. I am, Rev Sir, with respect, your obedient, E. Connolly.
THE CROGHAN LABOURERS [Nation December 13, 1856]
Tuam, Nov. 24th 1856.
Revd Sir—I feel great pleasure in enclosing you postage stamps to the amount of 6s, for those self-sacrificing Croghan Labours, who have so fearlessly resisted the tyranny of a heartless bigot— Very respectfully yours Rev Sir, A Child of Mary
Manchester, Nov. 21th, 1856.
Rev Sir—enclosed I send you a P.O. order for £1 4s 3d, which has been collected from a few of the Roman Catholic Religion of St Patrick's parish, for the Labourers who so nobly declared to the bigot (the man who wished the fullest liberty of conscience for all men), that they would conform to the rules of their Church and keep holy the day that spotless Church has set apart, viz, ' The Assumption of the ever Blessed Mother of God,' (who redeemed us all, Mr Guy Lloyd himself included), if only does not abuse it by his tyranny and oppression; but thank God, if he deprived the boys of sustenance as he thought, ho could not deprive their souls, and as we are taught and believe that the Immaculate Mother of God has great power with her beloved Son in heaven, I am sure the 20 labourers have no cause for fear, from 1,000 of such as Guy Lloyd. May God prosper you and them, is the prayer of the subscribers of this small donation, and hoping this will meet the eyes of the rest of the Irish Catholics of St Patrick's parish.—I remain Rev Sir, your most obedient humble servant, John Hennesy. P.S—Rev Sir acknowledge in that valuable and honest Journal the Nation newspaper for the gratification of all concerned. I hope you will excuse me for taking up so much of your valuable time in perusing this long letter, J. H.
Dear Sir—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of Ten Shillings, the second subscription of Mr P K Cavanagh, Manchester, towards the Croghan Labourers' Fund, and to send the enclosed letters for insertion. All the monies received from the start except these ten shillings, have been distributed by the committee amongst the labourers, twenty-two in number, and not twenty as originally stated by me. Respectfully requesting that you will be pleased to insert this week the letters that I sent you last week, I have the honour to be, dear sir, faithfully yours,
Peter O'Connor, C C. Dec. 3, 1856.
Omagh, County Tyrone, Nov. 15th, 1856.
Dear Sir—Having paid some visits to the neighbourhood of Croghan during the last four or five months, I have had an opportunity of seeing and hearing of the scandalous annoyances given to you and the faithful parishioners of Croghan by a set of unprincipled men (commonly and very properly called Soupers), who very frequently and impiously distributed placards and tracts and other vile documents which were most derogatory to the honour and dignity due to the Blessed Mother of God and most insulting to every member of the Catholic Church; and what made matters worse, those impious wretches were supported by that mighty bigot chieftain who not very long ago refused to grant his Catholic tenantry the small quantity of four perches of ground for the enlargement of their chapel and this is the selfsame man who afterwards, to crown his intolerance, dismissed from his employ 22 Catholic labourers, because they would not work on the 15th day of August last, a day dedicated by the Church in honour to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God. And this great captain, as I understand, is a magistrate (bless the mark!) and a person of large property in your neighbourhood, whose influence must have widely extended over the country. There were difficulties, indeed, yes, and difficulties of no ordinary degree, which your reverence had to contend with, but most nobly, wisely, and undauntedly have you grappled with them and I was heartily rejoiced to find, at my last trip in your neighbourhood, Unit iii the mighty struggle you have conquered and come off gloriously victorious, and that now there is not a trace of those disturbers to be found; and that their great captain himself, has retreated [ruin the scene of action, leaving your reverence and noble flock to enjoy some repose after a fierce but bloodless fight, which was chiefly owing to the wise steps you had taken in never travelling outside the boundary of the law. For the noble but persecuted labourers of Croghan I enclose to you a half-sovereign. It is as much as my present means can afford, but had I means to send you 20 of them, they would go as cheerfully as I now send the one, and that one is from my heart.
I have the honour, reverend sir, to be yours, very faithfully, An Irishman.
Ballinameen, Nov 20th, 1856.
Rev Dear Sir—We beg leave to send you the sum of £1 us as our first contribution, for the support of the Croghan labourers, who have so firmly and so nobly disregarded their temporal interest, for the honour and dignity of the Mother of God. The memory of the day that we accompanied you to Croghan, shall be ever dear to us: to take down legally and constitutionally the filthy placards, which insulted the ever Blessed Virgin Mary; and which branded Catholics as paying her that honour, which belongs to God alone. But now, thanks to Heaven, there is not a vestige of these vile recreants, to disturb the honest, religious, and well-disposed Catholics of that locality, for Dalton and his soupers have removed their apparatus to some other district, to distribute the soup to their ' New Lights.'
FREEMAN CORRESPONDENCE [Freemans Journal, December 23, 1856; Page: 3]
Dear SIR—The inserticn of the enclosed letter from Michael Coyne, Esq, Merchant, Sligo, shall very much oblige yours, dear Sir, very faithfully, Rev. PETER C. O'CONNOR, R.C.C. Croghan, Boyle, Dec. 18th, 1856.
Sligo, 8 & 9, Radcliff Street, Dec. 17th, 1866.
Dear and Rev. Sir—I respectfully beg to send you a Post office order for twelve shillings in aid of the Croghan labourers, who so firmly and so nobly, in the teeth of a bigot, showed forth their veneration and Iove for her whom all nations call Blessed. I assure, dear and Rev. Sir, I feel great satisfaction in giving my mite in their behalf, for their conduct was truly heroic, and it ought to command the regard and substantial empathy of Catholic Ireland.
I remain dear and Rev. Sir, your obedient servant, Michael COYNE.