The Murder of John Kinsella, Coolgreany Eviction Album, 1887

The last post on the Coolgreany Evictions Album focused on the eviction of the Darcy family from their lands in Ballyfad in the July of 1887. In all, more than 60 families, in excess of 300 people, had been forcibly evicted during that year. 

 

The Land League organisers of the Plan of Campaign had however planned for the possibility of a landlord refusing to negotiate a downwards rent and the eviction of the tenants. Using Plan funds, shelters called Campaign Huts were erected in the locality on the land of charitable neighbours, and used to house the families who found themselves homeless. Such huts were built in Coolgreany, many on the holding of the Kavanagh family.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coolgreany album contains a photograph of a gentleman who is identified by the album’s compiler as the builder of the Coolgreany huts, a Mr John Tierney.

About 30 people took shelter on the Kavanagh’s land, and in early September of that year a legal case to enforce the removal of the huts was taken by Captain Hamilton, the agent for the Brooke Estate, against Dora Kavanagh. Their argument, as reported in the Irish Times, was that their presence was ‘an interference with the agricultural character of the land’, and in Hamilton’s evidence he stated that the people were ‘unpleasant to him, and that his great object was to get rid of the nuisance of the people in these huts’.  Later that month, while this case was still ongoing, the matter came to a head.

 On 28th September, on the order of Captain Hamilton, Bailiff George Freeman and 17 other men, known as Emergency men – the enforcers of the landlords’ Property Defence Association, arrived at the Kavanagh’s farm. Their objective was to collect one year’s rent from the Kavanaghs, who at this time had provided shelter for ten families in the outhouses in the farmyard. The Kavanagh’s interest in the holding had been sold by the Sheriff, and the rent to be collected had been accrued during their tenancy. A dispute arose between John McCabe, the leader of the Emergency men, and Michael Kavanagh when McCabe demanded £57, but would not produce the warrant.  A crowd of evicted tenants gathered at the gate of the property, and as Emergency man John ‘Red’ Johnston tried to enter the yard by climbing the gate, John Kinsella, a 64 year widower, struck the gate with a pitchfork. Freeman, who had been standing nearby, immediately shot Kinsella with his revolver. As Kinsella fell dead, the Emergency men fired on the crowd, narrowly avoiding further casualties. As the tenants brought Kinsella’s body inside the house, the Emergency men seized the Kavanagh’s cattle in lieu of the rent owed.

 

At an inquest at the coroner’s court the verdict was passed that ‘We find that the said John Kinsella came by his death at Coolgreany, in the county of Wexford, on the 28th September 1887 by a gunshot wound inflicted feloniously, maliciously, and of malice aforethought, by George Freeman, aided and abetted by John McCabe, John Harris, Henry Oakes, David Crawford, Samuel Scott, Thomas Olinging, T.R. McCawley, Moses Porter, Alexander Kingsbury, George Harris, John Levingston, John Johnston, James Rogers, John Johnston (Red), Francis Maguire, William Johnston, R.H. Maxwell, and E.C. Hamilton’. A number of men, including Captain Hamilton, were released on bail, but Freeman and nine others remained in custody in Wexford Jail.  However, when the case came to trial all the men, including George Freeman, were acquitted of the murder.  

It is interesting to note that earlier that year, in February of 1887, Sir Thomas Esmonde put forward a question in the House of Commons enquiring about an incident involving Freeman on the 5th of that month. He and an Emergency man named Woods, also employed on the Brooke Estate, came to the village of Coolgreany and got drunk. When they were removed from the premises, they turned their firearms on the shop owner, a Mr Doyle, and were only stopped from firing by the police, who had come and managed to disarm them.  Freeman was later bound to the peace for flourishing a revolver.

 

John Kinsella, father of Patrick, Myles, Elizabeth and Bridget, was buried in Kilninor Cemetery, where a memorial to him reads – 

‘Sacred to the Memory of John Kinsella of Croghan, who was foully slain in defence of home and country by the bullets of the Property Defence Association on the 26th September 1887 in the 64th year of his age. This monument was erected by the men of Wicklow and Wexford as a testimony of their respect for his many Christian virtues and as an indignant protest against the cruelty and injustice of those who before God are guilty of his innocent blood’.

 

 Since first looking into the NMI’s acquisition of the Coolgreany Album, I have found that its donor stated that he had saved it from being burned about 16 years previously, in the 1920s, though he did not mention where. So though we do not know anything further about the provenance of this copy of the album, we know that it was very fortunate to have been saved. 

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The Eviction of Mrs Darcy, Coolgreany Eviction Album, Wexford, 1887

The images from the Coolgreany Eviction album, comprised of photographs of the infamous 1887 series of evictions in the Coolgreany area near Gorey in North Co. Wexford, are already fairly well known.  The National Library of Ireland acquired a copy in 1992 from the grand-niece of Fr Laurence Farrelly, who was active in the Plan of Campaign in Co. Wexford in the 1880s.  Some of the images were used in the NLI’s wonderful Notice to Quit exhibition in 2003, so are very familiar to some. A letter that came with the donation identifies a T. Mallacy as the compiler of the album (and also probably the photographer), which he gave to Fr Farrelly in 1888. The National Museum also acquired a copy of the album in 1942, compiled in the same manner and probably at the same time as the NLI’s. This copy has handwritten captions on some of the images, identifying the people and places, though we do not know who wrote these captions.

 

A particular set of photographs stood out for me; the photographs of the 80 year old Mrs Darcy, taken at her sick bed in the process of her eviction from her home in Ballyfad, Coolgreany, in July 1887. Many photographs of evictions are of the eviction scenes themselves, or depict evictees posing outside houses for the camera. The photographs of Mrs Darcy are taken inside her home, making them look quite dark and despairing, yet there is also an air of defiance in her face.

 

 

 

Mrs Darcy’s home, a five-roomed farmhouse with seven outbuildings, was situated on the Brooke Estate; lands owned by the wealthy Dubliner George Frederick Brooke, Wine Merchant, High Sheriff and Justice of the Peace. Brooke lived in Castleknock, Co. Dublin, and his estate was managed by Captain Hamilton.

 

The Plan of Campaign (where tenants withheld rent from the landlord until a rent reduction was negotiated and agreed) was adopted by the tenants on the Brooke Estate in December 1886. The terms were refused by the owner, and in February 1887 Hamilton was preparing for a series of evictions. The eviction campaign started in July of that year, and numerous families (many of whom are photographed in the album) were removed from their homes by force by Hamilton’s bailiffs and Emergency Men.

 

When Hamilton and his men came to the Darcy household, they found Mrs Darcy on her sick bed.  The photographer captures some moments inside the cottage. In one, Daniel Crilly, the Irish nationalist M.P. for North Mayo, consoles Mrs Darcy, and another shows Mrs Darcy with her daughter.

 

Despite the situation, Mrs Darcy remained strong. One image of her, with her hands clasped, is captioned ‘From the sick bed Mrs Darcy tells Captain Hamilton to evict her; her terms are ‘no surrender’.

 

 

Another photograph shows a crowd gathered outside her cottage, described by the caption writer  as ‘A council of war over Mrs Darcy’s eviction’, including friends and enemies. A crowd of onlookers are seen on higher ground, being kept back from the house.  Members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, armed with rifles, can be seen to the far left. In front of them are leading nationalists Daniel Crilly M.P., John Dillon M.P. and Michael Davitt.  Captain Hamilton, the evicting agent, is seen leaning on his stick talking to Captain Slack, the magistrate in command.  In the background a group of Emergency Men are waiting for the word.  The caption also reads that Captain Hamilton receives a telegram, and postpones the eviction.

 

 

The delay to the Darcy’s eviction did not last long though, and a later photograph shows Miss Darcy gathering up her furniture after eviction for conveyance to the Campaign Cottage (cottages set up by the Plan of Campaign as shelters for evicted tenants).

 

 

The Darcy family did manage to return to their home eventually.  The 1901 census shows William, John and Catherine Darcy living in house number 2 in Ballyfad where they are running a post office and shop.  The land was still owned by George Brooke at this point, but the passing of the Wyndham Land (Purchase) Act in 1903 meant that Irish tenant farmers could now buy the title to their land, and in 1911 John Darcy is listed as the landholder, and his brother Michael owns a neighbouring house and farm.  Coincidently, the oldest son of George Frederick Brooke, a Lieutenant George Brooke of the Irish Guards (1st Battalion) and his wife Nina were also resident in Ballyfad, alongside the Darcy family in 1911.  Sadly, George was killed aged just 37 in the First World War in Northern France just a few years later in October 1914, and is buried in Soupir Communal Cemetery.