Belcarra Eviction Cottage
Wynne Photos of the Eviction
Elmhall, Belcarra, County Mayo, Ireland
On Sunday 9th July 2000, there was a Gala opening of Belcarra Eviction Cottage at Elmhall. The Eviction scene was re-enacted on the day and a video of the re-enactment is available if you would like to recall the evocative scenes of the 1886 eviction.
History of the time
In the 1840s Ireland was overpopulated. The peasants scraped a subsistence from their potato patches, then the crop failed. One million Irish people - men, women and children died. One million more destitute people, hounded by landlords and creditors left their homeland never to return again. Between 1845 and 1849 there were two partial and three complete failures of the crop. Half naked mothers shivering in the snow and the rain desperately combed the black blighted hills and fields for rotting potatoes as their children cried from hunger. Ravenous peasants ate diseased potatoes in their cabins with the doors open to let out the stench. Bands of walking skeletons, lice ridden, filthy and stinking, staggered into towns in search of food. Their teeth fell out from scurvy, and their bodies turned black from typhus. They died in laneways and on roadsides where their bodies lay half eaten by rats.
Re-enactment scene - 'The Battering Ram'
This state of affairs was to end by 1850, however the problem was not solved as the landlords, bankrupt because their destitute tenants could not pay the rent and anxious to turn their lands over to pasture and ranch farming, began a massive eviction campaign. The sheriff - the land agent - and bailiffs arrived and dragged the miserable tenants from their cottages and at a signal from the sheriff the house wreckers armed with a battering ram moved in and demolished the cabins of the poor.
Original eviction Wynne Photo showing
"Old hag (Gardiner) tussling with furniture and
the photo below shows the re-enactment of this.
The following is an extract from an adaptation of a speech made by James Daly, Editor of 'The Connaught Telegraph', in October 1886 - narrated at the re-enactment scene in Belcarra by Joe McDermott.
"Today we are witnessing the continuation of this state of affairs. Again there is want there is crop failure, destitution stalks the countryside. The Irish Land League of which I am a proud founder member fights to win back the land for the small farmers of Ireland and of county Mayo. It will be a long hard battle. It will be won ........ not with violence but with politics pen and paper, with large crowds of ordinary people who are here today to support the Walsh family."
Original eviction Wynne Photo showing the
large police force present at the eviction.
"The idiotic movement of taking so many police together would be rather amusing in its way if the county should be made to pay them in conjunction with the pair of old drunken jades, Gardiner and Pringle, who have brought so much trouble on the most peaceable and law-abiding people in Ireland as the Belcarra tenants were and are.
We doubt very much if the Bulgarians suffered as much as the Belcarra serfs have suffered and more is in store for them, if we are to credit the words of the pair of old hags; who boasted, when remonstrated with, to spare and not to evict in frost and snow, the reply was "we will make it hot enough for them".
Well everyday has an end, and we are told that there is a region in which it will be made hot enough hereafter for all persecutors of God's poor."
"Re-enactment" Walsh Family