Michael Davitt Museum
The Land League
Straide, Foxford, County Mayo, Ireland
The Land League
On Davitts release from prison he was welcomed back to his native County Mayo as a national hero. His travels in Connaught indicated to him that the conditions of the tenant farmer had not improved since his family's eviction in 1850. The initial spark which started the Land League was provided by the increasingly desperate tenant farmers themselves.
The tenants of the Bourke estate near Irishtown, County Mayo attempted to organise themselves against their particularly harsh landlord, Canon Geoffrey Bourke. Arrangements were made for a public meeting which attracted thousands of sympathisers and led to the eviction notices being withdrawn from the Bourke tenants and a twenty-five per cent reduction in rents.
Charles Stewart Parnell
The success of the Irishtown meeting made it clear to Davitt that if only the power of the mass of tenant farmers could be harnessed and organised, it would be possible to bring about real and lasting improvement in their lives. Davitt convened a convention in Daly's Hotel, Castlebar on the 16th August 1879 which inaugurated a body called the National Land League of Mayo.
Davitt convinced Charles Stewart Parnell to join the land agitation and in October 1879 the Mayo Land League was absorbed into the National Land League with Parnell as President and Davitt, its acknowledged 'father', one of its secretaries. Branches were formed in almost every parish in the country and by the end of 1879 there was a formidable organisation in place to plan what became known as the Land War.