Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

Cruelty to Irish Tenants

Cruelty to Irish Tenants.

Do you think these are exaggerations? Why, Mr. Morris, who was the London Times Commissioner—and the Times is not fond of encouraging Irish grievances—now, Mr. Morris, who was the Times Commissioner, tells a story of a widow who was evicted from her holding less than seven years ago, because her daughter had left her to get married and had gone to inhabit a different part of the country. The husband whom the daughter had married had died, and the agent of the cottage occupied by the widowed mother refused to allow the woman to receive her widowed daughter back to live with her. The only place that was open to her was the London workhouse. Somebody says "Impossible": I will tell you something more "impossible", that should make your blood boil with shame if you don't know it. This is a little thing; I will tell you some bigger things, one of which happened upon the estate of the Marquis of Lansdowne, and was dealt with by the brilliant pen of my friend Linton, and is a matter of universal knowledge in England, except among those who are so wilfully blind upon all Irish questions that they make mischief by their wilfulness. I will tell you yet another, which happened within my own personal experience. The one which Linton tells of is a story of a boy who had no father and no mother living. His father and mother had occupied a cottage on the estate of my Lord Lansdowne. The boy was "a bad boy". His chief criminality was his poverty; that is a vice in the country I come from. But he had a worse vice than that: He neither starved nor went properly to the Board of Guardians to get into the workhouse, as any well-conducted boy ought to have done—he ran about the fields. His grandfather and grandmother were living, and he used sometimes to go to sleep at their house at night, and sometimes with an uncle, and sometimes with a cousin, all living on the same estate. On day this wicked boy—for he had carried his wickedness sometimes to the extent of sleeping in the fields at night, which is a crime in our country, that is if you are poor, but not if you are rich—I tell someone who shakes page 33 his head at it (referring to someone in the audience), if you are poor you are brought before the magistrate, who will send you to jail for twenty-one days as a rogue or a vagrant; but if you are rich, you are simply called perhaps a fool—that is the law of England, and there are a hundred people in jail, at least, for it at the present moment. The gentleman who shakes his head has nothing in the head or in the denial when he puts it. (Laughter and applause.) I never overstate my case; it is too strong to need overstating, and I have too much shame as an Englishman in the statement I have to make to you to want to color it. This boy sometimes slept in the fields at night—I don't say he slept there from choice; but the agent had forbidden his relatives to receive him, for he had given a proof of wickedness which was beyond all question: he one day had, being very hungry, killed a hare and sold it for a shilling; now, a boy who will kill a hare is beyond all hope of redemption. Pheasants figure higher than peasants, for, in the country I come from, hares and rabbits are far more important than human beings; they have made criminals of many a score, and even in England, saying nothing of Ireland, our country calendars are filled with more offences relating to game than any other offences. I ask the gentleman who thinks it is not so, when I sit down, to rise here, and I will quote to him from Blue Book after Blue Book, evidence before the House of Commons, until his utter ignorance shall rise in testimony against him. (Applause.) This boy used to sleep in the field sometimes. At last winter came, and frost came, and snow came—and winter's frosts and snow are hard upon poor boys, especially when their bellies are empty: this boy therefore begged his relations to give him shelter; as they were not uniformly inhuman they did; and the agent then served one with a notice to quit, and threatened another, and they were obliged to shut the boy out. At last one night there was bitter, bitter frost; the boy came, and being refused admittance he clambered at a back window and was turned out, for they were afraid to lose their holdings, it was all they had to live by. He tried to come in again, and was driven away with a pitchfork, and then, to prevent him from climbing up, his hands were tied, and he was turned away again. The boy wont to sleep in the fields; it was bitter cold that night, and he slept a sleep which has never page 34 ended yet. I say the agent of the Marquis of Lansdowne was the murderer of that boy.

To those who say, "What does such a statement as that mean? what value has it?" I will read from the evidence—not of a rough speaker like myself; not of one usod to exaggeration as I may be—but the words of a member of the House of Commons. He says, speaking of a village in Mayo, and two neighboring villages, that in midwinter fifty houses were levelled to the ground, and no less than 140 families turned out to go whithersoever they would. Did you ever see an eviction? I have.