On a single day in June 1846, during the proceedings of the Ballinrobe quarter sessions in county Mayo, thirty-three ejectment notices were issued. In total these ‘notices to quit’ affected more than 350 people and in some cases entire townlands. There was nothing extraordinary about the number of ejectment notices which were issued ion this occasion in Ballinrobe, given that many quarter session courts across the country could issue over 500 ‘notices to quit’ on a given day. However, the fact that the landlord who brought twenty-six of these cases was a member of the Ballinrobe Relief Committee and a poor law guardian in the town, was particularly news worthy.
In bringing the ejectments before the court James Cuffe was looking to ‘stripe the land’, meaning that he was willing to allow tenants remain in their houses once they had given up possession of the land. Of course such an action would have only hastened their eventual demise for without their tiny plots of land they would have been unable to support their families. While several tenants were successful in having his application for ejectment overturned in the court, on the grounds that they had paid the May rent to his wife, Mrs Cuffe, their victory was only temporary and many could not rest easy.
The threat of eviction continued but by 1851 Cuffe himself had fallen on hard times and was forced to sell his property in the dreaded Encumbered Estates Court. When he died, before the final proceedings of the court had taken place, Mayo landlords gathered at the Breaffy racecourse and lamented his passing.
More than one hundred years later in 1954 (see below) Cuffe and his actions in 1846 were recalled marking him among the ‘depopulating’ landlords of county Mayo during the Famine.
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