The Irish Famine Eviction Project continues to receive information on a daily basis from individuals and local history groups.
David Hallahan has sent the following information from an essay ‘Ballysaggart Estate: Eviction, Famine and Conspiracy’ by Patrick Feeney (Decies Vol. 27, Autumn 1984) which describes how in May 1847 the Cork Examiner sent a reporter to cover the notorious activities of Kiely-Ussher , landlord of the Ballysaggart estate in West Waterford . These interviews and comments were published in the newspaper and were then in 1946 collected together into pamphlet form and published by the Dungarvan Leader.
The estate purchased by Kiely-Ussher in 1817 or 1818 comprised 8,541 acres of which little more than one thousand acres were farmable. The rest comprised (from south to north) the boggy flood-plain of the Blackwater and the often steeply rising land up to a moorland plateau (called “Mountain”) used only for turf and summer grazing. Over the next 30 years or so, he seems to have adopted a policy of appropriating the good land for his own demesne by shifting the tenants from it on to the poor land. One of them, Tim Hallahan, for instance, had been a tenant since about 1805 but his lease ran out shortly after Kiely-Ussher bought Ballysaggart. This is his reported description of what happened:
I had twelve cows, a pair of horses and forty sheep ….. The (new) Landlord took the best of the land from me and planted it with trees, he left me a plot towards the mountains and put me to the cost of building a house there. He then promised me a lease but did not give it to me. In about nine years after he removed me out to the mountain altogether and made an agreement to give it to me for the first seven years free, for the next seven years for five shillings an acre ,and for the last seven years at 12/6d. . . . . (it now comprised) eight acres of the bog . . . . . eleven acres of mountain. . . (and) about ten acres of middling land but it was all black mountain heath and turf when I went there.
Later, the Decies account continues:
Tim Hallinan[sic], then aged about 80, recounted his attempt to appeal to Kiely-Ussher’s better nature. What do you want? says he. After spending my whole life on your property, says I, will you let me die of hunger? Have you not land? he then asked. What good is it to me, sir, says I, when it has failed on me and on the world? Give it up, says he, and go into the workhouse.
Hallahan was one of several hundred families who were evicted from the Kiely- Ussher estate in 1847 making it one of the largest clearances during the Famine. The removal of such a large number of people obviously caught the attention of the Cork Examiner correspondent who reported in late May 1847 that:
an awful sight was before my eyes, I found twelve to fourteen houses levelled to the ground. The walls of a few were still standing but the roofs were taken off, the windows broken in, and the doors removed. Groups of famished women and crying children still hovered round the place of their birth, endeavouring to find shelter from the piercing cold of the mountain blast, cowering near the ruins or seeking refuge beneath the chimneys. The cow, the house, the wearing apparel, the furniture, and even in extreme cases the bed clothes were pawned to support existence. As I have been informed the whole tenantry, amounting with their families to over 700 persons, on the Ballysaggartmore estate, are proscribed.