Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

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Sduddy
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Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Tue May 28, 2019 11:59 am

I’ve been re-reading “The Agri labourer in Irish Society” by Dominic Haugh, published in The Other Clare Vol. 32 (2008) - in which Haugh shows that, while the number of tenant farmers in Clare went from 20,767 in 1841 to 11,108 in 1901, the number of agricultural labourers went from 53,862 to 6,247, a much greater drop*.
In the course of the article, he shows that gains made by tenant farmers during the 19th century did not benefit labourers. Haugh explains that, in the early part of the century, the payment of the agricultural labourer (by the tenant farmer) was usually in the form of the loan of a piece of land (con-acre) on which to grow potatoes. This resulted in the devastation of the labouring class during the Great Famine - or Potato Famine, as it is sometimes called. Those labourers who survived the famine faced another difficulty: many of the tenant farmers (with 20 acres or more) who survived the Great Famine succeeded in increasing the size of their holdings (owing to land having been left vacant by those who had died, or emigrated), but this gain by tenant farmers did not benefit the labourers. Farmers were moving from tillage, which was labour intensive, to pasture and stock. They began to rely on family members for any help needed. They began to pay labourers in cash, per amount of work done, which left labourers unemployed for some months of the year.

It’s not surprising that agricultural labourers did not make common cause with famers. Haugh says, “Agricultural Labourers, as a rule, did not engage in collective action with farmers during the Land War. This can be demonstrated by the fact that only 4.2 per cent of the suspects arrested for land war offences in 1881 were labourers. The settlement that came out of the land war ignored the plight of the agricultural labourer except the legislation allowing local authorities to build cottages”.

That number of 53,862 of labourers – or five labourers for every two tenant farmers – makes me wonder how those labourers survived even before the famine came upon them. And it tells us is that the children we see in the early baptism registers are mostly the children of labourers. Also, it appears that, as the century progressed, labourers were uprooted from their pieces of con-acre; they became part of the ordinary workforce, seeking and finding work – a lot of it casual – as best they could, probably very often with strong farmers and landlords.
If that is the case, we should expect to see movement of families from one place to another, but I’m not sure if there is evidence of such movement.

*1841: Farmers: 20,767; Agricultural Labourers/Farming Servants: 53,862.
1851: Farmers: 12,287; Agricultural Labourers/Farming Servants: 38,465.
1871: Farmers: 13,272; Agricultural Labourers/Farming Servants: 17,006.
1881: Farmers: 13,011; Agricultural Labourers/Farming Servants: 10,205.
1891: Farmers: 11,586; Agricultural Labourers/Farming Servants: 8,811.
1901: Farmers: 11,108; Agricultural Labourers/Farming Servants: 6,247.

Sheila

smcarberry
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by smcarberry » Wed May 29, 2019 10:35 am

Good topic, Sheila, and nice to see established facts being used as a jumping off point for interpretation. I have some thoughts on why, if it had been indeed the case, that family relocations were not so evident during the second half of the 19th century:

a. The young people who were emigrating were sending back money to their families, which allowed the older folks to stay local,

b. Some young people were finding their way into the civil service system and, although going off to a city somewhere on the island, were supporting their birth families back home (I know of one such case involving a laboring family of rural West Clare with an adult son in Dublin), and

c. Some of the immigrants had been in their new overseas locations long enough to acquire assets to pass along upon death as an inheritance to their Irish relatives, which happened with some frequency due to prevalence of disease and accidents globally.

Sharon C.

moranding
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by moranding » Thu May 30, 2019 4:15 am

HI Sheila and Sharon
With regard to overseas relatives sending money back to Ireland , I have such an example
Admittedly it is 1901 Victoria Australia Will- a bit later than your discussion.
The maker of the will Patrick OHalloran possibly from Tulla, not only leaves money to the King family in the same district in Victoria,but to 2 cousins in Clare
They were Patrick Bolton of Fahey(400 pounds )and Patrick Ryan location not specified(300 pounds).
This Patrick OHalloran had only been in the Australia for about 40yrs when he died with no descendants.
Coming from Cape Colony South Africa,he possibly had been in the military there. Obviously a successful farmer after he moved to Victoria Australia

I have also seen the will of another Clare bounty immigrant Patrick Mornane from Clonlara.Arriving as a an immigrant in the 1840's, he became a very successful publican,and is noted as a generous supporter of the Melbourne Irish in 19th century Melbourne.In his will he leaves money to his 2 brothers in law in Kilkenny, as well as local family and various religious establishments.

Moranding

matthewmacnamara
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by matthewmacnamara » Thu May 30, 2019 7:27 pm

Excellent topic Sheila.
The post Famine history of the landless families in rural Ireland
period deserves to be told. I am quite interested in personal accounts of what they felt
as the land passed into ownership of the farmers leaving them on the sideline looking on.
I don't know if anyone was interested in listening to them.
Often the sites for cottages were only grudgingly given - to say the least!
In the 1920s an attempt to unionize farm labourers in the Parteen area was vigorously
resisted by the farmers.
In the Irish language novel Ull i mbarr an Gheagain a similar episode is described in painful terms.
Their human history deserves to be written.

matthewmacnamara
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by matthewmacnamara » Thu May 30, 2019 7:27 pm

Excellent topic Sheila.
The post Famine history of the landless families in rural Ireland
period deserves to be told. I am quite interested in personal accounts of what they felt
as the land passed into ownership of the farmers leaving them on the sideline looking on.
I don't know if anyone was interested in listening to them.
Often the sites for cottages were only grudgingly given - to say the least!
In the 1920s an attempt to unionize farm labourers in the Parteen area was vigorously
resisted by the farmers.
In the Irish language novel Ull i mbarr an Gheagain a similar episode is described in painful terms.
Their human history deserves to be written.

Sduddy
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Joined: Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:07 am

Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:06 pm

Yes, I tend to agree that most of those labourers who remained in Ireland, continued to live in their places of origin. This article by Pat Feeley describes the lot of the Agricultural Labourer in Co. Limerick, but I suspect that much of it describes the lot of the labourer in Co. Clare also*: http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/agricu ... bourer.pdf
(*as against that, it should be noted that conditions in East Limerick differed from those in West Limerick).

Feeley explains that the line between Labourer and Farmer is blurred; very often a person holding a small plot of land called himself a farmer, although it is clear that he could not possibly have made a living from it, and must have worked as a labourer. So it is very likely that many of those people who are listed in Griffith’s Valuation as holding a house and garden, or a house and a few acres, lived mainly by labouring. One good outcome of this is that we have a record of those people, which we would not have if they had lived by labouring alone. I doubt if Griffith’s Valuation captures all of the labourers, however; very many would have lived in cabins that were deemed not worth valuing.

Yes, I agree entirely that the money sent by their children in American, Britain etc., was crucial to the survival of these people.

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:37 pm

Well, I forgot about the Workhouse. There were many labourers, who remained in Ireland after the famine, but not in their places of origin; they were in the workhouse. Among these were the people who had surrendered their small holdings in order to qualify for admittance to the workhouse. This surrendering of land was the result of a law usually called “The Gregory Clause”, which was enacted during the Famine (1847), and which ruled that anyone owning more than a quarter of an acre of land should not receive assistance. Did the Poor Law Authorities check if applicants had actually surrendered their land? If so, the records do not seem to have survived.

It’s possible that some workhouse inmates had tried to go to Britain but had been returned to Ireland. Dominic Haugh says, “In the first four months of 1847 over 144,000 Irish people landed in Liverpool with the difficulties for the British authorities in dealing with a situation being intensified by their relative poverty. Indeed the Poor Law Authorities in Britain were determined to remove the Irish applicants for poor law relief before the necessary residency was completed. In areas like Edinburgh Irish paupers were repatriated as quickly as possible only for the Irish Poor Law Authorities to return them, sometimes on the same boat”.

I’m sure the report from the 1851 census shows the numbers of people living in the workhouses, but I doubt that their occupations are given. By 1901, the occupations are given and this shows that most of the inmates are labourers or servants (I looked at three workhouses only*). The ages, for the most part, are not given, but it’s likely that many had been admitted due to old age. And, if so, it’s possible that they had remained in their places of origin long after the end of the Famine. And so the picture presented by the 1901 census is not a reliable indication of the situation as it was in 1851 - the majority of those admitted at that time were not old, but simply destitute.

*The 1901 census show 122 people living in Tulla Workhouse: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... 4_12_1.htm. There’s a farmer, a farmer’s wife, a farmers daughter, a famer’s son, a fiddler from Galway, four army pensioners, and eighteen scholars – all the others are either labourers or servants.

The 1901 census shows 86 people in Scariff Workhouse: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... 36_9_1.htm. Here is a much greater variety of occupations, including Methodist Schoolmaster, Excise Officer, and Scrivener from Limerick, but there are 44 who are either agricultural labourers, or Servants.

The 1901 census shows 272 people living in Kilrush Workhouse: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... 03_3_1.htm. Here, again, is a variety of occupations, including some trades (nailor, plasterer, stonemason, shoemaker), but about half are labourers, labourers wives, or servants.

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:35 am

Well, I’m finding that it’s not a good idea to make a direct comparison between the 1841 census and the 1901 census. On page 2 of The Modernisation of Irish Society 1848-1918, Joseph Lee says
The enumeration of many farmers’ children as labourers in the census of 1841 complicates calculation of the precise number of landless labourers, but even a rough estimate shows that the famine initiated a transformation in rural social structure.
In 1901, the occupation for 22,435 people in Co. Clare was given as “Farmer’s son”. As “Farmer’s son” was often given as the occupation for all the children in the household, I subtracted the number of those who were aged 20 or under, i.e. 6,568. This left 15,867 people, who might have been described as labourers had they been completing the census in 1841.

If that is the case, then the drop in the number of labourers is not so huge: instead of a drop from 53,862 to 6,247, there’s a drop from 53,862 to 22,114. It is still a much greater than the drop in the number of farmers, but not so dramatic after all.

Sheila

murf
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by murf » Mon Aug 12, 2019 2:05 am

Hi Sheila
In your researches on this subject have you seen the info that's available at EPPI?
eg,
http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/ ... age/493270

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:54 am

Hi Murf
Thank you for that link – I hadn’t seen that report on Irish Migratory Agricultural Labourers. It shows that labourers in Clare did not migrate to Scotland or England, unlike labourers from some other counties, especially County Mayo, where the tradition of going to Scotland and England for the potato picking (June - September) continued until the 1960s:

Potato pickers were called Tatie Hokers* and a group of Tatie Hokers was called a squad. This account (http://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-vil ... oking.html) says that a steam ship picked up the squads from the coast of Mayo and Donegal. Very likely this ship did not come to the coast of Clare.
That is quite a cheerful, up-beat account of potato-picking, but it was really back-breaking work and the living conditions very poor. The conditions were probably not much worse those of migrant workers the world over (I'm remembering The Grapes of Wrath), but they were highlighted by the Kirkintilloch Bothy Tragedy in 1937: http://www.theirishstory.com/2012/09/24 ... VEoQy0ZNuU

*Their grandfathers would have been called “Spalpeens” (spalpeen = seasonal labourer)

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Tue Aug 13, 2019 12:57 pm

In ‘The Agri labourer in Irish Society’ by Dominic Haugh (quoted in my first posting above), the author says,
The settlement that came out of the land war ignored the plight of the agricultural labourer except the legislation allowing local authorities to build cottages
.
That legislation is called the Labourers’ (Ireland) Act 1883, and it is referred to in ‘Peasants into Patriots’, a thesis by C Maguire: https://dspace.mic.ul.ie/handle/10395/1024 in footnote No. 38 on page 174:
Labourers (Ireland) Acts (Cottages): Return showing the number of cottages built and authorised in Ireland under the Labourers Acts, 1893-1894, LXXV.69, p. 4. Although the union of Limerick is in the county Clare, it has not been considered in the total 473 labourers cottages that were built in the union by 1893. The most of this 473 was built in Tulla, (134), Ennis, (123), Kildysert (53), Scariff, (35), Kilrush (31), Ennistymon, (27), Corofin (9), Gort (5) and Ballyvaughan (0)
.
If we think of the Land Acts as part of the revolution in land-ownership that occurred in Ireland in the late 19th century, and early 20th century, then these cottages are part of that revolution. I must say I am intrigued as to how Tulla Poor Law Union managed to finance so many cottages, as compared with other unions. Was it something to do with the amount of rates collected, or was it something to do with the composition of the committee of guardians of that union?

These cottages replaced many of the 4th class houses in Ireland (a 4th class house was typically just one room and/or mud walled, often called a cabin). The house that De Valera grew up in was one such a cottage:
http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/s ... o=21903913. It is described in De Valera: Vol. 1: Rise, by David McCullagh, in the chapter entitled ‘More or Less an Orphan’. McCullagh describes the childhood of Eddie de Valera (as he was called then) when he lived with grandmother, Elizabeth Coll, in Bruree, Co. Limerick:
Patrick Coll, senior, died in 1874, which worsened the family’s already difficult financial situation. The family lived in a single-roomed thatched cottage with mud walls on the quarter-acre of land about a mile outside Bruree village on the Athlacca road. Later, just as her grandson came to live with her [1885*], Elizabeth Coll was given a labourer’s cottage, and her holding doubled to half an acre.
The interior of the 22-foot-by-16-foot slate-roofed cottage is surprisingly spacious. Inside the half door is the stone flagged kitchen, with two rooms to the right; when de Valera lived in the cottage there was just a single attic room, over the downstairs bedrooms – the kitchen was open to the roof. The attic room or loft was reached with the ladder which hung on a peg near the door during the day. All cooking was done on the open fireplace. (p 19).
*Eddie had come from New York, at age 2 and a half, in the care of his uncle, Edward Coll, on the City of Chicago, which departed on 9th April and arrived on 18th April.

McCullagh says, "In the social hierarchy of rural Ireland, land ownership was everything, and the Colls were near the bottom of the heap with their labourer’s cottage and their half-acre of land". (p 21). Nevertheless, those nice solid, slated houses were the envy of many in rural Ireland. Many of them are still standing, but often now so modified (with the addition of bathrooms, etc) that they are not easily recognised.

The patch of land that came with the cottage was useful for growing potatoes and cabbage etc, but not big enough to rear livestock. McCullagh says that Eddie’s uncle, Pat Coll, kept some cows, but as he had only half an acre of land, the cows were allowed to graze on the ‘long acre’, the grassy roadside verges. “This was illegal, so young de Valera had to keep watch for the local RIC men on patrol. If he spotted them, he would either drive the animals off their route or pretend he was moving them from place to place”. (p 22).

Now, going back to the link between the building of cottages and the Land Acts, I found (online) this article by Michelle Norris very helpful: Norris, M; (2003) 'Housing' In: ed. M Callanan and J Keogan (eds). Local Government in Ireland: Inside Out. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration. pp.165-189 (Norris often refers to a thesis by Tony Fahey, Fahey, 'The Agrarian Dimension of the Irish Welfare State', Dublin, Economic and Social Research Institute, (1998), which sounds very interesting, but is an unpublished seminar paper). In Norris’s article, the link between the building of cottages and the Land Acts is shown mainly in following passages:
An unusual aspect of the early development of local authority housing in Ireland in comparison with Britain, is the heavy emphasis placed on provision for low-income workers in rural areas. Initiatives in this regard began with the Dwellings for the Labouring Classes (Ireland) Act, 1860, which allowed landlords to borrow from the Public Works Loans Commission for the purpose of building cottages for their tenants. However, as a result of landlords’ disinterest, this initiative was largely unsuccessful. It was followed by a series of increasingly more radical rural housing schemes, which granted subsidies that were significantly more generous than their urban counterparts, starting with the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883 (as amended in 1885) which enabled boards of guardians to provide cheap housing for rent to farm labourers, subsidised out of local rates and low-cost loans from central government.
As is detailed in figure 9.1, this initiative, together with the Labourers Act, 1886, which extended housing eligibility to part-time agricultural labourers, resulted in the completion by rural local authorities of 3,191 labourers’ cottages in 1890 alone. Output over the following decade averaged at 700 dwellings per year, but it rose dramatically after the introduction of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1906. This Act established a dedicated Labourers Cottage Fund to provide low-interest loans for rural local authority house-building and, most significantly, sanctioned that 36 per cent of the loan payments would be met by central government.
Fahey (1998) links the advent and expansion of the labourers’ cottage programme with the campaign for the redistribution of land from landlords to tenant farmers, which was one of the main preoccupations of Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party during the late nineteenth and early twenieth centuries. Fahey characterises the programme as a ‘consolation prize’ for the farm labourers who were excluded from the process of land reform but were numerous enough to warrant the attention of the Irish Parliamentary Party. His argument in this regard is supported by the fact that each of the Labourers Acts referred to above was introduced immediately following a Land Act that provided subsidised loans to allow tenant farmers to purchase their farms, and subsidies for house-building under the Labourers Acts were strikingly similar to the land purchase subsidies (p 168-9)
Furthermore, the combination of the various Housing of the Working Classes Acts and the Labourers Acts bequeathed the infant Irish State a very sizeable local authority housing stock, albeit one which would prove inadequate to meet the needs of the urban poor. Before 1914, Irish local authorities had completed approximately 44,701 dwellings, in comparison with only 24,000 council dwellings built in Britain during the same period (Malpass and Murie, 1999). By independence, 50,862 local authority dwellings had been built in Ireland, 41,653 of which were constructed under the terms of the Labourers Acts, and accounted for about 10 per cent of the total rural housing stock, while only 8,861 dwellings had been completed by urban authorities (Fahey 1998) (p 169-70).
Fahey (1998) argues that the de Valera government was finally forced to concede to the sale of labourer’s cottages – after many years of lobbying from tenants – because its 1933 Land Act had made significant reductions in the annuities payable by tenant farmers who purchased their holdings. Furthermore, he contends, the way in which ‘land reform continued to influence the substance of housing policy … gave Irish public housing a character that in some respects was unique in Europe’ (p. 10). As was mentioned above, the influence of land reform during the nineteenth century had conferred the Irish public housing system with a uniquely rural character. In the twentieth century, the land-reform-inspired advent of tenant purchase would contribute in the long run to the reduction of the social rented stock in this country to a level which is low in comparison with most other northern European countries. As this scheme was initially confined to labourers’ cottages, the contraction impacted first on rural areas. By 1964, approximately 80 per cent of the 86,931 labourers’ cottages built by that date had been tenant purchased, in contrast to only 6,393 urban dwellings (Minister for Local Government, 1964). (p 173).


And here is an article by Arlene Crampie, which is also helpful: A Forgotten tier of local government – the impact of rural district councils on the landscape of early twentieth century Ireland. Under a sub-heading, ‘Building Labourers’ Cottages’, on page 37, she says,
Perhaps the aspect of rural district council activity which had the most significant landscape impact, however, was the provision of social housing through the Labourers’ Cottages Acts. Initially introduced in 1883, the Labourers (Ireland) Act (46&47 Vict. c.60) provided for the first state-funded rural public housing scheme in Ireland. As with public health and sanitation legislation, responsibility for providing labourers’ cottages was assigned in the first instance to the boards of guardians. The boards were responsible for developing and implementing housing schemes which were financed through a state loan to be repaid over time by local rates. In spite of the unwieldy legislation and early procedural difficulties, the boards of guardians met with a good deal of success. Helped by legislative improvements in 1885, 1886, 1891 and 1892 (48&49 Vict. c. 77; 49&50 Vict. c. 59; 54&55 Vict. c. 71; 55 Vict c.7), the guardians succeeded in gaining authorisation for 16,056 cottages nationally between 1883 and 1898, when social housing functions were transferred to the rural district councils (27th Annual Report of the Local Government Board 1899, pp 64-65; see Crossman 2006, pp 144-182 for a detailed account of the work of the guardians in this period). This figure was, however, far outstripped by the 38,004 cottages authorised for the rural district councils between 1898 and 1920. By 1920, some 47,966 were completed, two thirds of which were constructed by the rural district councils (48th Annual Report of the Local Government Board 1920, p. 76). Fraser (1996, p. 35) attributed the increased rate of building under the rural district councils to the inclusion of labourers in the franchise, noting that ‘by giving labourers the vote it forced rural authorities to pay greater attention to the demand for Labourers Act dwellings’. While this certainly focussed local authorities’ attentions, their new zeal was also facilitated by a significant legislative alteration under the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1906, which extended the definition of an agricultural labourer, simplified procedures and expanded available funds, extending the benefits of the acts to an ever widening population (6 Edw. VII c. 37). The joint efforts of the guardians and councillors in implementing this policy had a significant impact on Ireland’s housing stock as labourers’ cottages accounted for 10% of all dwellings in the country by 1922 (Fahey 2001, p. 123), almost totally replacing the once common mud cabins of the poorest classes.
The Labourers cottages and the Rural District cottages are just one small aspect of the history of agricultural labourers, but they are also of interest to anyone who enjoys reading the landscape.

Sheila

murf
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by murf » Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:35 pm

Sheila wrote
The patch of land that came with the cottage was useful for growing potatoes and cabbage etc, but not big enough to rear livestock. McCullagh says that Eddie’s uncle, Pat Coll, kept some cows, but as he had only half an acre of land, the cows were allowed to graze on the ‘long acre’, the grassy roadside verges. “This was illegal, so young de Valera had to keep watch for the local RIC men on patrol. If he spotted them, he would either drive the animals off their route or pretend he was moving them from place to place”. (p 22).
I wonder if the "long acre" could be the origin of the commonly used term in Australia of "the long paddock", used in reference to the travelling stock routes, over which cattle or sheep used to be driven over huge distances to market, or in times of drought searching for feed to sustain starving stock.
The latter purpose still happens to this day.

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:02 am

Hi Murf

It's interesting to hear about the "Long Paddock" - much longer that the "long acre", I'd say. And interesting to hear that it's still used. The "long acre" is long gone.

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:06 am

Above I give the author of an article, ‘A Forgotten tier of local government – the impact of rural district councils on the landscape of early twentieth century Ireland’, as Arlene Crampie, but that should be Arlene Crampsie.

The agricultural labourers’ cottages that were built between 1883 and 1898* are just a small part of the history of agricultural labourers in the 19th century, but an important part of general history of late 19th century Ireland. The background to the building of them is given in this article, ‘The Poor Law and Local Government in county Kerry, 1850 – 1921’, by Sean Lucey. It is one of the papers on this site on Welfare Regimes under Irish Poor Law 1850-1921, a few of which are available to read on line: https://www.researchcatalogue.esrc.ac.u ... -0181/read. Although it describes the administration of Poor Law in Co. Kerry, much of it is relevant to County Clare too, I feel sure.

Firstly, an important point Lucey makes is that numbers living in Poor Law Unions varied greatly: less than 1,000 people might be living in one Poor Law Union, while a few thousand might be living in another. So, I realise now that comparing one union to another might be unfair.

The whole paper is well worth reading, and is available on line (https://www.researchcatalogue.esrc.ac.u ... 8535eb02a0 ), but I’ve picked out the parts that I think lead up to the building of the cottages and to the allocation of the cottages. So here are some quotes from the paper - the first one follows from a paragraph on the broadening of services delivered by the Poor Law Unions (p 7):
Poor Law Boards had become centres of local power and guardians controlled an extensive patronage system and a large number of employees. Throughout this period, although large tenant farmers were elected to the boards and had a say in their administration the poor law boards remained closely under the control of the local gentry and was an important aspect of landlord authority over society in general.
This was recognised in 1872 when the central authority of the poor law which supervised the activities of local boards was renamed the Local Government Board from the previous title of Poor Law Commission.
The poor law system was radically transformed in the late 1870s by a combination of increased distress resulting in the emergence of near famine conditions, and the widespread politicisation of social relations and challenge to landlord hegemony over rural life, brought about by the Land League (1879-1882) and outbreak of the Land War. (p 7)

By the time of the next elections to the poor law boards in March 1881, the land war was at its highest ebb in the county. Evictions, boycotting and agrarian violence had become commonplace as the Land League agitation intensified. The poor law boards became one of the most important areas of contestation between tenants and landlords and became engulfed with the wider land agitation. During the March election local branches of the Land League orchestrated a campaign to get guardians who supported the Land League elected. Branches nominated candidates, decided on strategies and organised voters. (p 12)

The wide-scale election of Land League guardians heralded the emergence of a politicized group within local government who were representative of the demands of tenant farmers and the general nationalist population for the first time. This led to significant transformations in the administration in local government and greatly altered the way in which the poor law was run and interpreted. This was particularly evident in the granting of what was known as outdoor relief. Outdoor relief was a form of financial aid given to maintain the destitute outside of the workhouse. Initially, under the poor law there was no provision for such relief. However, legislation in 1862 allowed for such relief to be granted to the impotent poor such as the elderly and sick, although the able bodied were prohibited for receiving it. Despite this, the majority of landlord dominated boards of guardians whose primary concern was often to keep the rates as low as possible remained apprehensive about expending money on such relief.
As the 1870s wore on the numbers on such relief did increase in some of the unions in the county [Kerry] and by 1879 a total of 1652 people received outdoor relief. However, this relief was concentrated in the Killarney, Kenmare and Listowel unions, with a mere 118 cases given in Tralee, Listowel and Dingle.
In 1880 the government was forced to relax the strict rules governing out-door relief and allowed boards to grant it to the able bodied no matter how large their holding. In turn, the number on this relief grew to 5,553 in 1880 in the county. However, the greatest increase occurred during 1881 after the election of Land League guardians onto poor law boards. Significantly, as can be seen from the graph the numbers on this relief jumped to almost 20,000 in the county. This increase was most prominent on the boards where the League had been most successful.
Importantly, nationalist guardians viewed the granting of the relief as an extension of the landlord-tenant agitation. Landlords who were the largest ratepayers would be borne with extra cost. Furthermore, league guardians granted large sums to those involved in the agitation and particularly to evicted families. These were seen as victims of landlordism and therefore entitled to more relief than ordinary applicants. The election of Land League guardians brought about a rapid transformation in the granting of relief under the poor law. While previously, the most common form of aid offered was the workhouse, nationalist guardians freely gave outdoor relief to large numbers. This was an important dilution of the original principles which underpinned the poor law.

After the suppression of the Land League in September 1881 and the subsiding of the land war, local nationalists continued to gain control over the boards of guardians. (pp 13-14)

The granting of outdoor relief was a central aspect of the nationalist attainment of control over the boards while also acting as form of patronage and a method of rewarding their supporters. However, it led to a large increase of rates and proved detrimental to the running of the unions. (p 16)

Notwithstanding these developments at the level of high politics, the extensive local branch infrastructure of National League further targeted local government and the poor law system.
Branches demonstrated a high level of organisation, and a degree of influence in localities. (p 18)

After the winning of tenant-farmer demands during the 1880s, attention turned to the other major class within rural society, agricultural labourers. Nationalist politicians, wary of potential discontent amongst this class promoted the issue of housing for labourers. British politicians, in the belief that bettering the social condition of the poor in Ireland would undermine nationalism were also in favour of legislating for labourers. This resulted in the passing of the Labourers (Ireland) Act 1883 which allocated for the building of cottages. The act allowed for the building of cottages for labourers which were to be paid for out of the local rates. Importantly, the operation of the building of the labourers cottages was placed in the hands of guardians. This represented one of the first public housing schemes and further highlighted the development of boards of guardians as an extensive local government body along with increased state intervention in society. (p 19)

Free of central government and landlord control, the granting of the cottages revealed much concerning the social relationships within what could be termed the general nationalist population. Although many of the schemes proposed by the guardians had to be authorized by the Local Government Board, the actual selection of recipients for rural housing was left in the hands of local committees. These twelve men committees were made up of one or two poor law guardians for the region while the remaining 10 or 11 were representatives from the ratepayers of the area.
It has been highlighted elsewhere that the granting of labourers cottages was related to politics, particularly during the 1880s, and that those who were members of or supported the nationalist and land campaigns received housing. (p 19).

Excerpts from ‘The Poor Law and Local Government in county Kerry, 1850 – 1921’, by Sean Lucey (2008).
Another article on the same site, and also by Sean Lucey: ‘Relief practices in Westport, 1851-1880’ (https://www.researchcatalogue.esrc.ac.u ... 38c85fbdf0 ) is also interesting. In this, Lucey shows that the administration of Poor Law varied from union to union. The Guardians of Westport union were much stricter than the guardians of Ballina union (p 4). Lucey is speaking of unions in Co. Mayo, but it may be that the attitude of some of the guardians in Co. Clare accounts for the differences in numbers of cottages built in the unions there.

*I don’t know if the Labourers’ cottages built under the Local Government Board differed in design, or in any way from the Rural District Council cottages built after 1898. I suspect that, in time, they were all called Rural District Council houses. The Scariff Rural District Rate Books (http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... 1_1926.htm ) lists the Rural District Council as the immediate lessor for several tenants/occupiers. I imagine that some of these houses pre-dated the Rural District Councils set up in 1898, but I might be wrong.
The labourers’ cottages and Rural District houses are not to be confused with houses built by the Congested Districts Board, or with houses built by the Land Commission. The Scariff Rate Books show these bodies as immediate lessors also, but not at all as often as the Rural District Council.

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:06 am

Well, I was wrong in thinking that labourers in Co. Clare did not go away to find seasonal work elsewhere - see my reply (above) to the posting by Murf of an 1891 report on Irish Migratory Agricultural Labourers: http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/ ... age/493270

I’ve been reading the piece* on Clare, by Harriet Martineau, in Travels in County Clare 1534 – 1911 (extracts from The Strangers Gaze, edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh): http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... tineau.htm, and it’s clear from Martineau's observations on the countryside around Ballyvaughan that men were going to England for seasonal work at the time that she was writing (1852).
She says,
A very large number of men are gone to England for the harvest, or to America; the wives and children are in the workhouses; and the roofs then come off their abodes.
*an excerpt from her reports to the Daily News.

Sheila

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