Friday, March 25, 1994

Luggacurran Evictions

On Tuesday the 22nd of March, 1887 the evictions on the Luggacurran Estate commenced. Some months previously the tenants at a public meeting decided to seek reductions in the rents payable to the Marquis of Lansdowne who owned vast tracts of land in County Laois and County Kerry. When their demands were not met Luggacurran tenants adopted the Plan of Campaign and withheld their rents. Lord Lansdowne reacted by seeking to evict his tenants.

On the first day of the evictions William O'Brien, the Nationalist leader, arrived in Luggacurran. A deputation from the Athy branch of the Irish National League met the organisation's national Secretary who travelled by road from Portlaoise. Headed by Rev. John Staples, C.C.. Timothy Byrne, Town Commissioner and Frank Fitzgerald, Branch Secretary, the deputation presented O'Brien with a formal address from the Athy branch.

After the presentation O'Brien walked towards Denis Kilbride's house. Kilbride, who was a Poor Law Guardian and a tenant of Lord Lansdowne with holdings of over 850 acres was the first to be evicted. The emergency men who were to carry out the evictions arrived with ladders, crow-bars and hatchets. Anticipating their arrival the local people had cut down trees on the avenue leading to Kilbride's house forcing the police and emergency men to travel across the fields.

The large house was secured against entry and the emergency men having unsuccessfully tried all the doors and windows were forced to go up on the roof. In a short time a large opening was made through which entry was made. Once inside the obstructions were removed and at 3.00p.m., after about four hours work, the eviction was completed and the house secured. During this time William O'Brien arrived at the house with a large following but no resistance was offered to the police or to the emergency men, some of whom were left in the house to guard against re-entry by the Kilbride family.

The police then withdrew to Luggacurran village, the greater number of them marching on to Athy where they were billeted in the Town Hall for the duration of the evictions. Immediately after the first eviction the local people held a public meeting in the village where they were addressed by William O'Brien and the local curate, Rev. John Maher, who was the leader of the Land League Campaign in Luggacurran.

On the following day the evictions resumed at 11.30 a.m. On this occasion nine families the heads of which were labourers or sub-tenants of Denis Kilbride were forced out of their homes. The first house visited was that of Thomas Kelly who lived with his wife and three children in the Gate Lodge leading to Kilbride's house. The emergency men numbering between 30 and 40 were accompanied by almost 200 policemen. Two of the Kelly children had been sent away while the youngest aged 2 years had taken refuge with her parents in the back room of the house. Most of their furniture being removed the Kellys resisted the attempts to evict them while Mrs. Kelly sat on top of a table refusing to move. Mrs. Denis Kilbride felt compelled to talk to Mr. & Mrs. Kelly after which they left their house. The fire in the grate was then put out and a couple of emergency men and a police guard were left in charge of the Lodge.

The Sheriff went to the next cottage where John Ryan, his wife and seven children lived. The family left quietly and their furniture was moved out onto the road.

Mick Lawler's house was next visited and Lawler, his wife and young children the youngest only one month old, were turned out. Thomas Reddy, his wife and five children with his 85 year old brother and 83 year old woman were next evicted. By evening time the Conroy family, the Cranny family and the Rigney family had also been evicted.

So ended the first day of the Luggacurran Evictions which were to continue until June 1889.

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