13 March 1846: The Ballinglass Evictions took place on this day. The local landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Gerrard, had the population of this village in Co Galway evicted in order to turn over the land to grazing. Hundreds of men, many with their rent money still in their hands, along with their women and children were left on the side of the road.
‘The village of Ballinglass consisted of 61, solidly built and well-kept houses, with thick plastered walls. None of the inhabitants were in arrears with their rent, and had by industry reclaimed about four hundred acres from a neighbouring bog. On the morning of the eviction a large detachment of the 49th infantry commanded by Captain Brown and numerous police appeared with the sheriff and his men…. the people were officially called on to give up possession, and the houses were then demolished - roofs torn off, walls thrown down. The scene was frightful; women running, wailing with pieces of their property, clinging to door-posts from which they had been forcibly removed; men cursing, children screaming with fright…
That night the people slept in the ruins; next day they were driven out, the foundations of the houses were torn up and razed, and no neighbour was allowed to take them in.’
The Great Hunger
By Cecil Woodham Smith
This outrageous action was widely reported and condemned. However not all were of the opinion that the landlords had overstepped the mark. Lord Brougham, speaking in the House of Lords on 23 March was of the opinion that:
The tenants must be taught by the strong arm of the law that they had no power to oppose or resist…it was the landlord’s undoubted, indefeasible and most sacred right to deal with his property as he wished.
However his fellow Lord, and one of the great landowners of Ireland, The Marquess of Londonderry, speaking in the House of Lords on 30 March that year stated that:
I am deeply grieved, but there is no doubt concerning the truth of the evictions at Baltinglass. Seventy six families, comprising 300 individuals had not only been turned out of their houses, but had even – the unfortunate wretches – been mercilessly driven from the ditches to which they had betaken themselves for shelter.
Nevertheless despite widespread condemnation the evictions were never rescinded.