Taken from the publication ‘Kilanerin’, published c1987

The evictions of 1887

One of the most tragic events in the history of the Parish took place over one hundred and twenty two years, this year the Croghan evictions – the history of the incident has been well documented. Here we give a synopsis, taken from contemporary newspaper accounts.

“Going they went and wept,
Casting their seeds
But coming they shall came with joyfulness
Carrying their sheaves”

These few lines from one of th psalms sums up the life of the farmer in this small part of Ireland in the second half of the 19th century. Certainly the 108 tenants on the Brooke Estate had more reasons for wiping than for joy as they struggled “to make ends meat” while paying such totally unjustified rents. In 1879 when Michael Davitt set up the Land League to resist landlord tyranny, the tenants of Ballyfad were only to happy to support the “plan of campaign”, in December 1886 the tenants of Ballyfad issued the following statement: “we declare our undying resolve to refuse to pay unjust exorbitant rent whilst at the same time declaring our readiness to pay that rent which the immense fall in the value of produce enable us to pay”.

Captain Hamilton was the agent for the Brooke Estate. On Monday 28 th February 1887, a group of about 100 constabulary were called to the area to accompany and protect Captain Hamilton and his 12 emergency men on their evicting campaign. On Thursday 7 th July, 8 farmers were evicted from the Ballyfad area – the first house attacked belonged to Patrick Kehoe of Glenogue. He and his wife and 5 young daughters were evicted. Eliza Kehoe was brought before Captain Slack charged with assaulting the bailiffs with rotten eggs. That same day the emergency men proceeded to the residence of Thomas and Owen Kennedy were they were met with great resistance. Owen Kennedy never recovered his property; it was used as a barracks by the emergency men, was later sold to William Tutty and is now owned by his son Tommy. Captain Hamilton then ordered his men to evict Michael Kehoe who had 33 acres of mountain land and after demolishing everything that came their way they fastened up the house.

Daniel McDonald, a farmer of 18 acres of rough land, was next to go and finally on that fateful evening, Matt Redmond who farmed about 8 acres of mountain land was put to the road. Shortly after dawn the following morning Sherriff Hamilton and a group of emergency men arrived at the home of Patrick Greene while he was still sleeping. An attack was made on the lower windows but they were beaten back by pots of boiling gruel being poured on them from the upstairs windows, however in spite of their brave efforts, the Greene family was evicted. Neighbour Thomas Kinsella was next to go, by the way, that house is now occupied by a distant cousin of his – Patrick Doyle.

The “Crowbar Brigade” then marched on to evict John Kavanagh of Croghan and his family, including his 88 year old father. The next house on the list for attack was that of Terence D’Arcy, Rathpierce, who’s 80 year old mother was quiet ill in bed that day so the eviction was postponed. This house is still occupied by the D’Arcy family. The next day or two saw the return of the emergency men to the rugged slopes of Croghan and up the narrow lane to the 38 acre farm of William Graham. The struggle here was long and tough, and after enduring much hardship from buckets of boiling water being thrown on them, the emergency men got onto the roof where they removed slates and cut through the rafters, thus gaining entry. All the occupants – William Graham and his brothers, George, Garret and Richard, his daughter Alice and his niece, Mary McDonald – were handcuffed two by two and taken to Wexford prison. William Graham later recovered his holding and is now owned by Paddy Graham.

When the “Crowbar Brigade” arrived to evict John Butler of Rathpierce, a huge crowd gathered to scoff and jeer at every futile stroke of the crowbars. Others evicted were Edward Mulligan of Upper Croghan and this holding was later recovered and is now owned by his granddaughter – Mrs. Bridget Kehoe; Philip and Alice Maher, holding now occupied by granddaughter – Mrs. Ned Carton; Mick Kinsella, Croghan – holding later recovered and now owned by grandnephew Peter Bush.

One morning towards the end of July a big crowd gathered for what was to be the final eviction in Ballyfad, it took place at the home of Mrs. Anne D’Arcy and her daughter Catherine. Mrs. D’Arcy was a 70 year old widow of delicate health who spent a lot of time confined to bed. Nevertheless, she bravely faced the bailiff and defiantly challenged him with words: “You may caset me out on the dunghill or put a bullet through my heart but death before dishonour”. Mrs. D’Arcy recovered the holding which is still owned by her relatives, the Cullen Family, which is now the Post Office of Ballyfad.

These savage evictions were carried out in a period of little more than two weeks and in all about 60 families from Ballyfad and the neighbouring townlands were evicted. Most of the evicted families found shelter in the adjoining Parishes of Arklow and Gorey, and only eight children attended the school in Ballyfad. George Brooke brought in several planters to occupy the farms of the evicted tenants, they were boycotted by the local people and went away again in a few years, and the tenants returned under new laws. George Brooke was later killed in World War I. A window to his memory can be seen in the Protestant Church in Inch.