An Attempt At Commercial Farming In Ireland After The Famine

By Padraig G. Lane


The Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 had as its, objectives the introduction to Ireland of proprietors who possessed the capital and who would manage estates on the positive lines of the high-farming system. This paper is a study of the manner in which one new landowner, Allan Pollock, managed the several and extensive properties purchased by him in the Encumbered Estates Court. It illustrates the Act's objectives and shows the kind of tensions that arose when the commercialisation on the agrarian structure came into conflict with customary conceptions of how that structure should be ordered.

Allan Pollock had commercial and agricultural interests in and near Glasgow. The firm of Pollock, Calmour & Co. traded in timber between Quebec, Liverpool and Glasgow. After fifty years in business Pollock and his brother John decided to retire from the firm and invest their capital in the purchase of estates in Ireland. From July 1853 to June 1858 Pollock paid £212,460 for 25,234 acres of land in Galway. The several property almost entirely situated in the East-Riding of Galway, formerly belonged to John Beatty West, Julia M. Burke, Christian St. George, William Bissett, John Eyre, Edmund Dowell, Thomas Hackett and Richard Gore Daly. These properties did not represent, however, an initial interest in agriculture for Pollock. He possessed an estate in Renfrewshire, which had been in his family for a number of generations, and he had there come under the influence of the Scottish improvers.

An analysis of Pollock's managerial policy is, best given unity by a study of its implementation on the lands of Creggs and Glinsk. These made up the property of Julia M. Burke, which had been in Chancery since 1849 and which was sold to Pollock on 24th February 1854. Analysis of his policy on this property and reaction to it are enlarged upon by reference to occurrences on the other properties purchased by him.

A Galway Estate

The village of Creggs is five miles from the town of Ballygar, Co. Galway, and just across that county's boundary line with Roscommon. Glinsk is on the Ballymoe side of Creggs. By all accounts, it was a turbulent area. Denis Kelly, the local resident magistrate, had occasion to remark that 'the two worst corners of Ireland for ribbandism [i.e. agrarian agitation] in this part of the world are near the Four Roads in the Barony of Athlone, Co. Roscommon, the mountain of Glinsk in the Barony of Ballymoe, Co Galway. Even Father Coffey, the priest of Creggs and a pastor who was to defend the tenants’ interests against Pollock, had occasion to complain in 1851 that 'Creggs is the favourite battleground for all those who have got a quarrel to decide or an injury, real or imaginary, to avenge'.

Julia M. Burke's Property contained in all 7,414 acres and its total rental stood at £1,861.8s.0p. The sale particulars stated, however, that the rents had been settled when land was depressed in value during the Famine and that if new lettings were made by a purchaser the rents could justifiably be increased. It was also adduced as an advantage to a purchaser that there were no leases inexistence upon the property, a great portion of it being held by yearly tenure and the residue under terminable Court of Chancery lettings.

By his own avowal, the prospect of early possession of a property was the inducement that guided all of Allan Pollock's purchases of land in Galway. His purchases were also made on the strength of the estate's potential rental rather than on the rental then in force. Pollock though it to be in his interests to divide the properties into ‘pretty extensive farms, and invest suitable farm standings to accommodate tenants with capital who might be expected to improve the property and do good to themselves and to me’. Such principles of estate management were in line with the tenets of the Scottish improvers and in accordance with Pollock’s experience in Renfrewshire. When he took possession of the Burke estate at Creggs and Glinsk, however, he discovered that instead of an apparent eighty-three tenants there were nearly six hundred tenants and a population approaching to nearly three thousand, nearly all the tenants paying £5, or under, of rent’. There ere some tenuous evidence to suggest that this ‘pauper Popish population’, as Denis Kelly the magistrate described it, had been created by the connivance of the receiver for his own ends. At any rate, Pollock considered the tenantry to be ‘neither possessed of capital nor skill to suit me as tenants’. They had, he further remarked, ‘the appearance of the great poverty and want of comfort, arising, I think, from numerous families lining in comparative idleness upon a few acres of land’. Such a deployment of holdings had proved ruinous to the previous owner, he considered. ‘If obliged to quit their holdings,’ he observed, ‘it would force them to turn to more industry and benefit both the country and themselves.’ He was determined from the outset, therefore, to rationalize the deployment of the agricultural holdings. ‘I never came under any promise not to evict an single man,’ he stated in 1856 after a year or more in ownership and after determined resistance to his management had arisen, ‘nor could I possibly do so, as it would have denied me not only all hope of an adequate return for my capital but would have interfered with a proper power of improving the property.’

Firm Beneficence

Pollock endeavoured to implement his rationalization of the property in a benevolent manner. ‘He commenced buying up the interest of the small tenantry at so absurdly liberal a scale that if he had got all at the same rate it would have nearly doubled his purchase, but the population, seeing him thus liberal and being all bound up in the ribboned conspiracy, determined they would not sell and drove him to ejectments,’ stated Denis Kelly in a note to the Under Secretary, Larcom. The tenants’ claim was that they were led to believe that ‘no solvent industrious tenant’ would be disturbed and that in consequence the service of the initial notices to quit was not impeded but that when this occurred Pollock followed up this action by the service of ejectment notices. The tenants claimed that they were ready to pay rent to Pollock but that hw was not interested in receiving anything but their holdings. A considerable number of the tenants were substantial, to all appearances, and possessed capital, and to this extent Pollock’s description of them can be questioned. These, as Bernard Cummins, the constabulary sup-inspector in Ballygar, remarked, could not be expected to be other than reluctant to re-orientate themselves to the standing of labourers. It appears however, that Pollocks’ rationalization programme was aimed as much, if not more, against these farmers or graziers as it was against the economically unviable smaller tenants. He considered that the graziers did not use their holdings in a purposeful manner and that they had exploited the small occupiers by forcing them to the marginal land on the estate and by failing to employ labour consistently and remuneratively. The grazier-farmers were thus incompatible with Pollock’s determination to deploy the holdings on his property according to his own lights and his labour-orientated agricultural policy. This becomes clear from the composite picture that emerges of what occurred on the West estate.

Poor Farmer or Well-Paid Labourer?

Pollock had purchased the 10,808 acre property of Elizabeth West at Lismany near Ballinasloe in 1853 for £105,000. It had a record of turbulence. Despite evictions by the owner it had remained unsettled and poverty-stricken. The Large landholders were reputed to be behind the resistance to the Wests. Pollock, upon purchasing it, set about implementing his ideas. Conflicting versions of what occurred were given by partisans of both Pollock and the tenants. The tenants claimed that, despite their readiness to pay rent, Pollock adhered to his consolidation policy and proceeded to level as many as two-thirds of the houses and in compensation for the many evictions had erected ‘nine farm steadings, twenty cottages, one corn-mill and one mansion’ The Freeman’s Journal, on their behalf, believed that Pollock’s option of laboured status or complete removal from the property was unrealistic. ‘He talks of improving – perhaps intends it – but he takes the means to ruin his tenantry. How can Mr. Pollock expect to improve what is called in Ireland a “snug farmer” by converting him into a spade labourer?’ the Journal observed. ‘Men who were wont to ride a good horse to market – give £3 to the priest on a marriage festival, and hand £100 bank notes to the young farmer who won the daughter’s heart’ could not be expected to ‘slink down to day-men, called by ring of Mr. Pollock’s bell’. On Pollock’s behalf, it was argued that all but nine of the tenants on the West estate assented to his arrangements and that he had ‘upwards of 400 persons in his employment, to whom he gives far higher wages, and wages paid in cash, than were ever before given in the country’. He was reported as paying double the rate of 6d a day hitherto paid by the farmers, and it was stated that it was these same farmers of from 25-40 acres, possessed of means but unwilling to pay rent to either the former receiver or to Pollock, who were deprived of large tracts of land, because they were 'listless and idle and running about to fairs and markets, while their lands are in a most: miserable state of' cultivation'. The removal of such men allowed Pollock to cultivate the property intensively and to employ the occupiers on his property 'in place of them going, yearly to England to the hay and corn harvest'.

That evictions did occur on a large scale on the West property cannot be gainsaid. A quarterly report on evictions in Galway East for the quarter ending on 30th September 1853 indicates that 597 persons were evicted by Pollock on the West property with. 310 of the dispossessed being re-admitted. No houses were reported. as being leveled on that occasion, a point that is consistent with. Pollock's claim on another occasion that he resorted to evictions in order to force the tenants to re-orientate themselves to labourer status. There would, indeed, appear to have been a potential labour force existent in the number of tenants who were re-admitted. The same labour-orientated management policy would appear to have been implemented on the Quansboro-Lisdaniska property of Christian St George, purchased by Pollock in 1854, at the same time as the Burke property at Creggs and Glinsk.

Police Assistance

Having failed, except in a few instances, to win the tenants on the Burke Property to an acceptance of labourer status on being compensated for disturbance, Pollock persevered in his endeavour to force them into accepting his terms by serving notices to quit. 0n 30th and 31st March 1854 a force of twenty-five of the constabulary were assembled for the protection of his bailiffs while serving notices. It was the beginning of almost three years of trouble on the estate, trouble that was simultaneously complemented by outrages on his other properties, where reaction was also setting in against his consolidation programme. By 9th June 1854, 1,400 of the tenantry on the Burke estate lay under the threat of eviction. 'The feeling of the peasantry against Pollock is very bitter and some of the worst disposed ruffians in the country are in the district,' Denis Kelly, the magistrate, wrote anxiously to Colonel Larcom on that day, seeking a re-appraisal of the arrangements for preserving order in the district. 0n June 28th, after the burning of Mr. Pollock's mansion at Sycamore Hill near Eyrecourt and of two unoccupied houses at Lisanacody on Pollock's other properties, Kelly was still more concerned. The houses and mansion had been bought in from tenants with compensation. Already in May, Pollock and his agents were given occasional constabulary protection. After further incidents in August and October, when tenants in Creggs were warned against handing over their crop's to Pollock, when Mr. Snodgrass, his local agent there, was threatened and when a dwelling-house and barn at Annaghcorrib, near Eyrecourt, were burned to the ground, after the occupying tenants had accepted Pollock's settlement terms, a permanent protection party was settled on Pollock's property at Creggs and Glinsk at the request of Pollock. In September, in fact, on Pollock's bog a Dr Bayley of Rookwood was approached threateningly, while hunting, by two men who had mistaken him for Pollock. 0n 10th January 1855 and on 28th March following other unoccupied houses were burned on Pollock's property. Denis Kelly was concerned. 'Our Creggs district, Pollock's territory, is still very uneasy and "combination" so fast gaining ground that I am very apprehensive of bad work and it is a scene of awful mismanagement and loss of money,' he wrote in a letter to Larcom in April.

Kelly's concern is understandable in the context of the determined and violent resistance made to several efforts by Pollock's bailiffs to serve ejectment notices from January to March. All initial effort at the end of January was abandoned when, despite a constabulary protection party of fifty-three men, Pollock's' agent could not find anyone to point out the houses to be served to the process server from Dublin. A second effort on February 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th  was only effected after the protection force had been increased from fifty-three to eighty-three men. So determined was the resistance to the service that Bernard Cummins warned the authorities that, if Pollock persisted in his determination to clear three thousand persons, a force of three hundred men would be needed. The people, stated Cummins, thought it better to die once in defense of their holdings 'than become inmates of a poor-house'. Forewarned of this frame of mind, Cummins accordingly headed of an independent effort by Pollock's agent to post ejectment notices on public buildings in Creggs on February 28th in view of the prospective inability of the small force of constabulary to save the Dublin process server from a market-day crowd of four hundred tenants. Further efforts on March 10th and 12th were also violently resisted.

Failure In Court

The event which really buoyed up the determination of the tenantry, however, was the failure of Pollock to obtain a favourable verdict in an eviction test case at Galway Assizes. The tenants in the suit were jubilant when Burke, the process server who had served the initial notices to quit, failed to appear in court to prove the services. Burke, despite a search for him from February 27th to March 7th, was not available for possibly two reasons. It was alleged that he was annoyed that Pollock would not allow him £200 for a house that he owned on the property. It was also alleged that he had been intimidated by the ribbon conspiracy in the district.

For the moment the verdict caused a pause in the carrying out of Pollock's programme. A number of tenants had accepted his terms of compensation, namely, the foregoing of all rents owed and payments for crops. He had a modicum of success also in the eviction of four families consisting of twenty-seven persons who were, however, allowed to re-enter as caretakers and who presumably assented to become labourers. Two further families were evicted in June 1855 and were then re-settled on another part of the property and several other tenants accepted compensation for their holdings during the summer. Temporarily resigned to a postponement of the major programme of consolidation, Pollock's agent, satisfied that the tenants would also for the moment be peaceable, dispensed with the permanent protection that had been afforded by the constabulary on the property. It was but a lull in the storm, however, and Denis Kelly, the magistrate, was on hand to record the renewal of turmoil.

Pollock obtained the services of James B. Concannon of Glantane, a local solicitor. On behalf of Pollock he again proffered terms to the tenants. He offered them two years' rent if they would give up possession. Failing in this, he proceeded to obtain a protection party of constabulary for the further service of notices to quit on the tenants of Creggs and Glinsk before September 29th. Concannon had secured Burke, who, having already served most of the estate, would enable a large number of the tenants to be evicted at the next sessions or assizes and who, knowing as he did everyone on the property personally, would place the entire tenantry of the estate at his mercy. Concannon sent Burke over to Scotland until the time was ready to prove his former services or serve new notices. Kelly became apprehensive. With the prospects of the tenants selling their crops to Pollock in the knowledge of Burke's power over them, Kelly feared that a large haggard at Fairfield on the Creggs section of the estate, built to receive such crops, would be burned and that the labourers bringing in those crops would be attacked. The long winter nights that were imminent also troubled him in the light of his considered opinion that the Catholic clergy of the district were urging the tenants to resist forcibly any effort to dispossess them, whether by compensation or eviction, so that their livings would not be cut off by the clearance envisaged by Pollock. He was apprehensive that the rank and file of the constabulary, being also Catholic, were untrustworthy in the circumstances. He was urging Colonel Larcom therefore, to see to the augmentation of the constabulary in the district and to the re-establishment of a protection force on the property itself, so that the local agent, Snodgrass, might not be shot and so that prospective service of ejectments would be effected without bloodshed.

Clergy Involvement

There was, in fact, truth in Kelly's allegation that the Parish Priest, Father Mulrennan, and the curate, Father Gillion, of Creggs were supporting the tenants in their stand against Pollock. The Parish Priest of Glinsk, according to Kelly, had died of apoplexy on the altar, while denouncing Pollock. Concannon claimed that, as a result of denunciatory sermons in Creggs on September 23rd, he could not get anyone to serve the papers, just when he had obtained a protection party of a hundred of the constabulary for their service. He also claimed that as a result of the sermons an agreement on the part of the tenants, to hand over their crops on September 27th in return for their full value, compensation for disturbance from their holdings and a receipt for two and a half years' rent, did not materialize. We have already referred to the support given to the tenants on the West property by the Catholic clergy. Their stand and that taken by the Creggs and Glinsk clergy was to be followed in 1856 by Father Colley, a former Parish Priest of Creggs, and by Father Barry, the Parish Priest of Clonfert. It was in a pattern also with the stand taken by the clergy on other properties in Galway and Mayo at this time. The failure of Concannon to obtain bailiffs as a result of the denunciatory sermons provoked Thomas Miller, Pollock's Dublin-based agent, to write to the authorities, reiterating Concannon's complaint against the Catholic clergy of Creggs. 'I have no doubt that but for the interference of the Roman Catholic clergy, the people would have been all quiet, as they were well disposed to agree to Mr. Pollock's most liberal propositions and I feel ashamed of the conduct of the Roman Catholic gentry of the country, who disapproving of the conduct of the priests, as they do, yet have not the manliness or courage to openly say so.' Since he feared that 'with all the seeming quietness of the country, it is more like a smouldering volcano ready to burst out when the opportunity offers', he requested a renewal of the protection party afforded to the property in the previous winter.

Miller's, and indeed Denis Kelly's, analysis of the agrarian feeling of the countryside is interesting in the context of a countryside survey made at the same time by the authorities on the incidence of ribbandism and the advisability of continuing in force the Peace Preservation Act. While the consensus of constabulary opinion was that the countryside was quiet and that ribbandism was relatively confined in a dormant state to a thin wedge of the country which rail from East Clare and East Galway through Westmeath and Meath to Monaghan and Armagh, there was an admission that, while increasing agricultural prices, increased rates of agricultural wages and better landlord-tenant relations had caused the system to decline, it needed 'but an exciting cause to bring it at once into operation'. The raising of rents, evictions or the taking of farms after evictions were considered to be the primary sparks which set off new conflagrations.

Agrarian Militancy

Miller's and Kelly's prognostications are also interesting in the context of immediate occurrences on the Pollock properties. On the property of Edmund Dowell, for instance, conveyed to Pollock on December 15th, the receiver was forced to seek constabulary protection when a distraint he was making for arrears of rent was resisted by a stone-carrying mob and the stock re-taken, when cattle on other holdings were removed at his approach and when he failed to obtain reapers to cut the standing corn. He obtained a protection party of a hundred men for a distraint on December 3rd, but due to 'the desperate and lawless disposition of the people in this locality' the force did not prove sufficient to prevent the crowd from taking away the distraint again. The occurrences were a barometer of agrarian feeling as a whole on Pollock's properties in the Creggs and other districts. On December 17th 18th and 19th a constabulary force of one hundred and seventy-five men from Roscommon and Galway were needed to effect the service of those ejectment notices at Creggs and Glinsk which Concannon had been unable to effect on October 2nd. Kelly, in fact, had been fearful of a coordinated attack by the disaffected tenantry on both the Dowell and Burke properties and it does appear that the tenantry were determined to resist the police. Even a force of twenty dragoons from Roscommon was requested to be ready for a possible clash. The protection party assembled was sufficient to overawe the tenants and, with the exception of some boiling water thrown at the bailiffs, the ejectment notices were successfully and peacefully served on the tenantry of two parishes on the property, Kilbegnet and Balinakill. While all open engagement with the constabulary and dragoons was dodged by the tenantry, there was evidence to suggest that three mendicants strolling the district were men from Limerick and Tipperary engaged to organize the shooting of Pollock at his home in Glasgow; Pollock's local steward, Algeo, was also reputed to have been in danger. The conspiracy and the militancy of the tenants was attributed firmly by Pollock to the success with which the tenantry had been able to forestall their eviction. 'It appears to we very unfortunate for Ireland that such a feeling should exist with the tenantry that they have a right to remain in possession of their holdings after the expiring of their agreements,' he stated in a letter to Sir George Grey, the Horne Secretary, seeking the service of ejectments through the post, a proposition which was turned down by the Government. The Government, while conscious of the potential beneficent effects of Pollock's consolidation programme, considered that 'a more prudent regard to the habits and feelings of the population would have been desirable'. The Government was also conscious of the attention Pollock's policy was arousing in Parliament and did not wish to exacerbate the situation by sanctioning a change in the practice of serving ejectments. It considered that he could effect the services in the normal manner by getting fearless bailiffs.

Pollock was again defeated, however, in a test case at Galway Assizes in March 1856. This time his defeat occurred by reason of the fact that his lawyer's clerk could not identify the defendants or swear that the names of the defendants were in the notices he had served. He had apparently filled in blank notices, sent from Dublin from the maps and rentals, without personal knowledge of the terrain or the tenantry. A further objection raised against Pollock's suit on this occasion was that since Pollock's wife held joint ownership of the property she could not legally confer a delegated authority to turn out a tenant.

This second defeat, coupled with a full-scale debate in Parliament in the following months on the subject of his policy, resulting from a petition to Parliament on behalf of the tenants of Klibegnet and Ballinakill on the Burke property, forced Pollock on the defensive and provoked a certain amount of interesting analytical comment on the merits of his policy among public partisans of both Pollock and the tenants.

Parliament And Press

At the initial debate on the petition on April 29th it was suggested, even by Disraeli and Palmerston that Pollock's evictions and the constabulary support he needed for the evictions and for the protection of his property were a provocation to disorder in rural Ireland and tended to destroy the overall good effect produced by the Encumbered Estates Court. Upon the resumption of the debate on May 27th, by which time the Government had been documented on the subject, support for Pollock and the tenants tended. to polarize in conflicting reports as to the occurrences and their good or bad effects, a summary of which has already been given. A measure of qualified approval by George Henry Moore, the tenant-right supporter, for the employment given by Pollock, drew fire on him by Father Colley of Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon, the former Parish Priest of Kilbegnet. The argument for tenants on the occasion of the debate in Parliament was based on material supplied by another tenant-pastor, Father Derry, the Parish Priest of Clonfert.

Moore, it would appear, had taken a letter written by Pollock to the Dally Express to mean that Pollock was imbued with a genuine wish to improve the tenantry and was amenable to taking an amicable settlement with the tenants, which would not entail dispossession of their properties or their reduction to the status of labourers, and on the basis of this Moore had attributed a proper sense of a landlord's duty to Pollock. He denied in correspondence with Father Coffey that he had taken a stand against the tenants' interests, and the genuineness of Moore's apologia is ascertainable from a letter he wrote to Pollock at this time, although it should be noted that Moore, while suggesting continuance of the tenants of a yearly tenure, was careful to observe that such did not imply tenure in perpetuity and that good conduct determined even this yearly tenure. Pollock's own letter, upon which Moore based his judgment of him, was in the Daily Express of May 28th. In this letter Pollock adopted the tone of all injured, misunderstood and benevolent tycoon, who had spent capital in an effort to contribute to the 'material prosperity and happiness of the people in my employment'. He spelled out the principles on which he acted, principles which we have already alluded to, and recorded the circumstances in which he obtained the property. He grieved that although he had got neither rent nor possession from the tenants of Creggs and Glinsk he had to pay poor-rates for them and he succinctly recounted the high labour content of his agriculture on the other properties he had bought.

The expected publicity in Parliament and his defeat at the March Assizes did not deter Pollock from fighting still further for his principles, although it did prompt him to make a renewed attempt at a friendly settlement, despite the continued refusal by the tenants to pay rents or settle amicably. On June 2nd Pollock's counsel was granted a new trial of the ejectment suits at Galway Assizes on July 19th. On this occasion Pollock got a verdict but undertook to give the tenants concerned their crops and to permit them to stay until. November. It was a test case again and its success would appear to have settled the problem on the Creggs-Glinsk property. On August 20th the remainder of the tenants were given notice to attend at Fairfield, the estate mansion, where they had the option of agreeing to go in November on the compensatory terms arranged or to pay their rents and be allowed a further year's tenure. On November 22nd the Western Star was able to report that there was a spirit of good feeling again on the estate, that those who had left their holdings were satisfied with the remunerative wages being paid to them as labourers and that those who had paid their rent were content with advantageous leases.

Pollock’s Agricultural Policy

It remains to survey the nature of Pollock's agriculture and the labour relations that existed on the properties he bought. Pollock's consolidation policy was co-existent in his own mind with a re-orientation of the dispossessed tenantry to the standing of labourers. 'So far from de-populating the district,' he stated of Creggs and Glinsk in his apologia to the Daily Express 'I Feel that the population is increased and will require to be still more increased to enable me to cultivate the land as I desire it.' he stated that since 1853, when he had first bought property, he had spent £130,000 upon budding, labour and other improvements and adduced as a proof 'that employment is very largely afforded to agricultural labourers', and that 'last year there were 700 acres of turnips grown and this year there are 1,400 acres of ground prepared for turnips, while before my purchase there were not 20 acres of turnips grown in any one year'. He added that: 'We have, besides, this year 400 acres of potatoes planted and other crops in proportion with a view to giving regular employment to the people, as well as to improve the soil.' The statement is informative in its own right and in the context of his concern, mentioned earlier in this paper, with the manner in which the farmers had allowed the land to deteriorate and had neglected to employ labour.

In August 1857 Pollock was reported as having twenty thousand acres in tillage for the stall-feeding of cattle and for workhorses on the West estate at Lismany, Ballinasloe. This would appear to have been the primary nature of Pollock's agriculture and to all appearances it did employ an extraordinary number of labourers. Henry Coulter, when traveling near Pollock's property at Ballinasloe at the end of the decade, reported that 'at least four hundred people are kept constantly at work'. A local journal, reporting in 1857 on a harvest festival on this properly at Ballinasloe, quoted an even higher figure Of 1,500 workers as obtaining 'daily employment, on the property. In April 1858 Pollock was reported as having 'ordered considerably more works to be commenced for the purpose of giving constant employment to the thousands of men, women and children whom he had raised from abject beggars to comparative independence'. It is interesting to note also that Coulter observed that 'Two of Mr. Pollock's large farms have been let to farmers, who possess sufficient capital to work them properly and for which purpose they also require a large number of men.' This, besides illustrating the carrying out of another facet of Pollock's managerial policy, was an example of the implementation of the capitalistic farming initially envisaged during discussion on the Encumbered Estates Bills. This considerable employment on the Pollock properties was a reproof to those who had questioned the advisability of tenants re-orientating themselves to the standing of labourers, a standing that might prove of only a temporary nature. Pollock's principal advocate at the debate on 27th May 1856, Sir Malcolm Shaw-Steward had pointed out the logicality of Pollock's considerable expenditure on farm buildings if purely pastoral farming was envisaged at any date.

Pollock did suspend employment on one occasion. This was after the burning of his mansion at Sycamore Hill in 1854, and the suspension apparently caused hardship among the labourers. This was an exceptional occasion. In 1857, when it appears that there was anxiety about the introduction of farm machinery on a large scale and the threat it posed to manual labourers, the Western Star wrote assuringly that it had not lessened the demand for such labour and that there was still plenty of work and wages.

Wages

The wages paid by Pollock were also considerable. In 1854, as we have seen, he was reported as doubling the daily rate of 6d and Pollock himself claimed it to be so. Bernard Cummins, the constabulary sub-inspector in Ballygar, reported however that the rate had increased from 8d or 10d to 1s but that this included meals. He attributed the rise in wages more to the scarcity of labour that resulted from emigration than to Pollock's beneficence. The argument by the Freeman's Journal in 1856 that the unremunerative nature of the labour market in the West at that time did not warrant handing over a rented dozen acres of poor land does not appear valid in the light of the scarcity of labour prevailing and the improved rate of wages actually available in the West. Where Coulter asserted a monthly payment of wages in excess of £700 on the Lismany estate at Ballinasloe, the Roscommon Journal claimed a wage bill of £4,000. In 1863 George Lowe, Pollock’s agent at Creggs, reported a wage bill of £81,963 during the previous six and a half years, £19,456 being paid out alone in the previous year and a half. One tenant, Larry Tierney, was reported as being considerably satisfied with his new status of labourer after being dispossessed in 1856. He was now able to take a bread and tea breakfast, which be could seldom or ever do when be had the land.'

Eventual Success?

Labour relations on the property appear to have been generally good. David McColl, one of Pollock's; stewards, was shot at near Eyrecourt, through a bedroom window on 24th May 1857 and on June 9th one of his blacksmiths was similarly shot at, but these incidents do not seem to have been the result of any popular dissatisfaction with Pollock's system. The only real evidence of labour trouble occurred in 1863 when an effort was made to force workmen to abandon work on a Church holiday. It was alleged that the workmen were given the option of working or been, thrown off the property. It was also alleged on this occasion that Pollock, had beguiled the priests of the parishes on the estate into believing that he would honour Church holidays in this matter of work and had then gone back on his word after he had successfully got the tenantry to accept the status of labourers.

Father Lavelle, in his book The Irish Landlord grouped Pollock with Lord Lucan and the Reverend William Palmer in a denunciation of sweeping clearances made in the interests of sheep and cattle. It is fair to balance Father Lavelle's judgment of Pollock, and to conclude this study of Pollock's management of his properties, by reference to a pleasant social occasion on Pollock's property in 1873 when Pollock was presented with a painting of his son by the tenantry. Allowing that it was probably not done together on their own initiative, their expression of gratitude for the employment he had given them must be given a certain degree of credence. Pollock himself observed in reply to their address that he was glad that he had lived 'to show that my plans, so misunderstood at one time, were not dictated by the selfish desire for mere wealth or aggrandizement, but by an honest purpose to improve the country, to develop the capacities of the soil and to benefit my fellowman by showing what well-directed skill and labour can accomplish.'

 'This paper is based on an M.A. thesis prepared by the author for University College, Dublin, in which full references for all details and quotations are given.