Wednesday 9 July 2014

New book explores the mid-C19th role of land agents
A new book, The Irish land agent, 1830-60, The case of King's County by Dr Ciarán Reilly, will be of interest to many genealogists and historians.

The book challenges the long-held stereotype of land agents as the tormentors of tenant farmers, and having identified over 100 men who acted as land agents during the period 1830 to 1860, it examines their role and function during a time when their skills and qualifications were truly tested.

Ciarán Reilly is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at NUIM. His study of Land Agents in Offaly, then King's County, took more than seven years to research and write, and he's highlighted the following content as likely to be of special interest to readers of Irish Genealogy News.

  • The book lists:
    • More than 100 land agents who worked in the county
    • More than 100 others who worked as stewards, bailiffs, rent warner's etc
    • Estates sold in the Incumbered Estates Court in Offaly 1849-60 (75 properties)
    • Major evictions which occurred in Offaly during the Famine
  • This book highlights the efforts of land agents to promote new farming methods and crops and challenges the social memory of land agents in Offaly, exploring why many have been demonised.
  • Offaly was one of the most violent counties in Ireland in the mid-19th century, where three landlords, seven land agents and countless estate officials were murdered.
  • The book identifies the reasons for some of the most high-profile murders including the earl of Norbury at Durrow; John Gatchell at Clonbullouge; Charles Trench Cage at Ferbane; Robert Pyke at Killyon; and William Ross Manifold at Blueball.
  • The legacy of the land agents is very much alive in Offaly today and many famous local landmarks are named in their memory, including Cage’s Bridge; Manifold’s Hole; Gatchell’s Bush and Pyke’s Tree.
  • Agents who figure prominently include Francis Berry at Tullamore; Thomas Murray at Edenderry; George Garvey at Durrow & Moneygall; George Heenan at Birr; and John Corcoran at Killyon.
  • It also provides comprehensive insight into landed estates in Offaly in the mid-19th century, delving into the world of the Parsons at Birr; the Digbys at Geashill; the Charlevilles at Tullamore; the Downshires at Edenderry; the Gambles, the Jolys, the Droughts and many more.
The 192-page book is now available through Four Courts Press. A formal launch will take place in early August (date yet to be finalised) at the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Bury Quay, Tullamore. I'll bring further details when they're released.

Ciarán Reilly will be talking about his new book on The Moncrieff Show (Newstalk 106-108FM) today at 2pm.

UPDATE, 14 August: The Irish land agent, 1830-60, The case of King's County will be formally launched by Professor Terence Dooley of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates on Thursday 21 August at 8pm. Venue: Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. For details email Four Courts Press.