Cois Laoi in Ballingeary in the Múscraí Gaeltacht is a house with a colourful history. It was at this property in 1906, when Ireland was still under British Rule, that it’s said the eviction that ‘broke the landlords grip on Ireland’ took place. Irish tenant farmers paid rent to the British landlord for their holdings.
With an asking price of €195,000, this charming traditional farmhouse stands on circa 1 acre. The property also includes a newly fenced paddock, large outbuildings ideal for conversion into workshops, holiday apartments or studios and a large stone built outbuilding and a detached garage.
The great-grandfather of the family now selling this six-bedroom property, Jeremiah O’Mahony was a farmer with 46 acres of land.
In 1876, his landlord, Stephen Grehan of Banteer, raised his annual rent from £6 to £12, and told O’Mahony that arrears were also due on his rent. Jeremiah O’Mahony was happy to pay the arrears, £2 to £3, every year until it was cleared.
In 1900, O’Mahony sent a letter to the landlord stating that the arrears had been cleared. Grehan did not agree with this, and a summons came from the High Court demanding £48.
The local Parish Priest in Ballingeary tried to intervene for the family on three different occasions but failed to dissuade the landlord from taking possession of the O’Mahony farm.
A sherriff in Cork city sold the farm to the landlord’s agent, William Simpson, for a nominal amount, and on July 24,1906, the sherriff, along with William Simpson and two policemen arrived at the O’Mahony home and evicted the family. The eviction happened quietly, unknown to anybody.
That evening news of the eviction spread around the parish of Ui Laoghaire. A crowd of 150 people marched to the O’Mahony home and surrounded it. They threw showers of stones on top of the roof and shouted and threatened Simpson to leave.
One of the policemen came out to negotiate with the leaders of the crowd. He begged them to leave Simpson there until morning, but the crowd was adamant he was to leave immediately. He left in the middle of the night flanked by the policemen. Simpson stayed in Ballingeary barracks that night, leaving at the crack of dawn the next day, and taking the early train from Macroom to Cork.
That night the triumphant crowd marched through the village carrying lighting sods of turf on pitchforks and singing songs of victory. Among the crowd was Thomas MacDonagh, one of the signatories of the Proclamation of Independence in 1916, and Tomás MacCurtain who later became Lord Mayor of Cork. Ten people were subsequently arrested and appeared before Macroom Court, charged for have congregated illegally and attacking William Simpson. They were released from prison soon after on heavy bail.
One week later, there was a second attempted eviction of the O’Mahony family. This time a garrison of policemen surrounded the house and a second agent was installed in the home of the O’Mahony Family. There were similar scenes of violence and this ended in the O’Mahony family being reinstated in their home, this time for good. The landlord, Stephen Grehan returned the land to the O’Mahony family in their own name. Other landlords followed suit, and this is why it is said to have been the eviction that ‘broke the landlords grip on Ireland’.
The house is a five-minute walk from Ballingeary village, a traditional Gaelic speaking area where English is also spoken fluently, with a primary and post-primary school, a supermarket, two pubs, a Garda station, resident doctors and a church.
A plaque on the side gable of the house that faces the road was unveiled in 1956 to mark the half-century since the O’Mahony’s were returned to their home.
The selling agent for Cois Laoi is REA Celtic Properties in Bantry.