Carrowmenagh Evictions

Carrowmenagh Evictions

This article on the Carrowmenagh Evictions is taken from John McLaughlin’s Book “Carrowmenagh – History of a Donegal Village and Townland”. It describes the Evictions in Carrowmenagh in 1881

The townland of Carrowmenagh and Drumaville were under the landlord Hector Frederick McNeill in 1881. In the eighteenth century, Fredrick John Hamilton was landlord. It is believed that he got this land, because he may have been a soldier in the Williamite Army. The grant of this land is dated 10th May 1710. At some point the townland was transferred to Dan McNeill but it is not clear when this was done. He transferred his land to Malcolm, his next of kin, before the Famine as he was landlord during the years of 1845 – 1849. Hector Fredrick McNeill was the landlord in 1868 and according to the records his rent for the townland was £50 – 6 shillings – 3 pence and his address in 1890 was 22 St Bernard’s Crescent Edinburgh and he also had connections in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. A lot of landlords were well-known tyrants but not all of them.

In 1879 Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell set up the Land League. There was a lot of unrest in the country with absentee landlords increasing their “Rack Rent” on the poor tenants who were struggling to pay it and rear big families. They found it impossible to live. There were meeting all over Inishowen concerning these difficult problems and one meeting took place in a field below Carrowmenagh village, now know as the sports field: and it was from this gathering that the tenants decided that they had enough and would not pay the increase in the “Rack Rent”. Notice to quit was served on the tenants who were withholding their rent. After some time Hector F McNeill instructed his Agent James G H Harvey of Derry to proceed with the evictions. A large body of Royal Irish Constabulary and Army under Captain McCleod arrived on 28th December 1881 with their crowbars and tripods to break down the doors and windows of these thatched houses. Thirteen tenants were evicted that December day and according to eyewitnesses it was a bitterly cold day with the wind blowing from the East. The evicted tenants were to live with good friends and neighbours in surrounding townlands such as Carrowbeg, Ballymagarahy and Ballycharry. Some of the evicted tenants who hadn’t any place to go put on a fire and stayed behind a hedger or stone ditch until they got a house. A few people who didn’t own any land i.e. cottiers, were allowed to stay put. One of these was John McDermott, known locally as “Corncrake,” as he had a very croaky voice. A meeting took place in his house about evictions.

Fr Michael Farnan, Parish Priest of Moville, witnessed some of the Carrowmenagh evictions and in his letter to the Derry Journal 2nd January 1882 he gives a horrifying description of the scenes on Carrowmenagh street, with women and children crying. He tells of the offers he made to the Agents of 18 shillings in the pound and how they were rejected and about the people and children being all pulled to the streets and how the evictions went on for three days.

Every effort was done by the priest to effect an amiable settlement before the dire work of the Carrowmenagh evictions began, but to no purpose, the agents reiterating he would have no terms, but rent without reduction, not even a penny, and all costs. Money was offered by the priest but all was in vain. The order was given, the furniture was roughly torn out, and broken on the street. The poor helpless children, barefooted, and all but barebacked and hungry depicted on their faces, had to leave the old house. The crowbar brigade were ordered to unroof the house.

List of Tenants evicted in December 1881

Charles McFeeley

John McFeeley

Robert Beatty

Dan Beatty

Leislie McCann

John McDermott (Kildra)

Hugh McGonigle

Neil McLaughlin

Patrick McLaughlin

John McLaughlin (Corr)

John McConway

Henry McDermott


Item associated to the Carrowmenagh Evictions submitted by Dan McFeely from the USA

‘I wanted to offer a picture for your web site of Hannah McFeely, born in Carrowmenagh, Inishowen in county Donegal, February 4th 1869, who emigrated to the city of Harrison, New Jersey, in the USA, some time after the Carrowmenagh evictions of 1881.

Hannah McFeely, who emigrated to the USA due to the Carrowmenagh evictions
Hannah McFeely

We don’t know when this picture was taken, probably in Harrison, New Jersey some time during the early 1900’s.

Hannah was the sister of my great grandfather Michael McFeely, who emigrated to the USA in 1885. Michael was also born in Carrowmenagh, some time in 1865 or 1866.’

Dan McFeeley