A landlord is a man who has property or keeps lodgings to whom tenants pay a fixed rent. The operative word here is fixed, something an Irish landlord had complete will to establish as he wished, often using his immense power to do just that. Many Irish landlords were cruel and looking to make a good buck at the expense of poor Irish peasantry but that was not always the case and one has to understand the situation of the times.
Several things contributed to the disaster so to put all the blame on landlords, perhaps is too simplistic an explanation. Not for the first time, the potato crop failed in the mid nineteenth century. This was the staple of the poor Irish diet. Along with widespread famine, all other crops were exported out of Ireland, the prices increased as well, and store houses of grain kept locked while the British government adopted a Laissez-faire doctrine of response, creating mass hunger, misery, evictions, emigration, and for some, death. Many landlords left their Irish estates in the hands of an estate agent, some leaving the country altogether. The estate agents had one goal and one only, to make the estate viable. Soon all landlords were grouped together as tyrants.
Not all landlords fit into this stereotype but there with their horrible reputations, would it be that easy to trust any landlord?.
Josslyn Augustus Richard Gore-Booth was born in 1869, a year after his famous revolutionary sister, Constance Markievicz. He was sensitive and caring and thought to be frail, yet these qualities did not hold him back from endeavors which not only expanded and cultivated the rich estate of Lissadell in County Sligo but endeared him to the Irish peasantry by creating jobs from it.
Sir Josslyn officially took over Lissadell estate in 1889. He was just 31 years old. He made remarkable accomplishments in business at a time when many Anglo-Irish landowners were struggling to make ends meet. Not only was the Lissadell property in good hands but it had multiple ambitions and Josselyn, personally had his hands in several different pots, all of them to benefit his Irish tenants by creating jobs. Added to this was his encouragement to other landlords to allow their tenants to buy portions of their land via the Wyndham Land Bill.
So what were some of these philanthropic endeavors and how would they affect the poor Irish? Go here for more on Gore-Booth history. Josselyn was but one landlord in a succession of generous Gore-Booth landlords in Ireland. So many people were dependent on Sir Josslyn that when he decided to get married at the age of 37, something many thought he would never do, his employees and tenants became restless. Three days before his wedding, which was in June of 1907, there were all sorts of rumors “going round that he was going to shut up the place and sack everybody.” The morning of the wedding he visited the ‘shirt factory’ to relay this was not the case. He tried to pacify irate shareholders. He also attended a meeting of the Sligo Leitrim Railway Company, in the hopes that things would quiet down before he returned from his honeymoon in America.
To show how well the new Gore-Booth couple was thought of they were welcomed home from their honeymoon by way of fireworks and huge bonfires. After they were settled back in to Lissadell House as man and wife, Sir Josslyn threw a party for over 300 guests in the Gore-Booth tradition of supplying food, games and dancing.
So what was the estate of the Gore-Booths at Lissadell all about in the early 20th century?
- Farming with the most modern of equipment at the time.
- Livestock breeding including the Aberdeen Angus herd established by Sir Henry Gore-Booth, Josslyn’s father.
- A Saw Mill.
- Experimenting in softwood trees to determine the best species to replant in Ireland.
- A shirt factory set up in 1902. Sir Josslyn bought the company in 1907 when it was deep in debt and saving it the danger of being closed, saving people their jobs.
Several Co-Operative Creameries. The Drumcliff Co-operative Creamery boasted nearly all the farmers in their respective districts. These are just some of the opportunities that flowed over to the lower to middle class Irish via the Gore-Booths.
To learn more interesting and positive facts about the Irish read 100 Things You Didn’t Know about Ireland. Add a comment by April 15th go here and get a Free Review copy of the Ebook. Click on this link .
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