When Boycott was Boycotted - 6th Apr. 1946


When Boycott was Boycotted: Text Version

Apr. 6 1946


Captain Boycott the man who gave a new word to the English language, was the son of an English clergyman. He attended a military academy and intended making the army his career. But after a few years he tired of the life and sold out his commission when stationed at Clonmel. He married and leased a small farm between Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. In the winter of 1854 he left Tipperary and leased an estate of 4,000 acres on the island of Achill. In 1873 he became agent for the Lough Mask estates of Lord Erne. At the same time he acquired a farm of a thousand acres for himself.

Boycott proved himself a harsh and unreasonable agent. He had little sympathy with his tenants in those hard years. 'He treated his cattle better than he did us', one of them told a correspondent of the 'Freeman's Journal' in 1880. On September 19th of that year Parnell at a great meeting in Ennis called on the people to shun anyone who took the farm of an evicted tenant. 'Put him into a moral coventry', he told them 'by isolating him from his kind as if he were a leper of old - you must show him your detestation of the crime he has committed'.

The 'vow' of the Land League was:-

'No! We shall leave untilled, unsown,

The lands however fair,

From which an honest man was thrown

Upon the roadside bare.'


The Irish tenant farmer struggling against the wrongs of one of the worst land systems in Europe, had found a terrible but less weapon. Mayo was the first place to put it into practice. On September the 24th, 1880, all Captain Boycott's employees left him at the request of the Ballinasloe Branch of the Land League. Everything came to a standstill. Nobody worked in his fields; the shop-keepers refused to sell him anything; the blacksmith would not shoe the horses. His crops were ripening, but there was no one to reap them. The crops were his first and most urgent worry.

The Orangemen of the North, decided to come to his aid. The 'Belfast News Letter' opened a fund and collected 800 pounds for the purpose. Thousands of the drum beaters were getting ready to set out to Ballinrobe. The English government did not relish the idea of an Orange invasion of Mayo at that particular moment; so they forbade the expedition. Boycott asked in desperation for fifty men to reap his crops and approval was given for sending fifty Ulster volunteer labourers.


They set out, escorted by hundreds of troops, traveling by special train to Claremorris. The Lough Mask district swarmed with soldiers. On November 9th three special trains with two hundred men of the 19th Hussars, and two companies of the Army Service Corps, with wagons, ambulances,and other war equipment, left Dublin for Ballinrobe, and at Athlone, the expedition was joined by another train with four hundred more men of the 84th Regiment.

On November 11th, the Northern labourers reached Mayo. When they alighted from the train at Claremorris no carman could be found to carry them to Ballinrobe, and so they had nothing better to do than to tramp the fifteen long miles of muddy roads to journey's end.

Fully seven thousand armed men lined the road between Claremorris and Ballinrobe. 'Well sir,' said a local carman, to a correspondent of 'The Times', 'tis the est menagerie that ever came into Connacht.'


They spent the night in the cavalry barracks at Ballinrobe, and set out next morning for Boycott's place at Lough Mask House, about four miles away. At the head of the party marched about a hundred police with loaded rifles; then came the hussars with drawn swords, then two hundred men of the 84th Regiment with fixed bayonets, marching in two files with the Ulster labourers between them. In the rear walked two Companies of the 84th Regiment, guarding the provisions and fuel wagons. Then came the resident magistrates, constabulary officers, and press correspondents.

It was the most farcical official display ever seen in Ireland. 'The men of the Land League had their own new weapon, and intended using no other, and it was to prove more powerful than all the armed might of Victoria. For two weeks the Ulstermen worked to harvest the crops, and all that time the rain fell in torrents. Such a downpour was never seen before or since in Connacht. Nothing could give the Ballinrobe men greater pleasure than to see the Orangemen floundering about in the flooded gardens, with rain falling down on them in bucketfuls.


When the time for the departure of the 50 labourers and their escort of thousands came the Land League advised the people to keep out of sight. They obeyed the instructions, and all along the road from Lough Mask House to Ballinrobe not a soul was seen, except one old woman, whom Father O'Malley a fervent Land Leaguer, jokingly accused of intimidating her Majesty's troops. With the Orangemen went Captain Boycott and his wife. The fall of feudalism in Ireland had begun. At the head of the great cavalcade marched Father O'Malley, with an umbrella over his shoulder, to see that the way was clear. As Michael Davitt says:

' He continued to march at the head of the procession until it disappeared beyond the boundary of his parish into the records of history and of ridicule.'


A is the army that covers the ground,

B is the buckshot we're getting all round,

C is the crowbar of cruelest fame,

D is our Davitt, a right glorious name,

E is the English, who've robbed us of bread,

F is the famine they've left us instead,

G is for Gladstone, whose life is a lie,

H is the harvest we'll hold or we'll die,

I is the Inspector who when drunk is bold,

J is the jarvey who'll not drive him for gold,

K is Kilmainham where our true men abide,

L is the Land League, our hope and our pride,

M is the magistrate, who makes black of white,

N is no rent which will make our wrongs right,

O is old Ireland, that yet shall be freed,

P is the peelers, who've sold her for greed,

Q is the Queen, whose use is not known,

R is the Rifles who keep up her throne,

S is the Sheriff, with woe in his train,

T is the toil that others may gain,

U is the Union that works bitter harm,

V is the villain that grabs up a farm,

W is the warrant for or for chains,

X is the Express all lies and no brains,

Y is Young Ireland, spreading the light,

Z is the zeal that will win the great fight.

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