Evidence of Simon Moran (Milltown) to the Devon Commission taken in Bray on 24 October 1844

Evidence of Simon Moran (Milltown) to the Devon Commission taken in Bray on 24 October 1844

Mr. Simon Moran, sworn and examined.

Where do you live?

At Milltown, near Wicklow.

Is it the district round Wicklow that you are well acquainted with?

I am acquainted with the greater part of the county, but rather on this side of the mountains. I have been a tithe commissioner, and a land valuator, and an agent on small properties for several years.

Are you now a farmer?

 Yes.

What land do you hold?

 I hold 112 Irish acres.

Is the district you live in mostly tillage or pasture land?

Tillage land to a great extent. There are some farms kept for grazing, and others not. The district I live in is not the worst part of the county. 

What is the more general size of the farms in the district?

Very unfortunately the farms in the County of Wicklow are too large. The late agent of Lord Fitzwilliam was too fond of making large farms, and consolidating and getting a respectable yeomanry, and getting rid of the poor tenants. I am not aware whether the present man is following the same policy. I know one farm set, of 200 acres of unreclaimed land, to one tenant, and he will not be able to reclaim one fifth of it. There are a great many small holders under him, and if there had been allotments made of twenty acres to different tenants, it would all have been reclaimed and the men would have been more comfortable. The only nobleman that I know, who, when land fell into his hand, did not dispossess the tenants is Lord Carysfort, and Admiral Proby, who is the next heir to the estate. I never heard of them dispossessing any tenant, to my knowledge. It is not so with Lord Fitzwilliam’s agent.

Have there been many persons dispossessed of their holdings within the last ten years in your neighbourhood?

I could not give an accurate account, but by report there have been a good deal of farms consolidated. I know of some, but the amount I cannot say. There are two landlords that live near me, and it is horrifying the way they have dispossessed the finest set of labourers that ever existed.

State the circumstances in the instances to which you allude?

There was a number of houses thrown down, to my knowledge, upon the property of the late Mr. Robert Hall, who lived in the county of Tipperary. Those houses were on the townland of Ballylusk; I cannot state the number.

Was it upon the expiration of a lease, or what was the occasion of it?

 They were not held by a middleman, they said; they were got up. I do not know how or who consented to it. I believe it was first held by a man of the name of Kelly for a long lease; he was an improvident sort of man, and he and another man sold their title and lease to this man, Mr. Hall, and in the meantime these houses were put up, and he let them stand for some time, and then he afterwards took them into his head to throw them down.

What class of people were those who lived in the houses?

 For the most part they were labourers.

Are you able to state whether they had paid rent to Mr. Hall?

They had paid rent to his agent, Mr. Coates, and they were his tenants.

Do you know the process by which they were ejected?

To the best of my recollection I spoke to the agent, and he told me it was by ejectment, and that they would be thrown down.

Do you know whether they owed any rent at the time?

I do not.

Do you know whether they received any compensation on leaving their houses?

Not a shilling to my knowledge.

Do you know what has become of these persons and their families?

One of them was with me on Sunday looking for labour in potato digging- a very poor wretched man.

What description of houses were they that were thrown down?

Mud houses.

By whom had they been built?

By themselves I believe.

Was there any garden or land attached to them?

Yes, more or less to all of them. I think one of them had a very respectable house in his way, and had three or four acres of land.

Who was Mr. Hall’s agent?

It was a man of the name of Coates; he is not the agent now. The estate is now in Chancery, and they have got a very good agent over them.

What became of the land from which those house were thrown down; was it thrown into the adjoining farm?

Yes the man had the farm and he was compelled to throw down the houses.

State the other instance to which you refer?

There was a comfortable class of labourers living on the estate of Mr.Carroll of Ashford, and the houses were thrown down three or four years ago; that was when the new Poor Law was coming into operation, and that was the reason of it as we supposed.

Had the persons who lived in those houses been the tenants of Mr. Carroll?

No, of the middleman. He had frightened the middleman by some covenant in the lease, and he made some compromise with him, and when he got it into his hands he levelled all the houses.

Was it by ejectment?

I believe so, but I believe he in most instances allowed them a year’s rent.

Do you know whether they owed any rent at the time they were ejected?

I asked some of them personally, and they said they owed half a year’s rent beyond the running half-year, and he bade them go about their business.

Do you know whether they built the houses themselves?

Yes I believe more than one half on them built, and the others purchased them. They were not built by Mr. Carroll; I am quite positive of that.

How many houses can you state have been levelled?

I cannot say, but there was a street of them as far as we can see.

Eight or ten houses?

Yes.

Was there any land attached to these houses?

Yes, a garden to all of them. One of them had built upon another man’s ground. One man had a daughter, and got her married to a nice labouring boy, and the father-in-law let him build upon his land.

What has become of those people?

Some of them have gone into what we call the common, between that and Rathnew. It is said that this common was given by some lady but it was refugium peccatorum for these men. There are hundreds of them there, and it was very fortunate for the country that it was there.

How had these people employed themselves before they were turned out?

They were very good labourers, and very decent labourers, and worked with the gentlemen all round.

Were they in pretty constant employment?

Yes, except in the winter season, when it is difficult to get work.

Had they a fair share of employment in the district?

Yes

What has become of the land which was occupied by those houses?

One tenant has it, and he is in possession; it was all in one field.

Who is Mr. Carroll’s agent?

Mr. Samuel Fenton; he is an attorney, and lives in Dublin, and is clerk of the peace for county Wicklow.

What is the condition of the farming population in general; is it improving?

No, it is not; it is getting worse, and I do not know how to account for it. There is some sort of want of confidence in the farmers. They are not employing their labourers. By the time the potatoes are out of the ground and the wheat sown the labourers will have nothing to do.

What is the conditions of the labourers?

It is most wretched. Their cabins are of the most wretched condition.

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