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The second Marquis of Clanricarde was said to have only once visited his Portumna estates and that was for his father's funeral in 1874. He never lived at the family seat - Portumna Castle, built in Venetian style in 1862 - and died without issue. The surviving estate records - now in the care of the West Yorkshire Archives Service - reveal a miserly personality, eccentric and reclusive, with a fundamental inability to compromise or adapt to changing circumstances in Irish society. His estates at Woodford and Portumna stretched from Lough Derg to Galway. His father had staunchly defended the interests of landed proprietors during the Great Famine and, in its aftermath, his land agent had promoted the assisted emigration of small tenants. Between 1841 and 1871, the population of the Clanricarde estates in Galway fell from nearly 22,000 to under 10,000.
In the 1880s, however, it was evictions from these estates that became particularly notorious. The estate papers include various petitions from tenants addressed directly to Clanricarde asking for rent reductions.
The attitude of the Marquis towards the plight of his tenants in hard times is clearly demonstrated in a letter dated 29 January 1881 to his land agent, John Blake, when he complained about their lack of competence: 'unless husbandmen can afford to plant something better than stones (or bad potatoes which are as useless as stones) they are not fit to be tenant farmers'.
To read more go to catalogue item WYL250/11/91/22
In June 1882, Blake was murdered near Loughrea. Writing to The Times, Clanricarde blamed this 'ghastly act' on his resistance to a combination of the tenants, who had been encouraged by the new Arrears Bill to pay no rent on land that was let to them too cheaply anyway.
Creators: Aidan Lawes
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