By (author) O'Connor, Michael M.; By (author) O'Connor, James R.
In March 1883 Colonel St. George Cuffe of Deel Castle, Crossmolina, County Mayo died. Cuffe, a veteran of the battle of Waterloo, left a large estate surrounding the village of Belcarra, in south east Mayo, to his niece, Harriet Gardiner. Gardiner had for some time been the subject of a boycott on her estate at Farmhill, Killala, North Mayo and so in 1883, accompanied by her close companion Susanna Pringle, and assisted by an entourage of bailiffs, police and lawyers, she turned her attention to her inheritance at Belcarra. For the next 27 years tenants on the Estate suffered eviction, assault, imprisonment and forced emigration. The very fabric of the community in some of the townlands on the Estate was utterly shattered as neighbour turned against neighbour and family members against each other, as Gardiner and Pringle used a small number of tenants and outsiders to further their objective of clearing the Estate. Tenants were evicted, their houses levelled, children were left on the roadside and prosecuted in the courts; women and their infants were imprisoned while the elderly and infirm were driven to the Workhouse.
Land grabbing, beatings and boycotting became part of everyday life, the subject matter of numerous court proceedings, extensive coverage in the national and international press and debate in the House of Commons in London. While events on the Belcarra Estate were reported across the English speaking world, the coverage given by the Connaught Telegraph was particularly extensive. The paper's owner and editor, local land activist and Land League co-founder, James Daly, used the paper in his war against Gardiner and Pringle, two of the most abhorrent figures in the history of Irish landlordism.