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The Irish Land Agent, 1830-60: New book by Edenderry HS Member

Fascinating look at Offaly’s infamous land agents

The Irish Land Agent, 1830-60: the case of King's County

 Land agents have been stereotypically represented in Irish history as alien, capricious and in general the tormentors of the tenantry. But how accurate are such representations? How qualified or equipped were agents to deal with the challenges that the mid-19th century, and the Famine in particular, brought? For example, Offaly land agents were among the leading pioneers of agricultural advancement on the eve of the Famine. This book highlights their efforts to promote new farming methods and crops and challenges the social memory of land agents in Offaly, exploring why many have been demonised. Offaly was one of the most violent counties in Ireland in the mid-19th century, where 3 landlords, 7 land agents and countless estate officials were murdered.

Ciaran Reilly identifies the reasons for some of the most high-profile murders including the earl of Norbury at Durrow; John Gatchell at Clonbullouge; Charles Trench Cage at Ferbane; Robert Pyke at Killyon and William Ross Manifold at Blueball. The legacy of the land agents is very much alive in Offaly today and many famous local landmarks are named in their memory, including Cage’s bridge; Manifold’s hole; Gatchell’s bush and Pyke’s bridge.

This book provides background and analysis on over 100 land agents who worked in Offaly during the first half of the 19th century including Francis Berry at Tullamore; Thomas Murray at Edenderry; George Garvey at Durrow & Moneygall; George Heenan at Birr; and John Corcoran at Killyon. • It also provides comprehensive insight into landed estates in Offaly in the mid-19th century, delving into the world of the Parsons at Birr; the Digbys at Geashill; the Charlevilles at Tullamore; the Downshires at Edenderry; the Gambles, the Jolys, the Droughts and many more.

The book is the most comprehensive account of the Famine in Offaly to date, mentioning nearly every town and village in the county. Ciarán Reilly is a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at NUIM. He is the author of John Plunket Joly and the Great Famine in King’s County (2012).

The book will be published on 11 July by Four Courts Press and retails at €45 or can be bought online for €40.50.

A launch of the book will take place in early August at the OHAS in Tullamore where a special launch price will be available.


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