Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Ejectment 1

Alice Caulfield had a small holding in Drummond, County Armagh in 1850. Her father had built a cabin there some 20 years earlier. After he died, Alice and her children had continued to live there.

One day early in the year, Alice had gone out and left her children at home. When she returned home, she discovered that the house had been destroyed, her children crying about the ruins. In an attempt to escape the cold, she had collected what stones and wood she could move to a new site, and built a small shed on the same ground.

Bernard Bradley, owner of the land, threatened to tear the shed down, and to take her to court. Alice protested that she had never received any notice of ejectment. He therefore had not right to damage her home.

This land dispute had begun several years before, and had been taken to court at that time. Mr. Bradley was attempting to collect rent he claimed was due. His case was dismissed, so Alice believed she was entitled to continue to live in her little house.

This time, Alice's house took the case to court. At the hearing, Mr. Bradley claimed that the house was in poor shape, and the neighbors wanted him to tear it down. Alice attempted to refute that claim. The cottage had a bit of garden with it, and was made of stone and mortar. It was this good freehold that had been reduced to ruins by a servant of Mr. Bradley's named Rafferty. The young man had run away and was therefore unavailable to testify as to whether he had been directed to tear down the house, or had acted on his own.

The Magistrates presiding at the Newry Petty Sessions where Alice's case was heard decided to dismiss the case.

As the parties moved away from the bench, a "hubbub" broke out. Alice returned to the Bench and addressed the Court. "They say, yer Honors, that they have bate me; and I want to know is that the case? Wont I stick on by the wee shed?'

The Court agreed that the land was hers. Alice left the courtroom greatly pleased.

1 comment:

Bill Harshaw said...

Land is a big issue in Irish history. I think maybe Americans get fooled by the word "holding"--we take very much for granted the idea that most people own their own home, their own land, and, in the past, their own farm. "Holding" sounds much more permanent than leasing land for x years. Certainly it seems odd to me that anyone would build a cabin on land that he didn't own.