Local History by Seán Beattie


John McCarron, Clonmany

On Friday 19 October 1906, John McCarron of Clonmany took the train from Drumfries station (now the North Pole bar) to attend the session of the Royal Commission of Congestion in Ireland. The opening session was at 12 noon and he was scheduled to give evidence. Among the dignitaries present were Most Rev. Dr. O’Donnell, Bishop of Raphoe and the Earl of Dudley. The venue was St. Patrick’s National School beside the Carndonagh station. The purpose of his visit was to give evidence to the Commission and for over an hour he answered questions about his holding, family and income. He gave his age as 38.

He farmed seven acres, three of which were arable and he also held mountain grazing rights. His valuation was £4.13s and his rent was £5 15s. The landlord was Captain Cochrane who resided at Redcastle and he refused to sell lands to the tenants despite the fact that generous terms were available under the 1903 Land Act. Cochrane had acquired the lands in 1879. McCarron was an efficient farmer and was actively engaged in reclamation to extend his holding. His mother had access to the Land Court following the 1881 Land Act but was afraid to apply for a rent review in case the landlord would raise the rent. 

He gave interesting insights on life in Clonmany in 1906. Farmers in the parish thatched their houses with straw although generally throughout Inishowen flax was used. He commented that the thatching of houses was a waste of valuable straw which should have been fed to cattle. He owned a cow and two young cattle. It is also arguable that the use of flax was rather expensive but it was believed that a good thatching of flax would last at least seven years while straw thatching had to be done yearly. For this reason, the parish committee was campaigning for grants to have all houses slated.

He knew much about the world outside the parish having worked in England, Scotland and America. In Scotland he worked in a chemical plant while in America he worked on railway construction and in hotels. He had two other brothers and he came home because his mother kept writing to him to return as she was living alone. She left the farm to him. He said he would have stayed in America if he had the opportunity. 

This is the centenary year of the Third Home Rule Bill of 1912 and a decade of centenaries lies ahead. But no one has recalled the centenaries of the great Land Acts of 1903 and 1909 which transformed land ownership in this peninsula. On all land holdings it is possible to establish when tenants became full owners. It all depended on the landlord and whether he was willing to do a deal. McCarron was hopeful of a settlement in 1906 but by 1922, most of the farms in the state were owner occupied – a silent but sadly forgotten revolution.


  1. Catherine McWilliams

    This was certainly a silent revolution, now long forgotten. Thank you so much, Sean, for bringing it alive for us in Clonmany. Greatly appreciated!

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