The O’Halloran Girls

The Land War in Ireland was a period of bloody struggle between the often Anglo-Irish landlords and the native tenant farmers.  Tenant famers wanted rent abetment while their landlords wanted increased profits on rented land.  The evictions in Bodyke, County Clare became a cause célèbre in the land debates and led to modifications in the tenant farmer system.

The 1881 Land Act allowed for the fixing of rents by judicial arbitration for a period of 15 years. Tenants who paid the rent set by the court would be legally protected from rent hikes and compensated for any improvements carried out if they vacated their land.  Colonel O’Callaghan, the local landlord in Bodyke, had charged the O’Halloran family £31, which the court reduced to £23-1s, a figure the family felt was still too high.

The O’Halloran family and others engaged in a rent boycott in July 1887.  The family blockaded themselves in their home and waited for the bailiffs to come.  At 10am on the day of eviction, a team of soldiers, policemen and bailiffs arrived, followed by other local tenant farmers.  The five O’Halloran children and their parents took defensive positions in the house armed with poles and boiling water. 

The three O’Halloran sisters, Honoria, Annie and Sarah, threw cans of boiling water from the windows to keep the bailiffs at bay.  The police used ladders to climb in the windows on the second floor and Honoria grabbed a police officer’s bayonet while her brother Frank knocked him out.  Armed with a rifle bayonet, Honoria forced the bailiffs to retreat while her siblings fought with those who had made it in the house. 

Eventually the family was overcome and sent to jail.  Other local tenant farmers occupied the house until a settlement with the landlord was reached so the O’Hallorans could return to their land.

Within four years, Colonel O’Callaghan found himself in financial difficulties so he increased rents and seized livestock from those who would not or could not pay, a violation of the Land Act.  In 1909, the Land Commission seized the Bodyke section of the O’Callaghan estate and tenants were granted the right to buy their own land. 

In 1987, a plaque was erected in Bodyke to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the evictions.  You can read Frank O’Halloran’s first person account of the eviction via Clare County Library.  

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