Michael Davitt had founded the Land League in 1879 and it wasn’t long until there was a branch in each parish in Ireland. A branch was founded in Ballyvourney in 1883. The land war started in the parish and an Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh was active in the local branch. He organised a big meeting of tenants in John Lucey’s field in the Flatts on Sunday 30th May 1887. It is said that 9,000 people attended that meeting, amongst the speakers were an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh and Dr Charles Tanner M.P. They both strongly criticised the suppression the landlords were enforcing on the tenants in Ballyvourney and in the Muskerry area.
An Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh was known to have been very active in the Land Wars during the 1880’s. The following is an extract from a speech he gave to the farmers of Muskerry in Lucey’s field in Ballymakeera in 1887 –
“Our ancestors were driven west to this area in the time of Cromwell and the Penal Laws and the plantations. After coming they had to till this poor, boggy mountainous land but after doing that with sweat and slavery they did not have possession of the land because the greedy English followed them with greed for their land and money. Estates were made of the small farms where the land was good, high unnatural rents were levied on the small mountainous farms, a rent that they were not able to pay. If they had not the rent ready on the day the bailiff called, the tenant was thrown out on the side of the road, also his wife and young family, without any mercy, pity or understanding. The landlord was – and still is – master, he owns the land and the fruits of the land. He owns the people, both men and women and the wild animals of the parish”.
An Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh finished his speech with the question “Is the farmer or the landlord the rightful owner of the land of Ireland?”, and he answered his own question saying– “The world knows that it is the person who gives his sweat and who slaves on a mountainous farm from dawn to dusk, who deserves this land, and not the person who got it through bribery, foul play and plundering”.
Dónal Bán Kelleher said in his book “The Story of My Life” that he saw the crowds going past his own house in Coolea after Mass that day and that a lot of them had come over from Kerry. They wore blue sashes, travelling on horseback on their way to the meeting in Ballyvourney. There was a big banner hanging over the road at Coolea Church saying “Ceád Mile Fáilte Roimh Mhuintir Chiarraí” and there was another banner over at the meeting place saying “Ceart dom, Ceart duit”, “Rights for you, rights for me”. The reason it was an historical day was that it was the first time ever that the people of Coolea and Ballyvourney had seen Irish language written on any public notice in the parish.
A decision was made at this meeting that no more rent would be paid to the local landlord Colthurst. It was not long before the bailiffs were sent to the farmers houses with prosecutions and writs. The bailiff called one day to the house of Paddy Murray of Inchemore. Paddy had two sons, Con and Jerry, who were big strong fellows. They fought with the bailiff and luckily there were two Peelers (policemen) out in the yard otherwise they would have killed him. The Murrays were immediately arrested and thrown into Cork Prison. They were sentenced to 6 months hard labour but an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh immediately acted on their behalf.
He appealed the sentence that was imposed on the Murrays, the case was re-tried and even though English lawyers were totally opposed to it, the hard labour was suspended and the 6 months was reduced to 3 months.
This was an extraordinary case as the English authorities had learned, experienced articulate bravery, whereas the farmers had to defend themselves on advice from a doctor or a priest. An Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh was prepared to freely give advice and direction free of charge. He understood the problems of the tenants because his own people were farmers from Togher, Coolea.
It should be noted that Daniel Lynch subsequently became a JP (Justice of the Peace) for the area in 1893 –
The following is a letter that an Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh wrote for his subscription to the Home Rule Fund, also in 1893 –
Adapted from Éighse 2008 speech given by Dónal Ó hÉalaithe – Staraí áitiúl de chuid Acadamh Fódhla ó Chúil Aodha, translated into Béarla by James O’Leary, Coláiste an tEasbog Mac Aogháin, Máigh Chromtha.