Charles A. V. Conybeare
Background to Irish evictions
"Mr. Pollock has purchased estates in the West of Ireland occupied by about 500 tenants, whose
families make up altogether a population of 2,500 souls. This gentleman appears to be seized with a
perfect mania of eviction. The new lord of the soil wishes to change its
destination from arable to pasture land, for financial reasons. As a result, he clears away the
human encumbrance from his land with as little remorse as he would weeds or stones, a mortgage, a
judgment, or an annuity".1
The landlord in question, Mr Pollock, had issued notices to quit to all the
tenants even though none of them had been in arrears with their rent.
According to a report in The Times newspaper, a Mr Harrison, an Oxford undergraduate,
and a Mr Conybeare, an English MP, had: "Persisted in delivering loaves of bread to the tenantry on
the 'Olphert Estate', despite having been warned not to do
Conybeare's and Harrisons's actions were aimed at saving a considerable number of evicted and
besieged men, women and children from actual starvation. The tenants were living in humble
dwellings that they had built with their own hands, but were now being declared "trespassers in
their own homes" by their new landlord, which, was argued, was "a legal fiction".
For this "singular offence",3 Charles Augustus
Vansittart Conybeare was found guilty of assisting the tenantry at Falcarragh, Donegal, and was
imprisoned for three months in Derry Goal under The Coercion Act of
Crab lice in prison
In 1889, Charles Conybeare wrote two letters from Derry Gaol to Sir William
Harcourt, requesting Sir William's help to get him moved from Derry Gaol, because he had
contracted crab lice as a result of insanitary conditions in the prison. Sir
William replied by saying that he had raised the issue in the House of Commons and had expressed
disgust at Conybeare's treatment.5
issue of Mr Conybeare's health was also
recorded in Hansard.
1. The Times, 1889.
2. Same as f/n 1.
3. Same as f/n 1.
4. Who's Who & Who Was Who, online edn., 2009.
5. The Harcourt Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford.