The Zimapanners

 

 

 

 

                                                

 

Charles A. V. Conybeare

Derry Goal 



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.

The offence
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 so".2

The defence
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".

The sentence
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 1887.4

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  The issue of Mr Conybeare's health was also recorded in Hansard.


Footnotes
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.