Evictions on the Caldwell Estate

Much has been written about the history of the Castle Caldwell estate but the evictions that took place in it are not so well documented. Major evictions were not common in Fermanagh, never the less they did take place in the county. Benjamin Bloomfield the son of the founder of Belleek Pottery, John C. Bloomfield had taken over the management of the estate and in the early 1800’s he took the decision to evict a number of tenants for various reasons.

 

   The first was in Tawnagorm, the holding was of about twenty acres of poor hilly land. A company of the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers came by train to the local railway station where they were joined by another large group of military, a contingent of the R.I.C. under a Resident Magistrate and accompanied by a Sub-Sheriff. The group of almost 70 men marched to the remote mountain farm, the tenant owed several years rent and claimed that over the period he was due almost £50-00 by the estate. His effects were taken from the house and the property handed over to the bailiff.

 

The military proceeded further up the road to the next town land where they evicted another tenant along with his wife and family of small children. The next family to be evicted had paid his rent but still owed the costs for the proceeding, never-the less he and his children were put out of their home. People present witnessed the sad scene of a blind father carrying his sick child from the house. Moving to another town land the authorities insisted in having the seriously ill wife of the tenant removed from her home. Despite receiving medical and spiritual aid the poor woman died that evening. The final tenant to be evicted was a poor widow; neither she nor any of her neighbours were shown any sympathy by the land lord or his bailiff. Is it any wonder that the names of the landlord and his bailiff are no longer to be found in the area, while the family names of those evicted still live and prosper in the district?

 

  Bailiff is obviously derived from “bail” and bail is adapted from a Latin word which means to bear a burden. The person who “goes bail” for another takes a burden on himself – as many citizens have painfully discovered. The word “bailiff” is authoritatively defined as “a sheriff’s deputy”, one appointed to make arrests, collect fines, summon juries, etc.

   The land lord, the agent and bailiff were the terrors of rural life for generations. The landlord demanded rent that had not been earned; the agent saw to it that the necessary legal steps to enforce the demand were taken; the bailiff appeared on the scene, armed with his writ for seizure or for eviction. And in his train were the armed forces of the Crown. He generally had assistance (under-bailiffs); it was their business to attend to the details of the work-search for and seize goods, or ply the battering ram against the walls and apply torch to the roof. Thus bailiffs were mainly identified in the people’s minds with the operations of landlordism.

 

  An old street ballad illustrates the tragic relations between the officials and the peasants:

 

                 

                                             My father died, I closed his eyes

                                             Outside our cabin door,

                                             The landlord and the bailiff too

                                             Were there the day before.