The Sale of Athboy in 1909

On the 8th June 1909 a meeting was held in the Market House in Athboy. A mixture of emotions probably hung in the air including hope that the man, whom a gathering of locals had met off the train from Dublin, would be able to give the townspeople much needed support. This man was Joseph Coghlan-Briscoe, secretary of the Towns Tenant’s League. Athboy had recently founded its own branch of this organisation due to the fact that the 8th Earl of Darnley,, Ivo Bligh, had chosen to sell the town at a public auction in Dublin later in the month.

ivo_bligh_vanity_fair_7_april_1904
Ivo Bligh (1859-1927)

Bligh had become the Earl in December 1900 following the sudden death of his brother Edward, and only four years after their father John, thus leaving the estate with two sets of death duties to pay. As a result the estate, which had held lands in Meath since 1723, was financially crippled. After selling his land round Athboy to the Land Commission and the demesne at Clifton Lodge to the Welsh coalminer and adventurer Mordecai Jones, he turned to selling the town rents for “whatever price may be realized”.

The Auction Book for the Sale of Athboy in 1909. (Source: Peter Coffey)
Sale in Dublin by Public Auction. Athboy, Co. Meath. (Source Peter Coffey)

The auction was to take place over two days, 15-16th June and the town was divided into 110 lots. The lots included the RIC Barracks, court house, hotel and some 46 other rentals including dwelling houses, cottages and local businesses. The total value of the 110 lots was £1,000 in annual rent. The auction was heavily advertised in The Meath Chronicle, The Freemans Journal and The Irish Times. The first advert in the Irish Times on 10th June 1909 praised the area as being “among the finest grazing country in Ireland” and described the local people as being of an “industrious” and “respectable class”.

The Towns Tenant’s League meeting was presided over by John Martin who held a yearly lease on property on Connaght St. Other attendees included miller Thomas Newman and Dr. JW Greene. In his address Coghlan-Briscoe spoke of how “the situation today in Athboy might be the case for a good many towns in Ireland tomorrow”. Many of the people in Athboy had built their homes on the land owned by the Darnley estate and so they paid what was called ground rent. While the Land Acts had made it much easier for farmers to purchase their land there appears to have been a certain lack of protection granted to town tenants. Coghlan-Briscoe pledged to help seek aid from the local Ulster Bank and to help arrange for travel to Dublin for the auction so that “every tenant worth his salt” could attend.

town sale.png
An advertisement for the sale of the town.

At 8.3oam on 15th June 1909 townspeople from Athboy took the train to Dublin in time for the 1pm auction at JH North & Co. on Grafton Street. North, who described Athboy as “a thriving and historic town” had previously been involved in auctions of ground rents in Limerick City and in Tramore, Co. Waterford. The local Town Tenants League, with the aid of Coghlan-Briscoe, had secured the opportunity for tenants to purchase their lots privately. One by one the tenants met with North and Coghlan-Briscoe in the drawing room at the auction house. The following day’s Freeman’s Journal remarked that in general the tenants “came out with a placid smile on their countenances” indicating that “matters had been indisputably settled”. Although privately he may not have appreciated the tenant agitation, Ivo Bligh was reported to have expressed his wish that the townspeople be able to purchase their own holdings. He did not attend the auction however but was instead represented by his land agent Claude Coghill and his solicitor AV Montgomery.

The auction made £8,700 on its first day with the majority of the tenants arranging a private treaty to buy their homes. The first parts to be sold were Chapel Street (O’Growney St) to Upper Bridge Street which included the court house and RIC Barracks. When the latter came up for auction one audience member was heard to ask “can you put the polis out if you buy it?” The second day saw Lower Bridge Street, Fallons Row and Barrack Lane sold. On average tenants purchased their holdings on a 12 year purchase agreement. Those who gave security were allowed to pay two thirds of their fee over 5 years, while weekly tenants were allowed make a 10% deposit on their purchases.

Market House
The Market House, Athboy where the Town Tenant’s League held it’s meeting.

It was to the advantage of the people of Athboy, as JH North said, that “the town… [was] a material one”. This was a market town filled with local businesses. People were well equipped to organize themselves and secure the literal ground beneath their feet. The assistance of the secretary of the Town Tenant’s League, Joseph Coghlan-Briscoe brought advantages too. He was well versed in helping towns in situations like this. The entire incident is remarkable as it shows a fascinating example of the often over looked issue of land ownership for rural townspeople and how the land question extended beyond just agricultural land.

We have since updated this article to include photographs of both the auction book and the accompanying maps which were provided to us by Peter Coffey and Patricia Castles.

Postscript:

The Meath Chronicle published a list of some of the purchasers from the auction.

Purchaser

Location

Former Rent

Purchase Money

Geo. Murphy (three holdings)

Chapel Street

£18 5s. 6d.

£270

John Mullin

Chapel Street

£4 4s. 0d.

£45

Thomas McCullum

Chapel Street

£14 0s. 4d.

£90

Patrick Lynch

Chapel Street

£3 18s. 0d.

£60

Mrs. McDermott

Chapel Street

£2 6s. 2d.

£40

William Maye (two holdings)

Chapel Street

£3 0s. 6d. & £4 17s.

£70 & 40

Mrs. Doran

Chapel Street

£5 16s. 0d.

£75

Mrs. King

Market Street

£16 0s. 0d.

£190

P. Peters

Market Street

£12 0s. 0d.

£125

Thomas Smith (aka Thomas Smyth)

Market Street

£25 0s.0d.

£270

Mrs. Cowan

Market Street

£14 7s.0d.

£200

H. Carberry

Market Street

£23 7s. 0d.

£215

P. O’Gorman

Market Street

£6 15s.0d.

£205

P. Ledwith

Market Street

£15 13s.0d.

£180

R.H Carey

Market Street

£12 0s.0d.

£150

Mrs. Kiernan

Market Street

£9 14s.0d.

£110

Mr. O’Flynn (Old School House)

Market Street

Vacant

£95

Reps. Of Mrs. Fagan

Market Street

£25 0s.0d.

£315

P. O’Gorman

Market Street

£5 0s. 0d.

£95

C. Commons

Market Street

£11 14s.0d.

£95

Mr. Quinn

Market Street

£3 12s.4d.

£95

Henry Byrne

Market Street

£1 16s.11d.

£95

Michael Smith

Market Street

£2 8s. 2d.

£95

Peter Donohe

Market Street

£26 9s.0d.

£255

Mrs. Russell

Market Street

£12 0s. 0d.

£255

Martin Moore

Market Street

£4 0s. 0d.

£225

John Darby

Market Street

Unknown

Unknown

Eliza Boylan

Market Street

£1 15s 5d

£60

Martin Moore

Market Street

£3 11s. 5d

£215

James Cusack

Market Street

£3 11s 5d

£48

Patrick Reilly

Market Street

£3 18s 0d

£40

James Lowe

Market Street

£9 16s 0d

£90

Mrs Sweeney

Market Street

£11 11s 10d

£200

John Roe

Upper Bridge St

£11 14s 6d

£150

Mrs Byrne

Upper Bridge St

£4 9s 3d

£75

Mrs Byrne

Upper Bridge St

£3 0s 0d

£40

Mrs Cassidy

Lower Bridge St

£15 18s 6d

£185

John Ward

Lower Bridge St

£11 1s 6d

£90

M. Clarke

Upper Lower Bridge St

£1 5s 0d

£18

Patrick Kelly

Lower Bridge St

£3 18s 0d

£35

P. Kane

Lower Bridge St

£4 3s 0d

£58

Denis Cassidy

Lower Bridge St

£3 18s 0d

£40

Constable Burke

Lower Bridge St

£8 0s 4d

£70

William Smth

Lower Bridge St

£7 14s 9d

£85

Miss Farrell

Lower Bridge St

£2 18s 0d

£30

Constable Higgins

Lower Bridge St

£7 0s 0d

£50

Hugh Fagan

Lower Bridge St

£7 0s 0d

£42 10s

John Doyle

Lower Bridge St

£4 6s 8d

£33

Christopher Ward

Lower Bridge St

£3 18s 0d

£40

John Walsh

Lower Bridge St

£3 19s 8d

£45

James Castles

Lower Bridge St

£0 0s 0d

£55

James Keogh

Lower Bridge St

£4 6s 8d

£35

Thomas Newman

Lower Bridge St

£21 1s 6d

£170

E Higgins

Railway Lane

£0 10s 10d

£80

Mrs. Lowe

Railway Lane

£6 3s 0d

£47 10s

John Govern

Back Lane

£1 3s 6d

£20

Mrs. Thornton

Trim Road

2 1s 6d

£33

Peter Risipin

Trim Road

£6 10s 0d

£65

Rose Tully

Fair Green

£3 18s 0d

£30

Peter Fahy

Fair Green

£8 9s 0d

£50

Patrick Lynagh

Connaght St

£8 18s 0d

£39

John Kavanagh

Connaght St

£3 5s 0d

£35

Tenants (3-5 Connaght St)

Connaght St

£9 17s 0d

£65

L. Wright

Connaght St

£9 16s 7d

£50

Daniel McGovern

Connaght St

£1 6s 9d

£15

Tenants (19-22 Connaght St)

Connaght St

£14 18s 7s

£100

John Martin

Connaght St

£3 16s 0d

£42 10

Tennants (30 to 34 Connagh St)

Connaght St

£14 18s 6d

£75

W. Lee and L. Robinson

Connaght St

£13 0s 0d

£75

Bernard Farrelly

Connaght St

£6 10s 0d

99

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3 Replies to “The Sale of Athboy in 1909”

    1. Dear Peter – I am a guide at Cobham Hall in Kent and a local historian in my area of Gravesend-Dartford. Is there any possibility that I could see the sale of Athboy documents on line as I would dearly love to explore the Irish connection which locally is never really mentioned. The Darnley Lodge Hotel in Athboy says it was built by the Earl in the 19th century – do you have any idea when that was in the 19th century?
      I was responsible for naming a road in Gravesend earlier this year “Athboy Road” after Gravesham Borough Council asked me for ideas – I knew about the estate but really so much more needs to be explored and explained to a Kentish audience.
      Hope you can help with scans or some way of being able to read the sales and look at the plots.

      Best wishes, Christoph Bull

      Like

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