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This letter was written by David LESLIE. In it, he refers to what were called "agrarian outrages in the County of Monaghan". He is responding to their description an an earlier article in the March issue of the Armagh Guardian. Over the next several months, various court cases relating specifically to the disturbances at the Laragh Mills would unfold. Joseph OLIVER, the son of William OLIVER, was contesting LESLIE's ownership of the mills and had already been arrested and put in jail in February as a consequence of his actions. It also appears that his father may have spent some time in jail in the past over this case. There was significant bad blood between the parties with the LESLIE's having the stronger legal case, but not seemingly the support and sympathy of the locals. Their reputation as absentee landlords may have had something to do with this.
Sharon Oddie Brown, December 9, 2004.

Updated Footnotes July 5, 2007
NOTE: The unpublished paper: The rise & fall of a village industry Cornacarrow & Laragh mills 1775 – 1925 by Mary Frances Kerley is a splendid resource for understanding some of the complications of this crisis. I am grateful.

1845, April 1, Armagh Guardian

COUNTY MONAGHAN. Letter to the Editor:
Mr. LESLIE [1] has written the following letter in reference to the late agrarian outrages in the County of Monaghan, which we noticed some time back:

Leslie Hill, Armagh,
March 17, 1845.

DEAR SIR--An account having appeared in the newspapers of this week of agrarian disturbances, and threats against myself, I beg of you to insert the following explanatory sketch of the affair, for the purpose of divesting it of the apparent mystery in which, at present, it seems enveloped. I had advanced some thousand pounds, from time to time, on the lands of Laragh, &c., near Carrickmacross, county Monaghan, and have lately become the proprietor of said lands, and the mills thereon, by assignment from the late owner, Mr. Wm. Oliver [2] . Mr. J. Twigg [3] (Dublin,) proprietor of extensive spinning-mills on the same property, rented three mills from me some months ago.

Because the late owner's son [4] was dissatisfied, and was arrested under an execution (this is the only reason known), a notice was put on the mills, to the effect, that if Mr. Ledlie [5] , Mr. Twigg's agent and conductor, did not give up the mills, and stop work, that he would be shot; and as for Dr. Leslie (as they called me,) he would be shot like a dog at his own hall- door. The mill-race was cut, and the mills stopped. A similar notice was put on a man's [6] door who was in my employment.

In this state of affairs a letter was read in the chapel-yard to the crowd, forbidding any one to work for me! Mr. Ledlie was again noticed to quit working the mills. This threat was, on the public high-road, at night, verbally delivered to him. He served notice of surrendering the mills to me, though fear.-- He said he did not wish becoming a martyr to the mistaken violence of a mob. On Tuesday last I visited the lands. One of my ploughmen left his work, and came to me to say, "that if he continued, he and his horses would be stuck; that people were gathering on the hill."

I became alarmed for my own safety, and proceeded for protection to the nearest station of police (Ballytrane.) About three-quarters of a mile I was stopped on the way by a man [7] , who, it appears, had seen me go away, and followed me. He wanted me back to Laragh, he said; he could not tell his business there; would rather than a great deal have me where I was ten minutes before: I would see the hill covered with men, three on a ridge; they would soon settle with me. On looking round he saw my son coming up with a double gun, who had been told to follow me, as his informant said he saw a man follow me to raise the country and attack me.

Mr. Wallace [8] , R.M., held an investigation next day. Many persons were summoned. The case was to have been heard on Thursday last [9] , at the Ballibay Petit Sessions. At the earnest solicitations of the Rev. Eugene Maguire [10] , P.P., Mr. G. Ledlie [11] , Mr. Meares [12] , and Mr. Nun [13] , solicitors, I allowed the case to remain over till next bench day, and to issue new summonses in the meantime, if necessary. These are some of the facts.

Mr. Twigg was expending hundreds of pounds weekly in the neighbourhood in manufacturing industry. By the stoppage of the cloth-mills alone, from the threatening notices, two hundred hands will be thrown out of employment. They were occupied in the manufacture of brown Hollands, a new trade introduced into the country by Mr. Ledlie.

Thus the tide of wealth that was flowing through our valleys, enriching our solitudes, and giving employment to our starving population, has been arrested by the blind fury of mob violence. The rights of property are to be decided by the caprice and ignorance of a misguided peasantry, and not by the laws of the land. Justice has been dethroned, and the sanguinary demon --mob power--installed in her stead. The voice of industry is to be heard no more in our valleys. Idleness and poverty will take the place of employment and wealth; instead of industry and peace we shall have idleness and fear.

The Laragh stream, "that in winter never overflows, nor in summer never goes dry" (fed by a large lake, the head of the river Erin), affording an immense and unfailing water-power, is now to flow unproductive to the sea, instead of being a stream of wealth, announcing the glad tidings of employment, as it travelled through our plains, and bringing happiness and fertility to the land.-- The wild injustice of revenge will banish confidence and capital from Laragh. The large mills erected thus will stand as mournful and silent testimonies of the blighting influence of popular storms--as monuments to the rising generation of the ignorance and barbarism of their fathers. Naked and hungry children will weep in idleness; old age will mourn for their sufferings, and every lover of his native land will deplore the calamity.

I lowered the rents on the lands of Laragh, &c., twenty per cent., within the last year. I never dispossessed a tenant. I have always preferred paying for pauper emigration among my tenantry to making them a tax on home industry in a poorhouse. "What private griefs they have I know not."

Your insertion of this short sketch will much oblige me. I remain, with great respect, faithfully yours,

DAVID LESLIE.


[1] David Leslie (b. aft. 1803) of Leslie Hill (in the Derrynoose area of Armagh), the son of Nathaniel LESLIE & Martha OLIVER (married 1803). His mother Martha was a sister of the recently deceased William OLIVER. He was often referred to as "Dr. LESLIE".
[2] William Oliver (b. abt 1764-d. abt 1844), son of the David Oliver who had ownership of these mills at one point. See. P263 At the Ford of the Birches by James H. Murnane and Peadar Munane. ďIn 1766 Bryan Burns of Laragh demised to David Oliver of Ballyrea, C. Armagh, the corn mill called Lough Egish mill. Oliver was already in the linen trade in Co. Armagh. The corn mill seemingly was changed into a beetling mill. It would appear that the concern got into debt and was 'rescued' by D McTear who in the process received a lien on the property. When David Oliver died, there was some difficulty in settling the estate. In 1815, the Court of Chancry ordered that in consideration of outstanding debts being discharged, McTear should assign the bleaching mill and green, in their actual possession, to Oliver's sons Joseph, William and Benjamin. The bleaching operation was being worked on a reduced scale; part of the mill had been changed into a flax scutching mill and another into a corn mill. It only worked 4 months of the year in total.Ē
[3] James TWIGG, the agent assigned to run the mills for David LESLIE. SOURCE: The rise & fall of a village industry Cornacarrow & Laragh mills 1775 – 1925
[4] Joseph OLIVER (b. aft 1809) son of William OLIVER & Mary Anne HYDE. He married an unknown FEALY..
[5] George LEDLIE, agent to Mr. TWIGG.
[6] The manís name?
[7] The manís name?
[8] Mr. WALLACE?
[9] March 13, 1845
[10] Eugene MAGUIRE?
[11] George LEDLIE, agent to Mr. TWIGG.
[12] Mr. MEARES?
[13] Mr. NUN?

 

 

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