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The assassination of Lord Leitrim 2 April 1878


Catalpa

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2 April 1878: The assassination of Lord Leitrim on this day. William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim was born in Dublin 1806. He had a successful career as an Officer in the British Army. On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded him as 3rd Earl and he retired from the Military in 1855. Over the next two decades, his overbearing behaviour as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants. He personally took on many of the legal cases of Eviction against his tenants and was a very hard taskmaster. His oppression of his tenants and his rumoured seduction of some of the local girls made him a marked man in the eyes of many of the local people. He had already survived a number of attempts on his life before his luck ran out.

He was finally shot dead in an ambush at Cratlagh Wood while making his way to Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. His clerk and driver were killed along with him so there would be no witnesses.

It was reported that there was:

an open encounter, in which the assassins closed with their victims and deliberately put them to death. That there was a struggle the appearance of the ground seems to establish. Besides, Lord Leitrim's head has been shockingly battered, both his arms are broken, and the shattered stock of a gun was found close to his body. We are also told that one of his two attendants was shot through the mouth.

Manchester Guardian, April 4 1878

His assassins, Michael Hegarty, Michael McElwee and Neil Shields all escaped detection by the British. Leitrim’s death was a prelude to the Land war, which broke out one year later.
 


Tomas Mor

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This thing of seducing local girls is a myth. He was a puritan in that regard. Droit De Signeur is always said about landlords, but in his case there is no substance for it.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Another Clements legacy

For what it's worth, the father of the first Earl of Leitrim was the Rt. Hon. Nathaniel Clements (died 1777). He held (among other posts) the office of Deputy Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. As Ranger he built the Lodge in Phoenix Park. In 1782 the Lodge was acquired by the Castle authorities as the residence for the Viceroy. It continued as the official residence of the Governor General until 1938, when it became Áras an Uachtaráin.
 

mollox

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2 April 1878: The assassination of Lord Leitrim on this day. William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim was born in Dublin 1806. He had a successful career as an Officer in the British Army. On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded him as 3rd Earl and he retired from the Military in 1855. Over the next two decades, his overbearing behaviour as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants. He personally took on many of the legal cases of Eviction against his tenants and was a very hard taskmaster. His oppression of his tenants and his rumoured seduction of some of the local girls made him a marked man in the eyes of many of the local people. He had already survived a number of attempts on his life before his luck ran out.

He was finally shot dead in an ambush at Cratlagh Wood while making his way to Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. His clerk and driver were killed along with him so there would be no witnesses.

It was reported that there was:

an open encounter, in which the assassins closed with their victims and deliberately put them to death. That there was a struggle the appearance of the ground seems to establish. Besides, Lord Leitrim's head has been shockingly battered, both his arms are broken, and the shattered stock of a gun was found close to his body. We are also told that one of his two attendants was shot through the mouth.

Manchester Guardian, April 4 1878

His assassins, Michael Hegarty, Michael McElwee and Neil Shields all escaped detection by the British. Leitrim’s death was a prelude to the Land war, which broke out one year later.
Murder is murder. Always has been. Typically political killers always try to portray their victim in the worst possiblle light. IRA handbook.
 

greymaus

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i remember being told that story many years ago, but the murder took place
`On the shores of Mulroy Bay' Was that a different landlord?

Also, that as the `outrage' was being debated in the House of Commons,
that an Irish MP related the events leading up to the murder, which was
not reported in Hansard.

According to the man who told me the story, and we would live well away from
leitrim's estate, Leitrim was a bullying monster. No Loss, even the local
police didn't try hard to find out who killed him.

I would also say that the process of breaking up the big estates
is only starting now in Scotland, with the usual braying noises from the
Lairds.. Then the crofters had more rights to their farms (at least since 1900 or so)
than the Irish.
 

Estragon

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2 April 1878: The assassination of Lord Leitrim on this day. William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim was born in Dublin 1806. He had a successful career as an Officer in the British Army. On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded him as 3rd Earl and he retired from the Military in 1855. Over the next two decades, his overbearing behaviour as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants. He personally took on many of the legal cases of Eviction against his tenants and was a very hard taskmaster. His oppression of his tenants and his rumoured seduction of some of the local girls made him a marked man in the eyes of many of the local people. He had already survived a number of attempts on his life before his luck ran out.

He was finally shot dead in an ambush at Cratlagh Wood while making his way to Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. His clerk and driver were killed along with him so there would be no witnesses.

It was reported that there was:

an open encounter, in which the assassins closed with their victims and deliberately put them to death. That there was a struggle the appearance of the ground seems to establish. Besides, Lord Leitrim's head has been shockingly battered, both his arms are broken, and the shattered stock of a gun was found close to his body. We are also told that one of his two attendants was shot through the mouth.

Manchester Guardian, April 4 1878

His assassins, Michael Hegarty, Michael McElwee and Neil Shields all escaped detection by the British. Leitrim’s death was a prelude to the Land war, which broke out one year later.
Well done those men.
 

democrat

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"Well done those men"? Unless that comment was made as a joke (are you a fresher in UCD perhaps?), what a disgusting comment on the day before Easter!
 

An Gilladaker

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Murder is murder. Always has been. Typically political killers always try to portray their victim in the worst possiblle light. IRA handbook.
Assassination thats a big word for an aul lord you should not be reading those books next thing Ed Malohney will be telling us Gerry done it
 

Kev408

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Murder is murder. Always has been. Typically political killers always try to portray their victim in the worst possiblle light. IRA handbook.
Copied straight from the British handbook but responsible, in the case of the IRA, for an infinitesimally smaller amount of murder, rape, pillage, imperialism, oppression and mayhem than the former.
 

The Underdog

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The ruins of the dozens of houses he demolished to evict the families that were left after the famine can still be seen near Glenveagh national park. Every few years their descendants return from Australia, America etc. for a remembrance service. They wont forget him or his ilk in a hurray.
 

An Gilladaker

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The ruins of the dozens of houses he demolished to evict the families that were left after the famine can still be seen near Glenveagh national park. Every few years their descendants return from Australia, America etc. for a remembrance service. They wont forget him or his ilk in a hurray.
Is the song that goes {Like a dog was shot not far form Glenswilly } about Lord Letrim haven't heard that one for a while
 

Catalpa

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It was a legitimate slaying IMO

He wasn't shot for nothing that's for sure.

His descendants were a much more decent lot by all accounts

- I think some of them still live in Ireland to this day...
 
Last edited:

RetiredProvo

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Murder is murder. Always has been. Typically political killers always try to portray their victim in the worst possiblle light. IRA handbook.
And you'd know :rolleyes:
There always was a great tradition of opposing oppression in the area, from these lads to Sean Mac Diarmada etc.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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The Clements family, and a thought on the Land War

The Leitrim title became extinct on the death of Charles Clements, the 5th Earl in 1952. He inherited the titles at the age of 13 (in 1892) and had a distinguished military career. He was a subaltern with the 9th Lancers in the Boer War, came back to be Lieutenant of Derry City between 1904 and 1921. He was a Major with the 11th Battalion, Inniskillings, in 1915-17. He then came back to a desk job in the Colonial Office. He married twice, but had no children.

His father, Robert Clements, the 4th Earl (born 1847, inherited 1878, died 1892) married Winifred Coke, the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Leicester of Holkham Hall. They had the one son (above) and a small swarm of daughters: I am trying to work out which, if any, remained in Ireland (so far, I'm guessing, none).

We are mainly concerned here with the 3rd Earl, William Sydney Clements (1806-1871). I hadn’t realised, until Catalpa started this thread, that he died unmarried (which raises curious issues) and, as Catalpa said, that his coachman and clerk were murdered with him. I shall certainly add the Malcolmson book, suggested by Garibaldy to my “long list”. (See also below).

The death of the childless 3rd Earl meant the title passed through descent from the fourth and only surviving son (a Kentish parson and Canon of Durham), of the 2nd Earl.

Now for that “See below” point. Catalpa links the murder of Clements and his servants with the imminent Land War. And fair enough.

As I dimly recall, I was taught the Land War in a limited context. That framing was largely, if not entirely, in terms of its political dimension and consequences. I see that D. George Boyce’s Nationalism in Ireland gives a wider definition, based on economics:
The 'violent agitation' ... gave a new inspiration to the home rule party and helped Parnell to his supreme position, not only in the party but in nationalist Ireland at large. The land war was not simply an extension of agrarian secret society activity; nor was it the blind, instinctive revolt of an impoverished peasantry. It was a well-organized and sophisticated response to the vagaries of the Irish rural economy in the 1870s, which threatened the growing prosperity of the tenant farmer, a prosperity which had been a marked feature of the two decades following the Famine. Now foreign competition and a poor potato crop, especially in Connaught, shook the Irish farmer out of his confident expectation would prove better than the one before.
So here's my thought: I'm reappraising to what extent what and how I was taught (and I suspect I was by no means unique in my take) depended on:
  • the need to make neat bullet-points encapsulating history (as I am doing here): the Land War, 1879-1882;
and
  • a need for a narrative thread, as in the Land War being the natural realising of what the Young Irelanders were reaching for in the 1840s.
In any case, a reading of what Boyce proposes there suggests lessons from the Clements killing which go beyond local vengeance.

Any scope for a wider discussion of the chicken-and-egg inter-relationship of land and nationalism in the 19th century?
 

citizen pat

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It was a legitimate slaying IMO

He wasn't shot for nothing that's for sure.

His descendants were a much more decent lot by all accounts

- I think some of them still live in Ireland to this day...
I knew a Garda who served in W Donegal in the 1940s,
an elderly woman living in Telin at that time - but originally from elsewhere in Donegal - recalled the story about the landlord Leitrim , he seemed to inspire loathing and hate .
It was claimed that one of his assasins had long red hair (there was some found in dead landlords fist ), the next day when that news got out -that one of the assassins has long red hair - every man with long red hair , in West Donegal at that time , got their hair cut (whether from fear of being falsely arrested or to frustrate the investigation -I dont know but I guess the latter) .
The same Garda had it from the same source as above that the wad used in the musket used to fire a round at the scene came from a page torn from a copy book -a page was torn from every copy book too
anecdotal I know, but there for your amusement or whatever .
----------------------------------------------------------------------
One thing is certain, he was not shot for nothing -this is not a justification -but at a time when the majority of the population were treated no better than animals by some landlords, the reaction to that harsh treatment - must be seen in its context .
 

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