The Burkes and The Polloks by Martin Duffy

The Burkes and The Polloks by Martin Duffy

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This book describes the fortunes of two landed families who have reigned in a rural Irish parish at different times over recent centuries. The parish is that of Kilbegnet ( Creggs/ Glinsk) in the Diocese of Elphin on the Galway/ Roscommon Border. The families involved are the Burkes and the Pollocks.

The Burkes derived frim ancestors who cam e to Ireland with the early Normans. A branch settled in Glinsk Castle in the early 1640s. They sold out in the 1850s for financial and associated legal reasons. They overcome such obstacles as defining their loyalties in the aftermath of the Reformation. To whom do we belong? - Old or New English, who are we? - Papists or Recusants? Whom do we support? - King or Parliament?

Two Pollock brothers from Glasgow replaced the Burkes by purchasing their 7,414 acre estate in the Encumbered Estates Court, takin possession of it in 1854. Their experience in the Creggs/ Glink area was not a happy one due to the growth of anti-landlordism, poor communications with their tenants, etc.

The position of the landed gentry has always been a contentious one. Progressive legislation slowly addressed agrarian problems. By 1870 only 3% of Irish householders owned any land: by the time of the 1916 Rising the figure had grown to 64%.

Allan Pollok took over the Burke estate in 1854. The programme of massive scientific farming practiced on the Pollok estate was most innovative. But it was achieved at great social cost, the most extreme being the process of evictions, which met with the hostility of the rising Land League founded in 1879. The subsequent 1903 Land Act, almost completed the establishment of tenant proprietorship throughout Ireland. This exercise was completed by Land Act of 1923.

Thye book neatly introduces the role of Parnell as achieving much needed legislation which led to the ending of landlordism and giving ownership of the soil to those who tilled it. He gave his last public speech in Creggs in 1891 and his memory was recalled by the erection of a plaque there in 1946.

In an engaging story, the book sets out the fortunes of two dynaties who have left their foot-prints on an Irish parish in the West of Ireland.