The Peer, The Priests and the Press

Roy Greenslade


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The Peer the Priests and the Press: A Story of the Demise of Irish Landlordism

by Roy Greenslade

Lord George Augusta Hill was the godson of a British king and the son of one of the largest landowners in Ireland and one of England’s richest women. He also married two of Jane Austen’s nieces. In 1838 he bought 23,000 acres of Gweedore, west Donegal, and sought to gain a reputation as a kindly landlord, despite doing away with the traditional rundale system of farming. His reforms won him admiration within his own class, aided by a largely pliant press. He was praised for investing in roads and buildings, including a hotel which became the basis of a nascent tourism business.

ROY GREENSLADE describes the lengths Hill went to in his mission to ‘civilise’ tenants, including learning Irish and banning the distillation of alcohol. It was no mean feat for a member of the Protestant Ascendancy to overcome antagonism from 3,000 Catholic tenants to all the sweeping changes he was making. But then came one reform too many and tenants began to rebel. They were supported by a number of local priests and also a campaigning journalist, Denis Holland. Greenslade charts the subsequent unravelling of Hill’s reputation, which marked the beginning of the end of Irish landlordism itself.



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