The Ballinlass evictions, 1846 –

On Friday 13 March 1846, the sub sheriff of Co Galway accompanied by a large force of police constables and a detachment of military, approached the townland of Ballinlass, a townland of some 300 statute acres, situated some two miles to the north east of Mountbellew in Co Galway. The townland was in the ownership of John Netterville Gerrard and his wife Marcella, of Gibbstown House, Navan, Co Meath. The sub sheriff called upon the tenants to render possession ‘and forthwith the bailiffs of Mrs Gerrard commenced the work of demolition’. The evictions were a civil matter – a dispute between landlord and tenants. The presence of such a large contingent of police and military was there in anticipation of a breach of the peace. Possibly because of such a presence, the onlookers and tenants were intimidated and the 61 families, a total of 270 people, were evicted and their homes demolished.

This talk examined the events leading up to and following the Gerrard evictions at Ballinlass. It explored how the Netterville family of Dowth were granted lands in the parish of Killian in the 17th century and how the will of Edmond Netterville in 1765 impacted on the fate of the estate a century later. The marriage of Marcella ‘Madge’ Netterville to John Gerrard in 1822 was to have a profound effect in the management of the Netterville estate of several thousand acres. His strategy of converting the estate from tenancies to a massive grazing farm with its attendant eviction strategy was also examined.

The presentation refered also to the attempt by John Gerrard to create the town of Newtown Gerrard with its police barracks, market house and regular agricultural fairs, which, despite the best efforts of its creator, reverted to its original name of Newbridge shortly after their deaths. The dispute about ownership which ensued following the deaths of John and Marcella Gerrard and the division of the estate between three claimants will also be explored

Tom Crehan is a native of Newbridge Co Galway. He attended Windfield NS and St Joseph’s College, Garbally. He holds an MA Local History from NUI Maynooth and is a retired second level school principal. His study, Marcella Gerrard’s Galway estate, 1820-70, was published in 2013 as part of the Maynooth Studies in Local History series.