Farm Ireland

Friday 20 July 2018

The 'doctor' who fought the tyranny of landlordism

This south-east Galway property was home to a famed activist in the 19th century Land Wars

Eviction at Looscaun, Woodford, Co Galway
Eviction at Looscaun, Woodford, Co Galway
Looscaun, Woodford, Co Galway
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Thirty years prior to the 1916 Easter Rising, this house on 23ac at Looscaun near Woodford in Co Galway was at the centre of fierce land agitation during the Land War.

While the Rising centenary celebrations have focussed the attention of the nation on events that went on to shape the political face of Ireland, at the time of the Rising the rural face of the country had been shaped by the Land War that had rumbled on for five decades prior to the events of April 1916.

The Land War and the Land Acts led to the emergence of a strong farming middle class based in small and middle-sized farms that were hewn out of the great estates. The agrarian struggle that brought this about was often characterised by mass demonstrations, evictions, boycotts and violence.

Nowhere was the Land War fought more bitterly than in East Galway where one of the more colourful and militant local land agitators, 'Doctor' Francis Tully made a name for himself.

Francis Tully wasn't a medical doctor, nor did he hold a PhD. He was nicknamed 'Doctor' in 1882 when he publicly prescribed 'leaden pills' as the best medicine for landlords.

In 1886 his house at Looscaun was the scene of particularly fierce resistance when Crown forces sought to assist the local landlord in an attempt to evict Tully.

A boat builder by trade, Tully also farmed a smallholding. His house was a big slated construction, unusual in those times and was much more easily defended than the mud-walled cabins occupied by most of the population. When the bailiffs came to call they brought with them a large force of police and military. Tully and his supporters withstood the siege for several hours, however.

According to records, the occupants of the house, which included 13 men and two girls, were arrested and subsequently imprisoned.

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The famous Doctor Tully, badly injured during the siege, was imprisoned for 12 months.

Throughout the event a huge crowd of local people, including clergy, MPs and other public representatives, was kept at a distance by the police.

The local parish priest, Fr Coen championed Tully and his supporters telling his flock that, "by their spirit, they had done wonderful work for Ireland".

The area where the house is located is about 15.5km south west of Portumna and 22km south east of Loughrea. 'Dr' Tully's house is now for sale by public auction and comes with 22.8ac of land and a guide price of €250,000.


According to Portumna Auctioneer, Ger O'Toole, the stone- built residence was extended and improved over the years and in its current incarnation includes uPVC windows and oil-fired central heating. "With with some tasteful modernisation it could make for a comfortable home of character and distinction," Mr O'Toole said. The accommodation includes a kitchen, sitting room, four bedrooms and a bathroom.

The lands extend to 22.8ac of good quality ground with plenty of road frontage.

A parcel of 10ac comes with the old farmyard adjacent to the residence while a further 12.8ac is located directly across road.

The auctioneer said what happened here is remembered with pride by the people of South East Galway.

The property will be sold at auction at 3pm on Thursday, May 5 at Gullane's Hotel, Ballinasloe.

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