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Thursday 17 October 2019

New book sheds light on Riverstown's 'Ranch War'

Above: the monument to John Stenson at Riverstown and inset, the new book which features John Stenson, 'The Ranch War in Riverstown'.
Above: the monument to John Stenson at Riverstown and inset, the new book which features John Stenson, 'The Ranch War in Riverstown'.

ON THE outskirts of the village of Riverstown stands a statue, a monument to a 19-year-old man from Tubbercurry named John Stenson.

He was shot at that spot in October 1908 while among those involved in what was known as "a cattle drive".

Cattle drives were part of an effort at the time to force landlords to relinquish untenanted land for distribution among those in the locality.

Orchestrating this campaign in and around Riverstown was the United Irish League, the activities of which were covered in detail by the local newspapers, including The Sligo Champion.

Now comes a new book, ' The Ranch War in Riverstown, Co. Sligo, 1908' by Dr. Patrick Cosgrove, a postdoctoral research fellow at the National University of Maynooth.

The book, published by Four Courts Press, investigates how anti-grazing agitation operated at a local level in Riverstown by focusing on the Riverstown United Irish League.

Today, not many people may know much about the Ranch War or indeed about the history behind the Stenson Monument.

But this book is a concise yet detailed examination of the time.

For those who heard of the events of the early 1900s, it's certainly a handy but scholarly primer.

For later generations, it's instructive and enlightening.

And for Riverstown people everywhere, it's certainly a must read; their ancestors and their townlands may even be mentioned in the book.

While the various incidents at Riverstown may have been parochial in nature, they quickly acquired national significance, and attracted the attention of the leading politicians of the day, both Irish and British.

If all politics is local, the goingson around Riverstown in the early 1900s was certainly a microcosm of what was happening at a much wider level.

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