jd_clip_image001James Daly was the Connaught Telegraph’s most celebrated editor in the latter part of the nineteenth century. He became a part owner of the newspaper with Alfred O’Hea before eventually taking over complete ownership at the beginning of 1879 (following the death of Mr O’Hea a short time earlier). “Many historians believe that at this stage in history that the Telegraph had established itself at that time as one of the most radical newspapers” . During this radical period Daly held the reigns of editor and proprietor until 1892. During which time he utilised the power of the printed word to campaign forcefully against absentee landlords, rack rents and evictions. However he is one of the most forgotten men in Irish history and as Foster says in his book Modern History 1600-1972, “ he was one of the few involved who was not a fenian, and which may be why he was written out of subsequent history”
James Daly was born in 1838 at Cloonabinna, Boughadoon, near Lahardaun, the eldest son of a family of eight. Shortly after his birth, the Daly family moved to Coachfield, Belcarra.By the standards of the nineteenth century, the Daly family was relatively well-off Daly grew up a staunch Catholic conservative and he was totally against violence and drink. He was educated by the Franciscan Monks at Errew Monastery and went as far as the eighth book, which was the full educational benefit given by the Brothers. He began his political career in 1869 when he won a seat, in the Breaffy Electoral Division, on the Board of Guardians and later succeeded his father as a guardian for the Litterbrick Division of the Ballina Union The late 1860s and early 1870s was a time of great political change in Ireland, with a number of political reformers being elected to the poor law unions in the West. With widespread landlord absenteeism, politically conscious farmers had an opportunity to secure a niche within the local political framework. Daly became a strong defender of the local tenant’s cause and attended a meeting in 1875; convened to establish a local tenants defence association. This interest and activity on local causes was to become important to his political values as he fought to further the tenants cause in the years ahead
Many Nationalists had become disillusioned with the Home Rule movement and the organised many demonstrations to show their views. The tenant farmers in Mayo suffered great distress at the hands of landlords and their agents. In May 1876, the Ballinasloe Tenants Defence Association was founded, a movement which greatly impressed Daly. Daly and O’Hea regularly attended meetings of the association and in, 1878, the Mayo Farmers Club was established. The club, however, never succeeded in its objectives. No demonstrations were organised and before long it became inactive.
Following this, Daly’s views on how to act on the tenants behalf changed and he abandoned his policy of publishing their grievances and organising demonstrations. Instead he encouraged them to organise meetings; a policy that ultimately resulted in the formation of the Land League in Daly’s Hotel. Daly was appointed secretary of the new organisation. In January 1879, tenants of Canon Burke’s Irishtown Estate requested him to publish their grievances, of which the list was extensive. Daly declined in fear of libel but advised a mass meeting be held in Irishtown, which he would publicise.
This great historic meeting, for which he was largely responsible for organising, took place on the 20th April 1879 at Irishtown (Dry Mills). John O’Connor Power was to be the main speaker at the meeting, which had originally been planned for February. The meeting was postponed and, as a result, one Michael Davitt became involved with its organisation. One of the errors of history is crediting Michael Davitt for this meeting. He was not there. It was later mischievously said that he would have been ‘the father of the Land League had he not missed the train.’ This honour, father of the Land League belongs to James Daly. As Liam De Paor says in his book Milestones in Irish history “ It was Daly who organised the famous meeting in Irishtown April 20 1989, the first great public meeting of the land movement. It should also be noted that neither Devoy nor Parnell were present which has also been untruly stated.
The year 1879 proved to be a busy and fruitful year for James Daly. He was firstly elected chairman of the historic meeting addressed by Charles Stuart Parnell. On August 16th of the same year, he became vice-president of the Land League of Mayo in Castlebar. He was also elected to the committee of the Irish National Land League founded in Dublin on October 21st, 1879.
He had a restraining affect on the League, with his strong anti-violence policies, he ensured the League remained within the law. He told the Bessborough Commission: “I am a Land Leaguer myself, and I would not be a Land Leaguer if it had anything behind it like revolution. I would fight against it.” However frustrations were to arise, particularly as a result of increased evictions, and many Fenian leaders openly called for rebellion against the Government. Daly himself was arrested and jailed along with Michael Davitt and J.B. Killeen for a speech given at Gurteen on November 2nd 1879. ‘The Gurteen Three’, as they were called, had their charges eventually dropped at a trial in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Daly earned himself a high profile, even at national level. As the agitation caused by the Land Reform movement moved onto the national stage, other leaders came to power. Daly, however, opted to remain at a local level and didn’t pursue a position in the national movement or in party politics. His decision not to enter the national scene was largely due to the fact that his strongly locally orientated views would be in direct conflict with Parnell’s centralised political system.
His newspaper was also in a precarious position at the time, and he also had a wife and young family to support. As the emphasis of the Land League began to spread to the farmers in the east and south of the country, Daly felt the organisation had deserted the group it was originally set up to serve. This lost the movement much of its appeal. Daly was also critical of the organisation’s finances and the drift towards physical force and the centralisation of the political movement.
By 1882 he had left the Land League and he eventually sold the Connaught Telegraph to one of his employees, T.H. Gillespie, in 1888 and became a full time farmer. Up to his death in 1910 he was involved with local Government and served both on Mayo County Council and Castlebar Urban District Council.
The initiation of the Land War and the beginnings of the Land League is all traced back to the works of James Daly. His input into activities, which changed the course of Irish history, has never been fully recognised. Reasons why you chose this topic. 1) I chose to do my research topic on James Daly as he is a very important man in Irish history. He had a lot to do with the land league including advising farmers on their rights yet; he is rarely given any spotlight. 2) Another reason why I chose this topic is because I am very interested Irish politics. Book Review One of the sources used to gather information was Ireland since 1870 by Mark Tierney published by CJ fallon in1988. It deals with the general history of this period. The book deals with a range of topics and therefore was quite interesting. It was concise and easily comprehendable. It gave an objective, unbiased account of events. The details of the book are factual, taken from both primary and secondary sources. SOURCES 1) Internet source: The History Channel 2) Internet source: the Connaught Telegraph BIBLIOGRAPHY 1) Ireland since 1870:Mark Tierney 2) Discovering times past. Edmund O’ Donovan 3) Modern Ireland 1600-1972.R.F. Foster. Penguin 1988