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The History of Irish Estates.

 

Throughout Ireland's long and torturous history various forces have battled for the hearts and minds of its people, but more importantly, ownership of the land with the power and wealth it conferred on those controlling it. This was the prime motivation, and the cause of the vast majority of wars and battles in which countless thousands died, the vast majority of these anonymous people who, had they lived, would not have been any better off, nor would they have owned the land their spilt blood was to nurture. They were merely expendable pawns in the power struggles of the ruling elite.

The Norman invasion of the late 1100's lost vast tracts of land to the native Irish, these lands they divided among their leaders. The nature of man is such, that when he has nothing he understandably wants something. But when he has enough he always wants more, and the more he aquires the more he wants. The Norman lords began to squabble between themselves, and attack their Irish neighbours, in areas as yet unconquered.

While at one time holding sway over a considerable part of the country, they never gained absolute control, principally because Ireland, unlike England lacked a central administration center. Ireland was ruled by many minor kings who owed allegiance to a high king or 'Ard Ri' The last high king is generally accepted to have been Rory O'Connor who died in 1198, and was buried in Clonmacnoise County Offaly.

In the two centuries beginning in 1500 ownership of the vast majority of Irish land fell into the hands of English landlords

This tragedy of human greed, has been played through endless generations, from the earliest history to the farce that is Stormont today. The outward symbols of this endless suppression of the people have survived in the churches, castles, grand stately homes and latterly government buildings. These are a testament to the wealth of a country and its people subverted to the glory of an individual or family by the ruling class or church. The wonder in the stained glass, that tells of our place in Gods design, that we dare not question, pillars that soar to heaven vaulted in wood or stone, reinforces our inferiority to the church and its dogma.

When visiting, these often wonderful places, it is easy to be seduced by the art and beauty of their architecture, their paintings and antiques, their estates set out in parklands that resemble paintings, a stage-set of an idealized nature, confined and controlled by these Patricians fathers.

We forget the human cost of these treasures, as we marvel at their marble halls, their stained glass, what we should marvel at is the skill of the craftsmen who produced them, we forget the drudgery of the humble housemaids, slaving to light their fires and wash their clothes. The countless gardeners, up at dawn manicuring the garden sparing their masters eyes the specticle of their lowly forms, struggling against the odds to grow exotic fruit and flowers, to grace their dinner tables. The families condemned to subsist on a diet of potatoes in an earthed floor hovel, on the edges of these often-vast estates, to be evicted because sheep are more profitable or their humble dwellings spoil the view from the dinning room.

As we wonder, we forget, that the Dutch East India Company, that furnished so many of these grand houses with their silks and satins; the magnificent Italian bronzes and marble friezes, acquired on the 'Grand Tour', that made self perceived 'Gentlemen' out of 'carpet baggers' . We turn an eye, beguiled by the beauty of these rare and privileged lives, oblivious to the fact, that what we should see displayed on these walls, are, the blood sweat and deaths of an infinite number of African slaves, condemned to die on the plantations of the Caribbean, producing the sugar or cotton that paid for such wealth. Or the endless supply of young Irish soldiers ( the poor boys everywhere ) recruited into a British army, to fight foreign wars, for private profit, or to perpetuate the rule fighting cousins on their thrones, which was the blood bath that began the first World War.