THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Landlords living in the shadow of the assassin

Devenish Island in Co Fermanagh. Picture: News Letter archivesDevenish Island in Co Fermanagh. Picture: News Letter archives
Devenish Island in Co Fermanagh. Picture: News Letter archives
From the News Letter, November 10, 1845

Being landlord in the mid-19th century carried with it the ever present danger of assassination.

On this day in 1845 the News Letter reported details of a recent attempt on a Fermanagh landlord named Folliott Barton who had been shot.

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The paper reported: “We grieve to state, upon the authority of a correspondent of our own, that Mr Barton is still lying in a very precarious state, two slugs, which are supposed to be lodged in the lungs of the unfortunate gentleman not having yet been extracted.”

The paper’s article continued: “Our correspondent appends to this information the following remarks: ‘The murderous attack on this estimable gentleman is altogether unaccountable, as he is one of the best landlords, and had been for some time past, storing provisions to meet the wants of his tenantry during the ensuing [winter]’.”

Why were such crimes perpetrated? In the view of the News Letter: “Crimes of this sort are not so much the crimes of the individuals who are instruments of their perpetration . . . They are less the poisonous fruits of personal passion, than of gigantic conspiracies against the institutions of society. In most of these revolting crimes it will be found that the original cause of the offence, real or imagined, is one, which if left to the disposal of the person who considers aggrieved would never hurry him into outrage or murder.”

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