Achill Mission Trustees: Landlords in County Mayo, Ireland in the 19th Century

The Trustees of Achill Mission were the predominant Landlords in Achill Civil Parish and also represented three islands in Kilcommon-Erris when the Griffith's Valuation was conducted around 1855. They were documented in the following Townlands of Achill Civil Parish in 1855: Bal of Dookinelly-Calvy, Bellanasally, Cashel, Doogort, Doogort East, Doogort West, Dooinkelly (Thulis) Gubalennaun-beg, Inishgalloon, Keel West, Mweelin, Pollranny (Lynchaghan), Pollranny (Sweeny) and Slievemore (including the village of Dooagh within Slievemore). In the Civil Parish of Kicommon-Erris, the Trustees of Achill Mission were the primary landlords on the Islands of Glassillan, Illanbory and Inishbiggle

The concept to form the Achill Missionary settlement was formulated by Edward Nangle and he attained support from other evangelical leaders to bring it to fruition. The following is a brief synopsis on how the settlement land was initially obtained before the Achill Mission Trustees became involved. I have found two great resources on the Achill Missionary Settlement for anyone who would like details on its development: Dugort, Achill Island, 1831-1861 by Mealla C. Ni Ghiobuin and an essay on Edward Nangle and the Achill Mission, 1834-1852 by Irene Whelan in "A Various Country Essays in Mayo History 1500-1900 edited by Raymond Gillespie and Gerard Moran. For more details see my works cited link at the bottom of this page. I have created a page with more details on the Achill Missionary Settlement under Achill Civil Parish.

Edward Nangle approached Sir Richard O'Donel who was the landowner for most of Achill Island in County Mayo regarding the lease of land for the purpose of creating his Missionary Settlement. Sir O'Donel agreed to support the project and give him about 130 acres in a 31 year lease (the only caveat being that he needed to entice the current tenants to release their lease that already existed). A committee of the Achill Mission was formed, the tenants were convinced to release some of their land and development ensued. About 15 years into the lease, the committee became concerned that upon the lease's expiration, the success of the settlement might trigger an increase in their rents upon renewal. (Ghiobuin, 2001, p. 9-10, 59).

When Sir Richard O'Donels estates ended up in the Encumbered Estates Court due to financial difficulties, a move was made by the Achill Mission to purchase the land. A decision was made to try to purchase all of Achill Island; funds were raised but fell short. Three gentlemen made up the shortfall: Thomas Brassey, William Pike and Samuel Holme. The Achill Mission Trustees purchased Achill Island in 1851. In this transaction each of the gentleman acquired small parcels of land on Achill Island. As a point of comparison, the Achill Mission acquired over 23,000 acres at a cost of 10,500 pounds and each gentleman paid less than 2400 Pounds for their parcels.

According to Mealla C. Ni Ghiobuin's publication "Dugort, Achill Island, 1831-61" the "purchase of the mission was ... vested in the following trustees: The Hon. Somerset Maxwell, the Right Hon. Joseph Napier, M.P., George Alexander Hamilton, Esq, M.P., and the Rev. Edward Nangle." (Ghiobuin, 2001, p.60).

After the peak of the famine, the tenants struggled with even greater poverty and the Mission was struggling financially so with the encouragement of Edward Nangle, The Irish Church Missionary Society took over all missionary activities. They operated the Mission for several years until running out of money as well and in 1854, the trust was turned back over to the Achill Mission Committee." (Gillespie; Whelan, 1987, p. 133). Mealla C. Ni Ghiobuin's book mentions 1856 as the year that the Irish Church Mission Society notified the Achill Committee of their plans to leave Achill Island. (Bhiobuin, 2001, p. 61).

Financial difficulties continued for the Missionary Settlement throughout the 1850's, funds became more difficult to obtain and a dispute between two of the Trustees, Sir Joseph Napier and George A Hamilton in the 1860's over how the income of the settlement was to be spent caused the two of them to sue Nangle. Nangle won the lawsuit and as a result Sir Joseph Napier and George A Hamilton resigned their positions as Trustees. The agrarian unrest in the 1870's had an adverse affect on the settlement. The following summation presented in the essay by Irene Whelan perhaps best describes how the Achill Missionary Settlement finally lost all of its steam: "The Land Act of 1881 reduced rents by between thirty and forty percent, the Arrears Act cancelled much of what was due in arrears, and the "No rent manifesto' was a final blow." (Gillespie; Whelan, 1987, p. 133).

The Achill Mission Trustees were listed as holding 19,155 acres in County Mayo when Hussey De Burgh compiled "The Landowners of Ireland" in 1878. (De Burgh, 1878; 2007, p. 2).

Eventually the Achill Mission came before the Congested Districts Board around 1916. At this time I don't have further information on how the land was distributed. I will add information after I do further research.