Congested Districts Board

All the Andersons and their spouses who farmed in County Mayo were affected by agrarian unrest and the redistribution of agricultural land under the auspisies of the Congested Districts Board.

Congested Districts Board (CDB)

In the late 1880s Arthur Balfour, Irish Chief Secretary set up a number of measures to improve the level of prosperity in areas like Burrishoole which were ‘congested’ by a large number of small tenanted holdings that could not support a family at a decent standard of living.  For the first couple of decades The Congested Districts Board was poorly funded and it was only able to help by promoting improvements in agriculture, local industries and projects, not land distribution on the scale required to make a long term impact.

The effect of the increase in the Board’s funding in 1903 to £250,000, and later increments can be seen in entries in Arthur Oram’s diaries.  Gradually Arthur lost agencies as tenanted holdings were sold to the CDB. In their turn the CDB arranged that the tenant farmers bought the property on repayment terms similar to the rent that they had been paying. Mr Anketell-Jones sold the tenanted holdings of the Burrishoole Estate to the CDB in 1905. Arthur Oram was in discussion with the Board on behalf of his sister-in-law Mrs Dick at Mullaun when she sold part of her family’s land.  Arthur also helped the Hope sisters agree a price for Knochloughra after their father and Arthur’s friend George Hope died.

The CDB wanted to ensure that tenant farmers who they had assisted could buy extra land to ensure a decent standard of living.  Unfortunately the CDB was not able to force the sale of the necessary tracts of good untenanted land that was let under grazing agreements. This fuelled a great deal of discontent amongst the people that the CDB were supposed to be helping.  Arthur Oram’s cousin-in-law James Cowan was a grazier who was still not cooperating in 1931 when questions were asked in the Irish Parliament about his holdings of over 800 acres.  By then the Congested Districts Board had become the Irish Land Commission.

There is still debate over the Congested Districts Board, see

In an un-sourced footnote in Robert Kee’s 1972 “The Green Flag” says: Vindication of those who had always maintained that it was the system itself and not the fecklessness of the Irish tenant that made land tenure in Ireland unworkable was found in the fact that out of a total of some £120,000,000 advanced to the Irish peasant in the course of the whole operation, only £12,000 was not repaid. 

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