John and Arthur Oram: Farmers


It is easy to think of John and Arthur in their horse and traps, or maybe on horseback collecting rents, attending meetings, courthouses and church services.   In fact these activities were just a small part of their lives.  The majority of the time they were trying to make a living through farming, just as the vast majority of their neighbours were doing. Usually when they did leave home it was to look after their stock or attend market.

A quick glance at the diaries shows that most of the entries concern the usual range of activities one would expect to see on a small mixed farm along with a daily brief weather report.

John Oram, farmer

There seem to be two strands to John’s life as a farmer when he lived a Burrishoole Farmhouse

  1. That of Captain Wyndham’s estate farm manager and
  2. That of an independent farmer

As is said elsewhere in this site John Oram was interested in the developments in agricultural practice in mid 19th century.  As farm manager on the Burrishoole Estate John wanted to run a better quality of sheep, probably the latest black-faced cross.  The diaries do not say if Captain Wyndham sanctioned this on the Burrishoole estate but it is obvious that John, with or without Captain Wyndham’s permission rented land and ran his own flock.

In his diaries John often referred to the ‘Mountain’.  The only hint as to which area of land he was referring to comes from the family’s oral history.  “[John] rented land near Achill Island for his own use. His grandsons, Arthur and James say that whenever their grandfather passed one mountain near Achill, he always sighed and announced that he had lost an awful lot of money on that mountain! – sheep just vanished and they never managed to catch the thieves however hard they tried.”  The ‘Mountain’ may have been above Mallaranny as in 1856 John tried to buy land there from Captain Wyndham.  The same land was sold to Colonel Vaughan.  Perhaps Colonel Vaughan, who was friendly towards John and his family rented some of the land to John.

In his diaries John often sends sheep and cattle to England but it is impossible to know if he is referring to the Estate stock or his own, or maybe a mixture. As a farm manager John would have employed farmhands, so when he mentions ‘dunging mangels’ he is probably reporting the main activity on the farm that day rather than what John himself had done.

John Oram and his obvious dislike of dairy farming

John did not want to be involved in dairy farming, probably because he watched his parents and brother struggle as dairymen in his native Somerset. In his early diaries John followed the story of Captain Wyndham’s dairyman ‘poor’ George Bartlett until, as John predicted, he finally gave up and returned to England.

Teevemore and Sandymount

The townland of Teevemore, that has an area of over 150 acres is on the south side the Newport River and to the south west of the centre of Newport. At the time of the Griffith’s Valuation in the mid 1850s Teevemore was owned by Nathaniel P. Simes, who also owned a salmon fishery on Newport River and various other land around Newport.  To the west of Burrishoole Farmhouse, where John Oram lived Nathaniel Simes owned Raigh and the almost adjoining island of Rosstrunk.

It was Nathaniel Simes who encouraged John Oram to rent a farm on his estate in Sussex, an offer John took up between 1873 and 1877.  When John was considering returning to Mayo Nathaniel  Simes offered John land at Teevemore.  John went to Ireland and took possession on 29 September 1876 at 30 shillings [£1.50] per Irish acre for 31 years.  Until John returned to Burrishoole he left the land in the care of Arthur who had taken over John’s agency work when John moved to Sussex.

Unfortunately Nathaniel Simes, wool broker of the City of London was declared bankrupt and his name appeared in The London Gazette for 17 September 1886.  Prior to this John and Arthur were aware of the pending sale of Teevemore due to the bankruptcy, as John, by then living in Somerset made the comment in his diary on 2 May 1886 that he had received ‘frequent communications’ on the matter.  Two and a half years later, on 22 October 1888 John ‘heard that Priest Greally had purchased Teevemore’.  Six months later in April 1890 John mentions purchasing the Teevemore lease and later that year ‘giving up’ the lease to Arthur.

John and Arthur felt that they had not had a fair chance to purchase the land.  Later, on 15 February 1898 about 300 anti-grazing protesters called on Arthur at Wilford Lodge.  The last part of Arthur’s entry for that day was

“Grady said what about Teevemore, I said that I believed that they were all aware how I was treated about Teevemore, how I am & have been paying £60 a year or over for the past 7 years, more than I would have had to pay owing to Rev Canon Greally without saying a word to me buying it over my head at one years purchase more that I had actually arrange to buy it for. Several in the crowd said they knew about it. Grady then asked if I would sell Teevemore if the Congested Districts Bd,  Canon Greally & I could agree, I replied yes but the first condition I insist on is that I am restored to the position I was deprived of by Canon Greally & that then I would meet the CDB. They said that was all they wanted thanked me & left.”

Arthur farmed land at Teevemore until the end of 1907, the last three months as caretaker. On 1 January 1908 Arthur was in Newport and ...”call on F Chambers who comes to Teevemore and takes possession.”

For the next eight years Arthur farmed at Sandymount, a townland adjacent to Teevemore.  On 31 March 1916, after much negotiation he handed over possession to Mr Duncan, Inspector, Congested Districts Board.  Presumably Arthur farmed just at Wilford during the remaining three years of his life.

Arthur Oram, farmer

Arthur was a farmer on his own account.  The position of farm manager for the Burrishoole Estate was taken by Arthur’s friend William Rose when John Oram went to live in Sussex.

Arthur kept a record of the farmhand’s names and hours in his diaries and the work carried out on the farm each day.  No doubt the majority of this work was done by the farm hands rather than Arthur himself.   Arthur attended many of the markets in the wider area, keeping a note in his diary of all the prices that he paid and received.

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