The Peer, the Priests and the Press: A Story of the Demise of Irish Landlordism


By Roy Greenslade

The Peer the Priests and the Press: A Story of the Demise of Irish Landlordism

Lord George Augusta Hill was the godson of a British king and the son of one of the largest landowners in Ireland and one of England’s richest women. He also married two of Jane Austen’s nieces. In 1838 he bought 23,000 acres of Gweedore, west Donegal, and sought to gain a reputation as a kindly landlord, despite doing away with the traditional rundale system of farming. His reforms won him admiration within his own class, aided by a largely pliant press. He was praised for investing in roads and buildings, including a hotel which became the basis of a nascent tourism business.

ROY GREENSLADE describes the lengths Hill went to in his mission to ‘civilise’ tenants, including learning Irish and banning the distillation of alcohol. It was no mean feat for a member of the Protestant Ascendancy to overcome antagonism from 3,000 Catholic tenants to all the sweeping changes he was making. But then came one reform too many and tenants began to rebel. They were supported by a number of local priests and also a campaigning journalist, Denis Holland. Greenslade charts the subsequent unravelling of Hill’s reputation, which marked the beginning of the end of Irish landlordism itself.

A stunning, revelatory work of reportage as Roy Greenslade turns his expert editor’s eye to an epic 19th century battle between an infamous Donegal landlord and an unsung crusading reporter. Picking sides in that scrap is easy … until you read this book.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, former Lord Mayor of Belfast

In the time of the Great Famine, people of all political stripes hailed Lord George Hill as an exemplary landlord for his ‘improvements’ in north-west Donegal. Yet, within a decade, priests, a journalist and the people who were his tenants exploded Hill’s reputation with a series of extraordinary allegations ultimately investigated by a select committee in Westminster. Roy Greenslade tells the story of Hill with style.

Breandán Mac Suibhne, author of The End of Outrage

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