Digby Estate

Geashill cattle drive

The first cattle drive at Geashill took place on the night of Easter Saturday 1914. A large group of tenants assembled at Ballydownan and drove over 300 cattle from various disputed farms and turned them loose onto the roads where they scattered in all directions with signs on their necks claiming 'The land for the people and the roads for us'. It took a large number of RIC constables much time and effort to recover the cattle from this first drive.

The biggest cattle drive was attempted in November 1914 when over 1,000 men assembled again at Ballydownan with two marching bands from Tullamore and Croghan in attendance. However this time the men met with considerable resistance from the RIC including a force drafted in from Tullamore. The RIC were authorised to use firearms if necessary and the ensuing scuffle resulted in injuries on both sides.

A large number of arrests were made including that of Patrick F. Adams, a member of Offaly County Council. The charges against those arrested ranged from unlawful assembly to assault on the police. All were found guilty but the majority were released on their own recognizance and bound to keep the peace for two years. Of the others, one man, Thomas Hynes was sentenced to 12 months hard labour and six men received sentences of six months hard labour. There was an outcry at the severity of the sentences and petitions were submitted on behalf of the imprisoned men. The six men who had received lesser sentences were released after two months and Thomas Hynes served four and a half months of his 12 month sentence.

This ballad recounts a version of these events.

The Cattle Drive of Geashill

(composed by John Carroll and retold by Jim Hanlon)

Good people of this barony
Come listen for a while
And when you hear those simple lines
You needn't laugh or smile
We have had lots of meetings
And speeches too of late
About the breaking of the Ranch
On Digby's grand estate


For we have to get the land
Where the bullocks now do stand
And we never will be satisfied
Until we get the land

The Abrahams and Kavanagh
And Bagnal also
They think it hard to part from us
But we say they must go
So rally round from every side
Our course is good and grand
All Geashill stands united
For the division of the land


Hark, I hear the hazels whaken
And feet hurrying to and fro
And all in one voice shoutin'
No surrender they must go
We are fighting for the land
And united here we stand
We never will give up the fight
Until we get the land


So now boys get ready
Have your hazels cut and dry
The time is fast approaching
When we win our cause or die
And when you get the signal
Let each man have his abode
The land for the people
And the bullocks for the road