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The Terryalts

A certain wealthy farmer, who purchased the lands from which several comfortable families were ejected, was visited at night by a party of men disguised as blacks, who, after extorting a promise from him to resign his lately rented farm, began to administer to him a severe currying with a wool-card. Writhing under the severe infliction, the tortured man asked, "Oh! who is this whose hand I feel tearing the very flesh off my back?" To which several voices answered, "It is Terry Alt" the pilgrim beggar, that is administering this combing to you, old fellow!" Afterwards "Terryalt" was threatened on any person guilty of oppression of the people, and finally the Whiteboys adopted the name.
(The Prophet of the Ruined Abbey – Rev. Hugh Quigley)

"Giving evidence in Ennis in August, 1844, before a Commission appointed to inquire into the occupation of land in Clare, one of the witnesses, Mr. Ralph Cullinan, Magowna, Fountain Cross, referred to agrarian outrages in his district, and said there had not been any since the Terry Alts were suppressed in 1831. When they were at large, he said, Clare was the most disturbed county in Ireland, and his district was the most disturbed one in the county. Mr Cullinan said that there was at one time in the district a difference of opinion as to whether or not the Terry Alts were of agrarian origin.

Some were of opinion that they originated in the religious controversy between the Parish Priest and a gentleman setting up a different system which the Priest did not approve of; and from appeals from the altar and other means, it began to give rise to outrages.

Asked if the system was ever made use of in avenging agrarian wrongs, he said he rather thought it was, and when persons once got into that combination, they wanted revenge for things that happened twenty years before. He thought the law crushed the Terry Alts completely, but he recollected that the parties who first set on foot the outrages, commenced by endeavouring to get more con-acre, and by intimidating they succeeded. There was not much more con-acre now than there was then.

In the year following the suppression of the Terry Alts there was a considerable amount of land given out, there was not a great deal of it since."
(The Clare Champion, Jan 18, 1958.)

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