New historical documentary
The story of Michael Davitt, the Fenian and land activist who reshaped Ireland, and set it on its path towards cultural and political revolution is to be broadcast on TG4 (Ireland’s Irish Language broadcaster) on Wednesday May 29th at 9:30pm
Michael Davitt was born into poverty in the village of Straide in North Mayo during the Great Irish Famine on the 25th March 1846. Born to a farming family, when Michael was aged four he and his family were evicted from their homestead and emigrated like many Irish families to England.
At the age of nine, Michael Davitt while working in a cotton mill his right arm became entangled in a cogwheel and injured him so badly it had to be amputated.
Michael Davitt Activist and Fenian
In his early twenties Davitt joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and would exponentially rise through the organisation. Davitt’s actions as a memebr of the IRB would later see him incarcerated in Dartmoor prison.
After Davitt served time in Dartmoor he returned to the west of Ireland in early 1879. The west of Ireland was once again gripped by poverty and a famine which began in 1879.
Michael Davitt organised a large meeting which is said to have attracted up to 13,000 people. Davitt did not attend the meeting in fear he would be re-interred in prison. Davitt’s campaign was to reduce farming tenants rents. The campaign threatened non-payment of rent should evictions continue and fairer rent.
In August 1879 the Mayo Land League was founded in Castlebar with support from Charles Stewart Parnell. Davitt was elected secretary. The objective of the Land League was to abolish landlordism in Ireland and enable tenant farmers to own the land on which they worked.
An international campaigner
In a By-election in 1882 Michael Davitt was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) for County Meath but was disqualified as he was in prison. Upon his release Davitt travelled to the United States were he campaigned and raised funds for the Land League.
Davitt would travel near and far delivering lectures on humanitarian issues. He would travel to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia and most of Europe.
Davitt’s ambition that the ownership of the land would be transferred from the landlords to the tenants made some progress when a land purchase Act was enacted in the British parliament in 1903 but Davitt was not satisifed as the Act gave generous inducements to landlords to sell their estates.
The legacy of Michael Davitt
Michael Davitt died in Elpis Hospital, Dublin on 30th May 1906, aged 60. 20,000 people filed passed his coffin before his remains were brought home by train to be buried in Straide Abbey.
Michael Davitt inspired the leaders of the 1916 Rising and it is thought that Mahatma Gandhi viewed the Mayoman was a role model.
The Michael Davitt Museum
The Museum is housed in the magnificently restored pre-Penal Church that was used prior to the enactment of the 1690’s Penal Laws in Ireland. The building is a beautiful setting for the fascinating story of this huge character in Irish history.
Monday to Saturday: 10 am – 4.30pm
Sunday: 2pm – 5pm
Michael Davitt: Radacach will air on TG4 on May 29th at 9:30pm.