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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Tithe Proctor Murdered, 1815, Tipperary

The following newspaper extract illustrates the unpopularity of the tithe system in early 19th century Ireland. The Tithes were a tax imposed on the Irish population, regardless of their religion, by the Church of Ireland which was the established church of the state. 
The tithes were collected by proctors - in this case, Mr. Hartnett was the proctor for the Rev. John Pennefather of Glebe House, Newport, Tipperary.

This newspaper extract comes from an 1815 edition of 'The Examiner' which was, I believe, an American publication.

‘Cashel, Dec. 23rd - This day, at noon, one Hartnett (the Tithe Proctor of Rev. John Pennefather, Rector of Newport in this county) was murdered by two men at the gate of Monagee, about one mile from this city on the Camas road. As far as we can collect the facts, they are as follows: It has been a general complaint, that notwithstanding the fall of corn, and the distress of the Farmer, the Clergy have been this year rather more greedy in their exactions as ever. Tithes of an enormous amount are at this moment levied; and, where the wretched Cottier is indigent or contamacious, he is summoned to that dread Tribunal ‘The Bishop’s Court’ and there decreed and condemned to pay. The Tithes of Mr. Penefather’s parish (about 30 miles distant) have exceeded the means of some of his Parishioners, and his Proctor, Hartnett (not the most merciful of his tribe) summoned a number of them to the Metropolitan Court in this city, where a Surrogate constantly sit to do ‘justice’. Hartnett, and these poor creatures, had been in attendance here for some days past, several altercations, and much bitterness appeared on both sides. Finally, the Proctor had the good fortune to succeed in all his complaints, and obtained heavy decrees in all his cases. The wretched defendants cried out that they must leave their homes, their wives and children, that they were hardly used, that they must go to America. Hartnett left Cashel, on his return to Newport, accompanied by two other Proctors, who had been upon similar errands. They were met by two men, supposed to be from Newport, who produced blunderbusses, ordered the two other Proctors to return to Cashel, and detained Hartnett as the most obnoxious. They then fired three shots at Hartnett and left him for dead. The surgeon and other persons came out from Cashel and afforded every aid but the Proctor died in three hours. We understand, however, that he had sufficient strength to relate the particulars, and to name the murderers who were well known to him. Persuit was made but, for the present, they have contrived to escape. The weather was dreadful at the time, blowing a dreadful storm, and accompanied by cold heavy rain. The country people were all in their cabins, and no person visible on the road or in the fields, save the parties we have named. Though this outrage hasw occurred in Middlethird Barony, or in a corner of it, yet it is plain that the inhabitants are free from imputation. No precaution on their part could have prevented it. The Tithe System and the ravenous practices employed by the Clergy, are the causes of this and many other calamities. In truth, as Judge Fletcher has briefly expressed it, ‘The Tithe System is not fit for Ireland. The deliberation and effectual care with which this murder was perpetrated are peculiarly calculated to awaken the most serious reflections and to shew, that when the laws become severe in the extreme, they either fail to be effective, or they excite a horrible re-action. These murderers must have been, for some days past, in Cashel, or in its immediate vicinity, watching their victim and waiting their opportunity.’

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