Billy Fanning of Clondoty, Co Tipperary Ireland

Billy Fanning of Clondoty took a farm in Loughmore, Co Tipperary Ireland in 1885 by offering higher rent. Fanning was dubbed a landgrabber. There was a huge outcry and protests as Fanning was a member of the Loughmore Land league which was fighting for the rights of tenants and against such actions. Includes a radio program discussing the case with a descendant of Cambie.

William Fanning of Clondoty.
William “Billy” Fanning of Clondoty, Co Tipperary, Ireland
Catherine Fanning nee Fogarty Clondoty
Billy 1827-1908 & Catherine Fanning nee Fogarty 1830-1875 outside their Clondoty house.

William (Billy) Fanning and his wife Catherine Fanning outside their house at Clondoty Co Tipperary

I heard from a fourth cousin in Tipperary who told me about the landgrabbing case involving William “Billy” Fanning from Clondoty Co Tipperary.

Her grandmother was Bridget Fanning of Lissaroon. She told me that William Fanning, first cousin of my Bulla ancestor, William Patrick Fanning, was a  considered a “land grabber”.

In 1885 he took over a farm in Clondoty that he was not entitled to.

As a result there was a huge boycott on all the Fanning families. Delia says that the fact that many Fannings married their cousins was because of this boycott. She also says that William Fanning, I think who would be the grandson, shot himself, age 30, as a consequence of the restrictions of the boycott. I have not been able to find any evidence of this suicide in the death records.

William Fanning of Clondoty who took the farm was a member of the Loughmore Land League. This enraged people who felt he had abused his position to better himself.

Below is an account from the Nenagh Guardian 11 Jul 1885:

Nenagh Guardian 11 Jul 1885

I have just added this Irish radio program. It takes a while to start.

about the Billy Fanning landgrabbing case of 1885. It was sent to me by a very kind Irish lady but I don’t know which station or when it was recorded.

It is a really interesting discussion and runs for 14 mins and you get to hear lovely Irish accents and pronunciations.

A descendant told me as a result of his taking this farm the entire Fanning family was boycotted.

Map of Clondoty Townland from Landed Estates Court Rentals 1853
Map of Clondoty Townland from Landed Estates Court Rentals 1853
Griffiths Valuation Map of Clondoty about 1849
Townland of Clondoty prior to Sept 1849 Loughmoe East Parish Co Tipperary Ireland

The following transcription of a Special Commission Feb 1, 1889 was made by Mary Heaphy and is on Rootsweb Archives, 15 April 2007. Copied here with permission.

1-2-1889 The Special Commission.

Royal Courts of Justice.

Before the Right Honourable Sir. James Hannen, Mr. Justice Day, and Mr. Justice A.L.Smith, Commissioners. The special commission held their 42nd sitting today at 10'30 in the No. 1 Probate Court of the Royal Courts of Justice. The Counsel representing the Times are the Attorney-General, (Sir R. Webster, Q.C) ., Sir H. James, Q.C. Mr. Murphy, Q.C. and Mr. W. Graham, of the English Bar, and Mr. John Atkinson, Q.C. and Mr. Ronan of the Irish Bar. Mr. Parnell is represented by Sir. C. Russell, Q.C. and Mr. Asquith; Mr. Dillon, Mr. E. Harrington, and other members of the parliament against whom charges and allegations have been brought by Mr. R.T.Reid, Q.C. and Mr. A. Russell, of the English Bar, and Mt. T. Barrington of the Irish Bar, and the remaining members of Parliament by Mr.F.Lockwood. Q.C. , Mr. Lionel Hart, and Mr. A. O'Connor. Mr. Hammond, solicitor represents Mr. Chance. Mr. Biggar, Mr. Davitt, and Mr. T. Healy appear in person.
(I'm only transcribing the Tipperary extracts. Where branches etc are mentioned it's the National Land League.)

Sir C. Russell;-What is the North Tipperary case?- It is the case of a man named Fanning, a Poor Law Guardian who took a farm from which someone was evicted;-A surrendered farm. William Fanning of Loughmore, a Poor Law Guardian, took on March 25th 1885, a farm which Richard Crambie had surrendered in 1882. There was a meeting of the Loughmore Branch on the Tuesday previous to April 4th, 1885, as reported in the Tipperary Leader of April 4th at which Fanning was expelled. On April 6th a threatening letter was sent to him. A public meeting was held in Loughmore on April 18th, at
which Fanning was personally condemned and strongly denounced.

A public meeting was held on April 26th at Loughmore, at which Fanning was mentioned in intimidatory language. On July 5th Fanning was hooted and groaned at. At Petty Sessions three people were fined for hooting at him. On Oct. 29th Fanning's son was assaulted, and stunned by a blow from an unknown assailant. On Sept. 2nd Pat Maher was sentenced to two months prison and
bound to the peace for 12 months for assaulting Fanning's escort. Fanning surrendered the farm on November 12th, 1885, and the boycotting and outrages ceased.

The Attorney-General-When did Fanning take the farm?-March 25th 1885.

Sir C. Russell.-And surrendered it in November 1885.

The Court adjourned for Lunch.

On its reassembling,

Sir C. Russell.-We have got down to November 12th, 1885 and then he
surrendered, and that is the end of the story?, Yes.

Then let me summarize the case, Fanning, Poor Law Guardin, and Land Leaguer, takes a farm in 1885, that had been surrendered in 1882. On April 18th he is expelled from the League. On April 6th a letter is sent, on April 26th there is a meeting condemning him; in July he was hooted, and on Oct. 29th. his son had a stone thrown at him by some persons unknown.

The Attorney General;-I think his son was stunned by a blow from some unknown person.

Sir. C. Russell;-Oh, I thought the word was stone. In November he
surrendered the farm. Is that the whole case?-Yes.

Let me have the whole of the papers, please, including the precis.
(Documents handed to Sir. C. Russell.)

Sir. C. Russell here read an extract from the Tipperary Leader April 18th 1885.

Father O’Keane. P.P. speaking at a meeting, said;-Any farmer who goes behind the back of another, or transgresses the rules of the League in any form, should be condemned. In this Parish the most grevious offence against the league was committed by William Fanning. He was expelled from the League, and his subscription returned to him, and Mr. Fanning, would find out yet that the money would not fructify,”. I do not find anything more until I come to the speech of Mr. Robert Nolan, who asked?-; “How do you treat this Land Grabber?. Well you are not to strike him. Don’t strike, but boycot him; Avoid him, let no person go near him, no person speak to him. Let the earth be to him, a Sahara. Let him wander about unknown, unnoticed. Let him be obliged to exclaim with Crusoe-
“O Solitude! Where are the charms,
That sages have seen in my face,
Better dwell in the midst of alarms
Then reign in this horrible place”.

The Attorney General-Mr Lords, in the Tipperary Leader of the same date is reported a speech by Mr. David Sheehy, M.P., and there are further references by other speakers to Fanning. Mr. David Sheehy said this-“He wished not only the members of the Branch, but the people in general would consider some of the surroundings of the case to which the first resolution referred. In the first place as to its effect on the great national organization, when we reflect on the position this man Fanning held in their branch of that organization, we must conclude that he relied on that position as his safeguard. He thought that as a committee man, giving a subscription of a £1, and posing there as a patriot, his crime would be lightly regarded. Why, his pretences, hypocrisy, and pure conceit, aggravate the heinousness of his traitorism. Out upon his £1 note, out upon the mean estimate (made from his own heart) of the people’s purpose; out upon the vile calculations to be sheltered in his sin for those unworthy reasons. Another matter in the surroundings of the case is the Crimes Act. Did he calculate on the force and terror of the law for immunity from public condemnation. We fear no Crimes Act, for we mean to keep our hands stainless. Outrage is no remedy. Violence from the people would but help the enemy and strengten the grabber’s position. We do not want to sully our hands by contact with him or his. We abhor, despise, and loathe the brazen Land Grabber; so will we give the breath of the flags in the street, and the road in the country to Billy Fanning, with his smug face, his hungry eyes, and his big coat. And so will he be despised and shunned till sorrow has eaten into his heart, till the salt tears has furrowed his hard visage, or till, sickened by the shame of his sin, he makes public atonement and purges his thievish maw? of his prey. Falsehood is also a weapon of the wrongdoer, and Billy of Clondoty, I hear, is using it to palliate his crime. He pretends his case is not a grabbing case, because he says Mr. Cambie gave up the farm. Mr. Cambie did nothing of the kind. He bid for the farm £130-The poor law valuation-when it was sold at Nenagh. But he would not bid a rack rent. “Mr. Cambie;-I was in treaty for the farm when Fanning grabbed it.

“Mr Sheehy.-Mr Cambie now informs us he was in treaty for it, when Billy, dreading longer delay for he well knew the land would be Mr Cambie’s again if he did not snap it at once, grabbed the farm with trembling haste. You see the hungry traitor has not a single palliating circumstance in his favour. He has belied every profession he ever made, he has flouted every principle cherished by the people, and ’twill be a surprise to know if he does not yet curse the day he cast covetous eyes on his neighbour’s property and wish he were far away from the miseries of  Clondoty. We have all a duty to perform. If farm-getting-made- easy is to be found by land grabbing, there is not an idle farm in the land – left idle because the tenants would no longer endure the exactions of the landlords- that would be quickly pounced on by vultures of the Bill Fanning species. The people on every side look to us to  put the shame and discredit of this grabbing from us. With all our hearts’ bitterness we turn from the dishonour and let its light burn on the forehead of the guilty who has made for himself the very unenviable notoriety. We will in a fortnight from today, in a public meeting here, tell those friends of ours from the surrounding districts how detestable to us is the grabber’s conduct.

I beg to second the resolutions.”

The resolutions was this, my Lords;-

That W. Fanning. P.L.G., by his land grabbing has basely violated a vital principle of the League and decree of the county convention; that he is therefore, an arrant traitor to the tenant interest, and an effective tool of Landlord oppression and exaction in the country; and that we are glad and proud the wretched and shameless renegade has been expelled from our ranks."

This was printed in the Nenagh Guardian 7 Sept 1885 transcribed by Mary Heaphy for Rootsweb and I think relates to the landgrabbing incident:

"At Templemore Petty Sessions on Wednesday, Patrick Maher of Tullavamore, was sentenced to two months with hard labour, for assaulting Constable Gorman, while in discharge of his duty at Loughmore. There was a second charge of hooting at Mr. Fanning. Mr. Nolan, Solicitor, Nenagh, represented the defendant, and has lodged an appeal."

The incident was described in The Morning Post London on Feb 1 1889:

William Fanning Landgrabbing Incident Morning Post London 1 Feb 1889 cr2

The Nation 29 Aug 1885


Edward Cambie purchased an interest in a 130 acre farm in Clondoty from the landlord John Trant in the 1820s. He died in 1860s and his wife took over the lease. This lease expired and a notice to quit was served on her. Not being able to manage the farm herself she invited her brother in law Richard Cambie to become the tenant. Richard offered first 200 pounds then 220 pounds and finally Trant accepted 230 pounds per annum for the farm. Ten to twelve years later when the lease was up for renewal Richard reminded Trant that he was paying 50 pound more than his late brother.

 This was during a period of Land agitation and reduction of rents. Trant replied that Fanning had offered 20 pound more than Cambie was paying to get the land. Showing Fannings desire to get the land was of many years standing. Richard Cambie was around 80 at this time with a young family. He had inherited 100 pound from his grandfather. He was a barley constable for Eligorty and had his own farm of 120 to 130 acres in Loughmore. Billy Fanning was a founding member and treasurer of the Loughmore Land League. He had seven sons to provide for. This was the most opportune time for him to get the land. He was a Poor Law Guardian in the area. Richard refused to pay the increased price and gave up the farm in 1882. Fanning took the farm on the 15th March 1885.

 This caused an outcry from the local Land League as this was against its principle of rack rents and dispossession of tenants.

 On the 18th of April 1885 a large demonstration took place in Loughmore with numerous bands and banners. There were a number of speakers including the Rev James Cantwell of Thurles Fr O Keane PP, Robert Nolan and David Sheedy MP. A boycott of Fanning was called for and he was expelled from the League.

At the petty sessions in Templemore, Michael Bourke was charged with unlawfully assaulting Fanning on the s9th June outside the church in Loughmore. Nine other men were charged with aiding and abetting the assault. The Fannings were subjected to abuse before and after mass by people hooting and shouting after them calling them land grabbers? They had to go back into the church and Billy drew his revolver to keep back the crowd? Bourke was found guilty and sentenced to a month in prison and the other accused were fined 2 pounds. Fanning was escorted home by the police followed by a large crowd 1,000 to 2,000 people. A further 12 police arrived to block the crowd from following the Fanning’s escort?

Richard Cambie died during the agitation and the judge in the petty sessions was Thomas Cambie of Kilorgan, his nephew.

On the 8th August a demonstration took place in Thurles with 400 carts and cars. Bands played God ‘Save Ireland and Let Ireland Remember. The gathering was to welcome the release of Bourke and his arrival on the 6pm train. He was escorted into town by 50 mounted horsemen. He was presented with a silver watch, a new suit of clothes and a purse of money. He was escorted home and when passing Fanning’s the crowd was silent except for the ringing of a hand bell. 

In September 1885, Pat Maher was sentenced to two months in prison and bound to the peace for 12 months for assaulting Fanning’s escort.  

Fanning surrendered the farm on November 12, 1885 and the boycott ended. Trant worked the farm himself for a period of time, after which Fanning took it over. In 1913 Cambie went to the Land Court to try and get the farm back but was too late in application.

The above account of the land dispute involving Billy Fanning of Clondoty was taken from Loughmore Collected Histories Mark 2, edited by Mark Ryan. This is a most interesting collection of articles and photos on Loughmore.

A hundred years later the incident was remembered in the Nenagh Guardian:

Nenagh Guardian 27 July 1985
Irish Independent 28 Jul 1908
William (Billy) Fanning,1827-1918 and his wife Catherine Fanning nee Fogarty, 1830-1875, outside their house at Clondoty Co Tipperary
John Fanning and Mary Fanning nee Hogan Clondoty c1912
William, John and Mary Fanning nee Hogan outside their Clondoty home. The girl is Catherine or Mary Fanning.
The Nationalist 18 Sept 1897 death notice for Thomas Fanning son of William Fanning of Clondoty
Nora, Ita (Mary) & Kitty Fanning from Clondoty in Dublin
Clondoty House Loughmore 2018
The grave of James Fanning, a son of Billy and Catherine Fanning. He is buried in Liverpool.

Author: Kathleen

I have done an Ancestry DNA test and also have uploaded my test results to GedMatch. My GedMatch kit numbers are A029138 and T470174. Please contact me if we are a match. kathleenmfanningAThotmailDOTcom

2 thoughts on “Billy Fanning of Clondoty, Co Tipperary Ireland”

  1. My ggg grandmother was Anne Fogarty (maiden name) she was a sister to Catherine Fogarty of Lisheenataggart, who married William Fanning.

    You asked how the Fannings came to live in Clondoty? The answer is Catherine Fogarty’s father Thomas Fogarty(of Lisheenataggart) had no sons so he bought Clondoty from his cousin, another Thomas Fogarty for his daughter Catherine and her husband William Fanning and they rared their 15 children there.

    1. Thanks for this info on Clondoty and the Fogartys, another little piece of the puzzle. I will follow it up. You don’t happen to know Thomas Fogarty’s wife’s name? Catherine and Anne’s mother.

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