History of Rockfield House; Part 1.

Edward and Emily Weddall arrived on Achill as newlyweds sometime in 1906, where took up residence at Rockfield House in Keel. The couple’s new home was acquired through contacts with the mission estate in Dugort, where Emily’s father lived for some time in the 1840’s. Although the mission was well disbanded at that state they land was still in the hands of

Rockfield was a former school house for orphaned boys, when her father lived on the island, it closed as a school some time afterwards and may have been occupied by many people over the six decades before Emily occupied it.

Although it is unclear when the house was finally Emily’s, it was owned by the Mission Estate at Dugort, when she and Captain Weddall moved in in 1906. Six years later the Land Agitation episode of the winter of 1912/1913 changed the land ownership of the Island for good.

This event in history was recorded for the National Folklore Commission; The Schools’ Collection in 1937/38. The informant was by Pádhraic Mac Pháidín, the headmaster of Tonatavally, on Achill. 

St Thomas' Church on the Achill Mission Estate

St Thomas’ Church on the Achill Mission Estate

About 30 years ago the C. D. B. [Congested District Board] was buying up the estates in the poorest part of the West. The people wanted the “Achill Mission” to sell and they refused. An agitation was commenced and eventually they agreed but wanted to retain the lands of the Colony and other Protestant Settlements in the Island. the Protestants became infuriated at this juggling and the Catholics promised them support moral and material. This was in 1912. the leaders were Rev. Fr. Colleran, Darrell Figgis and William Egan, a Protestant gentleman of Slievemore.To these must be added the name of Walter Bourke another Protestant, who by verse and organising ability gave impetus to the movement…

…A system of boycotting was adopted, and Grierson was compelled to get two “Emergency men” from outside. A mass meeting was convened and the people marched in a body to the Rent office and demanded that the land should be sold…

Master Mac Pháidín remembers that the Agitation went on for the entire winter of 1912/13, but was resolved eventually in the Spring. With the perseverance of the locals and under the guidance of   Fr. Colleran the Land Wars ended quietly, the people of Achill the victors.

Mr Scott sold out immediately at the commencement of the agitation and Mr Pike did likewise a short time afterward. the Achill Mission and Mrs McDonnell did so at last.

The remarkable thing about the whole saga was it disproved the popular opinion that Catholics and Protestants were on opposite sides. In a letter to the Mayo News Anita tells of how the people of Achill from different backgrounds and religion united to sort out the situation for the good of all.

In conclusion it is pleasant to be able to state that Achill offers an emphatic denial of the much talked of division between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. In Achill, if anywhere for reasons too long to explain here we might expect to find sectarian feeling very strong. Yet today, in striking vindication the Irish Protestant from the Irish Catholic we find the Protestant Dugort  tenants united with their Catholic neighbors, and as anxious as they are to free Achill Island from the blighting influence of the Achill Mission trusteeship…

The victory over the establishment was the end of the old system and the beginning of the new, although it would take almost a further decade. It would take nearly two decades before Emily would finally have full ownership of the house and land only to have to sell it again.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0086, Page 318 Tonatanvally, Co. Mayo
The Mayo News, April 12 1913