At its peak, the
demesne and lands of
The estate had a
number of heads of departments, such as the head gardener, head gamekeeper,
etc. The agent was responsible for all of these departments, paying the wages
of the workmen and keeping regular logs and accounts of work done. He kept
a detailed set of books recording repairs to buildings, fences or roads, as
well as information regarding game, livestock and crops. He was also in charge
of collecting the rent from the estate’s tenants, and for this reason he could
be an unpopular figure.
The agent at Emo spent a lot of his time touring the estate on horseback, dealing with tenants and estate workers face to face. He was required to keep a terrier, a book recording the boundaries and tenancies of the land, which included the rent roll. A good agent needed a head for figures, meticulous record-keeping skills, an all-round knowledge of farm work and land maintenance, and an aptitude for dealing with people. That the job could be dangerous is clear from records of an assault on the Emo agent, Mr. Pigott, by a tenant in 1852, and by the more serious incident in 1799 in which the former agent, Mr. Meares, was murdered on the estate.
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The first agent or
land steward recorded for
“Our poor old faithful steward, who was eighty-two years old, and has lived in this family the greater part of his life, was robbed and murdered some nights ago in our grounds…I do assure you this affair has discomposed me so much that if John [Viscount Carlow] was not coming over I should quit the country.” (Gleanings from an Old Portfolio, II.294)
His death was also reported in The Times, where an entry read:
Meares, steward to Lord Portarlington, was murdered
on Christmas Eve, at Emo Park, in the Queen’s County, by some villains unknown”
(The Times, Jan. 10th
He was buried at Coolbanagher cemetery where his gravestone can be seen today, to the west of the tomb of the Earl of Portarlington.
George Clarke was
the steward of the 2nd Earl of Portarlington. A government report of
1831 on local disturbances in Queen’s
“Lord Portarlington’s steward Mr Clark was fired at in 1831 which led to the increase of a hundred policemen.”
The journal of the
2nd Earl also contains a number of references to Mr Clarke.
Unfortunately, the entries are somewhat laconic in style: entries such as
“Clarke sent to Aughmacart” (July 17th
1816) or “George Clarke went to
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Earl of Portarlington usually had two agents at any one time. During the famine
years, before the Earl came to reside at
Sadleir was a
lawyer, banker and M.P. (for Carlow), and like many lawyers of the time, he
supplemented his income by acting as Receiver for the estates of absentee
landlords. The Earl of Portarlington appears to have entrusted a great deal to
Mr Sadleir, as the latter was also the receiver for his estates at Morette and in
“…We can never forget your efforts in the years 1846 and 1847 to afford relief and employment to the poor of this district. It has been our fortune to witness your acts not only as the Receiver over those estates, but also as a country gentleman and extensive employer of the poor. We most sincerely thank you…” (Telegraph, 19th April 1852)
Public opinion was to take a radical turn against John Sadleir, however, as he later achieved infamy as ‘the Prince of Swindlers’ for his involvement in a bank fraud at the Tipperary Joint-Stock Bank, which he ran with his brother. After a series of misplaced financial speculations, Sadleir tried to cover up the difficulties faced by the bank by forging shares and cheques to keep the bank afloat. In 1856, before his crimes became public knowledge, he committed suicide on Hampstead Heath by swallowing a vial of Prussic Acid. The bank collapsed, leaving thousands of Irish ruined as they lost their life savings. No doubt, this scandalous turn of events came as quite a shock to the Emo tenantry and indeed, to the Earl who had once held Sadleir in the highest esteem.
John Sadleir was assisted as Receiver by William Piggott. In his role as agent, Mr Pigott may have served as the rent collector, as a note in the agent’s book records that in June 1852 he was assaulted by a tenant. However, he is described in the Leinster Express newspaper as a popular agent and in 1852 he organised the festivities to celebrate the arrival of the Earl and Countess at Emo Park, where the tenants had a “joyous and festive evening”, with fiddlers and dancing until late into the night.
After 1852, Mr Pigott became the main agent for Emo, assisted later by Alexander Kirkpatrick. When the Countess of Portarlington died in 1874, the two agents organised the arrangements for her lavish funeral, sparing the bereaved Earl the difficult task. When the Earl in turn died in Nice in 1889, his sister and his agent Mr Kirkpatrick attended him on his deathbed. In his will, the Earl left Mr Kirkpatrick, his “agent and friend”, a princely sum of ₤500, along with the choice of any item in or on his writing table.
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As the agent for
As a man of high
social standing, he regularly attended soirees held at
Agent’s House at Emo Court Main Gate