Charles Boycott (1832 - 1897) was an English land agent whose ostracism by his local community in Ireland gave the English language the term "to boycott". He had served in the British Army 39th Foot, which brought him to Ireland. After retiring from the army, Boycott worked as a land agent for Lord Erne, a landowner in the Lough Mask area of County Mayo. English landlords, many of them absentee, owned 80% of all the land of Ireland. These landowners employed agents, like Boycott, to manage their land.
In the autumn of 1880, Captain Boycott was called upon by the Land League to reduce rents after a bad harvest. He refused to do so and set about evicting 11 tenants. As part of Charles Stewart Parnell and the National Land League’s campaign for the Three Fs (fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale) and opposition to evictions, the Land League encouraged Boycott's employees (including the seasonal workers required to harvest the crops on Lord Erne's estate) to withdraw their labour, and began a campaign of isolation against Boycott in the local community. This campaign included shops in nearby Ballinrobe refusing to serve him, and the withdrawal of services. Some were threatened with violence to ensure compliance.
The campaign against Boycott became a cause célèbre in the British press after he wrote a letter seeking help to The Times. Newspapers sent correspondents to the West of Ireland to highlight what they viewed as the victimisation of a servant of a peer of the realm by Irish nationalists. Fifty Orangemen from County Cavan and County Monaghan travelled to Lord Erne's estate to harvest the crops, while a regiment of the 19th Royal Hussars and more than 1,000 men of the Royal Irish Constabulary were deployed to protect the harvesters. The episode was estimated to have cost the British government and others at least £10,000 to harvest about £500 worth of crops.
Boycott fled Ireland in disgrace on December 1st, 1880, his name forever attached to a campaign to bring down tyrants. From then on, the word 'boycott' has been widely used to describe the shunning of people, organisations or countries that do not respect human rights.
Boycotting had dramatically strengthened the power of Irish peasants, and by the end of 1880 there were reports of boycotting taking place all over Ireland. The events at Lough Mask had also increased the power of the Land League, and the popularity of Parnell as a leader. Non-violent and successful it was one of the most successful tactics ever used against the British in Ireland.
So, not only did the great people of Mayo successfully organise a campaign against Captain Boycott, but they also added a new word to the English language!
Dimensions: 16” X 10” approx.