The Curragh
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The Crown and the Curragh
Curragh of Kildare Act, 1868

When the camp was constructed in 1855 it was done so without regard to those who held rights over the Curragh on the basis, we can assume, that it was Crown land. By 1865, considerable discontent had been generated in the neighbour­hood by the military authorities stopping or threatening to stop certain roads, by the reduction in the extent of available pasturage, and by the suggestion that the precincts of the camp might be “walled in.”

    The Government appointed “a commission to make the necessary inquiries to obtain informa­tion as to the basis of legislation . . . of ascer­taining whether it was expedient that any, and if any, what legislation should take place for the better management and more beneficial use of the Curragh.” The commission of inquiry was opened at eleven o’clock on Friday, 14th of September, 1866, at the Courthouse, Newbridge, and there was a considerable attendance of coun­ty gentry and farmers. The whole question as to who had pasturage rights on the Curragh had be­come most confused over the years. The Crown, from an early period, had granted right of com­monage to various monasteries and properties; properties adjoining the Curragh also claimed the right of commonage ; and a number of people had acquired squatters’ rights. Of the 20,000 sheep being grazed on the Curragh at this time one half were said to be “foreign­ers” from Wicklow. The owners of the “foreign­ers” were called “Rawgorrah men” by the local farmers. Tt was further claimed that the utilisation of a portion of the Curragh for range practices was injurious to the sheep. One witness, provoked laughter in court by claiming that “his sheep came back to him dead and wounded.” The desire to “wall-in” the camp sprang from the difficulty of excluding improper characters from the camp and the resulting mis­chief done. The Provost-Sergeant furnished evi­dence as to the number of camp followers in the neighbourhood. These women, numbering 100 in summer and about 30 in winter, were frequently prosecuted and fined and lived “both winter and summer in the open air.

The Commissioners furnished their report to Parliament and it resulted in the “Curragh of Kildare Act, 1868.” By this Act a second com­mission was appointed to settle rights of com­mon of pasture; rights of way; and to determine what compensation, if any, should be paid to any party whose rights were affected by the said Act

The findings of the second commission, when approved by Parliament, became the Curragh Act of 1870. By this Act it was decided that the ten­ants on the townlands in the vicinity of the Curragh should be allowed pasturage for as many sheep as they held acres; that no compensation be paid for injuries claimed in respect of the campsite or rifle-ranges: that no sheep manure be removed from the Curragh; that only sheep be permitted to graze thereon; and that the pub­lic should not cart or drive across the Curragh.