Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Honour of St. Patrick's Day

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I bring you an interesting, and little-known fact related to the Irish.

The term "boycott" came about thanks to them.

It turns out that boycott is one of those words that is based on an actual, historical figure - in this case, one Charles Cunningham Boycott.  Charles Boycott was an Englishman who worked as a land agent for one Lord Erne.  Most of the land was rented out to tenant farmers (as was large chunks of Ireland at the time).

After a couple of bad harvests in the late 1870s, a movement that had started in the early 1850s to get fair treatment of tenant farmers had started to pick up steam.  However, rather than advocating violence, the movement said that greedy landlords and their agents should be ostracized from their communities. Here's where we start relating back to Charles Boycott.

In 1880, the tenants on the land he was managing demanded a significant rent reduction after several bad harvests in a row.  Boycott's employer, Lord Erne, refused.  Boycott then started sending out notices demanding the rents, and set about evicting eleven of the tenant families.
Within a few days, Boycott had been completely shut out by the whole community.  The staff (maids, butlers, gardeners, farm labourers, etc) refused to show up for work.  Shopkeepers wouldn't serve him.  The postman refused to deliver his mail.  He had to start having supplies shipped to himself by boat from another community so that they wouldn't be turned back on the road into town.

Then, Boycott wrote a letter about his predicament to a major newspaper - The Times.

By the time the newspapers, and the local community, were done, British troops had been involved and Charles Cunningham Boycott was forced to return to England.

Here's the wikipedia entry on Charles Boycott.

Here's the wikipedia entry on boycott in general.

I hope you'll enjoy sharing that Boycott was a real person who ended up on the wrong side of the Irish this holiday.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that - neat! :)
    Happy St. Patrick's day to you!