An article from the Connaught Telegraph

History of Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland

Lord Frederick Cavendish Champion of the Oppressed

by Tom Kelly

Lord Frederick Cavendish is rightly remembered as a champion of the poor and oppressed. He founded the Connaught Telegraph, or Mayo Telegraph as it was originally named, on March 17th, 1828, and used it as an organ to help fight the battles of the lower classes.

Lord Cavendish swiftly established a reputation as a man of - authority and strong opinions. He illustrated how powerful the Press could be in the long and arduous struggle to achieve Home Rule for Ireland. He may not have invented the adage of the pen being mightier than the sword, but he certainly subscribed to it. The dynamic Protestant editor used the Telegraph as a vehicle to promote the Nationalist ideal.

Lord Cavendish instilled qualities in the newspaper which were to remain with it right to the present day, namely resilience, drive and vision. While other newspapers (there have been a total of 19 titles in Mayo over the years) came and went again, the Telegraph survived in spite of great difficulties. Lord Cavendish brought his newspaper through periods of poverty, repression and famine. His remarkable capacity for battling against all the odds should never be forgotten as long as the Telegraph continues to thrive. With the opening of ultra-modern new offices on the street named after Lord Cavendish, these will be remembered as the good days. But there were a lot of bad ones too, and the efforts of those in keeping it going throughout the rough times can never, ever, be forgotten. Lord Cavendish gave us something very precious which we have a duty to protect and safeguard for further generations.

As editor, Lord Cavendish earned a reputation as a man to be respected. When setting up the newspaper, he incorporated it into the titles of other local publications. Because of that, many historians believe the Telegraph goes back as far as 1808. They base their assertion on the fact the name or title of a newspaper does not and could not take from the age of the original newspaper.

GIANT OF PEOPLE

Castlebar historian Liam Egan recalled the impact Lord Frederick Cavendish made as editor of the Telegraph. His chief victims were the landed gentry, but he was also capable of berating the peasantry for their lethargy.

In an era when Catholics and Protestants viewed each other with distrust and hatred, he was a giant of the people. He was an Irishman despite his upbringing, religion and family, and in the early 19th century, status and caste were all-confining. In 1845 he was involved in fighting the cause of education for the Catholic peasantry. He used his pen as a potent weapon and, in a personal capacity, he joined his Catholic townspeople in negotiating with Lord Lucan for a site for a school and, having obtained it, he gave his money to buy it. Lord Cavendish died at his Castlebar residence on February 10th, 1856, at the age of 79 years. This was how his newspaper reported his much regretted passing.

"The readers of the Telegraph can easily conceive how difficult it is for us to command our feelings while we make the melancholy and afflicting announcement that The Honorable Frederick Cavendish is no more. He departed this life with a calm serenity and resignation of a Christian. It is not for us to present or enter at any length into any detailed account of the history of the mighty and successful struggles of the distinguished dead, for the social and political amelioration of this country, and particularly for the prosperity of this county, whose interest he always held dear, and for the wrongs and sufferings of whose people he always felt and laboured. In him, indeed, the poor have lost their most ardent supporter, and the oppressed of every class and creed, their most powerful and eloquent advocate. Indeed we may, without fear of being accused of exceeding the just limits of propriety in our present circumstances, say that the Honorable Lord Cavendish was one of those great and remarkable personages who help to make the history of the age in which they lived. Where has there been any great or important movement for the civic and religious freedom of the Irish people that had not the cordial sympathy and powerful co-operation of the lamented deceased philanthropist? From his grasp the local tyrant and petty taskmaster never could escape without the infliction of a due and well-deserved chastisement. He is, alas, gone. But, we hope, to receive his reward in another and better world, and long shall the void which his death has caused be felt, without much hope that it will be soon filled up. We shall now allude to the establishment, in this county, of this journal, as an organ of liberal and independent principles, which more than a quarter of a century ago was one which required his master mind to conceive; and his matchless talents and indomitable perseverance to carry into effect. None but those who lived in those times, and witnessed the facts and occurrences which make their history, can form a just idea of the claims of the deceased Honourable Gentleman to the undying gratitude and veneration of a public whose interests he has lived and struggled, and in whose services he has persevered to the last and closed a brilliant career. Lord Cavendish had been incapacitated for a number of years before his death owing to the almost complete prostration of his mental and physical energies from indulging in the political turmoils of party. His death, however, was unexpected because he had walked through the town a day or two previous to his passing. Lord Cavendish was born at Dovridge, Derby, in 1777. He was the youngest son of the Right Hon. Sir Henry Cavendish and Sarah, Baroness of Waterpark. Deceased was first married to Lady Eleanor Gore, daughter of Arthur Saunders Gore, late Earl of Arran, and secondly to Agnes Catherine MacDonnell, eldest daughter of the late Alexander MacDonnell, Springfield, Castlebar.