William Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim

William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim (15 October 1806 2 April 1878) was an Anglo-Irish nobleman and landlord notorious in Irish history for his mistreatment of his tenants. He was assassinated in Donegal in April 1878.

Born in Dublin, he was educated at the Sandhurst and was commissioned as an Ensign in the 43rd Foot in 1824. In 1831 he was promoted Captain, having served in Portugal between 1826 and 1827, and that same year was appointed an aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1835 he transferred to the 51st Foot. In 1839, on the death of his elder brother, he became known as Viscount Clements and also succeeded his brother as a Member of Parliament for County Leitrim, a seat he held until 1847.

On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded as 3rd Earl. In 1855 he was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and subsequently retired from the British Army. Over the next two decades, his overbearing behaviour as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants, both Catholic and Protestant alike, whom he evicted with equal enthusiasm. Leitrim was deeply opposed to Gladstone's Irish Land Act of 1870 and was one of eight peers to protest against the legislation when it reached the House of Lords. Among those he also quarrelled with were the Presbyterian minister of Milford, County Donegal, and the Lord Lieutenant himself, the 7th Earl of Carlisle, who removed him from his appointments as a justice of the peace for Counties Leitrim, Donegal, and Galway.

In April 1878, after surviving various attempts on his life, Lord Leitrim was murdered along with his clerk and driver while on his way to his house at Milford. He was buried in Dublin, amid scenes of great agitation, and despite the offer of a large reward his assassins were never apprehended. They were named as the brothers Thomas and Patrick McGranaghan, but some historians suggest they were Michael McElwee and Neil Sheils from Fanad.[1] A monument with a cross was set up at Kindrum in 1960 honoring McElwee, Shiels, and Michael Heraghty as the men whose actions "Ended the tyranny of landlordism".

The murder forms a major element in the plot of the 2005 play The Home Place by Brian Friel.



<<Dolan, photos on pages 116-117.>>

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Clements, Viscount Clements
Samuel White
Member of Parliament for Leitrim
1839 1847
With: Samuel White
Succeeded by
Edward King Tenison
Charles Skeffington Clements
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Nathaniel Clements
Earl of Leitrim
1854 1878
Succeeded by
Robert Bermingham Clements
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