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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Howard Jones How reliable is Folk History ? (241* d) RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ? 17 May 18


Jim, it may well be local testimonies are the only sources available, the question is how reliable are they? This is not singling them out, all historical sources must be assessed for reliability.

Your assumption that the allegations against Lord Leitrim are true are based on your prejudice against his class, which is not unjustified given actual historical evidence of landlords' behaviour and attitudes at that time, together with the number of similar allegations made about him. No smoke without fire. On a balance of probabilities, the allegations are believable. That does not mean they are true.

It is likewise well-recorded that members of the upper classes would frequently take advantage of lower class women, especially those in their households over whom they held most power (nothing much has changed there). Again, on a balance of probabilities this is entirely believable. However 'droit du seigneur' is a very specific form of abuse which goes way beyond seducing parlourmaids on the billiard table.

The original ballad refers simply to his debauchery, and only in passing as a character defect rather than the specific motive for the murder. The suggestion of droit du seigneur came from the singer from whom it was recorded, 76 years after the events in question. He could have had no direct knowledge of them, and who knows how many mouths the story had passed through before it reached him? How reliable can that testimony be?

Droit du seigneur would have been so unusual and so outrageous that if this was alleged about him it is perhaps surprising that the song does not explicitly mention it. Calling him a debaucher hardly covers it.

Leitrim does seem to have been an exceptionally nasty piece of work, which makes it entirely believable that he might be guilty. Hearsay gossip after three quarters of a century is not reliable evidence of it.

To avoid you jumping to conclusions again, I am not defending him. I am simply saying that evidence is lacking.


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