Sarah Cecelia Harrison and the Allotments Movement in Ireland

Posted on: 08/03/2023
Sarah Cecilia Harrison – Self Portrait

Sarah Cecilia Harrison (1863–1941) was the first woman elected to Dublin City Council in 1912. From here she worked to promote women’s rights, helped those in poverty and established the allotments movement in Ireland.

In the 1910s, Britain had legislation governing allotments but Ireland lagged behind. World War 1 and food shortages saw the establishment of thousands of allotments in Ireland. The Vacant Land Cultivation Society pushed for an Irish allotment law for security of tenure, which led to the Acquisition of Land (Allotments) Act 1926.

The Vacant Land Cultivation Society of which Sarah was a committee member was set up to develop the provision of allotments on waste land. The Irish Times published a photo in 1910 of the society’s first AGM. Sarah was also a frequent writer to the the Irish Times.

Her letter to the Irish Times in 1911 shows the benefits for those:

“…who have had their gardens for a year value them highly; most of them have some members of their family to help them; some say they find their health much improved by the frequent work in the open air”

From 1909, the Vacant Land Cultivation Society organised & administered allotments more actively than Dublin Corporation. This undoubtedly helped reduce the impact of food shortages during World War 1.

By 1919, the Irish Times reported that 3000 allotment plots were in Dublin City.

In 1919, she wrote the still relevant letter:

“The plot holders of Ireland ask no special privileges; they simply ask that they should have the right to an allotment when they are ready to increase food production by cultivating food for their families in their free time.”

Sarah Cecelia Harrison and members of the Vacant Land Cultivation Society directly helped allotments to be established in law in Ireland for the first time in 1926.

More details below.

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