The Ralahine Commune was a co-operative society founded in 1831 on the estate of John Vandeleur at Ralahine, County Clare. In an attempt to keep his tenants away from secret societies like the “Ribbonmen”, he brought a socialist named Edward Thomas Craig from England to advise him on the establishment of the commune, which came into existence on the 7th November 1831.
The purpose of the commune was to acquire common capital or a common wealth, in order to protect its members against the evils of old age and sickness, to achieve the mental and moral improvement of its adult members and to educate their children. The commune consisted of twenty-two single adult men, seven married men and their wives, five single women, four orphan boys, three orphan girls and five infants under the age of nine. It was governed by a committee of nine people, elected twice a year. Under an agreement between Vandeleur and the commune, the estate and property were to remain his at a rent of seven hundred pounds per annum to the commune, until they could afford to buy it. The commune was paid two hundred pounds a year for stock and equipment.
A list of rules were written up and each member of the commune had to live by them. Alcohol, tobacco and snuff were banned, as was gambling of any kind. The members had to work twelve hours a day in summer and from dawn to dusk in winter, with one hours break for dinner.
Instead of money the workers were paid “labour notes” which they could spend in the co-operative store. In this way the commune would be more self-sufficient as the members would be buying goods they themselves had worked to produce. If they wished to spend money outside the commune the treasurer would change the labour notes into coin for them. The commune prospered for a time and 29 new members joined. New machinery was bought and the first mowing machine in Ireland was introduced by the Ralahine Commune.
After two years however, it collapsed. Vandeleur’s reckless lifestyle and his gambling habit finally brought an end to the experiment. After losing all his possession through gambling the members of the commune were helpless to save themselves. The agreement they had signed with Vandeleur regarding his possessions of the land meant that the commune was seized and they were duly evicted. The members of the commune met for the last time on the 23rd of November 1833 and placed on record a declaration of “the contentment, peace and happiness they had experienced for two years under the arrangements introduced by Mr. Vandeleur and Mr. Craig and which through no fault of the Association was now at an end”.
An Irish Commune: The Experiment at Ralahine, County Clare, 1831-1833 by Edward Thomas Craig Publisher: Irish Academic Pres; Reprint edition (October 1983) ISBN-10: 0716523493 ISBN-13: 978-0716523499