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!! Ballina Chronicle; Jan 2, 1850 "Tour thru Erris"

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    BALLINA CHRONICLE Ballina, Mayo, Ireland Wednesday, January 2, 1850 TOUR THROUGH ERRIS To the Editor of the Irish Farmer s Gazette. SIR- Having been
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 19, 2004
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      Ballina, Mayo, Ireland
      Wednesday, January 2, 1850

      To the Editor of the Irish Farmer's Gazette.
      SIR- Having been commissioned a few weeks since for a visit and report on
      the value and capabilities of an estate for the purchase of which a London
      gentleman was in treaty, situate in the half barony of Erris, county Mayo, I
      availed myself of the half past 7 morning train to Mullingar, arriving at
      Ballina at 11 o'clock, P.M., on the 9th of October, and reaching Ballina at 9
      o'clock in the ensuing morning. I reached my destination at 4 on that evening,
      having travelled by the high road leading from Sligo to Belmullet.
      I was much gratified on learning, in Ballina, that the culture of flax had
      obtained place, to a considerable extent, during the past season in that
      neighbourhood, owing to the encouragement in the way of market, afforded by the
      establishment of a branch of the new steeping system by the patentees, who
      purchased up the whole standing crops in the vicinity (as far as I could
      maintain) which was considered to be a very remunerative price, and I had
      positive assurances, from a well-informed quarter, that the result of
      experimental trials on an extensive scale had established the cultivation of
      flax there as firmly as it had been established at Newport, where the successful
      effort for its introduction was made by Sir Richard A O'Donel in 1847. I also
      observed, principally in the immediate vicinity of Ballina, and between that
      town and Killala, a large breadth of turnips that had been, in some instances,
      cultivated with skill and care; this, however, was not universally the case, as
      the crop in many places was insufficiently thinned, and the peat land (with some
      exceptions where its produce was most luxuriantly laboured under the damaging
      influence of wholly imperfect drainage, frequently the only relief from wetness
      being derivable from the dyke-fence, even from which a sufficient discharge was
      not always provided. In that district, in the few parts where any cultivation
      was in progress, it was only then the corn was about being drawn in off the
      stubble fields. The paucity of hands engaged in this useful operation was very
      remarkable, while the presence of hordes of able-bodied young paupers employed
      in making a footpath, and improving the roads leading from the town to the
      poorhouse, forced on my mind the reflection of what great value even a
      fractional part of that labour could have been in saving, during the fine
      weather that then presented for the purpose, a crop which had already severely
      felt from its protracted exposure in the stubble, and much of which must have
      suffered heavily by reason of the break in the weather which set in previous to
      my return journey, and has continued, with little intermission, almost ever
      since. So much has already been written on the clearance system, and its effects
      on the agricultural interests and the prospects generally of this unhappy part
      of the kingdom, that an allusion to it, besides being foreign to my purpose,
      would be travelling over a path already to well beaten. It is merely necessary
      for description to say, that the general appearance of the country, all along,
      from the verdant sheep walks of Roscommon, to the swampy floes of Erris, attests
      in a greater or lesser degree, the extent of the common havoc; but nowhere else
      are its effects so conspicuously marked as in the space between Ballina and
      Ballycastle. The recently populous and cultivated arable district around
      Killala, and between that and Ballycastle, is, (with the exception of a
      sprinkling of gentleman's demesne lands) reduced to a perfect waste, having
      scarcely a vestige of evidence of former occupation left on several townlands,
      besides the prostrate heaps of ruins of the farm home-steads, which in many
      instances the eye may overlook, were it not attracted occasionally by a
      solitary; denuded gable-end or chimney-top pointing in the horizon as if it were
      the monumental relic of a more dense and busy population. So that, with the
      exceptions I have alluded to, and of a few cultivated spots adjacent to Killala
      and Ballycastle, the face of the country, stript of tillage, cattle and
      population-presents a vast panorama of a deserted wilderness; the fading waste
      grass gone to seed, and assuming wintry garb, blanches the surface of the arable
      and green lands, and contrasting with the variegated lines of the heather, the
      withering Alpine grasses and russet masses which clothe the wild wastes and hard
      mountains of Erris, defines the line of demarcation between the fruitful low
      lands and the broad highland range which here girds the eastern part of the
      Atlantic, where the magnificently held outline of wild Alpine scenery is
      relieved only by the green streaks which denote the fertile, allurial banks of
      the streams and rivers, and the few patches of cultivated land, on the
      mountainsides, where human industry displays as counteracting effort by a mode
      of cultivation and a system of husbandry decidedly the most primitive of any I
      have ever chanced to witness.
      From about two miles from Ballycastle nearly the whole surface of this hill
      country, along to Belmullet, is deformed by a dense accumulation of moor on the
      declivities, and by peat moss, floes of unknown depth, stretching across the
      valleys. Some of these are wholly irreclaimable; but on the lower verges of the
      hills; and skirting the streams and rivers, the deep moor, from the facility for
      discharge, has attained in many localities, and to a considerable extent, such
      solidity and consistence as to render it convertible into arable peat of much
      value, at a trivial outlay, to which an abundance of shell sand and sea manure,
      particularly on the estate where I was engaged would invite.
      I have frequently seen on the west coast of Ireland, crops of corn,
      potatoes, and turnips as fine as any land could produce, forced from bog of very
      great depth, even despite the disadvantages of insufficient drainage, by the
      abundance of sea manure; abut in the part of Erris of which I write the value of
      shell sand appears to be unknown-indeed, as the peasants observed to me, there
      is not as much as a boat suitable for its conveyance; even for sea-fishing they
      only use corrachs, a species of canoe, composed of ribs of hard wood, covered
      over with horse-skin or oiled canvas; neither is sea weed much used, although it
      is to be had here in profusion. Yet, there are to be seen, in several places,
      turnips, carrots, and cabbages thriving luxuriantly on small plots of bog, six
      fee deep, newly broken up, the manure applied being the ashes of the surface
      sod, mixed with a small proportion of bluish loam or marl, of which the subsoil
      of the bog is composed. This appears to be so forcing a manure, that I brought
      with me a lump of it, which I placed in the hands of Professor Sullivan. In one
      instance I observed a small plot of green-topped Swedes, of unusual weight,
      which I ascertained had been transplanted in July, and manured in the manner
      described above. Much skill and care had evidently been used in the culture, and
      I was pleased to learn that the humble grower was indebted, both for instruction
      and seed, to the exertions of the Royal Agricultural Society. The farm on which
      this specimen (which would secure a prize here) is to be seen, is 190 miles from
      this, about three miles south by east of Broadhaven Bay. How gratifying it is to
      perceive, that in so remote a district-in this ultima Thule- the value of
      vegetable productions, unheard of until very recently, has so soon come to be
      appreciated, and in a locality where the facility of manuring and cultivating
      and the consequent weight of yield cannot fail to insure the permanence of so
      useful an introduction.
      I observed that since a previous visit of mine several useful lines of road
      have been formed; some of these are gravelled, and if the bridges were
      constructed, would open much of this interesting country; one of very great
      utility opens the district from Bangor to Erris to the Killala and Belmullet
      high road skirting the eastern shore of Carrowmore Lakes, a continuation of it
      traverses the estate which formed the object of my visit, branching thence to
      Broadhaven Bay, on the left hand, and in the opposite direction to the deeply
      indented inlets or bays which form the fishing harbours of Portacloy and
      Porturlin. Apropros to the subject of fisheries, I wish to remark that if the
      salmon fishery on the Glenamoy, adjacent to this estate, was earnestly looked
      after, there cannot be a doubt as to its productiveness and value.
      I am, Sir, yours, &c.
      Dublin, Dec. 24, 1849

      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Ireland Old News
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