Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter V - Section 1

Population

THIS branch of every Statistical Survey must, I fear, remain very imperfect; after a great deal of trouble, and many inquiries, I found nothing satisfactory, or that would lead to any thing better than probable conjecture, and of what use could conjecture be, but to lead people astray? I found I could very nearly ascertain the Roman Catholic population, thanks to the liberality of the clergy of that persuasion; but those of any other I found dumb, Dr. Duigenan had laid them under his interdiction.

The most useful tendency of the inquiry is easily answered in the affirmative; the certainty of the rapid encrease is beyond the cavils of the most jaundiced croaker. The population of this county has been estimated by Dr. Beaufort at 96,000 souls, but I conjecture it is considerably above that number at present; vast tracts of mountain have been reclaimed since the publication of Dr. Beaufort’s Memoir in 1792, and even his account was taken from Mr. Bushe’s tables published in 1777, who allows only 5 persons to each house; the Catholic clergymen, who certainly have a good right to know it, were unanimous in stating the population at least 6, some 7 to a house; probably the whole population may now be 120,000. But what use in conjecture? And, until some means are contrived by government, that will not alarm the lower orders of the people, it can be nothing better; every thing I have seen on the subject, except the Essay lately published by Dr. Whitelaw, deserves little notice. But, thanks to the food, upon which our people subsist, there can be no danger of a failure, and, whilst the root of plenty is so easily procured, and a family of six persons maintained upon less than an acre of ground, a man has no apprehension of poverty; consequently early marriages will and do take place, (especially as we are not cursed with that badge of English slavery, poor laws,) and children are little or no burden; the plenty of potatoes and milk is such, that the children are almost always eating; let those ignorant cavillers, who say that potatoes and milk is not nourishing food, look at the children, generally in rags, but with every appearance and reality of ruddy health, and, if that is not sufficient, let them attend a foot ball or hurling match, and see the superiority of potatoes and milk over gross cheese and bad beer. In the neighbourhood of Six-mile-bridge the population is very great, even of people in good circumstances; for, in a circle of about five miles diameter, upwards of twenty-eight respectable families reside almost constantly, and, except a little bickering about road-jobbing, keep up an intimacy. 

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