Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter V - Section 30

Weights and measures, liquid or dry; in what instances are weights assigned for measures, or vice versa?

CORN is sold by the long barrel, and short barrel; the short one is, of wheat, twenty stone; bere and barley, sixteen stone; oats, fourteen stone; rape, sixteen stone, (sometimes the buyer wrangles the farmer out of more,) bran four stone. The long barrel is twice the weight of the short. Though the gentlemen of the county admit the inconvenience in moving such large sacks as contain the long barrel, yet not the smallest exertion is made to abolish them, and some are even so touchy on the customs of their country, however ridiculous, that they will not allow them to be erroneous, and say a long barrel is better than a short one, &c. &c.

In Kilrush wheat and oats are sold by the stone of 14 lbs. which would be the best method of selling every article, until we have some regulation to adjust all weights by decimals. Hides and tallow are sold by the stone of 16 lbs. Potatoes are usually sold by the bushel, but a previous agreement is made how many stone the bushel shall contain (ridiculous!); for in some parts of the county it weighs 6 stone 6 lbs. in others 16, 18, and 20 stone, and the weights even differ in summer and winter; in summer they give only 16 lbs. to the stone, but in winter allow 18 lbs. to make amends for dirt. The barrel differs on either side of Ardsallas river; on the south side it is six bushels of ten stone each, whilst on the north side eight bushels of ten stone are given, and near Limerick potatoes are sold by the bushel of 8st. 8lbs., and six bushels to the barrel.

Wool 16 lbs. to the stone; feathers 16 lbs. to the stone; these are procured mostly by plucking the geese three times every summer, those for fattening excepted. Four-pence is usually paid for the feathers of each goose at every time of plucking; good feathers are usually sold for about a guinea per stone of 16 lbs.

Barrel of malt 12 stone; this is perhaps the only thing, that should be sold by measure only; selling by weight is a premium on bad malt, the worst always weighing most. In some places they have a measure called a skibbet; it contains two bushels or seven stone of oats.

Great abuses are practised at markets, and at some stores, in the weighing of corn; frequently the weights are of stones of various sizes, pieces of iron, or lead, or mutilated weights. In fact the seller does not well know what they weigh, as very few have scales at home, and even, if he had, little notice would be taken by the infallible clerk of the scales. Various allowances must be made for sacks, dirt, &c. &c. &c., and the ipse dixit of the person, who attends the scales, must be a law to the poor farmer; as sacks are of such various weights, the fairest way is to weigh all the full sacks, and, when they are emptied, throw them all into one scale, and deduct their weight from the gross one.

It is generally thought, that two of our barrels are equal to an English quarter, but it is not so, for two of our barrels of wheat weigh 560 lbs., whilst the English quarter weighs but 516 lbs.

The yard and the bandle differ in many places, according as the rule, by which they measure varies; the yard ought to be thirty-six inches, and the bandle twenty-seven inches long. In the county of Galway the bandle is thirty inches, and in Limerick only twenty-one inches, in some parts of Kilkenny twenty-four inches. It is in the power of magistrates and church-wardens to take up fraudulent weights and measures, but of what use is a power they not have the honesty to exert? When they are buying for themselves, they look sharp enough.

Very great abuses are practised in the measurement of lime; the statue lime-barrel should contain forty gallons of 2176/10 cubic inches or five cubic feet: in many places probably half that measure is not given, particularly at Nutfield.

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