Mason's Parochial Survey, 1814-19

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Union of Kilrush, Killard, Kilfieragh, Moyferta, and Kilballyhone

V. Present & Former State of Population, Food, Fuel, &c.

Population
The following table shews the number of inhabitants in this union, as it was ascertained under the Population Act in December 1813.

  Males Females Total
Parish of Kilrush 1,599 1,576 3,175
Parish of Killard 1,639 1,568 3,207
Parish of Kilfieragh 1,840 1,576 3,416
Parish of Moyarta 2,540 2,186 4,726
Parish of Kilballyhone 1,536 1,182 2,718
Total 9,154 8,088 17,242

According to a census taken by the writer of this account, in the year 1803, the town of Kilrush contained 1,320 inhabitants. In December, 1813, it appears to have contained 2,460, nearly doubling its population in ten years.

Food
From the local circumstances of this place, it must have already appeared, that it is abundantly supplied with provisions. The eastern part of the country being remarkable for some of the best sheep-walks in the province; and the midlands and Shannon side containing many very fine stock farms, both for rearing and fattening black cattle. Pork is produced in great quantities, and prepared for exportation. All kinds of fowl, both wild and domestic, are abundant; but of late years, rising in their prices, owing to the rapid increase of population and wealth. In fact, it may be said of the inhabitants of Kilrush, in the language of the Roman orator: “Propinquam fructuosamque provinciam habent quo facile excurrant, ubi libenter negotium gerant, quos illa mercibus suppeditandis cum quæstu compendioque demittit.”

The sea is also an inexhaustible resource for the maintance of the population of this union, and the neighbouring districts. The mouth of the Shragh river, at Dunbeg, produces very fine salmon and trout. The banks of Baltard afford turbot, cod, haddick, ling, doree, mackarel, whiting, pollock, and other fish, in great perfection and abundance. The other bays and creeks of the Shannon and ocean, furnish flat fish of various kinds, with crabs, lobsters, shrimps, oysters, cockles, muscles, and razor fish.

The herring fishery, in the mouth of the Shannon, commences on the fourth of July, with such regularity, that these who “try their new potatoes” on that day, usually expect the comfort of a dish of fresh herrings with them, and to have the enjoyment of that luxury doubled by the reflection that the poorest cottier in the barony may dine as well as the richest man in it on that day.

Corachs
The bank on which the turbot, &c. are caught, near Baltard, is about three leagues from the shore: the quantity of fish taken there is immense. The boats in use are the ancient Celtic corachs, or Nivoges, a kind of basket work covered with hides, and all others the best calculated to live on this rocky coast, where the violence of the surf, for nine days out of ten, would dash a wooden boat to pieces.

It has been truly observed of the western corach, that it is not uncommon for the intrepid navigator of it, to put his foot through the hide when he spies a rent in it as it mounts over the broken wave in a storm, and his wig or his breeches in a second or a third; which simple expedients oftentimes conduct him in safety through a scene, which, to a freshwater sailor, would be indescribably terrific. Some of these boats make from fifty to sixty guineas in the season, on the bank of Baltard; and there is not less than an hundred of them employed in this fishery. The fish is brought to Limerick, Ennis, Kilrush, and the county of Kerry; and there are often, (when a glut comes,) from one to two hundred horses with side creels, waiting on the shore for the return of the canoes, on which occasions, many of them come back loaded with fish to the value of ten guineas from a single trip.

Samphire
The cliffs near the castles of Clahansevan and Dunlicky, are remarkable for very fine samphire; these of Baltard for mushrooms, and the different strands for dilisk and leaver; the latter of which is excellent here, and best known by the name of slukane, or sluke.

With all this profusion of food of the most exquisite kind, it may perhaps puzzle the Political Economist to hear, that the greater part of the inhabitants of this rich and populous district live upon the potatoes and milk. The inhabitants of the town of Kilrush may perhaps be excepted; but a great proportion of our landholders sell their oats, calves, lambs, poultry, pork, and butter; living and thriving upon eggs, fish, potatoes, buttermilk, and salt.

Many of these people give their daughters marriage portions, amounting to an hundred guineas. They ride to mass on Sundays with their wives behind them, on good horses and comfortable pillions, wear decent frize clothes, and have brick chimneys on their houses. The fact is, that the potato affords sufficient nourishment to them; and any thing farther, in the way of food, whether it be turbot or mutton, smoaked dog fish or salt, is luxury, pleasant or necessary to those who accustom themselves to seek indulgences, but utterly unnecessary to those who disregard them. At Christmas and Easter, and on St. Martin’s Eve, however, a more expensive mode of living is adopted; for on these occasions, every man in the parish and union dines upon animal food.

Fuel
The fuel here is excellent turf, with bog-fir, which latter serves for light as well as heat. It has been already mentioned, that this union supplies great quantities of fuel for the consumption of the county and city of Limerick.

Appearance, Diseases
The general appearance of the people here is pre-possessing; they are as tall and as handsome as any other inhabitants of Ireland, and their comfortable slate blue frize cloathing, is highly ornamental to their graceful persons. Inguinal Hernia is very common among the labouring classes here. From the dampness of the climate, a dysentery also prevails in wet seasons; and a low kind of continued fever sometimes prevails among the peasantry in autumn. Children are here, as usual, subject to measles, small-pox, and chincough, with individual instances of persons escaping all these diseases, and being proof against the action of variolous, or vaccine infection. Scarlatina, and other eruptive fevers called rashes, or hives, are common, but not often fatal; as are also the complaint called aphtha, or the thrush, and the eating hive, or burned holes, the last of which has been frequently cured by the application of elm bark.

Longevity
This neighbour hood abounds with instances of longevity. The late Mrs. Borough, grand-daughter to Mr. Vanhoogort of Querin, died a few years ago aged nearly an hundred years, retaining her faculties, and a remarkable degree of penetration and ability to the last. Mrs. Ward, the daughter of Anthony Hickman of Ballykett, Esq., died a few years before at the age of ninety, and talked of her nephew, Mr. George Smyth, till he was eighty-four years old, as a boy. She recollected almost every remarkable paper in the Spectator, and often talked of them with rapture; and here it may be observed, that this old gentlewoman was one of the many instances of the deep and salutary impressions made on the minds of the upper and middle ranks of the Irish people, by this popular and fascinating work; eight large editions of which had been sold in Dublin, between its first appearance and the year 1728, when the ninth edition was published by George Grierson, at the Two Bibles in Essex-street: the spectator may therefore be said to have educated more of the Irish gentry, than all the public schools have done. Opposite to Mr. Paterson’s seat in Kilrush, lives “Old Nanny,” who is now considerably above an hundred years of age, and never was confined a single day of her life by sickness. Mr. Michael Brew, of Leadmore, sen. is another instance of longevity. In the early part of his life he was rather dissipated; he was then one of three lives in a large farm, held under Mr. Scott of Cahircon. Leave was requested to change his life for that of another of more temperate habits, and it was granted. These three lives died, and the lease was renewed for three more, at a considerable advance; these three lives also dropped, (Walt. Archer, Esq. was the last of them) and the farm was lately set by Mr. John Scott, at an advance of a thousand a year, and Brew is still alive. The late Murtough MacMahon of Clonina, Esq. (another instance of longevity in this neighbourhood) obtained a similar favour, with the same result, respecting the castle, demesne, and extensive farm of Carrigaholt, which he, and his father and uncle, had held for many years under the Burton family. His tenure was for three lives; viz. his own, his brother Andrew’s, and his sister’s, the late Mrs. England of Cahircalla. His family consisted of two sons and one daughter, who was afterwards married to O’Donoghue of Killarney; and he considered it an important object to get their lives substituted in place of his own, and those whom, in the common course of nature, his children might be expected to survive. His wish was accomplished; great would have been his disappointment, if his worthy landlord had refused to gratify it: but, oh the vanity of human wishes! The young MacMahons, and Mrs. O’Donoghue, all died before their father, their uncle, or their aunt. The acquired interest in the beloved castle, and fascinating fields around it, was as unexpectedly and irrecoverably lost to the family, as the fee simple of them had been two centuries before; and Carrigaholt, for some years previous to Mr. MacMahon’s death, was set to solvent tenants, at the advanced rent of eight hundred pounds a year.

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Union of Kilrush, Killard, Kilfieragh, Moyferta, and Kilballyhone

V. Present & Former State of Population, Food, Fuel, &c.

Population
The following table shews the number of inhabitants in this union, as it was ascertained under the Population Act in December 1813.

  Males Females Total
Parish of Kilrush 1,599 1,576 3,175
Parish of Killard 1,639 1,568 3,207
Parish of Kilfieragh 1,840 1,576 3,416
Parish of Moyarta 2,540 2,186 4,726
Parish of Kilballyhone 1,536 1,182 2,718
Total 9,154 8,088 17,242

According to a census taken by the writer of this account, in the year 1803, the town of Kilrush contained 1,320 inhabitants. In December, 1813, it appears to have contained 2,460, nearly doubling its population in ten years.

Food
From the local circumstances of this place, it must have already appeared, that it is abundantly supplied with provisions. The eastern part of the country being remarkable for some of the best sheep-walks in the province; and the midlands and Shannon side containing many very fine stock farms, both for rearing and fattening black cattle. Pork is produced in great quantities, and prepared for exportation. All kinds of fowl, both wild and domestic, are abundant; but of late years, rising in their prices, owing to the rapid increase of population and wealth. In fact, it may be said of the inhabitants of Kilrush, in the language of the Roman orator: “Propinquam fructuosamque provinciam habent quo facile excurrant, ubi libenter negotium gerant, quos illa mercibus suppeditandis cum quæstu compendioque demittit.”

The sea is also an inexhaustible resource for the maintance of the population of this union, and the neighbouring districts. The mouth of the Shragh river, at Dunbeg, produces very fine salmon and trout. The banks of Baltard afford turbot, cod, haddick, ling, doree, mackarel, whiting, pollock, and other fish, in great perfection and abundance. The other bays and creeks of the Shannon and ocean, furnish flat fish of various kinds, with crabs, lobsters, shrimps, oysters, cockles, muscles, and razor fish.

The herring fishery, in the mouth of the Shannon, commences on the fourth of July, with such regularity, that these who “try their new potatoes” on that day, usually expect the comfort of a dish of fresh herrings with them, and to have the enjoyment of that luxury doubled by the reflection that the poorest cottier in the barony may dine as well as the richest man in it on that day.

Corachs
The bank on which the turbot, &c. are caught, near Baltard, is about three leagues from the shore: the quantity of fish taken there is immense. The boats in use are the ancient Celtic corachs, or Nivoges, a kind of basket work covered with hides, and all others the best calculated to live on this rocky coast, where the violence of the surf, for nine days out of ten, would dash a wooden boat to pieces.

It has been truly observed of the western corach, that it is not uncommon for the intrepid navigator of it, to put his foot through the hide when he spies a rent in it as it mounts over the broken wave in a storm, and his wig or his breeches in a second or a third; which simple expedients oftentimes conduct him in safety through a scene, which, to a freshwater sailor, would be indescribably terrific. Some of these boats make from fifty to sixty guineas in the season, on the bank of Baltard; and there is not less than an hundred of them employed in this fishery. The fish is brought to Limerick, Ennis, Kilrush, and the county of Kerry; and there are often, (when a glut comes,) from one to two hundred horses with side creels, waiting on the shore for the return of the canoes, on which occasions, many of them come back loaded with fish to the value of ten guineas from a single trip.

Samphire
The cliffs near the castles of Clahansevan and Dunlicky, are remarkable for very fine samphire; these of Baltard for mushrooms, and the different strands for dilisk and leaver; the latter of which is excellent here, and best known by the name of slukane, or sluke.

With all this profusion of food of the most exquisite kind, it may perhaps puzzle the Political Economist to hear, that the greater part of the inhabitants of this rich and populous district live upon the potatoes and milk. The inhabitants of the town of Kilrush may perhaps be excepted; but a great proportion of our landholders sell their oats, calves, lambs, poultry, pork, and butter; living and thriving upon eggs, fish, potatoes, buttermilk, and salt.

Many of these people give their daughters marriage portions, amounting to an hundred guineas. They ride to mass on Sundays with their wives behind them, on good horses and comfortable pillions, wear decent frize clothes, and have brick chimneys on their houses. The fact is, that the potato affords sufficient nourishment to them; and any thing farther, in the way of food, whether it be turbot or mutton, smoaked dog fish or salt, is luxury, pleasant or necessary to those who accustom themselves to seek indulgences, but utterly unnecessary to those who disregard them. At Christmas and Easter, and on St. Martin’s Eve, however, a more expensive mode of living is adopted; for on these occasions, every man in the parish and union dines upon animal food.

Fuel
The fuel here is excellent turf, with bog-fir, which latter serves for light as well as heat. It has been already mentioned, that this union supplies great quantities of fuel for the consumption of the county and city of Limerick.

Appearance, Diseases
The general appearance of the people here is pre-possessing; they are as tall and as handsome as any other inhabitants of Ireland, and their comfortable slate blue frize cloathing, is highly ornamental to their graceful persons. Inguinal Hernia is very common among the labouring classes here. From the dampness of the climate, a dysentery also prevails in wet seasons; and a low kind of continued fever sometimes prevails among the peasantry in autumn. Children are here, as usual, subject to measles, small-pox, and chincough, with individual instances of persons escaping all these diseases, and being proof against the action of variolous, or vaccine infection. Scarlatina, and other eruptive fevers called rashes, or hives, are common, but not often fatal; as are also the complaint called aphtha, or the thrush, and the eating hive, or burned holes, the last of which has been frequently cured by the application of elm bark.

Longevity
This neighbour hood abounds with instances of longevity. The late Mrs. Borough, grand-daughter to Mr. Vanhoogort of Querin, died a few years ago aged nearly an hundred years, retaining her faculties, and a remarkable degree of penetration and ability to the last. Mrs. Ward, the daughter of Anthony Hickman of Ballykett, Esq., died a few years before at the age of ninety, and talked of her nephew, Mr. George Smyth, till he was eighty-four years old, as a boy. She recollected almost every remarkable paper in the Spectator, and often talked of them with rapture; and here it may be observed, that this old gentlewoman was one of the many instances of the deep and salutary impressions made on the minds of the upper and middle ranks of the Irish people, by this popular and fascinating work; eight large editions of which had been sold in Dublin, between its first appearance and the year 1728, when the ninth edition was published by George Grierson, at the Two Bibles in Essex-street: the spectator may therefore be said to have educated more of the Irish gentry, than all the public schools have done. Opposite to Mr. Paterson’s seat in Kilrush, lives “Old Nanny,” who is now considerably above an hundred years of age, and never was confined a single day of her life by sickness. Mr. Michael Brew, of Leadmore, sen. is another instance of longevity. In the early part of his life he was rather dissipated; he was then one of three lives in a large farm, held under Mr. Scott of Cahircon. Leave was requested to change his life for that of another of more temperate habits, and it was granted. These three lives died, and the lease was renewed for three more, at a considerable advance; these three lives also dropped, (Walt. Archer, Esq. was the last of them) and the farm was lately set by Mr. John Scott, at an advance of a thousand a year, and Brew is still alive. The late Murtough MacMahon of Clonina, Esq. (another instance of longevity in this neighbourhood) obtained a similar favour, with the same result, respecting the castle, demesne, and extensive farm of Carrigaholt, which he, and his father and uncle, had held for many years under the Burton family. His tenure was for three lives; viz. his own, his brother Andrew’s, and his sister’s, the late Mrs. England of Cahircalla. His family consisted of two sons and one daughter, who was afterwards married to O’Donoghue of Killarney; and he considered it an important object to get their lives substituted in place of his own, and those whom, in the common course of nature, his children might be expected to survive. His wish was accomplished; great would have been his disappointment, if his worthy landlord had refused to gratify it: but, oh the vanity of human wishes! The young MacMahons, and Mrs. O’Donoghue, all died before their father, their uncle, or their aunt. The acquired interest in the beloved castle, and fascinating fields around it, was as unexpectedly and irrecoverably lost to the family, as the fee simple of them had been two centuries before; and Carrigaholt, for some years previous to Mr. MacMahon’s death, was set to solvent tenants, at the advanced rent of eight hundred pounds a year.

Back to Union of Kilrush, Killard, Kilfieragh, Moyferta, and Kilballyhone