Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter II - Section 5

Markets for Grain

THE principal markets for the sale of grain are Ennis, Innistymon, Clare, Skarriff, Six-mile-bridge, and Kilrush. Some are abundantly supplied, as Ennis, Clare and Kilrush, where grain is purchased very much for the Limerick exporters; the others are chiefly supplied with oats and barley, and some wheat. The different flour-mills take off a large quantity of the produce. The greater part of the barley is consumed in the private stills, that abound in every part of the county, and, however they may have injured the morals and health of the inhabitants, they have certainly tended to encrease the quantity of tillage. The market of Kilrush is rising rapidly into consequence, and, if capital was not wanting, would take still larger strides, as, instead of buying on commission for the Limerick merchants, as practised at present, there would be a direct intercourse with Liverpool and other ports in England, not only for corn, but for beef, butter, pork, and rape-seed, which last is becoming an article of agricultural produce, that deserves every encouragement, because so materially connected with the improvement of the extensive bogs, with which this neighbourhood abounds, there not being less in one tract than four miles square; besides, the additional expence of shipping and reshipping, and loss of time in going up the Shannon, a distance of upwards of forty miles, would be saved. There has been lately a very commodious and handsome market-house built here by Mr. Vandeleur. The market-house of Corrofin is at present almost useless, as all corn not purchased at Clifden mills is sent to Ennis; to the disgrace of the Roman Catholic inhabitants, it is the chapel at present, and on Sunday morning the ball-players are turned out, to make room for the priest to celebrate mass, after which the ball-playing again commences. A few years since, a good deal of money was collected; amongst many others, Sir Edward O’Brien contributed twenty pounds, and many neighbouring Protestants also gave liberally for the erection of a Catholic chapel, but, after building a part of it, all further proceeding has been stopped, and it remain a reproach to the managers.

The market-house of Tullagh is also at present useless, except to the horses of those, who attend divine worship at either church or chapel.

The payment for corn at the mills, and by those, who buy on commission, is usually by bills at different dates, sometimes cash, and often part cash, to answer present demands, and the remainder by bills; an agreement is usually made by the seller, that he shall have not less than a certain present price, and whatever rise in the market (if any) there shall be between that period and a certain remote one, perhaps three or four months from the time he delivers his corn.

This is a wretched mode, dictated only by want of capital, and is frequently the cause of much disputing, and often of litigation, and sometimes loss to the seller, as lately happened by the failure of a commission house; but this practice has lately been abolished in many places. I could not find, that the want of the inland bounty on the carriage of corn to Dublin, formerly paid, has in the least diminished the produce of corn; whatever objections may have been formerly made against the propriety of this act, it cannot be denied, that it caused the erection of a great number of extensive flour-mills, and of course promoted the cultivation of corn in districts, where, from want of this encouragement, scarcely more was produced than supplied the home consumption. Indeed the bounty paid in this county was very trifling, amounting in sixteen years to little more than 800l. whilst in Kilkenny, during the same period, upwards of 151,000l. was paid. Whatever may have been the merits or faults of the measure, I am perfectly convinced, that any encouragement to convert grass-land to tillage will be greatly misapplied, until an ameliorating course of cropping is one of the indispensable conditions, and could have been only dictated by those, who know more of financial and commercial affairs than of agriculture. The vast quantity of communications to the Board of Agriculture on this subject, if we were to judge from what have been published, shews how little the matter is understood even in England; one signed G. S. C. and republished by the Dublin Society in their Transactions, is particularly objectionable.

The good effects of either bounties or restrictions (with some few exceptions) on any kind of agricultural produce are at least doubtful, a certainty of a demand and a good price being much more likely to encourage an extended cultivation than an act of parliament. See what the high price of rape has done; there are many thousand barrels of it produced in this county, which all the premiums offered by the Dublin Society, or the example of some very few landlords, could not effect; the high price and certainty of a sale at Limerick did wonders.

How many exposed themselves to ridicule a few years since, when they proposed to enact laws to oblige farmers to bring in their corn, and to establish a maximum of price? How these wise heads would shake, if a maximum of rent of their estates, or on commercial productions, was proposed? But it seems they imagined, as too many good ignorant people do, that agriculture was of less consequence than any other branch of commerce, and the plough a less useful instrument than the loom or shuttle. The cultivation of rape is in a great measure free from the objections, that have been before stated against breaking up grass-lands for tillage, because, being usually sowed on bog or moor, this kind of soil is not so easily injured, and would otherwise remain totally unproductive. No bounty, public or private, should be given for any corn crop, that did not succeed or was not followed by a green one; and the Farming Society of Ireland are so far defective in their premiums for corn, as they confine them to quality and quantity of grain per acre.

A large quantity of oats is consumed by the cavalry in the different surrounding towns; that of Gort alone consumes about 3500 barrels of fourteen stone each, at from 10s. to 14s. per barrel; about 800 tons of hay, at from 50s. to 3l. 8s. 3d. per ton; and of straw about 400 tons; this consumption must be of great service to the country. Bad oats sell for as much to the contractors as the best, which is not a little extraordinary, as the army are usually very particular in the quality of their forage.

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