Economy and Society in South Ulster in the Eighteenth Century


W. H. Crawford

The publication in 1972 of Professor L M Cullen's pioneer study of An Economic History of Ireland since 1,660 marked the beginning of a new era in the study of the economic and social history of Ireland because the book provides a perspective of the whole country against which we can examine the characteristics of regional economies and their societies. One such region in the eighteenth century would comprise the counties of Fermanagh, Monaghan and Cavan with south Armagh and might be designated as South Ulster. Of course it shared characteristics with neighbouring counties but it had several distinctive features which gave it a certain cohesion. As part of the province of Ulster it had retained Gaelic rule until the seventeenth century and because of its comparative inaccessibility to the British colonists it continued to retain its Gaelic culture until the eighteenth century. Then the spread of the linen industry throughout the countryside swamped a nascent revolution in agriculture and was itself responsible first for a rise in living standards and then by its very nature, for a great increase in the population. When the linen industry collapsed after 1800 under pressure from the industrial revolution in Britain the economy of South Ulster was destroyed and its people impoverished. Within the region itself differences developed between localities. By the second half of the eighteenth century this diversity expressed itself territorially. North Monaghan and Fermanagh with Sligo looked to Armagh and the Lagan Valley while south Monaghan and Cavan were tied economically to Dundalk and Drogheda and South Armagh to Newry or Dundalk. 

The seventeenth century had seen the wars and plantations which replaced the autocratic rule of the leading native families by a new centrally controlled from Dublin and based locally on the powers granted to individual British landlords in their patents. If the British landlords were to make their patents effective and to secure their estates it was necessary for them to attract British tenants and tradesmen who would recreate in this wilderness a British way of life. If they failed to attract and retain sufficient settlers they would be unable to transform the traditional subsistence economy of the native Irish into a more commercial pattern represented by towns, markets, and tillage. Wherever the British tenants were too few in number they would be unable to sustain the colony against native pressure and the actual raids by tories and rapparees while disheartened tenants could easily retreat to a safer home among their kinsfolk in other parts of Ulster or emigrate to North America. In periods of political uncertainty such as the Williamite Wars of 1688-91 or the Jacobite rising of 1715 the British felt most insecure and suspicious of the Irish but there were other occasions. In 1696, for example, it was reported that news of a French landing in Cork had caused Irish attacks on the settlers on the Barrett estate at Clones.' For these reasons landlords and their agents offered inducements to British tenants and tradesmen. They were quite conscious of their intentions. In 1715, for example, Edmond Kaine , the agent on the Barrett estate, when he recommended his absentee master to grant the Presbyterian congregation at Stone Bridge a lease of half an acre for a meeting house, counselled: 'It will destroy the Irish and plant your estate with protestants . . .2 The success of the colonists in holding Enniskillen during the Williamite wars had secured their dominations in Fermanagh and it was claimed that there they out. numbered the Irish by five to three in 1733.3 A similar return of 1733 reckoned that in Monaghan the Irish outnumbered the British ,by five to three.4

This is the context in which we have to examine the leasing of land in the early eighteenth century. Other criteria applied by a landlord were universal. He was interested both in developing his property and also in securing as much rent as possible but he needed to ensure that it was regularly paid. Whenever there was a severe shortage of substantial British tenants offering to take leases the landlord had to offer terms which appear extravagant to later generations. In an extreme situation he had to make fee farm grants of large tracts of land thus giving away potential wealth in return for a regular and secure return. (Indeed, it was to prevent a landlord from granting away the livelihood of his family in return for immediate cash that the family settlement was devised in the late seventeenth century with its trappings of entails, estates for life and family charges'). Very similar in effect to these fee-farm grants were

1 Essex Record Office, Barrett-Lennard papers: microfilm prints are held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland as T.2529/6 (hereafter referred to as B-L with sub-number): John Smith to Dacre Barrett, 26 November 1696 (B-L 104)

2 Edmond Kaine to Dacre Barrett, 11 May 1715 (B-L 370)

3 Armagh Public Library, 'Henry's topographical descriptions'

(MS volume G.I.14) including 'The Reverend Mr Henry's account of the county of Fermanagh written anno 1739', 3

4 Armagh Public Library, Lodge MSS, Monaghan

5 See G E Mingay, English landed society in the eighteenth century (London 1963), 32-6

the leases granted for three lives and renewable for a fine of one years rent ; the Massereene estate in County Monaghan comprising about 12,500 acres was let in this fashion and about 1810 it returned to its owner only about £1,000 each year.6 This included a covenant by the landlord 'to add a new life at any time within one year after the decease of any of the above persons, the lessee to pay a full year's rent as a fine over and above the annual rent, provided there be two lives in being at the time of each renewal.’ 7 The rent was fixed in perpetuity. They were often called 'freeholds’ and at others 'copyholds'. Further down the social scale were those who got three life leases which were determinable on the death of all three lives named in the original lease.. at the expiration of the lease the tenant could negotiate the terms for a new lease but the new rent would be fixed according to the current value of land. The lowest tenant had a lease for a term of years, usually twenty-one, or thirty-one.

Not many tenants wanted leases at the beginning of the eighteenth century. A lease was a contractual arrangement set out on a pair of indentures and therefore either party could sue the other for breach of covenant .The agent for the Barrett-Lennard estate at Clones reported in the spring of 1688: ‘I am at this assizes suing several tenants that went off Annakelly last May as also the tenants of the tithes of Aghavea for though I have several bonds under hand and seal, I have not got a penny from them yet.’8 The making of a lease implied a considerable amount of trust from both parties to the lease. In a proposal to take a lease on the Barrett-Lennard estate in 1693 the tenant wrote: 'I evil become your tenant if that you will- use me kindly. Let me know how long you will set them [the eight tates or townlands ].’9 Farming in such an unknown locality rendered tenants extremely vulnerable and landlords were expected to nurse them. As John Hodd, the agent for the Barrett-Lennard estate, expressed it to his master in 1749: 'If 1 had not taken as much care of your tenants as a hen that gathers her chickens, half of them at least would have been scattered and gone these two years past.’ 10 If his difficulties were serious a tenant might sell his interest in his lease but only with the permission of the 

6 Public Record Office of Northern Ireland Thereafter PRONI),

Clotworthy House Papers, D.1739/3/8

7 L 0 Meardin, 'The Bath estate 1700-771 in Clogher Record, VI,

No. 2 (1967), 339

8 E. Fletcher to Dacre Barrett, 22 Feb 1687/8 (B.L 56)

9 Richard Allen, Monaghan to Dacre Barrett, 22 May 1693 (B-L


10 John Todd to [T L Barrett], 16 Sept 1747 (B-L 189)

landlord.11 If there were no buyers, as often occurred in early eighteenth century Ulster he would have to request the landlord to allow him-to surrender the lease even if this meant that the landlord would have property on his hands.12 A tenant who owed the landlord money was liable to desert from the estate.

Usually it was the individual who took a lease but throughout the eighteenth century we find partnerships of lesser men combining to take over a substantial property . In law they were called 'joint-tenants'. In 1723, for example, the tenants of the tenants of the eight tates of Ballytophin in County Monaghan proposed to pay the sum of £100 sterling yearly and every year for the term of twenty one years to commence the first day of November next , and set , built , and plant as all the rest of the tenants do that has taken new leases in your Honours estate as witnessed our hands ‘ the agent noted ‘They have all signed the proposals.’ 13 . Since such tenants held the lease in common the landlord bound them all for the payment of the rent and on renewal such a property would be often split among the tenants granting each individual his own lease. In practice therefore the lease in partnership was often a transition between the property leased by a substantial tenant in the role of a middleman, and the group of individual farms each held by lease directly from the landlord. Occasionally the transitional phrase remained the practice and as such it was condemned by Sir Charles Coote on the Bath and Shirley estates in the barony of Farney in 1800: 14 it may have been the only means whereby the tenants there were able to save themselves from being outbid by more substantial farmers intent on engrossing land in this tillage barony.

Changes in the pattern of leasing often reflect changes in the economy. Throughout the first half of the eighteenth century a revolution was taking place in the economy of South Ulster The records of the Bath estate in Farney and the Barrett- Lennard estate in Dartrey show little evidence of prosperity on either of them before 1715 but that date does seem to mark the turning point on the Barrett-Lennard estate. The best account of this revolution throughout South Ulster is contained in the papers of a group of antiquaries headed by Walter Harris and Josiah Hort, the Protestant Bishop of Kilmore, which was attempting to compile a contemporary account of the state of Ireland.15 These papers describe the changes in the counties

11 Edmond Kaine to Dacre Barrett, 4 Sept 1719 (B-L 319)

12 'Bath estate 1700-77', Clogher Record (1967), 340

13 Edmond Kaine to Dacre Barrett, 29 May 1723 (B-L 332)

14 C. Coote, Statistical survey of the County of Monaghan (Dublin

1801), 126-7

15 'Bundle of topographical and statistical returns from various respondents sent to Walter Harris - the Physico-Historical Society of Ireland c. 1745' which forms part of the unlisted Lodge collection of manuscripts hold in Armagh Public Library .The papers of this Society provide important evidence of Irish society and economy about 1745-50: its minute book is in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.'



of Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Armagh and Sligo as well as elsewhere in Ireland. Their accounts should he supplemented with the superb essay on the development of the economy of County Sligo by a contemporary landlord of native Irish stock, Charles O’Hara of Nymphfield near Collooney.16 The account of Monaghan in 1739 by Archdeacon Cranston and Mr. Lucas points first to a revolution in agriculture where the rearing of cattle and horses had given way to tillage. Lands had been cleared of brushwood and heath by burning and then with the application of marl made to produce good crops of bere, barley, oatmeal, wheat, rye, and potatoes: the most profitable grain was rye. The barony which had shown the greatest improvement was Farney ' which formerly was under stocks of cattle and sheep walks. These are now much reduced and the lands are under proper husbandry. The soil is fertile and yields wheat, bere, barley, and oats. It is well stored with limestone and in many places there is good quantities found of marl and other manure.' It is not clear yet where the demand for grain originated but it is likely to have been for either the Dublin market -since the population of Dublin is reckoned to have doubled to about 130,000 during the first half of the century or for the linen 'triangle' 1ying,between Lisburn, Armagh and Dungannon. Demand from this densely populated region in Ulster was certainly stimulating the agriculture of both counties Sligo and Fermanagh. O'Hara recorded that soon after 1735 the 'too numerous' inhabitants of the North were beginning to buy beef and mutton in Sligo on the annual expedition for linen yarn. The rector of Killesher in west Fermanagh, the Rev. William Henry, noted this growth of the cattle trade in Fermanagh More important, however, than the agricultural revolution in the economic development of Monaghan, Cavan and south Armagh was the advance of the linen industry. It is difficult to date with any certainty when the trade in linen yarn began to develop in South Ulster. O'Hara, writing about 1753, ascribes its origins in Sligo to the invasion of the county by graziers taking land to fattten stock for the Cork provision trade in the mid-1720s, arguing that the families of the small farmers took

16 National Library of Ireland, O’Hara papers. Some of this col1ection has been copied by the, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and this important manuscript is T.2812/19.. hereafter described as 'Charles O'Hara's account of Sligo

17 'Henry's topographical descriptions : 'Fermanagh', 10, 37

up yarn spinning to obtain extra money in order to compete against the graziers for land: the 'English and Northern demands took it [the linen] off'. In the southern counties of Ulster handloom weaving on a commercial scale had first been promoted by landlord's who, established colonies of Protestant weavers in their towns. In County Monaghan Edward Lucas of Castleshane established a colony in 1703 and William Cairnes later set up another in Monaghan town. By 1739 it had spread over the whole county and cloth fairs were being held monthly in other market towns." A report from Clones in 1744 to Thomas Lennard Barrett stated, '. . . As to the linen trade on your estate, I think it goes on very well. Several of the tenants have weavers in their houses and pretty bleachyards on their farms, and Mr Ramadge bleaches vast quantities of linen every season.’19

In County Cavan much yarn was sold in Cavan market while Belturbet was considered to be in 1739 'the principal mart for the linen manufacture in the counties of Fermanagh and Cavan.20 but the real seat of industry was Cootehill with ten bleachgreens and a weekly market promoted by Hon. Mr Justice Coote.21

Even on the admission of these observers the linen weaving industry in South Ulster was still in 1740 mainly confined to Protestants. This is not to say that the native Irish did not weave linen . Irish 'bandle' linens (half a yard wide) were a traditional product woven in many households for themselves and local markets, but not commercially for sale in the English market which required wider linens. The reluctance of the Irish to weave for the commercial market was attributed by a contemporary observer to the native antipathy to the British way of life. He added that within the next fifty years 'that prejudice was totally worn out in Ulster and there are good linen weavers of all professions'.22 The reason for the final disappearance of the practice may have been the harvest failures and cattle murrain about 1745 which deprived people of their traditional sources of income. Losses of both cattle and corn were especially severe in the counties of Monaghan, Fermanagh,

13 Lodge MSS, 'Monaghan' by Archdeacon Cranston and Mr Lucas,

8 Jan 1738/9

19 John Todd to Thomas Lennard Barrett, 5 June 1744 (B-L 166)

20 Lodge MSS, 'Cavan'

21 Lodge MSS, 'Revd Mr Dean Richardson's account of Cootehill in

County Cavan and the manner of bleaching linen in the manufacture there, 5 April 1740'

22 'Scheme of Robert Stevenson 1795' (PRONI, Massereene-Fester MSS, D.562/1270). See also 'Arthur Labram's proposal, 27 Feb 1724/5' to the Bishop of Elphin to set up a colony of linen weavers there (PRONI, Massereene-Foster MSS, D.207/1/4)

Donegal and Sligo." In Sligo 'a great number of the inhabitants perished; many went off; . . . The lands were left untenanted, few bidders, and those at very low prices.’24 The spinning and weaving of linen presented the only means of obtaining enough money to buy the oatmeal being imported into the country from Scotland. A more positive inducement after 1747 was 'the bounty given on the exportation of our linens from London and the additional bounty given by our Linen Board to exports from Ireland'.25 This is borne out by the great increase in exports that year which showed an increase of more than a quarter over the highest figure of the previous ten years." Very many new hands were involved in the industry and it was reckoned in County Armagh that output increased by two thirds between 1750 and 1770.27

This upward trend was maintained during the 'fifties and ,sixties and indicates that the linen industry was spreading throughout Ulster and the neighbouring counties. Probably the most spectacular improvement was shown in South Armagh. According to a document written in 1795

the manufacture gaining strength, about fifty years ago they began to push their improvements into the mountains which separate the low country from Louth, and by the assistance of turf, fuel being convenient, and good constant rivers for feeding bleachyards and working machinery, they were enabled to extend their improvements in the mountains. And many wealthy farmers and manufacturers were induced by the low price of them - about a shilling to half a crown an acre - to take farms, lime and burn them although the limestone quarries were distant from the centre of the mountains, measuring from the, quarries at Armagh or those on the Louth side towards Dundalk, at least eight or nine miles either way but their spirited industry has surmounted all difficulties. And within these forty years Newtown Hamilton, a considerable town, has been erected in the centre and a weekly linen market, well supplied, establishes. A strong yeomanry [substantial farmers] and many excellent houses and roads leading through the country in all directions have been made here, formerly a perfectly black mountain. This is an example worthy of the attention of the landed interest and landholders of Ireland as those mountains were lofty without any internal manures and generally very wet and bad stuff to work on, . . . On the west side of the county about Armagh city and up through the mountains they are entirely employed in making yard wide linens of an excellent quality from about 8d

23 John Todd to Thomas Lennard Barrett, 1 March 174516 (B-L


24 'Charles O'Hara's account of Sligo'

25 Ibid.

26 C. Gill, The rise of the Irish linen industry (Oxford 1924), 341

27 'R. Stevenson's scheme'


to 18d per yard brown, which are in great demand and high estimation and they have a sufficient number of bleachyards to whiten all their own manufactures on reasonable terms and large quantities brought into this county by their linen drapersfrom the neighbouring counties . . .28

Only County Fermanagh did not follow the general pattern. Although its spinners produced much yarn very little weaving was done and its cloth markets remained small. It is not clear why this was the case but it may be linked with the success of the cattle trade which gave the inhabitants a comfortable living without much labour. Fermanagh had always supplied the linen country with both dairy cattle for its milk and butter as well as beef cattle.29 After 1750, however, there was a heavy demand from Scotland to replace the stock it had lost from cattle murrain and then in IZ59 the embargo against the import of Irish cattle into England was lifted. As a result large numbers of cattle were driven each year from counties Fermanagh and Sligo towards the east of the province: of these a considerable number were slaughtered in Belfast but many more were exported as livestock from Donaghadee to Portpatrick for the long march to Norfolk and London." The importance of the lifting of the English embargo on Irish cattle is thoroughly explained by the agent of the Abercorn estate in west Tyrone in 1758, just before the lifting of the ban: The prices of lean and fat cattle are very precarious, nor have I found for more than these seven years past that a man can compute with any share of certainty their profit in that branch of business. Cattle that we think will weigh when fat and fit for sale in October four hundred, will cost from £3 5s. to £3 10s., but when we come to sell the merchant tells us there is no foreign demand; besides, perhaps, there is an embargo on exportation.

And though we believe at that time they get the best (though not the fairest) markets, yet we must sell, or infallibly lose, as to buy our new as we must as well get the value of our old cattle stock as well as clear our lands for them. At this season most people who fatten buy a score or perhaps more according to their stock which they mix with their cattle they have had over year and sell with them. But there has been of late a greater demand than could, 1 think, have been occasioned by that, and which most people apprehend is owing to the liberty expected, or some say already granted, for exporting live cattle to Britain; and that if that act passed that it would be a means of preventing meal falling to no price, which greatly scared the farmer 

28 Ibid.

29 Arthur Young's tour in Ireland 1776-9, ed. A. W. Hutton (2 vols,

London 1892), i, 196, 198, 204. But see E. Wakefield, An account

of Ireland (2 vols, Dublin 1812), i, 700

30 Commons' Journals Ireland, 1757-60, appendix, cclxvii-cclxix and

cclxxiv; 1761-4, appendix, xciv; 1786-8, appendix, lxxix and cccxc

occasioned by distilling being prevented (which though badly for the people yet consumed much grain).31

From Sligo O'Hara merely commented: 'The sending beef and live cattle to England makes a constant ,equitable demand instead of those flurries which used to happen when French commissions came . . .'

By 1760 it is safe to say that the old subsistence economy of South Ulster had given way to a commercial economy. There was a great demand for specie and regular complaints about its scarcity for all kinds of transactions. From dealers and merchants the landlords' agents purchased the bills of exchange drawn on the great firms in Dublin or London and paid them in the cash they had collected in rents from the tenants: in this way they kept a supply of specie in the countryside. In the linen trade all bargains were in cash but cattle dealing relied to a great extent on paper credit. The whole credit system was fragile and confidence was shaken on many occasions by the collapse of several Dublin banks, especially in 1754 - 5 AND 1759 .

The agent on the Barrett- Lennard estate complained in 1755: 'I am afraid the November rents will be paid very slowly from the scarcity of cash and bills. And banker's notes have lost their usual credit and currency-among us.’32 On occasions cash might be in short supply while provisions were plentiful as O’Hara commented in 1759 'Scarcity of money keeps down their spirits yet plenty of provisions prevents their murmuring.' This apparent paradox is explained by the Barrett-Lennard agent about that time:

I have been at Clones twice since All Saints but found no money stirring or to be had there. Grain of all sorts is very low and no demand for it or beef cattle and a general complaint about the scarcity of money, so I am afraid the rents will come in but very slowly ... Many of your tenants depend on the grain to answer the May rents and the same bears so low a price that they will not sell the same till forced. and what is still worse there seems to be no great demand for it. low as it is. which is owing to a scarcity of money.’33

There are other indications of the development of a cash economy in this region. In 1760 we, find that tenants on the Barrett-Lennard estate who were liable to perform six days work each year on the roads were proposing 'to pay the over-

31 James Hamilton to Earl of Abercorn, 9 June 1758 (PRONI, Abercorn correspondence, T.2541/IAI/5131)

32 Brabazon Noble to Thomas Lennard Barrett, 10 May 1755 (B-L


33 Brabazon Noble to Lord Dacre, 25 Nov 1758 (B-L 198)


seers one penny an acre according to their respective holdings in lieu of their six days' labour, which will be an ease to them and at the same time the money paid by them in that way I believe will do more and better than if they wrought themselves and has been so found by experience in that neighbourhood'.34 It was the enforcement of the compulsory six days' labour which caused the Oakboy disturbances at this time in Counties Armagh and Tyrone. We have unfortunately no details about the reasons for the agrarian disturbances in County Monaghan in the period 1758-68 and they do not appear at first sight to be connected with the issue of forced labour on the roads. Another potential source of trouble was the demand for tithes by the Established Church .. In some other parts of Ulster payment of tithes in kind was being replaced by a money composition and it is likely that for South Ulster comments on this change will be found either in those vestry minutes of the Established Church which have survived, or in estate correspondence.35

Evidence of the prosperity of South Ulster in the late eighteenth century has been preserved until the present day in the appearance of the towns with their market houses, public buildings, shops and workshops, and in the landscape with its great network of roads. Energetic landlords and agents provided facilities for the linen trade hoping to improve their towns and attract tenants. In 1771 the agent on the Barrett-Lennard estate showed that he was well aware of the possibilities when he advised his master to grant perpetuity leases to tenements in the town on easy terms but only leases for twenty one years for the fields about the town so that 

... tenants would have an encouragement to build and improve in the town and numbers would come to the town and build there. as having a certainty for their families. And parks being to set every twenty-one years. the landlord in that case will get the full value of the lands, nay, even what he pleases, for persons being once settled in the towns, and their families. They cannot do without the fields. And that renewal of the houses would encourage numbers of Protestant tenants to come to the town. Was this at once agreeable to you to give of the tenements, I have no doubt but in a short time Clones would be flourishing little town and not a tenant in it that would not slate their houses, they having that tenure of theirs . . .36

The same agent claimed ten months later in 1771 that the linen market had been very successfully established that year by giving premiums amounting to more than £50 that year and

34 Brabazon Noble to Lord Dacre, 24 April 1760 (B-L 200)

35 W. H. Crawford & B. Trainor, Aspects of Irish Social History

1750-1800 (,Belfast 1969), 26

36 Thomas Noble to Lord Dacre, 5 Jan 1771 (B-L 236)

added 'there are great numbers of buyers come from the County Down, Armagh and Newry which now constantly attend that market'.37 The success of the linen markets later in the century can be gauged from market figures. Outside the linen triangle

(Dungannon-Lisburn-Armagh) Cootehill in 1783 was one of the most important linen markets in Ulster while Monaghan, Clones and Ballybay were well established. Throughout the period 1783 to 1820, in fact, the markets of Counties Monaghan and Cavan handled about one seventh of the total Ulster sales. Just as impressive in South Ulster was the construction of many miles of new roads. They provided the infrastructure for the economic development of the region and themselves represented a great investment of money and labour. By 1740, for example, Fermanagh with a population of only about five thousand families, had constructed most of the main roads in that county linking Enniskillen with Sligo and Connaught by way of Florencecourt, with Ballyshannon both by Belcoo and by Belleek, with Belturbet, with Newtownbutler, with Clogher ,and with Omagh. This was a surprising achievement when we consider that it was executed under the system of requiring six days' labour from the farmers and their under-tenants. The Rev. William Henry claimed in 1739: 'They are so accustomed now to these public works that they look on it as part of their yearly labour and in the months of June and July fall as regularly and cheerfully to the breaking of stones and gravelling of roads as in March to the plough and harrow.’38 About the same time the agent for the Barrett-Lennard estate was promoting the construction of roads in Monaghan. In July 1741 he reported considerable progress on the road from Clones to Cumber bridge but informed his master that his friends were not enthusiastic about making a road from Clones to Monaghan because it would take twelve to fifteen years to complete and so be 'a great oppression' on the country. Two of the other .landlords, Dawson and Coote were then supervising the new road from Cootehill to Clones.39 In hard times the great increase 'burthensome to the poor' and so an act of 1759 exempted day labourers from the Statuatory six days labour.' It may be that this act precipitated the Oakboy disturbances of the early 1760s since it threw the burden of the statuatory labour on to the small farmers cottiers and weavers.

37 Thomas Noble to Lord Dacre, 16 Nov 1771 (B-L 237)

38 ‘Henry’s topographical descriptions': 'Fermanagh', 12

39 John Todd to Thomas Lennard Barrett, 4 Sept 1741 (B-L 181);

John Todd to Thomas Lennard Barrett, 2 March 1741 (B-L 163); John Todd to Thomas Lennard Barrett, 19 June 1744 (B-L 182)

40 33 Geo. 2 c.8 s.2

In 1765 their demands were met by the abolition of the six days' labour and the adoption of a uniform county rate or cess of a few pence per acre to hire labourers for the construction and repair of main roads.41 In 1772 parliament had to pass a special act for the province of Ulster enabling parish vestries to impose a parish cess of ld. to 2d. per acre to maintain the by-roads which didn’t fall under the 1765 act.42

The value of this road network should not be underestimated. In the first place new roads opened up fresh tracts of land for colonisation so that land which had been used only for rough pasture could be fenced, drained and tilled: the new tenant was encouraged by the convenience of transporting fuel, lime and marl, timber and stone to his farm. It was the exploitation of waste land in Ulster which so greatly increased the value of estates in the first half of the eighteenth century and produced the initial rise of rents. In the second place the construction of the road network allowed merchants from other regions to move through the countryside and to create new economic opportunities. Pedlars and hucksters , the typical characters of the old subsistence economy, now rubbed shoulders with graziers, horse dealers, linen drapers and carriers. The importance of these carriers has too often been overlooked in the Irish economy because the English four-wheeled wagon and the Scotch cart were so rarely seen in eighteenth century Ireland. In 1746, for example, the agent of the Earl of Abercorn in Strabane, County Tyrone. informed the Earl: 'The merchants of this town commonly pay in the winter six shillings per hundred from Dublin to Strabane, and in the summer five shillings and some times less for goods carried by the carrs.43 These rates were for a journey of one hundred and thirty miles each way. In South Ulster it was the carriers who opened up the region and related it to the east coast ports of Drogheda, Dundalk and Newry.

The prosperity engendered by the linen industry had very important and far-reaching consequences for the society of South Ulster. Because so many weavers were able to pay rent for their holdings landlords were prepared to allow them enough land to occupy their families. These substantial weavers had been benefiting from their th- sales of linen yarn and cloth and of young cattle and there was a strong incentive for them to take leases because they gave security of tenure and because even those who could not make the rent from stock knew that they could sublet or improve their farms by taking on cottiers

41 5 Geo. 3 c.14 s.33

42 11 Geo. 3 c9 s.1

43 Jo Colhoun to Earl of Abercorn, 2 May 1746 (Abercorn correspondence T.2541/IAI/IC/15)

who would work for them in return for a holding." Linen weavers were able to outbid farmers for small farms, about five to ten acres in extent, convenient to the market towns. The whole historical progress of the rise of the Catholic tenantry was analysed exactly in 1766 by the contemporary commentator, Charles O'Hara of Collooney:

... the present great price of land is principally owing to the cottage tenants, who being mostly Papists, have long lived under the pressure of severe penal laws and have been enured to want and misery. The linen manufactory in its progress opened to these such means of industry as were only fitted to penurious economy. Three pence a day, the most that can be made by spinning, was an inducement fit only to be held out to women so educated. The earning was proportioned to their mode of living and became wealth to the family. In mountainous countries the grazier had formerly driven them [these people] to the unprofitable parts. here they placed themselves at easy rents for the demand for cattle in these days was not more than the good lands could supply. The cottager, necessitated to try all means of drawing a support from his tenement, has in the course of his industry discovered that his mountain farm with the amelioration of limestone gravel, is productive both of corn and potatoes, and in, succession afterwards of flax equal to the low grounds. But the labour of this is great and fit only for people so trained to hardship. The home consumption of cattle increasing with the wealth of the country, the markets of Great Britain open, and the colonies more extended and more populous, have multiplied the demand and given at last a value even to the mountains for pasture. But here the cottage tenant, abstemious and laborious, is enabled by the industry of his family to outbid the grazier. They cant each other and give to land the monstrous price it now bears. But from the inland countries where all the land is good the cottagers were early banished so that land only rises there in proportion to the additional demand for cattle. Besides that most lands in such counties are fitter for pasture than for tillage. Thus we flourish and land continues to bear its present price and will do so till an increase of wealth shall create new desires in the cottager, and that small profit which now gives excitement to his industry shall cease to be an object. Then the factors must be content with smaller profits, some new manufacture must succeed, or we must return to pasture and land fall to a lower price.

Contemporaries noticed an important change in the composition of families. Whereas the poverty of many families in the past had compelled them to send away their adolescents from home to look for work, families were now encouraged by prospects to keep their children at home in remunerative employment. As O’Hara commented in 1760: 'A family now has a better bottom than formerly: residence is more assured 

44 'Charles O'Hara's account of Sligo' under the year 1764

and families are more numerous as increase of industry keeps them more together.' Children from being a liability became a source of wealth for the family of a weaver. A child learned to spin about the age of five and a boy to weave by the age of fourteen. The wish for a father to retain the services of his children tempted him to set off to the small parts of his own holding and thus subdivide the holding into even more minute portions.45 This left the children and their families even more dependent on their income from the linen industry. Professor Cullen has argued that 'the remarkable expansion of the industry in the 1780s was feasible only because the industry spread with greater vigour than ever in centres outside the traditional manufacturing areas.46 There was also, however, a parallel development. In the traditional areas the industry was recruiting labour from lower down the social ladder. In the first half of the eighteenth century weavers had usually been independent and this had been encouraged by the gift of spinning wheels and reels and looms to deserving tenants sponsored ' by the Linen Board." Yet many men who could weave were unable to purchase a regular supply of yarn and they either fell into relaince on the yarn jobbers , who exploited them,48 or began to work for other weavers. These weavers were distinguished as 'manufacturers' and they either employed young single men as 'journeymen' in their own workshops or gave out yarn to the cottiers who paid the rent of the 'cot takes' in work.49 In these circumstances which provided work and security the cottier class, it greatly increased in numbers. It lived mainly on oatmeal and potatoes and spent its surplus on drink, tobacco and material comforts. It too, however, was completely dependent on the domestic linen industry for its survival.

The prosperity of the industry also altered the whole structure of land tenure . Where weavers and small farmers could afford to pay rent regularly landlords wer prepared to grant leases . They preferred to lease their property directly to the actual occupiers instead of setting it to a single tenant who would 'set it again

45 C Coote, Statistical survey of the county Armagh

1804) 136-7

46 L M Cullen, An economic history of Ireland since 1660

London 1972), 61 1

47 C Coote to Earl of Abercorn, 31 March 1748 (Abercorn correspondence T.2541/1AI/ID/13); N. Nisbitt to Earl of 0.

3 Dee 1753 (T.2541/IAI/21175)

48 James Hamilton to Earl of Abercorn,-5 July 1759 (T.2541/1A1/5/102)

49 C Coote, Statistical survey of the county of Cavan (Dublin 1802)

41; C. Coote, Statistical survey of the county of Monaghan

1801), 43-4, 102-3


in small parcels to the present occupiers or some other poor people at' a rack rent and no improvements be made and the farm become worse and impoverished by constant labour'.50 To prevent the land from being sold without their permission or set off to sub-tenants in small parcels, landlords inserted news covenants in their leases.51 Because they knew from experience that breaches of covenant had to be tried before juries and that juries had a tendency not to enforce covenants in leases (out of self-interest) they attempted to use penal clauses, deliberately charging very high rents which were reduced when covenants were properly observed." They were not able, however, to prevent tenants from taking on cottiers since a cottier had no claim on the tenant who, gave him a 'cot-take', and so the tenant could not be prosecuted.53 Since landlords by 1800 found it increasingly difficult to enforce the covenants in leases (especially against alienation) they began to realise that leases were of little value in maintaining discipline over the tenants.54 As a result fewer leases were made after 1800 and for shorter terms : very often indeed they were to be held 'at will'. 1

This made it easier for the landlord to deal with a recalcitrant tenant but as long as a tenant behaved, his 'tenant right' was rarely challenged and he could sell his 'interest in-the property at the current market value. A cottier or a sub-tenant had no such security .By the 1790s the rising cotton industry was becoming a rival of the linen industry .Its main effect was to prevent the wages of linen weavers from increasing. The competition for land, however continued to push up rent while the price of provisions rocketed during the wars with France. More people became dependent on the potato as they sold their butter and bacon to get good prices and so improve their material standards. Life became harsher under these economic pressures. As labour became scarcer and dearer the cooperative labour of the family became more vital and there was employment for all its members. The cottiers were even more harshly oppressed by those from whom they held their cot-takes. If this situation was bad worse was to follow because in the first twenty years of the nineteenth century the hand spinning industry was undermined by the new machines spinning flax

50 Brabazon Noble to Lord Dacre, 28 Feb 1765 (B-L 222)

51 Thomas Noble to Lord Dacre, 20 April 1768 (B-L 204)

52 Brabazon Noble, to Lord Dacrel, 24 April 1760 (B-L 200); Coote,

Monaghan, 59; James Hamilton to [Earl of Abercorn], 8 March

1772 (T.2541/1A1/10/17)

58 Coote, Cavan, 42

54 [Earl of Abercorn ] to James Hamilton, 25 July 1773 (T.2541/1K/

9/2/44) with the agent's reply: James Hamilton to Earl- of

Abercorn, 13 Aug 1773 (T.2541/1A1/10/103)

in England. The wages became quite uneconomic and so one prop of the economy of South Ulster was removed. Within the following twenty years the other prop, handloom weaving, also collapsed outside the Lagan Valley and North Armagh. Monaghan, Cavan and South Armagh, some of the most densely populated areas in Ireland, were left to face the increasing prospects of a widespread failure of the potato crop with a population which depended on it for its very life There was widespread emigration of textile workers to Britain during the thirty years before the Great Famine. By 1800 the economy of South Ulster had been changed from a state of subsistence into a commercial one, but although the region had some signs of grandeur there was no prosperity. The money which the region had earned was dissipated in the, proliferation of tiny farms so that when domestic industry failed there was no reservoir of capital to tap while the farms were too small to be self supporting . The population density of Cavan and Monaghan was among the highest in the country. More and more poor people sank back into a subsistence economy dependent on the potato Perceptive men feared the consequences of harvest failure but they had no solution to offer except emigration. The Famine could be averted but only if the cottier class accepted its doom.


Articles of agreement made between the Baron de Luttichau and the Honourable Clotworthy Skeffington an behalf of the Lord Viscount Massereene of Antrim in the Kingdom of Ireland, It is agreed that the said baron shall at his proper cost and charges, transport into the. kingdom of Ireland several families, all Protestants, which he shall have liberty to plant on part of the estate of the said Lord Massereene in the county of Monaghan. It is agreed also that they shall have liberty to choose out two thousand acres old Irish measure, where they please in the said estate not tenanted by Protestants when they come over, as contiguous as they can, for to build on and improve, and they shall have leave to plough as soon as they come over and fence, ditch and trench the said two thousand acres, as they shall judge necessary for the enclosing and improving thereof.

It is also agreed that the said baron or those he sends over shall enjoy the said two thousand acres rent free from the said Lord Massereene, his heirs and assigns, till the first day of May in the year one thousand six hundred and ninety-eight. It is also agreed that the said baron are those he sends over, shall pay to the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns or whom he appoints, the sum of one shilling per acre yearly, the first payment to be on the first day of November in the year one thousand six hundred and ninety-eight, when must be paid the sum of fifty pounds, or within thirty days after.

It is also agreed that the said baron or those he sends over shall build their houses near to each other, that it may be a to" and more safe for them, which shall be done at their own proper cost and charges, only they shall have liberty to get stone or dig clay and make brick, burn limestone and cut wood and timber, as shall be appointed by the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns or by some person by his or their direction, in any part of the estate of the said Lord Massereene in the said county. And in the meantime they shall have leave to sit down and have lodgings for nothing in any great or little house or tenement of the said Lord Massereene, not now inhabited, and there be none of his own the said Lord shall provide fit lodgings for them in some other place or town near their settlement without their charges or trouble. It is also agreed that the said baron or those he sends over and their heirs and assignees shall have a lease for the said 2,000 acres made and perfected to them by the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns, for the terms of sixty one years before the first day of May in the year 1695, to commence, or begin from the said first day of May, to the same effect of these articles. It is also agreed that the said baron or those he sends over and their heirs and assigns, shall from time to time keep in good and sufficient repair, all houses and barns or other buildings which are or shall be built on the said lands during the said term, and shall deliver up the said houses and barns and other buildings that shall be built on the said lands and premises during the said term, in good sufficient and tenantable repair at the end of the said term, to the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns or whom they shall appoint. It is also agreed that the said baron or those he sends over shall not during the said term be obliged to pay any quit rents and Crown rents or any other taxes whatsoever or be subject to any changeable offices, except of Justice of the Peace and serving in the militia, constables or overseers of their own poor and overseers of the highways in the lands they hold or which belong to the said lands, for the term of the first 21 years of the said term.

It is also agreed that if the said baron shall desire more land for his families than the said two thousand acres, that they shall have more land at the same rate and on the same conditions and shall have the whole estate if desired viz ten thousand acres, which the estate is computed to be and shall be measured out at the charge of the said persons at the same rate by acre, according to the time they shall take and possess the same,, accounting always three and a half years' freedom before they shall pay rent.

It is also agreed that the said baron or those he sends over shall pay the said rent as then payable half yearly, and in case the whole or any part thereof shall be behind or unpaid for the space of thirty days after any of the said rent days during the said term, then the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns shall have liberty to re-enter on the premises and seize and distrain the goods or cattle which shall be on the lands or in the house or houses or other buildings of such person or persons as shall be so behind in payment of their rent, and distrain and keep the same till all the said rent be paid, or dispose of or sell the same. according to law, rendering the overplus to the owner thereof. It is also agreed that the said baron or those he, sends over shall not alien, assign sell or set their title to the whole or any part of the premises to any person without the consent of the said Lord Masserene his 'heirs or assigns under hand and seal first had and obtained, except to foreign Protestants.

It is also agreed between the said Parties to these presents that the said Lord Masscreene his heirs or assigns, shall have free liberty to hunt, hawk. fish or fowl on any part of the premises at usual seasons of the year during the said term. it is also agreed that the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns, shall have free liberty to search and dig for any coal or lead or any other mines in any part of the premises and carry it away through any of the said lands, the most convenient way.

It is also agreed that the said Lord Massereene his heirs and assigns shall suffer the raid persons to enjoy the said premises peaceably during the said term without let or molestation of him the said Lord Massereene his heirs or assigns or any claiming by, from, or under them.

[This document is held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ire land as D. 207/1/1]