Dutton: A Statistical and Agricultural Survey of the County of Galway

Pdf Dutton, Hely. A statistical and agricultural survey of the county of Galway. Dublin: Graisberry, 1824.
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A Statistical and Agricultural Survey of the County of Galway by Hely Dutton was published in 1824. It covers all aspects of the economy and society of Co. Galway in the early 19th century. Dutton's work gives a revealing insight into the dire economic and social circumstances that contributed to the Great Irish Potato Famine.

Galway and the wider province of Connaught featured some of the poorest land on the island of Ireland and notoriously wet weather which year on year threatened crops. Farms in Connemara and the mountains were usually large and used for raising young cattle usually of the long horned variety while in the valleys and near the coast they were much smaller. Dairy farming was largely unknown except in the towns. The boundaries of fields in Galway and the west of Ireland were characterised by crude stone wall boundaries.

The Irish peasantry for the most part lived in one room clay cabins they constructed themselves and survived on a diet of potatoes. However there were more prosperous tenant farmers who lived in more spacious and better constructed dwellings. Bad weather, blight and flooding often led to hunger, starvation, famine and emigration. Diseases such as scurvy and outbreaks of typhus were common during the 18th and 19th centuries. At the same time Ireland exported large quantities of grain, corn and meat. Breweries in Galway city and towns such as Ballinasloe, Eyrecourt, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew and Tuam also operated.

The increasing population of tenants and labours meant there was a surplus of labour and the landlords took full advantage by raising their rents and decreasing wages. Leases were often for 31 years but the practise of reducing them to 21 years had become more common from the 1820s. Dutton describes how a tenant sought to renew his lease with the inducement of improvements he had made to the land such as planting trees. Unfortunately the landlord claimed that the trees gave shelter to sparrows who attacked the corn and grain crops.

Landlords often obtained their rents after giving their tenants months to pay. The poorest and most destitute paid their rent through labour and were paid with food. Farm implements and agricultural practises in particular tillage were very primitive in comparison with Britain. Ploughs, carts and barrows were also very primitive. Connemara was famous for its ponies and Dutton complained that poor breeding was endangering the region's famous breeds. The poor small farmers and cottiers usually depended on the donkey as a beast of burden.

The Napoleonic Wars had increased demand for agricultural produce especially meat which contributed to a brief period of relative prosperity for Irish farmers across the country and in County Galway. After the French defeat in 1815 the boom came to an end and by the 1820s prices has fallen dramatically while the population continued to increase.

Between 1845-1852 the Great Irish Potato Famine, a series of failed potato harvests led to approximately a million deaths from starvation and more than a million Irish to emigrate. A pattern of depopulation and emigration continued well into the 20th century as Irish people left the west of Ireland for a better life in America , Britain and further afield.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the Land League and the Irish Parliamentary Party campaigned for the rights of tenants farmers. By the turn of the 20th century a series of land acts had been passed securing the rights of tenants, the landlord system was broken up and most Irish farmers had been able to purchase their land.


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