Tobacco Culture in Ireland

The crop was introduced into Europe for the first time by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1548, with the first seeds being planted on his estate in Youghal, County Cork. The crop flourished under the reign of Elizabeth, with, as Lady Everard later wrote, the practice of smoking becoming of such vogue that some of the great ladies would not scruple to blow a pipe socially.

King James the First suppressed cultivation, raising the duty and denouncing 'the pernicious stink' as a 'perversion of the soil'. Under King Charles the Second, prohibition extended to Ireland, with a fine of £1,600 per acre attached. By 1779, prohibition was removed.

The industry subsequently flourished in Ireland with Meath reported as having large tracts of the 'weed' in the early years of the nineteenth century. But in 1830 the House of Commons decreed that it was expedient to discontinue the growth of Irish tobacco.

Sir Nugent often quoted the view that the obstacle to tobacco growing in Ireland had never been climatic but was solely and entirely political. This was undoubtedly the case until 1898 and it was into the political arena that Everard moved the tobacco debate, seeking out the support of other devotees like William Redmond, MP for Wexford, and also Arthur Griffith.

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