The Lucan Estate 1853

Sir John B. Forbes, (1787-1861), a physician who served in the navy before taking to writing on medical matters was an active supporter of charitable, scientific and literary institutions. He was appointed to the queen's household in1840 and was knighted in1853. He visited a number of countries, accounts of which were published. In August 1852 he undertook a tour of Ireland. Agriculture, education, workhouses, religion and emigration are among the many issues which he deals with in "Memorandums of a Tour in Ireland", published by Smith, Elder and Co. in 1853. Here we give an extract gives his account of his visit to County Mayo and his impressions of Lord Lucan's estate.

"Castlebar being the capital of Mayo has, of course, its newspapers; and of course one, at least, for each of the tow great parties in Ireland, - the Liberal for the Catholics, the Conservative for the Orangemen and Protestants. They are called 'The Mayo Constitutional,' and the 'Mayo Telegraph,' and they are each recorded in Thom's Almanac as using 15,000 stamps in the course of the year.

Lord Lucan's Lodge, it hardly deserves the name of a mansion, adjoins the town of Castlebar, and his farm-buildings are at no great distance. This farm-homestead is a complete model establishment, with steam-engine-power, and everything in the most perfect order. His Lordship is said to be the most extensive framer in the three kingdoms, having, it is stated, not fewer than, 15,000 acres in his own hands. This extraordinary circumstance is explained by the fact that Lord Lucan has been for years devoting all his energies to convert his estates into large farms, on the English or rather Scotch system. His bailiff is a Scotsman, and all his farming operations are conducted on the Scottish model.

The only part of his improvements that we saw was this home-farm, conspicuous by its large and regular fields, and presenting the due proportion of turnips, grain, and grass, which this system requires. It reminded me of Lord Fitzwilliam's farm at Coolattin, and, like it, exhibited a striking contrast with the wild country around it. Lord Lucan retains such a vast quantity of land in his own hands simply because part of it is in the process of consolidation, and because he has not been able to get tenants for much that is consolidated.

The outlay of money in these gigantic improvements has been enormous, - amounting, it is said, to some hundred thousand pounds. We were told that, in some of his improvements he has expended as much as 15l. per acre. Whether or not he himself, even if he lives to be an old man, will ever receive any adequate return for his expenditure, most people seem to doubt; but that the property will eventually be an immense gainer by his labours is clear enough.

Lord Lucan seems to have set about his great work with such determination, that he has been as little daunted by the moral and social difficulties involved in it, as by the physical obstacles presented to him. The number of cottages that heve been pulled down, and the number of people evicted from them, and compelled to go into towns and into workhouses, or to emigrate from the country altogether, have been literally enormous. Although a very soft nature could scarcely be brought to front at all such a trial as this must have been to the heart and mind of its institutor, and although the name Lord Lucan is certainly very unpopular among the people of the district, yet I nowhere heard that he betrayed, in the operations which were necessary to the completion of his plans, any undue severity, much less any cruelty that could be avoided. Neither must we suppose that all the person deprived of their potato-gardens were disposed of as above mentioned. Some, no doubt, have remained in their old haunts, working at his improvements, and will probably be fixed there eventually as labours on the new farms.

Still it cannot be doubted, that hardship and distress, in the highest degree, must have often been the necessary consequence of Lord Lucan's proceedings; but whether he was wrong in doing what he has done, or whether he may not, in reality, rather claim from the large-thoughted and far-seeing patriot and philanthropist, the merit of conferring on his country the greatest of boons, is a question which will be answered very differently by different individuals, according to the strength and extent of their mental grasp, their economical and political views, and their personal temperament. I will venture to say this much - that though there are many good and wise men who would have shrunk from doing, or even from witnessing, such things, there is no patriotic Irishman who must not rejoice that they have done. The thunder-storm and the hurricane are felt and deplored as terrible inflictions, but we are told by philosophers that they are wise and benevolent provisions in the economy of nature.

In reference to the system of eviction generally in Ireland, it is but just to the landlords to remark that the establishment of Union Workhouses and of Poor Law relief generally, during the last ten or twelve years, has deprived it of much of the horror that world have otherwise accompanied it, and which must have gone along with it in times when no such asylums existed."

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