>From a recent post about farming in Tyrone, I sense there is an interest in
day to day life in Tyrone in the 1800s. The following document might
therefore interest members of this forum. I found it in PRONI and thought
it gave a good description of life then.

*PRONI Reference : *



Notes and reminiscences dictated to me during the winter of 1904-5 by my
father James Brown Donaghmore, [Co. Tyrone] [signed] Nora Brown.

'I was born on 25 July 1823 in the old house in Donaghmore, now a part of
the soap works. My father was David Brown, son of John Brown who married
Miss McClelland and lived in Mullaghmore. Miss McClelland's brother married
my grandfather's sister and also lived in Mullaghmore. My father had one
brother John who lived in Irish Street and carried on a bakery. He married
Miss Jane McDowell. My mother was Betty, daughter of Henry King of
Middletown Co Monaghan.'

'When first married, my parents lived in a small house in Mullaghmore,
since pulled down, and afterwards in a house in Donaghmore opposite the
chapel. Then they moved to the house where I was born. They had ten
children. Mary married Richard Tener; Henry married Jane Carr; Ann and
Thomas who died in childhood. Margaret married Henry Oliver; Eliza married
Robert Smith; Jane married Thomas Lilburn; Amelia married Joseph Acheson;
Isabella married John Beatty and myself who married Jane Ellen Nicholson.'

'The first thing I can remember is a servant of ours Mary Mullen going to
America on St. Patrick's Day 1828. She and the rest of her party drove to
Belfast in a cart to sail thence to America. They took with them provisions
for the journey, chiefly oat cakes, as then was the custom. The outward
voyage averaged 30 days, but occasionally was 6 or 7 weeks and on these
occasions provisions ran short and the poor people were in danger of

'Another early recollection is being taken into a darkened bedroom to see a
little play fellow, who was ill of smallpox, there being little knowledge
of the risk of infection then.'

'My first teacher was Mr Richard Robinson whose school was in the space now
planted with trees behind the cross. It was then the only school in the
village. Later I had lessons at home from Mr Stuart who taught the R[oman]
C[atholic] school in Dungannon.'

'After leaving the village school I was sent to my sister Mary Tener in
Perry Street where her husband had a grocer's shop and I attended a school
kept by two teachers from the South of Ireland, Messrs Murphy and Riordan.
Afterwards I lived with my sister Margaret in Church Street where her
husband carried on a saddlery trade and I went to Mr Burch's school on the
Castle Hill. I remained here until I was nearly 13 when in the summer of
1836 I went to the Rev. John Bleckley's school in Monaghan. Here I stayed
until I was sent for to come to the death bed of my father on 17 November
1837. He died on 22 November and I did not return to school, but went to
business with my brother in Donaghmore.'

'Previous to the year 1816 my father was engaged in the linen trade giving
out home spun yarn and getting it woven in hand looms in the cottages. At
that time a good deal of the linen trade was transacted in Dublin, not
Belfast, probably in consequence of better banking facilities. My father
used to go to Dublin to sell his linen, in company of other merchants. They
rode on horse back, in parties, for protection from highwaymen, the journey
to Dublin occupying three days. In later years when the linen trade in
Belfast had increased, buyers for the bleachers came to Dungannon every
Thursday and took their places on the "standings" on the east side of the
square where the farmers brought the webs, woven by their families and
servants. The "standings" were benches with boards in front of them, on
which the webs were thrown for examination. When the price was arranged the
buyer put his mark on it and the seller took it to Mr Robert Tener in Perry
Street who measured it. He got a few pence for each web measured, in
consideration for which he supplied the buyers with dinner.'

'Travellers then wishing to go to Belfast, used to leave Dungannon at 4 am
on a long car which took them by Moy and Loughgall to Portadown. Here they
joined John Byer's coach, running between Armagh and Belfast, reaching the
latter place about 1 pm.'

'During the war with Napoleon prices for agricultural produce were high,
but the peace of 1815 was followed by a time of great depression, partly
caused by two bad seasons, a very wet summer and a very dry one. During the
latter the corn was so short it could not be reaped in the usual way but
had to be pulled. The depression in the linen trade caused my father to
open a bakery in Donaghmore and I remember his telling me that the first
flour he used was American and cost 4 guineas[1] <#_ftn1> a barrel.'

'About the year 1820 partly from the wish to find employment for an old and
respected friend, my father conceived the idea of beginning soap and candle
making. This being before the days of railways, the materials were brought
chiefly by canal either to Moy or Coalisland, excepting what was produced
locally. In those early years of the last century, each market town had one
or more tanyards, and a candle factory sometimes including a soap works.
Now, in the following century, the soap trade has left those country towns
and settled in the sea port, so that the Donaghmore factory is the only
country one, still working in Ireland.'

'There used to be two tanyards in Dungannon, one in Beragh, three in Omagh
and several in Strabane and Derry but that business has practically ceased
in Ireland, after centring in Dublin for a time.'

'Another extinct industry is the making of nails which was carried on by
the Hodgetts father and son until a comparatively recent date. Each nail
was made separately with the hammer, of small iron rods, supplied for the
purpose. These nails cost 4d. to 8d. per 100 according to size. Now they
are made by machinery at a quarter the price. The open window of the
nailer's shop was a very favourite spot at which to linger and "shaunogh",
watching him busily hammering and chopping off the nails and giving the
"cracks" of the village, without pausing at his work.'

'Few people nowadays would know what a "shilling" (shelling) hill was. This
was a usual adjunct to the country corn mill of my young day. The oats were
dried on the kiln and after shelling were filled into a sack. This was
thrown over a horse's back and taken to the nearest rising ground where the
chaff was removed by the wind. After this process which is now superseded
by the use of fans, the winnowed grain was refilled into the sack and taken
back to the mill to be ground into meal.'

'When I was a boy my father began to make mould candles in addition to the
dips, which were the first candles made. The old process of making dips was
a very slow one, one man only making about 20 dozen lbs. per day. With
improved appliances a man afterwards could make 80 dozen lbs. In those days
tallow alone was used, but in later years paraffin wax has supplanted it
and dip candles are no longer made. Rush lights also were made and used as
night lights. They gave a small slowly burning light, they partially peeled
rush taking the place of candlewick. A strip of peel was left on each side
of the rush and the ends of these strips being knotted, they were suspended
from the dipping rods by this means. The wicks for the dips were made of
flax tow which was loosely spun by women and after boiling with alkali was
bleached on the grass. This made a very rough wick. Later cotton was used,
it being supplied from Manchester ready for use. Prior to Leblanc's
discovery of the process of producing alkali from salt, barilla or kelp was
used in soap making. The kelp was made on the sea shore and brought inland
to the factories.'

'In Castlefin, where the Messrs Baird had a soap works, in the early part
of last century, an autumn morning would find the fair green crowded with
horses, laden with creels of kelp brought from the north-west coast of
Donegal to supply these works. Russia was the main source of imported
tallow and barilla was also brought from the Mediterranean.'

'When the soap works was started Mr Martin the traveller for the brewery
introduced our manufactures on his journeys and brought orders from Omagh
Enniskillen etc which assisted us considerably. Afterwards Mr William Irwin
and Mr John Clark travelled for the firm, an occupation which I took up
about 1842. As this was before the days of railways, I drove my own horse
and gig once a month through Tyrone and Fermanagh, also parts of Armagh and
Derry. In this way I became well acquainted with these districts and with
our customers.'

'During the early years of my business career our principal competitors
were in Belfast. The chief makers there were Mr Finlay Mr Greer and Mr
Glenfield. Locally we had Mr John Shillington of Portadown and later on
Robert McClelland in Dungannon while George and Robert sons of Mr John
Tener started to make soap and candles at Moree [?]. This came to an end in
a few months however. Robert McClelland had a tannery and also sold tea in
the same districts which we visited, so he was a serious competitor. He and
his nephew Joseph removed to Belfast later on, but afterwards returned to
Dungannon and built the spinning mill now Messrs Hale and Martin's.'

'Up till the opening of the railway in 1865, our goods were entirely
delivered by our own carters. Until 1830 we had no post office. Letters
were brought from Dungannon by a messenger to the brewery and he also
carried those for the village. The mail coach from Dublin to Coleraine
brought letters to Dungannon. Our first post master had the magnificent
salary of £3 annually.'

'In my boyhood there was no place of worship in Donaghmore but the chapel
of which Friar Conwell was priest. Rev. Thomas Carpendale was rector of
this parish and Rev. Robert Fraser was his curate, the parish church being
in Castlecaulfield. The chapel of ease in Donaghmore was built in 1836 or
1838, through the influence of Mr Mackenzie who up till then had been a
Presbyterian and attended first Dungannon, of which church Rev Mr Bennett
was minister. The church in Donaghmore was enlarged and altered during Rev
James McNeece's incumbency about 1866. The levelling of tithes caused a
very bitter feeling, so much so, that on one occasion, a mob of angry
Protestant parishioners surrounded the glebe house, threatening to hang the
rector on one of his own trees. About 1835 the law was altered, so that the
landlord paid the tithe, being empowered to add it to the rent. Fr
McGuckian was the parish priest who rebuilt the chapel about 1845. My
father always lived on very good terms with his R[oman] C[atholic]
neighbours. As an instance of this, on one occasion when the weather looked
threatening, the priest gave him the use of the chapel as a temporary store
for his corn. A funeral had to take place in the morning before his offer
could be taken advantage of and as the sky became more overcast, Friar
Conwell more than once, anxiously went to the top of the hill overlooking
the road by which the funeral was to come. At last he came back to my
father "hear the hour" he said "coming as if they were on the way to the
gallows!" The funeral took place, and the corn was safely housed in the
chapel before the storm came.'

'In October 1845 came the first potato blight. We had a field of potatoes
that year on the back lane and in one night they were struck with the
blight and both tops and roots were blackened. The damage done in [18]45
was only partial, that is to say, only a portion of the country was
affected and the blight did not strike the plants until the crop was almost
matured. Only a part could be used for food, the rest were given to pigs or
used to make starch. We put up a small machine to grind them and extract
the farina and for this purpose they still served very well.'

'On the night of 3 August 1846 came the bad potato blight. I remember
driving to Bundoran through Co. Fermanagh with my sister Bella on August
3rd and as we went seeing the fine crops of potatoes in the fields. We
spent 3 days in Bundoran and returning found these same crops blackened and
useless. The same state of affairs prevailed practically over the whole of
Ireland and in consequence 1847 was the famine year. It was felt severely
here, but nothing like so much so as in the South and West.'

'Indian corn and meal were introduced for the first time from America and I
remember the poor people coming into the shop and asking to see "this
yellow male". They would then take some in their hand, ostensibly to look
at it as a novelty but really to satisfy their hunger with it. It was an
anomaly of this time, that oaten and Indian meal rose as high in price as
fine flour, owing to the fact that as porridge, meal could be used more
economically than flour in bread. A committee was formed in Donaghmore
which met in the school house at the cross and contributions were raised
for the relief of the worst cases. In other parts works were begun such as
cutting hills on roads, but they were found a wasteful and useless means of
relief and eventually the Government made a grant of several million pounds
to be used directly to supply the starving people with food.'

'The fever followed the famine and broke out even in the emigrant ships in
which the poor people were flying to America. These were sailing vessels
and far inferior in speed and comfort to those now used and many of the
passengers never reached the other continent. Those who did were taken to
an hospital near the Battery, New York and there numbers died of the fever
they had contracted before leaving Ireland.'

'The fever was not so rife here as further west and south, but I remember
feeling nervous about it when in Enniskillen for two of our oldest
customers there contracted the disease and died. They sold meal and bread
and probably the poor starving people who came to seek for food, had
brought the infection.'

'Wages were very low prior to the [18]47 famine. Four shillings a week was
the usual wages for a labouring man. My father always paid his men 5s. 0d.
Some farmers gave their men food instead of wages and I was told by a man
in Omagh of a neighbour of his who hired his men on these terms but would
not feed them on Sundays and gave them a penny instead. Servant girls were
paid as low as 5s. 0d. a quarter, but from May to November when food was
dear, many were glad to work for their board without any wages. After the
famine emigration increased largely and wages have never been so low since.'

'The Donaghmore brewery was owned by Mr Alexander Mackenzie who lived in
Mullygruen [?] and by my uncle Mr James King who lived in the cottage. He
was one of my mother's three brothers, Alexander who married Miss Trumbell
[?] and lived in Monaghan and Henry who became a doctor in the navy being
the other. James married Miss Trimble of Clogher. On retiring from the navy
Henry married Miss [ ] and lived in Castlecaulfield in the house now
occupied by Mr David Acheson. My mother had two sisters one married William
Scroggie and the other Hugh Weir.'

'The brewery was such a prosperous concern that I remember 28 carts loaded
with beer and whiskey leaving it in a single morning. Mr Colhoun who came
as a book-keeper afterwards became a partner in the business, together with
Mr George Slevin, who was a nephew of Mr Mackenzie's and lived in
Dungannon, where they had a another brewery on the site of the present
railway station. In my recollection it was not used as a brewery but the
buildings were turned into a corn store. Part of the premises now used by
Messrs Dickson as a weaving factory were then a distillery own by Mr John

'In 1841 Mr Falls opposed Lord Northland as parliamentary representative
for Dungannon and although the latter retained his seat, a very bitter
spirit was roused. The women drapers of Dungannon having sided with Falls,
the local gentry boycotted them and bought their goods from Silas Weir of
Cookstown. This boycotting affected some so severely that they had to
emigrant to America, amongst these being Henry Oliver and Richard Tener,
and thought this seemed a hardship at the time the families of both
succeeded much better in America than they ever could have done in Ireland.'

'The Presbyterian minister of Castlecaulfield was the Rev John Bridge, who
held his services in the old meeting house which had been one of the
outbuildings of the castle. He became very unpopular owing to his having
failed to attend the Omagh Assizes to give a character to a man called
Ritchie, who was tried and afterwards hanged for murder. It was a party
quarrel, and he was said to have struck with a spade shaft the man who was
killed. In consequence of this Mr Bridge left Castlecaulfield and was
succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Acheson who married my sister Amelia. He
preached at the old castle until he built the present meeting house in
1841. The curate of Castlecaulfield at this time was the Rev. Robert
Hamilton, an excellent man who worked very devotedly for the spiritual and
temporal well being of his people.'

'John Wesley visited Castlecaulfield on one of his tours in Ireland and my
grandmother who was a godly woman, took my father, then a little boy, to
hear him preach there. The circumstance impressed him very much and the
seed then sown did not fall on stony ground.'

'There were two doctors in Donaghmore Dr O'Neill and Dr Corr. The former
had retired from the navy and did not practice much. He lived in a cottage
on the site on which Toybank [?] was afterwards built. Dr Corr was the
general practitioner and an R[oman] C[atholic]. He was followed by Dr
McMullen and Dr McClean. Mrs McClean and Mrs Corr assisted their husbands
in their practice and continued it after they became widows. Both were
celebrated for pulling teeth. Mrs Corr was said to have removed an inch and
a quarter of Thomas Hodgett's jaw bone, along with a tooth one day! In
later years Dr Henry of Pomeroy had a considerable practise in this
neighbourhood, Dr Neville of Dungannon being dispensary doctor.'

'When anyone in my young day required a suit, he took the tailor with him
to a cloth shop and together they chose the stuff and it was taken home by
the tailor to make up. In the same way the shoemaker went with the customer
who required boots or shoes and helped to choose a piece of leather of
which to make them. In the country there were no shops where ready made
goods could be had. The shoemaker in Donaghmore used to make chief shoes
and take them to Dungannon to the market, where they were sold on the
street. It was a common sight to see the women on a market day, sitting
down at the foot of the Gallow's Hill to wash their feet in the little
stream, before putting on the shoes and stockings they had carried so far
and which they only intended to wear in the town.'

'There was then a court for the recovery of small debts called the
seneschal's court which was held monthly in Donnelly's public house. Daniel
McKenzie was the seneschal and he called a jury of 12 men to help him to
adjudicate and it was said he looked under the table to see which man had
brogues on, before deciding who should be foreman! The fees or costs were
largely spent in drink for the good of [the] public house, of which there
were five in Donaghmore and two at the Back Ford. These courts ceased when
the County Court was established.'

'People here often date from the time of the "big wind". That was the 5
January 1839. It unroofed the brewery coolers and did much damage
elsewhere. When George Mulholland came to his work next morning, someone
asked him how he "put in the night", knowing he had a thatched cottage "oh!
all right" said he "I just slept on the roof to keep it on!"'

'About 1845 Dan O'Connell was at the height of his popularity. A comical
illustration of this I had when talking with a man in Beragh, a small
grocer who was a great admirer of his. He told me O'Connell had attended
Omagh assizes as a barrister on one occasion and that he had ridden into
Omagh, 6 miles off that he might see "Dan". He stood about the courthouse
steps until he had the opportunity to shake him by the hand. In telling the
story to me afterwards he held his right hand aloft and said emphatically
"and I never put that hand into a herring barrel since"!

'Illicit distillation was very prevalent then, so much so that my mother
told me on one occasion the military came to Middletown and seized 22
stills. It is easy to understand what a demoralising effect such a state of
things must have entailed.'

Elwyn Soutter


[1] <#_ftnref1> 1 Guinea was 21 shillings, or £1.05 today.
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