Hello Elwyn
Thanks for sharing such a fascinating document with lots of insights into life 
at that time.
Regards Marion Shepharrd

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

From: elwyn soutter via CoTyroneList
Sent: 19 October 2018 16:31
To: CoTyroneIreland.com Mailing List
Cc: elwyn soutter
Subject: [CoTyroneMailingList] Life in Tyrone in the 19th century

>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 
'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 starvation.'
'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] 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 Falls.'
'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 
'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 

Elwyn Soutter

[1] 1 Guinea was 21 shillings, or £1.05 today.

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