Hello again Listers,

Many thanks to Elwyn and his contribution to this subject: it is great to have 
an insight into the lives of our Irish forebears from a researcher on the 
ground in Northern Ireland whose own grandmother could relate and confirm the 
tale of farmyard animals cohabitating the kitchen. Remember folks, this was a 
different era and the Wikipedia entry is essential reading for the context of 
those times.

Thanks also Elwyn for the data contained in the PRONI file relating to 
Aughtercloney National School, and the problems encountered in governing, 
staffing and operating a small rural school in Co. Antrim; a tale which could 
be repeated across the island of Ireland.

I am including further extracts from the memoirs for Urney and Ardstraw, 
Leckpatrick, Cappagh and Donagheady parishes, Co. Tyrone. I hope they are both 
interesting and informative.

Len Swindley, Melbourne, Australia

The Ordnance Survey of Ireland was established in 1824. The survey was intended 
to facilitate a uniform valuation for taxation purposes. Information that could 
not be fitted onto the survey maps was provided in an accompanying series of 
aide memoirs or simply "memoirs".
Directed by Colonel Thomas 
Colby<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Frederick_Colby> and completed by 
officers of the Royal Engineers<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Engineers>, 
these descriptions provide a unique historical source. The memoirs provide the 
equivalent of a Domesday book<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesday_book> for 
the north of Ireland before the 
famine<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)>. For each 
parish<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parish> surveyed, a detailed commentary is 
provided on local geography, local history, traditions, customs and 
socio-economic factors. These descriptions represent a snapshot in time of the 
Ulster Scots<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Scots_people> and 
Irish<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_people> communities and while the 
Victorian commentary may appear discriminatory and pejorative to the modern 
reader they are an invaluable window into Irish history.
The memoirs have been transcribed by the Institute of Irish Studies at the 
Queens University of 
Belfast<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queens_University_of_Belfast> from the 
original records held by the Public Record Office of Northern 
(PRONI) and were published in 1993 as an extensive series in hardback and 

Memoir by J. Rodrigo Ward, 1836
Habits of the People
The cottages of the peasantry are generally built of stone and slated or 
thatched. The latter is the most prevailing. They have all glass windows and 
are generally of but 1-storey, which is divided into 2 or 3 apartments. Very 
little attention is paid either to comfort or cleanliness by the inhabitants, 
who generally have their manure heaps [underlined] in front of the door. Their 
food is potatoes, stirabout, flummery, oaten bread and sometimes a little fresh 
meat and broth. A particular kind of bread called boxty is often eaten. It is 
made with potatoes and potato starch. Turf is their only fuel. Their dress is 
varied. The usual number in a family is 6. Early marriages are common, that is 
from 18 to 25 years. They have very little amusement or recreation. At 
Christmas the young men amuse themselves shooting at a target for geese and 
whiskey. They have nothing remarkable in their costume.
Emigration prevails to a small extent. They mostly take shipping in Londonderry 
for America and at Belfast for Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania, Australia], There 
are several men in the parish who have returned from America, not from any of 
dislike to it but they thought long of Old Ireland. Those emigrants who stay in 
America send encouraging letters to their friends in this parish to go out as 
soon as possible.

Replies to Queries of the North West Society by George D. Mansfield, 8 October 
Habits of the people
(41st) The inhabitants are remarkable for good order, temperate habits and 
friendly dispositions. The upper class of farmers live comfortably and display 
a taste for decency in the interior of their homes. The outside is generally 
less attended to. The more humble present various shades for description, many 
of those also displaying a decent appearance whilst some of them have 
indicative of poverty. A very great improvement might be effected in the 
dwellings of the poor at a moderate expense. Most of those who are not 
themselves landholders rent their cabins under the condition of having them 
kept in order by the farmer from which they hold. A desire of raising an income 
induces farmers in situations available to cottiers (that is near bogs and 
water, as these cottiers are in general weavers) to multiply cabins to such an 
extent as entirely precludes the possibility of fulfilling his part of the 
agreement. All the straw on the farm would not in many circumstances be 
sufficient to thatch the cottiers’ houses. For this there are many other uses, 
and of course the poor cottier must bear a share of the inconvenience and be 
well satisfied with a half-thatched house. As to lime inside or out on these 
farmed out abodes, it is never thought of, and by this means our country 
hamlets generally present a most impoverished appearance. This evil may be 
obviated by the lord of the soil withholding turf bog from every cabin that was 
not kept in tenantable repair
(48th) Meal is much used here, potatoes of course. The farmers have milk and 
butter; little of the latter is sent to market from this parish. Those who hold 
8 or 10 acres of good land usually kill a pig or two and buy a cow or part of a 
cow at November, particularly if they have a loom or two at work………The poor and 
labourers live on meal and potatoes. Milk is with them very scarce, butcher’s 
meat quite a rarity, herrings and salt delicacies………

Statistical Report by Lieutenant W. Lancey 26 February 1834
Habits of the People
(41) As the inhabitants are in general industrious, they who have long leases 
live tolerably comfortable, but vice versa they earn their bread with the sweat 
of their brow.
(42) They practice that which Aristotle called a virtue, namely cleanliness, 
and if encouragement were given to procure lime, their houses would be 
Potatoes and milk, bread occasionally. They rear considerable quantities of 
geese. They comfort themselves with a roast one at Eves [underlined], washing 
it down with a little potteen [farmers]
(45) The same, sometimes worse [cottiers]
(46) In summer buttermilk, but in winter, nothing but potatoes, a herring now 
and then [labourers]

Unfinished Memoir, May 1836
(Answers compiled by Rev. James Haslett, curate of the Parish of Donaghedy, 
dated 6 October 1821, directed to the attention of right Honourable George F. 
Hill, North West Agricultural Society, Londonderry)
Habits of the People
(41) Indifferent as to comforts, well inclined to industry and fond of earning 
money could they get it to earn.
(42) The people poor and consequently unable to procure those cabin comforts as 
to clothing, food and necessaries.
(43) Fuel: peat and plenty, seldom bought and when [bought] about 1s 8d per load
(44) [Farmers] potatoes, milk and butter, seldom any animal food
(45) Manufacturing class ditto, ditto
(46) [Labourers and poor] potatoes and buttermilk and often salt only

Sent from Mail<https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986> for Windows 10

From: Elwyn Soutter via CoTyroneList<mailto:cotyronelist@cotyroneireland.com>
Sent: Saturday, 27 October 2018 12:32 AM
To: CoTyroneIreland.com Mailing List<mailto:cotyronelist@cotyroneireland.com>
Cc: Elwyn Soutter<mailto:elwynsout...@yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [CoTyroneMailingList] Observations on the Inhabitants of Clogher 
Parish, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland 1833-5


It’s sometimes possible to see our ancestors’ lives through rose tinted 
glasses.  Sometimes they didn’t live all that well, whether through 
fecklessness or simply poverty. You are scathing about the description of 
houses where you can see “pigs and fowls in the kitchen and everything is 
dirty.” The thing is, that is factually correct. That is how poorer folk did 
live. My own grandmother was brought up in a farm labourers cottage in the 
1890s and she described a bare earth floor where chickens and ducks wandered in 
and out through the door, defecating all over the place. They weren’t wealthy 
enough to have a pig but it was common enough for livestock to be kept under 
the same roof, for security and warmth. It must have been dirty and smelly, 
just as the OS description tells us. You can see cottages like that today in 
the Cultra Folk Park museum outside Belfast.  But that way of living was common 
enough in the 1700s and 1800s, across Europe not just here in Ireland. Up on 
the famous Scottish Island of St Kilda (150 miles north of Ireland) they had a 
dreadful neo-natal death rate. During the winter months, the sheep and cows 
were kept in the house alongside the family, at one end of the building. A 
visiting nurse eventually discovered that whenever a child was born, the family 
dipped the end of the umbilical chord in the animal and human manure inside the 
building “for good luck.” Consequently half the babies caught fatal diseases. 
And that was in the late 1800s.

You say: “The time period scribes never seems to mention how hard working these 
people are, how close knit the families be, the way communities work together 
or the weight of unfair and unjust economic burdens they struggle under and 
still survive and more they insist on thriving in the face of great adversity”. 
What’s your evidence for that? Unless people have changed a lot over the past 
200 years, I would expect they were the much same as today, a mix of hard 
workers, some who worked less hard and quite a few who led fairly dissipated 
lives. (Some of whom you can read about in the court newspaper reports on the 
Co Tyrone website.)

The men who compiled and wrote the OS memoirs were a mix of Army Officers and 
civilian assistants. (There’s a good explanation of who they were and how they 
worked at the beginning of every volume of the Memoirs). They weren’t all 
crusty upper class British Army officers. Many were non commissioned soldiers 
and civilian assistants. And the themes in the example Len quoted can be found 
elsewhere in reports for other Ulster counties. So was there some vast 
conspiracy, do you think, or might the descriptions (pejorative as they may 
seem at times) perhaps be reasonably accurate?


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