Survey of Leckpatrick Parish - 1821
Replies to Queries of the North West Society by George D. Mansfield 8 October 1821
Extracts from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs; Parishes of Tyrone Vol. 1
(Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University of Belfast, 1990)
Social and Productive Economy
Habits of the People
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 houses. The outside is generally less attended to. The more humble present various shades for description, many of those also maintaining a decent appearance whilst some of them have everything 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 whom they hold.
A desire of raising an income induces farmers in situations favourable 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 the landlord fulfilling his part of the agreement. All the straw on the farm would not in many instances be sufficient for 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 might me obviated by the lord of the soil withholding turf bog from every cabin that was not kept in tenantable repair.
Turf is the greatest object with these people in taking such habitations. The landholder obtains his rent for the hut by being able to accommodate it with bog and, fulfilling this part of the contract at the expense of the proprietor of the soil, he is little anxious about any other conditions promised by him. This is a crying evil and demands immediate interference.
Occupations of the People
Habits of industry prevail very generally. Without a reasonable share of exertion, existence would be impossible here. Weaving occupies probably one-half of the male population. In the spring and harvest these hands are applied to the labours of agriculture, and when employment is withdrawn from that source they return to their looms. In proportion to their success in life they generally extend their comforts. Those who become independent like to have their families well dressed and comfortable, and usually give evidence of their prosperity by the smartness of their appearance. A greater display for dress displays itself amongst the lower classes than for domestic comforts. More money is expended on their backs than on their dwellings. The one requires regular care , attention and steady habits of order, which as yet have made but a moderate progress here, so far as relates to domestic arrangements, whilst the Saturday night’s labour cuts a great figure on a Sunday morning. The replies to these last queries embrace a great description of both farmers and cottiers, the last most particularly as being the most numerous.
Turf forms the exclusive fuel of this parish. It is reasonable abundant and consequently cheap. From 2 to 3 pounds is the average value of turf by the hundred on Lord Abercorn’s mountains, the hundred consisting of 240 barrels each 3 cubic feet. On Mr Sinclair’s bog, being nearer to Strabane, it is dearer.
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 to 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, but the consumption of turf amongst the farmers is sadly diminished of late years, nor do we see discern any prospect of amendment.
Farmers and Weavers
Here we can scarcely distinguish between the farmers and manufacturers. They are a mixed race. Participating in the nature of both and resembling each other in habits and enjoyments. The manufacturer, by which I mean the weaver, that can employ himself with his own capital is generally as well off as the farmer and lives as well. The farmer seldom trusts altogether the profits of his land, but usually calls in the aid of the loom.
Labourers and the Poor
The poor and labourers live on meal and potatoes. Milk with them is very scarce, butcher’s meat quite a rarity, herrings and salt delicacies. The weaver who has not capital to employ himself, but trusts to others to others for work, is worse off than the labourer. The profits of his trade are small, his employment uncertain, his health often indifferent, and his condition, on the whole, such as needs amelioration. In all mention of poor, it is to be understood that only the industrious residents are meant, not itinerants or beggars.
A very general wish for education does prevail, and as far as the means of the people allow, education has spread. Poverty appears to be the only barrier to it. Popular opinion is with it. A spirit of inquiry is abroad. The Scriptures are in the hands of most people. Their very pursuits render a certain degree of education necessary; buying and selling cloth and yarn constantly, a knowledge of arithmetic is required, and a weaver can calculate his 7 pence three farthings or his 15 pence 3 farthings a day for his 52 or 102 yards as accurately as the merchant who purchases it. The upper class of farmers are particularly intelligent. The learned languages are little studied , except by those designed for the learned professions, so that the description of education is pretty nearly alike. It is the extension of it which constitutes the difference.
The schools here only teach writing, arithmetic and English, the charge for which is from 7 shillings to 2 shillings according to the progress of the scholar and the acquirements of the teacher. Mr Sinclair [Holly Hill estate] has established a school on the foundation of the London Hibernian Society on his estate. Mr Brownlow [rector of the parish] gives a salary to the schoolmaster. The other schools which are five or six in number, derive their entire support from the pupils, which in some instances is a very precarious one. A school on the foundation was about to be erected on the glebe a few years since, but the grant by some mismanagement was withdrawn and has never been renewed and perhaps there are few situations better suited or more in need of such an establishment than this parish.
Habits and decency and order are observable amongst the children of the poor who are educated, foreign from those who are uneducated. The one is the rational accountable being, the other the idle mischievous and inconsiderable creature, is constantly engaged in either what is useless or wicked.