Page images



[AUGUST 26TH, 1863.]



"The Health of the Earl of Carlisle, and Prosperity to Ireland."

THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH, Chairman, and President of the Society, said:


It requires but few words from me to induce you to drink with enthusiasm the toast I am about to propose, the health of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who has honoured us with his presence here to-day. It is difficult for me to speak in the presence of His Excellency-it is more particularly so, perhaps, that I am connected with him by long ties of friendship-to speak of His Excellency in those terms which I, in accordance with your and my feelings, would be prompted to use, and in which, I am sure if I was to give utterance to the feelings I entertain, I would certainly speak. I say, that whatever political difference any person may entertain in opinion with His Excellency, there is no person who does not admire the high, just, and moderate spirit which has caused him to make his rule distinguished by the strictest justice and fair dealing towards every political party. As far as the Society which I represent is concerned, he has always acted in the most friendly manner, and it owes, perhaps, more to him than any other. At whatever personal inconvenience it may have been attended with, I believe that on no one anniversary occasion has he ever missed attending the dinner of the Society during his residence here. But, in addition to this, he has, by the admirable practical remarks he offers, given most excellent advice

to the agriculturists of this country. I trust you will drink his health in such a manner as will show that the people of Kilkenny can welcome one who loves Ireland as much, or perhaps more than many Irishmen.

[blocks in formation]


I have reason to return you my deep and heartfelt thanks for the honour you have done me, and so kindly done me, in drinking my health. My noble friend, your President, has alluded to the frequent occasions on which it has been such a deep source of gratification to me to attend the meetings of the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland, which have now carried me happily over the whole surface of the country. But I can assure you that this feeling of satisfaction has never been more fervently felt by me than on the occasion of our being assembled within the ancient city of Kilkenny; for, without pausing to dwell on its picturesque site, or its historic lore-its silver Nore, sweeping under the battlements of the lordly Butlers; its ancient shrines and rising temples; not to call to remembrance the almost unparalleled list of men of eminence who received their education in its ancient School or College I need only mention Dean Swift, Farquhar, the dramatist; Congreve, the dramatist; Steele, the essayist; Berkeley, the philosopher; Bishop Flood, the orator; Yelverton, the Chief Justice; but I myself remember, in my early years, the renown of its spirited gentry, and its social gaiety. The Bushes, the Powers, the Beechers, the Behans, and what is closest to my own heart, its sunny slopes and mountain summits, are allied in my mind with the nearest and tenderest memories. However, these are hardly topics for the present hour, and I pass to the more special business of the day. Upon a later occasion of these annual meetings of the Royal Agricultural Society, and especially at the last of all, which was held in Limerick, it was my painful duty to speak in rather gloomy tones of the then subsisting agricultural condition and prospects of the country. It is true that four successive most unfavourable seasons have preceded the present year. 1859 was a year of usual drought, which made an inroad on our live stock that has hardly yet been repaired, and with this perished a great quantity of our manure. Then three summers of almost incessant rain followed. The crops one by one felt the unhappy influence; land dropped out of cultivation, and

the last year was the worst of all. So that, if we were now obliged to confine ourselves wholly to retrospect, and not to indulge at all in prospect-if we only dealt with memory, and did not consider what was due to hope this would be the very moment of the greatest depression. But you will all remember in the sacred page how, when the Prophet stood on the ridge of Carmel, he was told six times that there was no prospect of relief in the parched earth or in the burning sky; yet on the seventh occasion he gathered from the sight of a small cloud, like a man's hand, a presage of the coming deliverance, which then came in the form of rain. So we, I trust, may thank God that we can read in the sunbeams which have gladdened our eyes tokens of returning plenty and recovery. I observed that the land, under the baneful influence of the seasons, fell from time to time out of cultivation, and naturally the last reclaimed and the least productive lands were the first to be given up, and in the same gradation the best land was the last retained in tillage, and it is of that best land that we may now hope to enjoy the fruits under the best influence of a mended climate. And it was gratifying to me to find that it has been computed by most trustworthy persons, that if the crops of this season only equal the average yield of the last ten years, their value-supposing there should be no great disturbance in price would exceed the value of the crops of 1862 by some ten millions of money. And if they should exceed that average of the last ten years, of course the gain would receive a proportionate increase. Amidst the general depression which affected almost every kind of agricultural produce, I find an exception in the article of flax, and I learn that this year 60,000 more acres of flax have been sown than the last ten years, or probably more than ever were yet sown in Ireland; and the activity of the linen trade, in such marked contrast with that of the cotton trade, encourages the hope that the flax crop, over and above its abundance, will realize satisfactory prices. With respect to other crops, which cannot attain that amount which the favourable nature of the present season might otherwise have secured to them if land had not been previously thrown out of cultivation, we may hope that, whereas the sufferings of a bad year are nearly mainly confined to the year itself, the caution and resources which are altogether best learned and only learned in seasons of difficulty and trial will bring with them salutary permanent results. I think it may be a matter of serious reflection whether the least favoured lands ought to be restored to a more pre

carious crop, as I believe that lands that have hitherto been devoted to wheat would be much better applied to those grains that suit better with cold and moister climates. No lesson of the past has been more permanently taught than the necessity of continued attention to drainage; and I rejoice to find that two measures have been adopted in the last session of Parliament for giving facilities to proprietors for making outlets to their drains, and for enabling them to form drainage districts to effect a more complete arterial drainage. And I believe these two measures rest on the sound principle of facilitating proprietors in executing the works themselves, without any undue influence on the part of the Government. The competition of the whole world, acting now upon us through new facilities of transit and new means of access, of which the Galway line is the last, of course continually grows more intense. The great enterprise of your neighbours, the pork merchants of Waterford, has given activity to the bacon trade, of which this city may be considered in some respects the centre; and the vigorous promise of the potato crop bids fair-for we all know the connexion between pigs and potatoes-to contribute to the further extension of the pig trade in Ireland. I believe almost the only article of food the importation of which into the United Kingdom has been diminished within the past year is butter. Now, the state of Ireland affords considerable facilities for that trade, which it has long enjoyed, and I trust that continued attention to dairy farming will carry on and advance its prosperity. I had wished almost to indulge myself in some little reflections upon certain processes of hay-making which I observe carried on in Ireland; but I have found my views so completely summed up in the old "Survey of the county of Kilkenny," written, I believe, by the father of my excellent and honoured host, Colonel Tighe, that I cannot help quoting what he says, rather regretting that the subsequent amendment has not been as complete as we might have hoped. "The principal faults," he says, "in common practice are drying the hay too much, and exposing it too long to injury in every way. The great object seems to me to be to prevent heating, to accomplish which the wind and rain often extract all the nutritious parts of the hay long before it quits the field. There can be no doubt that it is highly useful for the hay to heat moderately. If it is cut while the grass is succulent, and permitted to heat, the saccharine process takes place, and an additional quantity of saccharine matter-one of the most nutritious substances-is formed by combination with the oxygen;

it only requires that it should not be allowed to go too far. It often happens that the hay is allowed to remain too long in the fields. It loses then in the saccharine matter, and there is also the additional disadvantage that the ground is debarred from the benefits which it would otherwise receive from exposure to the light and air of heaven." Such topics as the better selection of seeds, the questions of the steam plough, the treatment of the disease of cattle and sheep, I wish entirely to leave to those better competent to offer an opinion upon these subjects, as well as upon the particular merits of the very successful Show we have witnessed this day. I am very glad to perceive that among other objects which the Society has cordially adopted is one institution, patronized, I am very gratified to see, by the ladies of Ireland, and by some of the highest, the fairest, and best amongst them. They have become associates of the Royal Agricultural Society for the special object of improving the dwellings and domestic condition of the agricultural population of Ireland. I am sincerely anxious that the tenements of the labourers should be made to keep an equal pace of improvement with the care bestowed on your flocks and on your herds. Looking for a moment, and only for a moment, to the general condition of the country, apart from the special province of agriculture, although the distress caused by the late inclement seasons has naturally told with great and distressing effect in the several districts of the country, yet it appears that the rate per head on the popu: lation for the relief of the poor in Ireland amounts at present to 2s. 6d., whereas the rate per head in both England and Wales reaches up to 68. per head. With respect to that most important subject, the education of the people, it appears that in the year 1841, 54 per cent. of the male population, and 41 of the female could read. In 1851 this proportion had risen to 58 per cent. of the male population, and 49 of the female; and in the last census, 1861, the proportion had further obtained the gratifying increase to 65 per cent. of the male population, and 58 of the female. And in the county of Kilkenny, in our immediate neighbourhood, I am glad to find that while the attendance in the National Schools in 1851 was 1 in 10 of the population, in 1861 the attendance had risen to 1 in 6 of the population. There is a small item in statistics that I have ascertained, and which affords me some astonishment, I confess.

In the last census of 1861 there were in Great Britain of

« PreviousContinue »