The 18th Century visits of Arthur Young

In the late 1700's an English man visited the Faithlegg and Cheekpoint area and recorded all that he was shown in great detail. It was a chance visit however.  He had travelled from Curraghmore to Passage East with the intention of sailing via the Mail Packet Station to Bristol.  The captain made all manner of excuse not to sail though, and realising the delay was to build up a passenger manifest, the traveller decided to invite himself to Ballycanavan (Woodlands), then seat of the Bolton estate.

The travellers name was Arthur Young.  Young was an English farmer, adventurer and travel writer.  He actually visited the area twice; in 1776 and again in 1778.  He had a fascination for farm enhancement and enterprises and as he travelled the countryside he stayed as a guest with the landlords of an area and detailed all that he saw.  Of course he also provided observations and tips to his hosts, sharing his wisdom and suggesting improvements.  Although he was a guest he not averse to pointing out wrongdoing and his observations were highly regarded and are to this day an important social and historical record of the time.  He recorded and published this as “A Tour in Ireland 1776-1779” in 1780.  Various formats of the account here.

His visits coincided with the tenure of Cornelius Bolton the Elder and his son, and heir Cornelius the younger, who was his guide around the Bolton estate.  His record is detailed in many matters including his visit to the Minaun from whence he lists the main sights including 20 sailing ships in the estuary by Passage East. 

Arthur in his prime
The only fishery he mentions for the harbour is driftnetting for Herring.  This is carried out in various sized boats with a crew of between 5 and 6 men.  Amongst the poor people, the Fishermen we are told “…are in much the best circumstances”  He also lists as exports Turbot, Sole, Lobster, Oyster, Cod and Salmon.  Surprisingly in terms of modern times it is Salmon that fetches the poorer price with Lobster next.  I imagine that his remarking that the only fishery being Herring in the harbour was a reflection on the time that he recorded the observation, October.  Had it been in the summer, it would have been different.  Of course he has also covered fishing elsewhere in his Irish travels and mentions Weirs and “Drag nets” as two other methods.  Drag Nets I imagine to refer to Draft Nets.

The Bolton’s and/or their tenants are planting Potatoes, Oats, Barley and Wheat.  For manure they are using mud from the river and lime from local limekilns.  Fields have been enclosed and much land is being reclaimed.  He particularly praises the building of hedges, with three layers of planting including broadleaf such as Oak, Elm, Ash or the evergreen Fir.  The Bolton’s have planted almost 300 acres of trees, including orchards, which he considers forward thinking and displaying commitment.  They are also providing long term leases to tenants to work the land and have built 40 new houses with stone and slate to house them.  He lists agricultural trials with Turnips, Horse Beans and Carrots suggesting that in their practices the Bolton’s are approaching the growing, tending and using of their crops in a scientific manner.
Once Cornelius the younger succeeds his father he will develop an industrial hub at Cheekpoint building on the work that his father had started.  I will go through those developments in brief in the coming weeks.  But I can't help wonder, was a source for those developments, not just the legacy of the landlord system that extracted the wealth of it's peasantry, a legacy of his enterprising father, but also the company and wisdom of  a champion of the industrial age; Arthur Young.