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IN THE YEAR 1802,
BY ROBERT SLADE. Ese
SECRETARY TO THE IRISH SOCIETY.
TO THE HONORABLE SOCIETY OF THE GOVERNOR AND ASSISTANTS OF LONDON OF THE NEW PLANTATION IN ULSTER, WITHIN THE REALM OF IRELAND: .
You have been pleased to signify a wish to receive the communication of any observations I may have made during my late journey into that part of the north of Ireland, in which the Society's lands, or those belonging to the twelve London companies, are situated. I consider myself highly honored by such an intimation, and feel mortified that I visited the country without having provided myself with such documents relating to the Society as might have assisted me in the few cursory enquiries I was able to make. This happened from the circumstance of my visiting the country merely to gratify the curiosity of myself and two sons, to whom I had promised a sight of that great and extraordinary feature of nature, the Giants' Causeway; and feeling a kind of relation with the country in consequence of the situation I have the honor to hold under your auspices, I omitted the precaution of procuring any letters of introduction. Thus circumstanced, the few enquiries I made were mostly confined to the following points; viz.
1. The general state and appearance of the country through which I travelled; particularly in regard to any plantations, either upon the Society's lands, or those belonging to the twelve chief companies.
2. The state of the fisheries, in regard to which the Society has had so many expensive law suits with lord Donegal, and of which a lease was granted a few years since to sir George Hill and Mr. Beresford.
3. The actual state of the rector of Coleraine, whose death has happened, and whose living has been presented to by the Society since my return.
4. The situation of the lands near Londonderry, which are calle: “ Quarterlands" in the report of the 11th December, 1789; and therein stated to be lett on determinable leases, at the sum of £990 0 6; and as being capable of considerable ime, provement when the said leases shall expire.
5. The state of the lands called “Grandsagh,” which are also situated near Londonderry; and which in the year 1794, the Society, after advertising to let them by a lease for 41 or 61 years, were induced to leave in the hands of the occupying tenants, for the sake of trying the experiment of their capacity to improve them by laying out a sum of money, in which case leases were to be granted to them.
6. The state of the spire of the cathedral at Londonderry, towards the rebuilding of which the sum of £200 has been voted by the Society.
Finding, on my arrival at Londonderry, that the gentleman who acts as deputy to Mr. Beresford, the Society's general agent in collecting the Society's rents, resided many miles from the eity, I deemed it improper for the Society's Secretary to be on the spot without making himself known, and therefore paid a visit to Mr. Hill, the mayor, though an entire stranger to him.
He being absent at Strabane, attending the assizes, I proceeded to the public coffee-room, where I was recognized by captain Lecky, a tenant of the Society, who had seen me in London on renewing some leases, and who introduced me to his brother, alderman Lecky, and afterwards accompanied me to Brook Hall, the residence of sir G. Hill, who is member for the city. These visits, and one I paid to Mr. Cunningham, brother of Mr. Cunningham, a respectable merchant in London with whom I was acquainted, proved the sources of an introduction to the members of the corporation in general, from many of whom I received those hospitalities for which the Irish are so justly celebrated ; and I am persuaded that if I had remained at London, derry for some weeks, instead of a few days, I should have felt no relaxation in their civilities.
Mr. Hill, the mayor, did me the honor to call upon me on his return from the assizes, and within a day or two afterwards, invited myself and my two sons, who were with me, to a dinner given by the corporation, at which I was informed that they had voted the freedom of the city to be presented to us, and that as a token of their respect for the London Society, in the person of their Secretary, they had resolved mine should be contained in a gold box. I should not presume, gentlemen, to say so much of myself, unless I felt it connected with the Society, as having led to a conclusion in my own mind, that the corporation of Londonderry, notwithstanding my assurances to the contrary, considered my journey as having some object of inquiry with the concur
rence of the Society ; on which account they determined on the niarks of respect I have already stated.
The passage from Port Patrick in Scotland to Donaghadee in Ireland is about equal to that between Dover and Calais, and it is only two easy days' journey from Donaghadee to Londonderry; in the course of which you pass Belfast, one of the most trading towns in Ireland, and Shane's Castle, the seat of lord O'Neil, situated on the edge of Lough Neagh, one of the largest lakes in Europe, as it is said to cover more than 100,000 acres of land; which Lough is rendered more interesting to the Society, from the circumstance of the river Bann passing through it, and afterwards discharging itself into the sea at Coleraine, but a few miles below the Salmon Leap and fishery belonging to the Society. . I mention the facility of the passage and what is interesting on the route, with a view to convince the Society, that if it should hereafter prove expedient to hold a deputation of the committee within the limits of the Society's property, the thing is by no means impracticable.
In the course of the journey from Donaghadee to Londonderry, you meet with no timber of any consequence, except a few ornamental plantations belonging to the merchants near Belfast, and lord O'Neil's woods near Shane's Castle.
The first notice I received of my arrival on lands belonging to the Londoners (as they are there called) was at Kilrea, a market town situated on an eminence near the river Bann, which I learnt from the landlord of my inn was held by Mr. Stewart, uncle of lord Castlereagh, under the Mercers' Company, and that it extended for more than six miles along the road over which I was to pass in my way to Londonderry. Inquiring into the reason of the want of accommodation and the apparent poverty of the place, the master of the inn observed, “that it could not well be és otherwise in a part of the country where they never saw the 66 face of the owner of the soil, or even his under-tenant;" and he mentioned this circumstance as a grievance which greatly prevails in Ireland, but particularly in all those parts situated in the north of the island which belong to any of the city companies. I felt the force of the observation, which impressed me with a greater degree of indulgence for the poverty, ignorance and Jaziness of the lower order of the people, who toil for a miserable subsistence, and see the fruits of their labour carried off from time to time by an agent of their landlord, to be spent in a foreign country; while the very same description of people in England, are cheered by a hospitable reception in the hall of their landlord when they wait upon him to pay their rent,--derive benefit from his expenditure and example,--and in case of petty disputes, find an honest magistrate, a kind landlord, and a well-informed neighbour to reconcile their differences, and prevent little misunderstandings from growing into rancour and the desire of revenge. This want of example, assistance and consolation from the resident land owners, deprives the inhabitants of all in. ducement to union, so that each family lives by itself, in a little
cabin without a chimney, with a clay floor, and bed of straw or rags. A groupe of nearly naked figures are often seen at the doors, consisting of the wife and children. · The husband finds the means, by working at his loom, to pay an extravagant price for four or five acres of land, on which a cow is kept for the family, and some potatoes and flax are grown. This, with a turf fire, kindled in the corner of their cabin, round which the family crouch, with some oatmeal for stir-about, constitutes all the wants, and whiskey the luxury, of the Irish peasaot; who, never looking beyond it, has no temptation to enterprize or exertion.
I was assured, that it was no uncommon thing for a man and his family, after planting their potatoe ground in the spring, to turn the key of their door, and after employing the summer in begging, to return again to their habitation in order to gather their crop of potatoes, collect a little stock of turf, and thus provide themselves for the winter. If the mere propagation and increase of the human species were to be considered as a proof of the prosperity of a country, the north of Ireland would be the richest in Europe. The cabins swarm with children, and a late ingenious author, (the manner of whose death has left an indelible disgrace on those concerned in it,) * is said to have made a cal. culation, by which he ascertained the population of this part of Ireland far to exceed that of any part of England or even Holland. Such is the general state of the northern part of Ireland; and as the late rebellion was checked in an early stage by the exertions of the yeomanry, the face of the country affords but few marks of its effects.
The lands belonging to the Mercers' Company extend from the left bank of the Bann near Kilrea, for the space of about six miles towards Boyd's Mountain, and are lett, as I was informed, in small parcels, from five to thirty acres, (which is considered as a large farm,) at an average of about 1l. 3s. an acre. There are no timber trees on the property, but I learnt from the conversation I had with the landlord of the inn, that about fourteen years since, Mr. Stewart the tenant had cut down a great many trees, chiefly ash and sycamore, in the neighbourhood of the town. Mr. Orr, a linen-merchant of Londonderry, has a handsome house near the high road, and is now building some cotton or linen works towards the foot of the mountain, which, notwithstanding its dreary aspect and unprofitable soil, is interspersed with cabins; in many of which whiskey is distilled, and afterwards sold at a price below what can be afforded by the fair trader. The stills used on this occasion are constructed on so small a scale, that it is no uncommon thing for the proprietors of them, on seeing from their cabins on the mountain side the ap
** Dr. Hamilton is said to have computed, that one square mile in this part of Ireland contained 575 persons. He was assassinated when on a visit at the house of a friend, by a body of United Irishmen, and his death was attend-' ed with circumstances of cruelty too shocking to relate ;-all the parties concerned in the murder are said to have since left the country.
proach of an excise-officer, to remove their whole apparatus and conceal it in the boy before the arrival of the exciseman « The approach to Newtown Limmavaddy (which means the own of the dog's leap) on the other side of the mountain, affords a more cheering prospect. Its environs, which are fertile and well cultivaterl, are ornamented with many well-built houses and plantations. The town itself has always been important in history, as affording a pass, by means of its bridge over the Roe, to Lon. donderry, and the extensive territory of Innishowen which belongs to the marquis of Donegal, consisting, as it is said, of be tween three and four hundred thousand acres of land. It was by this bridge that king James passed with his army under the command of marshall de Rosene and the duke de Berwick, to lay siege to Londonderry, in the year 1689; and it was near the same spot in the late rebellion, that an inconsiderable body of the Irish yeomanry, under the command of sir G. Hill the present member for Londonderry, checked the progress of five thousand united men, who came from Belfast, and were marching in three columns towards Londonderry and Innishowen, under pretence of digging potatoes, but in fact with a view to fraternize with all that part of the country, which had it taken place, would have been attended with the most fatal consequences, whereas their being compelled to disband, gave a deathblow to the cause of fraternization in the populous town of Bel. fast, from whence they chiefly came. 8: The next place of any note after passing this river, is Wal. worth, the proportion of the Fishmongers' Company, where the right hon. John Beresford, their tenant, has built a handsome house on the banks of Lough Foyle, and planted a considerable number of oak, ash, and other timber trees, extending near a mile along the road; and which is, I believe, the only instance of any thing of the kind on any part of the property in which the Society or any of the city companies have an interest. The road runs on the banks of Lough Foyle till you arrive at Lon. donderry, which shews itself on an eminence to great advantage, particularly the spire of the cathedral church. You approach the city by a wooden bridge overthe lake, which is built on piles, is quite level, and in length about three hundred and sixty-five yards. It was built about twelve years since by an American mechanic, who procured the timber from that country. The access to the city is steep on all sides, and the appearance of its fortifications or rather walls, is such as to make one admire the patriotic spirit of its inhabitants, in supporting a siege of one hundred and five days, against an army of twenty thousand men, commanded by king James in person, and assisted by two skilful generals, in the persons of the marshall de Rosene and marshall de Berwick. This is still more admirable when it is considered, that the governor of the city (Lundy) had betrayed his trust, and that its defence was committed to a clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Walker, assisted by its undisciplined inhabitants, in number about seven thousand. This gallant defence of Londonderry contributed in