Irish Trade

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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The customs and dress of the upper classes in Ireland were probably much the same as those of a similar rank in England.[8] Commerce was so constantly restricted by English jealousy, that it had few opportunities of development. In a curious old poem, called the Libel of English Policie, the object of which was to impress on the English the necessity of keeping all trade and commerce in their own hands, we find Irish exports thus enumerated:—

"Hides and fish, salmon, hake, herring,
Irish wool and linen cloth, falding
And masternes good be her marchandie;
Hertes, birds, and others of venerie,
Skins of otter, squirrel and Irish hare,
Of sheep, lambe, and fore is her chaffere,
Felles of kids, and conies great plentie."

It will be observed that this list contains only the natural produce of the country; and had any attempt been made to introduce or encourage manufactures, some mention would have been made of them. The silver and gold mines of the country are alluded to further on, and the writer very sensibly observes, that if "we [the English] had the peace and good-will of the wild Irish, the metal might be worked to our advantage." In the sixteenth century the Irish sent raw and tanned hides, furs, and woollens to Antwerp, [9] taking in exchange sugar, spices, and mercery. The trade with France and Spain for wines was very considerable; fish was the Dommodity exchanged for this luxury; and even in 1553, Philip II. of Spain paid [1] £1,000 yearly—a large sum for that period—to obtain liberty for his subjects to fish upon the north coast of Ireland. Stafford, in speaking of the capture of Dunboy Castle, says that O'Sullivan made £500 a-year by the duties which were paid to him by foreign fishermen, "although the duties they paid were very little."[2]

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[8] England.—"The diet, housing, and clothing of the 16,000 families above-mentioned [those were the middle class] is much the same as in England; nor is the French elegance unknown in many of them, nor the French and Latin tongues. The latter whereof is very frequent among the poorest Irish, and chiefly in Kerry, most remote from Dublin."—Political Anatomy of Ireland, Petty, p. 58.

[9] Antwerp.—Descrittione dei Paesi Bassi: Anvers, 1567.

[1] Paid.—The Sovereignty of the British Seas: London, 1051.

[2] Little.—Hib. Pac.


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