From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
The chief tillage district is the barony of Raphoe, in which, besides potatoes, wheat, oats, and barley, flax is grown and manufactured largely. From Ballyshannon to Donegal and Killybegs tillage is general; and in Boylagh and Bannagh much land is now under cultivation, though formerly scarcely sufficient, was tilled to supply the inhabitants with potatoes and grain. Oats and potatoes, the former chiefly for distillation, are the principal crops throughout the mountainous districts; but latterly the growth of barley and flax has been encouraged. Agriculture, as a system, however, is not much practised except among the resident gentry, by whom great improvements are annually made. They have formed and strenuously support farming societies, have awarded premiums, and recommended improved implements and a better rotation of crops. The effects of their exertions shew themselves in a very striking manner in the baronies of Raphoe and Tyrhugh, in each of which there is a farming society, which has been attended with very beneficial effects; wheat has been raised in both these baronies with the greatest success.
Ballyshannon formerly imported flour to the amount of several thousand pounds annually; during the last two years, considerable quantities of wheat were exported. Turnips, vetches, mangel-wurzel and other green crops are common. In the two last-named baronies the fences, also, have been much improved: they are now generally formed of quickset hedges, while in most other parts, except the north of Ennishowen, they are sod ditches or dry stone walls. The iron plough is in general use among the gentry and larger farmers, but the old cumbrous wooden plough is still used in many parts. The angular harrow is becoming very general, and all other kinds of agricultural implements are gradually improving.
A light one-horse cart, with iron-bound spoke wheels, has nearly superseded the old wooden wheel car, and the slide car is seldom seen out of the mountain districts, in which the implements are still rude in construction and few in number, consisting, on many farms, merely of the loy (a spade with a rest for the foot on one side only), the steveen (a pointed stake for setting potatoes), and the sickle. Good grasses of every species grow in the champaign tracts; but in the mountains they are coarse and bad. Cattle, which have been fed for twelve months on the latter, where the vegetation consists of aquatic grasses, rushes, and heath, are seized with a disorder called the cruppan, a sort of ague that is cured only by removal to better herbage; yet the change of pasture, if long continued, gives rise to another disease, called the galar, no less fatal, unless by a timely removal to the former soil. Even the pastures of the champaign parts are unfit for fattening and are therefore used only for grazing sheep, young cattle, and milch cows.
A peculiar herbage, called sweet-grass, formed of joints from two to three yards in length, grows on the shores of Innisfree, several feet under the high water mark of spring tides, to which the cattle run instinctively at the time of ebb. In Raphoe, irrigation is general. Besides the composts usually collected for manure, lime is in universal demand. In the maritime district from Ballyshannon to Killybegs, sea-weed and shelly sand are the chief manures; throughout the mountains, sea-corac alone, except on the grounds of a few gentlemen where lime is used. The character of the cattle has been much improved by the introduction of the English and Scotch breeds, particularly the Durham, Leicester, and Ayrshire. A cross between the Durham and old Irish produces an animal very superior in appearance, but not found to thrive. The favourite at present is a cross between the old Leicester and the Limerick, which, being again crossed by the North Devon, or Hereford, grows to a large size and fattens rapidly.
The breed of pigs has also been greatly improved; when fattened, they are by some sent to market alive, by others slaughtered at home and the carcases carried to Strabane or Londonderry for the provision merchants there. Fowl and eggs in large quantities are transmitted to the sea-ports for exportation. The county is very bare of wood, though there is some good ornamental timber in many of the demesnes, and young plantations, formed in several places, are very thriving. Well stocked orchards and gardens are to be met with round many of the farm-houses in Raphoe.
County Donegal | Donegal Baronies | Donegal Topography | Donegal Climate | Donegal Agriculture | Donegal Geology | Donegal Manufactures | Donegal Bays and Harbours | Donegal Rivers | Donegal Antiquities | Donegal Town
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