GALWAY AGRICULTURE

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

Agriculture as a system is in a backward state, except in the neighbourhood of Ballinasloe, Tuam, Hollymount, and Gort, where the rotation and green crop systems have been introduced. The barony of Kiltartan has also made rapid strides in this respect since 1833, at which time the first clover and vetches were sown; they are generally cut and carried away as green fodder. The deepest and best soils in the county are around Ballymoe and Tyaquin. In most of the eastern portion of the county the iron plough and light angular harrow are generally used; but the land is never ploughed sufficiently deep, the antiquated system of merely turning up the old soil being adhered to: in most parts grain of every kind is sown too late, hence it sustains great injury in wet seasons.

Hay is rarely cut till the month of September, and even then very injudiciously managed; the greater quantity of hay is produced on low meadows, here called Callows, where it is put up in large cocks in the field and suffered to remain until November; hence it is always much injured with rain and liable to be washed away by the autumnal floods. Although the iron plough is very general, the old wooden plough is retained in many places. Threshing and winnowing machines are sometimes seen, but only with the gentry. One-horse carts with spoke wheels are so general that the old solid wooden-wheeled car is now seldom seen, and the slide car never. Waggons of a very superior construction, drawn by two horses abreast, are frequent in the neighbourhood of Galway. In Connemara, Iar-Connaught, and Joyces' Country, wheeled vehicles are almost unknown; everything, even to the manure and grain, being carried upon the backs of men or horses.

Dairy farms are by no means general, but a good deal of butter is made, particularly at Barna, in the neighbourhood of Galway. Farms are of every size; those of large extent are mostly in the mountains, and used for pasturing young and store cattle; they are always held in bulk. Those in the valleys and on the sea coast are mostly small, but in the plain, or eastern portions of the county, the size of the farms varies from 20 to 200 acres. The principal manure is the surface of the turbary, called black bog or moreen, carried home in baskets, spread over the yard, and mixed with dung, clay, or gravel. Another manure is ashes, produced by burning the surface sod, as already noticed.

Coralline, commonly called oyster bank sand, is used in Connemara, with the best effect: wet moory land has been converted by it into rich meadow, mostly of fiorin grass, which has continued to throw up a fine sward for forty years. Lime and limestone gravel, found in the escars is much used, particularly to the south of Galway. Seaweed of every kind is applied to the soil as manure, particularly for potatoes and vegetables: its effect is powerful but transient.

Irrigation is little practised. The fences are walls, formerly of dry stones rudely piled up, but latterly more carefully built, from 3 to 6 feet high, and topped with sods; the clearing of the ground generally supplies the materials. Ditches are not common. The breed of black cattle has been greatly improved within the last few years. The favourite stock is a cross between the Durham and the old long-horned native cow: the cross between the old Leicester bull and the native thrives well in hilly and exposed situations. The old Irish cow is still seen.

Sheep are also a very favourite stock: the new Leicester, first introduced by Mr. Taaffe, is peculiarly prized both for carcass and fleece. The cross between the new Leicester and the native sheep, though not so large as the preceding, is celebrated for the flavour of its mutton; its wool, though short, is good. The South-down sheep have degenerated, the fleece becoming short and coarse. The fairs of Ballinasloe, which are particularly noticed in the article on that place, regulate the prices of sheep and black cattle throughout Ireland.

The character of the Galway horses, both as roadsters and hunters, has been long celebrated. Connemara was famed for its breed of small hardy horses, but they have latterly lost character in consequence of an injudicious cross with large stallions; the genuine breed is now extremely scarce. Pigs are numerous, and of every variety of breed. Goats are frequently met with, but not in flocks. The old red deer is sometimes seen in the mountains of Connemara and Joyces' Country, but the race is almost extinct.

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