KERRY AGRICULTURE

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

In a country so extensive as Kerry, and until of late so difficult of access in its mountainous districts, where the inhabitants of its several baronies seem to be precluded by nature from a free communication with each other; and where, throughout the whole, agriculture is in a backward state, no regular system of tillage can be supposed to prevail. The general crops are potatoes, wheat, barley, oats, and flax. Green crops, with a few exceptions, are little known; nor are any grass seeds sown, except by a few gentlemen farmers. The Irish oat, which is but of indifferent quality, is that usually raised. Barley has been tried on boggy land, but found to be a failing crop, being liable to be overrun by the weed persicarium. In some places, rape is partially cultivated for seed, and is well adapted for boggy land: the crop is stacked when cut, and threshed when a market occurs.

Dairies abound, particularly in the district about Castleisland. In some the proprietor of the land and stock lets out a certain number of cows on a given tract of land by the year, for a particular sum, engaging that all shall have calved before the 21st of June, with a drawback in cases of failure. In other cases, the land and cows are given up to the management of a dairyman, who gives his employer a certain quantity of butter of prime quality, and one guinea horn-money for each cow, by which is meant an allowance for the sale or value of sour milk. To every dairy farm a certain portion of meadow ground is annexed for winter provender, which the dairyman is obliged to save at his own cost. Should his supply fall short, the proprietor buys elsewhere and the dairyman draws it home.

In the northern districts the dairy system is very prevalent, and the method used there for making butter has been deemed worthy of a particular description by an agricultural writer. The butter produced in Kerry, to the annual amount of 100,000 firkins, or full-bounds, as they are here called, formerly found a market in the city of Cork, but of late butter has been sold to a large extent at Tralee and Killarney. Much is sold in the public market; but a considerable quantity is also disposed of by private contract to particular merchants. Limestone is extensively used as a manure in those districts where it can be easily procured: the quarries which supply a very large tract of country are at Ballymacelligot, four miles from Tralee, and there are others about seven miles from Killarney, isolated by a district of bog and mountain: the former also produce building stone of superior quality.

The vicinity of the sea shore has an inexhaustible supply of manure of two kinds, sea-weed and sand, which on loamy soils act jointly with the best effect, and on soils where either is found to be injurious, the other operates as a correction. The agricultural implements are few and simple. In the mountainous parts the plough is scarcely used; the process of tillage being wholly managed by a spade of peculiar construction, called a "loy." Until the late general improvement of the roads, wheel carriages were little known in these districts, but their use is now becoming general.

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