WESTMEATH AGRICULTURE

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

Throughout the eastern part of the county the soil is a heavy loam from seven to twelve inches deep, resting on a yellow till: the land here is chiefly under pasture and feeds the fattest bullocks; from its great fertility it has been called the "garden of Ireland;" the northern part is hilly and very fertile, extremely well adapted for sheepwalks, but chiefly applied to the grazing of black cattle. The barony of Moygoish is fertile, except towards the north, where there is much bog and marshy land. The central barony of Moyashel and Magheradernan is mostly composed of escars, chiefly formed of calcareous sand and gravel. In the western baronies the country is generally flat and the soil light: the bog of Allen spreads over a large portion of the baronies of Brawney and Clonlonan.

The farms are generally large; the chief crops, oats and potatoes, with some wheat, barley, flax, rape and clover. The resident gentry and large farmers have adopted the system of green crops; the most improved implements are in general use. Oxen, yoked in teams of two pairs, are frequently used in ploughing; limestone gravel is preferred to any other substance as manure; lime, either separately or in a compost with turf mould and the refuse of the farm-yard, is also used. The fences are bad and much neglected, except in the neighbourhood of demesnes and townlands.

The valleys throw up an abundance of rich grass, the hay of which, however, is much injured in consequence of not being cut till a late period, sometimes in September, and being suffered when made up to stand in the fields until the autumnal rains, by which the surface is injured, the lower part of the cocks spoiled, and in low situations the whole is liable to be carried away by the floods. Though dairy husbandry is not practised as extensively as the fertility of the soil would warrant, great quantities of butter are made of very superior quality, and always command a high price; it is chiefly sent to Dublin for the British markets.

Much attention is paid to the breed of every kind of cattle. The long-horned cows are highly prized, as growing to a very large size and giving great quantities of milk; the oxen fatten very quickly, and the flavour of their beef is excellent. Sheep, for which several parts are well adapted, are not a favourite stock. Pigs are to be met with everywhere of great variety of breed. Westmeath produces superior horses; the principal fair for their sale is at Mullingar; great numbers are also brought from Connaught, and reared here for sale in Dublin and in the English towns.

Timber formerly abounded; but the profuse use of it when plentiful, the great demand for charcoal for the old iron-works, and the neglect of any prospective measures to supply the deficiency thus arising, have rendered it scarce. The county has, nevertheless, some small copses and underwoods, the remains of the ancient forests. Many trunks of large timber trees, particularly juniper, yew, and fir, have been found in the bogs; the wood, when dried, is always black. Hazel nuts and acorns have also been taken out of the bogs, apparently sound, but when opened they were found to contain nothing but a black pulp. The waste and neglect of past ages is now being remedied; there are many thriving young plantations; several of the hills are clothed with wood; the ash grows in such abundance in hedge rows as to prove it to be indigenous to the soil; hazel is encouraged, in order to make hoops for butter-firkins; scotch firs thrive on boggy bottoms, and larch still better.

« Westmeath Topography | Index | Westmeath Geology »

County Westmeath | Westmeath Towns and Baronies | Westmeath Topography | Westmeath Agriculture | Westmeath Geology | Westmeath Manufacturing | Westmeath Rivers | Westmeath Antiquities | Westmeath Society


Library Ireland Facebook