Limerick Trade - Irish Pictures (1888)

From Irish Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil (1888) by Richard Lovett

Chapter VI: The Shannon … continued

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Limerick has some fine streets and handsome buildings; the former are thronged by many varieties of Irish society, and by not a few of the fair sex, whose beauty has added to the fame of the city. William Street and George Street are good thoroughfares, crowded with business houses and attractive shops. At the same time it must be admitted that Limerick, even more than many Irish centres of trade, presents those ruined and dismantled houses, even in the better-class streets, which strike the traveller's eye so curiously and unfavourably. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John is a fine Gothic structure. Beyond the top of George Street is the Convent of St. Vincent, and not far away is a large and handsome church. One week evening the writer saw this building, which is capable of holding seventeen hundred people, crammed to the doors by men who had come —and whom he was informed came regularly every week—to a service in connection with the religious and temperance guild worked by the Redemptorist Fathers, to whom the church belongs. Two services are held each week, both thronged, and the guild numbers 5000 men.

Limerick has long been a centre of considerable trade, and although at the present time (1888) there is great depression in shipping, and American competition has practically destroyed Irish flour mills, nevertheless there is considerable commercial activity in the city. Lace of a very superior quality has long been produced here, also fishhooks of a fine temper. The industry that exhibits to the stranger most signs of prosperity and extent is connected with one of the staple productions of the land—the ever-present pig—and expends great energy and capital upon the speediest and best ways of converting him into bacon and hams. There is a mistaken idea current that this process can be seen to advantage only in the United States; that is a great delusion. There are larger pig-killing establishments at Cincinnati and Chicago, doubtless, but at none of them is there a greater combination of smartness, neatness, cleanliness, and high quality of the bacon and ham than at Limerick. By the courtesy of the proprietors, the writer was enabled to go over the establishment of Messrs. Shaw and Sons. Multitudes of those pigs which are to be seen by almost every cabin door in Ireland, and which swarm at every market and fair, find their way here. The buyers, the sharpest and in some respects the most important members of the staff, are constantly securing in all parts of the country hundreds and thousands of pigs. They are not kept long in an active state. Very soon after the porker's arrival it becomes his turn to be chained by the hind leg, swung up to an iron bar, and before he has had time to utter more than two or three of his shrill protests, a sure and strong hand cuts short his life. In the course of the next few minutes he passes through a series of processes which result in his being cleansed, prepared, weighed, and deposited in the huge room where he awaits his turn to be made into bacon and hams. The rate at which this work is done can be gauged from the fact that sometimes 100 are weighed within the hour. Strange as it may sound, all these processes are done cleanly; and by exceedingly ingenious arrangements of sliding rods it is very seldom necessary for the animal to be placed upon the shoulders of men. It is only by going over an establishment of this kind that some notion of the magnitude of the Irish bacon trade is obtained. Few, probably, think that the shaping of a ham has anything special about it, until they see the rough ham taking a neat and shapely form under knives used by skilful hands.

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