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Caledon Estate Farming Society Annual Dinner 1845

Transcribed from The Armagh Guardian News - 19 November 1845
by permission of The British Library
Transcribed & Compiled by Alison Causton

This reprint is intended *SOLELY* for the non-commercial use of family historians, with the sincere hope that someone may find the content useful.




CALEDON ESTATE FARMING SOCIETY. (Reported for the Armagh Guardian.)

On Thursday last, the 15th instant, the annual dinner of this thriving society took place in KEENAN¹s hotel, Caledon. --A little after five o'clock, about seventy very respectable farmers, the Earl of CALEDON's tenantry, sat down to an ex- cellent meal, which was served up in a style creditable to the hostess. HENRY L. PRENTICE, Esq., the worthy agent of the estate, occupied the chair ; the Rev. J. CHAMLEY filled the vice-chair. Among those present we observed, William John Alexander, Esq., J. P., Rev. Mr. Owen, Rev. Mr. Collins, Richard Alexander, Esq., Master Prentice, John Crozier, Esq., M. D., Thomas Irvine, James Irvine, John Levers, James Huggins, John Kean, Alexr. Pringle, Robert Barns, James M'Clean, Esqrs., Messrs. John Wilson, Charles Wilson, James Henderson, Charles Smallon, Leslie Moore, John Wilkin, Robert Wilkin, David Wilkin, Thomas Swan, James M'Clure, Robert Johnson, William Johnson, &c. The Rev. Mr. CHMALE [sic] asked a blessing ; and the Rev. Mr. OWEN returned thanks when the cloth was removed.

The CHAIRMAN then gave the following toasts, which were well received :-- " The Queen." " The Queen Dowager, Prince Albert, and the rest of the Royal Family." " The Lord Lieutenant, and prosperity to Ireland." The CHAIRMAN, in proposing the next toast, said it would require no introduction to ensure its being well received. They were all aware that the society had been lately remodelled, and formed into an Agricultural Society in that neighbourhood under the presidency of a nobleman who wished to promote the happiness and prosperity of his tenantry. (Hear.) His Lordship was painfully obliged to leave Ireland in consequence of the serious illness of his father-in-law. He had hoped to preside at the meeting, and therefore he remained at home until the news which required him to leave arrived. Without any further preface he would give them-- " Lord Caledon, President of the society." (Great enthusiasm, which lasted for several minutes.)

WM. JOHN ALEXANDER, Esq., responded. He said-- Mr. President and gentlemen, I can assure you that his Lordship expressed his deep regret on leaving this at his not being able to attend the meeting here this day ; but circumstances over which he had no control compelled him to go to England. I need scarcely mention, for it is known to you all, the interest he takes for the prosperity and happiness of the Caledon tenantry, and his sincere wish for their welfare, which may be fully exemplified by the many improvements which have taken place, not only in this town, but through the estate at large, and which improvements have been so fully and ably carried into effect by my excellent and respected friend, Mr. Prentice--(hear, hear.) Gentlemen, I again return thanks on the part of the Earl of Caledon, and I am certain when he hears the handsome manner in which his health has been received that he will duly appreciate the honor you have done him--(hear.) I beg also to state that the Caledon Agricultural Society has his most cordial good wishes for its prosperity. CHAIRMAN--Gentlemen, it is time we would come to business. The announcement of the adjudications were postponed as well as the dinner from the usual time of making them known. I think, however, that previous to the list being read, the health of the judges ought to be drunk, lest the decisions would not please universally. When all are ignorant of how the premiums were awarded, there could not be any feeling to interfere with the hearty reception of the toast. He would give them-- " The Judges of the Caledon Agricultural Society."

Mr. JOHN WILKIN returned thanks. He felt greatly obliged for the handsome manner in which the toast had been received; in which feeling he was confident the other judges would join him. Their task was a very difficult one, because of the close competition ; but in every instance they had acted conscientiously, and he hoped they had awarded the premiums fairly. (Hear.) (The Secretary here read the adjudications.) The next toast was--" The health of the successful candidates." Mr. PRINGLE returned thanks. The CHAIRMAN then gave--" The unsuccessful candidates," and better fortune to them again. CHAIRMAN--I will now give a toast which I think you will receive well--" The town and trade of Caledon." Mr. JOHN WILSON responded. He was sorry a happier selection of a speaker was not made. The Chairman, he thought was one of the best patrons the town of Caledon had, and its prosperity was mainly owing to his exertions. He looked around him, and felt proud to see such a respectable company, and he hoped the day was not far distant when their present little factories would be lost in the multitude of towering ones with which the country would be studded. (Hear.) The Rev. Mr. CHAMLEY rose with feelings of considerable emotion to propose the health of a lady who, during her short stay in the country had endeared herself to all. Her heart could feel and her hand was ever open to supply the wants, and afford relief to her tenantry who needed assistance. He would give-- " The Countess of Caledon." (This toast was received with prolonged enthusiasm.)

Part II --

 ... WILLIAM JOHN ALEXANDER, Esq., rose and said-- Gentlemen, our first introduction to the Countess of Caledon was on her marriage and arrival in this country, and I am happy to tell you that she was not only pleased, but gratified with all she saw. It is her true her stay among us was short, but the delicate state of health of her Ladyship's father, the Earl of Verulam, obliged her to return to England, to attend at his sick bed. Her Ladyship expressed great hope that her stay would not be of long continuance, and that she would be able to return in about a couple of months, when Caledon should be her residence as long as possible. (Hear, hear.) I have to assure you that I have heard her Ladyship express her warmest wishes for the happiness and prosperity of his Lordship's tenantry. I again return you thanks for the honor you have done her in drinking her health.

CHAIRMAN--The importance of the flax crop to all farmers, induces me to call upon Mr. Barr, who will state to the meeting the results of his flax growing on the Model Farm, under the superintendence of Mr. Hazlett, who was sent from Belfast to give instruction in the cultivation of the crop. Mr. BARR said the process was extremely simple. The method pursued on the Model Farm was--first, in November the land was ploughed as deep as it could be by three horses ; in this state it lay during the winter, when it was ploughed a second time ; it subsequently received a third ploughing which was very light, and then rolled, so as to have the seed bed fine. The weeding and pulling were carefully attended to, after which it was steeped nine days in bog water. The produce of one acre, one rood, and thirty-nine perches, was 97-1/2 stones, which sold at 11s 9d, about £58 in all. On an average the produce of each acre would realise £38, not counting any thing for the bolls : deducting £8 10s, working and other expenses, the profits of an acre amount to £30. Mr. CHARLES WILSON, Secretary to the Society, having obtained permission from the Chairman, proposed-- " The health of the Dowager Countess of Caledon." (Drank with great enthusiasm.) H. L. PRENTICE, Esq., acknowledged the toast. He said-- Gentlemen, on the part of the Dowager Countess of Caledon, I return you thanks for the truly kind and affectionate manner in which you have received her health, and I shall take an early opportunity of conveying to her ladyship, the assurance you have just given that she is not forgotten by her grateful friends in Caledon. (Hear.) I believe, gentlemen, from the first hour Lady Caledon set her foot in this country, up to the day she left it, her whole time was devoted to doing good, and in this assembly, where she is so well known, I need say no more. Mr. CHARLES WILSON begged permission to give another toast. He rose with feelings of pride and pleasure to propose the health of a gentleman so kind--a magistrate so impartial-- an agent who cannot be surpassed. He would give-- " The health of H. L. Prentice, Esq." (Cheers.)

Part III --

... H. L. PRENTICE, Esq., rose and said--Gentlemen, I beg you will receive my cordial thanks for the very kind manner in which you have received and drank my health ; and I am sure you will believe me when I say that I take the deepest interest in every thing that concerns the welfare of this Society. It is now, gentlemen, nearly eighteen years since I first addressed some of you in this room, and those who recollect that period can best speak of the improvement that has taken place in agriculture in this district since that time. My endeavour has always been to improve the condition of Lord Caledon's tenantry--knowing that in doing so, I was best securing the landlord's welfare, as I believe their interests to be inseparable--(hear.) It is impossible, gentlemen, for any man placed as I am to please every body ; but this I can truly say, that my anxious wish has always been to do my duty faithfully, both to you and my employer, and if I have erred in any way it has not been intentional. (Hear.) It is truly gratifying to me to see such a large assembly of the respectable tenantry of the Caledon estate present on this occasion, and the compliment you have just paid to me is one of which I feel justly proud. I might now, gentlemen, at any ordinary meeting of our Society, resume my seat, and not trespass any longer on your time ; but we are assembled this evening under very peculiar circumstances, and it becomes my duty, from the position I occupy amongst you, to allude to that dreadful scourge with which it has pleased an all wise Providence to visit us in the partial destruction of our potato crop.

We have heard so many conflicting opinions on the extent and nature of the disease in this county, and in the adjoining one of Armagh, that I felt anxious to obtain the most authentic information I could on the subject, from experienced persons of high character in both counties, and therefore took the liberty of addressing a letter to a brother Magistrate in each petty sessions district of Tyrone and Armagh, requesting to know his opinion of the extent of the disease in his own particular locality. I received prompt replies from every quarter, and if it would not be trespassing too long upon you I would wish to communicate some of the valuable information I have thus received, and for which I feel most grateful to those gentlemen who have kindly afforded it to me. I regret to say from almost every direction the accounts are very alarming ; and my inquiry has also extended through the same respectable channel into parts of Cavan, Donegal, and Leitrim. I shall take our own county first, and only read to you such extracts as appear to me to bear most upon the subject. (Mr. P. here read letters from the following places) :--Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Dungannon, Cookstown, Stewartstown, Pomeroy, Omagh, Newtownstewart, Castlederg, Fivemiletown, Fintona, and Gortin. IN ARMAGH, from the city of Armagh, Charlemont and Loughgall, Portadown and Lurgan, Tandragee, Markethill, Ballybot, Forkhill, Newtownhamilton, Crossmaglen, Keady, and Tynan. IN CAVAN, from Belturbet and Ballyconnell. IN DONEGAL, from the barony of Inishowen. There is one suggestion conveyed in a letter to me by an intelligent magistrate of Fivemiletown district which appeared to me so extraordinary that I did not intend to read it to you, but this morning's post brought me a circular from the Government Commission confirming my friend's opinions, and his experience is so strong in favor of the preservative quality of bog and bog water to all vegetable substance, that I shall read it to you.--(Mr. P. here read the letter, and also the government circular.) The districts in Tyrone which have suffered least are-- Omagh, Newtownstewart, Pomery, Gortin, Fivemiletown and Fintona. And those in Armagh--Ballybot, Forkhill and Crossmaglen. You will thus perceive that potatoes which were grown in light soils and boggy land are less injured than those grown in richer grounds, and I know few parts of the country which has suffered more severely than this immediate neighbourhood.-- ...

Part IV --

... The various modes of preserving the potatoes are very perplexing ; but the great majority of opinion is in favor of drying them as well as possible in any way most convenient, and afterwards the application of lime and sand. The plan I have pursued myself is, to light a fire of turf in the centre of one of my office-houses which has no chimney, and spread my injured potatoes all round it about six inches deep--I keep them there for three or four days turning them occasionally, and when dry I store them in larger quantities in my potato- house, mixed with lime and turf-mould, for general consumption. Those which I have stored for seed and family use, I have carefully pitted in dry ground, mixed with lime and sand in equal parts, and placed in very narrow pits, leaving ventilators for the free accession of air in fine weather.

The best advice I can give is to finish the digging of your potatoes immediately, separating the sound from the unsound, to pack them dry, as directed in the printed form issued by the Commissioners, and examine the pits frequently in fine weather ; and also I would recommend the free application of lime and bog, or lime and sand to all your pota- [*] vantage [sic] of Autumn planting, both from the little experience I have had of it, and the reports of the able Commissioners now sitting in Dublin, that I have determined to plant a few acres immediately in strict accordance with their directions : and I recommend every farmer to try the experiment in some part of his farm ; I also intend to try some new varieties of potatoes which I have seen grown this season with great success, particularly what is called the American Apple--I now exhibit some of them to you grown by myself this season, and a neighbouring clergyman has a large quantity, in which he informs me he [*] toes [sic], sound as well as unsound.

I do not recommend you to sell your tainted potatoes at starch mills, if you have pigs, cows, or horses to consume them at home. We must strictly economize every article fit for human food, and in the keeping of farm horses much can be saved. Potatoes, Swedish turnips, flaxseed meal, and pounded furze or whins are excellent food for horses, and will keep them in as good condition as oats.--(Loud cries of hear, hear.) I am so persuaded of the ad- [sic] [*] has not as yet discovered a single one diseased. (Mr. Prentice had the potatoes produced, and distributed among the company for inspection. They were highly approved of by all present. So many as 120 very large and healthy potatoes were produced from one.) Mr. Prentice then continued--We have been too long using the same seed, and the introduction of a new and hardy species would be most desirabe [sic].

As it appears from the report of the Commissioners that the prevailing disease has not yet reached the Southern parts of Europe, or, I believe, South America, I trust the government will not depend on private enterprise for the supply of new seed next spring, but that they will promptly fit up large vessels for the special purpose, giving free ventilation between docks, for the safe conveyance to this country of all the potatoes that can be spared from more favored nations. We must now, my dear friends, consider the best mode of meeting the calamity with which we are threatened. A great and important duty devolves upon us all, and I trust with God's blessing we shall be able to perform it, in our respective stations, like men and Christians.

I do not by any means apprehend a scarcity of provisions ; we have not had any in my experience of 25 years a finer oat crop, and we have plenty of food for all who are able to pay for it, and also some to spare; but I do confess I feel some alarm for a large portion of our population, whose earnings will not be sufficient to purchase a better description of food than that to which they have been so long accustomed, and the general failure of which will place them in peculiar difficulties--I mean the agricultural labourer, to whom we all owe so much, and whose sufferings we are bound now to alleviate. The man who has a little farm, and is able to keep his cow and pig, can, from the high price of every article of produce, surmount his difficulties ; but the poor labourer who has nothing to depend on but the produce of his potato garden and con-acre for the support of himself and his family, is placed in a deplorable condition, and requires to be cheered and supported by us in this time of his severe trial. With respect to the potatoes set in con-acre I think it my duty to say a few words : it is impossible to recommend any general rule for adoption ; let every man's conscience be his guide as to the regulation of this matter, and if I know the farmers on Lord Caledon's estate they will do what is equitable and right. (Hear.) I have in my own case done what I believed to be just, and I have the great pleasure of reflecting that it has given general satisfaction. (Hear.)

Part V --

 ... I trust every one who now hears me will consider the advantages we all derive as farmers from our trusty labourers. I do not remember a season when they had more difficulty to save our crops, and I have been struck with admiration to see the poor fellows working late and early during the present autumn to get all secured in our well filled stack-yards. Shall we, then, whom Providence has placed in comparative independence forget our duties, or the services of our poorer, though less favoured brethren ? No, I am sure there is too much grateful feeling in this large assembly to permit us to desert our solemn obligations ; and we have a noble example set to us by our President, Lord Caledon, which I think it my duty now to lay before you, and which I trust may be thought worthy of imitation throughout the country. Before his lordship last went away from Caledon he expressed great anxiety to me respecting the labouring classes, and small landholders on his estate, and his desire to secure them a good supply of food at a moderate price. (Hear.) In consequence I purchased, at his lordship¹s expense, 120 tons of oatmeal, which he desired me to store up, and distribute under certain restrictions at the proper time, at first cost price.

Our petty sessions district contains 55 townlands, covering an area of 24 square miles, and by the last census has about 8,000 inhabitants. The entire district belongs to Lord Caledon, save three townlands, the property of another nobleman, who will of course see that his own tenants are taken care of. The Caledon estate, however, extends into the county of Armagh, and it is attached to other petty sessions districts; but taking the whole population of his lordship¹s property at 10,000, we have an ample supply of oatmeal to afford food for one-fifth of it, (a larger number than I hope may require it,) for four months, namely,--from the first of May to the first of September, at the modest price of 17s per cwt. (Hear.) I think the above months will be the most trying season, as we shall not know the exact state of the general deficiency in the potato crop until the seed has been supplied in May.

Now, if one individual landlord can thus provide for the probable wants of an entire district, why should the plan not be generally adopted of placing throughout each petty sessions district in Ireland a sufficient store of oatmeal, between this and the first of January next to mext [sic] the demands of the people ? We have the prospect of plenty of employment at railroads, drainage, &c., for our working classes, and all they want is to have food secured to them at such a price as their wages will enable them to purchase. The division of the whole country into petty sessions districts forms the best boundary in my opinion for carrying out any measure of relief, according to the circumstances of each locality, and the government would at once have, as it were, a regular staff in the magistrates, local and resident, who, with the aid of the constabulary, would, I am sure, be ready to co-operate in carrying out such a measure for their suffering fellow- countrymen. If the gentry of property in each district could not lend all the money to purchase the necessary provisions, let the government supply the deficiency on proper security, and where there were no local magistrates, (as may be the case in the West and other parts of Ireland,) the government could carry out the measure through the Stipendiary Magistrates of the district.

This plan of assistance appears to me so feasible and simple in the present emergency, that I could not resist bringing it before you, and although it may not meet the eye of those in authority who would be able to recommend it for general adoption, I trust you will see it worked here successfully to the great benefit of those whose circumstance may require them to avail themselves of the humane and considerate provision made for their relief. (Hear, hear.)

In speaking of our labouring classes, I must mention a circumstance which I think highly creditable to them. Saturday week last was our usual day for holding petty sessions, which you know are held once a fortnight ; my friend, Mr. Alexander, and I took our seats on the bench at the appointed hour, the police officer from Dungannon was also in attendance, but on calling over the few cases entered on the face of our book, no one had a grievance, and we retired without having to make a single adjudication. I have detained you too long, gentlemen, but the subject is one which has occupied my thoughts for a long time, and I trust as one of the largest farmers on Lord Caledon's estate, I shall not be found deficient in that duty to my dependents which I have taken the liberty of pointing out to others. (Cheers.) The next toast was<" The health of the Rev. Mr. Chamley." Mr. CHAMLEY returned thanks. The company then separated, highly pleased with the even- ing¹s entertainment.


ADJUDICATIONS. The following is a list of the adjudications read by the Secretary :--
FLAX.--First Class--Mr. Barr ; Mr. James Makigney ; H. L. Prentices, Esq. ; Mr. Robert Marshall;    Mr. Joshua Wright; Mr. Robert Barns ; Mr. Andrew Ganley. Second Class--Mr. James Oliver ; Mr. Andrew Wright ; Mr. Robert Campbell ;Mr. John M'Crudden ; Mr. Edward Simpson. JUDGES-- Messrs. James
M'Clure, James Wright, James Oliver.

OATS.--Henry L. Prentice, Esq. ; Mr. James Oliver; Rev. Mr. Chamly ; Mr.Leslie Moore ; Mr. Robert Wilkin ; Mr. James Strutt ; Mrs. Magee. JUDGES--Messrs. John Wilkin, Wm. Campbell, John Lewers.
WHEAT.--Mr. Barr, (merit) ; Mrs. Johnston ; Mr. Joseph Wright ; Mr. JohnWilkin ; Mr. James Irwin ; Mr. Thomas Henderson ; Mr. Leslie Moore.JUDGES--Messrs W. T. Knox, Robert Barnes, John Barr.
BARLEY.--One Acre Class.--Henry L. Prentice, Esq. ; Mr. Robert Wilkin ; Mr.Patrick Quin. Half Acre Class.-- Mr. William Campbell ; Mr. John Corr.JUDGES same as for Oats.
POTATOES.--First Class--Mr. John Girvin ; Mr. Joseph Marshall ; Mr. John  Barr ; Mr. James Wright. Second Class --Mr. John Corr ; Mr. Wm. Campbell ; Mr. Wm. Leslie.
TURNIPS.--First Class--Mr. Robert Wilkin ; Mr. David Wilkin ; Mr. John Barr ;Mr. James Stritt. Second Class-- Mr. Robert Mercer ; Mr. Edward Simpson ;Mr. John Oliver. (Mr. Prentice¹s turnips, though not submitted for competition, is altogether a splendid crop, and the tillage well deserving the attention of the members.)
FARMS.--The Judgest report, " The number of farms sub- mitted for inspectionwas nine the second ; two in the third ; and one for which prizes had not beenappointed for its class." The premiums were awarded-- First Class--Mr. Charles Wilson. Third Class--Mr. Thomas Halligan.
COTTAGES.--Mr. James Oliver ; Mr. Robert Barns ; Mr. George M'Williams. JUDGES--Messrs. John Barr, George M'Williams, Henry Edwards, James Oliver.