Men of Invention and Industry
by Samuel Smiles
(Chapter 10: Industry in Ireland: Through Connaught and Ulster, to Belfast)
29599Men of Invention and Industry — (Chapter 10: Industry in Ireland: Through Connaught and Ulster, to Belfast)Samuel Smiles

"The Irish people have a past to boast of, and a future to create." — J. F. O'Carrol.

"One of the great questions is how to find an outlet for Irish manufactures. We ought to be an exporting nation, or we never will be able to compete successfully with our trade rivals." — E. D. Gray.

"Ireland may become a Nation again, if we all sacrifice our parricidal passions, prejudices, and resentments on the altar of our country. Then shall your manufactures flourish, and Ireland be free."— Daniel O'Connell.

Further communications passed between my young friend, the Italian count, and his father; and the result was that he accompanied me to Ireland, on the express understanding that he was to send home a letter daily by post assuring his friends of his safety. We went together accordingly to Galway, up Lough Corrib to Cong and Lough Mask; by the romantic lakes and mountains of Connemara to Clifden and Letterfrack, and through the lovely pass of Kylemoor to Leenane; along the fiord of Killury; then on, by Westport and Ballina to Sligo. Letters were posted daily by my young friend; and every day we went forwards in safety.

But how lonely was the country! We did not meet a single American tourist during the whole course of our visit, and the Americans are the most travelling people in the world. Although the railway companies have given every facility for visiting Connemara and the scenery of the West of Ireland, we only met one single English tourist, accompanied by his daughter. The Bianconi long car between Clifden and Westport had been taken off for want of support. The only persons who seemed to have no fear of Irish agrarianism were the English anglers, who are ready to brave all dangers, imaginary or supposed, provided they can only kill a big salmon! And all the rivers flowing westward into the Atlantic are full of fine fish. While at Galway, we looked down into the river Corrib from the Upper Bridge, and beheld it literally black with the backs of salmon! They were waiting for a flood to enable them to ascend the ladder into Lough Corrib. While there, 1900 salmon were taken in one day by nets in the bay.

Galway is a declining town. It has docks, but no shipping; bonded warehouses, but no commerce. It has a community of fishermen at Claddagh, but the fisheries of the bay are neglected. As one of the poor men of the place exclaimed, "Poverty is the curse of Ireland." On looking at Galway from the Claddagh side, it seems as if to have suffered from a bombardment. Where a roof has fallen in, nothing has been done to repair it. It was of no use. The ruin has been left to go on. The mills, which used to grind home-grown corn, are now unemployed. The corn comes ready ground from America. Nothing is thought of but emigration, and the best people are going, leaving the old, the weak, and the inefficient at home. "The labourer," said the late President Garfield, "has but one commodity to sell--his day's work, it is his sole reliance. He must sell it to-day, or it is lost for-ever." And as the poor Irishman cannot sell his day's labour, he must needs emigrate to some other country, where his only commodity may be in demand.

While at Galway, I read with interest an eloquent speech delivered by Mr. Parnell at the banquet held in the Great Hall of the Exhibition at Cork. Mr. Parnell asked, with much reason, why manufactures should not be established and encouraged in the South of Ireland, as in other parts of the country. Why should not capital be invested, and factories and workshops developed, through the length and breadth of the kingdom? "I confess," he said, "I should like to give Ireland a fair opportunity of working her home manufactures. We can each one of us do much to revive the ancient name of our nation in those industrial pursuits which have done so much to increase and render glorious those greater nations by the side of which we live. I trust that before many years are over we shall have the honour and pleasure of meeting in even a more splendid palace than this, and of seeing in the interval that the quick-witted genius of the Irish race has profited by the lessons which this beautiful Exhibition must undoubtedly teach, and that much will have been done to make our nation happy, prosperous, and free."

Mr. Parnell, in the course of his speech, referred to the manufactures which had at one time flourished in Ireland--to the flannels of Rathdrum, the linens of Bandon, the cottons of Cork, and the gloves of Limerick. Why should not these things exist again? "We have a people who are by nature quick and facile to learn, who have shown in many other countries that they are industrious and laborious, and who have not been excelled-- whether in the pursuits of agriculture under a midday sun in the field, or amongst the vast looms in the factory districts — by the people of any country on the face of the globe."[1] Most just and eloquent!

The only weak point in Mr. Parnell's speech was where he urged his audience "not to use any article of the manufacture of any other country except Ireland, where you can get up an Irish manufacture." The true remedy is to make Irish articles of the best and cheapest, and they will be bought, not only by the Irish, but by the English and people of all nations. Manufactures cannot be "boycotted." They will find their way into all lands, in spite even of the most restrictive tariffs. Take, for instance, the case of Belfast hereafter to be referred to. If the manufacturing population of that town were to rely for their maintenance on the demand for their productions at home, they would simply starve. But they make the best and the cheapest goods of their kind, and hence the demand for them is world-wide.

There is an abundant scope for the employment of capital and skilled labour in Ireland. During the last few years land has been falling rapidly out of cultivation. The area under cereal crops has accordingly considerably decreased.[2] Since 1868, not less than 400,000 acres have been disused for this purpose.[3] Wheat can be bought better and cheaper in America, and imported into Ireland ground into flour. The consequence is, that the men who worked the soil, as well as the men who ground the corn, are thrown out of employment, and there is nothing left for them but subsistence upon the poor-rates, emigration to other countries, or employment in some new domestic industry.

Ireland is by no means the "poor Ireland" that she is commonly supposed to be. The last returns of the Postmaster-General show that she is growing in wealth. Irish thrift has been steadily at work during the last twenty years. Since the establishment of the Post Office Savings Banks, in 1861, the deposits have annually increased in value. At the end of 1882, more than two millions sterling had been deposited in these banks, and every county participated in the increase.[4] The largest accumulations were in the counties of Dublin, Antrim, Cork, Down, Tipperary, and Tyrone, in the order named. Besides this amount, the sum of 2,082,413L. was due to depositors in the ordinary Savings Banks on the 20th of November, 1882; or, in all, more than four millions sterling, the deposits of small capitalists. At Cork, at the end of last year, it was found that the total deposits made in the savings bank had been 76,000L, or an increase of 6,675L. over the preceding twelve months. But this is not all. The Irish middle classes are accustomed to deposit most of their savings in the Joint Stock banks; and from the returns presented to the Lord Lieutenant, dated the 31st of January, 1883, we find that these had been more than doubled in twenty years, the deposits and cash balances having increased from 14,389,000L. at the end of 1862, to 32,746,000L. at the end of 1882. During the last year they had increased by the sum of 2,585,000L. "So large an increase in bank deposits and cash balances," says the Report, "is highly satisfactory." It may be added that the investments in Government and India Stock, on which dividends were paid at the Bank of Ireland, at the end of 1882, amounted to not less than 31,804,000L.

It is proper that Ireland should be bountiful with her increasing means. It has been stated that during the last eighteen years her people have contributed not less than six millions sterling for the purpose of building places of worship, convents, schools, and colleges, in connection with the Roman Catholic Church, not to speak of their contributions for other patriotic objects.

It would be equally proper if some of the saved surplus capital of Ireland, as suggested by Mr. Parnell, were invested in the establishment of Irish manufactures. This would not only give profitable occupation to the unemployed, but enable Ireland to become an increasingly exporting nation. We are informed by an Irish banker, that there is abundance of money to be got in Ireland for any industry which has a reasonable chance of success. One thing, however, is certain: there must be perfect safety. An old writer has said that "Government is a badge of lost innocence: the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." The main use of government is protection against the weaknesses and selfishness of human nature. If there be no protection for life, liberty, property, and the fruits of accumulated industry, government becomes comparatively useless, and society is driven back upon its first principles.

Capital is the most sensitive of all things. It flies turbulence and strife, and thrives only in security and freedom. It must have complete safety. If tampered with by restrictive laws, or hampered by combinations, it suddenly disappears. "The age of glory of a nation," said Sir Humphry Davy, "is the age of its security. The same dignified feeling which urges men to gain a dominion over nature will preserve them from the dominion of slavery. Natural, and moral, and religions knowledge, are of one family; and happy is the country and great its strength where they dwell together in union."

Dublin was once celebrated for its shipbuilding, its timber-trade, its iron manufactures, and its steam-printing; Limerick was celebrated for its gloves; Kilkenny for its blankets; Bandon for its woollen and linen manufactures. But most of these trades were banished by strikes.[5] Dr. Doyle stated before the Irish Committee of 1830, that the almost total extinction of the Kilkenny blanket-trade was attributable to the combinations of the weavers; and O'Connell admitted that Trades Unions had wrought more evil to Ireland than absenteeism and Saxon maladministration. But working men have recently become more prudent and thrifty; and it is believed that under the improved system of moderate counsel, and arbitration between employers and employed, a more hopeful issue is likely to attend the future of such enterprises.

Another thing is clear. A country may be levelled down by idleness and ignorance; it can only be levelled up by industry and intelligence. It is easy to pull down; it is very difficult to build up. The hands that cannot erect a hovel may demolish a palace. We have but to look to Switzerland to see what a country may become which mixes its industry with its brains. That little land has no coal, no seaboard by which she can introduce it, and is shut off from other countries by lofty mountains, as well as by hostile tariffs; and yet Switzerland is one of the most prosperous nations in Europe, because governed and regulated by intelligent industry. Let Ireland look to Switzerland, and she need not despair.

Ireland is a much richer country by nature than is generally supposed. In fact, she has not yet been properly explored. There is copper-ore in Wicklow, Waterford, and Cork. The Leitrim iron-ores are famous for their riches; and there is good ironstone in Kilkenny, as well as in Ulster. The Connaught ores are mixed with coal-beds. Kaolin, porcelain clay, and coarser clay, abound; but it is only at Belleek that it has been employed in the pottery manufacture. But the sea about Ireland is still less explored than the land. All round the Atlantic seaboard of the Irish coast are shoals of herring and mackerel, which might be food for men, but are at present only consumed by the multitudes of sea-birds which follow them.

In the daily papers giving an account of the Cork Exhibition, appeared the following paragraph: "An interesting exhibit will be a quantity of preserved herrings from Lowestoft, caught off the old head of Kinsale, and returned to Cork after undergoing a preserving process in England."[6] Fish caught off the coast of Ireland by English fishermen, taken to England and cured, and then "returned to Cork" for exhibition! Here is an opening for patriotic Irishmen. Why not catch and preserve the fish at home, and get the entire benefit of the fish traffic? Will it be believed that there is probably more money value in the seas round Ireland than there is in the land itself? This is actually the case with the sea round the county of Aberdeen.[7]

A vast source of wealth lies at the very doors of the Irish people. But the harvest of an ocean teeming with life is allowed to pass into other hands. The majority of the boats which take part in the fishery at Kinsale are from the little island of Man, from Cornwall, from France, and from Scotland. The fishermen catch the fish, salt them, and carry them or send them away. While the Irish boats are diminishing in number, those of the strangers are increasing. In an East Lothian paper, published in May 1881, I find the following paragraph, under the head of Cockenzie:-

"Departure of Boats.— in the early part of this week, a number of the boats here have left for the herring-fishery at Kinsale, in Ireland. The success attending their labours last year at that place and at Howth has induced more of them than usual to proceed thither this year."

It may not be generally known that Cockenzie is a little fishing village on the Firth of Forth, in Scotland, where the fishermen have provided themselves, at their own expense, with about fifty decked fishing-boats, each costing, with nets and gear, about 500L. With these boats they carry on their pursuits on the coast of Scotland, England, and Ireland. In 1882, they sent about thirty boats to Kinsale[8] and Howth. The profits of their fishing has been such as to enable them, with the assistance of Lord Wemyss, to build for themselves a convenient harbour at Port Seaton, without any help from the Government. They find that self-help is the best help, and that it is absurd to look to the Government and the public purse for what they can best do for themselves.

The wealth of the ocean round Ireland has long been known. As long ago as the ninth and tenth centuries, the Danes established a fishery off the western coasts, and carried on a lucrative trade with the south of Europe. In Queen Mary's reign, Philip II. of Spain paid 1000L. annually in consideration of his subjects being allowed to fish on the north-west coast of Ireland; and it appears that the money was brought into the Irish Exchequer. In 1650, Sweden was permitted, as a favour, to employ a hundred vessels in the Irish fishery; and the Dutch in the reign of Charles I. were admitted to the fisheries on the payment of 30,000L. In 1673, Sir W. Temple, in a letter to Lord Essex, says that "the fishing of Ireland might prove a mine under water as rich as any under ground."[9]

The coasts of Ireland abound in all the kinds of fish in common use — cod, ling, haddock, hake, mackerel, herring, whiting, conger, turbot, brill, bream, soles, plaice, dories, and salmon. The banks off the coast of Galway are frequented by myriads of excellent fish; yet, of the small quantity caught, the bulk is taken in the immediate neighbourhood of the shores. Galway bay is said to be the finest fishing ground in the world; but the fish cannot be expected to come on shore unsought: they must be found, followed, and netted. The fishing-boats from the west of Scotland are very successful; and they often return the fish to Ireland, cured, which had been taken out of the Irish bays. "I tested this fact in Galway," says Mr. S. C. Hall. "I had ordered fish for dinner; two salt haddocks were brought to me. On inquiry, I ascertained where they were bought, and learned from the seller that he was the agent of a Scotch firm, whose boats were at that time loading in the bay."[10] But although Scotland imports some 80,000 barrels of cured herrings annually into Ireland, that is not enough; for we find that there is a regular importation of cured herrings, cod, ling, and hake, from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, towards the food of the Irish people.[11]

The fishing village of Claddagh, at Galway, is more decaying than ever. It seems to have suffered from a bombardment, like the rest of the town. The houses of the fishermen, when they fall in, are left in ruins. While the French, and English, and Scotch boats leave the coast laden with fish, the Claddagh men remain empty-handed. They will only fish on "lucky days," so that the Galway market is often destitute of fish, while the Claddagh people are starving. On one occasion an English company was formed for the purpose of fishing and curing fish at Galway, as is now done at Yarmouth, Grimsby, Fraserburgh, Wick, and other places. Operations were commenced, but so soon as the English fishermen put to sea in their boats, the Claddagh men fell upon them, and they were glad to escape with their lives.[12 ]Unfortunately, the Claddagh men have no organization, no fixed rules, no settled determination to work, unless when pressed by necessity. The appearance of the men and of their cabins show that they are greatly in want of capital; and fishing cannot be successfully performed without a sufficiency of this industrial element.

Illustrations of this neglected industry might be given to any extent. Herring fishing, cod fishing, and pilchard fishing, are alike untouched. The Irish have a strong prejudice against the pilchard; they believe it to be an unlucky fish, and that it will rot the net that takes it. The Cornishmen do not think so, for they find the pilchard fishing to be a source of great wealth. The pilchards strike upon the Irish coast first before they reach Cornwall. When Mr. Brady, Inspector of Irish Fisheries, visited St. Ives a few years ago, he saw captured, in one seine alone, nearly ten thousand pounds of this fish.

Not long since; according to a northern local paper,[13] a large fleet of vessels in full sail was seen from the west coast of Donegal, evidently making for the shore. Many surmises were made about the unusual sight. Some thought it was the Fenians, others the Home Rulers, others the Irish-American Dynamiters. Nothing of the kind! It was only a fleet of Scotch smacks, sixty-four in number, fishing for herring between Torry Island and Horn Head. The Irish might say to the Scotch fishermen, in the words of the Morayshire legend, "Rejoice, O my brethren, in the gifts of the sea, for they enrich you without making any one else the poorer!"

But while the Irish are overlooking their treasure of herring, the Scotch are carefully cultivating it. The Irish fleet of fishing-boats fell off from 27,142 in 1823 to 7181 in 1878; and in 1882 they were still further reduced to 6089.[14] Yet Ireland has a coast-line of fishing ground of nearly three thousand miles in extent.

The bights and bays on the west coast of Ireland — off Erris, Mayo, Connemara, and Donegal--swarm with fish. Near Achill Bay, 2000 mackerel were lately taken at a single haul; and Clew Bay is often alive with fish. In Scull Bay and Crookhaven, near Cape Clear, they are so plentiful that the peasants often knock them on the head with oars, but will not take the trouble to net them.

These swarms of fish might be a source of permanent wealth. A gentleman of Cork one day borrowed a common rod and line from a Cornish miner in his employment, and caught fifty-seven mackerel from the jetty in Scull Bay before breakfast. Each of these mackerel was worth twopence in Cork market, thirty miles off. Yet the people round about, many of whom were short of food, were doing nothing to catch them, but expecting Providence to supply their wants. Providence, however, always likes to be helped. Some people forget that the Giver of all good gifts requires us to seek for them by industry, prudence, and perseverance. [15]

Some cry for more loans; some cry for more harbours. It would be well to help with suitable harbours, but the system of dependence upon Government loans is pernicious. The Irish ought to feel that the very best help must come from themselves. This is the best method for teaching independence. Look at the little Isle of Man. The fishermen there never ask for loans. They look to their nets and their boats; they sail for Ireland, catch the fish, and sell them to the Irish people. With them, industry brings capital, and forms the fertile seed-gronnd of further increase of boats and nets. Surely what is done by the Manxmen, the Cornishmen, and the Cockenziemen, might be done by the Irishmen. The difficulty is not to be got over by lamenting about it, or by staring at it, but by grappling with it, and overcoming it. It is deeds, not words, that are wanted. Employment for the mass of the people must spring from the people themselves. Provided there is security for life and property, and an absence of intimidation, we believe that capital will become invested in the fishing industry of Ireland; and that the result will be peace, food, and prosperity.

We must remember that it is only of comparatively late years that England and Scotland have devoted so much attention to the fishery of the seas surrounding our island. In this fact there is consolation and hope for Ireland. At the beginning of the seventeenth century Sir Waiter Raleigh laid before the King his observations concerning the trade and commerce of England, in which he showed that the Dutch were almost monopolising the fishing trade, and consequently adding to their shipping, commerce, and wealth. "Surely," he says, "the stream is necessary to be turned to the good of this kingdom, to whose sea-coasts alone God has sent us these great blessings and immense riches for us to take; and that every nation should carry away out of this kingdom yearly great masses of money for fish taken in our seas, and sold again by them to us, must needs be a great dishonour to our nation, and hindrance to this realm."

The Hollanders then had about 50,000 people employed in fishing along the English coast; and their industry and enterprise gave employment to about 150,000 more, "by sea and land, to make provision, to dress and transport the fish they take, and return commodities; whereby they are enabled yearly to build 1000 ships and vessels." The prosperity of Amsterdam was then so great that it was said that Amsterdam was "founded on herring-bones." Tobias Gentleman published in 1614 his treatise on 'England's Way to win Wealth, and to employ Ships and Marines,'[16] in which he urged the English people to vie with the Dutch in fishing the seas, and thereby to give abundant employment, as well as abundant food, to the poorer people of the country.

"Look," he said, "on these fellows, that we call the plump Hollanders; behold their diligence in fishing, and our own careless negligence!" The Dutch not only fished along the coasts near Yarmouth, but their fishing vessels went north as far as the coasts of Shetland. What most roused Mr. Gentleman's indignation was, that the Dutchmen caught the fish and sold them to the Yarmouth herring-mongers "for ready gold, so that it amounteth to a great sum of money, which money doth never come again into England." "We are daily scorned," he says, "by these Hollanders, for being so negligent of our Profit, and careless of our Fishing; and they do daily flout us that be the poor Fishermen of England, to our Faces at Sea, calling to us, and saying, Ya English, ya sall or oud scoue dragien; which, in English, is this, 'You English, we will make you glad to wear our old Shoes!'"

Another pamphlet, to a similar effect, 'The Royal Fishing revived,'[17] was published fifty years later, in which it was set forward that the Dutch "have not only gained to themselves almost the sole fishing in his Majesty's Seas; but principally upon this Account have very near beat us out of all our other most profitable Trades in all Parts of the World." It was even proposed to compel "all Sorts of begging Persons and all other poor People, all People condemned for less Crimes than Blood," as well as "all Persons in Prison for Debt," to take part in this fishing trade! But this was not the true way to force the traffic. The herring fishery at Yarmouth and along the coast began to make gradual progress with the growth of wealth and enterprise throughout the country; though it was not until 1787 — less than a hundred years ago — that the Yarmouth men began the deep-sea herring fishery.

Before then, the fishing was all carried on along shore in little cobles, almost within sight of land. The native fishery also extended northward, along the east coast of Scotland and the Orkney and Shetland Isles, until now the herring fishery of Scotland forms one of the greatest industries in the United Kingdom, and gives employment, directly or indirectly, to close upon half a million of people, or to one-seventh of the whole population of Scotland.

Taking these facts into consideration, therefore, there is no reason to despair of seeing, before many years have elapsed, a large development of the fishing industry of Ireland. We may yet see Galway the Yarmouth, Achill the Grimsby, and Killybegs the Wick of the West. Modern society in Ireland, as everywhere else, can only be transformed through the agency of labour, industry, and commerce — inspired by the spirit of work, and maintained by the accumulations of capital. The first end of all labour is security, —,security to person, possession, and property, so that all may enjoy in peace the fruits of their industry. For no liberty, no freedom, can really exist which does not include the first liberty of all — the right of public and private safety.

To show what energy and industry can do in Ireland, it is only necessary to point to Belfast, one of the most prosperous and enterprising towns in the British Islands. The land is the same, the climate is the same, and the laws are the same, as those which prevail in other parts of Ireland. Belfast is the great centre of Irish manufactures and commerce, and what she has been able to do might be done elsewhere, with the same amount of energy and enterprise. But it is not land, or climate, or altered laws that are wanted. It is men to lead and direct, and men to follow with anxious and persevering industry. It is always the Man society wants.

The influence of Belfast extends far out into the country. As you approach it from Sligo, you begin to see that you are nearing a place where industry has accumulated capital, and where it has been invested in cultivating and beautifying the land. After you pass Enniskillen, the fields become more highly cultivated. The drill-rows are more regular; the hedges are clipped; the weeds no longer hide the crops, as they sometimes do in the far west. The country is also adorned with copses, woods, and avenues. A new crop begins to appear in the fields — a crop almost peculiar to the neighbourhood of Belfast. It is a plant with a very slender erect green stem, which, when full grown, branches at the top into a loose corymb of blue flowers. This is the flax plant, the cultivation and preparation of which gives employment to a great number of persons, and is to a large extent the foundation of the prosperity of Belfast.

The first appearance of the linen industry of Ireland, as we approach Belfast from the west, is observed at Portadown. Its position on the Bann, with its water power, has enabled this town, as well as the other places on the river, to secure and maintain their due share in the linen manufacture. Factories with their long chimneys begin to appear. The fields are richly cultivated, and a general air of well-being pervades the district. Lurgan is reached, so celebrated for its diapers; and the fields there about are used as bleaching-greens. Then comes Lisburn, a populous and thriving town, the inhabitants of which are mostly engaged in their staple trade, the manufacture of damasks. This was really the first centre of the linen trade. Though Lord Strafford, during his government of Ireland, encouraged the flax industry, by sending to Holland for flax-seed, and inviting Flemish and French artisans to settle in Ireland, it was not until the Huguenots, who had been banished from France by the persecutions of Louis XIV., settled in Ireland in such large numbers, that the manufacture became firmly established. The Crommelins, the Goyers, and the Dupres, were the real founders of this great branch of industry.[18]

As the traveller approaches Belfast, groups of houses, factories, and works of various kinds, appear closer and closer; long chimneys over boilers and steam-engines, and brick buildings three or four stories high; large yards full of workmen, carts, and lorries; and at length we are landed in the midst of a large manufacturing town. As we enter the streets, everybody seems to be alive. What struck William Hutton when he first saw Birmingham, might be said of Belfast: "I was surprised at the place, but more at the people. They possessed a vivacity I had never before beheld. I had been among dreamers, but now I saw men awake. Their very step along the street showed alacrity. Every man seemed to know what he was about. The town was large, and full of inhabitants, and these inhabitants full of industry. The faces of other men seemed tinctured with an idle gloom; but here with a pleasing alertness. Their appearance was strongly marked with the modes of civil life."

Some people do not like manufacturing towns: they prefer old castles and ruins. They will find plenty of these in other parts of Ireland. But to found industries that give employment to large numbers of persons, and enable them to maintain themselves and families upon the fruits of their labour — instead of living upon poor-rates levied from the labours of others, or who are forced, by want of employment, to banish themselves from their own country, to emigrate and settle among strangers, where they know not what may become of them — is a most honourable and important source of influence, and worthy of every encouragement. Look at the wonderfully rapid rise of Belfast, originating in the enterprise of individuals, and developed by the earnest and anxious industry of the inhabitants of Ulster!

"God save Ireland!" By all means. But Ireland cannot be saved without the help of the people who live in it. God endowed men, there as elsewhere, with reason, will, and physical power; and it is by patient industry only that they can open up a pathway to the enduring prosperity of the country. There is no Eden in nature. The earth might have continued a rude uncultivated wilderness, but for human energy, power, and industry. These enable man to subdue the wilderness, and develop the potency of labour. "Possunt quia credunt posse." They must conquer who will.

Belfast is a comparatively modern town. It has no ancient history. About the beginning of the sixteenth century it was little better than a fishing village. There was a castle, and a ford to it across the Lagan. A chapel was built at the ford, at which hurried prayers were offered up for those who were about to cross the currents of Lagan Water. In 1575, Sir Henry Sydney writes to the Lords of the Council: "I was offered skirmish by MacNeill Bryan Ertaugh at my passage over the water at Belfast, which I caused to be answered, and passed over without losse of man or horse; yet by reason of the extraordinaire Retorne our horses swamme and the Footmen in the passage waded very deep." The country round about was forest land. It was so thickly wooded that it was a common saying that one might walk to Lurgan "on the tops of the trees."

In 1612, Belfast consisted of about 120 houses, built of mud and covered with thatch. The whole value of the land on which the town is built, is said to have been worth only 5L. in fee simple.[19] "Ulster," said Sir John Davies, "is a very desert or wilderness; the inhabitants thereof having for the most part no certain habitation in any towns or villages." In 1659, Belfast contained only 600 inhabitants: Carrickfergus was more important, and had 1312 inhabitants. But about 1660, the Long Bridge over the Lagan was built, and prosperity began to dawn upon the little town. It was situated at the head of a navigable lough, and formed an outlet for the manufacturing products of the inland country. Ships of any burden, however, could not come near the town. The cargoes, down even to a recent date, had to be discharged into lighters at Garmoyle. Streams of water made their way to the Lough through the mud banks; and a rivulet ran through what is now known as the High Street.

The population gradually increased. In 1788 Belfast had 12,000 inhabitants. But it was not until after the Union with Great Britain that the town made so great a stride. At the beginning of the present century it had about 20,000 inhabitants. At every successive census, the progress made was extraordinary, until now the population of Belfast amounts to over 225,000. There is scarcely an instance of so large a rate of increase in the British Islands, save in the exceptional case of Middlesborough, which was the result of the opening out of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and the discovery of ironstone in the hills of Cleveland in Yorkshire. Dundee and Barrow are supposed to present the next most rapid increases of population.

The increase of shipping has also been equally great. Ships from other ports frequented the Lough for purposes of trade; but in course of time the Belfast merchants supplied themselves with ships of their own. In 1791 one William Ritchie, a sturdy North Briton, brought with him from Glasgow ten men and a quantity of shipbuilding materials. He gradually increased the number of his workmen, and proceeded to build a few sloops. He reclaimed some land from the sea, and made a shipyard and graving dock on what was known as Corporation Ground. In November 1800 the new graving dock, near the bridge, was opened for the reception of vessels. It was capable of receiving three vessels of 200 tons each! In 1807 a vessel of 400 tons burthen was launched from Mr. Ritchie's shipyard, when a great crowd of people assembled to witness the launching of "so large a ship" — far more than now assemble to see a 3000-tonner of the White Star Line leave the slips and enter the water!

The shipbuilding trade has been one of the most rapidly developed, especially of late years. In 1805 the number of vessels frequenting the port was 840; whereas in 1883 the number had been increased to 7508, with about a million and a-half of tonnage; while the gross value of the exports from Belfast exceeded twenty millions sterling annually. In 1819 the first steamboat of 100 tons was used to tug the vessels up the windings of the Lough, which it did at the rate of three miles an hour, to the astonishment of everybody. Seven years later, the steamboat Rob Roy was put on between Glasgow and Belfast. But these vessels had been built in Scotland. It was not until 1826 that the first steamboat, the Chieftain, was built in Belfast, by the same William Ritchie. Then, in 1838, the first iron boat was built in the Lagan foundry, by Messrs. Coates and Young, though it was but a mere cockle-shell compared with the mighty ocean steamers which are now regularly launched from Queen's Island. In the year 1883 the largest shipbuilding firm in the town launched thirteen vessels, of over 30,000 tons gross, while two other firms launched twelve ships, of about 10,000 tons gross.

I do not propose to enter into details respecting the progress of the trades of Belfast. The most important is the spinning of fine linen yarn, which is for the most part concentrated in that town, over 25,000,000 of pounds weight being exported annually. Towards the end of the seventeenth century the linen manufacture had made but little progress. In 1680 all Ireland did not export more than 6000L. worth annually. Drogheda was then of greater importance than Belfast. But with the settlement of the persecuted Huguenots in Ulster, and especially through the energetic labours of Crommelin, Goyer, and others, the growth of flax was sedulously cultivated, and its manufacture into linen of all sorts became an important branch of Irish industry. In the course of about fifty years the exports of linen fabrics increased to the value of over 600,000L. per annum.

It was still, however, a handicraft manufacture, and done for the most part at home. Flax was spun and yarn was woven by hand. Eventually machinery was employed, and the turn-out became proportionately large and valuable. It would not be possible for hand labour to supply the amount of linen now turned out by the aid of machinery. It would require three times the entire population of Ireland to spin and weave, by the old spinning-wheel and hand-loom methods, the amount of linen cloth now annually manufactured by the operatives of Belfast alone. There are now forty large spinning-mills in Belfast and the neighbourhood, which furnish employment to a very large number of working people.[20]

In the course of my visit to Belfast, I inspected the works of the York Street flax-spinning mills, founded in 1830 by the Messrs. Mulholland, which now give employment, directly or indirectly, to many thousand persons. I visited also, with my young Italian friend, the admirable printing establishment of Marcus Ward and Co., the works of the Belfast Rope-work Company, and the shipbuilding works of Harland and Wolff. There we passed through the roar of the iron forge, the clang of the Nasmyth hammer, and the intermittent glare of the furnaces — all telling of the novel appliances of modern shipbuilding, and the power of the modern steam-engine. I prefer to give a brief account of this latter undertaking, as it exhibits one of the newest and most important industries of Belfast. It also shows, on the part of its proprietors, a brave encounter with difficulties, and sets before the friends of Ireland the truest and surest method of not only giving employment to its people, but of building up on the surest foundations the prosperity of the country.

The first occasion on which I visited Belfast — the reader will excuse the introduction of myself — was in 1840; about forty-four years ago. I went thither on the invitation of the late Wm. Sharman Crawford, Esq., M.P., the first prominent advocate of tenant-right, to attend a public meeting of the Ulster Association, and to spend a few days with him at his residence at Crawfordsburn, near Bangor. Belfast was then a town of comparatively little importance, though it had already made a fair start in commerce and industry. As our steamer approached the head of the Lough, a large number of labourers were observed — with barrows, picks, and spades — scooping out and wheeling up the slob and mud of the estuary, for the purpose of forming what is now known as Queen's Island, on the eastern side of the river Lagan. The work was conducted by William Dargan, the famous Irish contractor; and its object was to make a straight artificial outlet — the Victoria Channel — by means of which vessels drawing twenty-three feet of water might reach the port of Belfast. Before then, the course of the Lagan was tortuous and difficult of navigation; but by the straight cut, which was completed in l846, and afterwards extended further seawards, ships of large burden were enabled to reach the quays, which extend for about a mile below Queen's Bridge, on both sides of the river.

It was a saying of honest William Dargan, that "when a thing is put anyway right at all, it takes a vast deal of mismanagement to make it go wrong." He had another curious saying about "the calf eating the cow's belly," which, he said, was not right, "at all, at all." Belfast illustrated his proverbial remarks. That the cutting of the Victoria Channel was doing the "right thing" for Belfast, was clear, from the constantly increasing traffic of the port. In course of time, several extensive docks and tidal basins were added; while provision was made, in laying out the reclaimed land at the entrance of the estuary, for their future extension and enlargement. The town of Belfast was by these means gradually placed in immediate connection by sea with the principal western ports of England and Scotland, — steamships of large burden now leaving it daily for Liverpool, Glasgow, Fleetwood, Barrow, and Ardrossan. The ships entering the port of Belfast in 1883 were 7508, of 1,526,535 tonnage; they had been more than doubled in fifteen years. The town has risen from nothing, to exhibit a Customs revenue, in 1883, of 608,781L., infinitely greater than that of Leith, the port of Edinburgh, or of Hull, the chief port of Yorkshire. The population has also largely increased. When I visited Belfast in 1840, the town contained 75,000 inhabitants. They are now over 225,006, or more than trebled, — Belfast being the tenth town, in point of population, in the United Kingdom.

The spirit and enterprise of the people are illustrated by the variety of their occupations. They do not confine themselves to one branch of business; but their energies overflow into nearly every department of industry. Their linen manufacture is of world-wide fame; but much less known are their more recent enterprises. The production of aerated waters, for instance, is something extraordinary. In 1882 the manufacturers shipped off 53,163 packages, and 24,263 cwts. of aerated waters to England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. While Ireland produces no wrought iron, though it contains plenty of iron-stone, — and Belfast has to import all the iron which it consumes, — yet one engineering firm alone, that of Combe, Barbour, and Combe, employs 1500 highly-paid mechanics, and ships off its iron machinery to all parts of the world. The printing establishment of Marcus Ward and Co. employs over 1000 highly skilled and ingenious persons, and extends the influence of learning and literature into all civilised countries. We might add the various manufactures of roofing felt (of which there are five), of ropes, of stoves, of stable fittings, of nails, of starch, of machinery; all of which have earned a world-wide reputation.

We prefer, however, to give an account of the last new industry of Belfast — that of shipping and shipbuilding. Although, as we have said, Belfast imports from Scotland and England all its iron and all its coal,[21] it nevertheless, by the skill and strength of its men, sends out some of the finest and largest steamships which navigate the Atlantic and Pacific. It all comes from the power of individuality, and furnishes a splendid example for Dublin, Cork, Waterford, and Limerick, each of which is provided by nature with magnificent harbours, with fewer of those difficulties of access which Belfast has triumphed over; and each of which might be the centre of some great industrial enterprise, provided only there were patriotic men willing to embark their capital, perfect protection for the property invested, and men willing to work rather than to strike.

It was not until the year 1853 that the Queen's Island — raked out of the mud of the slob-land--was first used for shipbuilding purposes. Robert Hickson and Co. then commenced operations by laying down the Mary Stenhouse, a wooden sailing-ship of 1289 tons register; and the vessel was launched in the following year. The operations of the firm were continued until the year 1859, when the shipbuilding establishments on Queen's Island were acquired by Mr. E. J. Harland (afterwards Harland and Wolff), since which time the development of this great branch of industry in Belfast has been rapid and complete.

From the history of this firm, it will be found that energy is the most profitable of all merchandise; and that the fruit of active work is the sweetest of all fruits. Harland and Wolff are the true Watt and Boulton of Belfast. At the beginning of their great enterprise, their works occupied about four acres of land; they now occupy over thirty-six acres. The firm has imported not less than two hundred thousand tons of iron; which have been converted by skill and labour into 168 ships of 253,000 total tonnage. These ships, if laid close together, would measure nearly eight miles in length.

The advantage to the wage-earning class can only be shortly stated. Not less than 34 per cent. is paid in labour on the cost of the ships turned out. The number of persons employed in the works is 3920; and the weekly wages paid to them is 4000L., or over 200,000L. annually. Since the commencement of the undertaking, about two millions sterling have been paid in wages.

All this goes towards the support of the various industries of the place. That the working classes of Belfast are thrifty and frugal may be inferred from the fact that at the end of 1882 they held deposits in the Savings Bank to the amount of 230,289L., besides 158,064L. in the Post Office Savings Banks.[22] Nearly all the better class working people of the town live in separate dwellings, either rented or their own property. There are ten Building Societies in Belfast, in which industrious people may store their earnings, and in course of time either buy or build their own houses.

The example of energetic, active men always spreads. Belfast contains two other shipbuilding yards, both the outcome of Harland and Wolff's enterprise; those of Messrs. Macilwaine and Lewis, employing about four hundred men, and of Messrs. Workman and Clarke, employing about a thousand. The heads of both these firms were trained in the parent shipbuilding works of Belfast. There is do feeling of rivalry between the firms, but all work together for the good of the town.

In Plutarch's Lives, we are told that Themistocles said on one occasion, "'Tis true that I have never learned how to tune a harp, or play upon a lute, but I know how to raise a small and inconsiderable city to glory and greatness." So might it be said of Harland and Wolff. They have given Belfast not only a potency for good, but a world-wide reputation. Their energies overflow. Mr. Harland is the active and ever-prudent Chairman of the most important of the local boards, the Harbour Trust of Belfast, and exerts himself to promote the extension of the harbour facilities of the port as if the benefits were to be exclusively his own; while Mr. Wolff is the Chairman of one of the latest born industries of the place, the Belfast Rope-work Company, which already gives employment to over 600 persons.

This last-mentioned industry is only about six years old. The works occupy over seven acres of ground, more than six acres of which are under roofing. Although the whole of the raw material is imported from abroad from Russia, the Philippine Islands, New Zealand, and Central America — it is exported again in a manufactured state to all parts of the world.

Such is the contagion of example, and such the ever-branching industries with which men of enterprise and industry can enrich and bless their country. The following brief memoir of the career of Mr. Harland has been furnished at my solicitation; and I think that it will be found full of interest as well as instruction.

Footnotes for Chapter X.

[1]   Report in the Cork Examiner, 5th July, 1883.

[2]   In 1883, as compared with 1882, there was a decrease of 58,022 acres in the land devoted to the growth of wheat; there was a total decrease of 114,871 acres in the land under tillage. — Agricultural Statistics, Ireland, 1883. Parliamentary Return, c. 3768.

[3]   Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom, 1883.

[4]   The particulars are these: deposits in Irish Post Office Savings Banks, 31st December, 1882, 1,925,440; to the credit of depositors and Government stock, 125,000L.; together, 2,050,440L.

The increase of deposits over those made in the preceding year, were: in Dublin, 31,321L.; in Antrim, 23,328L.; in Tyrone, 21,315L.; in Cork, 17,034L.; and in Down, 10,382L.

[5]   The only thriving manufacture now in Dublin is that of intoxicating drinks — beer, porter, stout, and whisky. Brewing and distilling do not require skilled labour, so that strikes do not affect them.

[6]   Times, 11th June, 1883.

[7]   The valuation of the county of Aberdeen (exclusive of the city) was recently 866,816L., whereas the value of the herrings (748,726 barrels) caught round the coast (at 25s. the barrel) was 935,907L., thereby exceeding the estimated annual rental of the county by 69,091L. The Scotch fishermen catch over a million barrels of herrings annually, representing a value of about a million and a-half sterling.

[8]   A recent number of Land and Water supplies the following information as to the fishing at Kinsale: — "The takes of fish have been so enormous and unprecedented that buyers can scarcely be found, even when, as now, mackerel are selling at one shilling per six score. Piles of magnificent fish lie rotting in the sun.

The sides of Kinsale Harbour are strewn with them, and frequently, when they have become a little 'touched,' whole boat-loads are thrown overboard into the water. This great waste is to be attributed to scarcity of hands to salt the fish and want of packing-boxes. Some of the boats are said to have made as much as 500L. this season. The local fishing company are making active preparations for the approaching herring fishery, and it is anticipated that Kinsale may become one of the centres of this description of fishing."

[9]   Statistical Journal for March 1848. Paper by Richard Valpy on "The Resources of the Irish Sea Fisheries," pp. 55-72.

[10]   HALL, Retrospect of a Long Life, ii. 324.

[11]   The Commissioners of Irish Fisheries, in one of their reports, observe: — "Notwithstanding the diminished population, the fish captured round the coast is so inadequate to the wants of the population that fully 150,000L. worth of ling, cod, and herring are annually imported from Norway, Newfoundland, and Scotland, the vessels bearing these cargoes, as they approach the shores of Ireland, frequently sailing through large shoals of fish of the same description as they are freighted with!"

[12]   The following examination of Mr. J. Ennis, chairman of the Midland and Great Western Railway, took place before the "Royal Commission on Railways," as long ago as the year 1846:-

Chairman — "Is the fish traffic of any importance to your railway?"

Mr. Ennis — "of course it is, and we give it all the facilities that we can.... But the Galway fisheries, where one would expect to find plenty of fish, are totally neglected."

Sir Rowland Hill — "What is the reason of that?"

Mr. Ennis — "I will endeavour to explain. I had occasion a few nights ago to speak to a gentleman in the House of Commons with regard to an application to the Fishery Board for 2000L. to restore the pier at Buffin, in Clew Bay, and I said, 'Will you join me in the application? I am told it is a place that swarms with fish, and if we had a pier there the fishermen will have some security, and they will go out.' The only answer I received was, 'They will not go out; they pay no attention whatever to the fisheries; they allow the fish to come and go without making any effort to catch them....'"

Mr. Ayrton — "Do you think that if English fishermen went to the west coast of Ireland they would be able to get on in harmony with the native fishermen?"

Mr. Ennis — "We know the fact to be, that some years ago, a company was established for the purpose of trawling in Galway Bay, and what was the consequence? The Irish fishermen, who inhabit a region in the neighbourhood of Galway, called Claddagh, turned out against them, and would not allow them to trawl, and the Englishmen very properly went away with their lives."

Sir Rowland Hill — "Then they will neither fish themselves nor allow any one else to fish!"

Mr. Ennis — "It seems to be so." — Minutes of Evidence, 175-6.

[13]   The Derry Journal.

[14]   Report of Inspectors of Irish Fisheries for 1882.

[15]   The Report of the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries on the Sea and Inland Fisheries of Ireland for 1882, gives a large amount of information as to the fish which swarm round the Irish coast. Mr. Brady reports on the abundance of herring and other fish all round the coast. Shoals of herrings "remained off nearly the entire coast of Ireland from August till December." "Large shoals of pilchards" were observed on the south and south-west coasts. Off Dingle, it is remarked, "the supply of all kinds of fish is practically inexhaustible."

"Immense shoals of herrings off Liscannor and Loop Head;" "the mackerel is always on this coast, and can be captured at any time of the year, weather permitting." At Belmullet, "the shoals of fish off the coast, particularly herring and mackerel, are sometimes enormous." The fishermen, though poor, are all very orderly and well conducted. They only want energy and industry.

[16]   The Harleian Miscellany, iii. 378-91.

[17]   The Harleian Miscellany, iii. 392.

[18]   See The Huguenots in England and Ireland. A Board of Traders, for the encouragement and promotion of the hemp and flax manufacture in Ireland, was appointed by an Act of Parliament at the beginning of last century (6th October, 1711), and the year after the appointment of the Board the following notice was placed on the records of the institution: — "Louis Crommelin and the Huguenot colony have been greatly instrumental in improving and propagating the flaxen manufacture in the north of this Kingdom, and the perfection to which the same is brought in that part of the country has been greatly owing to the skill and industry of the said Crommelin." In a history of the linen trade, published at Belfast, it is said that "the dignity which that enterprising man imparted to labour, and the halo which his example cast around physical exertion, had the best effect in raising the tone of popular feeling, as well among the patricians as among the peasants of the north of Ireland. This love of industry did much to break down the national prejudice in favour of idleness, and cast doubts on the social orthodoxy of the idea then so popular with the squirearchy, that those alone who were able to live without employment had any rightful claim to the distinctive title of gentleman.... A patrician by birth and a merchant by profession, Crommelin proved, by his own life, his example, and his enterprise, that an energetic manufacturer may, at the same time, take a high place in the conventional world."

[19]   Benn's History of Belfast, p. 78.

[20]   From the Irish Manufacturers' Almanack for 1883 I learn that nearly one-third of the spindles used in Europe in the linen trade, and more than one-fourth of the power-looms, belong to Ireland, that "the Irish linen and associated trades at present give employment to 176,303 persons; and it is estimated that the capital sunk in spinning and weaving factories, and the business incidental thereto, is about 100,000,000L., and of that sum 37,000,000L. is credited to Belfast alone."

[21]   The importation of coal in 1883 amounted to over 700,000 tons.

[22]   We are indebted to the obliging kindness of the Right Hon. Mr. Fawcett, Postmaster-General for this return. The total number of depositors in the Post Office Savings banks in the Parliamentary borough of Belfast is 10,827 and the amount of their deposits, including the interest standing to their credit, on the 31st December, 1882, was 158,064L. 0s. 1d.

An important item in the savings of Belfast, not included in the above returns, consists in the amounts of deposits made with the various Limited Companies, as well as with the thriving Building Societies in the town and neighbourhood.