from evidence taken before the Commissioners appointed to inquire into
the occupation of land in Ireland
[Devon Commission of 1845]
Alexander Burnside, sworn and examined on 3rd April 1844.
- Where do you
reside?—Secon, near Ballymoney, in the county of Antrim.
- What is your
occupation?—I am a farmer.
- What quantity
of land do you hold?—Between seventy and eighty Cunningham acres.
- What is the
district with which you are acquainted?—I am acquainted with the farming
district of ten or fifteen miles round Ballymoney, taking Ballymoney
for its centre.
- What is the
general description of the district, is it arable or grazing.land?—Generally
arable and grazing ; they are carried on jointly together.
- Is agriculture
improving there?—Yes, it is.
- In what particulars?—The
agriculture of the district has much improved of late by manuring
with animal manure, by liming, by applying sea shells, by draining,
and by a more judicious rotation of cropping than was formerly practised,
say white and green in succession. Farming societies have done much
good to this district, by introducing a superior breed of dairy stock,
and by giving premiums to the best or most skilful ploughman, by which
all have become more perfect in the art.
- What is the
size of the farms, generally speaking, in the district, and what is
the mode of culture?—The farms are generally small, from twenty to
eighty acres; the culture commonly is as follows—namely, a five-course
rotation ; first, potatoes or turnips; second, oats, wheat, or barley,
sown down with clover and rye-grass; third, hay and cut clover for
house-feeding of dairy stock; fourth, grazing; fifth, oats. This completes
the rotation; however, not more than one-half of this district adopts
this rotation ; too many follow no regular plan. Few sheep are kept,
the stock are principally for the dairy.
- Have you any
farms held in common or in rundale?—No rundale is allowed now; this
plan was common about fifty years ago.
- In what, manner
is the rent fixed?-The rent is nearly the same as the poor law valuation,
being one-fourth more than the government valuation. The rent is usually
demanded half-yearly, immediately before the next gale becomes due;
it is paid in bank notes. The tenants depend for their rent on the
sale of the produce of their farms, and the small farmers upon the
profit they derive from a second occupation they follow; that is,
the bleaching of yarn and weaving it into linen cloth; they depend
upon those sources for the payment of their rent; they do not depend
upon loan funds or usurers, if they are thriving. The usual mode of
recovering rent from defaulting tenants is by ejectment process, and
the in-coming tenant generally pavs up the arrears to the landlord
on getting possession; if a half-year's rent is paid, the receipt
will be in full up to the day it became due; but if part only of a
half-year is paid, the receipt will be on account of rent.
- Do the tenants
hold immediately under the proprietor or under middlemen?—The tenure
is generally from and under the original proprietor. Some hold as
tenants-at-will, others during one life and twenty-one years, whichever
may longest continue. The usual covenants are, that the tenant upon
paying the rent upon the days mentioned in the lease, and performing
the other agreements as specified, may occupy and possess the premises
during the term or time demised, the landlord generally reserving
the power of imposing an addition of one-fourth more rent if the tenants
sell, alienate, let, or cotter, without having the landlord's consent
thereto in writing.
- Is the tenant-right
prevalent in the district, and to whom is the purchase-money paid?—The
tenant-right, or sale of good-will, is regulated by the landlords
or agents, as the out-going tenant's title is subject to a penalty
on alienating, therefore their consent must be first had in writing.
- Is the consolidation
of farms taking place in your neighbourhood to any extent?— It is
a little. It is now common to put two or three small farms together,
or into one; and if a farmer has sufficient capital, he will employ
more labourers; but otherwise, he will turn his land into grazing,
and let it by the sum to others; if he has not capital to occupy it,
that is the way he is obliged to do.
- In point of
fact, have there been many farms consolidated?—It has been done a
good deal, but not until lately.
- What has been
the effect; have the persons who have taken the large farms employed
more labour in tillage or turned them to grazing?—If they have capital
they employ more labourers.
- What has been
more usual in your district?—It has been more usual to employ labourers
upon them, and work the land.
- Has there been
much subletting or subdividing of farms with you? – No; not a great
deal in our district.
- With respect
to the farming population, do you consider that the farmers are getting
richer?- Large farmers in this district generally thrive, or do not
fail so commonly as small ones. The farmers in Ireland have not improved
in circumstances since the end of the European war.
- What about the
cottiers? - Labourers usually hold their cottages under the farmers,
and those cottages are generally built and repaired by the farmers.
The labourer's tenure is usually half-yearly; but of late it has become
common for cottiers to pay their rents monthly, because from their
poverty, when they get half a year in debt, they are seldom able to
- Do the cottiers
generally pay their rent in money or in work?—Both ways, but generally
in work; no land is given to the cottiers except a few perches for
- If they want
any more land what do they pay for it?—It is not generally given to
them ; they would have to pay rather more than the farmer gave himself;
he would have a profit upon it, but it is not common. There is no
con-acre system in this district; and there have been no agrarian
outrages in this district.
- Is there much
difference in the management of estates; are some of them better and
some of them worse managed ?—Yes; agents .are generally most satisfactory
to the tenants where they reside in the neighbourhood, and the duty
is best performed.
The witness withdrew ]
The following persons
were also interviewed in Ballymoney on the 3rd of April 1844 by the
James Boyle, Esq.
– a banker
Esq. – a flax spinner at Balnamore, a land agent and a director of the
Belfast Bank in Ballymoney.
The Rev. Henry