Extracts from evidence taken before the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the occupation of land in Ireland
[Devon Commission of 1845]  

Mr. Alexander Burnside, sworn and examined on 3rd April 1844.  

  1. Where do you reside?—Secon, near Ballymoney, in the county of Antrim.
  2. What is your occupation?—I am a farmer.  
  3. What quantity of land do you hold?—Between seventy and eighty Cunningham acres.  
  4. 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. 
  5. What is the general description of the district, is it arable or grazing.land?—Generally arable and grazing ; they are carried on jointly together. 
  6. Is agriculture improving there?—Yes, it is.  
  7. 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.  
  8. 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.  
  9. Have you any farms held in common or in rundale?—No rundale is allowed now; this plan was common about fifty years ago.  
  10. 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.  
  11. 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.  
  12. 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.  
  13. 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.  
  14. In point of fact, have there been many farms consolidated?—It has been done a good deal, but not until lately.  
  15. 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.  
  16. What has been more usual in your district?—It has been more usual to employ labourers upon them, and work the land.  
  17. Has there been much subletting or subdividing of farms with you? – No; not a great deal in our district.  
  18. 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.  
  19. 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 clear up.
  20. 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 cabbages, etc.  
  21. 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.  
  22. 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 Devon Commission:  

James Boyle, Esq. – a banker

James Thompson, Esq. – a flax spinner at Balnamore, a land agent and a director of the Belfast Bank in Ballymoney.  

The Rev. Henry McLoughlin P.P.