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Killeshandra before the Great Famine

Coote in his Statistical Survey of County Cavan (1801) describes Killeshandra as a good market-town with a flourishing linen market at which coarse linens to the value of 1,500 are sold weekly. He says that the town itself 'is engaging, being neat and clean, and industry and its rewards are very conspicuous, everything appears comfortable, a good market and a brisk trade'. In the neighbourhood of the town was Castle-Hamilton with its beautiful wooded and watered demesne owned by Col. Southwell. The mansion itself, was newly built and very spacious. Commenting on the land around the town, Coote says that the land was dry and very good but rushes were very evident everywhere. Twenty acres was considered a large farm. In fact most of the farms were plots ranging from three to ten acres. The houses were 'not so poor' and in the village they were remarkably neat. Fences everywhere were poor leading to much loss and much ill-will amongst farmers. Demesne lands were well fenced but apart from this whatever fencing there was consisted of stone walls. The land was mostly cultivated with spades, though the plough was also used. Potatoes were grown for two years and then flax and oats for two or three years successively. This over-cultivation of the soil had the effect of impoverishing it. Dung, and bog-stuff was used as fertiliser. But a common practice, which Coote condemned as impoverishing the land, was that of burning the land so as to create ashes for fertiliser. About one third of each holding was under grass. But the principal concern of the farmers was not milk or cattle but flax and linen.

On each farm there was one or more cottiers who were bound to work at the loom for a regular day's hire. The farmer, or the employer who was more commonly called the manufacturer, had a good profit out of the industry of his cottiers. A manufacturer who was able to work four looms and employ his cottiers had a comfortable living. The average wage of a labourer was 7d per day. 'The women and children spin both yarn and wool . . . Clothing is mostly furnished at home so that their expenditure is trifling if their incomes are small . . . Few are without a cow, and the greater proportion have two or three cows..' According to the 1821 census, the civil parish of Killeshandra which is larger than the ecclesiastical parish had a population of 12,105. Killeshandra town had 191 houses inhabited, 250 families and a total population of 1,148.

Killeshandra had quite a share of sectarianism in the opening decades of the 19th century. Fr. Edmund O'Reilly's Church at Drumcrow was burned down during trouble in the parish around 1808. On 8 November 1824 there was a riot in Killeshandra and the Freeman's Journal of 21 Jan 1825 congratulated Father Patrick McCabe, parish priest at the time, for his part in connection with the riot and the trial which followed. On 8 June 1833, The Freeman's Journal again praises Fr McCabe for his part in preventing a collision between Orangemen and Catholics during an Orange funeral. A spate of anti-Catholic tracts of an abusive nature appeared around Killeshandra in 1815, 1826 and 1827. Killeshandra was not unique in this regard - most areas experienced some degree of trouble. These were the days of Catholic Emancipation, of the Protestant Second Reformation, of proselytisation, of traveling preachers and apologists like Rev Mr Pope and Fr Tom Maguire. Inevitably sectarian violence resulted.

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