Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:06 am

Well, I was wrong in thinking that labourers in Co. Clare did not go away to find seasonal work elsewhere - see my reply (above) to the posting by Murf of an 1891 report on Irish Migratory Agricultural Labourers: ... age/493270

I’ve been reading the piece* on Clare, by Harriet Martineau, in Travels in County Clare 1534 – 1911 (extracts from The Strangers Gaze, edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh): ... tineau.htm, and it’s clear from Martineau's observations on the countryside around Ballyvaughan that men were going to England for seasonal work at the time that she was writing (1852).
She says,
A very large number of men are gone to England for the harvest, or to America; the wives and children are in the workhouses; and the roofs then come off their abodes.
*an excerpt from her reports to the Daily News.


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Re: Agricultural Labourers in Clare in the 19th Century

Post by Sduddy » Thu Jan 23, 2020 1:05 pm

Some agricultural labourers were recruited to the British army and to the Militia*, but I don’t think that exact figures can be given for County Clare.
*The Militia was a military force that was raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency (I think the word has a different meaning in the U.S.).
Paul Huddie, writing about recruitment during the Crimean War, 1854 -1856, ( ... an-War.pdf) says,
The reason for the overall and proportional decline in the numbers of Irishmen within the Army during the nineteenth century was primarily due to a decline in the portion of Irish society that supplied them – unskilled rural labourers, who were often ‘encouraged to enlist by want of alternative employment’.(19). Although they accounted for a higher proportion of Irish recruits, such rural-born men were not absent amongst their mainland counterparts. In London especially ‘north countrymen, generally ... from Scotland, from Yorkshire, and Northumberland’ were heavily recruited, having ‘come up for employment’ but then failing to find any. (20). As Spiers and Skelley have shown, abatement in their numbers throughout the century was due to continued industrialisation and urbanisation, coupled with emigration and increased agricultural wages (and the latter was more prominent in Ireland). This was counterbalanced by a corresponding rise in the numbers of men enlisting from urban areas. (21). Although their numbers declined dramatically throughout the century, Peter Karsten argues that rural labourers were still prevalent among Irish recruits on the eve of the First World War. (22). The prominence of these labouring classes in the ranks of the Army during the Crimean War is perhaps most evident, outside of the regimental muster rolls, in the entries of the out-pensioners’ roll books of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Taking the cavalry and infantry personnel entered in February 1857 as an illustrative sample, the proportion of labourers amongst them was 33% and 87.5% respectively. This trend persists throughout the entries for that year, as well as in other years before and after the Crimean War. The prominence of the ‘labourer’, which too often could mean unemployed person or even vagrant, is also seen in the Militia. (23).
Spiers has also shown that the proportion of Irish and Roman Catholics in the Army was almost equal throughout much of the century. (24). This confirms that the majority of the labourers, and Irish recruits in general, were Roman Catholics. During the war the prevalence of Catholics amongst Irish recruits into the Army was highlighted by both the Belfast News-Letter and the Banner of Ulster; neither of which had traditionally been a friend to Catholicism. In March 1854 the Banner reported that the majority of people in Belfast that had ‘mounted the cockade’ in the preceding six months had been Catholics. While in December the News-Letter described ‘the ardour and enthusiasm’ with which Catholics had flocked, and were deemed still to be flocking in every town and rural district, to enlist into both the Army and the Militia. This it suggested clearly illustrated their ‘loyalty and patriotism’. (25). On the other hand the middle (and urban working) classes were, especially during peacetime, largely absent from the enlisted ranks and those commissioned, as they generally did not have a problem obtaining employment and could more often rely on steady wages. This meant they were much less likely to take up a military profession that required the acceptance of ‘fierce discipline, spartan conditions of service and minimal reward’.(26). For example in 1861 only 4 out of every 1,000 recruits examined in Ireland were described as coming from ‘Professional occupations’ or being ‘students’, and only sixty-eight as ‘Shop men and clerks’; the remainder were labourers or in trade, as can be seen in Table 1. (27).

19 Hanham, ‘Religion and Nationality, p. 162; Peter Karsten, ‘Irish Soldiers’, p. 37.
20 Spiers, Army and Society, pp. 40-1.
21 Skelley, The Victorian Army, p. 294; Spiers, Army and Society, pp. 47-9.
22 Karsten, ‘Irish Soldiers’, p. 37.
23 Examination Report, 1857, MS 23-2-1857, Royal Hospital Kilmainham Papers (RHK), National Archives of Ireland (NAI); Thomas Larcom to the War Office, 4 February. 1859, MS 1130, Chief Secretary’s Office, Registered Papers (CSORP), NAI.
24 E. M. Spiers, ‘Army Organisation and Society in the Nineteenth Century’ in A Military History, p. 337.
25 Banner of Ulster, 7 Mar. 1854; Belfast News-Letter, 15 December 1854.
26 Spiers, ‘Army Organisation’, p. 335.
27 The figures in Table 1 are derived from Army Medical Department. Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Reports for the Year 1861, PP, 1863 [3233], vol. 34, 1.

Huddie, Paul, “British Recruitment in Ireland During the Crimean War”, British Journal for Military History, Volume 2, Issue 1, November 2015: ... an-War.pdf
Huddie says that the smart appearance of the soldiers attracted potential recruits:
Recruiting sergeants and parties with bright red jackets, fife and drum and coloured ribbons flowing from their hats were often said to be an inducement. So important was this element of enlistment during the war that the Mayo Constitution lamented the local Militia regiment’s use of posters which highlighted the £6 bounty payable upon enlistment in lieu of ‘martial music and gaily- dressed Militiamen’. The latter, it was conceived, would much better excite the enthusiasm of the peasantry and offer more inducements to them than the ‘liberal offers of bounty on paper’. (36). In Louth too, in 1855, the failure of the local Militia to play spirited music or to hold themselves in a pristine martial manner was deemed to be one of the contributing factors to a failed recruitment drive. (37). Unlike the period of the Boer War when such parties were thwarted and harassed at every turn by the Irish Transvaal Committee, during the Crimean War parties of that nature were generally well received in most localities.(38).

36 Mayo Constitution, 12 December 1854.
37 Newry Examiner, 24 January 1855.
38 Terence Denman, ‘“The Red Livery of Shame”: the Campaign against Army Recruitment in Ireland, 1899-1914’ in Irish Historical Studies, xxix, no. 114 (November, 1994), pp. 212-13.
Describing recruiting in rural areas, Huddie says,
While urban areas had large concentrations of people from whom the sergeants could recruit, in the countryside regiments had to rely on events or places which concentrated the population, such as fairs or taverns. From the beginning until the end of the war recruiting parties for both the regular and Militia regiments used county and town fairs as areas for recruiting. (47).

47 Freeman’s Journal, 15 October 1855, 11 February 1856.
Enlisting in the Navy was not as popular as enlisting in the regular army or militia, but some efforts at recruitment were successful. Huddie says,
Between February and May 1854 Captain A.W. Jerningham, Inspecting Commander of the Coast Guard in Ireland, (57) having been especially tasked by the Admiralty, travelled between Galway and Cork in order to enlist at least 1,000 ‘seafaring men’ – fishermen, turf boat men, quayside labourers and ‘lumpers’ (men who had served a few years afloat) – into the RNCV from the ‘coastal settlements’. (58)

57 Arthur William Jerningham was employed as Inspecting Commander of the Coast Guard and then Inspector of Small-arms Exercises until the war. A Naval Biographical Dictionary 1849, p. 582; Edmund Lodge, Esq., The Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1867), p. 515; The Times, 27 November 1889. Murphy, Crimean War, pp. 84-5.
58 Belfast News-Letter, 22 Feb. 1854; Cork Constitution, 2 February 1854.
I don’t know if there are any figures for the numbers recruited along the seacoast of Clare. The figures that Huddie gives for recruitment to the Royal Navy are for 1852, when out of 2,375 Irish men and boys recruited, 56% were recruited in Cork City and only 7.6% from Galway, Clare and Kerry. The figures for the west coast in 1854 may be much greater.

Those who enlisted in the Militia could transfer to the army (which seems to have been called ‘the line’). But most of those in the Militia during the Crimean War never took part in it or went anywhere near the Crimea - the Militia was used to replace the regular army in the garrisons throughout Ireland and Britain while the regular army was away at the war. When the war was over the militias were ‘disembodied’, which means that the men were then unemployed. I imagine that those who found themselves in Britain at that time never returned home - there may not have been much reason for them to return home. Paul Huddie mentions the famine twice, but does not mentiion the effects of the famine, one of which was that many people were homeless. That this was the case is clear from the account of the Nenagh mutiny, by Brendan Hall ("1856 Mutiny of the North Tipperary Militia"): ... mutiny.htm. Hall says,
The unease felt at official local level that large numbers of unemployed men were being released into their midst, is reflected in a number of resolutions passed by the Longford Grand Jury at the Summer Assizes of 1856 in a representation to the Lord Lieutenant of that county (in a letter to The Freeman): ‘That we are of the opinion that the disembodiment of the militia should not be urged on prematurely, or at least until there was a strong probability that the men thus dismissed would be likely to be absorbed in the labour market’.
In another resolution, the long-term effects of the recent famine were also seen as a cause for worry: ‘That there is every reason to believe that many of the men have no homes or residences to return to, from the extensive emigration which has taken place throughout the country, that to disembody them thus, without homes to return to or wages to support them, would be in our opinion not only unjust and impolite, but tending to endanger the peace of our county and arrest the prosperity we are happy to believe is now existing’.
This is perhaps the background to the mutiny of the North Tipperary Militia (officially called the North Tipperary Light Infantry Militia Regiment - TLI) that took place on July 7 and 8, 1856.
Although the numbers of Claremen who actually took part in the Crimean War are not given anywhere (that I know of), we know there must have been a good many. Kieran Sheedy in The Clare Elections, writes on the re-election of Mr. John D Fitzgerald as member of parliament for Ennis (March 1855), and says that, in his acceptance address, Mr. Fitzgerald
paid tribute to the large number of men from the county who were fighting in the Crimean War. (p. 216)
In his book, The Crimean War and Irish Society, Liverpool Press, 2015, Paul Huddie includes a chart giving numbers of widows and orphans who were relieved in Ireland by the Irish Patriotic Fund and this shows that 22 widows and 25 orphans were relieved in Ennis. He believes that many more than this number should have qualified and explains that
the majority of Irish Patriotic Fund relief was issued in urban areas, [so] it is possible that the remainder of army wives who did not seek relief were in the countryside. (p. 125).


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