Royal Commission for inquiring into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland; third report

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45 Appendix (C.) 

Part I. 


ON the 

County of the Town of Drogheda. 
Lewis, Esq;,, A. 
Aylmer, Esq. 


Ballymakenny . 
Saint Mary's Saint Peter's 

Total . 

365 4,753 13,000 

363 4,436 12,566 18,118 17,365 From the foregoing statement, it appears that the population of Drogheda has diminished since 1821 ; it may be added that there has been no increase since 1798, for we were informed that at the time of the rebellion, when the names of the inmates of every house were required to be affixed on the door, the population was ascertained to be about 17,000. 
Since the date of tho census of 1831, the cholera has made a considerable diminution in the population, the number of deaths occasioned by it in 1832-3 being estimated by Dr. 
Pentland at 1,500,'—not far from a tenth of the entire population. 
This decline in tho population of Drogheda appears to be principally owing to changes in the state of the linen manufacture once flourishing in that town and its neighbourhood, but of which some branches have been altogether transferred to other parts of the United Kingdom, and others, though partially retained, have yet suffered a considerable depression. 
The linen manufacture of Drogheda, about the beginning of this century, consisted of the weaving of two kinds of linen cloth; one of which was chiefly sheetings and dowlas, the other of a less width was called market linen. 
The yarn used in weaving this cloth was spun by hand in Ireland: this domestic manufacture was, however, chiefly confined to the northern counties, and little yarn was obtained in the neighbourhood of Drogheda. 
The yarn was purchased from dealers either by manufacturers who gave it out to the weavers, or by the weavers themselves, and whether the weaver worked on his own or another's account he wove in his own shop and found his own loom and winder. 
At this time, the weavers earned high wages, varying from 14*. 
to £1. 
a-week, including1 payment to his winder. 
Soon after the peace, however, the linen manufacture began gradually to migrate from the western coast of Ireland to Barnsley in Yorkshire, and to Dundee in Scotland; a change which, in the opinion of Ihe persons in Drogheda best acquainted with the linen trade of that place, was pro¬ duced or accelerated by tho following causes:— A regulation of the linen board as to the reeling of linen yarns appears to have injuriously affected the linen weaving of Drogheda in a two-fold way:— First, it indisposed Irish farmers to grow flax, as they were liable to be vexed with regula¬ tions as to tho reeling of the yarn which their wives and daughters spun. 
Grin nan, (linen manufacturer,) stated that Irish yarn was frequently seized in the Drogheda market by ihe inspectors of the linen board, although some of it was occasionally smuggled into the possession of the weaver. 
In this manner, therefore, the supply of flax was diminished, and its price probably raised. 
Secondly, this regulation had the more important effect of excluding all foreign yarns,_as they could not be rated according to the laws enacted by the linen board; and thus the English and Scotch weavers were enabled to use a better and cheaper commodity, while^ the Irish weaver was restricted to the inferior and dearer product of his own soil. 
The injurious effect of this regulation was likewise enhanced by a prohibition of foreign flax, which had been removed in England and Scotland, but which in Ireland had been retained in consequence of the expressed wishes of the growers, and even (as we were informed) of the manufacturer of flax. 
The following extract from Mr. 
Ennis's (commission agent in linens and yarn) evidence well explains the manner in which this regulation affected the Drogheda weaver:— ** Linen weaving has been gradually extended within the last four years, in consequence of the annihilation of the linen board. 
The linen board had, among many other absurd regula¬ tions, excluded foreign yarns from this country, on the ground that they were not reeled according to Act of Parliament. 
This gave the English and Scotch a complete monopoly of foreign yarns, and enabled them to have those yarns on very advantageous terms, and thus threw us entirely on our own produce which raised the prices unnaturally. 
When the linen hoard ceased to exist, we went immediately and purchased foreign yarns at Hull.