[taken from ...Proceedings of the Workington Agricultural Society ... 1808 pp66-77]
This was by President John Christian Curwen
In the last year's Report, I endeavoured to draw your attention to what, I lament, is in your estimation considered the most important object, and most worthy of your exertions. I then offered what I conceived to be a fair statement between what are the gains of the herring-fishery, and what might be the profits drawn from an improved cultivation of your lands. My object was to undeceive you, as to the supposed advantages derived to your Island, from the herring- fishery; either as it concerns your general prosperity, or, in a more extended view, the comfort and happiness of the whole body of inhabitants. If 1 have succeeded so far as to cause even a partial examination and discussion of the statements, much of my object will be gained : examination will, in time, produce (if I am right) conviction, and a progressive change will be the result.
It is singular such a striking coincidence of circumstances should mark your small community, and that great empire of which you are a part; the one did as universally believe trade and manufactories to have been not only the fundamental source of her prosperity, but that her very existence was dependant upon it; as the other has, within a certain period, attributed all her improvements to the herring-fishery. Errors in great concerns are more difficult to detect and demonstrate, than in lesser affairs, though the ruinous consequences are the same.
The statement I submitted to you, was drawn with more than due deference and attention to your prejudices;-it exceeded in favour of the fisheries, what the best information I could receive warranted; notwithstanding, it fell infinitely short of the generally received opinion of the advocates for the herring-fishery; Let me, however, put it to your candour, if the result of the last year's fishing, as well as those which have lately preceded it, did not demonstrate my calculation to have far over-rated the profits, and greatly to have softened the injury and ill effects of this trade upon the general welfare of your Island. Let me ask, what were the losses of last year ? Were they confined merely to the waste of time of hundreds of your most efficient population, and the destruction of capital ? I am able to answer, from being a painful witness, how great a proportion of your grain was lost and injured by your pertinacious and unwearied attendance upon the fishery.-The prizes were few; the blanks, numerous : the loss general, and cruelly felt by all ranks from the increased prices of grain. What additional importations were rendered necessary to supply the destruction of the season !
I wish to urge this strongly, however it may militate against your general feelings and wishes. I am too sincerely interested for the welfare of your Island, either to be allured by the hope of pleasing, or deterred by the fear of offending, from stating what I verily believe to be for the general benefit. Upwards of thirty years I have held a trust, the sacred duties of which imposed a faithful and honest attention to your interests ;-the power of benefiting has been little. In defending you, my pretentions to merit were small : I had other ties which imperiously left me no option as to the part which I was to take.
In the present instance there can be no diversity of views, however there may be of opinions; not only all Manxmen, but all who are connected in any way with your Island, must wish it prosperity. Though I have no longer any individual interest, I retain every sentiment that ancient affection, long habits of attachment and gratitude for kind feelings both recent and passed, and, the sincerest good wishes. can inspire.
Viewing as I do, upon, the most mature consideration, that the agricultural produce of your Island may be quadrupled. I cannot but sincerely wish to see your attention turned to a source of profit, which would seldom or ever fail you. The worst year of agriculture would be better, than the bell year of the herring- fishery.- Cultivate your Island to the utmost extent; your surplus profit will bring you fishermen, and these will add exertion and energy to your agriculture.
Those who wish to excel, must be content to confine their endeavours to the object of their ambition. You have riches in abundance within your grasp.- Those whose prejudices are so deep rooted, as to be unable to extend their views beyond one object, I despair of convincing : such as can and will fairly discuss the question, will be constrained, I firmly believe, to adopt my sentiments; and agree, that the arguments in favour of agriculture, in preference to the herring-fishery, are conclusive.
It affords me the highest satisfaction to learn, the spirit which is manifesting itself in various parts of your Isle I rejoice from the good-will I bear you, I am likewise gratified that your society, as a component part of an institution, which has had such powerful effects in this country, should produce similar advantages in your Island.-Every Manxman who distinguishes himself in promoting any of the various improvements in agriculture, merits the public esteem ; and I should be wanting in my duty to the society, as at variance with my feelings, were I to omit paying the just tribute of praise to every instance which comes within my knowledge.
The drill husbandry has long been considered by every good agriculturist, as one of the first improvements: and greatly is the nation indebted to the worthy and intelligent inventor of it, Mr. J. Fell. This practice is very general, in the best managed districts ; it has been tried to some extent in Cumberland, and everywhere found to answer-not only as is affords room for cleaning, but as the means, likewise, of getting the grain early into the ground, arid afterwards, at a proper season, sowing the seeds; it, in a great measure, prevents corn being lodged. Nothing, in my humble opinion, can be better adapted to render most important service to your Island.--Mr. Cosnahan, of Lark-Hill, has the merit of its first introduction : I know his spirit, and admire it; and, I trust, he will not only reap the advantages attending it himself, but will have the additional satisfaction which is particularly the characteristic of every honest Manxman, of witnessing the beneficial effects that will be rendered to the agriculture of the whole Island.
In the last year's Report, I was mis-informed in stating the quantity of wheat grown within the Island, as adequate to its consumption. I hope I have only anticipated a little, an event so much for its interest : every friend to the Island, must wish to see it rendered independent of foreign supply. Whether the home market may, on all occasions, be the best for disposing of the produce, may admit of a question; but there can be none with regard to the importation : this must always cost the consumer a greater price than what it might be grown for, and make the first necessary of life dearer to the inhabitants of the Island, than to those parts of the United Empire that surround them. Till the Island be able to feed its own inhabitants, the profits from the fishery serve only to enhance the cost of grain and other necessaries to the consumer, and to benefit the sellers in those markets from whence they draw their supply
The interest I feel for the improvement of t our agriculture, makes me greatly regret the Anniversary Meeting of the Society at the Schoose, has not attractions sufficient to induce some the members of your part of the Society, and the farmers, to attend it. Truly solicitous that your branch of the institution, should be as conspicuously distinguished for the influence it has had in promoting a spirit of improvement in your Island, as it is universally allowed to have done here :-by meeting and associating with the society, the enthusiasm would be communicated. In urging your attendance, I must in candour. own that I am not altogether divested of feelings of self-interest : I shall be excused, I trust, fear my anxiety in wishing to discharge some of the many debts of kindness and attention, I owe my Manx friends. At the very instant I am complaining that this pleasure and gratification is denied me, you are pleased to bestow additional marks of favour and honour upon me. To disguise the heartfelt pleasure, satisfaction. and pride, I experienced in receiving your elegant and sumptuous Vase, would be doing violence to my own feelings, and injustice to your kindness :I receive it as the most flattering and invaluable testimony of your approbation of my past conduct :-I accept it, with gratitude, as a monument to perpetuate the cordiality and friendship, which have so long subsisted between us; and, I trust, it will be considered, to the latest period, as a sacred pledge binding upon us and our posterity to defend, maintain, and support the rights and liberties of Manxmen.
I was much pleased to find the opinion I had entertained of your soil, and its capability of improvement, to be fully corroborated by the sentiments of one of the most scientific and intelligent agriculturists in the Kingdom -who has recently visited your Island; and this gentleman has effected as much if not more than any other individual under the same circumstances ; I mean the Rev. Bate Dudley. His testimony gives weight to my former opinions, and encourages me to persevere in urging your attention to the subject. Your Island is capably of producing most abundant crops of all kinds -it is adapted, in an especial degree, for sheep; the mildness of the climate would be highly favourable to the fleece. I am proud of having received from your very spirited manufacturer, Mr. Kelly, of the Union Mill, a specimen of cloth highly creditable to him as a manufacturer, but not so for the staple of the Island the wool is greatly inferior to the workmanship. A few years will, I trust, exhibit a very different specimen, as to fineness.-I received, at the same moment, a cloth manufactured by Mr. Hall, of Leeds, from my Southdown flock, without any other mixture:-1 shall preserve both, with the hopes of seeing Manx cloth equal if not superior to what was the produce of my flock, in a very short period.
Sheep are the stock that best suits your Island, and will give the greatest profit: it is the stock, above all others, that will contribute to the improvement of your land. Your worthy vice president, Col. Taubman, has, this season, some of the draft of my flock :-I have no fears of their success; and should be glad to supply any of my friends, another season.
Men, individually, are rarely equal to any very great undertaking : by combination and competition, they are roused to exertions which, under other circumstances, they would have been unequal to. I should, therefore, strongly recommend it to the society, to offer premiums for all improvements in the fleece, and that these should be given at different quarters of the Island, -A general mart for wool has been found highly .beneficial, in the south. Great has been the opposition to wool fairs: I cannot blame the manufacturer for wishing to purchase on the best terms he can; but those who are desirous, of promoting improvement act wisely in assembling (72) the growers together.-they then become sensible of the advantages of a superiority in the fleece; as a better price is a great stimulation to improvement.
I have great pleasure in laying the following letter before the society, from that spirited improver Mr. James Cosnahan. Though a warm advocate for the drill, I do not contend that the drilled crops are to be expected in all cases, to prove heavier; the gain will be better; the ground cleaner, if properly attended to; and the crop will be up-standing. I believe, however, more grain has been produced by the drill, than was ever grown broad-cast; for the difficulty of proportioning the seed, is a great impediment, -if too much be given, it turns to straw, lodges, and the produce is nothing: the seeds are, likewise, reduced; and, for fear of injury to the clover. the barley cannot be sown so early as with the drill, when the feeds are sown aftcr the ground has been hoed and cleaned, in May. Mr. Cosnahan is entitled to the thanks of the society and the Island, for introducing the drill; and I have no hesitation in saying, a few years will see it in great practice.-I calculate having two hundred acres of wheat; which, had it all been drilled, would have saved me a hundred and fifty Winchesters of seeds, or £87 10s.-About a hundred and sixty,are under drill, the rest would not admit of it.
"Lark-Hill,near Douglas, Isle of Man, "July the 16th, 1808.
Sirs "Your sundry favours from Arundel, April 20th, and London, May 7th, came regularly to hand; and I am much at a loss how to excuse myself for not answering the same sooner, as also to explain myself to you in return for your attention. I also received your's of the 27th ult. being forwarded by Mr. Saunders,who called when I was, unfortunately from home. I was extremely sorry I did not see him, so as to have enabled him to take down minutes ; which, when here, he was unable to do, owing to his having no person to direct him properly over my place. However, I hope my small place pleased him.
" Your directions respecting the drill method I attended to; it is now up in full ear, and looks promising, though so late sown as the latter end of May. I lent the machine to my neighbour, Mr. Blake, to try: his crop, also, looks promising. I thank you most kindly for your invitation to the next meeting of the Agricultural Society, at your place ; and I wish much that I may have it in my power to attend.
" The saving of seed, I find, is great with the drill : I find that seven kishons are fully sufficient for the acre:-and, on the ground being properly prepared, I think I could, (though no farmer,) with a single horse and self, sow and harrow a field of six acres in a day, with ease ; which, in the ordinary Manx way, would nearly take two towers, fully two pair of horses and harrows, and two drivers, to do which great saving will contribute greatly towards the trouble and expense, in keeping it clean. My neighbour who tried it has never ;attempted to clean his ; so we shall see which method is the best :-my piece was but top dressed, and that late in the season ; his was turnip and potato ground.
From my situation in life, (having but a tender income, to bring up with it a large family,) this has been a great undertaking of mine ; but I hope, in the end, it will answer. And in willing it every success,
" I am, Sir, with the greater respect, yours. &c.
Mr. Coulthard, to whom the president's cup was adjudged, was prevented, by indisposition, from attending to receive it. I look forward to the next meeting, with pleasure, to the bestowing not only the cup, -but those commendations so justly due, for the great and meritorious exertions I understand him to have made.
I have greatly to lament I am not favoured with more extensive materials, for detailing the advances which are making in the agriculture of the Island -. where so much is to be done, it will require a length of time to mare a general change. I feel the strongest grounds for confidence, that the exertions of your society will accomplish great and important improvements : I entreat you not to be discouraged with the difficulties you have to encounter; they are, doubtless, greater than are generally to be contended with; it is not prejudice from long and defective practice which you have alone to combat, but disinclination to agriculture, and a blindness and ignorance of the advantages that good culture would yield.
The honour and credit will be in proportion to the obstacles opposed to you; and there, great as they are, do not discourage me, when I weigh against them the spirit, intelligence, and zeal of those friends to the Island and the country, who have embarked in the laudable design of benefiting their countrymen.
I have very great pleasure in being able to offer some accounts of the proceedings of the year. They are very satisfactory in as much as they will prove, a progress is making: the spirit once raised, the difficulties will be rapidly overcome. I know no country that affords a fairer opportunity for young men, who have acquired a proper knowledge in husbandry, to make a handsome profit of their time and capital, than the Isle of Man; and I should strongly recommend to such as want farms, to turn their thoughts to that Island. The liberality in granting leases, is a great encouragement to take farms; -without leafes, no material improvement can be made ; and I fhould diffuade any perfon from holding as a tenant at u ill :-dependence does not fait with a mind that has been liberally educated.
The crops of grain have been, this year, generally good, but much lodged. Let me earnestly recommend to the farmer and gentleman, to pay attention to the drilled crops. Mr. Cosnahan has, with a liberality highly creditable to him, permitted the use of his drill. To have the grain upstanding is one material advantage resulting from that husbandry.
The growth of wheat is, annually, increasing: under proper management, there is very little of your soil that will not produce good wheat; and the ready sale for it makes it an object of the first importance to the farmer.
The turnip crops are reported to be good ; but the generality, small. There is every inducement to grow this crop : they are seldom injured by the frost, and are not liable to be attacked by the fly. To be able to make manure, is the great object in a farm; and turnips, above all things, contribute to keeping stock. Again I must repeat, no country is better. few equally, adapted for good husbandry. the basis of which is green crops.
Lime is much used; but, unfortunately, those who have the spirit of employing it, have no confidence;, and proceed cropping with grain till they reduce their land into the most deplorable state, leaving it worse than when they commenced.
The report is favourable to the South-down cross.-Mr. Clucus and Mr. Sinclair are entitled to great credit. from having introduced the South-down and new Leicester sheep into the Island. I do not think it admits of a doubt, that they will make a very ample return of profit.
The increase of natural grasses has produced such an abundance of hay, as to reduce the price : this may promote a very salutary improvement, and induce the owners of meadows to drain and plow on them;-they they will produce admirable crops of wheat, whilst, under their present management, they are unproductive both; in quality and quantity of hay.
Mr. Coulthard's wheat excellent,-nineteen acres of ground brought in last year, from the wildest state of nature : other white crops good. Twelve acres of potatoes and turnips, from wild ground taken in this year, very clean and good. Pastures dirty. Continues to lime, on a large scale : and deserves the highest commendation for the example he shews of spirit and industry.
Mr. Gawne's farm, at Mount Gawne, was found in even better condition this year than the last : it would. not, however, be answering the views of the president, to award his cup a second time for the same farm.
Mr. Ray soiled four acres of vetches and clover, with great advantage : thinks the vetches much harder food for horses than clover, and that they are much fonder of it. Mr. Ray has improved his farm very much.
Mr. Moore's flax is exceedingly good and clean.
Mr. Bennett deserves great commendation for his attention and pains in trying to produce a crop of carrots; he has not succeeded so well as he deserved to do : but, by sowing turnips on such parts of the drills as failed in carrots; he has covered his ground, which is perfectly clean. Several attempts to raise carrots, on rather a considerable scale, have been made this year,-generally unsuccessful; but, as they did remarkably well the year before, it is to be hoped the cultivation of this plant will not be given up.
Mr. Kirwan's cattle were much admired; the cows valued at £20 a head. Some years ago, Mr. Kirwan reared and fed, on grass only, an ox which weighed 122st. 12lb.
Mr. Fisher is again claimant for the premium for irrigation; but it was considered proper to examine the plan with attention, and to observe how far it was executed in a way likely to prove a useful example to others, before the premium was adjudged.
Several of the unsuccessful competitors deserve credit for their exertions; but a due attention to cleaning is much required, particularly in such a season as the last.
It is very satisfactory to see that a spirit of emulation has arisen among the gentlemen and principal farmers. Could a common attention to agriculture be infused into the proprietors and farmers in general, the Island would shortly be made productive in all kinds of farm produce; as the soil is very kindly, the price of grain high, the disposal of it easy, and lime cheap and easily procured.
The failure of carrots, in the present season, need not discourage those spirited individuals who have made trial of them. It has been almost universally the case,-and owing to the badness of the seed. That they will answer in very moderate soils, is most fully proved by the crop at the Schoose, which is excellent : the tops weigh four tons and a half per acre; and sixteen acres will feed all my stock for between three weeks and a month.
The result of the information gives me the highest pleasure and satisfaction, and confirms the hope I had previously entertained. Another year will, I trust, enable me to be an eyewitness of the increasing prosperity of the Island.