The Parish of Seagoe in 1817
From the statistical account of Ireland, The parish of Seagoe in the Diocese and County of Armagh, taken the 27th day of January 1817.
The Education and Employment of Children
There are several schools in this parish, and all much frequented. They are upon the old plan; the new light of Bell or Lancaster not having shone here yet. There are two Sunday schools held during the summer, one in the parochial schoolhouse at the church, and the other in the Methodist meeting-house the Blue Stone. In the latter from two to three hundred children are instructed in the rudiments of learning, by a number of the religiously disposed inhabitants of the neighbourhood, of both sexes; but the early period of life at which the children are usefully employed in the linen manufacture, must naturally interfere with their attendance at schools. Learning, however, must be considered on the increase, and from the exertions of the Curate, (Mr. Olpherts,) and other respectable persons, is likely continue so.
State of Religious Establishment, Tythes &c
To the exertions of one individual, now no more, (whose name is never mentioned without respect, and to whose memory the tribute of many a tear is still paid) may be distinctly attributed the flourishing state of the religious establishment in this parish: ardent, firm, and zealous in the discharge of his duties; and, above all, practising as he preached, his labours in the vineyard of God were eminently successful. He has been succeeded in the vicarage by his brother; who, most fortunately for the interests of religion, has appointed to the Curacy the Rev. Richard Olpherts, a young gentleman whose exertions render him an honour to his profession; and who alone could have reconciled the parish to the loss sustained by them in the decease of their late vicar. After this it is needless to say that the church is crowded; much so, that a new one has been just commenced, as was before stated, of dimensions more suited to the congregation.
This parish is a rectory and vicarage in the diocese of Dromore, the archdeacon having the rectoral tythes: it is in the gift of the bishop. The tythes (if they can be called) are moderate; the landholders paying but 9d. per acre for all their possession. There is large glebe, consisting of two townlands, (Lower Seagoe and Kilvergan,) which is in the possession of the vicar, whose income may be stated at £500 per annum. One Roman Catholic priest serves this and the adjoining parish of Mointaglis. There is no Presbyterian meetinghouse; those of that communion attending worship in the neighbouring town of Lurgan; but many of them frequent the parish church. There are a few Quakers, whose place of meeting is also in Lurgan. The Methodists have a meeting-house at the Blue Stone, hut they frequent the church, particularly on sacramental occasions. There is no parochial fund, unless we may except the weekly collection for the poor in the church; this varies from 7 to 15 shillings upon ordinary occasions; on festivals it rises to much more, and is distributed quarterly. The only records are the usual registry of deaths, births, and marriages, and the vestry proceedings. The general assessment by vestry for parochial purposes, is 2d. or 3d. per acre.
Modes of Agriculture, Crops, &c
Farming is not practised here to any extent, or with much attention to system. The smallness of the farm forbids the one, and the linen manufacture withdraws the mind from the other; this, however, is to be understood generally: there are some specimens of farming, particularly on the Carrick estate, which must rank very high for neatness, judgment, and produce. Formerly, a little oats, potatoes, and flax, for home consumption, were all that occupied the attention of the generality of the landholders; but the gradual rise on lands, and the establishment of a grain market in Portadown, have contributed to the cultivation of much wheat and barley, which sometimes appear in plots so small as half an acre, or even less. Flax crops are less frequent than formerly, the manufacturers being supplied with much yarn from Tyrone and Derry. Onions are cultivated to a considerable extent, and are a very profitable crop. One man in particular has been known to pay the rent often of ten or twelve acres, by the produce of a rood of onions. They require much attention as to weeding and thinning, &c.
The greater proportion of the land is arable; but there is an extensive tract of low ground along the river side, used exclusively for meadow and pasture. This plain is inundated by the rising of the river about Christmas; and about March the waters begin to subside, leaving behind them a light deposit of mud, which, enriching the soil, causes a yearly spring of nutritious (though in some cases coarse) herbage. In some places this is kept for meadow; in others cattle are taken in to graze during the summer and autumn months, the usual sum demanded being from one two guineas, according to the age of the beast. The fields are small, few exceeding eight or ten acres, and the generality much under that number : they are divided by ditches, planted for the most part with white thorn. Some years ago there was a great deal of hedgerow timber, but it has since disappeared and, except on the Carrick Estate, little care has been taken to renew it. On that estate, Colonel Blacker has of late years has pursued and encouraged a system of pruning and dressing up hedgerow timber, which promises much for the future ornament and advantage of the country.
The stock of cattle is limited to the cows kept by individuals for milk &c and a few sheep for home or private consumption, kept on Carrick Demesne or The Glebe. Pigs constitute the stock of the common people, the poorest having at least one of these animals. Before the termination of the war (The War of 1812 was fought between the British Empire and the United States and ended in 1815.) they brought an immense price and assisted materially in paying the rents, the port of Belfast, 20 miles distant, affording a market for them. Since the peace they have fallen to one third of their former value, which is severely felt by all classes.
The chief proprietors are Lord Dungannon, Messrs. Brownlow, Blacker, Cope, Sparrow, Robinson and a few others who have small portions scattered throughout the parish. The price of land varies from 20s to 50s the English acre: a guinea and a half may be considered a fair general value. Labourer's wages are low being from 10d. to 1s. 1d., but are much higher at harvest time. There are no fairs or markets in this parish. The implements of labour are of common description. A few improved Scotch Ploughs have come into use: but the old 'clumsy native' still holds its place in general. Carts are beginning to supersede the 'old car'. There is a good cart maker from Scotland lately settled here, who has constant employment.
Trade, Manufactures, Commerce, Navigation &c
Little is to be detailed under this head respecting the Parish of Seagoe. The trade is confined to the produce of the land, the corn of different kinds, which is carried into Portadown for sale, and a trifling quantity of butter, which finds a market in the same place. The only manufacture is that of Linen, which is needles to dwell upon. Mr. Overend of Edenderry, exports a good deal of grain and imports coal, salt &c from the sea port of Newry, by the canal that communicates between that town and the river Bann. Mr. Woolsey Atkinson, though resident in the town of Portadown, has Stotes &c at the Seagoe side of the river and contributes largely to the improvement of the country, by building, planting &c. in which he evinces much taste and judgement.
Natural Curiosities, Remarkable Occurrences &c
The naturalist will find little food for speculation in this parish, nor can the historian swell his pages much from our annuls. A few years ago three swords and a spear of cast brass were found in a little morass adjoining Carrick Demesne, where tradition says a battle had been fought about the year 380, between two chieftains and their septs , whose names are lost to time, but it is said that one of them was called Ailagh or Ail, probably a connection of the O'Nail or O'Nial, possessors and kings of these districts in days of yore. They are now in the possession of Colonel Blacker and are curious and elegant remains of antiquity. Something may here be said of pearls found in the river Bann. The writer has opened many thousand of the shell fish in which they may be found, without success, but some have been found within the last 20 years. The shell fish here is called 'Sliggan' by local inhabitants: it is a species between an Oyster and a Muscle; the shell dark brown and thin. The taste is that of a muscle, but is very insipid and not used as an article of food.
Of eminent men this parish has none to boast, unless the character heretofore mentioned may be excepted. The late Vicar of this parish, whose piety, charity and private worth rendered him truly eminent to all around him.
Suggestions for Improvement and means for Meliorating the Condition of the People
As to hints for the general improvement of the people, it might suffice to state, that of the many plans laid down, there is hardly one for the exercise of which objects may not be found here; while at the same time there is no degree of comfort or improvement attained anywhere else in the United Kingdom, to which this parish cannot furnish a parallel.
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