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Monday, October 10, 2011

141 "Halls' Ireland" & Portlaw

Halls Ireland’, a massive three-volume publication, published in 1840, was the culmination of almost 15 years work  by Samuel Carter Hall and his wife,  Anna,  more than likely the foremost travel- writers of their time.  Samuel , a non-practising lawyer turned-writer,  was from  New Geneva , Passage East, Waterford; his wife Anna a playwright and novelist was from across the estuary in County Wexford.
There seem to have been a number of editions of this work, including a very inexpensive (£8.95 ) boxed set in two volumes, condensed and edited by Michael Scott, and published by Sphere Books Ltd. in 1984.  This latter set has a very limited number of illustrations.  The original volumes were copiously illustrated with engravings by quite a variety of professional and amateur artists.
Originally it was possible to purchase the entire work in monthly parts, as a paragraph from ‘The Authors’ Advertisement’  states:
‘The publishers, on their part, pledge themselves to spare no expense or exertion that may render the publication deserving of extensive patronage.  It will be issued in monthly parts; each part to contain two engravings of scenery, upon steel, an engraved map of a county or district – carefully revised, according to the latest surveys, and, as far as possible,  collated with the maps issued by the Ordnance, with about fifteen engravings on wood. The letter-press will consist of forty-eight large and closely-printed pages in super-royal 8vo.  A number will appear on the 1st day of the month; and it is designed to complete the work in twenty parts.  The price of each part will be half-a-crown.
With the close of each volume, a title-page, etc., will be given, together with “directions to the binder”, and at the conclusion of the work a carefully compiled index.’

The frontispiece

The first edition in three volumes was published by How & Parsons, and printed by Bradbury and Evans of Whitefriars  – printers to the Queen.    The dedication read:
To His Royal Highness
etc., etc.,
this volume,
descriptive of a country with which His Royal Highness is so closely,
and so affectionately connected,
by gracious permission of His Royal Highness

most respectfully dedicated
by his faithful and devoted servants,

Hall’s Ireland contains the following write-up on Portlaw:
"A lofty tower, which attracts notice from all points of the scenery along the river, directs attention to Curraghmore – the mansion of the Marquis of Waterford.  The house is a comparatively plain structure, built in 1700, on the site of an ancient castle, part of which still exists.  The park is extensive, - the most extensive in Ireland, and larger, perhaps, than any in England – comprising nearly 5000 statute acres of land; it has been planted with the rarest trees, and commands magnificent views of the surrounding country *(1).  “The character of Curraghmore” (we copy from the Rev. Mr. Ryland’s excellent History of the county) “is grandeur; not that arising from the costly and laborious exertions of man, but rather the magnificence of nature.  The beauty of the situation consists in the lofty hills, rich vales, and almost impenetrable woods, which deceive the eye and give the idea of boundless forests.  The variety of the scenery is calculated to please in the highest degree, and to gratify every taste; from the lofty mountain to the quiet and sequestered walk on the bank of the river, every gradation of rural beauty may be enjoyed.” 
"Not far from the grounds, and adjoining the Suir towards Clonmel, is the picturesque well of Tubber Grieve** (a), a holy well in high repute with the peasantry.  It formed a striking and interesting subject for the pencil of Mr. Egan."  

The engraving depicting, Tubber Grieve, mentioned by Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall

"In the immediate vicinity of the grounds of Curraghmore is the small town of Portlaw, which, from a poor and insignificant village, has grown into a place of considerable importance, in consequence of having been selected by the Messrs. Malcolmsons** (b) of Clonmel, to determine the question of whether cotton-factories may or may not flourish in Ireland*,  The experiment has been eminently successful; there is now no doubt that energy and industry, applied to the natural resources of Ireland, may enable the Irish manufacturer to enter the market and compete with the manufacturers of England.  The establishment gives employment during the year to about 1200 men, women, and children; the proprietors are enabled to buy the raw material and to vend the raw article on terms as beneficial as those enjoyed by the manufacturer of Manchester; in all respects the spinners of both countries be taken into account.  The difference of wages, however, although a serious item in the aggregate, is small; the Irishman who can do nothing but dig is indeed miserably paid, but the moment he acquires a trade he demands and will receive very nearly as much as an Englishman of the same grade will be able to earn in England.  The Messrs. Malcolmson have made – deservedly and most honourably made – large fortunes by this concern; and they have set an example which we confidently expect to see extensively followed – and that ere long.  But the result, it should be remembered, is not the work of a day; for a considerable period Messrs. Malcolmson had to contend against difficulties under which ordinary minds would have sunk; suspicion and prejudice were both eager to stay their progress; it was found almost impossible to convince the people that the looms were designed to render them comfortable and independent; and even when hostility had comparatively vanished, there was a general dislike to use the article they had manufactured – even the women employed upon the work obtaining their cloths from the English market rather than establishing their own.  But the obstacles against which these enterprising gentlemen had to contend, and which in the end they have completely overcome, do not now stand in the way of other capitalists; the greater number of them at least have disappeared, while the capabilities for producing wealth have in no degree diminished."
"The town and neighborhood of Portlaw have, of course, shared the prosperity of the Malcolmsons.  The houses are cleanly and comfortable; the people are all decently dressed; and there is an air of improvement in everything that appertains to them.  The good that may be done by the establishment of such manufactories in various parts of Ireland is incalculable; the benefits they would confer are sufficiently obvious; and if it can be shown, as it may be by reference to this at Portlaw, that the profit is certain, if the factories be properly conducted, there will be no lack of enterprising individuals ready to embark capital in similar undertakings. It has,  indeed, been for a long time obvious that Ireland, with its immense water power and its superabundant population, living cheaply, and therefore able to work cheaply, was peculiarly  calculated to manufacture articles in cotton; but until within a comparatively brief period, there was so entire a want of confidence in the steadiness and sobriety of the people, that few were found willing to risk a property that might be destroyed by the evil passions or caprice of a single individual, influencing other individuals.  The unsettled political state of the country, too, militated greatly to increase the evil.  It cannot be denied that the difficulty is growing less and less every day; and when the existing agitation for ‘repeal’ has subsided, it will be almost, if not altogether, removed."
Footnotes, relating to areas followed by a single asterisk and number are as follows:

Text and further image to follow.


  1. It’s so interesting that such a lengthy publication was at one point, published for free on a monthly basis, one cannot imagine something of that sort anymore.

  2. Much belated thanks for your comment!