IMMEDIATELY after the conclusion of the public meeting, the newly-appointed Committee assembled to consider some matters that required direct attention, and one of these was that of appointing J. J. Richardson, J.P., as President. It was also arranged that in all meetings five should form a quorum ; and, as many of the families of weavers required immediate assistance, it was ordered that advertisements should be published in the Belfast newspapers for twenty tons of Indian meal, five tons of oatmeal, and ten tons of coal.
In reference to a proposed purchase of blankets suited to the wants of the people, Mr. Richardson, of Springfield, said he could procure a lot of—say fifty pairs—from a Yorkshire manufacturer on terms much cheaper than ordinary rates. The order was then given to Mr. R., with a request to him that the goods should be delivered in course of the ensuing week.
No time was lost in commencing the immediate work of charity, and therefore in the course of the afternoon of that day, Mr. Alfred Millar and Mr. David Carlile visited the houses and workshops of some of the most distressed people, and gave each family an order for rations of food and fuel. A large number of the unemployed were also attended to, and temporary relief given to them at a house appropriated for that purpose. The announcements which appeared in the papers next day relative to the extent of distress that prevailed among the weavers resident in the cotton manufacturing districts in and around Lisburn, aroused intense interest, Nearly four hundred pounds were subscribed at the meeting, and before the end of the week large additions had been made to the sum total handed over to the Treasurer.
After the publication of the advertisements for contracts, several arrangements were entered into for food and fuel, the distress being so great that it became necessary to set about alleviating the wants of the people at once, and for that purpose ten tons of Scotch coal (hard Ayr) were purchased from Mr. Millar at 13s a ton. He also supplied (as required) ten tons of white and yellow Indian meal at £8 7s 6d and £6 15s the ton, as in quality. Mr. James Crossan arranged to deliver five tons of Indian meal at £8, and the Messrs. Brownlee agreed to give the Relief Committee five tons yellow meal at £7 13s 9d the ton. Besides these supplies, there were five tons of prime oatmeal taken from Mr. Millar at £11 15s the ton. Mr. Macartney offered to weigh out Indian meal at one shilling a stone, and on such terms five tons were contracted for.
It has been stated that circulars requesting attendance at the meeting were sent to the gentry, clergy, and other inhabitants of Lisburn and its neighbourhood. On the day succeeding that of the public meeting, the Secretary had the following letter from the Rev. Robert Lindsay, curate of the Cathedral :—
"Lisburn, January 9th, 1863.
"My DEAR SIR,—I am very sorry that I was unavoidably prevented from attending the meeting held yesterday in the Court-house, relative to the distress among the cotton weavers. It would have given me great pleasure to take part in the good work, but I had special duties to look after which could not be set aside. From personal experience going in and out in my daily visitings of the homes of the poor, I know that great destitution exists at present, as well in town as in the adjoining districts. With all their sufferings I can heartily sympathise, and feeling assured of success in this great work which has been so auspiciously commenced. I beg to enclose one pound to help it onward,—Fours very truly,
" Hugh M'Call, Esq."
Before the close of the week ending January 10, the Committee appointed to carry out the system of distribution was busy at work, a wide district of country, which included a circuit of several miles around Lisburn, was divided into districts, and sub-committees were elected in each locality to act under the guidance of the Central Committee. It was arranged that the members should meet every Tuesday for the dispatch of the business of all the districts, and on each Saturday afternoon a Special Committee sat for the purpose of managing the distribution in Lisburn and its immediate vicinity. Besides these committees, there was a Ladies' Convention that met twice a week, and the members of which attended to the purchase of clothing, getting inside wearables made up, and attending to their distribution among the female portion of the cotton workers. The following are the names of this committee :-The Hon. Mrs. Stannus, Mrs. Nicholson, Mrs. Whitla, Mrs. Pim, Miss Whitla, Miss Malcolmson, Miss Stewart, Miss M. Stewart, and Miss Campbell.
According to a resolution passed in Committee, letters soliciting aid
were written to those manufacturers in Scotland who had agents employed in
giving out work to weavers in this country. Application was also made for
assistance to the muslin manufacturers of Belfast, as well as to leading
merchants of that town; but first in the list of appeals was that sent to
the Lord of the soil. The following is a copy of the letter: —
Lisburn, January 13th, 1863.
" MY LORD,—The Committee appointed to manage the fund for the relief of the distressed cotton weavers and others in this town and its neighbourhood, have desired that I should respectfully call your Lordship's attention to the subject. You may be aware that the dearth and scarcity of cotton have brought the trade across the Channel to a state of almost general stagnation. But probably your Lordship does not know that in this neighbourhood several hundreds of people, who are quite dependent for their living on the cotton manufacture, have been thrown idle. The result has been that many hand• loom weavers and their families are now suffering the extreme of poverty. In the Northern Whig. and News-Letter, copies of each of which I take the liberty of sending your Lordship, you will find some general detail of the wide-spread calamity created by this sad visitation. In the hope, then, that you will he good enough to assist us in carrying on the work of benevolence at this time of distress, the Committee confidently appeal to your generosity. The greater portion of the people now on the relief list were born and brought up on the Hertford estate. Hitherto they have upheld by their own industry the noble principles of self-reliance, and only seek for aid when forced to it by stern necessity. I have the honour to be, my Lord, your obedient servant,
"Hugh M 'CALL.
"To the Most Honourable, Secretary of Committee.
The MARQUIS of HERTFORD, K.G.,
A few days after the first meeting was held in Lisburn for the formation of the Relief Committee, Mr. James N. Richardson called on the Secretary to say that he thought his friends Messrs. Richardson, Spence, Co., of Liverpool, if applied to for that purpose, would be able to assist in collecting funds in their town. The following letter was accordingly written and sent off to the firm referred to by that gentleman:—
"COTTON OPERATIVES' RELIEF FUND.
"Lisburn, January 20, 1863.
" MESSRS. RICHARDSON, SPENCE, & CO., LIVERPOOL.
"GENTLEMEN,—A member of our Committee, Mr. J. N. Richardson, of Lissue, handed me this morning a letter addressed to your firm by the Chairman of the Liverpool Committee of the International Relief Association, requesting some details relative to the state of the cotton operatives of this country.
" You are, perhaps, aware that for nearly forty years past, in this section
of Ulster, the hand-loom department of the cotton trade has been extending,
and is now far ahead of most other sources of employment, the Glasgow
manufacturers having nearly all their plain and fancy muslins made and
embroidered in this and the next county.
"The causes which have produced such distress in Lancashire have acted
with still greater severity on our poor operatives, who were only able, in
the best times, to earn bare subsistence, and consequently, when the
collapse Came, they had no reserve funds to fall back upon. As the dulness
of trade has existed for at least eighteen months, the condition of hosts of
our people can hardly be conceived. Many of the families to whom relief was
given to-day are
without a single article of bed clothing. Some were unable, front want of
means, to kindle a fire in their miserable houses for twenty-four hours ;
others had not had food for a similar period. Hundreds of the weavers in
Lisburn and neighbourhood have not even good dry straw to sleep on ; not one
has any covering, save, perhaps, an old quilt. Even the weavers in work cannot earn above 75 a week on the best class of webs, while in ordinary instances the earnings do not exceed a net amount of 3s a week for the support, in many cases, of a whole family. The hand-loom cotton weavers—men and boys—and the sewed muslin workers—women and girls-number about 100,000. Lisburn and its districts, taking a ten-mile circuit, have long been the principal seats of the hand-loom cotton manufacture—in fact, nearly the whole of the goods made by hand for the Glasgow houses and all those produced for Belfast manufacturers, were made in this locality.
" As we do not recognise out-door relief in Ireland, the Poor-law only meets those cases which it finds inside the walls of the workhouse In general, what is called the workhouse test has been found to do well in Ulster, as, except in times like the present, the Poor-law system is quite equal to the requirements ; and, only in 1837, when money was raised for the cotton weavers, and in 1847, when soup-kitchens were erected in Lisburn for the general poor, there has been any necessity for outside aid.
" In the Lisburn division of our union the poor rate during the past year was 1s 2d to the pound. The next rating will be higher, as the number of paupers at present in the workhouse is about one-third more than that of January, 1862, and nearly twice the number of January, 1860. Still, in proportion to the total population of the union, the ratio of pauperism as it exists in the workhouse, is small, being little above 500 in a gross census of 70,000 persons. In this part of the country, however, the number of people who take refuge in the workhouse cannot be considered as correct data of the poverty that exists outside, many people preferring to live in their little habitations and to subsist on half food, and that food of a very inferior description, rather than go into the workhouse ; and, had it it not been for the exertions recently made by the resident gentry, farmers, and others, many weavers and their families would have died of sheer starvation —I am, gentlemen, truly yours,
" H. M`CALL."
Messrs. Richardson were exceedingly prompt in calling the attention of the merchants resident in the city bordered by the Mersey, to the destitution that prevailed in and around Lisburn. As the best mode of giving publicity to the facts, that respected firm sent the following letter to the Daily Post, and on the 24th, both this letter and the one from Lisburn appeared in the Liverpool paper :—
"DISTRESS IN ULSTER.
"TO THE EDITOR OF THE DAILY POST.
" SIR,—On the 15th inst. you were good enough to publish and comment on a note from us relative to the distress among the cotton operatives in the North of Ireland We are since in receipt of a letter from the Secretary of the Lisburn Relief Committee, and will be pleased if you can give space for it in the Daily Post, as it will, no doubt, induce the charitable to add to the subscriptions we haye already received. —we remain, yours respectfully,
"RICHARDSON, SPENCE, & CO,
" Liverpool, January 23, 1863,"
The letters given in the Daily Post had the effect of causing further inquiry into the state of the cotton workers in the North of Ireland. For several months previous to the first intimation of the distress existing about Lisburn, the gentry and merchants of Liverpool had been making the utmost efforts to aid the people of Lancashire, nearly half a million of whom were then reduced to absolute pauperism in consequence of the loss of employment. Still, there was the catholicity of benevolence ready to do something for those of the Northern Irish who had fallen into destitution from precisely the same causes that brought extreme poverty to the doors of the cotton workers of Lancashire. How well the good Samaritans of Liverpool responded to the appeal made to them by the Lisburn Relief Committee will be seen in the future pages of this narrative.
The great pressure on the funds, and the then uncertain hope of any
immediate revival of trade, caused much thought about the most effective
plan of using the means in hand, so as to give more than mere temporary
relief -to the people. Some members of committee suggested that it would be
well for the sturdy and youthful operatives to emigrate. The following
letter was according written to an agent in London :—
" COTTON OPERATIVES' RELIEF COMMITTEE.
Lisburn, January 20, 1863.
"SIR, —I have read, in yesterday's Times, a letter of yours, headed Free Emigration to Queensland.' As there are many young people in this part of Ulster who would gladly emigrate to that colony if they had the means, may I request you would be good enough to let me have some definite information respecting the class of persons that would be taken on the free passage system,
" I am, &c., " H. M`Call., Secretary.
" Henry Jordan, Esq.,
17, Gracechurch Street,
It will be seen by the annexed reply to this letter that the fund from which the cost of sending emigrants to Queensland was to be defrayed had been raised for the special purpose of sending out Lancashire men :
" GRACECHURCH STREET,
"London, January, 23, 1863.
"SIR,-In reply to your inquiry relative to free emigration to Queens. land, I have to inform you that such passages are only granted to operatives selected from the cotton districts of England, and from a fund collected for that purpose.
"I am, &c.,
"H. M`Call, Esq., Lisburn."
The weather was very severe during the greater part of the month, and
reports were sent in from the country telling of great distress there in
relation to clothing. At one of the meetings of committee, Sir James M.
Higginson, of Brookhill, stated that he had visited some cottages in his
neighbourhood, and, by the appearance of the poor people there, he thought
clothing was even more required than food itself. Mr. Richardson, of Lissue,
also reported cases of destitution hardly credible, and of which only his
own personal inspection would have led him to form any correct idea. In
consequence of these and equally sad statements from other quarters, two
hundred pairs of blankets were ordered from a Yorkshire house, and five
thousand yards of linen were purchased and made up into inner clothing by
the Ladies' Committee. All this supply of blankets, sheets, and other
requisites was immediately distributed to the people who most required such
gifts—the town getting one proportion, and the different country
districts according to their wants.
The Central Committee, having, from the commencement of their duties, arranged that their weekly meetings should be held in the old News-room, Lisburn, every Tuesday morning, a large attendance of members met together at ten o'clock, Many of those gentlemen resided some miles away in the country; but so great was the interest evinced in the work, that when the stated hour arrived the president was always found in his seat, and very few of the other members were absent. Indeed it seemed as if, for the time being, personal consideration had given way to a higher order of feeling, and that the wide action of benevolence had imparted to those connected with the management of the business, a more than ordinary spirit of genuine catholicity.
Besides the attention paid to the distribution by the Committee, two officers—Messrs. Close and Wilson—were appointed at moderate salaries. The principal duties of these officers were to visit the houses of the persons receiving aid, to examine into each case for the purpose of seeing that it was such as had been represented, and to report on the general state of the people.
During the earlier proceedings of the Relief Committee many curious and highly-interesting traits of character were discovered. In some instances there was exhibited, even amid the temptations of poverty, a spirit of independence worthy the highest respect. One poor fellow, whose earnings at the loom only amounted to five shillings a week, out of which he had one shilling to pay for house rent, supported himself and two young children on the remainder ; and as his wife was ill in the fever hospital, he had to look after the infants and cook his own meals, besides working at his web. Except some underclothing and a couple of blankets, this man did not receive, nor would he take, any aid from the Committee. Another weaver who had a web, for the weaving of which he was paid at the rate of is rod the twelve-yard piece, worked fifteen hours a day, and when he retired to rest at night his wife wove till next morning, thus keeping the loom constantly going, and this alternate continuation of labour they maintained for three months, that they might not be obliged to seek charitable aid. A very poor man, nearly seventy years of age, was said to be in want of bedclothing, and a member of the Committee called on him, and sent him a blanket and two sheets. Next clay the old fellow waited on the donor, and, after expressing his thanks for the kindness that had been shown to him, handed back the gift, saying he would try to struggle through the difficulty without any outside aid. In another instance a weaver was called upon by one of the Committee and offered assistance. He declined accepting anything. " I feel greatly obliged to you, Sir," said he, " but, bad as the trade is, I am still able to earn four and sixpence a week at the loom, and having only myself and my wife to support, I can get on pretty well. Whatever I might obtain from you would only take away so much from people worse off than I am."
At one of the meetings held about the end of January, Mr. Richardson, of Springfield, stated that he had felt greatly annoyed by some attempts at imposition on the part of persons seeking relief. But he had no little pleasure in alluding to cases of a different class, and in which the honesty of industry was fully shown. In his locality there lived a family of three persons; the daily earnings of each of them was just fourpence. These people were offered rations of meal and coal, but refused to take either, so long as they could earn a shilling a day between them. Equally honourable was the conduct of a very poor weaver to whom he (Mr. R.) offered relief. The man said he did not require aid, as another member of Committee had already attended to his wants.
Many such instances of self-respect and sturdy independence might be given. But, on the other hand, there were some cases in which cunning was as largely practised. On the whole, however, and taking into account the wide area over which the distribution extended, instances of imposture were few when compared with the aggregate number of recipients.
As numbers of the higher class of merchants in the United States, and also in Canada, were natives of Lisburn or its neighbourhood, letters were written those gentlemen and papers sent to them relating to the local distress. To Mr. A. T. Stewart the following letter was posted:—
"COTTON OPERATIVES' COMMITTEE,
`January 21, 1863.
" DEAR SIR,-I take the liberty of sending you copies
of last week's Whig and News-Letter, in which are given reports of the
proceedings of our Relief Committee, as well as details of the great
destitution that prevails around us. I am well aware that, long as has been
your residence in New York, you have not forgotten your old associations
with Lisburn, and your native place, Lissue. Much of the distress that has
fallen on the cotton weaving population here is to be seen within a certain
circle of Pear Tree Hall—a place clear to your early recollections. Some
hundreds of weavers, embroiderers, and tambourers in that part of the
country have been out of work for the last three months. At best these
people could have had little provision made for a time like the present, the
scanty wages earned by them, even in good times, not being more than the
amount required to meet the mere necessaries of every-day life. May I,
therefore, hope that the generosity that marked your sympathies towards the
suffering people of the West of Ireland in 1849 will prompt you to think of
the fireless hearths and foodless homes of hosts of the industrious families
of this town and the Maze in this time of sorrow and sadness.—I am, dear
Sir, yours truly,
" HUGH M`CALL.
" A T. Stewart, Esq.,
In addition to the above, the Secretary sent communications of a similar character to Mr. Walter Magee, of New York; to Mr. Thomas Richardson and Mr. Thomas O'Neill, of Philadelphia ; as well as to each member of the Workman family in Montreal and Ottawa ; and the Messrs. Boomer, of Toronto.
The applications for relief had increased very much before the end of the first month. Indeed these appeals, so urgently made, caused each member of committee to use every exertion for collecting funds, and in that charitable work the several firms of the Richardson family and the house of Messrs. Barbour & Sons rendered most efficient service.
It may here be observed that the Secretary thought it well to make out reports of all meetings of committee, detailing the progress of the work. Those reports were regularly given in the Belfast News-Letter and Northern Whig, and their publication had the best effect in keeping before the public full accounts of the prevailing distress among the weavers, and, at the same time, largely increasing the subscription list. Besides such local influences, it was suggested that some history of the affairs should be sent to the Times, and, accordingly, the following communication was written and forwarded to the leading journal:
DISTRESS IN LISBURN.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
SIR,—May I request you would be good enough to let me have a portion of
your space for the purpose of giving some detail of the lamentable condition
to which the hand-loom weavers in this quarter have been reduced. It was not
generally known on your side of the Channel, until a very recent date, that
the cotton manufacture formed the chief source of employment for several
thousands of people of both sexes, in Down and Antrim, and that hand-loom
weaving of plain muslin and embroidery of goods were carried on here to an
extent exceeding that of all the other parts of the kingdom put together.
Lisburn, for nearly a century past, has been the great seat of Ireland's
operative cotton trade. About the end of 1794 the late James Wallace erected
in his cotton mill at Lisburn the first steam-engine ever seen in Ulster. A
very large business was done here and in Belfast, the number of hands
employed at the commencement of the present century having been about
20,000. The trade progressed slowly till 1823, when, to the dismay of the
local manufacturers, Mr. Huskisson threw aside the fiscal barricades by
which the Irish trade was protected against British competition, by a duty
averaging 15 per cent. on all imports of cotton goods and yarns. No sooner,
however, had the enterprise been left to itself than it rose rapidly, and
labour being cheaper here than in Scotland, several of the Glasgow
manufacturers sent agents over here to get the goods woven, and established
depots for that purpose in different parts of the country, greatly to the
advantage of the working ranks.
In addition to the hand-loom weavers, who were employed in vast numbers
by Belfast and Glasgow firms, many thousands of women and girls were engaged
in embroidering muslin. These latter-named workers, when well skilled, were
able to earn excellent wages, and the result was to raise the condition of a
large section of the female population to a point of comfort that had never
before been attained in Ireland. The American war, in addition to all other
evils that followed in its train, deprived the great majority of these
people of their sole means of employment. Not only was one principal outlet
for the sale of muslins and calicoes partly sealed up, but supplies of raw
material fell off, and, as a consequence, prices rose so high that
manufacturers could not make goods to sell at a profit. On the poor weavers
and embroiderers in the North of Ireland the result fell with great
severity. Employment decreased until the ratio of the idle to those in work
became in some parts of the country as five to one. Some idea of the state
of the weaving ranks in Lisburn and its neighbourhood may be formed from the
fact that eight manufacturing houses which, at the close of 1860, gave
regular work to 10,000 hands, have not at present 1,000 looms in work. Ten
Belfast firms that had 1,500 persons employed in Lisburn, the Maze,
Broomhedge, and other localities, have only 300 weavers engaged at present,
and many of the manufacturers have ceased to make goods altogether. This
decrease of employment has been going on for nearly two years, and is now at
the lowest point ever reached. In fact, whole families for weeks past have
been eking out existence on a class of food which would hardly be given to
the lower animals. I shall give a few cases:— One poor woman in the
neighbourhood of the Maze, and who received relief off the Committee
yesterday, has a sickly husband out of work and six small children. She
declared that had it not been that a neighbour gave her some turnips which
she had boiled and used as food, she and her children might have been
lost—these turnips being the entire sustenance they had had from Saturday
till Monday. In another instance a family of ten was found not only without
food, but on being questioned on the matter, it turned out that not a single
shirt or other article of body linen was among the wretched group. Inquiry
having been made on this point in the next cabin that was examined, a poor
fellow said that he and his wife had still some remnants of underclothing,
but that of such necessaries the children were utterly destitute. Again,
there is an almost total want of beds and bedding in the habitations of the
cotton weavers. In not a few cases a parcel of damp straw, without either
sheet or blanket, forms the sole sleeping place of the father, mother, and
two or three mere infants, each resting at night in the ragged garments worn
by day. Even in the less destitute abodes of the operatives, the Committee
found entire families without a single shred of blanket, an old sheet and
quilt constituting the sole amount of bedclothes. One case there was where
eight children, from the ages of four to eighteen, slept with the parents in
the one department. The wages of the people in work are far below the lowest
ever known. Not even in the former history of the labour market in the West
of Ireland could sadder examples be found. It is not unusual to find men who
must work at the loom fourteen hours a day to earn a net income of 4s per
week —some make only 3s, and others again 2s 6d for six days work. In all
their privations there has been kept up a spirit of independence, and a
disposition to battle as long as possible against the inroads of want that
seems almost incredible. It is quite usual to find families existing on a
sort of gruel, made of the cheap description of Indian meal, and this only
twice a day; others, again, have been living on boiled cabbage, with a
little oatmeal shaken over it. In 1847 the farmers, who were not nearly so
hard pushed as they are at present, had means to aid the poor around them;
but this season, what with the defective corn crops and low rates for
produce, very few of the small landholders are able to assist their
distressed neighbours. Farm labourers, too, have been so much competed with
by the weavers out of employment, that they are fast falling into a very low
state of poverty. On Thursday last a public meeting was held in this town to
raise funds in aid of the poor cotton weavers, and on that occasion £280 was
subscribed. Since then further sums have been sent in, making the total this
day £350. Of this aggregate one manufacturing house gave £95, and another
family gave £120-each of them having liberally subscribed to the Lancashire
fund a few weeks ago. An appeal on behalf of the distressed weavers has been
made to the Marquis of Hertford, of whose splendid estate in this country
Lisburn is the capital. No other property in this island has been more
advantaged by the working of the linen and cotton trades than that of the
Hertford estate. It is, therefore, anticipated that his Lordship will
contribute liberally on behalf of the poor people now suffering so much from
the collapse in the cotton manufacture.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Secretary to the Relief Fund.
The wide circulation enjoyed by the leviathan of Printing House Square sent the tale of distress into quarters where the cotton weavers of Ulster had never before been heard of. Many benevolent persons resident in the British metropolis and other parts of the South of England wrote the Secretary for further information on the subject, and especially to learn how far the operations of the cotton manufactures entered into the general system of industry in and around Lisburn. Of course these communications were all replied to, and in nearly every instance the result was that of bringing additional contributions to the Relief Fund. Among the first of these was a gift of ten pounds, together with an interesting letter from Lord Portarlington, and in which his Lordship expressed the great sympathy he felt for the suffering people. It was very fortunate that during that season of suffering the price of food had become much cheaper than usual. Indian meal of good quality was purchased for distribution at £7 15s a ton ; and prime oatmeal at £11 15s per ton; American flour sold at 19s Gd to 24s a barrel, and other articles of every-day use were equally moderate in price.
At the weekly meeting held on the 31st January, reports were read from the Secretary of the Ladies' Committee calling on the Central Committee to aid in giving relief in a form different from that of food. The Rev. Robert Lindsay said that the Ladies' Committee was most anxious to get material for making up clothing for poor women, the wives of cotton weavers. In the whole Course of his experience, he added that he had never known such want of night as well as clay clothing in those parts of the town and country which were chiefly inhabited by weavers. Mr. J. N. Richardson supported the appeal made by Mr. Lindsay, adding that no time should be lost in making some arrangements for the increased distribution of blankets and sheets.
Mr. JOSEPH RICHARDSON begged to call the attention of his brother members of Committee to the great necessity which he saw every day for the supervision of a local inspector. He himself had not time to attend to all the cases of distress in his own part of the country, and he felt pretty certain that most other gentlemen present could say the same. In order, therefore, to avoid being imposed on by pretended claimants for aid, as well as to do full justice to real objects of distress, he would propose that a paid inspector be appointed for each district.
Sir JAMES M. HIGGINSON quite agreed with the previous speaker. The system of relief had become so complicated, there was so much to attend to, and the cry for help was so general, that the business could only be rightly accomplished by the assistance of accredited officers. In the course of a pretty general experience, gained during his residence in different parts of the world, he had always found that where certain work was to be accomplished, the sure mode of having it done well was to pay a fair remuneration to the employee. Let the persons, then, who might be appointed as inspectors, be fairly paid.
Doctor CAMPBELL said that, so far as Lisburn had been concerned, the plan of having inspectors at work had in other days proved most effective. It was, therefore, resolved that the proposition of Mr. Richardson be agreed to.
Letters from correspondents in distant parts of Ireland were read in
course of the meeting, each of these enclosing cash orders for the
assistance of the operatives. Mr. William Malcolmson, of Portlaw, sent ten
pounds ; and Mr. John Malcolmson, of Waterford, also contributed an equal
sum to the treasury. During the early movements of the Relief Committee, the
written a short history of the distress in Lisburn, and sent it to the Rev. Beauchamp Stannus, A.M., rector of Woodbury, Salterton, Exeter, and second son of the venerable the Dean of Ross. Almost immediately after the receipt of that communication, Mr. Stannus sent a five-pound Bank of England note as his own subscription, and with that donation the following letter was received :—
" Woodbury, Salterton,
Exeter, Jan. 2st, 1863.
"DEAR MR. M`CALL,—I had no idea until I received your letter and the papers you were good enough to send me, and which contained reports of the proceedings of your Committee, that the unemployed weavers of my native town and its neighbourhood were in such distress. Please hand the enclosed to Mr. Millar, your Treasurer, and be good enough to say to that gentleman that I will have great pleasure in trying to collect further subscriptions in aid of the sufferers from the benevolent in my parish.
" Believe me, truly yours,
" BEAUCHAMP STANNUS.
" Hugh M `Call, Esq."
From this time the claims of the Relief Fund became still more pressing, as the weather had set in with extra severity, and the cry for food from the sad homes of the poor was almost general. The distribution of blankets was pretty liberal, but in each case a personal examination of the homes of the claimants was made by members of Committee in order to avoid imposition.
Mr. Nussey, blanket manufacturer, of Yorkshire, writing on the 31st of January, announced that he had forwarded per Liverpool and Belfast steamer his contribution of ten pairs of blankets for the poor weavers.
The following extract, taken from a second communication forwarded to the Editor of the Times, will show how much was done for the distressed weavers, as well by the charitable people at home as by the benevolent at a distance :-
"Scarcely had it become known that hosts of the industrious people
here were in want and suffering, when liberal subscriptions were sent in
to our Treasurer, most of them from different parts of England, and some
from the South of Ireland. In one case the rector of a parish in
Devonshire—a clergyman connected with Lisburn by early ties and
associations—had not only given a handsome donation to
the fund for the aid of our people, but he is at present engaged in
collecting subscriptions in his parish and among his friends outside for the
same purpose. In another instance a gentleman residing in Paris, and who had
not forgotten Lisburn as the home of his childhood, having seen in the Times
some reports of the sufferings endured by our people, sent us a donation
of £5, but with a request that his name should not be given. Several of
the leading merchants of Liverpool are also busying themselves in
raising funds. A large sum has already been collected there, and when
the real condition of the poor in our cotton-weaving districts becomes
more extensively known, there can be no doubt that still greater efforts
will be made to assist the distress and desolation that so widely
prevails in hut and hovel. As many errors exist respecting the extent to
which the cotton trade has been carried on in Ulster, it may be well to
make a few further statements on the subject. In my former letter I
alluded to the fact that, from the advent of free trade in the cotton
manufactures of the United Kingdom, the hand-loom department of weaving
had been gradually concentrated in the district which lies within a
certain circle around Lisburn. While the vast factories, with their
thousands of power-looms, rose one after another in Glasgow ; and while
mechanical power in that wonderful emporium of scientific skill
gradually absorbed a great proportion of the cotton manufacture, the
production of muslins by hand became transferred from that city and its
suburbs to this part of Ireland. In the meantime, the spinning of cotton
yarn, once a very extensive source of enterprise in Lisburn and Belfast,
fell off so rapidly that at present it forms only a fractional part of
the trade. The classes of goods woven here were principally those
intended for export. At one period, however, at least one-fifth of all
the finer descriptions of Muslins were made for the embroidery houses,
and sold to them in the grey state. Now, taking as an illustration the
year 1853, a season of great activity in the sewed muslin trade, it will
be far within the limits of the employment given that year to state that
there were one hundred thousand hands engaged in that department of the
manufacture, the estimate of wages paid among the peasant girls of this
country during those twelve months having been set down at
three-quarters of a million sterling. One Glasgow firm was then paying
for embroidery work and in wages to agents and other employs in Ireland
an average of £500 a day, an almost incredible amount of outlay, but,
nevertheless, one which can be well authenticated. From that date, and
until the Autumn of 1858, the fancy trade of muslin embroidering fell
off very considerably ; but with the improvement which then took place
in general business, all sections of the cotton manufacture rose into
greater activity, and at the end of 1860 the weaving of muslins occupied
about twenty thousand hands, and the sewed muslin trade, with all its
details and accessories, immediate and remote, employed fully eighty
thousand people. Since that period the weaving of plain goods and the
embroidering of muslins have been gradually declining. Large numbers of
the operatives of both sexes have either left the country or got into
some other mode of earning subsistence, but there still remains an
immense population which has clung to the loom, the sewing hoop, and the
tambour frame, even while the wages to be earned frequently fall below
the sum paid to the Asiatic labourer. Some idea will be formed of the
downward turn in the prices paid for weaving cotton goods during the
last sixty years, from the fact that in 1802 £7 10s was paid for
weaving, and £1 5s for winding the weft of a "set" of lawn of certain
length, and that an equal length and similar description of web is at
present being worked at £1 10s, weaving and winding included. The same
class of work is, however, among the best that can be had, and fortunate
is the operative who has the skill to weave or the interest to obtain
one of those webs, as good hands can earn 7s 6d a week at them. But the
majority of those in employment do not earn one-half that amount, and
during the last ten days a still larger number of looms have been thrown
idle. In fact, so long as raw material stands at its present rates,
little improvement can he looked for in the trade. On an average, cotton
has risen three hundred per cent., while in some cases the increased
value of the finished article barely touches one hundred per cent. It
is, therefore, quite impossible for the manufacturer to sell his
goods on terms proportionate to the cost of production, and consequently
makers have little inducement to keep workpeople employed.
" Immense good has been done since the founding of the fund for the
relief of poor people in this neighbourhood. Food, in the shape of Indian or
oat meal, has been supplied twice a week to more than 2,000 families, and a
weekly ration of coal is also added. This would be considered a very limited
scale of relief in Lancashire, where the people had been used to ample
supplies of pretty high-class diet ; but in this neighbourhood, the cotton
weavers have been so long living just inside the pale of poverty, that the
rations are generally received with the utmost thankfulness. As in all such
cases, there have been instances of imposition on the part of the recipients
; but, on the other side of human nature, there have been found many
admirable illustrations of honesty and self-reliance. In a district about
three miles from Lisburn, a family of three persons earned only 4d. a day
each. A gentleman who visited these poor people offered to have rations sent
to them, but they honestly refused any relief, stating that they could live
on 6s. a week till better times came round. In another case, an old man,
nearly seventy years of age, was found weaving a web on which he could earn
is. a day. He had a wife to support, and, when called on by a member of
committee, he said he was glad to see relief given to those worse off than
himself, but for the present he did not require aid. In addition to food and
fuel, an arrangement has been made to distribute clothing among the people
in the rural districts. Were I to state the real condition of hundreds of
poor men, with their wives and children, it would appear astonishing how, in
this wintry season, they are able to exist in low-lying, damp, and
badly-ventilated cabins, and this, too, when the clothes they wear could
hardly be called else than mere rags. One member of our committee examined
the homes of fIfty weavers, and of all these, only three possessed a single
blanket for each. Were out-door labour practicable, a few of the idle could
get employment, but such has been the unfavourable state of the weather,
that farm labour is at a stand, thus adding hundreds of people to the list
of the struggling and destitute."
This second of the series of letters to the London Times, sent the news of the distress in Lisburn to still more distant parts of the Kingdom, and gave wider publicity to the facts connected with the state of the weavers in the cotton districts around that town. Many new friends were consequently added to those who had been enrolled as contributors, and before the Society had been more than four weeks in existence the subscription list showed a total contribution of more than one thousand pounds.
Messrs. Richardson, Spence & Co., of Liverpool, did good service to the great work, and by their influence much sympathy in favour of the poor operatives was produced in that maritime capital, and that sympathy displayed itself in the practical form of liberal contributions from the large-hearted merchants there.
Several members of committee having suggested that application should be made to Mr. Daniel James, chairman of the Liverpool Committee of the International Relief Committee, the following communication was forwarded to that gentleman, in the hope of obtaining from the Society of which he was president, some portion of the breadstuffs which a number of the generous citizens of the United States had sent over for the relief of the distress in Lancashire :—
" Cotton Operatives' Relief Committee,
" Lisburn, Feb. 9, 1863.
" DANIEL JAMES, Esq.
" DEAR SIR, -One of our respected friends here has requested me to write you on the subject of our mission as collectors for the suffering cotton operatives in this part of Ulster. We are aware that the International Relief Committee got up some time ago in Liverpool has had to deal with the most wonderful visitation of distress ever known in the history of human suffering. Lancashire, the home of the cotton spindle and cotton loom, has been prostrated by the terrible results of the revolutionary war in America, and to the lasting honour of all ranks of those who had means of alleviating the effects of this calamity, the amplitude of benevolence has far exceeded anticipation. In this country we have not such resources ; and although our own people of different grades have liberally contributed towards the relief fund, the great demands on us call for increased exertion to obtain support outside local boundaries. May I, therefore, request that you would be good enough to read this communication to your Committee, of which you are president, and give us your assistance in supporting our appeal. " Believe me, truly yours, " HUGH M'CALL, Secretary."
In a very few days after posting that letter, the annexed reply came to hand
"Liverpool Committee of International Relief Committee,
" Feb. 52, 1863.
" HUGH M`CALL, Esq.,
" Secretary of Lisburn Relief Fund.
" DEAR SIR,-I have great pleasure in stating that after laying before our Committee your letter relative to getting some aid for your suffering people they have agreed to send you Too barrels of flour. But before we can allocate further supplies, I have been requested to call on you to be good enough to give us further information respecting the extent of the distress, and the number of families who are now getting relief in your neighbourhood.
" I am, dear Sir, yours,
"DANIEL JAMES, Chairman."
On receipt of the communication announcing the handsome gift, the following letter was sent to that gentleman :-
" Cotton Operatives' Relief Committee,
Lisburn, Feb. 19, 1863.
" DANIEL JAMES, Esq., Liverpool.
" DEAR SIR,—I have great pleasure in noting the receipt of 100 barrels of flour, which your Committee have kindly sent us in aid of the poor people here. Your query as to the number of persons receiving assistance from our society, I cannot reply to as I would wish, several of the sub-committees having yet to send in their weekly returns. Irrespective, however, of these. I find that in the last six days, we gave relief to upwards of one thousand families. And now, Sir, permit use to request, that you will say to your Committee how highly we estimate the ready response which they made to our appeal for aid, towards relieving from all but starvation the poor weavers around us. In late days England has ever been the first to aid the poor Irish, and now that an extraordinary calamity had fallen on the people in this part of Ulster, the promptitude shewn in sending the supplies of food is worthy the people of a great nation. Indeed, it may be questioned whether on any former occasion the spirit of English benevolence was ever shewn in greater strength than in this instance. Lisburn is little know n in many parts of England, probably some of those who have contributed so generously to our funds had never before heard of this scat of Ulster's cotton trade.
"Believe me, truly yours,
In addition to the direct gifts of food and money sent the managers of the Relief Fund, there were many instances of generosity shewn in other cases, When it became known that the good people of the Liverpool Committee were about to act so liberally, a question arose as to the conveyance across Channel of such gifts as they might set apart for that purpose.
Application was, therefore, made to Mr. John M'Kee, Belfast, agent of the
Belfast and Liverpool Steamship Company, and in due course that gentleman
replied, to say that the directors of his Board would carry, free of charge,
from Liverpool to Belfast, any moderate quantity of breadstuffs sent from
the former port for the relief of the Lisburn cotton operatives. The
Secretary at once advised Mr. James of this act of liberality on the part of
the Belfast Steamship Company. He had also the pleasure of reporting a
notification from the Directors of the Ulster Railway, that they would carry
free over their line any goods or breadstuffs which benevolent individuals
at a distance might forward the Committee for distribution.
Some changes having been made in the Committee from the date of its first formation, we here give the names of the gentlemen acting as members at the end of February, 1863 ;—
If any additional proof were required to show how much real good and
widely disinterested kindness abounds in what some clergymen call " this
wicked world," the wonderful efforts made in 1862 and '63 to aid the
sufferers prostrated by the Cotton Famine would finally settle the question.
It would seem that in that terrible time the very exercise of benevolence
had increased the disposition of its votaries to be more generous ; for it
was found that in many cases
those persons who had done most for the sufferers of Lancashire were the
largest contributors towards the fund for the aid of the poor weavers and
other operatives in the cotton districts of Ulster.
It has been stated that letters were written by the Secretary to several mercantile gentlemen in New York and Philadelphia, for the purpose of enlisting their sympathies in favour of the poor people then enduring such distress. One of the gentlemen to whom application was made (Mr. Walter Magee, of the firm of Messrs. Campbell, Magee, & Co., New York, himself a native of Lisburn) took the utmost interest in the affair. He called on the principal merchants of that city and gave those gentlemen some details of the sad condition to which the people who worked at the cotton trade in this part of Ulster had been reduced by the Cotton Famine. Mr. Thomas Richardson, of the firm of Messrs. Richardson, of Philadelphia, and Mr. Thomas O'Neill, of the same city, were also Lisburn men, and each of those merchants effectively exerted himself in the benevolent work.
The letter sent Mr. James, of Liverpool, on the 19th, had been promptly acted on, as will be seen by the annexed communication
" Liverpool Committee
of International Relief Committee,
" Feb. 21st, 1863.
" HUGH M'CALL, Esq.,
" Secretary of Lisburn Relief Fund.
"DEAR SIR,—As per advice note on the other side, we have forwarded to your address, by this night's steamer, a second instalment of one hundred barrels of flour ex ` George Griswold,' which is hoped will arrive safely. We purpose sending you about five hundred barrels more, in such lots as may suit the agents of steamers, but so as to make up the number allotted to your district by this Committee.
" I am, dear Sir,
"DANIEL JAMES, Chairman."
To this letter the Secretary replied as follows :-
" Cotton Operatives' Relief Committee,
" Lisburn, Feb. 22, 1863.
"DEAR Sir,--I have just received your very welcome letter, advising me of the shipment of a further lot of flour for the assistance of the distressed Weavers here.
"Once again permit me, on behalf of those poor people, and in the name of our Committee, to thank you for all this amount of broad benevolence on the part of that Relief Fund of which you are Chairman. I hope that the people of Lancashire, as well as those of Down and Antrim, now also suffering from the effects of the cotton famine, will never forget the open hands and kind hearts on both sides the Atlantic, which have contributed so liberally for the relief of the distress and suffering that exist here and in your part of England.
"Believe me, your obedient servant,
"HUGH M'CALL, Secretary.
"Daniel James, Esq."
On the 27th of February, the following letter was received from Mr. Daniel James :—
" Liverpool, February 26, 1863.
"DEAR SIR,-We have forwarded to your address, by this evening's Belfast
Steamer, 167 bags of Indian corn, for the relief of distress in your
district and its neighbourhood. It will gratify us if you be good enough to
allocate a fair proportion of this corn to the Relief Committee at
Newtownards, and a like share to the Committee of Relief appointed for
Ballymacarrett ; the remainder you can apply to the use of your own people.
We thought better to send all to you, and let you divide it, rather than
make three shipments of the lot. It
is a part of the George Griswold's cargo. You will have some parcels of
by next steamer. Hoping this corn will arrive safe to hand, and that it may
be acceptable to all,
" I remain yours,
" Hugh M'Call, Esq."
By the next post, the Secretary wrote in reply thanks to Mr. James, and requesting that gentleman to convey the hearty acknowledgments of the Lisburn Committee to his Committee for their great kindness, adding that he (the Secretary) would attend to his request as to the Newtownards and Ballymacarrett Committee. The following was written the Rev. Mr. Roe, Secretary of the Ballymacarrett Committee
" Lisburn, February 27, 1863.
" DEAR SIR,—I have this day been advised by Daniel James, Esq., Chairman of the International Relief Committee of Liverpool, that he had shipped by one of the Belfast Steamers, 167 bags of Indian corn, to be applied for relief of the distress among the cotton weavers. air. James requests me to apportion this gift fairly between Ballymacarrett, Newtownards, and Lisburn. With the sanction and advice of our Chairman and Committee, I have thus arranged the distribution—Fifty bags of corn to your Relief Committee ; forty bags to Newtownards ; and the remainder to Lisburn, our district having by far the greatest amount of distress to relieve. As the corn is at present lying at the goods sheds of the Belfast Steamship Company, which has kindly carried all such contributions free of charge, I shall feel indebted by you having your share removed at your earliest convenience. I enclose order for its delivery.
" I am, dear Sir,
"Rev. Mr. Roe, Ballymacarrett ."
By the same post a letter was sent to the Newtownards Relief Committee, advising the members that forty bags of corn were lying for them at Donegall Quay, Belfast, and urging the immediate removal of the gift.
Mr. Walter Magee was one of the most energetic of New York merchants, and immediately on receipt of the Secretary's letter he lost no time in making known to the philanthropic men of that city the distress under which one class of people in his native place was then suffering. How successful he had been in his appeal will be seen by the following letter :—
"43, Murray Street, New York,
" Feb. 20, 1863.
" DEAR SIR,—I have collected about sixteen hundred dollars to be distributed between the poor weavers of Lisburn and Lurgan. The money would have been sent you by this mail, but exchange has suddenly advanced about eight per cent., and in consequence it has been thought well to wait a week, as I think the exchange will then be lower than it is to-day. When I send you the cash 1 will give you the names of the gentlemen who have subscribed to the fund.
" Believe me, very truly yours,
"HUGH M'CALL, Esq."
By the succeeding mail from thee Empire City, a letter arrived enclosing bank bills to the amount noted, and with that communication there came the following list of subscribers :—
|William Watson||500||Richard Bell||50|
|J. & J. Stewart & Co.||500||John M'Conville||25|
|Campbell, Magee, & Co||300||Edward Armstrong||25|
|Henry L. Hognet||100||W. G. Townley||25|
|Eugene Kelly||50||William Whitewell||25|