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Ireland Gazeteer
County Donegal 1837

Manufactures, Condition of the People

The linen manufacture is carried on to a very considerable extent, and is still increasing in the cultivated country about Raphoe and Lifford, and also in the neighbourhood of Ballyshannon.

Bleachgreens are numerous in the neighbourhood of Stranorlar, but spinning by machinery has not yet been introduced. Strabane, in the county of Tyrone, within two miles of Lifford, is the principal linen market for the southern district: the sale here averages 500 pieces weekly.

 Londonderry and Letterkenny are the markets for the district to the north; the weekly sale in the former place is about 400, and in the latter about 120 pieces.

The manufacture of stockings by hand formerly employed many females on the western coast, a pair of Boylagh knit woollen stockings selling for seven shillings, but the common wearing of trousers has now taken away the demand.

Burning kelp continues to be a profitable occupation along the coast.

About the beginning of the present century private distillation was carried on to an immense extent all over this county, particularly in the baronies of Inishowen and Kilmacrenan: repeated baronial fines and the vigilance of the authorities have latterly checked the practice, but it still exists to some extent in the mountain districts.

Considerable numbers of whales have from time to time been taken off this coast; but this, as well as the herring fishery, is now neglected. In 1802 there were but two flour mills in this county.

There is an export of three to four thousand tons of corn annually from Letterkenny, and the remaining export of the county is from Londonderry.

The condition of the peasantry in the south and west is not much better than that of the wretched inhabitants of northern Connaught: land is let exorbitantly high; £3, 5 shillings per acre is paid in the neighbourhood of Donegal town, and £1, and 18 shillings on the declivities of the mountain district.

All the butter and eggs of the poorer farmers go to market to make up the rent, and buttermilk and potatoes constitute their diet.

The traveller is much struck with the improved appearance of the peasantry north of the gap of Barnesmore; ‘a ragged, rather than a whole coat,' says Mr. Inglis, vol. ii., p.109, 'was now a rarity, and the clean and tidy appearance of the women and girls was equally a novel as it was an agreeable sight.

The farm-houses too were of a superior order; most of the houses had inclosures and, clumps of sheltering trees.' The majority of the population in this district is Protestant.