Thursday 9 June 2011

Recollections of Hugh M'Call (part 2)



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Recollections of Hugh M'Call.


James M'Knight, 1824, edited the "New Letter," and John Morgan, who in 1830 started the "Newry Examiner," edited the "Whig." The "Chronicle" was conducted by its owner, Drummond Anderson, and appeared without any leader.

Jack Lawless, who wrote a history of Ireland, lived in King Street, Belfast. He owned and edited the "Irishman," a weekly literary paper that ceased to exist soon after the "Whig" appeared in 1824.

James Hope's son Luke, a printer, started in 1824 the "Rushlight," an unstamped weekly paper that had a large circulation.

In those days the unstamped press was not permitted to publish news, but mere literary copy. The British papers paid 3d. each copy of stamp duty and Irish papers 1d each. The stamp permitted them to pass free through the Post Offices.

Luke Hope's paper, consisted of four folio pages, nearly all of which was written by himself.

The "Irishman" (owned and conducted by the redoubtable Jack Lawless) and the "Northern Whig" led the way in high-class journalism. Daniel O'Connell and Richard L. Shiel complimented very highly both papers for the ability with which they fought the battle of social and political progress.

Early Elections.

The policy of the agent of the Hertford estate was to keep all the tenants so dependent that the tenant at election time had the choice of voting for the Office candidate or losing his farm, and perhaps his chances of livelihood. Leases were refused avowedly on this principle, and many men who had extensive business premises possessed no better security than a tenancy from year to year. The tenant who ventured to espouse the cause of progress, or who took part in any social or political agitation which was displeasing to the "Office," was pretty sure to receive a notice to quit.

At the election held in 1847 for the borough of Lisburn, a strong speech was made in favour of tenant-right, and in favour of securing for the tenants the rights their friends then claimed, which were far inferior to those which had been granted by Statutes since 1871, but the slight reforms then desired were regarded as confiscation by the representatives of the landlords. They thought, with Lord Palmerston, that "tenant-right was landlord wrong," and every advocate of tenant-right was marked out for the vengeance that the Hertford "Office" never shrank from administering to opponents.

One of the tyrannical customs that prevailed in that Office was called the "fining system," and against that system he wrote strongly and frequently. It was a most oppressive power for the agent to possess. It enabled him to take from the tenant the capital which was essential to the proper cultivation of his farm. The fines were imposed at the whim of the agent. In 1844 before the Devon Commission, evidence of the practical effect of this injurious system was given, but the system continued to exist till recent times.

Up till 1845 the Marquis of Hertford, who was drawing an income of over £50,000 a year from his estate, had never set foot upon it. Captain Meynell, who was then the member for Lisburn, used his influence with Sir Robert Peel to obtain the vacant Garter for the Marquis of Hertford, but Sir Robert Peel, who was justly impressed with the evils of absenteeism, declined to grant the coveted honour to the Marquis. Some promise was given by the Marquis that he would in future spend part of every autumn upon his estate, and in October, 1845, in pursuance of that promise he paid his first and last visit to the estate from which he had drawn this great income.

Mr. McCall, when invited to meet him, knew he had the reputation of being a great diplomatist. He did not know that his father, the third Marquis, was the original of Thackeray's Marquis of Steyne, and Disraeli's Lord Monmouth. His manner was so gracious, and his sincerity (as he thought) so apparent, that he believed him when he said that "he would rather have the words, 'Good Landlord,' upon his tombstone than the most flattering epitaph in Westminister Abbey."

The Marquis knew who had written the strong appeal an behalf of the oppressed tenants of the Hertford estate, and he readily promised to redress the wrongs of the tenantry, but his sympathy ended with his promises, and during his life his agent was permitted to act as he pleased, and to raise the rents in proportion to the increased value the tenants' toil and capital had given to the land.

In 1847 and 1848 it became necessary to take some steps to rescue the population from absolute starvation. A committee was established in Lisburn, subscriptions were obtained from nearly all the manufacturers. Lord Hertford alone, amongst the great Ulster landlords, shewed no generous sympathy with his starving tenantry, but by the aid of charity and assisted emigration many of the tenants on the Hertford estate were rescued from death. The Marquis of Downshire expended upwards of £15,000 in aiding the poorer classes of his tenants. Lord Hertford gave to his starving tenants about £700.

In November, 1852, there began the first battle of the Lisburn electors to secure the independence of the borough. Lord Hertford had nominated the candidates up to this time, and for this vacancy he sent over the Lord Advocate, Mr. Inglis, who had previously been defeated at Orkney. No opposition was anticipated, but the Independent electors of different creeds thought the time had come when the electors of Lisburn should make an effort to secure their freedom.

After many meetings of his friends, Mr. Roger Johnston Smyth was prevailed upon to become the Independent Candidate.

The tenants at this time were as absolutely in the power of the agent as they had been a century before, and no tenant dared to exercise any right as an elector, or as a candidate, without first obtaining the permission of "the Office," or running the risk of being turned out of his holding.

The battle of independence, was soon to be fought again. Mr. Roger Johnson Smyth, who was returned in December, 1852, died in the year succeeding his election, and Mr Jonathan Joseph Richardson was selected as his successor. In the "Northern Whig" of the 3rd September, 1853, there is a report of a meeting held in support of Mr. J. J. Richardson. The intimidation exercised by "the Office" against the tenants was there denounced in terms no doubt strong, but not stronger than the oppression merited. Qn the 13th October, 1853, Mr. Richardson was returned at the head of the poll.

In 1857 the battle of electoral independence in Lisburn was fought again. Lord Hertford had promised that the influence of "the Office" should not be used in the election, but he had promised the same thing more than once before, and in spite of his promise his agent, in this election, as in other elections, used all his influence to procure the election of the office nominee, Colonel Hogg, afterwards Lord Magheramorne.

In this contest, Mr. Jonathan Richardson, of Lambeg, was returned, and at the dinner given in his honour special reference was made to the subject of electoral independence, and of the services which had been rendered to the trade and improvement of Lisburn by the family of Richardson.

Lisburn Literary Society.

Early in the fifties a movement was started by Mr. M'Call and his old friend, Mr. John Millar, which resulted in the formation of the Lisburn Literary Society. There still exists the record of the meetings of the Council, and of the lectures given. None of the men who took the original and prominent part in the movement are now living. The founders' intention was to aid the cause of education by procuring lectures upon popular and scientific subjects, and by the establishment of a Library and Newsroom. It was necessary in order to secure the support of all classes to exclude all political and religious discussion.

On 4th February, 1858, one of the early lectures was delivered by Mr M'Call to a large audience in the Assembly Rooms, upon the subject of "Our Colonies."

Later he delivered addresses on Burns, Thomas Moore, Byron, and Goldsmith.

The following notice of this society is taken from the columns of the "Lisburn Standard" of June 16th, 1894:--

"For many years before his death, which sad event took place very suddenly on New Year's Day, 1834, Mr. John Rogers, a very benevolent Quaker, had been collecting one of the most extensive libraries in the County Antrim. He resided in the house long known of later years as that of the Bakery and Flour Store of Messrs. Millar and Stevensons', situated in Market Square, where he carried on a considerable business in the tea and general grocery trade. From the commencement of the Lisburn Charitable Society, Mr. Rogers was treasurer. The Committee met every Wednesday forenoon at the store in Wardsborough, and poor householders that required assistance received certain donations in money, meal, and coal, according to their necessities.

It has been stated that Mr. Rogers owned a large library. Among the volumes were all the works of Sir Walter Scott in the original editions, usually three volumes to each novel, the later ones published at half a guinea the volume. Bulwer Lytton Theodore Hook, W. R. Maxwell, Lady Morgan, Miss Landon, and other leading novelists found places in the library, and as Mr. Rogers was most liberal in lending his books to his literary friends, the result was to create in such circles a general taste for high-class works. The lessons so taught had not been given in vain. Seventeen years after the death of Mr. Rogers -- that was on the 17th February, 1851 -- a meeting of those who took interest in adult education, as derived from books and newspapers, was held in Mr. Millar's drawing-room, Market Square, and after considerable discussion relative to the forming of a Literary and Debating Society in Lisburn, the following gentlemen were appointed to act as provisional committee, and by a general canvass of the gentry, merchants, and traders in town, to ascertain how many of them would assist in bringing the proposed institute into practical operation. The gentlemen elected were -- The Rev. Thomas Patterson, Dr. Kelso, Dr. Musgrave, Dr. Campbell, and Dr. Macartney, David Beatty, John Millar, Hugh M'Call, George Major, and Waring H. Seeds.

A respected friend, and one of the most zealous supporters of the Society, has been good enough to lend the Secretary's book, in which are given reports of the proceedings, and as a history of literary Lisburn during the existence of the Society the book abounds in special interest.

The second meeting of the Committee was held on the 24th February in Dr. Kelso's parlour. It was then stated that the institute would be well supported. Messrs. Millar and M'Call were appointed to call on the trustees who had in their hands the £200 for which the former fever hospital had been sold, and to request that the money should be handed over to purchase books for the founding of a Public library. The terms of subscription were arranged at half a guinea annually, and the names of nearly one hundred proposed subscribers were handed in by the gentlemen appointed to collect information on the subject.

At a public meeting of the subscribers, held in the Assembly Room on the evening of the 13th March, 1851 -- Mr. George Stephenson in the chair -- it was resolved that, in addition to the library lectures by the members, professional lecturers should be engaged to give lectures on popular subjects. A ballot for members of the Permanent Council resulted in the election of Rev. Hartley Hodson, Rev. Alexander Henderson, Dr. Kelso, Dr. Musgrave, Dr. M'Harg, Dr. Campbell, and Dr. Macartney; George Stephenson, David Beatty, John Millar, Hugh M'Call, George Major, and Waring H. Seeds, David Beatty was elected treasurer; Dr. Kelso, John Millar, jun., secretaries; and Hugh M'Call and Dr. Macartney, librarians. George Stephenson was appointed president, and the Rev. Alexander Henderson, vice-president. This last resolution was proposed by the Rev. Hartley Hodson, and seconded by John Millar.

At the meeting of the Council, held on the 11th April, 1851, Messrs. Millar and M'Call reported having had a letter from Dean Stannus, who held the £200 for which the Fever Hospital had been sold, and the Dean stated that on second thoughts he did not consider that he should give up the money for the purposes stated. This refusal was a very great disappointment, but so liberally did the subscribers come forward to meet the difficulty, that before the close of the year upwards of four hundred volumes of new and second-hand books, the works of popular authors, had been purchased.

Sir James S. Tennent was member for Lisburn in 1851 and 1858, and in January of the later year Mr. J. J. Richardson, who had been added to the Council, was requested to write to the honourable gentleman with the request that he would aid in the founding of the library. The result of the application was, that in a few weeks afterwards twenty volumes very handsomely bound, and consisting of works of popular authors, were received from London by the librarian.

In the course of the summer and autumn of 1852, Dr. Kelso, Dr. Campbell, and Dr. Macartney delivered interesting lectures, the Assembly Room having been filled to the entrance door by appreciative audiences. Thomas M'Cluskey, the intelligent librarian, who noted the numbers present on each occasion, said that about 380 was the average.

Professor Moffett, of the Queen's College, Galway, who for many years past has beet the very popular president of that seat of education, delivered in the course of the first week in October a series of lectures on "Political Economy," and on each occasion the room was crowded, numbers that could not obtain seats standing in the lobby.

In the year 1863 another election occurred in Lisburn. Mr. Jonathan Richardson retired, and Mr John D. Barbour came forward as the candidate of the Independent party. The battle that was fought, and the victory that was won, are recorded in the columns of the "Whig." But the triumph was short-lived. Mr. John D. Barbour was unseated on petition and the representative of "the Office," Mr.  Edward Wingfield Verner, was elected, and remained member for Lisburn until, on the death of Lord Hertford, Sir Richard Wallace became the owner of the Hertford estate.

In 1863 the disastrous Civil War in America, destroying the cotton crop, produced wide-spread misery in the North of Ireland, and particularly, in those districts where the cotton trade was the staple manufacture. A committee of gentlemen resident in Lisburn was formed to supply the wants of those who were suffering, and that committee appealed, and appealed successfully, to wealthy men in Ireland, in England, and in Scotland, and received large contributions from the charitable in all districts, and particularly, from many successful Lisburn men who had settled in our colonies, in Australia, in New Zealand, and in Canada. One of the most generous was Mr. A. T. Stewart, whose success as a business man, and whose generous sympathy for the starving poor in Ireland is well known.

In 1872 Sir Richard Wallace succeeded to the estate after a long and costly litigation with Sir Hamilton Seymour. The policy of the Office was at once changed. The leases which had been refused to the manufacturers and residents alike were granted upon fair and just terms, and the policy of the Agent of Lord Hertford, which consisted in retaining some hold over the tenants by which he could influence their political or social conduct was at last abandoned. The result is seen in the changed appearance of Lisburn. Since the advent of Sir Richard Wallace building in Lisburn has increased with a rapidity unknown for the previous century.

(To be continued.)

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Further interesting Correspondence.

Sir -- I was glad to observe that Mr. F. J. Bigger made an attempt to interpret the letters I.H.I. that are still on a house in Lisburn. His suggested meaning is certainly interesting and ingenious. If it is understood that the letter "H" is elevated midway above the other two, will the suggested interpretation so commend itself? We are all familiar with old spoons and gravestones so marked, where the letter surmounting the others represents the surname while the others are the initials of husband and wife. I hope the editor of these valuable extracts will examine a contemporary list, if available, of the inhabitants. I have seen two estate maps of a not much later date, but do not remember if the tenements of the town are set out. -- Yours etc.,
                J. W. KERNOHAN.
Park Road, Belfast.

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Dear Sir -- I am glad to find that Mr. Carson's extracts from the records of our town are evoking so much interest. I was particularly interested in Mr. Bigger's reference to the book shop of Mr. James Ward in Market Square, and that this gentleman was connected with the eminent firm of Marcus Ward and Co., Belfast, and on referring to Matier's Belfast Directory for 1835-6 (a copy of which I have) he is described as a bookseller and stationer, and agent for the sale of teas, wines, and spirits, and that he resided at Strawberry-Hill, Lisburn. Mr. Ward evidently executed some beautiful printing and engraving as I have in my possession a book -- "A Collection of Sacred Music consisting of Psalms, Hymns, Sacred Melodies," arranged in three parts and adapted for divine worship in families and congregations, selected by L. Neill, precentor to the Lisburn congregation of the Presbyterian Church, which was published by Mr. Ward in 1837. Doubtless, some of the old inhabitants of our town may have other books published by this gentleman, and, if so, it would be interesting to know of them, and I have no doubt Mr. Carson would be happy to get any information from your readers.
-- Yours faithfully,
               JOSEPH ALLEN.

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 8 June 1917 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week through 1917. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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