Useful Efforts

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER IX (7) start of chapter

Efforts are also made to encourage the breeding of sheep, for which the climate and soil seem eminently suited. The attention of the Agricultural Society is being devoted to the subject, and with some success. But Bishop Mullock insists that unless relentless war be waged against the dogs of the colony, sheep-farming will be a matter of impossibility. To destroy, at one fell swoop, the noble breed of dogs which have done much to make Newfoundland known to the world—to annihilate the splendid brute so remarkable for courage, sagacity, and fidelity—may appear to be a proposal worthy of a Draco, and might well stimulate the indignant genius of the poets of the universe; but the Bishop makes out a strong case, which he may be allowed to put in his own words:—

We have, says Dr. Mullock, the means of raising on our wild pastures millions of that most useful animal to man—the sheep. On the southern and western shore, indeed everywhere in the island, I have seen the finest sheep walks; and, what is better, the droppings of the sheep in this country induce a most luxuriant crop of white clover, and prevent the spread of bog plants. If sheep were encouraged, we should have fresh meat in abundance, and their fleece would furnish warm clothing in the winter for our people, of a better quality than the stuff they now buy, 'half waddy and devil's dust,' and which impoverishes them to procure it. Domestic manufactures would be encouraged, the people would become industrious and comfortable, and every housewife in our out-harbours would realise, in some sort, that sublime description of a valiant woman by Solomon, Prov. xxxi., 'She hath put out her hands to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle; she has sought wool and flax and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands; she shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow, for all her domestics are clothed with double garments; she hath looked well to the paths of her house and hath not eaten her bread idle; her children rose up and called her blessed; her husband had praised her.' But, unfortunately, this great blessing of sheep pasture is marred by one curse, and idleness and poverty are too often the accompaniments of the poor man's fireside in the long winter—as long as a vicious herd of dogs are allowed to be kept in the country, so long will poverty be the winter portion of the poor. In no other part of the world would such an iniquity be permitted. There is a law offering 5l., for the destruction of a wolf, and I never have heard of 5l. worth of mutton being destroyed by wolves since the days of Cabot; but why do not our legislators, if they have the interest of the people at heart (and, according to their election speeches, every member is actuated by the most philanthropic and patriotic motives), pass and enforce a law against dogs, which devour every sheep they can find, and have almost exterminated the breed altogether? for no one will keep sheep while his neighbour is allowed to keep wolves.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

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