Ireland In The New Century
by Horace Plunkett
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Before I can convey any clear impression of the part which the Department is, I believe, destined to play on the stage of Irish public life, it will be necessary for me to give a somewhat detailed description of its functions and constitution. The subject is perhaps dull and technical; but readers cannot understand the Ireland of to-day unless they have in their minds not only an accurate conception of the new moral forces in Irish life and of the movements to which these forces have given rise, but also a knowledge of the administrative machinery and methods by which the people and the Government are now, for the first time since the Union, working together towards the building up of the Ireland of to-morrow.

The Department consists of the President (who is the Chief Secretary for the time being) and the Vice-President. The staff is composed of a Secretary, two Assistant Secretaries (one in respect of Agriculture and one in respect of Technical Instruction), as well as certain heads of Branches and a number of inspectors, instructors, officers and servants. The Recess Committee, it will be remembered, had laid stress upon the importance of having at the head of the Department a new Minister who should be directly responsible to Parliament; and, accordingly, it was arranged that the Vice-President should be its direct Ministerial head. The Act provided that the Department should be assisted in its work by a Council of Agriculture and two Boards, and also by a Consultative Committee to advise upon educational questions. But before discussing the constitution of these bodies, it is necessary to explain the nature of the task assigned to the new Department which began work in April, 1900. It was created to fulfil two main purposes. In the first place, it was to consolidate in one authority certain inter-related functions of government in connection with the business concerns of the people which, until the creation of the Department, were scattered over some half-dozen Boards, and to place these functions under the direct control and responsibility of the new Minister. The second purpose was to provide means by which the Government and the people might work together in developing the resources of the country so far as State intervention could be legitimately applied to this end.

To accomplish the first object, two distinct Government departments, the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council and the Office of the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, were merged in the new Department. The importance to the economic life of the country of having the laws for safeguarding our flocks and herds from disease, our crops from insect pests, our farmers from fraud in the supply of fertilisers and feeding stuffs and in the adulteration of foods (which compete with their products), administered by a Department generally concerned for the farming industry need not be laboured. Similarly, it was well that the laws for the protection of both sea and inland fisheries should be administered by the authority whose function it was to develop these industries. There was also transferred from South Kensington the administration of the Science and Arts grants and the grant in aid of technical instruction, together with the control of several national institutions, the most important being the Royal College of Science and the Metropolitan School of Art; for they, in a sense, would stand at the head of much of the new work which would be required for the contemplated agricultural and industrial developments. The Albert Institute at Glasnevin and the Munster Institute in Cork, both institutions for teaching practical agriculture, were, as a matter of course, handed over from the Board of National Education.

The desirability of bringing order and simplicity into these branches of administration, where co-related action was not provided for before, was obvious. A few years ago, to take a somewhat extreme case, when a virulent attack of potato disease broke out which demanded prompt and active Governmental intervention, the task of instructing farmers how to spray their potatoes was shared by no fewer than six official or semi-official bodies. The consolidation of administration effected by the Act, in addition to being a real step towards efficiency and economy, relieved the Chief Secretary of an immense amount of detailed work to which he could not possibly give adequate personal attention, and made it possible for him to devote a greater share of his time to the larger problems of general Irish legislation and finance.

The newly created powers of the Department, which were added to and co-ordinated with the various pre-existing functions of the several departments whose consolidation I have mentioned above, fairly fulfilled the recommendation of the Recess Committee that the Department should have 'a wide reference and a free hand.' These powers include the aiding, improving, and developing of agriculture in all its branches; horticulture, forestry, home and cottage industries; sea and inland fisheries; the aiding and facilitating of the transit of produce; and the organisation of a system of education in science and art, and in technology as applied to these various subjects. The provision of technical instruction suitable to the needs of the few manufacturing centres in Ireland was included, but need not be dealt with in any detail in these pages, since, as I have said before, the questions connected therewith are more or less common to all such centres and have no specially Irish significance.

For all the administrative functions transferred to the new Department moneys are, as before, annually voted by Parliament. Towards the fulfilment of the second purpose mentioned above—the development of the resources of the country upon the principles of the Recess Committee—an annual income of L166,000, which was derived in about equal parts from Irish and imperial sources, and is called the Department's Endowment, together with a capital sum of about L200,000, were provided.

It will be seen that a very wide sphere of usefulness was thus opened out for the new Department in two distinct ways. The consolidation, under one authority, of many scattered but co-related functions was clearly a move in the right direction. Upon this part of its recommendations the Recess Committee had no difficulty in coming to a quick decision. But the real importance of their Report lay in the direction of the new work which was to be assigned to the Department. Under the new order of things, if the Department, acting with as well as for the people, succeeds in doing well what legitimately may and ought to be done by the Government towards the development of the resources of the country, and, at the same time, as far as possible confines its interference to helping the Irish people to help themselves, a wholly new spirit will be imported into the industrial life of the nation.

The very nature of the work which the Department was called into existence to accomplish made it absolutely essential that it should keep in touch with the classes whom its work would most immediately affect, and without whose active co-operation no lasting good could be achieved. The machinery for this purpose was provided by the establishment of a Council of Agriculture and two Boards, one of the latter being concerned with agriculture, rural industries, and inland fisheries, the other with technical instruction. These representative bodies, whose constitution is interesting as a new departure in administration, were adapted from similar continental councils which have been found by experience, in those foreign countries which are Ireland's economic rivals, to be the most valuable of all means whereby the administration keeps in touch with the agricultural and industrial classes, and becomes truly responsive to their needs and wishes.

The Council of Agriculture consists of two members appointed by each County Council (Cork being regarded as two counties and returning four members), making in all sixty-eight persons. The Department also appoint one half this number of persons, observing in their nomination the same provincial proportions as obtained in the appointments by the popular bodies. This adds thirty-four members, and makes in all one hundred and two Councillors, in addition to the President and Vice-President of the Department, who are ex-officio members. Thus, if all the members attended a Council meeting, the Vice-President would find himself presiding over a body as truly representative of the interests concerned as could be brought together, consisting, by a strange coincidence, of exactly the same number as the Irish representatives in Parliament.

The Council, which is appointed for a term of three years, the first term dating from the 1st April, 1900, has a two-fold function. It is, in the first place, a deliberative assembly which must be convened by the Department at least once a year. The domain over which its deliberations may travel is certainly not restricted, as the Act defines its function as that of "discussing matters of public interest in connection with any of the purposes of this Act." The view Mr. Gerald Balfour took was that nothing but the new spirit he laboured to evoke would make his machine work. Although he gave the Vice-President statutory powers to make rules for the proper ordering of the Council debates, I have been well content to rely upon the usual privileges of a chairman. I have estimated beforehand the time required for the discussion of matters of inquiry: the speakers have condensed their speeches accordingly, the business has been expeditiously transacted, and in the mere exchange of ideas invaluable assistance has been given to the Department.

The second function of the Council is exercised only at its first meeting, and consequently but once in three years. At this first triennial meeting it becomes an Electoral College. It divides itself into four Provincial Committees, each of which elects two members to represent its province on the Agricultural Board and one member to represent it on the Board of Technical Instruction. The Agricultural Board, which controls a sum of over L100,000 a year, consists of twelve members, and as eight out of the twelve are elected by the four Provincial Committees—the remaining four being appointed by the Department, one from each province—it will be seen that the Council of Agriculture exercises an influence upon the administration commensurate with its own representative character. The Board of Technical Instruction, consisting of twenty-one members, together with the President and Vice-President of the Department, has a less simple constitution, owing to the fact that it is concerned with the more complex life of the urban districts of the country. As I have said, the Council of Agriculture elects only four members—one for each province. The Department appoints four others; each of the County Boroughs of Dublin and Belfast appoints three members; the remaining four County Boroughs appoint one member each; a joint Committee of the Councils of the large urban districts surrounding Dublin appoint one member; one member is appointed by the Commissioners of National Education, and one member by the Intermediate Board of Education.

The two Boards have to advise upon all matters submitted to them by the Department in connection, in the one case, with agriculture and other rural industries and inland fisheries, and, in the other case, in connection with Technical Instruction. The advisory powers of the Boards are very real, for the expenditure of all moneys out of the Endowment funds is subject to their concurrence. Hence, while they have not specific administrative powers and apparently have only the right of veto, it is obvious that, if they wished, they might largely force their own views upon the Department by refusing to sanction the expenditure of money upon any of the Department's proposals, until these were so modified as practically to be their own proposals. It is, therefore, clear that the machinery can only work harmoniously and efficiently so long as it is moved by a right spirit. Above all it is necessary that the central administrative body should gain such a measure of popular confidence as to enable it, without loss of influence, to resist proposals for expenditure upon schemes which might ensure great popularity at the moment, but would do permanent harm to the industrial character we are all trying to build up. I need not fear contradiction at the hands of a single member of either Board when I say that up to the present perfect harmony has reigned throughout. The utmost consideration has been shown by the Boards for the difficulties which the Department have to overcome; and I think I may add that due regard has been paid by the administrative authority to the representative character and the legitimate wishes of the bodies which advise and largely control it.

The other statutory body attached to the Department has a significance and potential importance in strange contrast to the humble place it occupies in the statute book. The Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act, 1899, has, like many other Acts, a part entitled 'Miscellaneous,' in which the draughtsman's skill has attended to multifarious practical details, and made provision for all manner of contingencies, many of which the layman might never have thought of or foreseen. Travelling expenses for Council, Boards, and Committees, casual vacancies thereon, a short title for the Act, and a seal for the Department, definitions, which show how little we know of our own language, and a host of kindred matters are included. In this miscellany appears the following little clause:—

For the purpose of co-ordinating educational administration there shall be established a Consultative Committee consisting of the following members:—

(a.) The Vice-President of the Department, who shall be chairman thereof;

(b.) One person to be appointed by the Commissioners of National Education;

(c.) One person to be appointed by the Intermediate Education Board;

(d.) One person to be appointed by the Agricultural Board; and

(e.) One person to be appointed by the Board of Technical Instruction.

Now the real value of this clause, and in this I think it shows a consumate statesmanship, lies not in what it says, but in what it suggests. The Committee, it will be observed, has an immensely important function, but no power beyond such authority as its representative character may afford. Any attempt to deal with a large educational problem by a clause in a measure of this kind would have alarmed the whole force of unco-ordinated pedagogy, and perhaps have wrecked the Bill. The clause as it stands is in harmony with the whole spirit of the new movement and of the legislation provided for its advancement. The Committee may be very useful in suggesting improvements in educational administration which will prevent unnecessary overlapping and lead to co-operation between the systems concerned. Indeed it has already made suggestions of far-reaching importance, which have been acted upon by the educational authorities represented upon it. As I have said in an earlier chapter when discussing Irish education from the practical point of view, I have great faith in the efficacy of the economic factor in educational controversy, and this Committee is certainly in a position to watch and pronounce on any defects in our educational system which the new efforts to deal practically with our industrial and commercial problems may disclose.

There remains to be explained only one feature of the new administrative machinery, and it is a very important one. The Recess Committee had recommended the adaptation to Ireland of a type of central institution which it had found in successful operation on the Continent wherever it had pursued its investigations. So far as schemes applicable to the whole country were concerned, the central Department, assuming that it gained the confidence of the Council and Boards, might easily justify its existence. But the greater part of its work, the Recess Committee saw, would relate to special localities, and could not succeed without the cordial co-operation of the people immediately concerned. This fact brought Mr. Gerald Balfour face to face with a problem which the Recess Committee could not solve in its day, because, when it sat, there still existed the old grand jury system, though its early abolition had been promised. It was extremely fortunate that to the same minister fell the task of framing both the Act of 1898, which revolutionised local government, and the Act of 1899, now under review. The success with which these two Acts were linked together by the provisions of the latter forms an interesting lesson in constructive statesmanship. Time will, I believe, thoroughly discredit the hostile criticism which withheld its due mead of praise from the most fruitful policy which any administration had up to that time ever devised for the better government of Ireland.

The local authorities created by the Act of 1898 provided the machinery for enabling the representatives of the people to decide themselves, to a large extent, upon the nature of the particular measures to be adopted in each locality and to carry out the schemes when formulated. The Act creating the new Department empowered the council of any county or of any urban district, or any two or more public bodies jointly, to appoint committees, composed partly of members of the local bodies and partly of co-opted persons, for the purpose of carrying out such of the Department's schemes as are of local, and not of general importance. True to the underlying principle of the new movement—the principle of self-reliance and local effort—the Act lays it down that 'the Department shall not, in the absence of any special considerations, apply or approve of the application of money ... to schemes in respect of which aid is not given out of money provided by local authorities or from other local sources.' To meet this requirement the local authorities are given the power of raising a limited rate for the purposes of the Act. By these two simple provisions for local administration and local combination, the people of each district were made voluntarily contributory both in effort and in money, towards the new practical developments, and given an interest in, and responsibility for their success. It was of the utmost importance that these new local authorities should be practically interested in the business concerns of the country which the Department was to serve. Mr. Gerald Balfour himself, in introducing the Local Government Bill, had shown that he was under no illusion as to the possible disappointment to which his great democratic experiment might at first give rise. He anticipated that it would "work through failure to success." To put it plainly, the new bodies might devote a great deal of attention to politics and very little to business. I am told by those best qualified to form an opinion (some of my informants having been, to say the least, sceptical as to the wisdom of the experiment), that notwithstanding some extravagances in particular instances, it can already be stated positively that local government in Ireland, taken as a whole, has not suffered in efficiency by the revolution which it has undergone. This is the opinion of officials of the Local Government Board,[44] and refers mainly to the transaction of the fiscal business of the new local authorities. From a different point of observation I shall presently bear witness to a display of administrative capacity on the part of the many statutory committees, appointed by County, Borough, and District Councils to co-operate with the Department, which is most creditable to the thought and feeling of the people.

It would be quite unfair to a large body of farmers in Ireland if, in describing the administrative machinery for carrying out an economic policy based upon self-help and dependent for its success upon the conciliatory spirit abroad in the country, I were to ignore the part played by the large number of co-operative associations, the organisation, work and multiplication of which have been described in a former chapter. The Recess Committee, in their enquiries, found that, in the countries whose competition Ireland feels most keenly, Departments of Agriculture had come to recognise it as an axiom of their policy that without organisation for economic purposes amongst the agricultural classes, State aid to agriculture must be largely ineffectual, and even mischievous. Such Departments devote a considerable part of their efforts to promoting agricultural organisation. Short a time as this Department has been in existence it has had some striking evidence of the justice of these views. As will be seen from the First Annual Report of the Department, it was only where the farmers were organised in properly representative societies that many of the lessons the Department had to teach could effectually reach the farming classes, or that many of the agricultural experiments intended for their guidance could be profitably carried out. Although these experiment schemes were issued to the County Councils and the agricultural public generally, it was only the farmers organised in societies who were really in a position to take part in them. Some of these experiments, indeed, could not be carried out at all except through such societies.

Both for the sake of efficiency in its educational work, and of economy in administration, the Department would be obliged to lay stress on the value of organisation.[45] But there are other reasons for its doing so: industrial, moral, and social. In an able critique upon Bodley's France Madame Darmesteter, writing in the Contemporary Review, July, 1898, points out that even so well informed an observer of French life as the author of that remarkable book failed to appreciate the steadying influence exercised upon the French body politic by the network of voluntary associations, the syndicats agricoles, which are the analogues and, to some extent, the prototypes, in France of our agricultural societies in Ireland. The late Mr. Hanbury, during his too brief career as President of the Board of Agriculture, frequently dwelt upon the importance of organising similar associations in England as a necessary step in the development of the new agricultural policy which he foreshadowed. His successor, Lord Onslow, has fully endorsed his views, and in his speeches is to be found the same appreciation of the exemplary self-reliance of the Irish farmers. I have already referred to the keen interest which both agricultural reformers and English and Welsh County Councils have been taking in the unexpectedly progressive efforts of the Irish farmers to reorganise their industry and place themselves in a position to take advantage of State assistance. I believe that our farmers are going to the root of things, and that due weight should be given to the silent force of organised self-help by those who would estimate the degree in which the aims and sanguine anticipations of the new movement in Ireland are likely to be realised.

And it is not only for its foundation upon self-reliance that the latest development of Irish Government will have a living interest for economists and students of political philosophy. They will see in the facts under review a rapid and altogether healthy evolution of the Irish policy so honourably associated with the name of Mr. Arthur Balfour. His Chief Secretaryship, when all its storm and stress have been forgotten, will be remembered for the opening up of the desolate, poverty-stricken western seaboard by light railways, and for the creation of the Congested Districts Board. The latter institution has gained so wide and, as I think, well merited popularity, that many thought its extension to other parts of Ireland would have been a simpler and safer method of procedure than that actually recommended by the Recess Committee, and adopted by Mr. Gerald Balfour. The Land Act of 1891 applied a treatment to the problem of the congested districts—a problem of economic depression and industrial backwardness, differing rather in degree than in kind from the economic problem of the greater part of rural Ireland—as simple as it was new. A large capital sum of Irish moneys was handed over to an unpaid commission consisting of Irishmen who were acquainted with the local circumstances, and who were in a position to give their services to a public philanthropic purpose. They were given the widest discretion in the expenditure of the interest of this capital sum, and from time to time their income has been augmented from annually voted moneys. They were restricted only to measures calculated permanently to improve the condition of the people, as distinct from measures affording temporary relief.

I agree with those who hold that Mr. Arthur Balfour's plan was the best that could be adopted at the moment. But events have marched rapidly since 1891, and wholly new possibilities in the sphere of Irish economic legislation and administration have been revealed. A new Irish mind has now to be taken into account, and to be made part of any ameliorative Irish policy. Hence it was not only possible, but desirable, to administer State help more democratically in 1899 than in 1891. The policy of the Congested Districts Board was a notable advance upon the inaction of the State in the pre-famine times, and upon the system of doles and somewhat objectless relief works of the latter half of the nineteenth century; but the policy of the new departure now under review was no less notable a departure from the paternalism of the Congested Districts Board. When that body was called into existence it was thought necessary to rely on persons nominated by the Government. When the Department was created eight years later it was found possible, owing to the broadening of the basis of local government and to the moral and social effect of the new movement, to rely largely on the advice and assistance of persons selected by the people themselves.

The two departments are in constant consultation as to the co-ordination of their work, so as to avoid conflict of administrative system and sociological principle in adjoining districts; and much has already been done in this direction. My own experience has not only made me a firm believer in the principle of self-help, but I carry my belief to the extreme length of holding that the poorer a community is the more essential is it to throw it as much as possible on its own resources, in order to develop self-reliance. I recognise, however, the undesirability of too sudden changes of system in these matters. Meanwhile, I may add in this connection that the Wyndham Land Act enormously increases the importance of the Congested Districts Board in regard to its main function—that of dealing directly with congestion, by the purchase and resettlement of estates, the migration of families, and the enlargement of holdings.[46]

I have now said enough about the aims and objects, the constitution and powers, and the relations with other Governmental institutions, of the new Department, to enable the reader to form a fairly accurate estimate of its general character, scope and purpose. From what it is I shall pass in the next chapter to what it does, and there I must describe its everyday work in some detail. But I wish I could also give the reader an adequate picture of the surge of activities raised by the first plunge of the Department into Irish life and thought. After a time the torrent of business made channels for itself and went on in a more orderly fashion; practical ideas and promising openings were sifted out at an early stage of their approach to the Department from those which were neither one nor the other; time was economised, work distributed, and the functions of demand and supply in relation to the Department's work throughout Ireland were brought into proper adjustment with each other. Yet, even at first, to a sympathetic and understanding view, the waste of time and thought involved in dealing with impossible projects and dispelling false hopes was compensated for by the evidence forced upon us that the Irish people had no notion of regarding the Department as an alien institution with which they need concern themselves but little, however much it might concern itself with them. They were never for a moment in doubt as to its real meaning and purpose. They meant to make it their own and to utilise it in the uplifting of their country. No description of the machinery of the institution could explain the real place which it took in the life of the country from the very beginning. But perhaps it may give the reader a more living interest in this part of the story, and a more living picture of the situation, if I try to convey to his mind some of the impressions left on my own, by my experiences during the period immediately following the projection of this new phenomenon into Irish consciousness.

When in Upper Merrion-street, Dublin, opposite to the Land Commission, big brass plates appeared upon the doors of a row of houses announcing that there was domiciled the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, the average man in the street might have been expected to murmur, 'Another Castle Board,' and pass on. It was not long, however, before our visiting list became somewhat embarrassing. We have since got down, as I have said, to a more humdrum, though no less interesting, official life inside the Department. But let the reader imagine himself to have been concealed behind a screen in my office on a day when some event, like the Dublin Horse Show, brought crowds in from the country to the Irish capital. Such an experience would certainly have given him a new understanding of some then neglected men and things. While I was opening the morning's letters and dealing with "Files" marked "urgent," he would see nothing to distinguish my day's work from that of other ministers, who act as a link between the permanent officials of a spending Department and the Government of the day. But presently a stream of callers would set in, and he would begin to realise that the minister is, in this case, a human link of another kind—a link between the people and the Government. A courteous and discreet Private Secretary, having attended to those who have come to the wrong department, and to those who are satisfied with an interview with him or with the officer who would have to attend to their particular business, brings into my not august presence a procession of all sorts and conditions of men. Some know me personally, some bring letters of introduction or want to see me on questions of policy. Others—for these the human link is most needed—must see the ultimate source of responsibility, which, in Ireland, whether it be head of a family or of a Department, is reduced from the abstract to the concrete by the pregnant pronoun 'himself.' I cannot reveal confidences, but I may give a few typical instances of, let us say, callers who might have called.

First comes a visitor, who turns out to be a 'man with an idea,' just home from an unpronounceable address in Scandinavia. He has come to tell me that we have in Ireland a perfect gold mine, if we only knew it—in extent never was there such a gold field—no illusory pockets—good payable stuff in sight for centuries to come—and so on for five precious minutes, which seem like half a day, during which I have realised that he is an inventor, and that it is no good asking him to come to the point. But I keep my eye riveted on his leather bag which is filled to bursting point, and manifest an intelligent interest and burning curiosity. The suggestion works, and out of the bag come black bars and balls, samples of fabrics ranging from sack-cloth to fine linen, buttons, combs, papers for packing and for polite correspondence, bottles of queer black fluid, and a host of other miscellaneous wares. I realise that the particular solution of the Irish Question which is about to be unfolded is the utilisation of our bogs. Well, this is one of the problems with which we have to deal. It is physically possible to make almost anything out of this Irish asset, from moss litter to billiard balls, and though one would not think it, aeons of energy have been stored in these inert looking wastes by the apparently unsympathetic sun, energy which some think may, before long, be converted into electricity to work all the smokeless factories which the rising generation are to see. Indeed, the vista of possibilities is endless, the only serious problem that remains to be solved being 'how to make it pay,' and upon that aspect of the question, unhappily, my visitor had no light to throw.

The next visitor, who brings with him a son and a daughter, is himself the product of an Irish bog in the wildest of the wilds. His Parish Priest had sent him to me. A little awkwardness, which is soon dispelled, and the point is reached. This fine specimen of the 'bone and sinew' has had a hard struggle to bring up his 'long family'; but, with a capable wife, who makes the most of the res angusta domi—of the pig, the poultry, and even of the butter from the little black cows on the mountain—he has risen to the extent of his opportunities. The children are all doing something. Lace and crochet come out of the cabin, the yarn from the wool of the 'mountainy' sheep, carded and spun at home, is feeding the latest type of hosiery knitting machine and the hereditary handloom. The story of this man's life which was written to me by the priest cannot find space here. The immediate object of his visit is to get his eldest daughter trained as a poultry instructress to take part in some of the 'County Schemes' under the Department, and to obtain for his eldest son, who has distinguished himself under the tuition of the Christian Brothers, a travelling scholarship. For this he has been recommended by his teachers. They had marked this bright boy out as an ideal agricultural instructor, and if I could give the reader all the particulars of the case it would be a rare illustration of the latent human resources we mean to develop in the Ireland that is to be. I explain that the young man must pass a qualifying examination, but am glad to be able to admit that the circumstances of his life, which would have to be taken into account in deciding between the qualified, are in his case of a kind likely to secure favourable consideration.

And now enters a sporting friend of mine, a 'practical angler,' who comes with a very familiar tale of woe. The state of the salmon fisheries is deplorable: if the Department does not fulfil its obvious duties there will not be a salmon in Ireland outside a museum in ten years more. He has lived for forty-five years on the banks of a salmon river, and he knows that I don't fish. But this much the conversation reveals: his own knowledge of the subject is confined to the piece of river he happens to own, the gossip he hears at his club, and the ideas of the particular poacher he employs as his gillie. His suggested remedy is the abolition of all netting. But I have to tell him that only the day before I had a deputation from the net fishermen in the estuary of this very river, whose bitter complaint was that this 'poor man's industry' was being destroyed by the mackerel and herring nets round the coast, and—I thought my friend would have a fit—by the way in which the gentlemen on the upper waters neglect their duty of protecting the spawning fish! Some belonging to the lower water interest carried their scepticism as to the efficacy of artificial propagation to the length of believing that hatcheries are partially responsible for the decrease. As so often happens, the opposing interests, disagreeing on all else, find that best of peacemakers, a common enemy, in the Government. The Department is responsible—for two opposite reasons, it is true, but somehow they seem to confirm each other. We must labour to find some other common ground, starting from the recognition that the salmon fisheries are a national asset which must be made to subserve the general public interest. I assure my friend that when all parties make their proper contribution in effort and in cash, the Department will not be backward in doing their part.

At the end of this interview a messenger brings a telegram for 'himself' from a stockowner in a remote district.[47] 'My pigs,' runs one of the most businesslike communications I ever received, 'are all spotted. What shall I do?' I send it to the Veterinary Branch, which, with the Board of Agriculture in England, is engaged in a scheme for staying the ravages of swine fever, a scheme into which the late Mr. Hanbury threw himself with his characteristic energy. The problem is of immense importance, and the difficulty is not mainly quadrupedal. Unless the police 'spot' the spotted pigs, we too often hear nothing about them. I am sure it must be daily brought home to the English Board, as it is to the Irish Department, that an enormous addition might be made to the wealth of the country if our veterinary officers were intelligently and actively aided, in their difficult duties for the protection of our flocks and herds, by those most immediately concerned.

So far it has been an interesting morning bright with the activities out of which the future is to be made. The element of hope has predominated, but now comes a visitor who wishes to see me upon the one part of my duties and responsibilities which is distasteful to me—the exercise of patronage. He has been unloaded upon me by an influential person, upon whom he has more legitimate claims than upon the Department. He has prepared the way for a favourable reception by getting his friends to write to my friends, many of whom have already fulfilled a promise to interview me in his behalf. His mother and two maiden aunts have written letters which have drawn from my poor Private Secretary, who has to read them all, the dry quotation, 'there's such a thing as being so good as to be good for nothing.' The young hopeful quickly puts an end to my speculations as to the exact capacity in which he means to serve the Department by applying for an inspectorship. I ask him what he proposes to inspect, and the sum and substance of his reply is that he is not particular, but would not mind beginning at a moderate salary, say L200 a year. As for his qualifications, they are a sadly minus quantity, his blighted career having included failure for the army, and a clerkship in a bank, which only lasted a week when he proved to be deficient in the second and dangerous in the third of the three R's. His case reminds me of a story of my ranching days, which the exercise of patronage has so often recalled to my mind that I must out with it. Riding into camp one evening, I turned my horse loose and got some supper, which was a vilely cooked meal even for a cow camp. Recognising in the cook a cowboy I had formerly employed, I said to him, 'You were a way up cow hand, but as cook you are no account. Why did you give up riding and take to cooking? What are your qualifications as a cook any way?' 'Qualifications!' he replied, 'why, don't you know I've got varicose veins?' My caller's qualifications are of an equally negative description, though not of a physical kind. He is one of the young Micawbers, to whom the Department from its first inception has been the something which was to turn up. He had, of course, testimonials which in any other country would have commanded success by their terms and the position of the signatories, but which in Ireland only illustrate the charity with which we condone our moral cowardice under the name of good nature. I am glad when this interview closes.

One more type—a Nationalist Member of Parliament! He does not often darken the door of a Government office—they all have the same structural defect, no front stairs—he never has asked and never thought he would ask anything from the Government. But he is interested in some poor fishermen of County Clare who pursue their calling under cruel disadvantages for want of the protection from the Atlantic rollers which a small breakwater would afford. It is true that they were the worst constituents he had—- went against him in 'The Split,'—but if I saw how they lived, and so on. I knew all about the case. A breakwater to be of any use would cost a very large sum, and the local authority, though sympathetic, did not see their way to contribute their proportion, and without a local contribution, I explained, the Department could not, consistently with its principles, unless in most exceptional—Here he breaks in: 'Oh! that red tape. You're as bad as the rest—exceptional, indeed! Why, everything is exceptional in my constituency. I am a bit that way myself. But, seriously, the condition of these poor people would move even a Government official. Besides, you remember the night I made thirteen speeches on the Naval Estimates—the Government wanted a little matter of twenty millions—and you met me in the Lobby and told me you wished to go to bed, and asked me what I really wanted, and—I am always reasonable—I said I would pass the whole Naval Programme if I got the Government to give them a boat-slip at Ballyduck.—"Done!" you said, and we both went home.—I believe you knew that I had got constituency matters mixed up, that Ballyduck was inland, and that it was Ballycrow that I meant to say.—But you won't deny that you are under a moral obligation.'

Well, I would go into the matter again very carefully—for I thought we might help these fishermen in some other way—and write to him. He leaves me; and, while outside the door he travels over the main points with my Private Secretary, the lights and shades in the picture which this strange personality has left on my mind throw me back behind the practical things of to-day. In Parliament facing the Sassanach, in Ireland facing their police, he has for years—the best years of his life—displayed the same love of fighting for fighting's sake. In the riots he has provoked, and they are not a few, he is ever regardless of his own skin, and would be truly miserable if he inflicted any serious bodily harm on a human being—even a landlord. It is impossible not to like this very human anachronism, who, within the limitations imposed by the convenience of a citizenship to which he unwillingly belongs, does battle

For Faith, and Fame, and Honour, and the ruined hearths of Clare.

The reader may take all this as fiction. I am sure no one will annoy me by trying on any of the caps I have displayed on the counter of my shop. What I do fear is that the picture of some of my duties which I have given may have made a wrong impression of the Department's work upon the reader's mind. He may have come to the conclusion that, contrary to all the principles laid down, an attempt was being made to do for the people things which the new movement was to induce the people to do for themselves. The Department may appear to be using its official position and Government funds to constitute itself a sort of Universal Providence, exercising an authority and a discretion over matters upon which in any progressive community the people must decide for themselves. However near to the appearances such an impression might be, nothing could be further from the facts. If I have helped the reader to unravel the tangled skein of our national life, if I have sufficiently revealed the mind of the new movement to show that there is in it 'a scheme of things entire,' it should be quite clear that the deliberate intentions both of Mr. Gerald Balfour and of those Irishmen whom he took into his confidence are being fulfilled in letter and in spirit. It only remains for me to attempt an adequate description of the work of the Department created by that Chief Secretary, and, above all, of the way in which the people themselves are playing the part which his statesmanship assigned to them.


[44] See Report of the Local Government Board, 1901-2.

[45] See Annual General Report of the Department 1900-1901, pp. 25-27.

[46] Cf. ante, pp. 46-49.

[47] No fiction about this, nor about the following letter to the Secretary:—

'The Scratatory, Vitny Dept.

'Honord Sir,

'I want to let ye know the terible state we're in now. Al the pigs about here is dyin in showers. Send down a Vit at oncet.'



In the preceding chapter I attempted to give to the reader a rough impression of the general purpose and miscellaneous functions of the new Department. I described in some detail the constitution and powers of the Council of Agriculture—a sort of Business Parliament—which criticises our doings and elects representatives on our Boards; and of the two Boards which, in addition to their advisory functions, possess the power of the purse. I laid special stress upon the important part these instruments of the popular will were intended to play as a link between the people and the Department. I gave a similar description and explanation of the Committees of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, appointed by local representative bodies, by means of which the people were brought into touch with the local as distinct from the central work, and made responsible for its success. The details were necessarily dull; and so also must be those which will now be required in order to indicate the general nature and scope of the work for the accomplishment of which all this machinery was designed. Yet I am not without hope that even the general reader may find a deep human interest in the practical endeavour of the humbler classes of my fellow-countrymen to reconstruct their national life upon the solid foundation of honest work.

The Department has at the time of writing been in existence for three years, the term of office, it will be remembered, of the Council of Agriculture and of the two Boards. It would be unreasonable to expect in so short a time any great achievement; but the understanding critic will attach importance rather to the spirit in which the work was approached than to the actual amount of work which was accomplished. He may say that no true estimate of its value can be formed until the enthusiasm aroused by its novelty has had time to wear off. Those of us who know the real character of the work are quite satisfied that the interest which it aroused during the period in which the people had yet to grasp its meaning and utility is not likely to become less real as the blossom fades and the fruit begins to swell. The attitude of the Irish people towards the Department and its work has not been that of a child towards a new toy, but of a full-grown man towards a piece of his life's work, upon which he feels that he entered all too late. Indeed, so quickly have the people grasped the significance of the new opportunities for material advancement now placed within their reach, that the Department has had to carry out, and to assist the statutory local committees in carrying out, a number and variety of schemes which, at any rate, proved that public opinion did not regard it as a transitory experiment; but as a much-needed institution which, if properly utilised, might do much to make up for lost time, and which, in any case, had come to stay. The amount of the work which we were thus constrained to undertake was somewhat embarrassing; but so general and so genuine was the desire to make a start that we have done our best to keep pace with the local demands for immediate action. The staff of the Department caught the spirit in which the task had been set by the country, and showed a keen anxiety to get to work; and I am glad to have an opportunity of acknowledging that both the indoor and outdoor support it has received leaves the Department without excuse if it has not already justified its existence.

I shall deal as mercifully as I can with my readers in helping them towards an understanding of what has been actually done in the three years under review. I am aware that if I were to attempt a description of all the schemes which the variety of local needs suggested, and in the execution of which the assistance of the many-sided Department was sought and obtained, I should lose the patient readers, who have not already fainted by the way, in a jungle where they could not see the wood for the trees. These things can be studied by those interested,—and they I hope, in Ireland at any rate, are not few—in the Annual Reports and other official publications of the Department. For the general reader I must try to indicate in broad outline the nature and scope of that side of the new movement which seeks to supplement organised self-help and open the way for individual enterprise by a well considered measure of State assistance. I shall be more than satisfied if I succeed in giving him a clear insight into the manner in which the delicate task of making State interference with the business of the people not only harmless but beneficial has been set about. It is obvious that the fulfilment of this object must depend upon the soundness of the economic policy pursued, and upon the establishment and maintenance of mutual confidence between the central authority and the popular representative bodies through which the people utilise the new facilities afforded by the State.

I think the best way of giving the information which is required for an understanding of our somewhat complicated scheme for agricultural and industrial development under democratic control is first to explain the line of demarcation which we have drawn between the respective functions of the Department and the people's committees throughout the country; and then I must give a rapid description of some of the most important features of the Department's policy and programme. I shall add a sufficiency of detail from the actual work accomplished in these organising and experimental years, to illustrate both the difficulties which are incidental to such a policy, and the manner in which these difficulties may be surmounted.

When it became manifest that both the country and the Department were anxious to drive ahead, the first thing to do was to lay down a modus operandi which would assign to the local and central bodies their proper shares in the work and responsibilities and secure some degree of order and uniformity in administration. This was quickly done, and the plan adopted works smoothly. The Department gives the local committee general information as to the kind of purpose to which it can legally and properly apply the funds jointly contributed from the rates and the central exchequer. The committee, after full consideration of the conditions, needs and industrial environment of the community for which it acts, selects certain definite projects which it considers most applicable to its district, allocates the amount required to each project, and sends the scheme to the Department for its approval. When the scheme is formally approved, it becomes the official scheme in the locality for the current year; and the local committee has to carry it out.

Although harmony now usually exists between the local and central authorities to the advantage and comfort of both, a considerable amount of friction was inevitable until they got to understand each other. The occasional over-riding of local desires by the 'autocratic' Department, which in the first rush of its work had to act in a somewhat peremptory fashion, was, no doubt, irritating. Now, however, it is generally recognised that the central body, having not only the advice of its experts and access to information from similar Departments in other countries to guide it, but also being in a position to profit by the exchange of ideas which is constantly going on between it and all the local committees in Ireland, is in a position of special advantage for deciding as to the bearing of local schemes upon national interests, and sometimes even as to their soundness from a purely local point of view.

Passing now from the conditions under which the Department's work is done, we come to review some typical portions of the work itself so far as it has proceeded. This falls naturally, both as regards that which is done by the central authority for the country at large and that which is locally administered, into two divisions. The first consists of direct aid to agriculture and other rural industries, and to sea and inland fisheries. The second consists of indirect aid given to these objects, and also to town manufactures and commerce, through education—a term which must be interpreted in its widest sense. Needless to say, direct aids, being tangible and immediately beneficial, are the more popular: a bull, a boat, or a hand-loom is more readily appreciated than a lecture, a leaflet, or an idea. Yet in the Department we all realise—and, what is more important, the people are coming to realise—that by far the most important work we have to do is that which belongs to the sphere of education, especially education which has a distinctly practical aim. To this branch of the subject I shall, therefore, first direct the reader's attention.

It must be remembered that, for reasons fully set out in the earlier portions of the book, I am treating the Irish Question as being, in its most important economic and social aspects, the problem of rural life. The Department's scheme of technical instruction, therefore, need not here be detailed in its application to the needs of our few manufacturing towns, but only in its application to agriculture and the subsidiary industries. I do not suggest that the questions relating to the revival of industry in our large manufacturing centres and provincial towns are not of the first importance. The local authorities in these places have eagerly come into the movement, and the Department has already taken part in founding, in our cities and larger towns, comprehensive schemes of technical education, as to the outcome of which we have every reason to be hopeful. Not only that, but it is highly necessary for the Department to consider these schemes in close relation to its work upon the more specially rural problems, for, as I have said elsewhere,[48] the interdependence of town and country, and the establishment of proper relations between their systems of industry and education, is a prime factor in Irish prosperity. But the rural problem, as I have so often reiterated, is the core of the Irish Question; and to deal at all adequately with technical education, so far as we carry it on upon lines common both to Great Britain and Ireland, would lead us too far afield on the present occasion. I must, therefore, content myself with indicating my reasons for leaving it rather on one side, and pass on to a brief description of the Department's educational work in respect of its two-fold aim of developing agriculture and the subsidiary industries.

In the case of agriculture our task is perfectly plain. We know pretty well what we want to do, for we are dealing with an existing industry, and with known conditions. The productivity of the soil, the demand of the market, the means of transport from the one to the other, are all easily ascertainable. What most needs to be provided in Ireland is a much higher technical skill, a more advanced scientific and commercial knowledge, as applied to agricultural production and distribution.[49] This, in our belief, depends, more than upon any other agency, upon the soundness of the education which is provided to develop the capacities of those in charge of these operations. Our chief difficulty is that of co-ordinating our teaching of technical agriculture with the general educational systems of the country—a difficulty which the other educational authorities are all united with us in seeking to remove.

When, on the other hand, education—again, I believe, the chief agency for the purpose—is considered as a means for the creation of new industries, we come face to face with a wholly different problem. We have no longer an industry which we are seeking to foster and develop going on under our eyes, steadying us in our theorising, and in our experimenting upon the mind of the worker, by bringing us into close touch with the actual conditions of his work. Our chief aim must be to develop his adaptability for the ever-changing and, we hope, improving economic industrial conditions amidst which he will have to work. But unless we can satisfy parents that the schemes of development in which their children are being educated to take their place have an assured prospect of practical realisation, they will naturally prefer an inferior teaching which seems to them to offer a better prospect of an immediate wage or salary. The teachers in the secondary schools of the country, who, so far, have shown a desire to assist us in giving an industrial and commercial direction to our educational policy, would also in that event have to meet the wishes of the parents; and thus education would fall back into the old rut with its cramming, its examinations and result fees—all leading to the multiplication of clerks and professional men, and preventing us from turning the thoughts and energies of the people towards productive occupations.

The natural trend of our educational policy will now be clear. Leaving out of account large towns, where our problem is, as I have said, the same as that which confronts the industrial classes in the manufacturing centres of Great Britain, we are chiefly concerned with the application of science to the cultivation of the soil and the improvement of live stock, and of business principles to the commercial side of farming; with the teaching of dairying, horticulture, apiculture, and what has been called farm-yard lore, outside the rural home, and with domestic economy inside. On the industrial as distinct from the agricultural side of the work in rural localities, technical instruction must be directed towards the development of subsidiary rural industries.

We early came to the conclusion that we could not expect to find a system which we could simply transplant from some other country. The system adopted in Great Britain, where each county or group of counties maintains an agricultural college and an experimental farm, and many more elaborate systems on the continent, were all found on examination to be inapplicable to our own rural conditions, unsuitable to the national character, and unrelated to the history of our agriculture. Many of these schemes might have turned out a few highly qualified authorities on the theory of agriculture, and even good practical directors for those who farm on a large scale. But we are dealing with a country with great possibilities from an agricultural point of view, but where, nevertheless, agriculture in many parts is in a very backward condition, and where it is probably safe to say that three-fifths of the farms are crowded on one-fourth of the land. We are dealing with a community with whom the systems of elementary, secondary and higher education have not tended to prepare the student for agricultural pursuits. A system of agricultural and domestic education suited to the wants of those who are to farm the land must recognise and foster the new spirit of self-help and hope which is springing up in the country, and must be made so interesting as to become a serious rival to the race meeting and the public-house. The daily drudgery of farm work must be counteracted by the ambition to possess the best stock, the neatest homestead and fences, the cleanest and the best tilled fields. The unsolved problem of agricultural education is to devise a system which will reach down to the small working farmers who form the great bulk of the wealth producers of Ireland, to give them new hope, a new interest, new knowledge and, I might add, a new industrial character.

We were met at the outset by the difficulty which would apply to any system—that of finding trained teachers. This deficiency was felt in two directions—first, in the secondary school, in which the preliminary scientific studies should be undertaken, which are necessary to enable a lad to profit by more advanced instruction later on; and, secondly, in the special training of technical agriculture. It would not have been desirable to overcome these difficulties by any very extensive importation of teachers from without. I certainly hold the occasional importation of teachers with outside experience to be most desirable, but these should not form more than a leaven of the pedagogic lump; for it is a serious hindrance when to the task of familiarising students with a new system of education there is added that of familiarising a large body of teachers with the intellectual, social and economic conditions of the people among whom they are to work.

The manner in which the teacher difficulty was surmounted may be briefly stated, first, as regards the school, and, secondly, as regards the teaching of agriculture. Those already engaged in the teaching profession could not be relegated again to the status pupillaris. There was only one way in which they could assist us to overcome the difficulty, and that involved a great sacrifice on their part, the sacrifice of their well-earned vacation, but a sacrifice which they willingly made. The teachers most urgently needed were those of practical science, with knowledge of experimental work; and about five hundred teachers from secondary schools, in order to qualify themselves, have attended summer courses specially organised by the Department at several centres in Ireland, while about four hundred have availed themselves of special summer courses in such subjects as drawing, manual instruction, domestic economy, building construction, wood-carving and modelling.

For the provision of a future supply of thoroughly trained teachers of science and of technology, including agriculture, the Royal College of Science has been re-organised. Although this institution was brought under the new conditions little more than three years ago, it will be seen that no time has been lost when I state that the first batch of men who have received a three years' course of training under the new programme are already at work under County Committees. For the training of these teachers, scholarships had to be provided, and new professors and teachers, particularly in agriculture, had to be appointed.

In regard to agricultural instruction we had to begin by carefully considering what, among many alternative plans, should be our immediate as well as our more remote aims. The Department's officers had studied Continental systems, and some of them had taken part in establishing systems of agricultural education in Great Britain. But it was not until the summer of 1901 that we had sufficiently studied the question in Ireland itself, with direct reference to the history, the environment, and the ideals of the people, to justify us in initiating a policy or formulating a definite programme for its execution.[50] The main object was to secure for the youth of the present generation who will later be concerned with agriculture, sound and thorough instruction in its principles and practice. Everyone who has given any thought to the subject knows how difficult it is to teach technical agriculture unless provision has been made in the general education of the country for instruction in those fundamental principles of science which, recognised or unrecognised, lie at the root of, and profoundly influence agricultural practice. This foundation, as I have shown, is now being laid in Ireland. In our scheme the boy who has managed to avail himself of a two or three years' course of practical science in one of the secondary schools is then prepared to take full advantage of courses of technology, and will have to make up his mind as to the career he is to follow. We are now considering the case of a boy who is going to become a farmer, the class to which we chiefly look for the future well-being of Ireland. It is necessary that he should be taught the practical as well as the technical side of agriculture. The practical work he can learn upon his father's farm during spring and summer, and the technical by continuing his studies during the winter months in a school of agriculture. The establishment of such winter schools is in contemplation. But, in the meanwhile, to bring home to farmers the advantages of a first-class agricultural education for their sons, and at the same time to teach these farmers the more practical application of science to agriculture, the Department decided on a preliminary period of Itinerant Instruction.

The teacher difficulty, experienced on all sides of our work, was probably felt more acutely in regard to the specialised teachers of agriculture than in any other connection. Here it was necessary to take the young men brought up upon farms and possessed of the normal qualifications of the Irish practical farmer. We then had to make them into teachers by adding to their inherited and home-manufactured capacities a scientific training. In the training of agricultural teachers the Albert Institute, Glasnevin, has been utilised by the Department. This school has also been re-organised to meet the new programme, and it will probably form in future a link between the winter schools of agriculture and the Royal College of Science in the training of our agricultural teachers.

Partly by these methods, partly by the temporary engagement of lecturers on special subjects, and partly by the appointment of trained teachers from England or Scotland, the system of itinerant instruction has been brought into operation as fully as could be expected in the time. Already half the County Committees have been provided with County instructors, while the remainder have nearly all drafted schemes and allocated funds for a similar purpose, ready to go to work as soon as more teachers have been trained.

The Itinerant Instruction scheme, it may be pointed out, besides one obvious, has another less immediately recognisable purpose. The direct business of the itinerant instructor is, by the aid of experimental plots, simple lectures, and demonstrations, to teach the farmers of his district as much as they can take in without the scientific preparation in which, as adults who have grown up under the old system of education, they are still lacking. But he does more than that. He not only conducts a school for adults, but in the very process of instruction he necessarily makes them aware of the vital necessity of a school for the young; and they begin, as parents, to understand and to desire the kind of instruction in the schools of the country which will prepare their children to take more advantage of the advanced teaching in agriculture than they themselves can ever hope to do.

This preparation is provided for as follows. To the Department, as has already been explained, was handed over the administration of the Science and Art Grants formerly administered by South Kensington. The Department accordingly drew up a programme of experimental science and drawing, carrying capitation grants, for day secondary schools. The Intermediate Education Board, acting on the suggestion of the Consultative Committee for Co-ordinating Education,[51] adopted this programme and at the same time undertook to accept the reports of the Department's inspectors as the basis of their awards in the new "subject." These steps insured the rapid and general introduction of this practical teaching in secondary schools, and, owing particularly to the spirit in which their authorities and teaching staffs accepted the innovation, the work has been carried out with the happiest results.

I now come to the subjects grouped together under the classification of 'domestic economy.' These differ only in detail in their application to town and country. To these subjects the Department attaches great importance. In the industrial life of manufacturing towns I am persuaded that far too little thought has been given to this element of industrial efficiency. From a purely economic point of view a saving in the worker's income due to superior housewifery is equivalent to an increase in his earnings; but, morally, the superior thrift is, of course, immensely more important. "Without economy," says Dr. Johnson, "none can be rich, and with it few can be poor," and the education which only increases the productiveness of labour and neglects the principles of wise spending will place us at a disadvantage in the great industrial struggle. When we come to consider domestic economy as an agency for improving the conditions of the peasant home, not only by thrift, but by increasing the general attractiveness of home life, the introduction of a sound system of domestic economy teaching becomes not only important, but vital.

The establishment of such a system and the task of making it operative and effective in the country is beset with difficulties. The teacher difficulty confronts us again, and also that of making pupils and their parents understand that there are other objects in domestic training than that of qualifying for domestic service. A corps of instructresses in domestic economy is, however, already abroad throughout the country, nearly all the County Councils having already appointed them. Some of these teachers, who have made the best contributions towards the as yet only partially determined question of the ultimate aim and present possibilities of a course of instruction in hygiene, laundry work, cookery, the management of children, sewing, and so forth, have told me that the demand in rural districts seems to be chiefly for the class of instruction which may lead to success in town life. I have heard of a class of girls in a Connaught village who would not be content with knowing the accomplishments of a farmer's wife until they had learned how to make asparagus soup and cook sweetbreads. No doubt they had read of the way things are done in the kitchens of the great. This tendency should never be encouraged, but neither can it always be inflexibly repressed without endangering the main objects of the class.

Women teachers of poultry-keeping, dairying, domestic science and kindred subjects are trained at the Munster Institute, Cork, and the School of Domestic Economy, Kildare Street, Dublin, both of which have been equipped to meet the needs of the new programme. The want of teachers, and not any lack of interest on the part of the country, has alone prevented all the counties from adopting schemes for encouraging improvement in all these branches of work. I may add that more than one hundred and fifty of these qualified teachers are now at work under County Committees.

I have already, in this chapter, indicated that outside large industrial centres, our educational policy is, broadly speaking, twofold. We seek, in the first place, through our programme in Experimental Science and its allied subjects, now so generally adopted by secondary schools in Ireland, to give that fundamental training in science and scientific method which, most thinkers are agreed, constitutes a condition precedent to sound specialised teaching of agriculture as well as other forms of industry. We seek further, by methods less academic in character—for example, by itinerant instruction which is of value chiefly to those with whom 'school' is a thing of the past—to teach not only improved agricultural methods but also simple industries, and to promote the cultivation of industrial habits which are as essential to the success of farming as to that of every other occupation. Classes in manual work of various kinds—woodwork, carpentry, applied drawing and building construction, lace and crochet making, needlework, dressmaking and embroidery, sprigging, hosiery and other such subjects, have been numerously and steadily attended.

I do not ignore the argument that such home industries must in time give way before the competition of highly-organised factory industries. The simple answer is that it is desirable, and indeed necessary, to employ the energy now running to waste in our rural districts—energy which cannot in the nature of things be employed in highly-organised industries. To the small farmer and his family, time is a realisable, though too often unrealised, asset, and it is part of our aim to aid the family income by employing their waste time. Even if we can only cause them to do at home what they now pay someone else to do, we shall not only have improved their budget but shall have contributed to the elevation of the standard of home life, and thus, in no small measure, to the solution of the difficult problem of rural life in Ireland.

I think the reader will now understand the general character of the problem with which we were confronted and the means by which its solution is being sought. Our policy was not one which was likely to commend itself to the "man in the street." Indeed, to be quite candid, it was a little disappointing even to myself that I could not immortalise my appointment by erecting monuments both to my constructive ability and to my educational zeal in the shape of stately edifices at convenient railway centres, preferably along the tourist routes. We have had to stand the fire of the critic fresh from his holiday on the Continent where he had seen agricultural and technological institutions, magnificently housed and lavishly equipped, fitting generations of young men and young women for competition with our less fortunate countrymen. It is hard to prevail in argument against the man who has gone and seen for himself. It is useless to point out to the man with a kodak that the Corinthian facade and the marble columns of the aula maxima which aroused his patriotic envy are but a small part of the educational structure which he saw and thought he understood. If he would read the history of the systems and trace the successive stages by which the need for these great institutions was established, he would have a little more sympathy with the difficulties of the Department, a little more patience with its Fabian policy.

I must not, however, utter a word which suggests that the Department has any ground of complaint against the country for the spirit in which it has been met; especially as there was one factor to be taken into account which made it difficult for public opinion to approve of our policy. As I have already explained, a large capital sum of a little over L200,000 was handed over to the Department at its creation. During the first year, what with the organisation of the staff, the thinking out of a policy on every side of the Department's work, the constitution of the statutory committees to administer its local schemes in town and country, the agreement, after long discussion, between the central body and these committees upon the local schemes, and all the other preparatory steps which had to be taken before money could wisely be applied, it is obvious that the Department could not have spent its income. In the second year, and even the third year, savings were effected, and the original capital sum has been largely increased. What more natural than that in a poor country a spending Department which was backward in spending should appear to be lacking in enterprise, if not in administrative capacity? But whether the policy was right or wrong it has unquestionably been approved by the best thought in the country, a fact which throws a very interesting light upon the constitutional aspects of the Department. At each successive stage the policy was discussed at the Council of Agriculture and its practical operation was dependent upon the consent of the Boards which have the power of the purse. A Vice-President who had not these bodies at his back would be powerless, in fact would have to resign. Thoughtless criticism has now and again condemned not only the parsimonious action of the Department, but the invertebrate conduct of the Council of Agriculture and the Boards in tolerating it. The time will soon come when the service rendered to their country by the members of the first Council and Boards, who gave their representative backing to a slow but sure educational policy, and scorned to seek popularity in showy projects and local doles, will be gratefully remembered to them.

Already we have had some gratifying evidences that the country is with us in the paramount importance we attach to education as the real need of the hour. Most readers will be surprised to hear that in the short time the Department has been at work it has aided in the equipment of nearly two hundred science laboratories and of about fifty manual instruction workshops, while the many-sided programme involved in the movement as a whole is in operation in some four hundred schools attended by thirty-six thousand pupils.

Nothing can be more gratifying than the unanimous testimony of the officers of the Department to the increasing practical intelligence and reasonableness of the numerous Committees responsible for the local administration of the schemes which the Department has to approve of and supervise. The demand for visible money's worth has largely given place to a genuine desire for schemes having a practical educational value for the industry of the district. County Clare is not generally considered the most advanced part of Ireland, nor can Kilrush be very far distant from 'the back of Godspeed'; yet even from that storm-battered outpost of Irish ideas I was memorialised a year ago to induce the County Council to pay less attention to the improvement of cattle and more to the technical education of the peasantry.

Under the heading of direct aids to agriculture, rural industries, and sea and inland fisheries, there is much important and useful work which the Department has set in motion, partly by the use of its funds and partly by suggestion and the organisation of local effort. The most obvious, popular and easily understood schemes were those directed to the improvement of live stock. The Department exercised its supervision and control with the help of advisory committees composed of the best experts it could get to volunteer advice upon the various classes of live stock. It is unnecessary to give any details of these schemes. The Department profited by the experience of, and received considerable assistance from the Royal Dublin Society, which had for many years administered a Government grant for the improvement of horses and cattle. The broad principle adopted by the Department was that its efforts and its available resources should be devoted rather to improving the quality, than to increasing the quantity, of the stock in the country, the latter function being regarded as belonging to the region of private enterprise.

It is impossible to over-estimate the importance to the country of having a widespread interest aroused and discussion stimulated on problems of breeding which affect a trade of vast importance to the economic standing of the country—a trade which now reaches in horned cattle alone an annual export of nearly three quarters of a million animals. All manner of practical discussions were set on foot, ranging from the production of the ideal, the general purposes cow, to that controversy which competes, in the virulence with which it is waged, with the political, the educational, and the fiscal questions—the question whether the hackney strain will bring a new era of prosperity to Ireland, or whether it will irretrievably destroy the reputation of the Irish hunter. The discussion of these problems has been accompanied by much practical work which, in due time, cannot fail to produce a considerable improvement upon the breed of different classes of live stock. In one year over one thousand sires have been selected by the experts of the Department for admission to the stock improvement schemes. Probably an equal number of breeding animals offered for inspection have been rejected. Many a cause celebre has not unnaturally arisen over the decisions of the equestrian tribunal, and there have not been wanting threats that the attention of Parliament should be called to the gross partiality of the Department which has cast a reflection upon the form of stallion A or upon the constitutional soundness of stallion B. On the whole, as far as I can gather, the best authorities in the country are agreed that since the Department has been at work there has been established a higher standard of excellence in the bucolic mind as regards that vastly important national asset, our flocks and herds.

Again for details I must refer the reader to official documents. There he will find as much information as he can digest about the vast variety of agricultural activities which originate sometimes with the Department's officers or with its Journal and leaflets, the circulation of which has no longer to be stimulated from our Statistics and Intelligence bureau, and sometimes emanate from the local committees, whose growing interest in the work naturally leads to the discovery of fresh needs and hitherto unthought of possibilities of agricultural and industrial improvement. I may, however, indicate a few of the subjects which have been gone into even in these years while the new Department has been trying so far as it might, without sacrifice of efficiency and sound economic principle, to keep pace with the feverish anxiety of a genuinely interested people to get to work upon schemes which they believe to be practical, sound, and of permanent utility.

A question which has troubled administrators of State aid to every progressive agricultural community, and which each country must settle for itself, is by what form of object lesson in ordinary agriculture intelligent local interest can best be aroused We have advocated widely diffused small experimental plots, and they have done much good. Probably the most useful of our crop improvement schemes have been those which have demonstrated the profitableness of artificial manures, the use of which has been enormously increased. The profits derivable in many parts of Ireland from the cultivation of early potatoes has been demonstrated in the most convincing manner. To what may be called the industrial crops, notably flax and barley, a great deal of time and thought has been applied and much information disseminated and illustrated by practical experiments. In many quarters interest has been aroused in the possibilities of profitable tobacco culture. Many negative and some positive results have been attained by the Department in the as yet incomplete experiments upon this crop. Much has been learned about the functions of central and local agricultural and small industry shows, those occasional aids to the year's work which disseminate knowledge and stimulate interest and friendly rivalry among the different producers. The reduction in the death-rate among young stock, due to preventible causes such as white scour and blackleg, is well worthy of the attention of those who wish to study the more practical work of the Department.

The branch of the Department's work which deals with the Sea-fisheries can only be very briefly touched on. It falls into two main heads which may roughly be termed the administrative and the scientific; the latter, of course, having economic developments as its ultimate object. The issue of loans to fishermen for the purchase of boats and gear, contributing to the cost of fishery slips and piers, circulating telegraphic intelligence, the making of by-laws for the regulation of the fisheries, the patrolling of the Irish fishing grounds to prevent illegalities, and the attempts which are being made to develop the valuable Irish oyster fishery by the introduction, with modifications suited to our own seaboard, of a system of culture comparable to those which are pursued with success in France and Norway, may be mentioned as falling under the more directly economic branch of our activities. Irish oysters are already attaining considerable celebrity, owing to the distance of our oyster beds from contaminating influences; and it is hoped that when the Department's experiments are complete the Irish oyster will be made subject to direct control for all its life, until it is despatched to market. Attention is also being given to the relative value of seed oysters, other than native, for relaying on Irish beds.

On the more directly scientific side, the Department has undertaken the survey of the trawling grounds around the coast to obtain an exact knowledge of the movements of the marketable fish at different times of their life, so that we may be guided in making by-laws and regulations by a full knowledge of the times and places at which protection is necessary. The biological and physical conditions of the western seas are also being studied in special reference to the mackerel fishery, with the object of correlating certain readily observable phenomena with the movements of the fish, and so of predicting the probable success of a fishery in a particular season. The routine observations of the Department's fishery cruiser have been so arranged as to synchronise with those of other nations, in order to assist the international scheme of investigation now in progress, wherever its objects and those of the Department are the same. While these various practical projects have been in operation, we have done our best to keep abreast of the times by sending missions to other countries, consisting of an expert accompanied by practical Irishmen who would bring home information which was applicable to the conditions of our own country. The first batch of itinerant instructors in agriculture, whose training for the important work of laying the foundations for our whole scheme of agricultural instruction I have referred to, were taken on a continental tour by the Professor of Agriculture at the Royal College of Science, in order to give special advantages to a portion of our outdoor staff upon the success of whose work the rate of our progress in agricultural development might largely depend. And not only have we in our first three years gleaned as much information as possible by sending qualified Irishmen to study abroad the industries in which we were particularly interested, but we also took steps to give the mass of our people at home an opportunity of studying these industries for themselves. With the somewhat unique experiment carried out for this object, I will conclude the story of the new Department's activities in its early years.

The part we took at the Cork Exhibition of 1902 was well understood in Ireland, but not perhaps elsewhere. We secured a large space both in the main Industrial Hall and in the grounds, and gave an illustration not of what Ireland had done, but of what, in our opinion, the country might achieve in the way of agricultural and industrial development in the near future. Exhibiting on the one hand our available resources in the way of raw material, we gave, on the other hand, demonstrations of a large number of industries in actual operation. These exhibits, imported with their workers, machinery and tools, from several European countries and from Great Britain, all belonged to some class of industry which, in our belief, was capable of successful development in Ireland. In the indoor part of the exhibit there was nothing very original, except perhaps in its close relation to the work of a government department. But what attracted by far the greatest interest and attention was a series of object lessons in many phases of farm activities, where, in our opinion, great and immediate improvements might be made. Here were to be seen varieties of crops under various systems of treatment, demonstrations of sheep-dipping, calf-rearing on different foods, illustrations of the different breeds of fowl and systems of poultry management, model buildings and gardens for farmer and labourer; while in separate buildings the drying and pressing of fruit and vegetables, the manufacture of butter and cheese, and a very comprehensive forestry exhibit enabled our visitors to combine profitable suggestion with, if I may judge from my frequent opportunities of observing the sightseers in whom I was particularly interested, the keenest enjoyment.

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