Louth County Archives Service is delighted to tell you about a collection of tillage registers and maps for County Louth dating to the 1940s and fertiliser scheme registers dating to the 1950s-60s that are now available for the public to view. The tillage registers were created under the Compulsory Tillage Order, 1940 to 1948, by government inspectors from the Department of Agriculture. Due to the shortage of imports and the shortage of food in general during ‘The Emergency’, the Compulsory Tillage Order meant that all farmers had to till a certain amount of land and sow a certain acreage of wheat. Government inspectors oversaw the scheme and kept tillage registers detailing sizes of holdings and tillage quotas whilst assessing the size of tillable acres on each farm.
‘Compulsory tillage’ placed a huge burden on many small farmers to grow more wheat, and some believe that by doing so the scheme facilitated the state to dispossess property from those considered ‘unproductive’. Farmers were often unable to meet state quotas because they had traditional horses and carts rather than modern fertilisers or machinery. Farmers were also forced to wait longer to have their grain threshed due to an increase in wheat production and there were many complaints of over-charging.
The tillage registers available to view in the Archives Service, provide details on the rated occupiers of land, sizes of farm holdings, tillage quotas, and areas tilled, and these are complemented by the tillage maps which show the location of the farm holdings.
Meanwhile, the European Recovery Programme (or the Marshall Plan) which was established by the US in 1947 and had the objective of reducing reliance on American imports by Europe was to become of great importance to Irish agriculture. In 1949, the Department of Agriculture sanctioned a proposal to establish a land development authority which included the drainage of land and land reclamation to improve the quality of land. The ‘Land Project’ was officially launched on 16th August on that year, the anniversary of the founding of the Land League in 1879, and a special supplement in the Farmers’ Weekly entitled ‘Emerald into Gold: The Land Rehabilitation Project 1950’ was issued to promote the scheme.
The Land Project also administered the fertiliser scheme during the 1950s-60s which consisted of two loan schemes and three separate grant schemes to promote the use of fertiliser. Under the scheme a farmer could get the farm’s requirement of fertiliser and lime from the Department by lump sum or 10% deposit and the remainder under annuities. The fertiliser scheme registers available to view in the Archives Service, contain names of farmers, details on field name or number, area sampled in acres, fertilisers used and costs of spreading fertilisers.
The Land Project Office for County Louth was set up in Dundalk in St Patrick’s Hall, commonly known as the “Magnet” in 1949-50. The office remained the Land Project Office up until Ireland’s joining of the EEC in 1973 where its remit was then extended to cover grants for farm buildings on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. In 2000, the office transferred to temporary accommodation in the Demesne Shopping Centre before moving to the new Government Offices at the Millennium Centre on St Alphonsus Road. JJ McCarthy was the first officer in charge of the Dundalk Land Project Office and served until the end of 1953. He was then succeeded by DJ Byrne who had been a tillage inspector prior to coming to Co Louth. Byrne retired in 1980 and in 1981 P Conlon took up duty as officer in charge and remained until his retirement in 2008. G Lennon succeeded him, however, the office closed in 2010.
This collection of archives is of great local interest and is of particular interest to students and anyone researching agricultural practices during the mid-twentieth century. It is also of interest to those researching changes in land ownership, or social and economic history. Other related collections held by the Archives Service include minute books and reports of the Louth County Committee of Agriculture, 1901-85; and registers of sheep owners 1918-29.
Members of the public can view this collection in the headquarters of Louth County Archives Service, Old Gaol, Ardee Road, Dundalk.
Opening hours are 9.30am – 4.30pm Monday – Friday by appointment (closed 1pm-2pm)
Telephone 042-9339387. Admission is free.
To view the descriptive list for the collection, see http://www.louthcoco.ie/en/Services/Archives/Archive_Collections/.