Bridgetown Agricultural Society
The following information on the establishment of the Bridgetown Agricultural
Co-operation Society was taken from Edward E Lysaght book Sir Horace Plunkett.
“His Place in the Irish Nation” Published 1916.
In his introduction he wrote, it is almost impossible to pick any one village in
Ireland to illustrate the successful working of the Co-operation idea. I choose
Bridgetown, Co. Clare simply because I know the place intimately having been a
regular visitor to Mr Ernest Brown at Clonboy who was one of the first landlords
to identify himself with the aspirations of the Co-operate movement. Nearly all
my facts were gleamed from a single visit and a few hours talk with the local
Secretary Mr Hogan who gave me what information he though fit.
The Bridgetown Agricultural Society was started in August 1911; no trading was
done until January 2nd 1912. It was registered the 11th November 1911, under the
Industrial and Provident Act 1893.
The turnover of the Society trading in the Agricultural goods was £741 18s. 7
½d, and that year the Society met a loss of £12 8s. 3d, which was due to
uneducated co-operators, and we had to meet the competition of the day.
In 1913 a Hired Implement Society was attached, consisting of 1 horse sprayer, 1
potato digger and 1 manure distributor. Value of machines at end, less
depreciation, was £42 6s. 4d. Total earnings for year were £17 9s. 9d. The
Agricultural Department turnover of this year was £1153 2s. 7 ½d. The result of
1913 trading was a net profit of £6 8s. 5d.
In 1914 the Society’s turnover was £1492 16s. 10d. earnings of hired implement
were £12 17s. The result of the 1914 trading was a net profit of £11 1s. 8d.
In 1915 the Society added other machines to the Hired Implement Society, and
this branch now consists of 1 horse sprayer, 1 reaper and binder, 1 slag
distributor, 2 turnip sowers, 1 disc harrow, 2 potato diggers, 1 knapsack
sprayer. Value at end less depreciation, was £81 17s, and the total earnings of
year were £33 13s.
Also this year 1915 a Poultry and Egg Society was attached and resulted in a
turnover of £553 4s. 5d. The agricultural sales were for the full year £1897
10s. 4 ½d.
We are in possession of a beautiful store on the bank of the Shannon at O’
Briens Bridge, which cost the Society £234 19s. 4d. to erect. According to
statistics I have taken the tillage has increased 15 per cent, due to the Hired
Implement Society. Poultry is taken up in a serious way since we starred the
Poultry and Egg Society.
Our Agricultural Department is a boom to the farmers of the district, for all
good are sold under a guarantee of analysis of percentage of purity and
germination given on all seeds, and percentage of oils and albuminoids given on
We keep up supplies as far as our over drawing powers allow us. We have the use
of £1000, and nearly at all times of the year we make full use of this amount.
Furthermore the Agricultural Society laid the foundation stone of Co-operation,
and on the foundation we have the three societies working, Agricultural, Hired
Implements and Poultry and Egg. Also it founded the Creamery Society, which is
working very successfully. It cost us the sum of £1400 odd to erect. It is going
on its third year working.
The Creamery Society is separate from the others. Their success gave the farmers
of the district sufficient confidence in themselves to set up a creamery within
a hundred yards of an old established one belonging to the most powerful private
firm in the country, because they felt that by so doing they would get the full
fruits of their work. The result has justified their self reliance, for there is
now the milk of nearly 500 cows going into their co-operative creamery, while
that of less than half that number finds its way into the other; and the price
of the milk is higher than that given by the private concern.
By way of comment on this letter I would say that Bridgetown has benefited from
co-operation, as I know myself, in four distinct ways. It has learnt business
method and made more money than it would have made without co-operation. It had
gained a sprit of independence and self reliance. It has increased its tillage
and so its employment of labour. It has saved for the country the energy of its
secretary and creamery manager, the former at least of whom, I know, would have
other wise been an emigrant to America. It has gained morally, psychologically
and materially. And if a mere parish as thus profited, how much must Ireland as
s whole have benefited from co-operation, how much must it do for her in the
Early Ploughing Matches
The Agricultural Improvement Society
of Ireland was established in 1841. Its objectives were to encourage
agricultural and farming pursuits, by holding agricultural shows and
supporting local farming societies. Some of these in turn organised
ploughing matches which were used to promote the merits of the iron
Co. Offaly Ploughing match at Tullamore 1843
Twenty four ploughs started at Tullamore ploughing match and the work
done was highly creditable. The field was a beautiful lawn of perhaps 36
inches deep and without a single stone. It would be but justice to
Sherdian and Sons to say that the best work done at the Westmeath match,
and that this, was that performed by ploughs of their manufacture. A
beautiful sample of sub-soil ploughing was exhibited by Mr. William
Levinge of Westmeath and was pronounced by small farmers to be a
“powerful fine institution”. All the gentlemen of rank and distinction
including Lord Charleville, were present.
Source: Freeman’s Journal 3rd February, 1843
Co. Clare Ploughing match at Spancillhill 1847
Clare ploughing match came off on a field upon Col. Wyndhams Spancilhill
Model Farm on Saturday last. Eight well appointed ploughs started on the
occasion. The work was in general very well done considering the
hardness of the ground owing to the pervious dry weather. The ploughs
were chiefly Barrowmans and although the stiffness of the ground was
against them a few did their work very well in raising an arise on the
furrow slice. The judges were James Buncragg and James Johnston. The men
and horses had a refreshment when half done and again when they finished
their work. The day being fine a number of spectators were in attendance
among them a large number of gentlemen and a few ladies.
Source: The Limerick Chronicle 19th March 1947
Co. Clare Ploughing match at Ballycar 1873
An important trial of double furrow and other plough is to take place
tomorrow afternoon on one of the fields of Major Studdert, near Ballycar
Station. The arrangements are under the supervision of Messrs J. and G.
Boyd, agricultural implement agents from Limerick and under such
auspices, may be confidently expected to give satisfaction.
It is not often the farmers of the county have such an opportunity of
testing practically the merits of the various ploughs offered for their
selection and, should the weather prove propitious it will no doubt be
largely availed of.
Source: The Clare Journal 12th February 1873
Compiled by Fred Bourke
A patent was granted in 1745 to John Brown of Clonboy House, to hold fairs at
Bridgetown, on May 30 and 31, and November 3 and 4. By mid 19th century these
dates had been changed to June 10 and November 25. The number of fairs held
annually had increased to four by the end of the century. On the morning of the
November fair of 1866, William Steel Studdert, who had leased the Clonboy estate
from the Browns, entertained about thirty gentlemen for breakfast. It was a
substantial meal, consisting of ham, fowl, eggs, beef and mutton and tea, coffee
bread and butter. Mrs. Studdert, with true Irish hospitality, presided at the
table. This early morning meal proved so popular with the visiting gentry that
the Limerick Chronicle of 13 June 1868 reported that nearly two hundred were
served breakfast on the morning of the June fair of that year.
A weighbridge was essential at fairs and markets and tolls could not be
collected unless a weighbridge was provided. Inspectors of weights and measures
regularly inspected these weighbridges and stamped the weights. Ernest Brown of
Clonboy House erected a weighbridge at the Bridgetown Green, in the early years
of the 20th Century. In later years James O’Sullivan was in charge of operating
the weighbridge. It was removed in May 1978. Saturday was market day at
The patentee of Bridgetown tolls was the Brown family of Clonboy. The Tolls of
the Bridgetown fairs in later times were leased to the Quinlivan family at £30 a
year. John Quinlivan got the tolls for 21 years lease, at the yearly rent of £20
in 1836, and had it renewed in 1856 on the same terms. His son John was the toll
collector until the 1920’s. in 1920, an effort was mad to collect tolls on all
animals, at entry to the fairs. Naturally this move was much resented by the
The dispute continued for about two years. Finally, a deputation from the
Bridgetown branch of the Irish Farmers Union called on Ernest Brown and an
amicable settlement was reached. In April 1922, Brown, the patentee, and John
Quinlivan, clerk of fairs, issued a notice to the effect that henceforth tolls
would be collected on purchased cattle only, as in the old system. Paddy
Quinlivan was the last toll collector at Bridgetown.
The above information on the Fairs of Bridgtown was taken from “The Killaloe
Anthology” by Sean Kierse Published 2001.