2 OCTOBER 1880, Page 16



Sta,—In your paper of the 25th ult. you refer to the letter of M. Molinari on Ireland. Will you allow:me to point out a fallacy which pervades that letter,—a fallacy which I find so common as to be almost universal in writers dealing with the tables of figures in the Irish statistical returns. It lies in a confusion between small holdings and small farms. It is assumed that the small holders of from one to five acres are wretched cottiers, making a miserable subsistence from the cultivation of these little patches. Now, to what extent is that the truth, or anything like the truth ? In the first place, every pleasure-ground of an acre or more about the genteel suburban villas, in the neighbourhood of the great cities, takes its place in this list. I suppose every, or almost every, priest, and school- master, and village doctor would have his garden and field. The village publican, the village butcher, the carrier would, as a rule, have at least an acre or tyro of ground ; and I should imagine that it is a very common thing for the village black- smiths, carpenters, and masons, weavers, tailors, quarriers, and miners to have their small crofts.

I believe that it is by no means an uncommon thing for gentlemen cultivating their own estates and large farmers to give their dependants and labourers very considerable bite of land, much more than the one or two acres which are included to make up in the return the sale of holdings above one and under five acres.

At the last census, the number of holdings was, if I recollect rightly, returned at upwards of six hundred thousand, while the number of persons who returned themselves as farmers was about four hundred thousand ; and in that number were in- cluded many minors, evidently the sons of the farmers who did not choose to call themselves farm labourers. I would suggest that the present Commissioners would do a good service (at least, to statistical accuracy) if they would ascertain approxi- mately how many of the very small holdings are occupied by persons whose substantial means of livelihood is the cultivation of the soil, and who are, therefore, what is ordinarily under- stood by the term "Irish cottiers ;" and how many are occupied for luxury, accommodation, and convenience, by persons whose real callings are in the various non-agricultural walks of life, which embrace a very much larger proportion of the entire population of Ireland than people in England have any idea of.