The Mystery of an old Farming Magazine

About two years ago an elderly lady showed me a heap of old farming magazines. Although they were all interesting only one of them attracted my attention. When I told the lady that it could be valuable she said that it wasn’t worth anything to her and insisted that I take it as a gift.
What is remarkable about this farming magazine is that it is in Welsh and that it was published in Ireland early this century.
It is called Y Freeholder; what I have is a copy of Number 7 (October 1914). Although the National Library of Wales are aware of the existence of this magazine they have no copies in stock. The Library of the University of Wales in Bangor did hold copies at one stage but there is no trace of them now.
The National Library of Ireland has no copies of 'Y Freeholder' and the National Archive of Ireland could shed no light on the subject.
'Y Freeholder' was published by the Smith and Pearson Ironworks, Newcomen, Dublin. The company had offices and showrooms at 47 Dawson Street, Dublin; 20 Chichester Street, Belfast; and 11 King Street, Cork but no longer exists.
All of the contents, as well as most of the advertisements, are in Welsh, and it is my belief that the magazine was distributed free to farmers in Wales to persuade them to buy Smith and Pearson’s varied products.
An advertisement for cow sheds sets out the reasons why the Smith and Pearson shed was the best:

“The hay racks and troughs are securely fixed outside the shed’s pillars, thus making the whole of the interior available to the animals.
The bars of the hay racks, through which the animals feed, are straight and safe. They cannot be damaged and the hayseed cannot fall from them into the eyes or on to the skin of the livestock.
The racks are fitted with rollers and may be slid in and out as required. The troughs are mounted on bearings and may be turned upside down for cleaning purposes.
By sliding the racks inwards the animals are prevented from getting to them by night and it is not possible for them to be thrown on to them—quite an important advantage.”

The magazine states that the farmers “of Wales and Anglesey” do “appreciate a building of the best quality at a reasonable price”, and goes on to quote from letters received.

R.W.O. of Anglesey wrote: “ My hay sheds are now complete, and the materials and the construction afford me the utmost satisfaction. Your workmen are a credit to the firm, and the three sheds are certain to give a particular advantage to your firm on this island.”

Among the topics covered in the magazine – which has 30 pages – are ‘The Unprofitable Cow’, ‘The War and the Welsh Farmer’, ‘Unusual Crops’, ‘Husk in Calves’, ‘The Outlook for Sheep Breeders’ , ‘The Irish Hunter and the Rural Economy’, and ‘Suggestions for Draining Land’.
Although there was a war going on, space is found for the occasional touch of ‘on the lighter side’. For example:

“In a magistrates court in the country a man was accused of stealing ducklings from a farmer. ‘How do you know they are your ducklings?’ asked the barrister for the accused. ‘Oh, I’d know them anywhere,’ answered the farmer, going on to describe their peculiarities. ‘Ho’, said the barrister, ‘these ducklings are not such a rare breed. I have some very like them in my own yard.’
‘That’s quite possible, sir,’ answered the farmer, ‘because they aren’t the only ones I’ve lost recently.’
‘Call the next witness,’ said the barrister!”

It is quite improbable that mine is the only copy of 'Y Freeholder' in existence. Perhaps some readers of Fferm a Thyddyn ('Farm and Smallholding') have copies? It would also be of interest to receive any information about the background to the magazine.

: Handel Jones. Published in 'Fferm a Thyddyn', No. 19, May Day, 1997. We are grateful to the author and to the publisher for permission to reproduce it.
Translation : The Wales Famine Forum.

Published in The Green Dragon No 7, Summer 1998.

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