This paper offers an in depth study of Andrew Welsh’s Munster Journal and is part of ongoing research which is systematically examining eighteenth century Limerick newspapers. Limerick, along with Belfast and Cork, was one of the first provincial towns in Ireland to have a local newspaper. While there are gaps in the source material, there is nonetheless a significant amount of evidence for an in-depth study of the emergence of provincial newspapers and, in turn, the social and economic development of a provincial urban centre. One of the aims of this paper is to illustrate the richness of the sources currently available. Its primary focus is on the Munster Journal between 1749 and 1751 and it offers both quantitative and qualitative analyses in three parts: Firstly the paper briefly outlines the nature of the sources, secondly, it then examines the non- advertising content and finally the paper looks at the advertising content and offers some conclusions.
At least six newspapers were printed in Limerick during the eighteenth century and Andrew Welsh was printer proprietor of two of them: the Limerick Journal and the Munster Journal. Biographical data concerning Andrew Welsh is, at best, vague. According to Robert Herbert, he commenced printing in Limerick in 1739. His son Thomas took over the business in 1757 and continued to print the Munster Journal until 1784. Very little evidence exists concerning Andrew Welsh’s first newspaper, the Limerick Journal, which probably appeared in 1739. The National Library of Ireland holds one photostat copy of an edition dated 8 August 1741, which contained four pages of printed text with 25% devoted to advertising. The advertisements were predominantly Limerick city based with one advertisement from Clare and one from Cork. The non-advertising content in the newspaper contained items of both ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ news. Less than 1% of the total printed text was devoted to items referring to Limerick and its environs.
Sometime between 1744 and 1749 Andrew Welsh moved his printing business to the Market House in Irishtown, Limerick and changed the name of his newspaper to the Munster Journal. This paper analyses 181 editions of this newspaper published between 15 May 1749 and 25 March 1751. The Munster Journal was similar in layout and style to the Limerick Journal, but there were some significant differences. See below:
|Limerick Journal, 1741||Munster Journal, 1749|
|Size of Page||14” Long||Size of Page||16” Long|
|Total Lines||1152||Total Lines||1440|
|Amount of Advertisements||25%||Amount of Advertisements||45%|
Limerick, Clare, Cork
Limerick, Clare, Cork, Tipperary, Kerry
In 1749 the Munster Journal also had four pages of printed text, however the size of the page had increased in length, the columns were clearly marked with a black line and each column offered on average 120 lines of text, a total of 1440 lines for the full newspaper and an overall increase of 288 lines between 1741 and 1749. It should also be noted that between 1741 and 1749 there was a significant increase in the amount of advertising to 45%. Moreover the advertisers in the Munster Journal represented a broader geographic area than those of 1741, which suggests that and Andrew Welsh was correct to change the title of his newspaper from the Limerick Journal to the Munster Journal.
Breaking down the content into advertising and non advertising categories we can see that the latter accounted for 55%. The newspaper differentiated ‘foreign news’ from ‘domestic news’, which included material on Ireland and Britain. The ‘foreign’ and British news was sourced from a range of newspapers and periodicals including the London Gazette, the London Evening Post, the Universal Spectator, the London Magazine and the Gentleman’s Magazine. Irish news was sourced from the Dublin Gazette. The newspaper also published literary extracts and what it termed ‘personal correspondence’. As the Irish newspaper historian Robert Munter has noted, the eighteenth century printer was involved in a ‘process of reselection, rather than a compilation based upon original material’. However, it is important to stress that Andrew Welsh was the final arbiter of what appeared in his newspapers. His choices were constrained within the parameters of contemporary social behaviour and business decision making. This process of editorial selection was important throughout the eighteenth century. When Thomas Brangan published Limerick’s first newspaper the Limrick News Letter in 1716 he commented that he ‘only selected passages for the readers’. Printers like Brangan and Welsh chose and edited items for publication, thereby framing the content in a specific way.
News items printed in the Munster Journal, varied dramatically in size from one line notices to full page articles.
35% of the non-advertising content was of a political nature. The Munster Journal ensured that Limerick audiences had access to a regular flow of foreign news, from England, and the expanding British Empire, as well as continental Europe. Irish news, labelled as ‘Dublin News’, included public notices concerning the price of goods and the assize of bread as well as port news for Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
4.2% of the total non-advertising content of the Munster Journal contained news from Limerick city and county. In 1749 the Munster Journal became an important vehicle for a public attack on Limerick’s Corporation led by the Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Charles Massy. Andrew Welsh printed eight letters and seventy nine ‘queries’, sent to him by Massy, almost all of which were subsequently published in book form in August of that year.
The point I wish to emphasise is the important role of the Munster Journal in Massy’s campaign. Indeed, the role of the press and public meetings in the attack on the corporation provides evidence for the emergence of a public sphere in mid-eighteenth century Limerick. Massy’s first letter appeared on 22 May and was reprinted again on 25 May and on 29 May, this time with a call for a public meeting, which took place at Thomas Alley’s inn on 2 June. Over 100 men attended and they agreed on thirty-one resolutions to tackle local corruption. While the resolutions were not printed in the newspaper, on the 5 June Andrew Welsh printed Massy’s letter to ‘the Freemen of the City of Limerick’ in which he kept them and his readership abreast of the situation. In this letter Massy urged the Freemen to unite with the gentlemen of the Limerick and Clare Society, of which he was secretary and treasurer, and to meet them at Alley’s Inn on 8 June. What is significant here is how the newspaper was used for the development of political agitation.
In addition, Massy paid Welsh for the printing and distribution of Charles Lucas’ radical pamphlet, A letter to the Commons and Citizens of the City of Dublin. Between June and October 1749 Welsh printed Massy’s Some reasonable Queries, proposed to the Consideration of the whole Corporation of the city of Limerick in the Munster Journal. The queries appear to have imitated the style used by Berkeley in The Querist, suggesting Massy’s own influences. Welsh also printed a letter that had been sent directly to Massy, from one reader, calling himself Timothy Trueman, who poked fun at Massy’s interference in political matters. Welsh included an addendum stating that ‘the above letter is literally printed from the original which may be viewed at the Printing Office’ suggesting that the printing office was a venue of public debate. It would be incorrect to argue that the Munster Journal initiated the birth of Limerick’s public sphere, as it is clear from Massy’s letters that he and others were actively involved in political agitation prior to 1749 and that the Limerick Journal also carried political advertisements in 1741. What I am suggesting is that Andrew Welsh, as printer proprietor of both newspapers, was not an idle bystander and that through his selection processes he was instrumental in the development of local public opinion. .
The Munster Journal also published controversial Enlightenment writing. On the 18 March 1751 Andrew Welsh printed: ‘OBSERVATIONS on GOVERNMENT : Occasioned by the late disputes between the king of France and his Clergy. Translated from the French, published in France and written by the celebrated baron de Montesquieu, author of the Persian Letters, and the Spirit of the Laws. In fact the piece was a translation of Voltaire’s La Voix du sage et du peuple, [The voice of the wise man and of the people], which had first appeared in 1750, was banned in France in 1751 and condemned by the Catholic authorities in Rome. Graham Gargett and Tim Conway noted recently that this ‘short but explosive pamphlet composed by Voltaire in 1750 with the aim of supporting government policy to tax the Catholic Church was reprinted in translation twice in Dublin 1751 and again in 1753’. Moreover, they have pointed out that ‘there were no English printings whatsoever’. Gargett and Conway comment that ‘at first sight nothing could indeed appear more foreign and irrelevant to Irish readers.’ However, the printing of this item during the 1750s had a particular resonance with Irish audiences. Gargett and Conway suggest that its appearance in Dublin may have been directed at George Stone, the Archbishop of Armagh, in advance of what would become the Money Bill Dispute. This thesis is far from certain and it is just as difficult to explain why Andrew Welsh chose to publish the piece in the Munster Journal. It may indicate Welsh’s strong political affiliations to the ‘patriot party’, which were already apparent from his connections with Massy. Welsh’s decision to publish also illustrates that a ‘peripheral’ region like Limerick was in touch with the latest currents of Enlightenment thinking (in this case in advance of England), as well as underlining the crucial role of the printer/proprietor in the selection of material for publication.
As shown earlier this graph, shows that 15% of the non-advertising content was of an economic nature and encompassed material concerning the improvement of trade, specifically, linen manufacturing, the development of fisheries, the improvement in the quality of coins, the benefits of navigating the rivers, as well as discussion on other major infrastructural changes which would facilitate access to remote areas. The graph also shows that 50% of the non advertising text contained what has been categorised as social content, encompassing a wide variety of topics and material: literary extracts including the works of Fielding, Chesterfield and Berkeley: notices from the Dublin Society: crime, biographical notices, religion, leisure activities and a significant number of items that bordered on the macabre and the curious reporting of freak accidents, unusual occurrences such as earthquakes, ‘hairy comets’, tidal waves and the effects of extreme weather conditions.
Also noted earlier 45% of the Munster Journal was devoted to advertising. A large proportion of this (25%) involved repeat advertising. However if we take 1750 as an example we still find that there were over five hundred new advertisements and 196 short notices.
The short notices included items referring to crime, cautions, lost goods, religion, Limerick news and announcements by local societies.
Leisure activities were frequently noted encompassing horse racing, hunting, cock fighting, theatre, concerts and balls. One short notice concerned a hurling match between the ‘Leinster and Munster hurlers, which continued till night obliged them to give over’.
As noted earlier there was a broader geographic spread of the advertisers in the Munster Journal when compared to the Limerick Journal of 1741 and this is reflected in the slide below.
Clearly Limerick advertisers predominated and the majority of these were rural based.
The range of goods advertised have been broken down into the following categories: consumables, drapery, property, agriculture, finance and print.
As you can see property advertisements predominated. Their size varied from 7 lines to 40 lines of text and they included information on lease length, location, access to water and to the new and expanding network of roadways. Property advertisements also noted the potential usage of land, for example whether it was suitable for meadow, dairying, tillage or grazing. In some cases certain kinds of tenants were clearly specified, for example an advertisement published on 29 May 1749 stated:
“To be set immediately by Edward O’Brien, Bart, for 31yrs or 3 lives, several houses, shops, plotts of Ground, Gardens and Parks in and adjoining to the Town of Sixmilebridge in the County of Clare ; all due reasonable encouragement will be given to improving Tenants,especially to such Protestants as are skilled in carrying on any branchof the Linen Manufacture, for which the situation of this Place is greatly Adapted…”
The term ‘suitable for improving tenants’, was frequently used in the property advertisements. The length of leases also varied and suggests that in some instances Catholics would have been able to take them up. Property advertisements for buildings included descriptions highlighting physical attributes such as slate roofs, sash window frames, fireplaces, glass windows and sculptures, reflecting changing trends in building practices. Some property advertisements also included lists of household goods which illustrate that some Limerick homes had acquired new household fashion items, such as earthenware goods, china, bottles, glasses and decanters.
The above graph illustrates that consumables constituted the second largest category of advertisements. However, this necessarily encompasses a broad range of goods, as illustrated by the next slide, which breaks down the consumables category further, (into the following groups) alcohol, apothecary, grocery, hardware, trades, timber and transport.
Apothecary goods, followed by grocery items and alcoholic beverages were the leading advertisements and when one examines these advertisements it is clear that the goods offered for sale were of a luxury nature. Coupled with the large proportion of advertising for livestock and horses for siring, the evidence suggests that Andrew Welsh ’s target audience was predominantly composed of upper and middling sort men. Only five women advertised in the Munster Journal in 1750, but women appear more frequently in the short notices. A significant number of these notices were announcements by husbands that they would not pay the debts of wives who had eloped. In one case a woman announced that she had left her husband’s house because he was violent to her and that she would return only when he ‘changed his ways’. She also noted that she had her father’s approval for this course of action.
Financial advertisements and short notices were largely composed of requests to people to pay their debts (indeed a significant number of these were placed by widows), cautions about dodgy promissory notes and the availability of loans. The majority of advertisements for loans did not include the name of the lender, however Andrew Welsh added ‘apply to printer hereof’ or noted that one could call to the printer for further information, suggesting yet another use for the printing house. Indeed the printing house appears to have been used as an employment agency, a centre for banking information, found goods could be collected there, and as I as mentioned earlier, it was a place where political debate may have taken place.
Only 4.2% of the non-advertising content of the Munster Journal reflected news concerning Limerick city and county. However, this paper has demonstrated its very significant advertising content (45%), which suggests a strong regional mercantile influence. In addition, the range of advertising, suggests that Limerick’s embryonic print culture both reflected and impacted on the development of Limerick’s consumer culture. Moreover, the Munster Journal reflected a middling sort world view and a culture of improvement. On a political level, it facilitated the early development of Limerick’s public sphere, most obviously through the use of the newspaper by Charles Massy and Andrew Welsh in political agitation. More generally, a defining feature of the Munster Journal was its promotion of economic improvement. It is interesting to note that Limerick’s next major printer, John Ferrar placed much more emphasis on intellectual improvement in the pages of his Limerick Chronicle in the late 1760s and 1770s. From a social perspective, the advertisements and small notices published in the Munster Journal reveal the complex development of a provincial urban centre in the mid eighteenth century.
R. Munter, The History of the Irish Newspaper, 1685 – 1760, (London, 1967) p. 95
 4 May 1716 The Limrick News Letter,
 12 June 1749 Munster Journal
 Berkely, G. The Querist containing several Queries Proposed to the Consideration of the Public, (Dublin, 1735)
 18 March 1751 Munster Journal
 Gargett, G. and Conway, T. Voltaire’s La Voix du sage et du people in Ireland: or Enlightened Anticlericalism in Two Jurisdictions? Eighteenth Century Ireland, 2005 Vol. 20 P. 79 – 83
 Ibid. P. 83
 22 May 1749 Munster Journal
 29 May 1749 Munster Journal