More on Hats in Limerick – 26 April 2017

1702 Image of Limerick Exchange… is a website for events and  architectural news and is supported by the Irish Georgian Society (

The Limerick Exchange was built in 1673 on Nicholas Street near St. Mary’s Cathedral.1702 image exchange

The drawing of the Exchange depicts a man walking past the fine columns in the front of the building. Regretfully, the columns area all that is left of of the Exchange today.

The image shows a solitary figure of a man, walking as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He is however, wearing a HAT… not a very fine hat but it is suggestive of some style for 1702.

The exchange was the main trading centre of Limerick in the 18th century for merchants dealing with European and English businessmen. Bills of Exchange in Sterling and Dutch Guilders were not uncommon among the Limerick merchants including one John Kelly whose business ledger is in the National Library of Ireland. This was the place were Limerick merchants along with European merchants, sundry agents, ships captains mingled together, networked and encouraged the wheels of commerce in a circular motion…

In 1787 John Ferrars History of Limerick printed by Andrew Watson had another illustration of the Limerick Exchange. this engraving is dated to 1786.

Ex lim

There are no people represented on the engraving,  however when John Ferrar wrote his History of Limerick he emphasised the numerous new fine buildings that had been built in Limerick. Limerick,  was in the middle of  its first building boom, with Georgian Limerick under construction. New buildings meant that employment was up and there was a need for a skilled trades men such stone masons, carpenters, painters, glaziers, gilders, resulting in a significant change in the demographic make up of the city.  Alongside these skilled tradesmen were the supporting networks of butchers, bakers, drapers, candlestick makers, woollen and clothing merchants. By the 1780s Limerick was a thriving urban centre.

One of the lesser known families in Limerick in 1786 were the Bennis brothers and even more less known is the story of Elizabeth Bennis wife to Mitchell (Michael Bennis).

My hat of the day goes to Eliza. The image below shows her wearing a simple type of headdress possibly of Linen, cotton and lace gathered at the edges.  She was remarkably one of the most important women in Ireland in the 18th century and very little is known about her. Thankfully she left a number of journals and Rosemary Raughter has produced those journals in her book The Journal of Elizabeth Bennis 1749-1779. These are her spiritual journals about how she came to accept this new religion and indeed how she questioned herself deeply about her own beliefs.

You could say that Eliza single handily set up Methodism in eliza bennis1Ireland.  Her first encounter with this new religion was on 17 March 1749 in Limerick. Robert Swindles preached his first methodist sermon in Limerick on the ‘Kings Parade”…at the castle gate.  Swindles got a very hostile reception from the locals,  with crowds hissing and hooting at him.  This was right on Eliza’s doorstep who, lived in Bow Lane  (today, St. Augustine Lane)  near St. Mary’s Cathedral.

While her husband was very wealthy she herself had no mass on money and indeed lived a very frugal life. Her journal clearly shows how troubled she was and her fight to remain true to her beliefs was utmost in her life. The image depicted on the cover of the book ‘The Journal of Elizabeth Bennis 1749-1779‘ by Rosemary Raughter, is a portrait of Elizabeth and she is wearing another simple style hat that looks like it was made with silk tulle and a ribbon. The image is not unlike that of Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington in the 1770s and who also very influential in the Methodist religion in England and Wales.


eliza bennis

To be continued!


Yep! Another Hat Blog – 25 April 2017

Just to follow on from yesterday…and I do intend from time to time to edit some of these blogs and insert new pics as I find them in my research. I got to thinking about all kinds of things that one might put on their head and of course wigs came to mind.  Both men and women wore wigs and indeed the art of hairdressing became a little more creative and grandiose in its attempt to improve one’s beauty, let by Marie Antoinette as depicted in this painting by Jean Baptiste Gautier Dagoty in 1775.

The Limerick Trade Directory of 1769 had sixteen wig makers listed in Limerick or should I say Peruke Makers as they were known then.  I have mapped them below and it is clear they were well dispersed throughout the old town…to be fair, the new town was only in it’s infancy. With the new bridge over the Shannon built in 1762 and the newly built Custom House in 1765. I have marked on the map below the location of Peruke Makers.

peruke makers 1769

Advertising of peruke makers in the Limerick newspapers is very limited and the earliest I could find was in 1749 of James Donoghue, Peruke Maker living St. Francis Abbey.

He not only made wigs but also cut hair leading me to assume that most wig makers did the same kind of thing.  As the Century progressed there was an increase in the  number of  advertisements for cosmetics, perfume and hairdressing particularly when the Assizes came to town.  Suggesting that the Assizes had a significant social aspect to them.

There were two ‘Hatters’ also listed in the directory, James Kincaid and Lee Henry both based in Francis Street.

The image below is a much later image of the Limerick Exchange and according to they note that this engraving is by ‘anonymous’.limerick exchange henry o shea

They also noted that it was published in a book entitled the  Picturesque Views of the Antiquities of England & Wales, dating to 1786. On examining the book I could not find this image however, I did find Limerick castle, St Mary’s Cathedral and indeed Castle Connell. Fellow Historian Liam Irwin brought my attention to Limerick Museum under Brian Hodkinson curatorship and they have credited the painting to Henry O Shea in 1900 and the fact that is a copy of an earlier painting dating to 1820. The engraving clearly shows a number of varying styles of headwear, including military hats.

The style of the Mace Bearers hat also is significant in its shape.  Limerick newspapers advertised for milliners and indeed all their wares including Military hats for both men and women.


The engraving also shows a turf cutter with a woman in the background wearing a scarf on her head. While the Mace Bearer and the two soldiers are wearing specifically designed headwear for their civic position, everyone in the picture is wearing some form of head dress.

List of Peruke Makers in Limerick 1769

Year C Name Surname Address 1 Addres 2 Limerick
1769 John Bourke Johns Street Limerick
1769 Jacob Bennis Main Street Limerick
1769 James Connolly Main Street Limerick
1769 Edmond Crowe Main Street Limerick
1769 Francis Downes Creagh Lane Limerick
1769 John Everitt Mungret Street Limerick
1769 John Fitzgerald Parade Limerick
1769 John Hogan Main Street Limerick
1769 John Mackey John Street Limerick
1769 Benjamin Mills Main Street Limerick
1769 William Mullock Quay Lane Limerick
1769 Thomas Mullock Quay Lane Limerick
1769 William Perry Mainguard Limerick
1769 Thomas Power Old Quay Limerick
1769 William Ryan Shamble Lane Limerick
1769 Giles Vandeleur Quay Lane Limerick

Hat of the Day – 24 April 2017

Most of my primary research is carried out reading newspapers. A very black and white world you might think but I have found that these textual artefacts help paint a very colourful image of those who lived long before photographs and the like were invented.  While scrolling through 18th century Limerick newspapers I have been able to deduce in some format or other how the people of Limerick lived. In particular what were the types of  food they ate and even the clothes they wore…you will be glad to know that Limerick was in line with the latest fashions and trends in London and Paris. My admiration goes out to those ladies and even gents who were and still are skilled with a needle.

In his artistic depiction of Mathew Bridge the artist Samuel Brocas left a beautiful image of Limerick as he saw it in the 1820’s the era of Jane Austen and more locally Limerick author Gerald Griffin.

Uzuld Bridge LI

Looking at this painting we can see a hump back bridge crossing over the Abbey River, with crowed streets on either side of the river.  The bridge is known today as Mathews Bridge and on the left we are looking at Charlotte’s Quay and on the right is George’s Quay.   However, what makes this picture most interesting is the representation of life and the people of Limerick.  Yes! I know and hasten to add that Brocas had a lot to do with this interpretation.

Brocas has accurately depicted a hump back bridge which was completely altered in 1846 by the Pain Brothers.  However, when Brocas painted this bridge it was known then as the NewBridge and had been built in 1762 by Edward Uzuld…Version 2

The story of the bridge and the building of Limerick in the 18th century is a fascinating one but one for another day.

Marked on the Plan of Limerick of 1769 by Christopher Colles is the ‘New Bridge’ crossing the river from the medieval old town onto the newly intended plan of Newtown Pery.  What he has marked as Russell Quay later became Charlottes Quay (named after Queen Charlotte wife to George III).
Uzuld Bridge LI (1)It appears that the crowds were following a local funeral and of course no better place than to find all of Limerick’s society better represented than on the streets of early Georgian Limerick. I say this because the advertisements in the newspapers for drapery and millinery goods appear to fit with what I am looking at in this picture.  I believe it be an accurate and honest attempt by the artist to re produce life in Limerick as he saw it.

Advertisements from the very earliest newspapers contain a very rich history on the types of clothes that people wore or were available. Today I am looking at Hats…or indeed anything that could be worn on your head…including wigs. Of course, one only has to look at the 1769 Trade Directory to see how many people were working in the clothing trade…drapery advertisements throughout the eighteenth century reflected the changing skill base of those skilled in the making of clothes and included Manuta Makers, Stay Makers, Milliners, tailors, knitters, Lace and Wollen Makers. Charlottes Quay by 1790s had become the new and prosperous shopping street, with numerous silk, woollen and drapery stores. The engraving clearly shows the ladies wearing bonnet type hats while on the opposite side of the river and nearer to Baal’s Bridge

Plate 6there were others who carried their goods on their head on their way to and from their market area.






Aside from advertisements in the local newspapers there were numerous short notices of items that were lost or found. Some people offered a reward. Lost and found items in the Limerick Chronicle of 1774  varied from animals, pistols, jewellery, lace, books and items of clothing. In one case, Rev. William Kennedy, Parish Priest of Newport, Co. Tipperary, had found a ‘silk oyle coat’, BUT before he would return it, the the owner had to pay the cost of the short notice. However, a kindly Mr. Bowen found ‘a new smart cock’d hat’ which was ‘pretty much worn with a band and buckle’. He however, was happy to hand it back to the owner without any conditions. Another noticed entitled ‘Anonymous’ he /she claimed to have lost  ‘a small woven band box, containing blend lace, both lappet and tippet,  2 pairs of white pendants and a landscape bracelet set in gold in a small black Shagreen case’. A reward was offered but it did not state the amount. It is clear from these notices that cherished items were not always of high monetary value.

More Tomorrow!



A Case Study of Andrew Welsh’s Munster Journal 1749-1751

Andrew Welsh MJ


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
Textual Lines

per Column

96 Textual Lines

per Column

Total Lines 1152 Total Lines 1440
Amount of Advertisements 25% Amount of Advertisements 45%

Counties Represented

Limerick, Clare, Cork


Counties Represented

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.

Non-Advertising Content

content NA MJ

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’.[1] 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’.[2] 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.

breakdown of na

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.

Resolutions AW MJ

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. 2nd June Massy MJ

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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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’.[7] 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.
breakdown of na

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.

Adverts MJ

The short notices included items referring to crime, cautions, lost goods, religion, Limerick news and announcements by local societies.

Content Notices

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’.[8]

 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.

total advertising

 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…”[9]

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.

consumables MJ

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.

 [1]R. Munter, The History of the Irish Newspaper, 1685 – 1760, (London, 1967) p. 95

[2] 4 May 1716 The Limrick News Letter,

[3] 12 June 1749 Munster Journal

[4] Berkely, G. The Querist containing several Queries Proposed to the Consideration of the Public, (Dublin, 1735)

[5] 18 March 1751 Munster Journal

[6] 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

[7] Ibid. P. 83

[8] 22 May 1749 Munster Journal

[9] 29 May 1749 Munster Journal

A Case Study of John Ferrar’s Limerick Chronicle 1774.


There were at least ten newspapers printed in Limerick during the eighteenth century. John Ferrar began printing Limerick’s fourth newspaper the Limerick Chronicle, in 1768 and it is currently the longest running newspaper in Ireland. Limerick city museum holds seventy-five extant editions dated 3 March to 22 December 1774.   They offer a rare insight into Limericks eighteenth century life as viewed by Limerick man John Ferrar its printer/proprietor.

The Ferrar family name had links with the ancillary printing trades of font making and book binding stretching back to Renaissance Rome, and to seventeenth-century Huntingdon, England. From the 1720s the family was linked with the development of Limericks nascent print culture and the connected trades of bookselling and book binding. John Ferrar, born in 1742 was an author, printer/proprietor, bookseller and stationer in Limerick up to the 1790s when he moved to Dublin for family reasons. As an author his print output included poetry, travel writing, political pamphlets on the Volunteers, education and parliamentary reform and a history of Limerick which went through two editions (1767 and 1787). In 1769 he compiled Limerick’s first trade directory, and a number of book catalogues.

Image Limerick 1769

Limerick Trade Directory Cover 1769

In addition to his own works, Ferrar printed upwards of twenty items that encompassed the genres of religion, philosophy, literature, poetry and politics.


John Ferrar LC first one.jpg

(Vol.1 No 2. Limerick Chronicle, Vol.1 No. 1  has not been discovered to date.)

John Ferrar printed the Limerick Chronicle between August 1768 and December 1781, when he sold his business to Andrew Watson. Ferrar was a key figure in the expansion of the newspaper business in Limerick, advanceing the model provided by Limerick’s first serious newspaper printer Andrew Welsh in the 1740s. Indeed it should be noted that from 1768 onwards Limerick had two newspapers running simultaneously, Ferrar’s Limerick Chronicle and Welsh’s Munster Journal.

Andrew Welsh MJ.jpg

(The Munster Journal – Andrew Welsh proprietor)

Building on Andrew Welsh’s distribution network, Ferrar used strategically located urban and rural agents and the Assizes as points of distribution. In addition he advertised for riders to deliver his paper twice weekly to towns such as Ennis, Charleville, Tipperary and Nenagh. Only four weeks after the newspaper first appeared, in August 1768, Ferrar boasted that he had over nine hundred papers for posting, which involved a substantial number of subscribers. Clearly his distribution network was broad and it suggests a growing awareness of the newspaper in many of the satellite towns around Limerick city. His advertising suggests an increasingly urban based readership.

From the outset John Ferrar’s Limerick Chronicle of 1774 was very different to Welsh’s Munster Journal, both in its appearance and the way in which Ferrar disseminated his news content. John Ferrar increased the size of his newspaper page to seventeen and a half inches in length, altered its font size, added an extra column and in doing so he offered his readers 408 lines of printed text more than the Munster Journal. Ferrar had also increased the number of colums from three to four by 1774 and used various forms of ornamentation to differentiate his content and he grouped his advertisements under various headings.

1774 adverts for WP.jpg

1774 Typical page of advertising in Limerick Chronicle 

The issue of trust was of major significance in the printing of eighteenth century newspapers. As Robert Munter has commented the long-term dependability of the newspaper was based on the ‘reputation of its publisher’. Eighteenth-century provincial printer/proprietors relied heavily on their personal reputation. This is most reflected in the title bars of eighteenth-century Limerick newspapers. Ferrar inserted an image of a castle in his title bar. He was the only Limerick newspaper printer/proprietor to do so. The use of the image is significant as it reflects how Ferrar saw his newspaper and where it was to be placed in Limerick’s expanding market. This newspaper would not reflect the world of popular culture but that of the elite, middling sort and those who were educated in the art of reading. By linking his newspaper with the castle, a symbol of governance and status, Ferrar had created a perceived connection with those in power. During his tenure as printer of the Limerick Chronicle, Ferrar changed the title of his paper to the Limerick Chronicle and General Advertiser. However; he retained the image of the castle in its title bar.

John Ferrar LC later.jpg

Limerick Chronicle and General Advertiser 1769

1774 Chronicle.jpg

Limerick Chronicle 1774

By 1774 Ferrar had reverted to the original title of The Limerick Chronicle the image of the castle had been reduced in size.

In 1780 John Ferrar became Sheriff and it is interesting to note that he removed the image of the castle in his title bar and changed the title of his newspaper to ‘Ferrars’s Limerick Chronicle’  suggesting that Ferrar saw his role as printer/proprietor as something separate to that of his promotion into civic life. The Limerick Chronicle also imparted the news in different ways, when compared to its local competitor, the Munster Journal. By 1774 John Ferrar’s front page relied less on literary articles and he printed shorter news items varying in length from ten to twenty lines. This resulted in news content being presented to its readers in a tapestry like fashion which weaved together a broad range of subjects including some parliamentary news, trade issues, high seas adventures, military and naval battles, weather reports, accounts of freak accidents, catastrophes, scientific discoveries, reports concerning crime, civic and state processions, funerals, illuminations, balls, and culture, specifically the theatre. While his content continued to promote political and economic improvement, which had been a hallmark of Welsh’s Munster Journal, John Ferrar’s newspaper also reflected a strong emphasis on developing the mind.

In terms of content, 45% of the Limerick Chronicle was devoted to advertising and 55% percent for non-advertising items. Half of his advertisements were devoted to Ferrar’s own goods such as books, plays, stationery, pills and medicines. The focus of this paper is on the non-advertising news at it appeared in 1774.

Front page news in the Limerick Chronicle predominately concerned foreign news items taken from the London Gazette and covered events in Great Britain, the continent and the colonies.  John Ferrar also placed both Limerick advertising and non-advertising items on the front page of his newspaper as he noted that Limerick was as important as any other town. Page two he dedicated solely to advertising; while pages three and four contained some advertising, they were primarily filled with literary extracts, letters to the printer, items of poetry and additional foreign news items. 74% of all reported news in the Limerick Chronicle during 1774 was devoted to what Ferrar termed ‘Foreign News’. He classified his non-advertising news items using geographic headings and their size and placement in the newspaper varied. News from London represented the largest amount of coverage at 28%, followed by Europe 23%, America 18%, Dublin 16%, Country news 8% and Limerick was 2.3%.

The political backdrop to much of the foreign news reportage in 1774 was the reaction of the British government and parliament to the ‘Boston Tea Party’ on 16 December 1773. ‘Dublin’ news items in 1774 encompassed a range of items that included Irish parliamentary discussions, military and civic appointments, civic proclamations, crime reports, and the leisure activities of elite members of Dublin society. However, items classified by Ferrar as ‘Dublin News’ often reflected a geographic spread beyond Dublin and included material dealing with Belfast, Kilkenny, Clonmel, Cork, Strabane, Sligo, Roscommon and Waterford. Many of these items were short biographical notices, reports of crime and punishments including references to the activities of the Whiteboys. ‘Limerick’ news imitated the same reporting framework as that of ‘Dublin’ news. This section contained short notices and appeared on the front page of the Limerick Chronicle in 1774. John Ferrar kept his readers up to date with Limerick’s civic appointments, military movements, the price of goods, port news and the assize of bread. He also continued to include regular notices concerning the physical improvement of Limerick city and county, including the establishment of turnpike roads, the further promotion of the Shannon Navigation Scheme and the building of Limerick’s House of Industry.

house of industry

House of Industry built in 1774

Ferrar’s reporting of social events focused primarily on concerts, assemblies, drums and theatre evenings which were generally run as fundraising events for the poor. These reports were often no more than two lines in length, often including the names of those making donations of food, clothing and or cash to the charities. For instance dated 12 December 1774 Ferrar included several short notices throughout his newspaper, such as:

 2 guineas from Mr. Nicholas Mahon, Merch. [sic],

Also shirts, shifts and caps from Mrs. Bishop Gore and 1 guinea from Mr. John Norris, Merch…

Mr. Hill rec of 12 pair of stockings from Caleb Powell, and ditto from Mrs. Doctor Maunsell, for the House of Industry…and any old shoes would be very acceptable… 

It could be suggested that John Ferrar imitated and promoted the habits of other urban centers such as London, Dublin and Cork. In addition it is significant also that these notices helped frame Limerick society as the frequency with which they appear throughout his newspapers, suggests a lasting influence.

The reporting of American news became increasingly important during 1774, as tensions in the colonies rose. Initially, American news items were woven through a varied range of news content. However, four months after the Boston Tea Party news from America became more formalized. By June 1774, American news bulletins drawn from the London Gazette were printed under a discreet heading entitled ‘AMERICA’ on the front page of the Limerick Chronicle. Vincent Morley noted that it was not until September 1774 that the Hibernian Magazine designated a regular colum to American events. John Ferrar also included other American news items that were predominantly sourced from a range of American newspapers named in the Limerick Chronicle as the New York Gazette, Massachusetts Gazette, Pennsylvania Journal, Virginia Gazette, New York Times and the New England Gazette. While historians have generally mined newspapers for information on specific events a more systematic analysis offers a nuanced understanding of how certain news items were selected and disseminated by printer/proprietors. The size, placement and frequency of items of news reflected the thinking of printer/proprietors like John Ferrar.

Closer examination of the front page of the Limerick Chronicle reveals how the English government’s response to the Boston Tea Party was reported locally. The reporting of the Boston Tea Party in the Limerick Chronicle was vague. Initially the coverage suggested that the colonists were nothing more than a mild irritant. Moreover, as formal news channels drip fed information concerning events in America, newspaper proprietors like Ferrar were left to construct a newspaper from a variety of sources, not all of them reliable. Much of the early coverage of the American news focused on the disloyalty of the colonists and the possibility that they might use force against his majesty’s troops. The March editions of the Limerick Chronicle noted that Britain’s immediate response to the Boston Tea Party was to send additional troops to Boston. On 17 March 1774  Ferrar selected a news item from France which illustrated how a show of force could quell a local disturbance;

‘We have received the agreeable news from Tours, that the people of that place who committed too many excesses on account of the high price of corn and bread are returned to their duty, and that every thing is quiet there.

The piece went on to say that another twenty seven villages in France had also been up in arms as a result of the high price of grain but that they had been pacified after troops were dispatched to quell the riots. This suggests a manipulation of news items so as to re-enforce a point of view and to frame the newspaper in a specific way. On page three of the same issue John Ferrar included items of poetry whose content reflected on the “obstinacy of the Americans” who refused to succumb to the British Parliament’s right to impose taxes on them. Indeed one of the poems suggested that the Americans’ aim was total separation altogether. On page four of the same issue, Ferrar included a twenty line item sourced from the London Gazette which stated that on January 17, a bill had been posted up in Boston in “the most public parts of this town,” which urged the colonists to be ready to physically fight for their cause.

What is significant about this item is its placement in the newspaper. It was sandwiched between a complete column of Limerick advertising, on the one side and a seventy line report of an earthquake in Guatemala on the other. Above the notice from Boston was a letter to the printer, a rather tongue in cheek piece that suggested excise officers be permitted to cohabit with their wives and daughters ‘without molestation or disrepute to the parties’ and that the ‘owners of Carriages may be branded as well as the Carriage, to avoid imposition.’ Also on the same page Ferrar had included a detailed report on the high seas adventures of a Limerick naval man named ‘Captain Roche commonly called Tyger Roach.’ What appears as a random or arbitrary placing of an item reflects a clever manipulation of the dissemination of news in an attempt to attract the eye of his Limerick advertisers and readers. The poster from Boston was printed with no introduction and no commentary. It was a stand alone item. Interpretation was left open to the readers, however its placement framed amidst the much broader context of the eighteenth century world offers an insight into the thinking of John Ferrar as printer / proprietor.

The following month in April news disseminated through the London Gazette and in turn selected by Ferrar continued to focus on the disloyalty of American colonists and Britain’s state of preparedness for military conflict with them. John Ferrar also selected items from American newspapers which focused primarily on the sense of injustice felt by the colonists. However, April 1774 also saw a turning point in the way that news from America was reported by Ferrar. He printed Edmond Burke’s famous ‘Speech on American Taxation’  a total of 184 lines of text. Burke noted that the closure of ports as a method of punishing the colonists would be detrimental to trade and that

there are but two ways to govern America, either to make it subservient to all your laws, or let it govern itself by its own internal policy.’

From this point onwards Ferrar selects items that emphasise  on the consequences of conflict with America to Irish and in turn Limerick trade. Troop movements and the ensuing logistics of transporting men to America continued to be featured in the Limerick Chronicle. However John Ferrar selected items of news highlighting that there were potential benefits for Ireland, primarily to improved trade through Irish imports and exports.

A final point. For many Limerick readers, one of the most important pieces of British legislation passed in 1774 was , presumably the Quebec Act. Bearing in mind 80% of Limerick population was Catholic. While Ferrar favoured toleration of Catholics, he did not offer Limerick readers even basic information on its passage. Snippets of news concerning the Quebec Act accounted for less than 0.5% of the newspaper coverage during 1774 and these appeared primarily on the back page, contained in short reports from the British House of Commons. The Quebec Act facilitated religious tolerance of Catholics and met with significant opposition from both the English and Irish Protestant elites. On 4 July 1774 John Ferrar included on the front page, news pertaining to the Quebec Bill. The item was forty seven lines long and classified by Ferrar as ‘Dublin news’. It noted that the “Dissenters Bill, ought to be annexed as a codicil to the Quebec Law for the encouragement of Popery.” It reported that when “the monarch was to pass the Quebec Bill the almost universal shout was NO, Popery, NO, Popery.”

The use of capitals on certain words makes them jump out at you when you first glance at the page; in this case: “NO Popery, NO Popery,” and PROTESTANT religion are clearly intended to grab the reader’s eye. Capital letters are not used in such a fashion any where else on the page and indeed were often only used in advertisements. However the news items noted that when General Wolfe conquered Quebeck, [sic] and

‘the British soldiers carried the standard of glory through Canada, little was it imagined that they were sacrificing their own liberites, to set up the religion of our enemies in the dominions of England and pave a direct road to artibrary government.’


According to Ferrar “there will be more reading in one Year to this Chronicle than in two guineas worth of any kind of Books.” His newspaper certainly contained a broad range of news items which were constructed, manipulated and framed in very specific ways. Many of the American news items appeared on the front page of the Limerick Chronicle and as noted earlier, they were predominantly snippets of information no more than twelve lines of printed text woven between news items from England and continental Euorpe as it was in these contexts that they were viewed by the eighteenth century reader. Ferrar’s Limerick Chronicle pushed an agenda for improvement, for example through his frequent reporting on fund raising charity events. However, the newspaper also offered opportunities for personal advancement. It should not be forgotten that much of the products that Ferrar advertised were sold by him. In addition, during his tenure as printer/proprietor the newspaper offered him opportunities to move up the social ladder. He became an agent for the distribution of English newspapers, an Insurance agent, Church Warden to St. Mary’s Cathedral, Secretary and Treasurer of Limerick Annuity Society, Secretary for the House of Industry, Printer for the municipal corporation 1778-1779, he also became a member of the Loyal Limerick Volunteers from 1779 and sheriff in 1780. It could be argued that with rising literacy levels, an expanding middling sort readership and a complex distribution network, John Ferrar’s Limerick Chronicle had a significant influence on Limerick society both urban and rural by 1774. If I was to highlight one point it is that it is the frequency and distribution of two bi weekly newspapers that is significant when assessing the impact of limerick newspapers as “Local culture is not something that starts full blown but is something that accumulates.” Dr. Paul O’Leary quoting Gerald D. Suttles 19th century Sociologist…