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Title: McIlrath, James L to McIlrath family, 1873
CollectionThe McIlrath Letters: A family history in letters from New Zealand to Ireland (1860-1915) [Bassett, McKee et al.]
SenderMcIlrath, James L
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationfarmer
Sender Religionunknown
OriginSouthbridge, Canterbury, New Zealand
DestinationKillinchy, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
RecipientMcIlrath family
Recipient Gendermale-female
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count825
Genreprospects, account of Southbridge, local economy
Canterbury N.Z.
December 21st 1873

Father Mother & Brother
I had a letter ready to post this evening and being at the post office I
enquired and received one from you William dated April 7th 73. It
gives me pleasure to know that you are all well we are all well thank
God. It was a pity about your fingers William but it is not like other
sickness I have not (been) unable to work two day's together since I
left home.
I had an offer for my farm since I wrote last and I scarcely knew
what to do I was offered one thousand £1000 pounds or ten pounds
per acre land only together with leave to take the crop off that I was
about to put in. I had three months given to make up my mind so I
resolved to wait a little longer. Property here is getting up in value
fast they are commenced to make a railway to Southbridge that is
a town about two miles from I live and I have been over the same
spot when there was not a single house there nor yet in view and the
country is flat. I recollect the Mr Gillespie you mention carting up a
load of timber for us when for 17 miles before we got to what is now
Southbridge there was only one shepherd hut. Now this Southbridge
is a nice little town with one English church and one Scotch or
Presbyterian but by the way there is no Uniterian (Hush!) it is a
thing never mentioned here we have a very clever little man in the
Presbyterian church or meeting house one of those men that can take
out a text square himself up and deliver a very good sermon without
hem or ha, none of those written affairs but still I for one can scarcely
swallow all he says not with the same ease as his Reverence seems
to deliver it anyhow, there is also a large blacksmiths that employs about 12 men and is where I got the first reaper that was made there
it cost £55 pounds, a carpenters shop, a bakery, a saddlers shop, a
shoemakers, three large stores and a fourth in course of erection,
one hotel, one boarding house, milliners shop, besides a nursery, and
coaching establishment, and a large town hall for public meetings and
amusements. There is a Ball there this night and I suppose by this
time 10 o'clock they are heel and toeing pretty freely admission 7s/6d
but you will say what stuff what has all this to do with us 16 thousand
miles away admitted but I confess I feel a certain amount of pride to
watch the progress of this once waste spot I believe I would have sold
my farm only for much the same reasons when one settles down on
a place where it never was occupied before and fences off his fields,
builds houses, plants trees, makes gardens and so on you feel proud at
least I do of what I have done and I could not leave without taking a
lingering look behind, besides as mother used to say, you know where
you are but you dont know where you are going I mind it well, now I
would be more afraid of rueing coming home to Ireland than I was of
leaving which I never once done. I doubt a good many I wont say all
that goes home would wish to be back again but if I thought I could
do anything well at home I might come before many years I know the
time is past I said I would and meant it too but what did I then know
I would have been well pleased to return with what I could now. I
believe I could land in Belfast with from fifteen to eighteen hundred
pounds but once there either rent a farm or freehold I suppose is out
of the question but I have wandered away until I almost fancy I am on Irish soil but to return to reality, I have not sold one bushel of last
seasons crop now mid winter oats was only 1s/10d per bushel of 40
pounds after harvest and now they are 4s/6d. Wheat is the same,
Butter is 1s per lb. I sold £60 pounds worth of pigs about a month
ago that never was in sty fattened on stubble they are 31/2d per pound I
sold my ones alive.
I shall try and persuade Hamilton to write he always says he will he
is well. Tell John that I have not got a paper I dont know when I shall
send him one by this mail. Accept my best wishes one and all give
my respects to Mr. Jellie Mrs. and whole family, Uncle William and
I remain your affectionate son and brother
James L McIlrath