what type of business did Mr. Rice engage?
the year 1944, centenary memorials of the death of Edmond Ignatius Rice
were held in many towns in Ireland: the addresses delivered at those
functions were reported fully in the local press. Notwithstanding
that an authoritative life of Edmund Ignatius Rice had been published
long before that year it was quite clear, from reading those addresses,
that there are certain aspects of his life regarding which somewhat
fuller knowledge is needed. I propose to dwell a little on the more important of these.
is admitted that he succeeded to, and carried on, the business in which
his uncle was engaged in Waterford in an extensive manner.
What was that business? Here
there is undoubted vagueness. In
one of the addresses referred to, it was stated that Edmund Rice was
engaged in the cattle trade. Expressed
in terms of today that means purchasing cattle at fairs and markets
throughout the country and disposing of them in this country or
exporting them alive. The
latter aspect of that business was not carried on in Waterford during
the lifetime of the uncle of Edmund Rice and there is some evidence to
show that it was only beginning when Edmund Rice had determined to enter
on his life’s great work.
dead meat was exported in abundance from Waterford in those days but the
vessels that existed then were not suited to, nor were they fitted out
for, the carrying of live cattle in anything like the manner that we
associate with the cattle trade of today. Probably carriage horses were
some of the first live animals to be carried regularly between Ireland
and England. The two
following advertisements will indicate clearly what is meant.
The first was issued in a Waterford newspaper in October 1767 and
Beresford yacht of Waterford, Captain Thomas Hill, is established on the
service between Waterford and Bristol and will accommodate 14 passengers
of fashion in two cabins, one with 10 beds and the other with 4.
The Beresford could take horses on board and if a set of genteel
people desired to charter the whole ship it could be done at 24 hours
in April 1783 another advertisement appeared which stated that
of gentlemen of the city of Waterford had associated for the purpose of
establishing passage vessels between Waterford and Milford.
They have purchased two new cutters of 80 tons burden, which are
each provided with 10-12 cabin beds and accommodation for carrying
horses and carriages. The
first of these will sail from Waterford on April 23 1783”.
that period the carrying of cattle in bulk as a recognized trade had not
begun. One or two cattle,
or horses, at a time had been carried; carriage horses, race horses or
pure bred cattle had crossed the Irish sea, but, generally, the boats
then in use were not large enough nor were they properly fitted out to
carry a large number of cattle.
shipping of live cattle from Waterford began a year or two before the
year 1800 and by the latter year it was growing steadily. In September 1801 the “Waterford Chronicle” (then called
Ramsey’s Waterford Chronicle), carried a leading article protesting
strongly against the then growing habit of shipping live cattle from
Waterford; that paper stated that such a trade was injurious to Ireland
and was carried on by English agents.
It went on to point out that the preparing, dressing and packing
the dead meat provided much employment which the live cattle export
trade did not; further the hides, etc., could be utilised in our
tanneries. That article
enables us to approximate very closely to the date when the export of
live cattle began in Waterford. At
that period Edmund Rice was not interested in entering into a new trade
and, therefore, we can reject the idea that he was engaged in the cattle
trade as we know it today.
is, however, evidence of the type of business into which Edmund Rice
entered in Waterford and which he carried on in that city. Maurice Lenihan was born in Waterford in 1811; during boyhood
and youth it was common knowledge in Waterford that Edmund Rice had been
engaged in a certain type of business.
When Edmund Ignatiius Rice died in 1844 Maurice Lenihan wrote in
his newspaper that in his early manhood the great founder of the Irish
Christian Brothers was engaged in the provision trade.
A certain degree of credence attaches to those words of a man
born in Waterford in 1811 and who, for most of his life, maintained a
close association with that city. For
the greater part of the first 30 years of his life, Maurice Lenihan
resided in Waterford, knew personally the premises in which Edmund Rice
carried on his business and the nature of that business.
addition, legal documents exist dating from those days in which Edmund
Rice describes himself as a “Victualler”.
That description tells us that he was engaged in the dead meat
trade and very little doubt can exist that a considerable part of his
business consisted in victualling the large number of sailing vessels
that then made Waterford famous. Such
a business would be described very accurately as a “Victualler”.
That word, too, was somewhat different from a butcher who sold
meat, retail, in a shop. The
victualler connoted a type of business much more extensive than that of
a butcher. It is also
possible that Edmund Rice engaged in preparing and dressing the meat
that was exported extensively from Waterford in those days.
If we take Lenihan’s statements and Edmund Rice’s description
of himself we can arrive at a very accurate concept of the business of
Until further evidence
is produced, evidence which will counter the statement of Maurice
Lenihan and will show conclusively the particular type of business of
which Edmund Rice was engaged in, we can be satisfied that his business
was one of the many then engaged in victualling ships and in preparing
meat for Waterford’s export trade.
He was not engaged in the cattle trade as we know it today.
from a weekly column by Matthew Butler, M.R.I.A., published in the