Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/131

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117
A FEW IRISH CENTRES.

Atkinson did was to lay out a township around the harbour and give it the name of his native Belfast in Ireland. He then sub-divided 4,000 acres into farms of convenient size; and with the very laudable object of making the place Irish in reality as well as in name, he went to Sydney, and, when he returned, he brought back with him a shipload of his countrymen, their wives and their families. It is to be recorded to his credit that he did not insist on his future tenants being of Belfast or Northern origin. On the contrary, the great majority of them were Catholics from Munster and Connaught, and to this day the Belfast district continues to be one of the distinctively Catholic centres of Victoria. Having placed each family in possession of its future farm, Mr. Atkinson provided them all with seed, and with the means of maintaining themselves until the ripening of their crops. The first harvest fully realised all the anticipations that had been formed of the fertility of the soil, and at once lifted Belfast into the front rank of agricultural areas—a pride of place that it has continued to occupy ever since. "The farm lands on the Belfast estate," writes an authority on the subject, "are capable of growing excellent crops of potatoes or wheat, and other cereals. As an instance of its productiveness, it is related that one of the blocks has been under wheat continually during the past fifteen years without manuring, and the crops at the end of the period are as good as those obtained at the beginning. Yields of 16 tons to 21 tons per acre of marketable potatoes are stated to have been obtained from some paddocks in the district: and with regard to the grazing capabilities of the land, it is said that in a paddock of 86 acres, about seven miles from the town, 110 bullocks are being fattened, and 10 to 15 sheep to the acre are usually put to fatten in the neighbourhood."