Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/132

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As an agricultural settlement, Belfast thus became rapidly prosperous, but as a seaport town, in which respect it was also fully qualified to excel, its progress was far from being so satisfactory. The local government being naturally indignant at the manner in which their reservation of the place for public purposes had been ignored by the higher authorities, revenged themselves on the successful interloper by spending as little State money as possible on the development of the natural resources of Belfast and its harbour. But Mr. Atkinson had a firm faith in the future, and could afford to wait. Having founded his thriving farming colony, and appointed an agent to collect and remit his annual revenue of thousands of pounds from the estate, he retired to spend the rest of his days in his native Ireland, strong in the belief that the town he had marked out on the shores of Port Fairy would grow of itself, and be to him an additional abundant source of wealth. And the event proved that he was quite right in this anticipation. An infant town in such a commanding situation, and surrounded by the richest of agricultural areas, could not be kept back either by government neglect or by the ungrateful indifference of its absentee owner; and slowly but surely building sites in Belfast were sought after and became increasingly valuable. Thus the town grew apace through the operation of its own unaided resources, but, except to the very oldest of its inhabitants, the landlord of the place was only known through the reflected medium of his regularly-calling rent-collecting agent. It was apparently Mr. Atkinson's intention to make the town of Belfast, and the neighbouring agricultural settlement, a splendid hereditary estate, for, when he died, he bequeathed the whole of the lucrative property to his son. But this attempt to plant the evil seed of absentee landlord-