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Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland
Vol. XXVII, Part V
THE DEVELOPMENT OF OFFICIAL IRISH STATISTICS
THOMAS P LINEHAN
Former Director of the Central Statistics Office
(read before the Society, 22 January 1998)
Censuses of Population were established to a decennial rhythm in Great Britain from 1801. In Ireland the start-up was somewhat later and more erratic, commencing with an unsuccessful exercise in 1812/13, followed by adoption of the GB frequency from 1821. However the 1821 Census and the succeeding Census in 1831 were little more than headcounts and in both scope and organisational aspects faded almost into insignificance beside the Great Census of 1841 which has been described in several papers on Census matters read before this Society. Capt. Thomas Larcom, attached to the Ordnance Survey Office, was one of the three Census Commissioners, and is accepted as chief architect of the 1841 Census. The published Report reflects the Commissioners view that the Census ought to be a Social Survey and not a bare Enumeration.
In Ireland the newly formed RIC acted as enumerators and also for the first time, large-scale Ordnance Survey maps with considerable detail were available as a guide to enumerators at local level.
It will be of interest to local historians to know that it was in Cork City that the General Report of the 1841 Census first saw the light of day. In August 1843, invited by the Royal Cork Institution, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its 13th meeting there under the Presidency of the Earl of Rosse, of astronomical fame. The Lord Lieutenant, desirous of promoting science forwarded to the President of the Association copies of the Census Report for presentation to the Meeting, even though the full Report had not yet gone through the customary stage of presentation to the House of Commons. On 20 August, in Corn Exchange Buildings, Larcom, who was a Member of the Association, introduced the Census Report to those attending the meeting of Section F - the Statistical Section - of the British Association.
Another Irish member of the British Association present at the launch of the Census Report was Professor James A. Lawson, who at that time held the Whately chair of Political Economy in Trinity College, Dublin - a position presently held by our esteemed President. Lawson himself had contributed a paper to the Section F meeting on the topic Connection between Statistics and Political Economy and it is of interest to note that in December 1847 Lawson had the honour of reading the first paper to the Dublin Statistical Society under the same title!