"French Tom" Barton 1695-1774

One of the most successful entrepreneurs ever connected with Ballyshannon was Tom Barton. In 1720 he emigrated to France to take advantage of the ancient trading links between Ballyshannon and Ireland. He set up business as a wine factor and with his brother William became very wealthy.
Sir James Caldwell, a neighbour from nearby Belleek, estimated their wealth in 1744 as 60,000. He stayed three months with them at that time and the extent of their business is indicated by the fact that they could give Sir James letters of credit to trading friends in Toulouse, Montpellier and Marseilles.

Despite occasional rows regarding money Caldwell had borrowed from them, they remained in contact. A letter from Thomas Barton of December 1754 tells Sir James that he is sending him two bags each of oak acorns, chestnuts and walnuts on board the 'Everina' bound for Ballyshannon with Henry Dickson, Master, probably a member of the ancient Dickson family of Ballyshannon, and uncles to "French Tom."

The town was a notable port at the time, and there was quite a lot of trade between the west of Ireland and the west of France. Brandy, wine, and silk were imported, and wool, fish and agricultural produce were exported. There were other Irish migrants to the continent who also got involved in the liquor industry, so much so that they came to be called the "Wine Geese".

These Irish traders on the continent supplied a home market of wealthy landlords and merchants and in the case of Ballyshannon, an important military presence in the town. With an infantry barrack and a cavalary barrack, there was a large circulation of money in the locality and under the patronage of the officers, quantities of port, sherry, claret and brandy were imported. Consignments of wine from Bordeaux and elsewhere were occasionally paid for in kind by a return cargo of butter and grain.

There were other Irish migrants to the continent who also got involved in the liquor industry, so much so that they came to be called the "Wine Geese". These Irish traders on the continent supplied a home market of wealthy landlords and merchants and in the case of Ballyshannon, an important military presence in the town. With an infantry barrack and a cavalary barrack, there was a large circulation of money in the locality and under the patronage of the officers, quantities of port, sherry, claret and brandy were imported. Consignments of wine from Bordeaux and elsewhere were occasionally paid for in kind by a return cargo of butter and grain.


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