Sir William Hart Dyke did not act as chairman of the Committee; in fact he was prevented by illness from attending any meeting after the first, and in his absence the chair was taken by Mr. Parker Smith, M.P.
The scope of the inquiry included Great Britain and Ireland; but, as the Committee stated in their report, “In Ireland the proportional importance of the cattle trade is much the greater,” and that no doubt was why they examined in Dublin 42 witnesses against about half that number in England.
Plews, Colhoun and I gave evidence for the Irish railways, supplemented with testimony on matters of detail by some of our subordinates. My railway (the Midland) being, relatively at any rate, the principal cattle-carrying line in Ireland, it was agreed that I should give the greater part of the evidence and appear first. The railway companies, of course, came on after the public witnesses had had their say.
The Committee in their report made some useful recommendations both for Great Britain and Ireland, not only in regard to the transit of cattle by railway, but also in reference to public supervision at fairs; accommodation and inspection at ports; the licensing of drovers; dishorning of young cattle, etc. With respect to railway transit the recommendations were directed principally to control and accommodation at stations; pens and loading banks; improvement in cattle trucks; and rest, food and water.
It is but fair to the railway companies to say that for some years previous to the inquiry they had been making constant and steady improvements in these matters, and I believe the Irish Department of Agriculture, which was established by Act of Parliament in 1899, and in which are vested the powers and functions of the Privy Council in regard to live stock, with some added powers as well, would, were they appealed to now, bear testimony to the good work of the Irish railways in regard to the “Inland Transit of Cattle.”
It would be tedious as well as tiresome to describe the many railway contests in the Committee Rooms at Westminster in which, during the remainder of my managerial career, it was my lot to be engaged; but one great case there was, in 1899 and 1900, which, by its importance to my company, and I may say, to the south and west of Ireland generally, should not pass unnoticed, and of it I propose to give a short account.