Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, ebullient, original, innovative, erudite, scholarly, eloquent, grandiloquent, distinguished, historian supreme, a right boyo, blessed among the women and like all the children of Barrystown pursued by gold and silver: as St Kevin of Kilkevan prophesised the children of Barrystown would always head the race of life. I nearly forgot—I am also wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. Dan O’Connell, the Liberator, would not find words adequate to a proper description of my greatness but enough of that….I  have done history some service and they know it, blah, blah, blah…..

Tom Boyse, of glorious memory, writing on February 20, 1819 to William Gregory Under-Secretary, Dublin Castle, indicated that the Moor of Bannow “formerly a common, is, I almost say, covered with cabins filled with Paupers.” A Pauper was a very poor person, essentially destitute. I am puzzled why the historians of Carrig-on-Bannow have not researched or written about the Moor of Bannow. The roots of the narrative of the Moor of Bannow extend back to the Middle Ages and involve a juxtaposition and clanging of different modes of law. The commons of Bannow, that is the Moor, was attached to the Corporation of Bannow and as the Corporation of Bannow was excluded from the patent granting Bannow to Nathaniel Boyse I assume that the Commons or Moor of Bannow was excluded also. It is also an enigmatic part of the story of the Boyses at the Grange, Bannow after 1816: the legality of the process by which the inhabitants of the Moor became tenants of Sam Boyse, albeit at a nominal charge became an angry controversy of the Tenant Right movement after 1860. You could write about the Moor of Bannow to fill a thousand books and still be only at the start of the beginning of the story of the Moor of Bannow. You could write a grim, macabre and gothic novel about the Moor but I do not believe in historical novels as—I contend and believe—imagination and the generation of emotion in them always trump history; on the contrary I believe that one may write objective and insight laden history about the Moor and I hope to do so for the fourth Journal of the Bannow Historical Society. I welcome any information that any of my numerous readers may have on the Moor. The story of the Moor is also one of hope; of positive transformation—by the death of Tom Boyse in 1854 the Moor had become comparatively fertile with much improved houses plus a public house (Keane’s). It is high time that somebody wrote on the history  of the Moor of Bannow.

I will be on the Bannow Historical Society’s Tour on next Saturday; my maternal grandparents are buried in the famous St Mullins graveyard which I visited only once in 1967. I think that my grandmother was a native of Co. Kilkenny. My grandfather John Murphy was a builder of labourers’ cottages and a maker of cart wheels. He lived at Ballycrinnigan but he and his wife and family moved to a farm at Courthoyle, Raheen, Adamstown bought by my granduncle, also a carpenter, for my grandmother on the basis that she would nurse him in his final illness which naturally she did. My grandmother had exceptional intelligence or so the master in the local national school attested to her parents.

This is an extract from the account of Bannow based on his visit there, written by Rev. Robert Walsh M. R. I. A. and published in newspapers and journals in 1826:–

“A Prosperous Area

The general appearance of the habitations of the peasantry is singularly neat and comfortable far exceeding that of any other part of Ireland with the exception of County Down round Belfast; and as in County Down, no beggars are permitted to resort there. The soil is exceedingly rich and justifies its Irish appellation. Large tracts of marl are found but not used and the ground produces a succession of crops without exhaustion, though never suffered to be fallow. The only manure is occasional sea wrack.

All the Honey in Dublin

The great and favourite crop of the peasantry is beans, so little cultivated in other parts of Ireland. I passed through when they were in flower and the rich perfume which loaded the air from so extensive a surface of blossoms was almost too strong to endure and threatened to kill us with “aromatic pain”. On these blossoms an immense abundance of bees feed and every farmer has a number of hives in his garden. All the honey consumed in Dublin comes from this neighbourhood. It is bought in great quantities and is of excellent quality.”

Tom Boyse, who had an interest in science, was alert to bad hygiene and general dirt spreading disease and setting off epidemics; he effectively believed in the germ theory of disease. He had in 1832 the clothes of Spanish sailors, deceased in a shipwreck off the Bannow coast, burned in order to prevent the local people picking them up and wearing them. Epidemics blighted society in the middle ages and, indeed, into early modern history. Tom Boyse had no tolerance of beggars and vagrants viewing them as a reservoir of infection which they would disseminate wherever they went. He would rightly have seen them leeching off the hard working ordinary people, depriving them of part of their meagre income.

The Rev. Walsh also wrote:–

“Marriage Customs

Among the customs of the people, those of marriage are somewhat peculiar. The friends bring a provision of food of all kinds along with them. The bride sits veiled at a table, unless called out to dance, when one of her bridesmaids supplies her place. The feasting and dancing are kept up all night and are concluded by cutting an apple into small pieces and throwing it among the crowd. The practice is not Irish and was probably introduced by the strangers.

Pattern Day

Among their amusements, the “pattern” is perhaps one of the greatest favourites. It is, in fact, a religious ceremony, paying homage to the Patron Saint of some particular well or holy spot and usually commences with prayers but, always, ends with dancing and often with fighting. The most celebrated of these spots is Lady’s Island between Wexford and Bannow, of which the Virgin Mary is Patron. When I paid it a visit a number of persons were in procession on their knees. They had commenced at the peninsula which connects it with the mainland and were bound to proceed in that posture round the shore till they arrived at a small shrine in which was an image of the virgin which they were then allowed to kiss. This practice was so universal that part of the marble was kissed away.”

From a report of a Presentment Sessions to arrange public works to alleviate the Famine distress in the Wexford Independent 30th of December 1846:–


Mr Walker—With regard to Bannow—some time back, Mr Boyse and himself agreed to drain extensively; and expected the co-operation of Lord Valentia, Messrs Morgan, King, Burrows and Hughes, which would cover the whole the electoral division.

Mr R. Lett—Mr Leigh refuses to drain

Mr Walker—In as much as drainage is an experiment—an important one he admitted—Mr Boyse concurred with him, that it would be better not to take the whole of the portion allotted to the electoral division in drainage as there might be some preliminary delays in bringing it into operation but to take a moiety, or thereabouts for the public works. The Sessions could decide the quantity of works in readiness and the amount of poor requiring immediate employment….”

This letter was read to the Presentment Sessions:–

“Bannow, December 25th 1846

My Dear Walker—I am very sorry indeed that I am precluded by illness from meeting you to-day at Duncormack, as it was my wish and intention to do.

However, under your able and painstaking care, I feel quite satisfied that our Bargy Relief affairs are safe.

I write merely to say, that, if Mr Morgan and you are agreed upon the subject of Drainage, I am quite willing to co-operate with you. But it may be required in each Electorate to have a few “Public Works” Presentments also made lest there might occur an interval of suspended labour before matters were rife for commencing the Drainage operations.

Mr Stanley is fully apprized of my views but I wish entirely to render them subservient to the general accommodation and shall feel quite satisfied with whatever the Sessions may decide upon.

Believe me, always most truly yours,

T. Boyse”

The decision in relation to loans for relief works to Bannow were as follows:–

“A presentment of £300 was then passed for drainage to Mr Boyse.

£30 to Rev. Mr Hughes for do.

Mr Lett £100 for do.

This made £800 for drainage in this division. [This arithmetic confounds me]

The following then passed:–

£150 to finish the hill of Maudlintown.

£60 to lower Brandane hill.

£300 to repair the road and fill gripes between Church of Balloughton and bounds of the division.

On the question of quarrying being again incidentally mentioned, Mr Lett stated that some of Mr Boyse’s tenants objected to drain until they got a road from the sea, to enable them to draw stones from the strand.

Mr Walker—The object of these Sessions is to employ the poor and not to enhance the properties of proprietors—drawing stones or gravel would not give employment to old men, women and children who could be beneficially employed breaking stones.

£60 to fill gripes at the Moor of Bannow

£100 for quarrying at Whitty’s Hill, Graig, Kilkevan and the neighbourhood.

£60 to build a bridge at Ballygow.

£100 to lower and finish the hill of Bogher.

£309 17 shillings and 6 pence to improve the hill of Grange. This made the gross sum of £1959 17 shillings and 6 pence the portion allotted to Bannow.”

These monies were essentially borrowed from the British authorities and would impose a heavy burden on proprietors, landlords and farmers and commercial interests to repay at a later time. The results of the Presentment Sessions do prove that the local powers and the Government did seek to alleviate the Famine distress but, of course, the amount of relief was pathetically inadequate. Tom Boyse was very alert to delays in providing relief, especially works on the public schemes: the desperate labourers would have no means of providing for themselves or their families in the interim period before a public works scheme would commence. The bureaucracy involved in these schemes was tedious and almost interminable. The drainage carried out by landlords like Tom Boyse and financed by borrowed monies may have had some long term value to the landlord but such is not certain: the real purpose was to provide employment to starving men. A certain amount of outdoor relief was later given to starving people but Tom Boyse in an angry letter to the Wexford Independent described the rations of food permitted to such destitute and desperate people as grimly laughable.

The Wexford Independent on May 5th 1866 reported that “Mr King, late Chief Resident Engineer, Vehar Water Works, has been appointed Chief Engineer of the Mazagon Land Reclamation Company, in room of Mr Latham.

[Mr King is son of the Rev. Richard King of Woodville in this county; and we are happy to be able to add his name to those who reflect an honour on old Wexford—Editor Wexford Independent.]”

Jonas King of Barrystown was, also, a son of the Rev. Richard King.

From an account of a meeting of the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union in the Wexford Independent on February 11, 1903:–

“New Tenants

For the tenancy of the vacant cottage at Brandane there was only one applicant, viz—Johanna Power, widow of the late tenant.

In reply to a member, Mr Walsh said she had three sons. On the motion of Mr John Murphy, seconded by Mr O’Connor, Mrs Johanna Power was accepted as tenant.”

At the same meeting—“Mr Walsh, Sanitary Sub-Officer reported that the caretaker of Bannow graveyard had died, thus causing a vacancy; there was a salary of 10 shillings per month attached to the office

It was decided that a caretaker be advertised for.”

Correspondence to The People on August 26th 1961:–

“Aoife’s Grave at Bannow

As one who believes in the preservation of places and things of historical interest, allow me, through the medium of your excellent paper, to voice a protest against the recent desecration of the grave of Aoife Nic Mhurcha in the Norman Church at Bannow Bay, Co. Wexford.

This Aoife was the daughter of the infamous Diarmuid Mac Murcha (Diarmuid of the Foreigners) who betrayed his king and country into the hands of her enemies and brought the Normans into Ireland. Aoife’s grave has therefore always been a place of interest to visitor and native alike.

When on a recent visit to this spot, I found to my amazement that some person had removed the stone which has marked her grave for almost 800 years and cast it into the a corner of the old church. It is probable that this was done by someone who was quite unaware of the circumstances. I would, therefore, appeal to those concerned to restore the stone to its rightful place so that all who come here may know where Aoife sleeps.

P. O’Corrdulbh (?)

Geata Thiar

Loch Garman.”

From The People 17th of October 1931:–

“Carrig-on-Bannow Gaelic League

At the weekly meeting of the Carrig-on-Bannow branch of the Gaelic League held on Friday evening last, Miss Sheila Sinnott, Wellingtonbridge proposed a vote of sympathy with the Most Rev. the Lord Bishop and the relatives of Canon Mortimer Sullivan [ recently deceased Parish Priest of Carrig-on-Bannow]. Mr P. Byrne, Carrig, seconded the vote which was passed in silence.”

From The Free Press Friday April 6th 1962:–

“Card Drive—The winners of last week’s card drive which was started in Ballymitty Hall on Sunday night and was not finished until Friday night were Mrs Breen, Staplestown, Mr M. Carroll, Busherstown, John and Mary Murphy, Ballymitty, Mrs Farrell, Wellingtonbridge, Mrs Kelly, Mr Waters Taylorstown and Mr W. Kehoe, Marshalstown.”