Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, scholarly, erudite, historian supreme, a right boyo, a sheer genius, an intelligence in excess of Einstein, walks and talks with panache and this year especially enlivened by the brightness of early summer—the darkness of winter is lifting both in reality and in metaphor! Has any man or woman been so regularly reminded of their genius? The people seem to talk to me about little else. There will never be another like that wily boy from beside the mine pits, the most devious and wily of them all.
The People on the 6th of March 1937 published an apology to young Mervyn Boyse, the 23 year old heir to the Bannow estate; his father had died well before his time a few weeks earlier. This is the opening part of The People’s retraction (maybe that is too severe a word):–
“Boyse of Bannow
Removing an erroneous Impression
In our issues of the 24th and 25th February, we published an article under the caption “Boyse of Bannow” concerning Mr Mervyn Boyse of Bannow, which was taken from “The Sunday Express”, London. We have received a communication on behalf of Mr Boyse from Messrs M. J. O’Connor and Co., solicitors, Wexford, which complains that the article was couched in terms hurtful and offensive to their client. Messrs O’Connor’s letter states that the facts are utterly different from statements and suggestions made in the article published. Mr Boyse with the full approval of his parents, Messrs O’Connor state, was studying and gaining practical experience of hotel management at Grosvenor House, London. Since the year 1935, he has been engaged in clerical work at that hotel….
According to the article in “The Sunday Express” young Boyse was, also, peeling potatoes, opening tins of sardines and slicing tomatoes. My impression of the article is that it was written with blithe indifference to the facts with an emphasis on glossing up the story and sketching a quaintly simple and simplistic image of Carrig-on-Bannow and Irish society. On the 27th of February 1937, the Echo published the Sunday Express article. I opine that there would be a degree of gullibility on the part of anybody who would publish such an article. Gull is an antiquated word for “to fool”; I use it to show how sophisticated I am. The letter from Messrs O’Connor continued:–
“On his father’s death, it became necessary for him to return to Ireland. He never at any time authorised the publication of any statements concerning his private affairs or granted an interview for that purpose. “It is unnecessary to add” the letter further states “that the he never stated in private conversation that he now owns a village or described himself as “the new squire” as such a statement would be entirely untrue and such a description would be absurd.”
On that basis, I can only deduce that the interview with young Mervyn Boyse did not actually happen! The underlying theme of the article was that Mervyn Boyse had, by his father’s death, inherited 400 acres, the village of Carrig-on-Bannow and a mansion with 47 rooms. He was quoted (allegedly) expressing a keen interest in the village that now belonged to him and hoped that they would like their new squire. A squire was in the parlance of the 18th century a country gentleman, possessed of a large tract of land and control over a tenantry. One recalls the ever irritated Squire Cass in the novel Silas Marner. It is highly improbable that young Boyse would have made such idiotic assertions: the tilt of such discourse would, also, jar with the proud traditions of the Boyse family—going back to the iconic Tom and his father Sam— as focussed on liberal principles of civil and religious freedoms.
By 1937, 400 acres of land would rate as that appropriate to a gentleman farmer but would hardly suffice to categorise one as a Squire. Landlords in previous centuries might have owned villages and towns in a sort of way but in twentieth century Ireland, the Land Commision had bought out the landlords and transferred the lands to the tenants. The 400 acres referred to was the demesne of the Boyse Estate at Bannow and all of it that remained in the Boyse possession; the rest was acquired under the Land legislation, especially the Wyndham Land Act of 1903.
Major H. T. ArthurBoyse died at Bannow House on Friday the 26th of January 1937 after spending a few days with an illness.
He went to the Boer War with the Irish Guards and after two year’s service in South Africa he was invalided home and placed on the reserve of his regiment. On the outbreak of the Great War [World War I] in 1914 he rejoined his regiment as Recruiting Officer in Waterford where he continued until he went to France on Christmas Day 1914. He was severely wounded in the head and invalided home. On his discharge from hospital he was appointed to military duty in London where he served for the remainder of the war. The wound he received while on active service permanently impaired his health and contributed to his death at the early age of 56 years.”
The account of Major Boyse’s demise stated:–
“The funeral to Balloughton Cemetery on Tuesday was one of the largest and most representative seen in the county for many years. All sections of the community followed the remains to their last resting place and forty motor cars conveyed sympathisers from far and near.”
From The People the 6th of February 1937:–
“Up Rack’s Cross—According to the balance sheet presented at the County Convention of the G. A. A., Rack’s Cross furnished the biggest gate of the year. This achievement should make it a very popular venue in the future.
Wanted A Hall—The success of Rack’s Cross as a Gaelic games venue emphasises the need for a suitable hall in the vicinity. If a resourceful Committee set about the task and a start were made without delay the project should be brought to a successful conclusion before the coming summer has run its course.”
From The Wexford Independent the 6th of February 1833:–
“Eligible Situation For Business
To Be Let
For a Long Term of Years in the Village of Carrick and Parish of Bannow
A spacious house, in which very extensive business was formerly carried on, with a large Malt or corn store, and nearly nine acres of land. There is a daily post to Carrick and a constant intercourse with Wexford, by means of public cars. Proposals (if by letter post paid) to the Rev. Mr King, Barristown, Taghmon, will be attended to. Immediate possession would be given, if required.
31st January 1833.”
From The Wexford Independent the 23rd of January 1875:–
“The Wreck at Bannow
The ship noticed in our last as ashore at Bannow is the Vittorioso, of Venice, Angelo Scaips, master. She left Cardiff on the 10th instant, for Constantinople, with a cargo of 420 tons of coals on board. She was built in Venice in 1864. As soon as the vessel was perceived on the rocks great efforts were made by the coastguards to get up communication to her from the shore, but without effect. Messengers were then dispatched to Duncannon for the life-boat, which was at once got under way. The life boat had to be conveyed about six miles over land and was drawn by six horses and fifty men, with difficulty, in consequence of the state of the roads. The boat was launched at Fethard and she reached the disabled ship in less than twenty minutes after, rescuing the whole of the crew, nine in number. The Life-Boat is belonging to the National Life-Boat Institution and this was the first time it was ever used in rendering assistance. She acted nobly whilst going to the vessel, having filled with water and emptied herself again without any accident to the crew. Only for the services of the boat, it is believed that all on board the vessel would have perished. The Duncannon Life-Boat is thirty-three feet long and is rowed by ten oars; her crew, on this occasion, consisting of fourteen brave fellows. The vessel from the position she is in, is likely to go to pieces. On Wednesday the master made a deposition before William Coghlan Esq., Collector of Customs, in which he said that nothing occurred to the vessel until she was within a hundred miles of Cape Clear, when she was struck by a heavy sea, disabling her, and washing away her bulwarks, wind S. S. W. blowing a hurricane; the ship being unable to serve the sea, was compelled to run before it; endeavoured to make Queenstown; on the 17th about 8 am sighted land, which land he believed to be Cape Clear and bore away for Queenstown; on 18th instant made land; finding he had mistaken his position and unable to get into harbour, got ship by wind; attempted to get out about noon; about 4 pm Connybeg Light-Ship; was then aware of his position; being unable to weather Light-Ship, stayed; was unable to work out; made all plain sail for that purpose; made several attempts to get out; last sighted Life Ship about 2 am on 19th instant about 2 am on 19th instant; at 4 am when in act of wearing struck; ship working heavily, sea making clean breach over her and filled with water, lowered sails, expecting vessel to go to pieces; remained by ship, the sea being so bad, boats could not have lived in it; saw a number of people on the shore; saw rockets fired which failed to reach the shore; about 2 pm life-boat came alongside, took off the crew and landed them at Fethard; is now aware that the ship is on a shoal on Bannow coast; the vessel made no water up to the time of striking; lead constantly hove; sounded in from sixty to thirty fathoms; attributes the casualty to stress of weather.”
Some of the account given by the Master of the Ship, due to the compressing of it, is not clear, and the technical terms add to the confusion.
From The Wexford Independent the 5th of December 1888; report of meeting of the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union:–
“The Clerk whilst on this subject [payment of rents on labourers’ cottages], stated he would read a letter which he had received from Mr Lett, in reply to the statement made by Mr Dillon at the last meeting:–
“Balloughton House, Bannow, November 30th 1888
Gentlemen—Enclosed find five written refutations of Mr Collector Dillon’s statements before your Board at last meeting, as reported in the press. Should not this collector’s books throw some light on the matter?
W. H. Lett.”
The refutations enclosed in Mr Lett’s letter were read. All the letters denied Mr Dillon’s statements. They all said that Mr Lett paid them regularly every Friday but that Mr Dillon did not call for the money [for rent of their cottages] in some cases for five weeks. In reference to Martin Doyle’s letter, Mr Dillon said he would not say who it was that told him what he had said at the last meeting. Martin Doyle was a good pay. He was paid up to the 6th October. Moses Carty was, also, a good pay. He was paid up to the 4th October. Regarding James L–, he called and the only persons he saw were three little boys.
Mr Coghlan—The statement made about Mr Lett were not correct.
Mr Peacocke—Mr Dillon, do you still adhere to what you said here?
Mr Dillon—never said it. He only said what he was told.
Mr Coghlan—But before you made that statement, should you not have made inquiries?
Mr Dillon never knew he ought to have done so.
In reply to the Clerk, Mr Dillon admitted that he had not called at Coolbrook for twelve weeks.
Mr Sinnott said that Mr Dillon had shown by his books that the people were not in debt so much as they said.
The Clerk remarked that the book shows that the money was collected after what had taken place on Saturday last.
Mr Peacock would ask the Board to postpone further consideration for a month. If the rents were not properly collected, then the Board would be in a better position to act.
Mr Hore could not see any reason for postponement, as scarcely a Saturday passed but something came before them about the arrears in his district.
Mr Peacocke said his motion was only to give Mr Dillon an opportunity of doing his duty to the ratepayers and this Board.
The Clerk contrasted Mr Dillon’s district with Mr Murphy’s, which was a poorer one. In that district, there is one man who owes 10 shillings and he walked a long distance into town to ask Mr Murphy not to report him in arrears, as he would not be able to meet it in a short time. That showed a proper spirit on the man’s part. Mr Murphy mentioned it to him and he (the Clerk) took the responsibility and told him not to report it.
The further consideration of the question was postponed until the first Saturday in January.”
From The Wexford Independent the 3rd of March 1847:–
“The Poor—Ireland’s Bard
Our distinguished countryman, Thomas Moore, has forwarded through the hands of his enlightened friend, Thomas Boyse, the sum of Five Pounds, towards the Bannow Relief Fund, in order to mark his enduring remembrance of the cordial Irish welcome which was given him the bold peasantry of that favoured location. The sympathy of Ireland’s Bard for his afflicted fellow countrymen, at a moment like this, must speak touchingly and home to the feelings of our common humanity; and his generous donation flings some fresh lustre on the name of the exalted contributor.”
The donation indicated a good intent but it was meagre enough; Tom Moore, who a close friend of Lord John Russell, a British Prime Minister, of the Whig or Liberal hue, in those years, was awarded shortly after his visit to Bannow a state pension of £100 a year—his wife was suppose to have jested that they could now have butter with their potatoes! I presume that Tom Boyse put in a good word to help him get the pension. Tom Moore was not immensely rich.
According to The Wexford Independent on the 6th of May 1848 there were 34 paupers in the Wexford Workhouse from the Bannow Electoral District.
From The People the 10th of August, 1912:–
“there was a slight improvement in the matter of attendance and supply at the Fair at Carrig-on-Bannow on Thursday week last. For some time past there has been scarcely any fair held her, some of the monthly dates passing off with only the attendance of one or two carts, with as many people. However, on Thursday week there was a pretty large attendance and a few of every class of stock were offered for sale. Small pigs were much in prominence and demand all round was extremely good. Price for small pigs showed an upward tendency and nearly all those offered were disposed of at very remunerative figures. No bacon pigs were offered as those are disposed of throughout the district by other means which is no small way responsible for the bad fairs in South Wexford.”
It would require an excellent—indeed inspired—spin-doctor to write up the Carrig fair; it never went right. The lure of selling to agents of the pig factories or other parallel buyers is obvious: in an era of rudimentary transport and irrational and dreadful weather, selling the pigs in that way, eliminated the necessity of driving them to the Fair, the cost of the labour involved and sheer hassle.
In February of 1847 Lord John Russell, the British Prime Minister, received an extraordinary letter, presumably, read by one his officials: the address at the outset of the missive is sufficient indication, to keen students of the history of the County Wexford in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, of the identity of the writer! He was surely an honorary citizen of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow and the finest writer in the County Wexford of his time.
“National School, Taghmon
February 6, 1847
Mr Lord—As a private individual, I am nothing but as the representative of the distress and privations of nearly 1,000 demi-official servants of the Government in Ireland, I hope this letter will not be deemed presumptuous by the first Minister of the Crown. The “Labour Act Rate Act”, the source of activity and employment to 500,000 persons and of food to 2,000,000 of the people, has left us with folded arms on our platforms, with nought to do but survey the empty desks and tablet-covered walls of the once thronged, but now comparatively deserted school-rooms. Our pupils have flung behind them, for a season, the book and the pen and clutched the stone hammer to earn there by the price of a few pounds of Indian meal to keep body and soul together. Within ten perches of where I write, are seated 150 women and children, by the side of the public road, breaking stones and from amongst them I could select 60 of my scholars. What a change! At this season in other years, my care would be to keep good fires in my comfortable school-room, lest these little fellows should catch cold. Alas!, they now cheerfully abide the biting blast of winter, to secure themselves a dinner, as otherwise they should die of hunger. In November last 40 children left my school in one week, when the Public Works commenced in this neighbourhood; and since the opening of this year I have not had more than five children in attendance on any one day. But, my Lord, what is to be the fate of the unfortunate teachers? Had we, like our pupils abandoned our schools, the officers of the Board of Works would have gladly availed themselves of our services as over-seers, check (?)- clerks, &c and at wages far and away beyond any thing we ever received as teachers; for even, you, My Lord, admit that the great bulk of the 11,587 overseers, &c, are incompetent to discharge the duties of their office efficiently—and of this fact I am well aware, as I instructed upwards of 50 overseers and candidates for that office in the method of measuring and calculating earth works, &c.
The Commissioners of National Education admit that, even in ordinary years, we are not adequately rewarded for our services to the State. If £12 per annum be the average of the salaries, which we receive, what must be our condition this year, when our trifling school fees have failed us?
Mr Lord, it would not be for the interest of National Education to have us present at the next public soup kitchen for relief, nor to behold our wives among a group of paupers, besieging the doors of a Relief depot, and soliciting a stone weight of meal at a reduced price. Place, then, My Lord, for this year at least, in the hands of the Commissioners, a sum sufficient to double our present salaries, and we may live to bless you.
I have the honour to be
With the most profound respect, my Lord,
John Tuomy N. T.
Lord John Russell
Downing Street, 10 February 1847
Sir—Lord John Russell had desired me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, of the 6th instant.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant
R. W. Grey.
Mr John Tuomy.”
John Tuomy wrote with the descriptive and argumentative power of a great novelist; as a scholar he was without equal in the county Wexford of his time. My problem with this missive is that I suspect that parts of it are fictional!
I do not believe that all and sundry could at will obtain employment on the Public Works Scheme; the criteria only permitted one member of any household to obtain a place on the Public Works at a given time. I am bewildered at Mr Tuomy’s charge that young children would be accepted to work on a Government sponsored project—besides I am at a loss to understand the usefulness of the endeavours to work of famished children. It is a surreal scenario.
The National School system was intended to extend education to the vast mass of poor children in Ireland and it was doubtful if—legally speaking—teachers could extract fees from the children. However, the practice developed of teachers obtaining fees, at least, from the better-off parents of children at their schools; the parish priest usually made a contribution for the children of poorer parents.