Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, inspiring and inspired, eloquent, scholarly, erudite, moves and talks with panache, blessed among women, one whose genius cannot be replicated; as the people tell me there is no end to my brains as there is no end to my knowledge—I am the historian supreme, the most devious and most wily of them all, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. A great Irish poet wrote of how “the rustics”, as he patronisingly called them, gathered around the village school-master and still the wonder grew that one small head could carry all he knew. I would need a fleet of lorries to carry around all that I know. The summer has again turned cold and a lot of my flowers did not come to anything because of the appalling spring weather. The fragrance of my lilies wafts out across the road. The garden is nevertheless a magnificent spectacle. The Anglo-Irish aristocracy and gentry cultivated extensive and magnificent gardens in the 19th century.

On the 29th of September 1865 W. J. Battersby published “A History of the Abbeys, Convents, Churches and other Religious Houses of the Order, particularly of the Hermits of St Augustine in Ireland.” I quote here an extract from the chapter on the Convent of Clonmines:–

“About the year 1735, the Rev. Nicholas Newport, a most learned and venerable member of the [Augustinian] Order, took a small farm opposite Clonmines, about two miles from the ruins of the old Convent [at Clonmines]; upon this farm he built a thatched house, as a residence for himself and Community; and this house served as a Convent until early in the present century. It is now called Grantstown Convent by the people, it being the name of the townland, where the Convent is situated, as it holds its jurisdiction from the original foundation. After the house was built a thatched chapel was, also, erected, in which the Augustinian Fathers continued to minister to the spiritual wants of the people, until the year 1830. The Community consisted generally of two and, sometimes, of three clergymen; they derive their support from the produce of the farm and, also, from the free offerings of an attached and faithful people.

The venerable Father Newport, who established this Convent, was born in 1705, and died in the 86th year of his life, in the year 1791. In the cemetery of Kilkevin, near Grantstown, the following inscription may be seen on his tomb:

“Here lieth the body of Rev. Nicholas Newport O. S. A., who departed this life August 23, 1791, aged 86.

He was succeeded as Prior by the Very Rev. John Gregory Butler in 1782; of this man, it may be said, that he was a most learned, pious, and excellent ecclesiastic. He studied on the continent for many years, where having acquired a most profound knowledge of the ecclesiastical course, he was promoted, as a reward for his merits, to the dignity of master of the Order, and Doctor of Sacred Theology. On his return to his native land, he was located by his Provincial, in the humble Convent of Grantstown. He continued to be Prior of the Convent from 1781, until the year 1803. During that time he was beloved by the people, by reason of his incessant labours to promote their spiritual interests; and he was respected by the Bishop and clergy of the diocese of Ferns, by reason of his great talents, which he always exercised for the benefit of religion. It was in his Priorship and under his authority, that the illustrious James Doyle, afterwards Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, made his novitiate and religious profession. He pronounced his solemn vows in the little thatched chapel of Grantstown, in the presence, of the Very Rev. Father Prior and other members of the Order, as a humble son, of that immortal Doctor of the Catholic Church, St Augustine.

In 1807, the Very Rev. Father Butler was re-elected Prior, which office he held until 1811. He died, July 3, 1814, in the 64th year of his age. He was succeeded in 1811 by the Very Rev. William Doyle, who continued to be Prior until the year 1827. The present convent was erected by this good Prior, in the year 1811. It is most respectable and commodious residence, especially when compared to the old thatched house, the former dwelling of the Community. The Rev. William Doyle is well worthy of our notice. He was born in the county of Wexford, in the year 1760; having at an early age manifested a great desire to join the ecclesiastical state, he became a postulant for the Order of St Augustine. He studied in Rome, in the college of St Matthew, under the Very Rev. Philip Crane. Having completed his studies, he returned to his native land in the year 1798 and was immediately located by the Very Rev. Father Provincial in the Convent of Grantstown. Here he eagerly entered upon the work of the ministry; and his heart ever burned with the most ardent zeal to promote the salvation of souls. His labours were incessant in removing the spiritual wants of his fellow creatures, in dispelling their ignorance, in amending their hearts and in seeking after the lost sinner, in order to bring him back to the fold. His labours in the Confessional were incessant, second only to those of his venerable contemporary, the Very Rev. Philip Crane. Crowds of poor people from the neighbouring parishes were constantly around him, each one, in his turn, awaiting for several hours with the most patient anxiety to kneel before this holy minister of Christ, in order to hear fall from his lips those consoling words that invariably brought peace and joy to the humble and repentant sinner. For forty-four years he was engaged in this work of religion and charity. His zeal continued unabated to the end. After an illness of a few months, borne with the most humble resignation to the divine will, he expired in 1842, in the 82nd year of his age—May he rest in peace.

He was succeeded as Prior by the Very Rev. Richard Doyle in 1827, who continued in that office until 1843. The Very Rev. Francis Doyle, senior, now of New Ross, was Prior from 1843 to 1849. He was then succeeded by Rev. Richard Doyle, who continued in that office until 1855. At the Chapter held that year in Dublin, Very Rev. John Ennis was elected Prior. The Community consists, at present, of the Prior and Rev. Richard Doyle.

In 1829, the Very Richard Doyle, Prior, by direction of the Very Rev. Father Provincial, commenced the building of the present very neat and commodious little chapel. It is 80 feet by 30. The altar is very beautiful, built of carved wood and ornamented with pillars according to the Corinthian style. It was solemnly blessed in 1832, by the Very Rev. Daniel O’Connor, now Bishop of Saldes. The sermon, on that occasion, was preached by the Very Rev. Doctor Sinnott, late Vicar-General of the Diocese of Ferns. This convent was for many years the Novitiate of the Province, having been selected for that purpose, by reason of the retired locality in which it is situated. The late Rev. William Doyle was master of novices for many years. It is in a most healthful part of the country, being about two miles from the sea. It is approached from the leading road of the parish by a beautiful avenue, a quarter of a mile in length, ornamented with trees at each side. Altogether  it is a very delightful establishment and is decidedly the best country convent of the Order in Ireland.”

From The Free Press the 22nd of August 1942:–

“Sir—Some six weeks ago or so, a notice appeared in your advertisement columns over the signature of the Secretary to the Department of Agriculture, advising farmers that, there being no coal available for threshing, they should lay in stocks of timber or turf for that purpose immediately.

On 16th May last, fearing that this might be the case, I sent in an application to fell 300 trees for the sole purpose of making blocks for firing threshing engines in the district. The permit was refused. A further letter to the Forestry Department written a few later, and pointing out to them the reasons for applying so early, namely that (a) once the harvest was ripe farmers would not have time to fell trees and (b) in any event the wood would need to season for a few weeks before being used, was not answered.

On the appearance of the Department of Agriculture’s notice a further attempt was made to secure the permit. Among other communications a letter explaining the circumstances was sent to the Minister for Supplies as being the one most concerned with the outcome of this year. The reply received said that it appeared to be a matter for the Forestry Department and had therefore been referred to them.

Various other influential people have taken the matter up and a month ago, an inspector came down to examine the trees. Nothing further, however, has been heard of the matter.

The farmers here have, therefore, neither coal, turf nor timber and in consequence some 5,000 to 6,000 barrels of wheat, representing about 100,000 stone of flour, seem unlikely to get threshed, to say nothing of barley and oats.

Yours faithfully

M. Boyse

Bannow, Co. Wexford 13/8/’42”

The apocalypse anticipated by Mervyn Boyse did not actually occur; his letter is a reminder of the awfulness of steam power, as distinct from the internal combustion engine. My reasoned conjecture is Mr Boyse must have wanted to fell tress in the forests owned by the Forestry Department—could they object to him felling tress on the demesne at Grange, Bannow? The sheer number of tress proposed to be felled would have environmental consequences and would seriously denude a single forest. The great matter of Ireland during World War II was that of sufficiency—of not having enough of the basic necessities of life.

The Free Press on the 14th of September 1910 reported of a recent meeting of the Wexford District Council:–

“John Murphy Carrick, wrote stating that his cottage required repairs. A letter was, also, read from Thomas Bent, Ballygow, Bannow stating that the fence of his plot was in a bad state of repair. The end wall of the cottage was cracked and admitted the rain.

Mr Rossiter—He is supposed to keep the fence in repair himself.

Mr P. Walsh proposed that the letters be referred to Mr Fitzhenry, clerk of works.

Mr J. Murphy seconded.

In reply to a councillor, Mr Fitzhenry said the latter cottage had been built a couple of years.

Chairman—There is a column of complaints about it. Better refer them all to him. This was agreed to.”

I presume that the Carrick referred to is that of Carrig-on-Bannow.

From The Free Press, the 18th of June 1949:–

“Tullicanna Christian Brother’s Appointment

Superior of New Schools in Mauritius

Successful Career in a Distinguished Teaching Order

Rev. Brother Aurelian Martin of the de la Salle Order of Christian Brothers, who has been appointed Superior of new schools recently opened in Port Louis, Mauritius, is son of Mr Patrick Martin, Tullicanna, Ballymitty. He received his primary education in Tullicanna National School and joined the de la Salle Order twenty-three years ago in Castletown, Mountrath, Leix, where he spent six years in the college. He then went to France where he pursued a further course of studies for three years. On returning to Ireland he was appointed teacher in the schools of the Order at Hospital, Co. Limerick. During the — years he spent in Hospital he took an active part in the leading hurling club in the county and became well known as an expert hurler and G. A. A. enthusiast. He was then appointed Superior in the Ramsgrange (Co. Wexford) Monastery and School and having been five years in that post he was recently appointed Superior in Port Louis.

Brother Aurelian sailed for his new post of duty last September and the following extracts from his letters to his father record some of his interesting experiences….”

It is difficult to read the text of his letters as the print seems eroded out but I will quote, in its entirety, his letter of the previous 20th of May:–

“I am feeling as fit as a fiddle here and am very happy out here. Although I am Superior I have a very easy time. The weather is very agreeable here though the so-called winter is just commencing. I was at the sea-side a week ago and had a nice time, and am going for two weeks holidays in August and have hired a bungalow for the purpose. We had the local races in the Town Park during the week. We need not stir outside to see them as we have a full view of the course from our windows, as the course is just alongside. For one of the big races, an Irish horse is favourite “Eileen Mor”. At present I am learning a new language, the “lingo” of the people here. Only the really educated here speak French or English; the rank and file speak “Creole”, a language derived from French, a beautiful language, mostly of vowel sounds similar to Italian.

It is most important to learn this language in order to get on with the children here in Port Louis, as French and English are useless outside School. I have to write a lot of letters as I keep up correspondence with old friends in Ireland and I get a good supply of Irish papers.”

On the 1st of July 1942, the Free Press reported on a pleasant event in Wellingtonbridge:–

“Stationmaster’s Appointment—On Friday last of last week a pleasant social was attended by a number of friends of Mr Andrew Forrest, the popular station-master at Wellingtonbridge, to mark the occasion of his retirement on pension after thirty-five years service in that office.”

Mr Forrest was the husband of the woman who owned the Hotel in Wellingtonbridge.

From The Free Press, the 14th of May 1949:–

“Our Open Column


To The Editor, The Free Press

Sir—On behalf of my family and myself, I wish, through the columns of your paper, to acknowledge my deep debt of gratitude to all employees, neighbours and friends who came to render assistance on the occasion of the recent fire which destroyed my dwellinghouse.

The promptitude with which assistance was forthcoming and the disregard for personal danger shown by many of these men undoubtedly helped to save property and effects that otherwise would have been lost.

For the speed and efficiency displayed by Captain Crosbie and the members of the Wexford fire brigade I have the greatest admiration and gratitude.

My special thanks are, also, due to Mrs Kenny, the local postmistress, who got the ‘phone call through to the fire brigade in record time and, also, to the local Gardai, who rendered very valuable assistance all through.

J. J. Furlong,

Littlegraigue, Duncormick.”

From The Free Press, the 14th of May 1949:–

“The regretted death of Mrs Johanna Devereux, wife of the late Mr Andrew Devereux, Carrig-on-Bannow occurred on Friday of last week at the age of 82. She was one of the oldest and most respected residents of the district and deep sympathy is felt for her family in their bereavement. The late Mrs Devereux was the only surviving daughter of the late Mr William Murphy, merchant, Carrig-on-Bannow and despite her advanced years enjoyed good health up to a short time before her passing. She was mother of Mr William Devereux, Wexford, a leading figure in handball circles for over 30 years and a former Chairman of the Co. Board. There was a large and representative cortege at the funeral to the local cemetery on Sunday. The chief mourners were—Messrs W. Devereux, (son), Patrick Devereux, (brother-in-law), Andrew Cummins (nephew), Miss Mary A. Devereux, Mrs T. Devereux (sisters-in-law), Mrs S. Kenny, Mrs A. Murphy, Mrs T. O’Connor, Mrs K. Cleary (nieces). Very Rev. M. Keating P. P. Bannow, officiated at the graveside. R. I. P.”

William Murphy the merchant at Carrig-on-Bannow village is not to be confused with the famous teacher, William Murphy.