Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, obliging, friendly, erudite, your favourite historian and historian supreme, a big hit with the girls, a right boyo, scholarly, all-knowing, a genius, unique and—wily, above all else that wily boy.
On December 28th 1962 The Free Press carried an extraordinary report, to put it mildly! It claimed that there was a long held belief that money was buried in the Ballymitty locality….not just gold and silver metals but actual money, wads of cash, I presume. I am not making this up: I have the various issues of the Free Press for that year. I am puzzled as to why nobody has ever bothered to dig the money up. Maybe money is of no use although one could recycle it as paper or use it to bed the cattle in.
County of Wexford
March 7th 1827
I had the honour to transmit by last night’s post, in conformity to the wish expressed in your letter, (the receipt of which, with the accompanying Emigration Report, I now beg leave to acknowledge), a list of the emigrants who have left this parish within the last thirteen years.
It give me great pleasure to think that the results of my circumscribed experience in this remote and very retired corner of the empire may be of use in the construction of a plan of general Emigration; and I shall be glad to furnish you, at all times, with replies to any queries respecting the peasantry of Ireland, which you may think it worth your while to address to me.
I beg to say, that, for the last eleven years of my life, I have lived uninterruptedly, and I may say altogether with the peasants of this district, having embarked in a comprehensive project of rural improvement, which has at length converted this parish from a perfect wilderness to a state of high moral and agricultural amelioration and order.
Indeed I may say, without exaggeration, that we have established to demonstration, what it has been too much the fashion to consider, or at least to pronounce, problematical, that Ireland is capable of civilisation. Bannow, at this moment, as you may learn from quarters likely to give you more unbiased and disinterested evidence than that of its proprietor, affords a model—easily imaginable by any Irish gentleman, who can make up his mind to a consistent and steady course of action for a few years.
As I stated to you before, however, this would have been altogether a hopeless enterprise if we had not succeeded in the effort to diminish the numbers of the inhabitants. I ought to observe too, that besides the persons who have gone from hence to America, we have got rid of nearly 200 more of our surplus mouths by various means, such as purchasing the interest in the tenements of several needy cottagers, who have gone to other parts of Ireland and by refusing to renew some leases which have lately expired; so that, to speak in round numbers, I consider that we have reduced what was our gross population by one fifth part, that is, from about 1500 to 1220—its present amount. The extent of land from which this drain has been made is about 2,000 acres, that is 3240 English ones. It is our intention to continue, as we may be enabled to do so by circumstances, this gradual subtraction, for we still deem our numbers redundant by about 200. We are, at present, in this county, labouring under a very trying (and unprecedented, at so early a period of the year) scarcity of provisions, in consequence of the nearly total failure of the potato and oat crop of last season. I am, at this moment, occupied in importing potatoes and oatmeal from the west of Ireland, in order to meet the deficiency here, and expect to receive perhaps about two-thirds of the price I pay, from our labourers, in labour. I mention this fact, incidentally, to show how enormous would have been the pressure on us, if we had the extended 300 also, looking to us for food and occupation. I really know not what to say what might have been the consequences.
We have, of course, expended a large capital in the improvements above alluded to, but our power of affording employment to so vast a number of labourers will now, of course, be every year less, and it is therefore, that we are anxious to still further diminish our numbers.
My father or grandfather had not visited this parish, part of their paternal inheritance, for nearly half a century; to their absence and neglect is, of course, attributable the devastating evil of infinite subdivision of tenements and a consequent surreptitious sub-tenantry –as the Bishop of Limerick has it—of a most unwieldy numerical magnitude. A considerable sum of money must necessarily have been expanded in inducing the emigrants to leave this parish. But I have no hesitation in saying that the same sum applied to the purposes of agricultural improvement would not have been by any means productive of so much permanent advantage to the landlords and remaining inhabitants, as has resulted from withdrawing the supernumerary labourers.
In reply to your inquiry respecting the mode adopted here for the prevention of the re-occupation of the vacated cottages—we have invariably and immediately thrown them down, having, in every instance, of voluntary emigration, allowed the out-goer a valuable consideration for his interest in the premises. The small portion of land attached to these cottages we have consolidated with the tenement of the contiguous occupier, at a rent equivalent to the interest of the consideration above stated.
Before I received your letter, I had written at some length to Mr Spring Rice, having seen his name amongst those of the members of your committee. I did so principally with a view of suggesting, with reference to the Irish Emigrant, an estimated rate of Emigration expenditure, say from 17 pounds, 10 shillings to 18 pounds for each labouring man, the head of a family, to be located in the Canadas. May I beg to refer you to the details of my letter to Mr Rice, with which I am sure he will be glad to furnish you.
It will be admitted, I believe, by all, that my countrymen from being unacquainted with the comforts which are indispensable to the well-being of an English peasant, are better qualified than the inhabitants of any other part of the United Kingdom to brave the dangers and surmount the rugged labours of a Canadian location. And they can therefore be settled at a smaller expense, especially, when we take into consideration the enviable buoyancy of spirit and the admirable contempt of difficulties by which they are universally distinguishable from their fellow-subjects of the sister isle.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
The People on July 19th 1890 reported on the Summer Assizes at Wexford; this an extract from it:–
Mr Wakely B. L. (instructed by Thomas J. Healy) supported the presentment of £4 18shillings and 9 pence to Moses Colfer of Ballygow, for half a year’s contract for keeping in repair 395 perches between the cross at Galavan’s house, to the high water mark at Cullenstown and from the King’s bridge to the cross of Cullenstown, at 6 pence per perch. The presentment, he understood, was passed at Duncormack by nine votes to five. The road was used very much by persons going to the sea and by persons drawing sand and gravel and it had been for some years in a very bad state of repair. He had a petition signed by a large number of cesspayers of large valuations. The making of the road would be only about one eleventh of a penny in the £ on the rates. Mr Molyneaux Barton (instructed by Mr Huggard) said he appeared on behalf of Major Boyse and the way the matter stood was this. The first statement he would make was that this is strictly a private road that had never been presented for and he would produce witnesses to prove this fact. The only use to which it was put by the tenants of Major Boyse, who paid a trivial sum for the right to go down the road to the seashore at Cullenstown for the purpose of taking sand and gravel. He characterised the present presentment as really an intent to forestall a decision now pending in the Vice-Chancellor’s Court. He might say that in January last Major Boyse brought an action against a man named Codd for trespassing on the fore-shore and taking sea-weed. Major Boyse claimed under a patent (produced) granted in the reign of Charles II, 1766 to Nathaniel Boyse, lineal ancestor to Major Boyse, the present lord of the manor. The question of title was raised before Judge Darley in the Court of Appeal, on the ground that the valuation was exceeding £30, he had no jurisdiction and on that technical objection, of course, to hold that it was outside his court. Major Boyse was then advised by senior counsel to commence an action in the Court of the Vice-Chancellor, in order to assert his title to the foreshore between high and low water mark. Subsequent to the action of the January sessions certain parties procured the presentment and put a man in the month of May at Duncormack to present for a road that had not been presented for in the memory of any man living in the county of Wexford and by an indirect way to get the grand jury to say it was a public road. He could produce witnesses to prove that the road was not 16 feet wide, as required by an Act of Parliament. He submitted that as a suit was pending in the Superior Courts which had bearing on this presentment, the grand jury shouldn’t take action with regard to it. Mr Wakely contended that the action in reference to the foreshore had nothing whatever to do with the present case. The tenants all acknowledged Major Boyse’s title to the foreshore. The Foreman said before they went any further he would wish to ask if this were a private road? Was the grand jury going to repair private roads all over the country?
Mr Cookman—Whose farms do the road go through?
Mr Barton said he had a memorial signed by twenty-five tenants through whose farms this road would go and they objected to it being presented for.
The Foreman said that he for one wouldn’t like to pass the presentment while a law suit was proceeding. Mr Cookman said the grand jury had no power to present a road running through private property. Mr Pounden thought they wouldn’t be doing any harm in tearing up the presentment now and let it come forward after the law suit had been decided. Mr Bryan concurred. Mr Wakely—What I would point out to you is this, that the law suit has nothing whatever to do with the road. That is what I pointed out to the Foreman before. Mr Barton asked to have Major Barton sworn. Colfer, in reply to Mr Wakely, deposed he was the man to whom the presentment was given. He lived half a mile from the seashore and was in the habit of drawing off the place from the year 1872. He was not a tenant of Major Boyse. Knew people from seven miles around to draw sand and gravel off the shore. People came there from New Ross and from Adamstown to bathe. There is no other means of getting to the sea except by this route. He took measurements of the breadth of this road in the narrowest part and found it was 12 feet. Some parts of it was 25 feet and so on. Two cars could pass everywhere on it, except at Galavan’s hedge, where it is only 12 feet. There are milestones on the road and one at the gap of Cullenstown marked with the figure 10.
By Mr Barton—He paid for the liberty of going down to get the sand and gravel. He saw other people there who were not tenants but he was unable to say whether they had paid or not. The distance from Galavan’s-cross to the shore is 395 perches and he would prove on oath that there was none of it 12 feet except the 30 perches at Galavan’s hedge. To Mr Wakely—The road was always in a very bad state. After a lengthened argument Mr Donovan proposed and Mr Cookman seconded that the presentment be torn. The motion was passed unanimously.”
The Grand Jury was composed of the landlords of the county and they assembled at the Assizes in Wexford each winter and summer. They were responsible for the infrastructure of the county, roads, bridges, court-houses but with the establishment of the Poor Law Unions they were no longer involved in the provision of health services or of hospitals.
The famous court case in Wexford in 1839 about which I wrote in the third Journal of the Bannow History Society determined that the Boyses under prescriptive law were entitled to the sea-weed on the shore line adjoining their estate. If Boyse had lost the case then his tenants would be at a serious disadvantage as people would come from outside the Boyse estate and take away the sea-weed—as they undoubtedly would in vast numbers. Dangerous and violent rows would ensue between different factions in mad pursuit of sea-weed; men in that era would kill over sea-weed. Prescriptive law seemed very shaky to me: it entitles one to something on the basis of long usage—the Boyses showed in court that they had claimed and harvested the sea-weed or leased it for close on two centuries. Read my article in the third Bannow History Journal—“The Rocky Road to Tom Boyse’s Sea-Weed”.
The Rev. Martin Hickey the famous writer on agriculture and Rector of Bannow from 1820—26 was scornful about the value of sea-weed, claiming that its chemical composition was mainly water. It certainly had trace elements and modern gardeners are using it and claiming fabulous results. Maybe some of my numerous readers will bring a quantity of sea-weed from Tom Boyse’s shore to the Boy from Barrystown and I will try it on my flower garden!