At the 1807 Lent Assizes in Wexford W. P. Pigott, Patrick Brennan and Joseph Murphy and—the Rev. Robert Hawkshaw, Rector at Coolstuffe and Taghmon were given a contract for £27 6 shillings to make and repair 80 perches of road from Bannow to Wexford, between the gravel hole and Mogue Kennedy’s stream. William Hamilton and Joseph Murphy and—the Rev. Robert Hawkshaw were given a contract for £10, 19 shillings and 9 pence to build a wall on the road from Bannow to Wexford. This does not mean that the Rev. Hawkshaw would go out on the road, break stones and hammer them into the ground to construct the new road or repair the damaged one. He and the other contractors would have hired men to do this work. Rev. Robert Hawkshaw was the father of Travers R. Hawkshaw of Hillburn, Taghmon; I will, of course, give a lecture on him in the Stanville Hotel, Barntown on Thursday night April 24th at 8pm. That is two days after my birthday [which should be a national celebration]. Anybody interested in how people lived in the Taghmon locality around the time of the Famine should be there. Hawkshaw took a most unusual stand for one of his background; he favoured Catholic Emancipation and the ending of the Tithes, a revenue to support Established Church clergymen, like his father and his brother.
In November 1836 “A man named Wallace was killed at Lough, near Cullenstown, by the electric fluid, whilst returning home from work.” That was a roundabout way of saying that lightening killed him. It is interesting that they understood that lightening was a form of electricity but they hardly understood that it was a flow of electrons or sub-atomic electric charges. The phraseology about “the electric fluid” was much in vogue in newspaper reports in that era.
At the General Association of Ireland (the Catholic Association) in December 1836 Tom Boyse handed in £1 membership fee from Fr Ennis P. P. Ballymore and attacked Lord Lyndhurst for his claim that the Irish were aliens, in blood, language and religion, in the British Empire. Ironically the men of Easter 1916 believed precisely that—the Irish were a separate nation and civilisation from Great Britain.
Dan O’Connell, the Liberator, was asked to speak next and his oration was appropriately brief and succinct:–
“It would be useless for me to attempt to eulogise the gentleman who has just sat down.” It would indeed be a formidable challenge to give a eulogy that matched the greatness of Tom Boyse.
James Boyd Medical Officer, told the Board of Guardians of the Wexford Poor Law Union, in March 1884, that in the Bannow electoral division one house had fallen on its occupier, a man named Power and nearly killed him. There were two unsanitary houses in Harpurstown and nine in Harristown. One of these houses in this division fell about a year ago and killed the occupier’s mother. Williams, the occupier, had an acre of land and the Guardian of the district thought he did not come under the Act.
The Board of Guardians were empowered under the Labourers’ Act to build cottages for labouring men; however, if you owned any bit of land that would disqualify you from access to such a cottage. The term unsanitary had a different connotation then to now, although the meaning ascribed to the word in that era was correct enough. An unsanitary house was one which gave entry to winds and rain and which had waste matter close against it. They were talking about houses without doors, windows and roofs. These houses would seem to guarantee that one would be infected with serious illness and that the consequences might be fatal. The relevant legislation decreed that unsanitary houses could be demolished by order of the Petty Courts if the occupier or owner refused to rectify the faults that made the house unsuitable for human habitation. Magistrates in the Petty Courts were loath, on occasions, to apply this drastic remedy as doing so condemned the unfortunate occupier to the Workhouse. I am puzzled as to why desperately poor people actually married when the prospect of raising a family in such atrocious conditions was commonplace. Conversely large numbers of men and women remained celibate and lived as spinsters and bachelors for these economic reasons. The recurrent theme of a golden age of sexual license in Ireland in pre-famine times is simply untrue: the biological consequences of sexual permissiveness in that era would be to precipitate widespread famine long before the blight struck the potato.
From The People April 14th 1962:–
“Wexford Co. Council decided at the meeting on Monday that a report on the replacement of the sea-wall at Bannow Island be presented to the next meeting of the New Ross District Committee by the Co. Engineer.
Mr J. J. Furlong moved that the Council take steps to replace the sea wall at Bannow during the summer.
Mr Furlong said the wall had been erected about ten years ago but unfortunately in the recent very heavy storm the wall had practically collapsed. Since then it had been cleared away by the Council but the high tide made it impossible for people to get to the Island. He would like that the wall be repaired in the summer months and to have no delay. If not the people of the island would be caused undue trouble. Mr P. Mc Donald [from Duncannon; a Labour Party Councillor and not related to the boy from Barrystown] seconded and said he, too, was very anxious about the replacement of the wall.”
At the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union meeting in September 1842 “Mary S– appeared with a male child claiming its admission. The child was called John Wall, under which name a Grand Jury presentment had been for two years granted to sustain it, as a deserted child. William M—was another name by which the child was known. Mr N. Lett of Ballyoughton, on whose land the child had been abandoned by its unfortunate mother, called the child Wall and had much exerted his humanity and interest towards it since. He was before the Board and explained the finding of the infant in some old walls—hence the name. The late Rev. D. Thompson, Rector of the Parish, expressed a desire to administer baptism to it when found and then about a month old. Mrs Lett remonstrated and said, on enquiry, she heard the child was born in Fethard and baptised by the Rector, the Rev. Mr Alcock. Mr Lett had no bigotry about him and he, after this explanation, would leave to the Guardians in what religion the child should be brought up.
Mr Hawkshaw observed that if the child was baptised by the Rev. Mr Alcock, the registry of the Parish should show it.
Mr Furlong wished to know how Mr Lett could know if it was the same?
Mr Lett said that from the time and description he surmised it was the same—Mr Lett on being asked how could he account for the withdrawal of the Grand Jury grant, said he had signed resolutions at Rathangan for the reduction of Grand Jury cess and he supposed the Grand Jury thought well to begin with his application.
Mary S– stated she left Sheastown to go to see her sister near Templetown. On the third day after, a strange woman was delivered of this child nigh to the place and she went with another woman and had the child baptised by the Rev. Mr Dunne, in the name William. About a month after, the mother called to her (Mary S—s house) in Sheastown and the child was then with her. It was morning and the woman took some boiled potatoes and went towards Mr Lett’s. When the child was found two potatoes were laid along with it. She had never heard of the mother since.
The Guardians looked on the coincidence of the applicant, accidentally attending the delivery and baptism at such distance from home and afterward becoming the nurse to the infant of a perfect stranger and declined receiving the child.”
In an era without modern kinds of social welfare the burden of becoming an unmarried mother was intimidating. The strict, religious inspired, Puritanism of that time had an obvious social purpose: the consequences of sexual permissiveness in the context of an absence of any controls on the natural biological process would destabilise ordinary society and precipitate another calamity, a partial famine, perhaps. Some of these girls were gulled by married men, possibly, posing as singletons. The only option, available to them, if rejected by their parents, was to accept residence in the Workhouse. Some of them worked and eked out a livelihood for themselves and their children.
From The Wexford Conservative March 7, 1846
“James Byrne and James Reade were given in charge for entering the house of Garret Byrne of Deanscastle (sic) and taking therefrom several articles of apparel.
Mary Byrne sworn—Witness is wife of Garret Byrne of Deanscastle; lived there on 28th of January last; came from her bed-room between six and seven o’clock in the morning, just as day was breaking; observed a glass door forced open, leading out of the house into a garden; it was not open the night before on her going to bed; the door had not been opened for some time before the day previous; unlocked it herself but from the rain the door had got so tight she could not lock it; it was not locked that night but closed tight and witness placed a chair, a stone weight and two stone weights against it before going to bed; found it open wide in the morning; one weight was found outside the door and a cloak; missed also another cloak, a cape, and other articles; they were in a box or trunk, which was locked and the key in her pocket and left in the parlour the night before; the box was taken from its place; witness left it there as she intended leaving home next morning; saw all the things and saw the trunk again in the hall of a Mr Moran in Ross, after it had been picked up; none of the articles were in the trunk; that was in a few hours after missing it; saw a cloak, a cape, a silk shawl, another shawl, a top coat of her husband and a black waistcoat; saw it in a pawn shop in Ross; it had been in the trunk; saw a person in a public house, who had pledged the waistcoat; saw the prisoners that night after they were arrested; saw a frock coat of her husband’s on James Byrne and also a trousers; on Reade saw a coat lined with green cloth in the back; (witness here identified all the articles and the trunk).
Thomas Murphy sworn—Is a Constable; arrested the prisoners in Ross; they refused to tell where they came from, or to give any account of themselves, more than that they were from Ireland.
James Maher sworn—Witness is an assistant in Mr—Pawn Shop in Ross; this waistcoat was brought to him to be pawned by James Delaney; two hours after Mrs Delaney came and claimed them.
James Delaney sworn—Witness is an assistant at Mrs Heron’s in Ross; the prisoners gave him this waistcoat to pawn; they said it was worth 4 or 5 shillings; was only offered 2 shillings and 6 pence; told them so and one of them bid him take it, as he did not intend to leave it long. The prisoners called no witnesses and asked no questions.
I do not know why the Byrnes did not get the plastic or aluminium doors or an oak door, in a place visited by the salt sea breezes.
Byrne and Reade (who look to me like habitual criminals, possibly from a criminal fraternity— of a nexus of families in crime over generations) were found guilty in another case for larceny and burglary in Wexford town. Again they asked no questions and gave no information about themselves. They were sentenced to be transported for seven years. Some of those transported quickly found their way to Ireland that is if they ever left it but if apprehended they could face serious retribution from the law.
On November 30th 1818 in Dublin by special licence, Caesar Colclough of Tintern Abbey Esq., one of the representatives in the Imperial Parliament for the County of Wexford, was married to Jane the eldest daughter of John Kirwan of Leeson Street, Dublin, King’s Counsel. After Colclough’s death his widow claimed his property under his will or so it seemed but after nigh interminable court proceedings another will was found and the previous one over thrown. The widow Jane nee Kirwan Colclough married Tom Boyse of Bannow but left him after a few weeks and lived with a man in France.
On Thursday the 17th of August 1848 Martin Mac Donald Doyle died in Dublin. Tom Boyse after noticing his educational promise as a youth had him educated but his poetry while full of big words and classical allusions never inspired or made much sense. He was introduced to Tom Moore when the latter visited Bannow in August 1835; Moore got him a job in the Post Office in Dublin. He died before his time.
Reading the newspapers of the first half of the twentieth century I was amazed by the sheer numbers of foxes, rabbits, rats, mice and other small animals in the Co. Wexford. The people seemed to be at a state of low level war with the rodents and vermin: the loss of fowl and crops was exasperating to those suffering such losses. In the nineteenth century dogs infected with rabies left society at a lethal risk of madness and death so they had no choice but to destroy infected dogs. There was no scientific means of curing such animals. As the nineteenth century progressed prominent men and women promoted the cause of preventing unnecessary cruelty to animals; Jack Greene the proprietor of the Wexford Independent was one of these people. This process continued in the twentieth century. Animals play much less of a role in modern life that they did in previous centuries: they were then the only means of transport, the only means of cultivating land and sometimes used to drive machines (hence the measurement horse-power) and provided the source of meat and milk. The Rev. William Hickey the rector of Bannow 1820—1826 (approx.) while otherwise kind had a most insensitive disposition to animals and recommended to poor people that they hang their dogs. In fairness to the Rector food was extremely scarce in such cabins.