Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, kind, obliging, erudite, scholarly, a historian supreme, innovative, precise, accurate, meticulous, humble, self-effacing, positive, a right boyo, in fine fettle and, above all else—wily, that wily boy. As St Kevin of Kilkavan prophesised (but really there is no need to recite his prophesies to a Carrig-on-Bannow readership), gold and silver would always follow the Barrystown children—not just as accumulations of wealth but as symbols of excellence in a wide variety of endeavours and above all else in history. Providence put the silver mines at Barrystown as the ever winning tendency of the local children would require a ready supply of it. It could have been Jack Kennedy that said it in the Dail in Dublin town in June 1963— or it could have been one of those sociologists, with cultured accents, that write complex and wordy theories about social strata—that there were two types of Co. Wexford people: those who are from Carrig-on-Bannow and those who wish they were from Carrig-on-Bannow…. I would amend that theory and say that there is a third class: those who posture as natives of Bannow!
There has been a tsunami of congratulations on my letter published in The Sunday Independent on Sunday December 21st. David Medcalf in his article “Redmond’s Forgotten Legacy” in The Enniscorthy Guardian (and I presume in the two other People newspapers, The People and New Ross Guardian) on Tuesday December 16th cited correspondence from me as a counterweight to the rest of his article. I believe that John Bruton, while correct in some of what he is arguing, is imposing a too facile interpretation on the period 1914 to 1922 in Irish history. In my letter to The Sunday Independent while concurring with my former teacher Professor Ronan Fanning that the Home Rule Act of 1914 would not be implemented in the form in which it was enacted I disagreed with him that the Fine Gael and indeed the mainstream political parties, including Fianna Fail, should take ownership of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. Political parties and governments cannot define the valid or proper interpretation of any historical event or era: the past is a foreign country and ultimately its interpretation is a matter of ongoing discussion and debate between historians.
Many years ago in the old university Sister Margaret Mac Curtain (then known as Sister Benvenueta) asked me after I read a paper if history had an interior logic. I answered yes but as a matter of form as I had not addressed this issue previously. My dictionary defines logic as reasoned thought or/and a philosophy of reasoning. Logic is simply reasoning matters out. After long maturing reflection I now do concur with the proposition that history (and each era of history) has its own interior logic. In my opinion interpretative centres and commemorations plus ownership of history by political parties or governments impose present day agendas, aspirations, values and ideologies on history—they warp, amend, re-invent, twist, gloss, glamorise and misinterpret history.
May I suggest that the Bannow Historical Society should consider the publication of a biography of Tom Boyse? Surely the local interest in the Boyses would generate sufficient buyers of such a publication to cover the costs of printing it? Would there not be some funding available from local bodies and authorities for such a project? There are so many books now published often on most insignificant persons, events and issues.
Tom Boyse had an estate between Galway and Tuam and in 1849 instructed his agent at Carra to take no rent for that year and that arrears of rent, up to two and a half years, were to be forgiven. Tom Boyse’s kindness and altruism were as extensive as his wealth. It is little wonder that Dan O’Connell, the Liberator, said after Boyse sat down after addressing the Catholic Association that it would be idle for him to attempt a eulogy to the gentleman who had sat down as he could not find words to adequately describe his greatness.
A historical fact as defined by Lord Acton—I think it was—is near impossible to eradicate: such a fact is not a fact but a mistake, a statement that is not true; the sheer dint of its repetition in various books makes it into a believed “fact”. The alleged “fact” that Sam Boyse started building Bannow House in circa 1814 when he came to reside in Bannow and that Tom Boyse finished it before the visit of the Liberator, Dan O’Connell to Grange, Bannow in 1838 is now embedded in the historiography of the Co. Wexford; O’Connell addressed the massive crowd assembled there from the balcony of Bannow House. On this basis if you hybridise these two facts (the advent of Sam Boyse to Bannow in 1814 and O’Connell’s visit to Bannow House in 1838) it is possible to deduce that Sam Boyse could have been building Bannow House from 1814 to 1838: in that case, the Bannow House took 24 years to build. One’s common sense would surely baulk at a theory that the Boyses took 24 years to build their House! They must have had very slow construction workers. Also, the query arises—where did the Boyse family live while these tardy builders were about the task of constructing Bannow House? As a general rule defining as historical fact something that is merely deduced as possible is a risky type of historiography. But it is now established “fact” that the Boyses started building Bannow House in 1814 and finished it in 1838. The most astounding facet of this story is that there is an impeccable source for the starting date of building of Bannow House. Tom Moore, the famous poet, and close friend of Tom Boyse, visited Bannow and his friend Tom Boyse, in August 1835: Moore wrote a diary of his life, recording daily events; after his death Lord John Russell, the former British Prime Minister, edited the diary on the basis that the sale of it would serve as a pension of sorts to Moore’s widow.
For August 26th 1835 Moore wrote in his diary:–
“When we arrived in front of Graigue House, the speeches from Boyse and myself (as reported) took place; Boyse very eloquent and evidently in high favour with the people. I then went with him to his new house, or rather the few fragments of the old one he has left standing; the offices being all that are as yet built of the new. He had told me before I came that I was literally to dine in one cock-loft and sleep in another; but I found he had given me up his own bedroom, which was on the ground floor and left standing quite alone, all around it having been thrown down. It was, however, made very comfortable by dint of green baize curtains, etc.”
It is certain from this extract that in August 1835 the Boyses had just commenced building Bannow House but at this stage I am not sure if any proof or rational argument will shake the conviction that the building of Bannow House commenced in 1814 and went on to 1838! Anyway I will state the true fact: the Boyses began building Bannow House in the summer of 1835.
Fr Ned Murphy, the parish priest of the latter day parish of Carrig-on-Bannow (the organisation of the various small parishes that comprised it may have been slightly different then) was accused by the kindly—I speak in jest— Richard Musgrave of serious involvement with the United Irish Rebels in 1798. Anna Maria Hall tell an improbable story of a wandering woman, of low repute, locating incriminating papers under a flagstone in Clonmines and enabling friends of the priest to destroy them: thus it was not possible for the enemies of Fr Murphy to have him tried over his long past insurrectionary activities in 1798. Fr Murphy and many of the other leaders of the Rebellion in 1798 afterwards regretted their involvement and sought to minimise their roles. Tom Cloney comes to mind immediately. According to Mrs Hall, Fr Murphy visited the Counsellor George Carr and his family at Graigue House every Sunday for dinner.
On the Cliffe estate maps the tenants of Graganbuy (who has ever heard of this name?) are listed and their houses and fields marked on the map, near to Carrig village. Andrew Colfer had 10 acres 1 rood and 24 perches. The measurement is Irish Plantation measure about 5 Irish acres to 8 modern statute ones. He had a mill and kiln on this land.
The words “Richard Lett, leasee” are written under Andrew Colfer’s details but I am not sure if it refers to Patrick Colfer. The latter leased 10 acres, 2 roods and 26 perches.
Fr Ned Murphy had 11 acres, 1 rood and 16 perches; his house, offices, garden and entrance comprised 1 rood and 14 perches. Anna Maria Hall wrote that there was at the back of the slated houses and thatched out-houses a garden of about a quarter of an acre. If Mrs Hall is correct then the garden was much the greater part of the 1 rood and 14 perches cited above. The bigger fields in Fr Murphy’s holding were about or even less than one and a half acres in modern statute measure.
Andrew Colfer is given as tenant of another holding of 9 acres and 28 perches. Matthew Carty held 5 acres and 15 perches. Patrick Colfer is cited as holding another holding of 2 acres, 1 rood and 6 perches. He may have been a relative of the other Patrick Colfer cited above but it, conversely, may be the same person! Richard Lett had “in hands” 11 acres 1 rood and 30 perches.
Matthew Carty had another holding of 12 acres, 1 rood and 17 perches.
The total of Graganbuy was 78 acres, 1 rood and 15 perches.
I am told that the mill pond on Andy Colfer’s lease is still there; it is certainly a feature that could be promoted for heritage purposes. The exact spot where the house of Fr Ned Murphy stood may be divined from an analysis of the Cliffe map: is there any aspect of that residence now extant?
At the great anti-tithe Meeting in the County Court-House, Wexford in late June 1836 Tom Boyse spoke of visiting the battlefield after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Wellington defeated Napoleon. A huge number of Catholic Irish fought in Wellington’s army on that occasion, possibly because no other option remained to them in life: joining the army was a means of livelihood, albeit, at times, a short term of life remained. A section of them may have fought out of choice and philosophical conviction. In my opinion Napoleon was a megalomaniac, a dreadful dictator with scant regard for the lives of millions of people. On occasions, groups of his soldiers were made to lie in boggy surfaces and allow the carriage carrying Napoleon to pass over them; otherwise the imperial carriage would subside into the bog-land He was, also, reckless, insanely so; his invasion of Russia exposed his armies to atrocious and intimidating weather and simply decimated them ever before they tackled the Russians. Tom Boyse spoke of his brother, an officer at Waterloo:–
“I stood myself upon that dreadful field, continued Mr Boyse, not long after the hot and heavy fight; a brother whom I loved had led his regiment into it as its Lieutenant Colonel; he was soon wounded, his horse was shot dead under him—he was thrown into a waggon, amidst a heap of wounded and dying comrades, and removed to Brussels; he recovered—he lived to serve again, but alas! for those who knew him he lives no more; he conducted me to the dreadful field—to the spot where his regiment had been stationed; a band of as gallant men as ever charged an enemy, the 13th Light Dragoons, they consisted of Irishmen, of Catholic Irishmen, yes of the “KING’S
OWN ALIENS”—(Tremendous cheering—long continued). I saw three ponds of putrefying blood; but it would have puzzled the most accurate analyst to separate, by the severest chemical tests, the native from the alien principle of the noisome mass….”
Tom Boyse’s allusion to scientific blood tests is comprehensible only in the context of his rejection of Lord Lyndhurst’s assertion that the Irish were an alien race in the United Kingdom. Boyse made the rhetorical joke that Wellington at Waterloo did not go among his soldiers and say to the Catholic Irish ones that as they were aliens they should not fight in his army. The implication of Boyse’s remarks was that the Catholic Irish by their sacrifice of their lives, by the shedding of their blood at Waterloo, had proved their loyalty to the United Kingdom and Empire; the corollary was that the Catholic Irish now deserved to be treated as proper citizens and effectively given justice and liberty as citizens of the U. K. In 1914 John Redmond anticipated that the sacrifice of the Irish in the World War I, on the British side, would both prove their loyalty to the Empire and right to be regarded as proper citizens of the United Kingdom, and render the granting of Home Rule by the British political authorities as an inevitable compensation for that sacrifice of Irish lives. I believe that John Redmond was excessively imperialist in his political disposition and naïve and foolish in his expectations. History abounds with ironies: the separatist nationalists, the I. R. B. of Patrick Pearse and Michael Collins would—from an opposite perspective—have agreed with Lord Lyndhurst! The Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Gaelic League and Sinn Fein would have insisted that the Irish were a nation and race apart from Britain and could only function properly as a people separate from England.
From The Wexford Independent January 6th 1836:–
“Accident by Fire
We regret to hear that the stables and a rick of hay, belonging to Mr Hincks, of Rosegarland, were accidentally consumed by fire on Friday night last; but, providentially, no lives were lost. The fire originated with a servant boy who slept in an out-office, retiring to rest, without having previously quenched a lighted candle placed by his bed-side.”
I presume that the boy came from some place as at a distance from Rosegarland and had to live there, in order to be available to work there. I do not know how one would cope with the cold in a shed in the middle of a nineteenth century winter. Candles on quite a few occasions caused conflagrations. It was certainly a false economy not to have electric light in these out-offices where servants slept—they were most prone to leave candles lighting on going to sleep; in the sheds outside they were often surrounded by either straw or hay, presumably because the straw and hay provided protection
of a sort from the cold.
From The Wexford Independent March 6th 1836:–
“A Great Meeting in Bannow
The report of Mr Boyse’s two powerful and convincing speeches, delivered at this meeting, will be read with an interest corresponding to the important topics which called them forth. They require not a word from us to recommend them. If purity of diction, sublimity of idea and argument the most convincing—springing from a heart that throbs with a maiden’s fondness for the peaceful regeneration of this long persecuted land, are calculated to elevate the man and the patriot in our regard, Thomas Boyse must hold, next to O’Connell, the first place in the affections on Irishmen—We congratulate His Excellency on the support and advocacy of such a man. Long may he live to add fresh laurels to those that already entwine his brow.”
On the ledger of James Colfer of Haggard and Graigue, in the Major Boyse Mss at the headquarters of the Wexford Co. Library at Ardacavn, there is this observation:–
“On April 5th 1886 James Colfer surrendered to Major Boyse all the lands he holds in Graigue and in Bannow Moor containing –statute measure—and signed proposals and signed a new lease for the remaining portion of his farm containing—- statute measure at a yearly rent of £36—new rent takes effect from November 1st 1885.”
Boyse did note on some ledgers that particular tenants had signed an advertisement in The People prohibiting hunting by fox hounds on their farms.
The Cliffe maps do confirm that Bannow Moor was not owned by the Boyses at the beginning of the 19th century.
The inspector of the Wexford Union Agricultural Society made a report of his visits to farms over the south Wexford area in May 1849—this is one interesting extract:–
“April 18—(In the Carrig District)—In the afternoon visited –James Esq., who keeps a boarding school in Bannow for about forty young gentlemen. Attached to this there are about thirty acres of land, which he holds from Mr Boyse, the principal part of which he cultivates in a very superior manner. A few years back he found this place in a very raw state; but by deep drainage and deep working of the soil he has brought it to a high state of perfection. His drainage is from 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet—his subsoiling 2 feet, not being afraid to turn up the yellow subsoil and expose it to the influence of the atmosphere.—He raises a variety of green crops; he house feeds his cattle; and as to the way in which he manages his manure nothing can be better. He is a decided advocate for spade husbandry. He has expanded a great deal of capital on this small farm; but he says it is now flowing back to him and will amply repay him.”
The school kept by Mr James is to be distinguished from the Agricultural School established by the Rev. William Hickey, Rector of Bannow. That school was long extinct by 1849.