Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, as wily as ever.

The Wexford Conservative reported on July 31st 1839:–

“On Monday last the inhabitants of the small village of Carrig, near Bannow, in this county, were thrown into great consternation by the fall of such torrents of rain, that the like was not remembered by the oldest person in that part of the country. The old women in and about the place thought surely the end of the world had come. However, their terror was quickly abated for the rain caused no damage, except that a part of the flood it suddenly produced rushed into some of the houses, on its way to the adjoining sea. Some heavy corn in the neighbourhood was stretched but a day or two of dry weather will restore it.”

From the Forth and Bargy notes in the Free Press on December 13th 1952:–

“Oldest Inhabitant Dies—The oldest inhabitant of Bannow parish, Mr Patrick Murphy, Whitty’s Hill, Wellingtonbridge, aged 91 years, passed to his reward on Tuesday. Mr Murphy enjoyed good health almost up to the time of his death. He led an active life and was an employee of the Great Southern Railway for a long number of years. He was in charge of their pumping station at Duncormack up to the time of his retirement twenty years ago. The funeral to Kilkevan Cemetery on Thursday was of large dimensions and testified to the esteem in which deceased was held in the district. Very Rev. Fr Donnelly O. S. A., Grantstown and Rev. L. Kinsella C. C. officiated at the graveside.”

When Mr William Parle of Barrystown died in 1912 aged 90 years or more the newspapers commented on the rare longevity of his life. In 1952 a man living to ninety was still of immense longevity: in my lifetime there has been a well nigh miraculous bounding onward of medical science and techniques to the extent that a person aged 90 in latter times is common enough and no cause for amazement. Mr Murphy had been employed by a railway company and that reflected the great wonder of the world in which he grew up and became a man: the trains imaginatively diminished distance and my former academic mentor, Professor Pat O’Farrell of Sydney, in a part of one of his books critical of the Church’s unease with modern industrialisation observed wryly: “No one preached against railways.”

The great objective of the authorities after the establishment of the Free State in 1922 was the revival of the Irish language: in my thesis in 1973 I showed that the rationale of the revival project was religious—it was imagined that an Ireland speaking its own Gaelic language would be physically insulated from the pernicious, secularising, obscene, irreligious, outside and English influences. Some clergy men asserted that the true Irish faith could only be properly expressed in the Gaelic tongue. The programme in the national schools made the teaching of Irish the central priority and an inordinate amount of time was devoted to the teaching of it. The National Teachers at their annual conferences expressed unease at the amount of time that they were required to spend teaching it but many teachers were devoted to the language and its revival. The policy was doomed to failure: the children in the national schools were poorly fed, scantily and raggedly clothed and usually tending to an anti-learning disposition. All of that is a prelude to this account of the A. G. M. of the Muintir na Tire in Ballymitty in December 1952:–

“The annual meeting was held in Ballymitty Hall and Rev. Laurence Kinsella C. C., President, presided. There was a large attendance of members. The election of officers resulted as follows:–President, Rev. Laurence Kinsella C. C., Chairman, Mr William Whitty; Vice-Chairman, Mr Sean Mc Cormack; Hon. Secretary, Miss Frances Donnelly.

In the course of her report the Secretary said the reconstruction of the public weighbridge at Wellingtonbridge had been accomplished with the assistance of the Bannow and Rathangan Young Farmers’ Club.

In his address the Rev. President asked for help to restore Irish speaking which is unheard of in these areas, except in the national schools. He proposed that a committee of three, with Messrs Garvey and O’Donnell, N. T. s to select about 300 nouns and verbs of the type most used in everyday life of the people of the parish and that ten words be learned by every one each night bi-weekly, the target to be 300 words in 15 weeks.

The proposition was agreed to.”

The great difficulty in learning Irish is its grammar, mainly incomprehensible to anybody except scholars of the language. There were unpleasant rows over which form of Irish was the proper one.

The Free Press on December 6th 1952 informed its readers:–

“Bannow Island Road

Work of construction on the new road from the mainland commenced during the week and a number of unemployed from the district have been engaged on the project. The commencement of the road is the result of long agitation by residents and public representatives and when completed it will prove of great benefit to the inhabitants of the Island, who, on many occasions throughout the winter months found great difficulty in reaching the mainland.”

I walked along the Cockle Beach on a warm Saturday in the mid summer of 2012 and as the tide was out I ventured a good bit out towards the Bannow Island. I had previously looked at Bannow Island a few summers ago. However, I was not aware of a roadway over to the Island or am I a trifle blind?

I continue my series on the subterranean but vibrant –if not exquisite—hurling culture of my parish and country in the 1950s with this item from the Forth and Bargy notes on November 22nd 1952:–

“Hurling At Duncormick—On  Sunday, Cullenstown hurlers visited Duncormick and played the local team in a return challenge. Cullenstown conceded weight and age  to their opponents but nevertheless gave a good display before a large crowd. The game was cleanly contested and the final scores were:–Duncormick, 4 goals; Cullenstown, nil. Best for Duncormack were:–Murphy, Cahill, Underwood, and the Walshes while Devereux, Campbell, Doyle, and Bennett were outstanding for Cullenstown. Mr Phil Murphy, Ballygow, was referee.”

The score line is in itself a thesis on the mode of hurling then in vogue: they pulled constantly on the ball, especially on the ground, were not near much prone to lift it as is now the case; were not adept at catching the ball in the air and inevitably they scored goals or did not score at all. In the 1956 All Ireland Senior Final after the very tall and massive Billy Rackard at centre back for Wexford caught a number of balls Christy Ring ran out to protest that this was not hurling at all. In the 1954 All Ireland senior hurling final Bobby Rackard after he went back to full back (after an injury to Nick O’Donnell) proceeded to catch several balls coming into the Wexford goal-mouth. The catching of the ball was then almost unprecedented but it now has now become the norm in hurling. The hurlers in 1952 would have pulled on the ball in the air and move it on. The Hurleys held by players in old photographs seem more designed to ground and first time pulling that to lifting or carrying the ball. Christy Ring believed in pulling on the ball as much as possible.

The puzzle about hurling in the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow is that despite the passion for it the teams that came out of the parish were not often victorious; indeed on the contrary they were often given humiliating beatings.

Wellington Cottage formerly occupied by Samuel Elly the agent for Lloyds Shipping Insurance Company –and where Tom Moore and selected guests dined on his famous visit to Bannow in August 1835—was advertised to be let, by the month or the year, with or without land; the advertisement continued:–

“It is situated on the side of Bannow Bay, in a most delightful part of the country, and is a suitable residence for a private Gentleman’s family.

Apply to:–Nicholas Sinnott, Ballymadder, Carrig-on-Bannow”

This confirms that Wellington Cottage was on the lands and owned by Nicholas Sinnott. The eviction of Mr Sinnott by then an old and probably senile man in the 1890s by Major Boyse caused great controversy.

The Wexford Conservative on February 5th stated:–

“Francis Leigh of Rosegarland is building a school-house for the use of the Tenantry on that part of his estates. The proprietary of the County Wexford  are, in many instances, acting in a manner highly deserving of applause; and we shall make it our business (in order to promote the imitation of such conduct) to give as wide a circulation as our Journal can effect to every disinterested effort made by the Lords of the Soil for the substantial benefit of the humbler classes of society.”

Leigh of Rosegarland was not perceived (certainly in the columns of The People, the pro Land League newspaper) as overly lenient to his tenantry. I am unable to find out much more about this school and whether Catholics attended it. Under legislation enacted in the era of Henry VIII, every parish, from the proceeds of the Cess, I presume, was supposed to have a school for children but these schools reflected the values of the English Protestant establishment and instruction in Catholic doctrine would not be permitted in them. The Rev. Edward Barton, the Rector of Adamstown, wrote in 1814 that the Papist parents (as he called them) would not sent their children to his school set up under the legislation of Henry VIII. He accused them of sending their children to sub-standard Catholic masters. The Catholic parents and the Catholic priests were uncomfortable with the Protestant method of studying Scripture.

The October 1885 meeting of the Carrig-on-Bannow Land League branch at their meeting firstly discussed the impending eviction of John Barry and then focussed on a most topical issue at that time:–

“There was a long discussion of putting an Amended Labourers Act into operation and it was proposed to hold a meeting of the ratepayers and labourers of the electoral divisions of Bannow, Ballymitty, Harristown, Harpurstown, on Wednesday 28th instant, to take into consideration the building and improvement of labourers’ cottages under amended scheme of the Labourers’ Act of 1888.”

In essence all this meant that the Poor Law Unions were empowered to build new houses or cottages for labourers without proper habitation and most of them were in that condition. The Land League supported this legislation but often the occupiers and/or owners of land baulked at giving half an acre as a site from their farms to build the labourer’s cottage on. Michael Davitt one of the founders of the Land League was a revolutionary socialist who wanted state ownership of the land; the other main founder Charles Stuart Parnell, the famous Irish Party leader, favoured a model of the occupier or tenant becoming the owner of the land. While James Connolly was a signatory of the Easter 1916 Rebellion was a revolutionary socialist—and James Larkin of the 1913 Lock-Out fame was an advocate of an anarchic system of communal ownership—the trade unions in Ireland after the winning of national independence took the social reformist road and I believe that was the correct thing to do. The legislation on Labourers’ cottages was a beginning to the social reformist approach. In January 1894 the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law union called in the dispensary doctors to outline the situation in regard to labourers houses:–

“Dr Byrne [of Bannow] stated that William Parle’s house was propped up and the dwelling was three feet under the road level. There were six in family. Richard Fowler was living in a wooden house, it was over-crowded and was inhabited by seven people. It was 14 feet by 13 feet and was unfit for habitation.

William Parle, Barrystown, stated that he was employed by William Murphy, Carrig. He had a very bad house and wanted to get a house on the land of John Devereux, Barrystown. Mr Andrew Devereux Poor Law Guardian, said he was quite satisfied to have the house built.

Richard Fowler, Whitty’s Hill, stated that he had formerly lived in Kilkevan. He was living in a wooden house and wanted to get a house at Mr Jackman’s. The latter was satisfied at the time the site was taken but he was dead about three weeks. Mr Ryan C. W. stated Mr Jackman had pointed out the site to him.”

I do not know if Willy Parle got a labourer’s cottage built for him but one way or the other he lived a long life! This is his death notice in The People on August 31st, 1912:

“During the week a very old and much respected man passed away in the district in the person of William Parle, Barrystown, Bannow. He had attained the fine old age of ninety years and up to a short time ago enjoyed the best of health. He was also in receipt of an old age pension. It is seldom that such an old age has to be recorded. The funeral to Carrig-on-Bannow cemetery on Wednesday last was large and representative.”

The puzzle, the paradox and sheer conundrum is how in an era without old age pensions a man could live to ninety years? The Lloyd George budget introducing old age pensions for the first time was only a few years previously [Google for the exact year]. Willy Parle would have gone well into his eighties without an old age pension.

At the Quarter Sessions in Wexford in 1840 they were deliberating on renewing and creating new public house licenses; this is a closing extract of the report of same in the Wexford Independent on January 15th, 1840:–

“Mr Hinks, of Rosegarland, preferred a complaint against Thomas Murphy of Wellingtonbridge for keeping an irregular house. Mr Hawkshaw said that if Murphy were fined three times for irregularity or that six reputable householders declined to vouch for the regularity of his house, his license would be stopped.”

After Tom Murphy died before his time his widow was evicted from the hotel and public house that they had built at Wellingtonbridge; Tom Murphy filled in a hollow area at Wellingtonbridge and built the hotel there. This became one of the great controversies of the Land League in the Carrig-on-Bannow area; Mrs Murphy watched the customers going into the hotel and public house and the local branch of the Land League published their names in the People newspaper. The men of Clonmines were accused of frequenting the evicted pub and hotel but they denied this. In the 1950s the place was run as the General Providers and it has changed name several times since.