Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, peerless, erudite, only to be described in superlatives and yet astoundingly humble. I am not to be replicated. A right boyo, historian supreme, walks and talks with panache—the list of my attributes is endless. As an area steeped in history, Bannow was perhaps fated to produce a superb historian such as that wily boy from beside the mine pits, the most wily and devious of them all.
From The Wexford Independent the 29th of April 1854:–
“Bannow Reclamation Bill
The objects of the bill are the embankment, reclamation, and drainage of the several tide and slob lands lying in the bays or lakes of Bannow, Tacumshin, and Lady Island on the south shore of the county of Wexford. Their Lordships will assent to the Bill on the condition that plans of the proposed embankment and other works shall be submitted to the Admiralty for approval and that the works shall only be constructed in conformity with such approval.”
On the 10th of May 1854, John C. Tuomy the Taghmon schoolmaster and ardent admirer of Tom Boyse—maybe in modern parlance, his spin doctor—had a letter published in The Wexford Independent:–
“An Oyster Bed at Bannow
“Is there, has there ever been, an Oyster fishery near the old and romantic town of Bannow?”
To the Editor of the Independent
Sir—Your correspondent “Amicus Piscatorum” asks the above query and he and yourself refer to me for my assistance in solving it. At present, there is no Oyster Fishery off the coast of Bannow, and in the estuary where you say a former proprietor of Tintern laid down a “Bed”, no Oyster is to be found, but about the site of the Colclough “Oyster Bed”, there is an excellent Cockle Bed; and had your correspondent been here at the last fair, he would have heard the stentorian voices of our Fish Jolters sing out “fine Tintern Cockles, fine Tintern Cockles”, but the cry of Bannow or Tintern Oysters is never heard here, nor in the streets of your town; which by the bye, are supplied with the largest and best description of Cockle from the Tintern side of the estuary of Bannow. So much for the present.
Whether there has ever been an Oyster fishery near Bannow, I cannot say. Tradition in the locality, on the subject is silent; and in the valuable collection of works on Ireland, which the late lamented Thomas Boyse handed over to me for my perusal, during my last sojourn in Bannow, I never found any allusion made to an Oyster Fishery on the coast. Still I am of the opinion that Oysters were taken there. On the side of the old Fishery Village when the sand had been removed, Oyster shells were found in abundance—and in Clare’s Island, among other marine shells, those of the Oyster are very numerous. From these facts, I am led to infer that the olden fishermen of this “City in the Sea” did thrall for Oysters off the Bannow coast. “City in the Sea” reminds me of other “pleasing writers” on the wonders of the “Irish Herculaneum” and I would respectfully refer “Amicus” to the Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society for the year 1850, in which he will find such writers rather roughly handled by Dr Graves and your humble servant.
And now a word about the advantages and disadvantages of the Reclamation of the loughs and estuaries on our coast. Some speculating Company has obtained the consent of the Lords of the Admiralty to embank the Tintern Cockle Bed. If the Company succeed in passing its Bill, and will expand a large capital, grass may yet grow where fish do now abound and an inexhaustible mine of manure will be forever closed to the Tintern people. A beautiful sheet of water (at each returning tide) may be converted into a sickly waste, and a positive source of profit to many poor people sacrificed to the thirst for “dividends” of many speculators. If the present proprietors of Tintern should ever follow the example of his processor, Sir Caesar, he must go out to sea to form his own Oyster Bed, or, should the Old Abbey, by the vicissitudes of fortune, ever revert again to its original owners, no cowled monk, at the close of evening, will walk down to the strand and with basket and scraper, to pick up a supper of fresh cockles for his brethren of the cloister. What I say of the intended Bannow reclamation on our coast and those gentlemen who have their fingers already in the mud, find their dividends to be what mathematicians call “negative quantities”—when they may become “positive” ones, would take a greater soothsayer than I am to predict.
J. C. T.
Taghmon, May 4th 1854.”
John C. Tuomy needed not have worried—the reclamation of Bannow Bay did not proceed. A more ambitious plan to reclaim Bannow Bay and the Scar of Barriestown was sent to Parliament in 1871 but was never proceeded with. In the latter plan it was anticipated that the channel in the Scar would be lowered: the task of doing that with shovels and spades and maybe with horse drawn implements would be most bracing. The 1853 plan sought permission to compulsorily purchase houses in the way of the project and knock them. It was an example of the mid nineteenth century philosophy that the greater good justified the destruction of ancient modes of social and economic order and, if necessary the movement of people—they called that utilitarianism. In this case, at least, it was intended to purchase the houses. The drawback in reclaiming Bannow Bay was that the newly created farm land would be of obvious limited extent.
The editor of the Wexford Independent, presumably Jack Greene (but possibly Edmund Hore) in an appendage, accompanying Mr Tuomy’s letter, disagreed with his criticism of the Reclamation project and pointed out the enormous and glittering benefits of it. I think that the editor was roughly correct:–
“We thank our Correspondent for his promptitude and his communication¸ but on the latter or additional part, he will permit us to say that we do not entirely concur in his observations, for we hope the reclamation intended will turn out useful to the speculators and be, also, beneficial to the country—In the speculation already entered on, the labouring community found a considerable source of employment and the Poor Rates, have, undoubtedly¸ been spared thereby. The health of the localities in the immediate neighbourhood of the reclaimed grounds have not, as we believe, been in any way injured, or impaired, and much as we like and take a pleasure in the picturesque and beautiful, we are not disposed to condemn of a Company whose object is to convert a watery waste into a useful tillage or pasture plain. In effecting such a change, it must always be the case that some, perhaps many, individuals will be inconvenienced and deprived of accommodations they enjoyed, as for instance the manure or slob alluded to but we are of opinion that it was not of the important character supposed, yer still we admit a convenience and a satisfaction to those who made use of it. Manure of another kind will now have to be had resort to, in conformity with the progress of the times and the industrial spirit now on the wing and the change will be found beneficial and we think remunerative in bringing into action many of the chemical qualities lying dead and useless in the soil, from, the constant practice of ages, heaping the same manure on the same land and following the same mode of treatment.”
In a country only five or six years removed from the Great Famine, there would be inevitably an emphasis on more agricultural production, which land reclamation promised. The awful work of reclamation provided an opportunity of employment for wretchedly poor people: however, it was horrible work and in the drainage of Ballyteigue Lough, men brought from the Wexford Workhouse by John Rowe preferred to go back to the Workhouse than continue this cold and heavy work.
From The Bannow and District notes in The People, 23rd May 1953:–
“Religious Inspection—Rev. P. Roche, Diocesan Inspector, visited Danescastle and Bannow schools on Wednesday of last week and examined the children in Christian Doctrine. He was well pleased with their answering. A number of children from both schools made their first Holy Communion last Saturday morning. Very Rev. J. O’Brien P. P. congratulated the parents and teachers on the manner in which they were presented to receive the Blessed Sacrament….
The Storm—One of the most severe storms ever experienced in May took place over the district during last week-end causing severe damage to crops in exposed places, along the seaboard. Early corn had severe set-back, being burned and blackened by the sea wind, while the early potato crop was battered and broken by the westerly gales. Farmers are hoping that fine, mild, moist conditions will return to off-set the damage done. The tides were the highest ever for the time of the year.
A Big Catch—While line fishing on Bannow Bay, Mr W. Roche, Bannow, got 58 Bass in one tide.”
From The People the 1st of June 1872:–
“Confirmation at Carrig-on-Bannow
On Tuesday last, his Lordship, the Most Rev. Dr. Furlong, administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to about 170 children in the beautiful and commodious Church of Carrig-on-Bannow.
Previous to the ceremony, his Lordship fully explained the nature of the Sacrament, about being conferred, whereon he proceeded to examine the children in their catechism. The answering was pronounced highly satisfactory by his Lordship, as it evinced at once the intelligence of the children and the great care with which the children had been instructed. At the conclusion of the ceremony his Lordship delivered a most impressive sermon to the large congregation present on the duties of parents to their children, which lasted over an hour concluding by pointing out the great culpability incurred by parents, in not sending their children constantly to school, thereby depriving them of the benefits conferred by a good education. The Very Rev. P. Corish, the venerable pastor of the parish, and a good many of the neighbouring clergy were in attendance.”
Those remarks of the Bishop denote a reasonable satisfaction on the part of the Catholic clergy with the National School system.
From The Wexford Independent the 13th of January 1872:–
“The Constabulary—Sub-constable James Doyle from Bridgetown to Berkely, New Ross, Sub-constable Thomas Kepple to Castlebridge and Sub-constable George Burdge to Tullicanna, Taghmon. The above were remarkable for their good moral conduct and efficiency in the discharge of their duty, while here, which they performed with firmness, tempered with prudence, under the guidance of the zealous, popular and much esteemed Constable William Canning. They leave much regretted by the people of the village and the inhabitants at large.”
From The Free Press, the 13th of February 1937:–
“Block-Making—For the past four or five weeks the work of block-making has been in progress at Cullenstown Strand, the workers being in charge of Mr Patrick Walsh, Rochestown. Between five and six thousand blocks are being turned out weekly. The workmen are changed fortnightly in order to try and absorb as many of the unemployed in the area as possible. One of the workmen, Matthew Moran, sustained a rather serious injury to his hand, on last Friday and was treated by Dr H. Brady M. O.”
The above item is a pungent proof that work was extremely scarce in 1937; the issue of access to employment would of inevitability provoke extreme tensions. The blocks were used, I presume, in building labourers’ cottages.
From The Free Press, the 13th of June 1942:–
“Mr N. Breen
A popular and highly esteemed family has been bereaved by the death of Mr Nicholas Breen, Carrig-on-Bannow, which occurred on Saturday. Deceased was eldest son of the late Mr and Mrs John Breen of Carrig and brother of Mr P. D. Breen N. T. Castlebridge, Chairman of the G. A. A. Co. Committee and Mr John Breen N. T. Danescastle. He is survived by his wife, son, and three daughters and deep sympathy is extended to them and to his relatives. The late Mr Breen carried on a drapery and licensed business in Carrig for many years and in his youth was a well known handball player. There was a large and representative attendance at the funeral to Bannow cemetery on Monday. R. I. P.”
From The People the 15th of March 1862:–
To the Editor of the People
Sir—The report of this fair, which appears in your paper of the 8th instant, is calculated to injure its usefulness. Instead of being a very poor fair, with a small quantity of stock and a disappointment &c, it was quite the reverse. Taking into consideration the severity of the weather, the fair was more than average—it being attended by a supply of good store cattle, cows, heifers &c. There was, also, a fair supply of bacon and fat pigs. On the whole, a good deal of business was transacted and both buyers and sellers were perfectly satisfied with the result.
[The report, to which our correspondent refers, was furnished by a person who could have no motive in disparaging the fair of Bannow which, all circumstances considered, has been a misconception, arising from the severity of the weather and the scarcity of sheep, to which our correspondent himself adverts—Editor People].”
The fair at Carrig was never successful and became less so after the coming of the railway station at Wellingtonbridge.
The Wexford Independent reported on the 15th of 1862:–
March 8, at Gorey, of paralysis, Rev. Henry Newland D.D. Dean of Ferns”
The Rev. Newland was for some years previous to his appointment in the Gorey area Rector of Bannow and an inveterate author of learned books and a determined controversialist.