Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, historian supreme, charming, charismatic, ebullient, witty, eloquent and above else—wily. Gold and silver for the Barrystown childre (Anna Maria Hall’s word). I have appended the text of my short speech at Wellingtonbridge at the open meeting night at the end of this blog.

At this time of the year numerous publications with historical material comes out; as one would expect the boy from Barrystown has articles in some of them. It was not possible for me to go to all launches of all the publications with contributions from me. I did go the launch of the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society: my article in it is on Tom Boyse and the building of Carrig-on-Bannow Chapel. I have three articles in the Kilmore Journal; the first is on the building of a small harbour at Kilmore in 1849; the second is on the harvesting of whales (actually I had originally termed it Whales on Vacation in Kilmore) and the third recalled the iconic Nicky Rackard presenting medals to schoolboys in Kilmore in 1956. I presume that the Bree Journal will have at least one contribution from me. In late January I will give a lecture in Taghmon.

I hope when the new web-site goes up to write biographies of the prominent people in the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow over the centuries. The promotion of Anna Maria Hall the novelist might be of use to tourism. If the new web could attract the Diaspora then that would also help to bring people of Irish extraction to visit Bannow. The Norman Invasion was a water-shed (to use an apt metaphor) in Irish history and it should be publicised more by the Bannow Historical Society. I do not know why there is such tardiness about publishing a full account of Tom Boyse: Dan O’Connell once refused to do an eulogy to him as he confessed that he could not find words adequate to describe the greatness of the patriot of Bannow, Tom Boyse. His likes could not be repeated even with modern computerisation! He contradicted every orthodoxy of his time and anticipated our modern democracy and undermined the ideological and confessional basis of his own way of life!

In Barrystown I used to look down from the brow or little hill of the north west field in my father’s small holding of four fields; by a coincidence he had, also, four fields in Ballymackesy, albeit bigger ones. Patrick Byrne’s house and garden was underneath as I looked down. I remember seeing Aidan Byrne shortly before he emigrated to England (I presume) and I heard of Jim Byrne, another of Patrick’s sons. On Monday night as I waited before leaving Wellingtonbridge, in Tir nOg, Mike Byrne came in to shake hands with me. It was a beautiful gesture. He had spoken of how we lived on a height above him and that rekindled my memories of going out in that field with the hillock. Jack Mc Cutcheon wrote of the friendly people of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow who “befriend you, be you native or strange.”

The Free Press in July 1923 reported the death of Elizabeth Donnelly, Littlegraigue, Bannow “who died at the age of 109 years [and] was stated to be the oldest woman in Leinster.”

On June 21st 1963 the Free Press advertised the sale of Bannow Glebe, a residential property on 14 and a half acres statute measure by public auction on July 6th at 3pm at Mr Corish’s sale room, Custom House Quay, Wexford. Raymond E. Corish was the auctioneer. The listed details give us a metaphorical window into the Mansion:–

“Ground Floor: Drawing room 22” x 16” approximately; Dining room, 20” x 14”; Study, Hall; Kitchen (Rayburn cooker with boiler); Pantries, W. C.

First Floor: Four family bedrooms; Bathroom; Hot Press; Cylinder with immersion heater; two staff rooms; separate stairs.

Numerous power and light points, water by electric pump. Enclosed yard. Two loose boxes and large garage, all lofted.

Dairy, store and fuel and fowl houses. Garden of approximately one acre, including orchard, well stocked with fruit, vegetables and flowers, cultivated to date.

The property is in first class condition and is ideally situated near Bannow Bay. Good bass fishing and boating.

Held for ever free of rent. Rateable valuation: Buildings, £15, 15 shillings; Lands, £11, 10 shillings.”

The holding forever free of rent may imply that it was given to the Church by the Boyses to hold rent free forever but rent free could be another way of saying it was held in fee simple, that is full ownership. The near parity of the valuation of the house and lands suggests that it was a mansion house.

On January 25th 1862 the Wexford Independent reported that Matilda Maria Watson, widow of the late Edward Watson of Lacken Co. Wexford, died on the previous Sunday at Colebrook, the residence of her son-in-law Josiah Martin Esq. The Esq denotes a person of substance with property and prestige in that era.

Watson and Cahill, Mine Agents and Shareholders, Cornhill, London in 1845 stated their Register for Railways, Mines, Patents, Inventions that:–

“The principal business during the month has been in Barristown (Irish Mine Shares) which has advanced from £100 to £250 per share.”

A scientific and geological publication published in 1858 stated of the Barristown mine (“in the extreme south of Wexford”) that:–

“The mine which had been for a few years past idle was about 1846 attracting considerable attention, from the unusually large proportion of silver, 60 to 70 ounces of silver per ton of lead, contained in its ores….In 1846 a steam engine, with cylinder of 30 inches diameter was employed to pump at the principal shaft to a depth of 30 fathoms and to work horizontal rods in the western shafts, besides driving a crushing machine for the dressing of the ores.” [Up the mid nineteenth century Barrystown or Barriestown was often spelled as Barristown and unless that form of the name is put into Google old books with references on Barrystown will not come up.]

In January 1918 Pat Dunne of Barrystown prosecuted Sergeant Dolan of Carrig-on-Bannow on a charge of “with using threatening and abusive language towards him” at the Duncormack Petty Sessions. Mr W. H. Lett of Balloughton was the only magistrate present in court. District Inspector Patrick of the Royal Irish Constabulary “asked complainant what his evidence against the sergeant was but complainant refused. His Worship [Mr Lett] marked the case withdrawn.”

Pat Dunne and Mr W. H. Lett who then had a lot of land in Barrystown were not exactly the best of butties to use a term from one of Sean O’Casey’s plays; in fairness to him Mr Lett was indulgent of the irascible but witty man who lived at the house on the corner as one turns up from the Wellingtonbridge to Carrig road towards Grantstown, going parallel to the mine pits. Pat Dunne would have lost the small cost of prosecuting a person in the Petty Courts: he may have decided that Mr Lett would rule against him but if he did that would be an unfair assumption about Mr Lett who would have been a man of integrity especially in this judicial role. What is more likely is that he brought the case simply to annoy Sergeant Dolan.

The Free Press on March 9th 1918 reported that Messrs Walsh and Corish had sold for Mr Miskella his farm at Barrystown, Wellingtonbridge, containing 23 statute acres for £400 to Mr Patrick Doyle Maudlintown. I presume that this was the farm later held by Nicholas Doyle which bordered our bit of land.

On April 20th 1918 the Free Press reported that John Gregory, only son of the late Gregory White of Newtown, Bannow had died at Brooklyn, New York.

Fr Edward Murphy Parish Priest, Bannow was a subscriber to “An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland” writted by the Rev. John Lanigan D. D. and published in 1822. Fr Murphy morphs into Fr Martin in one of Anna Maria Hall’s short stories. Fr Murphy had aligned himself with United Irish in the Rebellion of 1798 but later on mature reflection reverted to loyalty to the British authorities in Ireland. Mrs Hall in her story weaves a melodramatic yarn of a vagrant woman as providentially recovering papers that proved Fr Murphy has sided with the rebels in 1798; they were hid under stones at Clonmines. Her story is swelled by melodrama and the paranormal touches that are ubiquitous in her work; it is significant to an understanding of her themes to note that Fr Murphy is save from calamitous prosecution by the wiles of the beggar and vagrant woman. She had a slight sympathy for the under culture of vagrants, beggars, thieves, smugglers and con-men. Tom Boyse, by contrast, would not tolerate the presence of beggars or vagrants in Bannow. In real life Fr Edward Murphy according to Mrs Hall had dinner each Sunday at the mansion of George Carr, the Counsellor or legal man, at Graigue.

On August 24th 1918 the Free Press carried this article:–

“During the week flax pulling was in full swing at Rosegarland where a large number of acres were put under its cultivation. Over 200 hands recruited from villages and other labour centres were engaged at the work which brings in remuneration averaging £1 per day per worker. A serious situation arose on Monday when the farm labourers left their employer with the harvest un-gathered, to engage in flax pulling which was, of course, more lucrative employment.”

In late Spetember 1918 Mr Walsh the rent collector reported that Mrs Devereux, tenant of a cottage at Green Road¸ Bannow and Michael Daly, tenant of a cottage at Ballyconnick had refused to pay any more rent until their cottages were repaired. Mr Walsh stated that the roof of Mrs Devereux’s house had been stripped in a storm last January and though an order had been made in February it had not been done since.”

The Free Press on October 19th 1918 had this article:

“Dr Joseph A. Furlong St Louis U. S. A., son of Michael Furlong of Lough Duncormack and nephew of Mr Clement and Miss Furlong of Lough had been spending a brief holiday in the home of his father and was on his way back to duty when he met his tragic death….Interment took place at Carrig-on-Bannow cemetery with full military honours, a firing party of American sailors firing three volleys over the grave and the last post being sounded. The prayers at the graveside were recited by the Rev. Mortimer O’Sullivan P. P.” That was the closing phase of the World War I and Dr Furlong was on the ill-fated “Leinster” which was torpedoed.

The Free Press reported on March 7th 1914 reported that “Bannow had lost another Gael in the person of Mr Walter Harpur who left the district on Wednesday morning. He was one the Bannow and Ballymitty team that annexed the junior championship in 1912.

In October 1911 contractors were busy putting up a new ceiling in Ballymitty Church it was asserted that when it would be completed it would make the sacred edifice one of the prettiest in the district. Much praise was due to Fr Scallan C. C. for the improvements.

As stated at the outset I will now append the text of my brief speech in Tir nOg Wellingtonbridge last Monday night:–

In my time at National School in Carrig-on-Bannow and in Clonroche the history programme was intended to outline the national struggle of the Irish people over seven centuries for freedom culminating in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the establishment of an independent Ireland. It was the narrative of separatist nationalism. This was understandable in a country taking the first faltering steps of nationhood. My regret is that this exclusive focus on the issue of national freedom still prevails excessively in latter day historiography.

The past is not only a foreign country but a very varied and complex universe. Since my return to writing history in 1998 I have sought to encounter the enigma, the conundrums, the variations and the anti-intuitive in the history of the Co. Wexford. History is not an exercise in common-sense reasoning as the historical evidence often confounds common sense and intuitive expectations about the past. Initially I set out to, metaphorically, reconstruct life in Clonroche in the nineteenth century and later on after the establishment of the Bannow Historical Society I sought to do the same with the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow. The historical paradox is that the quotidian or commonplace life may be best gleaned in areas where powerful or most prestigious personages resided: one may not write about a Lord Carew of Castleboro or a Tom Boyse of Bannow without also referring to a vast amount of material relating to the activities, views and lives of the lesser people involved with these famous persons. If the Lord Carew or Tom Boyse had not existed then these people would have vanished without trace into the anonymity of history. The parish of Carrig-on-Bannow has a fine, maybe unique, collection of famous personages: Meyler Fitzhenry and the Norman invaders, Sam and Tom Boyse of Bannow, Anna Maria Hall, the novelist, Jonas King of Barriestown who died in circa 1834 and the later Jonas King who died in 1881, the Leighs of Rosegarland, the famous agriculturalist and Rector William Hickey of Bannow, Fr Davey Walsh the Land League campaigner and Fr Philip Doyle O. S. A. of Maudlintown to name a few of them.

History is replete with furious and dangerous arguments between individuals and classes and it is unrealistic to assume that the people of a single parish let alone the entire country always lived in amity and total co-operation and goodwill. The Petty Court at Duncormack proves that going back to the early years of the nineteenth century neighbours squabbled and frequently took one another to the Duncormack Court.

Irish history has ample trauma and oppression but conversely in the nineteenth century there were both men and political parties seeking to create a more just society. In the Co. Wexford the Whig or Liberal Party, led by Lord Carew and Tom Boyse, stood for civil and religious liberties; Tom Boyse led the campaign for Catholic Emancipation and attracted massive crowds to the meetings addressed by him to protest against the tithes. The tithes were a charge on all arable land especially barley crops, payable to the Protestant clergy on the risible basis that the Protestant clergy were responsible for the spiritual welfare of all people in their parishes, Catholics included. The British Governments in that era were seeking to effect social improvement; the introduction of the National School system of education, the establishment of the dispensary system of medical care and the introduction of the Poor Law system are proof of such a tendency. All of these developments may be traced in the history of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow. The various incidents in the Land League agitation in Carrig-on-Bannow are recorded. The hotel in Wellingtonbridge was the centre of a bitter eviction case, that of the widow Mrs Murphy. Generally speaking the rows between families during the Land League era are still difficult to write about. The people living on the Boyse estate in Bannow were, perhaps, differentiated from the rest of the people of the locality: the rows over the sea weed at Bannow brought the tenants of the Boyse estate into conflict both with tenants from other estates in and out of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow and with the men from Clonmines and Tintern across the water.

The sources are easily accessible: the Wexford Library has a fine collection of nineteenth century newspapers plus census records, Griffiths’ lists, tithe books and mss material. Legal documents are in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin and the National Library in Dublin has a vast collection of old and ancient books plus newspapers; the National Archives has a large collection of printed and manuscript official documents. It puzzles me why students at schools and third level colleges do not resort to local history as a basis for their projects. John C. Tuomy, the Taghmon schoolmaster, wrote voluminously on Bannow pre 1850.

An enormous amount of history relating to Carrig-on-Bannow may be written. My disappointment is that much of the historiography of the Co. Wexford barely touches on the actual history of the Co. Wexford or indeed on the history of any locality in it. The other difficulty is that anything other than an account of the 1798 Rebellion is regarded as suspect: after many of my lectures on utterly different topics there is a repeated tendency for my hearers to shift the focus back to 1798 and folk lore as the basis of true history. One has to open one’s mind to the mysteries of history. I could say that a thousand times. There is a tendency to insist that all landlords were malevolent and that no British Government could do other than cruel and harmful things to the Irish. These assumptions are not always correct and are an impediment to calm study of history. So much of the history of Carrig-on-Bannow relates to the sea and fishing and of course the mines at Barrystown and Clonmines.

Since the early nineteenth century the progressive upper classes have believed that western civilisation may solve any problems and that it is set on a trajectory of unending progress. Tom Boyse and his first cousin Lord Carew were leading exponents of the Liberal or Whig Party who shared this mindset. Tens of thousands of people poured onto the roads to see and follow the Liberal Lord Lieutenant Mulgrave as he toured Co. Wexford in the summer of 1836. Mulgrave abolished slavery in Jamaica, and in Ireland he effectively abolished the tithes and proscribed the Orange Order that he detested.

When his father, old Joe, was U. S. Ambassador in London, Jack Kennedy studied the Liberal English aristocrat politicians and later crafted aspects of their approach into his political persona. Kennedy, as President, granted civil rights to the blacks as his initial project. There is a constant poetic touch to Jack Kennedy’s speeches as in these words at New Ross in June 1963:

“It took 115 years and 6,000 miles to make this trip, and three generations. But I am proud to be here and I appreciate the warm welcome you have given all of us. When my great-grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him, except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”

During this summer there have been many speeches made linking Jack Kennedy to the issues of latter day Ireland and our new found values; these speeches are plainly daft. The roots of Kennedy’s mindset are in a much earlier era when men and nations passionately sought to escape from the claustrophobia of feudal, landlord and religious oppression and national subjection. It was an era, also, in which there was a mighty sense of the presence of God or of the Gods, a phenomenon incomprehensible to latter generations. The passion of nineteenth century men and earlier for that intangible quality of liberty resonates in Jack Kennedy’s utterances. Kennedy belongs to history— that complicated, enigmatic and baffling foreign country.

Gaelic games ornamented Irish life in the twentieth century. The demise this summer of Jim Byrne, the captain of the Corah Ramblers championship winning team of 1956, left me sorrowful. He personified the pride of place and love of one’s own community that has always inspired those who played Gaelic games. I will quote Jack Mc Cuetcheon’s tribute to him in April 1957:

“Their names I now will mention; each man in his turn

But first and forever on the list is the captain, brave Jim Byrne

For he it was who led his men this championship to win

Which caused our chairman for to smile and our treasurer to grin.”

I am thinking tonight, also, of Dermot Roche and Hughie White and, of course, of the famed schoolmaster Paddy Garvey.

Rich Howlin will not dispute with me when I say he knew little of history but that as Chairman of this Bannow Historical Society he has left local history in great debt to him. His wonderful work and devotion has enabled so much history to be recorded, discussed and written. He has had a huge influence on me and my quest to know Bannow in times gone by.