Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, erudite, scholarly, of a   much higher intelligence than Einstein, sheer genius, historian supreme, blessed among the women, uses big words (appropriately), eloquent, moves with panache, humble, self-effacing, modest, never conceited, inspired and inspiring, a trainor of hurling teams, a marathon runner, a florist and the sun-flowers are now touching thirteen feet and even higher, the dahlias in glorious bloom. If it is true, it ain’t bragging: it is always gold and silver for the Barrystown childre. As St Kevin of Kilkaven preached, second only to theology, history is the highest form of knowledge. Bannow is so steeped in history that the passage of a thousand thousands years could not dilute its historical character. The fates ordained that the boy from Barrystown should write the history of the ancient and glorious parish.

From the Echo, the 14th of April 1909:–

“Duncormack Notes….

The new string band which was started in Carrig some time ago is going ahead by leaps and bounds. Something about a dozen young men are responsible for keeping it alive, notably amongst whom are Messrs P. Creane, J. Breen, T. Wade, L. French, P. Hayes, etc. The members meet on Friday evenings for practice. Every parish could have a string band if anyone would take the trouble of organising it and we hope to soon hear that Duncormack has fallen into line.

Concert at Carrig

On Sunday a very enjoyable evening was spent at Carrig when a most successful concert and variety entertainment was brought off in aid of parochial funds. There was a large crowd of people present and the extensive programme was done full justice to be the several artistes. The concert opened with the singing of “A Nation Once Again” by the Carrig school boys, in which they showed splendid training. Messrs J. O’Mahoney and W. O’Brien gave some step-dancing while songs were given by Messrs O’Brien and M’Grath. Then followed a side-splitting farce entitled “The Lady in a Trance” which kept the house in roars of laughter. The entertainment concluded with a splendid series of animated pictures.”

The notes do not tell where this house—the venue of the concert—was; the impression is of an improvised attempt at entertainment. “A Nation Once Again” was written by the gifted young Irelander Thomas Davis, who died young; the interpretation of Irish history in vogue at the time derived largely from books produced by the Young Ireland movement.

In October 1846 the Presentment Sessions agreed to grant “£300 to build a protecting wall at Barristown.”

As I always say any account of the history of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow should ever have a vignette of the greatness of Tom Boyse of Bannow. I quote from the Wexford Independent May 12 1847:–

“Popular Gratitude

The following interesting incident occurred at Bannow yesterday morning; and as it points a moral that may be studied with advantage, by those placed in abundance and station, we feel much pleasure in communicating it to our readers. The numerous labourers employed on the public works in the electoral division of that name, assembled at the residence of Mr Boyse, about 10 o’clock am; and on that gentleman proceeding to ask them what they wished to say, they told him that they had heard that he was about to leave home for some time and that they had come to make an earnest request that he would not leave the country while it continued in its present afflicted state. The amiable and enlightened gentleman said that he was thankful to them for thinking that he was disposed to assist in mitigating the calamity which had befallen the country and pledged himself to do one of two things—either not to leave home during the continuance of the present embarrassment or that if he were necessitated to do so, it should be for a very short time indeed. They expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with this engagement and departed after three cheers that made the welkin ring and invoking heaven’s blessing on the head of their generous and single-minded Benefactor. The circumstance must have proved doubly gratifying to Mr Boyse from the reflection that the spontaneous offering at the shrine of worth and virtue, could not have sprung from any selfish or interested feeling, as the assemblage was not composed of his own tenantry, but the residents on other properties.”

In the summer of 1846 Tom Boyse told the Parish Priest of Carrig-on-Bannow to procure whatever was necessary to ensure that nobody starved in his parish and that he (Mr Boyse) would bear the cost. In the famine years a desperate people sought out any influential, powerful and/or opulent personage that they perceived could alleviate their pangs of hunger and rescue their children from starvation to death. Virtually all of the proprietors or landlords gave aid and succour to the destitute but only to a limited extent—with varying degrees of generosity. Many of the landlords were close to financial ruin or bankrupt. Most landlords would tend to concentrate on relieving distress on their individual estates. It was all hopelessly and grotesquely inadequate. Tom Boyse was both an opulent man and—also squeamish, and most loath to allow people to die of starvation, not only on his estate but also on surrounding estates. The Parish Priest of Graignamanagh in Co. Kilkenny Fr Martin Doyle wrote to the newspapers stating that Mr Boyse contributed to the relief of starving people on estates surrounding his own while the tenants on his own estate there were not in need of succour.

The assemblage of residents on other estates at Bannow on that morning in early May 1946 is proof of a popular perception that Tom Boyse was uniquely disposed to respond decisively to any sudden deterioration in the prevailing circumstances: they did not have the same confidence in the other landlords. That is why they were so fearful that he might leave the country.

In June 1936 Mrs Kate Forrest, at the Circuit Court in Wexford, claimed £300 for damage done to her house at Wellingtonbridge as a result of the blowing up of the bridge there during the Civil War in 1923 by the Republican forces. Many similar claims were by other people at this time; if proved the Government would pay the compensation determined by the court. This was thirteen years after the Civil War and Andrew Forrest the husband of the applicant—and stationmaster at Wellingtonbridge railway station—claimed in court that one of the republicans had persuaded him to take this action; otherwise no claim would have been made. Mr Forrest testified:–

“The whole house shook with the explosion. He noticed cracks in the walls after the explosion. They were not there before the explosion, as far as he knew.” He said that the explosion took place on the 24th of March 1923. Representatives of the republican movement emphasised that the bridge was blown up in March 1923; there were three attempts to blow it up but I am not sure if these were attempts occurring at different dated or on the night of March 24th 1923! It was stated that you could not ride a bicycle across the bridge after the bombing.

Some of the evidence is perplexing:–

“Thomas Millar, engineer, gave evidence in regard to a map in connection with the case. He stated that he found the roof of the bottling store dilapidated, the walls were cracked and there was glass broken in the windows. It was an old building. He also examined the hardware store and found cracks in the wall and the roof sagged. He also examined the grocery and provision portion of the premises and the hotel premises. Witness gave evidence in regard to repairs required. He could not say that all the damage was caused by the explosion at the bridge 70 yards away.” [The print is difficult to decipher and it may be 170 yards].

To his Lordship—He examined the place nine months ago.

To Mr Kelly—Thirteen years had elapsed. Cracks could have happened during that period or before. He did not suggest that his estimate of £300 all arose out of the explosion.”

The above is extraordinary evidence! The house was indeed an old one: it was that of the widow Murphy whose husband built it; she was cruelly evicted by Leigh of Rosegarland and spent every day sitting on the bridge observing those who went into the premises and public house. She later professed herself satisfied with the financial settlement made by Mr Curran with her; Mr Curran had gone into the premises after her eviction. The names of those entering the premises as observed by Mrs Murphy were published in the People newspaper. It served as a hotel; indeed from the hotel at Wellingtonbridge a National School inspector wrote a letter to the Commissioners of National Education about a row in Danescastle National School; I will cite it at end of blog.

It would be astounding that Mrs Forrest would leave the premises in the dilapidated and derelict condition described by Mr Millar for thirteen years: it is, however, possible that premises in that era were often in such atrocious conditions: the funds required for regular maintenance and repair were not easy to procure.

“Richard Tubber stated that in March 1923 he was working for Mrs Forrest; on the night of the explosion he was in bed. He woke up and he heard stones falling on the roof and the house shook. Glass was broken and a lot of stones and slates were outside the premises in the morning. He noticed cracks in the premises the next day. He never saw any cracks before the explosion.

To Mr Kelly—He was not injured. Slates were replaced by a Mr Maddock.

John Maddock, mason, stated that he was acquainted with Mrs Forrest’s house before 1923. After March 1923, he did repairs—primed up foundations, repaired roofs and walls, put on slates.

To Mr Kelly—Probably, he would have done as much repairs before the explosion as after it.”

I have no doubt that John Maddock testified to the best of his recollections but—his evidence (and the boy from Barrystown is a whiz at legal matters and the dynamics of a court situation) to use an apt metaphor, his testimony, inadvertently, began the process of pulling away the foundations of Mrs Forrest’s case! He was unable to say that the work done by him was of necessity required as a consequence of the explosion.

Mrs Kate Forest in her own evidence to the court, in a most spectacular manner—quite unintentionally, of course—to use another apt analogy [a structural metaphor] took all the slates off the roof of her case. I should be in a circus, as I am so funny.

“The applicant [Kate Forrest] also gave evidence in regard to the explosion. She stated there were three very heavy explosions and a small one. She got paid £30 in respect of a claim for £53 for goods taken from a shop under the 1923 Act. She did not make a claim for damage to the house on that occasion, as she thought the house would have to be burned before she could do so. She did not know how the railway house beside the bridge escaped the explosion.”

Without being completely facetious, I opine that the blasts may have propelled the stones further away from the railway house but it is not a convincing theory. If the blasts were sufficient to crack the walls of Mrs Forrest’s hotel, then they should have certainly done more serious damage to the railway house.

Mrs Forrest’s inability to explain why the railway house escaped the explosion conversely made it difficult to prove that the Forrest hotel and home was damaged by the explosion. Thus the report of the case ended:–

“His Lordship said that in his opinion there was no damage done to the house as a result of the explosion and he dismissed the case.”

My problem is that it does seem reading the report of the case that Kate Forrest and her husband and the man working in the place genuinely believed what they testified; their problem was to prove that the place was damaged by the explosion.

From The Wexford Herald March 26th 1825:–

“The sloop Foyle of Cork, Edward Mc Donnell, Master, foundered on Thursday afternoon about a mile from shore, off Bannow. She was coal laden, two days out from Cardiff and bound for Youghal. The crew saved themselves with difficulty in their small boat.”

From The Wexford Herald 14th of October 1798:–


In Leeson Street, Dublin, Mrs Mary Leigh, relict of John Leigh Esq., of Rosegarland and mother of the Countess of Meath.”

Fr Paul Kehoe the native of Moortown, Ballymitty who became Parish Priest of Cloughbawn, kept a diary. Dr Sinnott, the historian and freedom fighter,

wrote of him:–

“A natural dignity was emphasised by a flowing beard. In the pulpit he was a reincarnation of patriarch and prophet.”

The date January 16th 1881 contained this vignette of the weather in his time at the seminary:–

“Excessive cold; ice an inch thick almost on our basin, in holy water font and in every possible place. Carried water last night to make a slide. Have a good one today but with many falls and my legs are all pains.

January 17th [1881]—Dean came in after Mass and caught for the second time a number of students at the fire during study hours. Spoke sharply. Snow now (9 pm) falling rapidly and it must be a foot deep over the world at this moment.”

The entry for the 17th of February 1882 seems to describe an incident during the Land League agitation—an attempt to sell cattle on the Kehoe farm at Moortown:–

“Letters from Mary. She told me of the auction of our cattle on Tuesday last by the Sheriff for rent and that Mr Keating of Taghmon drove out to warn them of his coming. Mr Fortune purchased the cattle and Mr Keating brought £140 fearing they were unprepared. Wrote to the latter, thanking both for their great kindness on that occasion….”

These and many more extracts from Fr Kehoe’s diary were published in issue 37 of the All Hallows Annual, 1959—61 and in the National Library Ir37941A2.

“Office of National Education

30th July 1917

Rev. Sir,

With reference to previous correspondence on the subject of closing of the above schools on the 28th May 1917, I am directed by the Commissioners of National Education to request that you will be so good as to inform Mr John Breen Principal teacher of the Boys School and Miss Mary E. Redmond, principal teacher of the Girls School, that they acted irregularly in assuming the right to close their schools without your permission and to sanction and to direct their attention to the terms of rule 94 (XIV) of the Commissioners’ Code.


{Letter to Fr Mortimer Sullivan P. P. Bannow]




I beg to return herewith the file sent to me in this case. I deferred furnishing a report until I should have had an opportunity of visiting the schools and as I had hoped of having an interview with the Manager  [Fr Mortimer Sullivan]. Unfortunately the Manager is from home this week but in a letter expressing regret for his unavoidable absence from the general inspection of these schools and Bannow School he took occasion to inform me that he had reported the teachers of these Schools for absenting themselves from duty without his permission; he remarked that should Miss Redmond, Principal of the Girls School say she had permission “not to believe her”.

The Manager, as far as I can learn, holds strict and somewhat peculiar views about the observance of Bank Holidays, other than which occur at Easter and Christmas. Bannow School was not closed on last Whit Monday and the Manager satisfied himself on the point in an early visit. The day was not officially recognised as a Bank Holiday in 1916 and it was not till July 1915 at the signing of the time table for the following year that Miss Redmond states that she obtained permission for regarding it as a holiday in future years. Both she and the Principal of the Boys School maintain that if the Manager desired the schools to be kept open on Whit Monday, he ought to have stated so when signing the Time Table on which the day appeared as a holiday and they claim, moreover, that they are entitled to the privilege of a holiday on a day recognised as such by the Commissioners.

There is much to be said for the teachers’ representation of the case and I am satisfied that in closing the school on Whit Monday they had no intention of infringing a rule or the Manager’s authority. At the same time knowing, as they must have known, his views in the matter they showed, in my opinion, great want of judgement in absenting themselves from duty without permission. They should be advised, I think, to observe carefully in future the terms and Practical Rule XIV dealing with the necessity of obtaining on every occasion the Manager’s permission for the closing of the Schools.

Yours etc

J. J. Doody.”



8th June 1917


I am enclosing the statements which I have received from the Principals teachers in the above mentioned Schools with regard to the statement of the female teacher that I gave them permission to take Whit Monday as a Holiday. I have no recollection of having done so. I believe this statement to be untrue. The male teacher says according to Time Table Whit Monday is a recognised Holiday. It is not recognised by me as a day on which a school can be closed. Both teachers attach considerable importance to my signing the Time Table, principally with regard to the order or distribution of time and not to the observance of Bank Holidays. Both teachers know well that I am opposed to the closing of the Schools except on the days that are commanded by the Church to observe as holy. I may add neither of them would be over scrupulous about the observance of the Time Table were it not for the strict vigilance which I keep over them

Yours etc,

Mortimer Sullivan, Parish Priest, Carrig-on-Bannow”

A minute of the Commissioners noted that Whit Monday was the “day on which a musical festival was held in Wexford.” The festival was the Feis and young teachers of that era were passionate about Irish/Gaelic culture and music that would be celebrated at the Feis. It would be extremely difficult to prevent Jack Breen and Mary Redmond from setting out on their bicycles for the Feis in Wexford. The Feis ironically pointed the way to an intensely Catholic Irish society or so my teacher the late Professor Pat O’Farrell of Sydney, asserted.

Fr Mortimer Sullivan was excessively holy, to the point of exasperation, as hinted by the report that Mr Doody the inspector wrote from the hotel at Wellingtonbridge. It is clear from Fr Sullivan’s letter that he was determined like King Canute to hold back the tides of social progress; the phrase Bank Holidays may be a misnomer—I thing they were public holidays and therefore an improvement in the working conditions of public servants, at least. It would follow as a matter of common sense that National Teachers should have the benefit of public holidays. Fr Sullivan was convinced that people should take rest from servile work only on the days stipulated by the Catholic Church—Sundays and Catholic Feast Days of Obligation, that is Catholic Feast Days when there was an obligation to attend Mass, under pain of committing mortal sin. He was railing against any secular concept of time and social organisation. His venom against the two young teachers was not Christian, to put it mildly and he could have ruined their careers, over a trivial and a most arcane theological matter.

It would be difficult to discern any rationale to Fr Sullivan’s outrage in this matter, bar a most arcane theology. I doubt if the children in the Danescastle Schools really cared about the loss of Whit Monday 1917 in their education!