Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, your favourite historian and historian supreme, original, ebullient, erudite, scholarly, a right boyo, a big hit with the girls [and all the people read about my hollyhocks last summer], charming, charismatic, modest, self-effacing and wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. They are contacting the boy from Barrystown from all parts of the globe and also from the schools. As they say in our native tongue, Ni fhacamuid a leitheid aris [we will not see his likes again] but the boy from Barrystown is not going away!
I am waiting for some of my readers to bring me seaweed for the spring planting in the garden.
I take these three names from a list of wills made by inhabitants of the County Wexford long ago:–
Thomas Furlong in the year 1726 and address, The Banowe, alias Bannow;
James Barry in the year 1650 with an address Barriestown;
Samuel Boyse in the year 1730 with an address at Cullenstown.
The Boyse entry confounds me; Tom Boyse wrote that his father and grandfather had not visited Bannow for nigh half a century before 1814. Did the Boyses live at Bannow up to 1730? I doubt it.
At their January meeting in 1894 the Carrig-on-Bannow branch of the Land League was preoccupied by an ecclesiastical matter, of mixed emotions for them:–
“At this meeting we have a cause for regret and also for gladness but in our case regret has the uppermost place in our hearts and the cause is the departure from among us of our patriotic and holy priest, the Rev. Thomas Meehan, who has been promoted to the pastoral charge of Ballindaggin. We are proud of his promotion but at the same time we cannot help feeling extreme regret that the dignity of which he was so worthy should be the means of severing his connection with the people of Bannow and Ballymitty. Father Meehan attended our meetings; he gave us the assistance of his advice and council in all matters connected with the working of the organisation in this parish, he helped our collections by his influence with those who might otherwise be wavering and indifferent, as well as by his own always generous subscription. He was ever ready and willing to assist every undertaking having for its object the uprising of the Irish people from the bondage of slavery. The poor of the parish deeply regret him for he was both kind and charitable and his visits were a consolation and solace to them in sickness or distress. We sincerely hope he may be spared many years to enjoy his well-deserved promotion and congratulate the good people of Ballindaggin on having so exemplary a pastor.”
We are in the Lenten season but the adulation accorded to the Catholic clergy in olden times is a phenomenon almost incomprehensible to the younger generations. Fr Meehan in Ballindaggin was involved in the interminable and awful contention between two families at Killoughram over alleged pollution of a stream of water. In court in 1915 the then Canon Meehan was asked if he knew of the issues of the dispute and answered the court in weary tones—“Oh indeed I do”. The court collapsed in laughter. Fr Meehan may or may not have been deserving of all the praise in the resolution of the Carrig-on-Bannow Land League: it was automatic to praise clergymen in the most exaggerated terms (just as people now adulate the boy from Barrystown).
“Bannow, Taghmon, Ireland
April 19, 1829
In reply to your letter of the 14th inst., I beg to say that having kept no copies of the letters which I had the honour of addressing you on the subject of Irish Emigration, I do not now know their exact tendency, but I do not think I made any observations on the subject which may not, if you wish it, meet the public eye.
I am desirous, however, to remark, that my wish that Government should then be induced and urged to encourage Emigration sprang entirely from having been so long a witness of the impractibility, under the then circumstances of the country, of paying the labouring population at a rate of wages that could be at all considered a remunerative one.
Whether we may be justified in deriving from the prospect which has now happily opened in Ireland, hopes of a largely increased demand for labour and for its consequent greater value in the market, I know not. But if such is not to be one of the late great enactment, I should still feel anxious that my poor laborious countrymen should be enabled to seek happier fortunes in other climes.
You are yourself aware that there is, however, here, an ample field for the application of our unemployed labour, in so much as Ireland is neither fenced, drained, not planted as she ought to be. And it is really an enigma that in these respects she should remain so backward, seeing the cheap rate at which such necessary and reproductive improvements can be effected.
In reference to the repetition which your letter contains of the question you put to me two years ago, namely, whether I thought there had been any diminution of the pauperism among the peasantry—I cannot hesitate to assert, that no such diminution has taken place; and I have deliberately arrived at this conclusion from observing the willingness, nay, the anxiety, to emigrate whenever the means of doing so can be procured. This, too, in despite of the comparatively inadequate comforts and limited means of subsistence with which a poor Irishman and his family can content themselves. I have the honour to be, &c,
I, of course, think, as a corollary from the above, that “a large proportion of the labouring classes are at the present time without the means of profitable employment.
The basic issue in these deliberations was that of a Poor Law, that is, state intervention to aid those in acute material distress, in danger of starvation and famine. There is no doubt that the Orange Order opposed the introduction of the Poor Law as they, in their Dark Age mentality, would easily countenance the prospect of large swathes of the Catholic population dying from hunger in years of severe crop failure. There is equally no doubt that Tom Boyse favoured the introduction of a Poor Law system as an ultimate safeguard against calamity in the form of famine visiting Ireland or indeed any society, in that era. In the next short letter to be quoted Tom Boyse states that he his enclosing in his missive to Mr Horton an extract from the Dublin Evening Post about the issues raised in his letters; the Dublin Evening Post was a pro Catholic newspaper but always read by—and heeded—by Boyse. The primitive disposition of the Orange Order dismayed Tom Boyse.
The great measure recently enacted referred to in the article was the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, by which Catholics were legally enabled to become Members of Parliament; the British establishment feared that vile demagogues would be elected under this new freedom and Dan O’Connell agreed a compromise that the vote would be given only to free-holders (those whose lease was for a life or lives) with £10 valuation and be taken from the forty-shilling holders. A lease of a farm could be held say for 25 years or/and or the life of somebody, say that of Tom Boyse or the King of England or anybody. The removal of the right to vote from the 40 shilling free-holders made them less useful to their landlords: landlords had encouraged the creation of these small free-holds as the free-holders could be easily prevailed on to vote as directed by their landlords.
Tom Boyse regarded the seizure of Catholic property such as the monasteries during the Reformation as criminally wrong and he would totally agree with the views expressed in the extract from The Dublin Evening Post that he sent to Mr Horton.
“Bannow, Taghmon, Ireland
April 25, 1829.
The inclosed [sic] has just met my eye in the Dublin Evening Post; and thinking it might interest you, I inclose it for your perusal.
I am &c,
Rt hon. R. W. Horton”
This is the extract from the Dublin Evening Post that Tom Boyse posted on to Mr Horton:–
“Poor Laws in Ireland
There is little doubt that Ministers have it in contemplation to introduce some system of Poor Laws into Ireland.
It is needless to say that we heartily concur in the principle. Friends, under any circumstances, to a reasonable measure of the kind, we regard it, under the altered condition of the tenantry, as absolutely indispensable.
On the abstract no one will be hardy enough, not even the most sturdy disciple of the Rev. Mr Malthus, to deny that provision should be made for the sick and impotent—And scarcely will any one contend that because a population can neither obtain employment, nor the means of purchasing food, they must, therefore, be permitted to perish in the midst of plenty.
The difficulty is to distinguish the claimants—but the claim of the poor for relief is grounded on the rights of nature.
We do not pretend, however, that it was in acknowledgement of this right, the principle was admitted early in the reign of Elizabeth. We imagine that neither the Lady herself, nor her very obedient Legislature, cared much for the poor—and we believe both would very willingly withhold relief, if they could. But it was impossible with safety to themselves, to turn a deaf ear to the cries of misery and the menaces of violence, consequent upon the robbery of the Catholic Church, which was the general Almoner and the confiscation of whose property to the great lords and a married clergy, turned the poor of England adrift.
These lords and the Protestant Church which succeeded would very willingly, we repeat it, give the go-by to the prayers of the pious and charitable, in behalf of “suffering humanity”; but they feared a people writhing under the calamity of hunger, destitution and despair.
Poor Laws were therefore established much more for the purposes of police that with a view to relieve the distress—But it was impossible to have a good police, without affording eleemosynary assistance to the poor, who had been just robbed of all their resources.
What the state of Ireland has been hitherto, it is needless to say. A failure of the potato crop is the certain forerunner of famine and pestilence. We need only refer to the year 1823.
In that year, it was notorious that the export of provisions was prodigious, while the people were starving. It is notorious that the corn exported to the British ports was purchased up by the agents of the London Tavern Committee and sent back to Ireland to feed the tenantry on the very lands on which it had been grown.
Was this honourable or just, or even decent? It is needless to ask the question. The charity of England was taxed to save the Irish peasantry from starvation, while the landlords of those very peasantry continued to receive their rack-rents.
That was unjust. But the system which has grown up with such magnitude since that time and to which steam navigation has lent such formidable facilities—namely the annual emigration of the Irish labourers to England has compelled the English landlords to look narrowly to the consequences which must result to the Poor of their own country from such an influx of superfluous mouths.
England, notwithstanding all her resources, would be brought—as far as her rural population is concerned—to the level of Ireland, if such a system were persevered in only for a very few years.
The people of that country, therefore, in self-defence, are one and all, in favour of the introduction of a modified poor-rate into Ireland.
But Lord Limerick and several of the Irish landlords are against the system—and certain political economists, friends of ours, are open-mouthed and vehement in their opposition.
This is natural enough. The rents certainly will be touched, though we really believe not to such an extent as they apprehend—and the theorists are quite outraged at a violation, in the present rapid “march of intellect” of their darling theory.
But to this complexion they must come at last. It might have been postponed for some time, had the Catholic Question been delayed. But the Bills which have just passed will render it imperative on the Legislature to adopt immediately, or very speedily, a measure of relief for the Irish poor.
We saw all along that this must be one of the immediate consequences of the Disqualification Bill and we confess that a conviction of its certainty was among the motives which precluded us from using certain popular topics at our disposal against the measure.
We felt indeed that it would be a bootless opposition. We knew that we must have been beaten and therefore we abstained. Besides we were aware that, without the aid of an Association, the forty shilling freeholders must have gone with their respective landlords. In a political point of view, we confess it, less objection to the Disqualification Bill than we had , as depriving the tenantry of Ireland of the little importance which they held in the estimation of the lords of the soil.
In one word, we objected against the Disqualification Bill, not so much as being a political sacrifice, as because it invaded the temporal interests of the tenantry.
There can, we think, be no doubt at all of its detrimental and we would say almost say, of its frightful consequences in this regard.
We admit, generally speaking, that the forty shilling freeholders were at the mercy of the landlords. They were the instruments of their ambition, of their cupidity, of their jobbing. They were treated, therefore, with some regard. A slave-owner will not wantonly torture his salve—A man will have some bowels of compassion for the horse that he rides. The forty shilling freeholders were of use, and they were, therefore, cherished to a certain extent.
It is true, even this disposition was evidently on the wane. The landlords were coming rapidly into the opinion that the sub-division of their estates had become seriously detrimental to their interests and unquestionably on very sufficient grounds. They found out that sub-letting was a terrible grievance and an act which, though it cannot be brought into operation had produced and will continue to produce incalculable mischief, was passed against sub-letting.
But though this Act cannot be brought into full force, as regards the interests of the landlords, it has and will prove terribly calamitous to the tenants.
It has put the great bulk of them at the mercy of their landlords. We are satisfied that in one year from this time, every cottier in Ireland, if the landlord wish it, with the exception of a few that hold in fee simple, might be ejected and turned on the high road.
“The world all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest and Providence their guide”.
But the Disqualification Bill removes the last stay which the tenantry might have on the mercy of the landlords.
Now, it is impossible but Government must have foreseen this contingency—and we have reason to believe that they did so. The Irish landlords will find, we think, ere long, that legislation is not for them alone. They will discover, such of them as are not enlightened upon the matter, that Parliament will contemplate the bulk of the population as well as its chiefs—and that it will take care, for its own sake, not to say one word upon humanity—that the State shall not be subject to a servile war, or a breaking up of the social edifice. In short Parliament must step in to the chasm which it has made, if it would save the country.
We think that a system of poor-laws will obviate many of the difficulties with which this subject is encumbered—and growing out of this system or accompanying it, that recourse must be had, after all, to Mr Wilmot Horton’s scheme of emigration.
The reader sees that one great subject has scarcely been disposed of, before another, not so great certainly, but of immense magnitude, also, has been forced upon our attention. We promise to bestow upon it the same unwearied and steady regards, with which we accompanied the Catholic Question to its happy consummation. It may not, nor can it be expected to be, of so agitating and absorbing a kind, but we are much deceived if it will not have the effect of quieting the political swell which is now seen on the waves, after the storm is abated.
At all events, it is great comfort and a consolation to us, that we can discuss this and all other subjects without treating them as party questions—without pressing in the subject or annoying the parsons, by whom ourselves as well as the country have been so dreadfully annoyed for the last six years. Thanks—eternal thanks—to Wellington and Peel.”