Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, who uses big words, is a genius, erudite, scholarly, blessed among women, original, creative, innovative, humble, never brags, historian supreme, a right boyo and above all else, wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. St Kevin of Kilcaven prophesised that gold and silver would always follow the Barrystown children.

My academic mentor in the old university once said that I had the metaphorical eye of a hawk for telling detail in any document. As I always say if it is true it ain’t bragging.

The A. G. M. of the Ui Cinsealaigh Historical Society will be held at the Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy this Wednesday night at 7.30 pm. I will give a brief presentation on my article on Tom Boyse, of glorious memory, and assisted emigration from Bannow in the Journal of Local History published by the Federation of Local History Societies. The Society intends to publish a new issue of The Past in the current year. I hope to have an article or two in it. It was set up as the Diocesan historical journal back about 1920.

From The People May 11, 1912:–

“A Dastardly Act

A very disgraceful outrage was perpetrated near Carrig-on-Bannow on Saturday night last when a splendid new bicycle belonging to a young fellow named Edward Burke, Ballygow, was completely smashed up. The hooligans used large stones as instruments to complete the ruffianly work. The matter was reported to the local R. I. C. Barracks, who are making investigations into the matter, and in short expect to be able to trace the perpetrators….

Carrig-on-Bannow Fair

The above fair held on Thursday, May 2nd, was poorly attended. There was no cattle, sheep or fat pigs in evidence. The supply was composed of a few loads of small pigs, which met with slow inquiry and those that were sold realised the lowest possible prices.”

The County Wexford Independent on June 9th 1906 carried a specially contributed poem “The Corncrake” written by “Bannow”; there would be  no doubt, however, as to the identity of the author—Fr Philip Doyle O. S. A. , a native of Maudlintown, Wellingtonbridge. I will quote one stanza of it:–

“Corn-crake, corn-crake, down the ripening meadow,

Where I saw the wind go waving but can ne’er set eyes on thee,

‘Tis the June time and the twilight and I’m standing on the hillside,

Gazing towards the lighted city, glimmering by the silent sea,

Up beyond the night blue mountains, see the half full moon is sinking,

And the stars above her winking and the milky way her wake;

Oh my soul is lost in love and admiration!—but what say you?

“There is nothing new or wondrous—all is corn-crake.”

A business-man in Enniscorthy, some years ago, told me that previous generations had literally lived for the religion, the faith. This religious fervour ever breaks through the records and documents of those departed times: Fr Philip Doyle certainly lived for the faith and in this poem the lyrical aspect is an expression of mystical ecstasy, of an intensity that is foreign and nigh incomprehensible to latter generations. I once studied literature under the tutelage of Fr Michael Paul Gallagher S. J. (merely for a year) so I shall chance an interpretation of the meaning of the poem! Fr Doyle sees all about him and into outer space but the corn-crake is audible but invisible: the corn-crake may be a symbol to him of the indivisible—but resonating and controlling—presence of God.

I try to feed the birds, in winter, and in spring and summer I feed the baby birds in the nest if I encounter them. Mr William Thompson who published “Natural History of Ireland, Birds Comprising the Order of Razores & Grallatores” Volume I I in London in 1850 wrote on page 220 that Mr S. Poole had communicated to him this information:–

“Mr William Warriner of Bannow, on the southern coast of Ireland, states, that he once saw an avocet scooping in a marsh, near his residence; and remarks that it patted the ground with the convexity of its bill.”

On page 305 he quoted Mr Poole:–

“I shot one specimen of this bird [the purple sandpiper] on the 29th of January 1845 at Ballyteigue Lough; there seemed to be plenty of them on the beach. May 15th 1845—At the Saltees, I observed about a dozen [the purple sandpiper], which frequented the rocks, near high-water mark and allowed a sufficiently near approach for three specimens to be procured. They were excessively fat and the ovaries of the hens filled with backward eggs. Their food was univalve shell-fish.” Mr Thompson wrote of getting three or four birds at Hayestown [presumably near Taghmon] every day that he shot there; “since that time the ground has been drained and all kinds of snipe have quitted it; but I generally get a few elsewhere in the course of the winter’s shooting in the county of Wexford.”

Wet ground, marshes, badly drained fields were clearly an inviting habitat for these birds. There was a determination as the nineteenth century progressed to drain lands.

Peter Lawless, from Clonmines, wrote to the Wexford Independent on July 26th 1847 a very long letter. I do not who Mr Lawless was but he was obviously an erudite man but described himself “as a very humble man”. If it is difficult to decipher the intended and exact meaning of his missive at this remove but he seems in the first paragraph to refer to riotous disturbances:–

“Sir—Those disgraceful outrages that have been lately exhibited in Dublin, should be denounced and at once put down. The furious wretches that have now more than once vilely insulted the gentlemen of the Irish Confederation should be stopped in their mad career. The country should be saved from the disgrace of appearing, by its conduct, to countenance or connive at the barbarous conduct of a ferocious mob.”

He quoted a speech made by the Counsellor Curran at an election meeting in 1812 which, as far as I can make out, ascribed the treacherous sell out involved in the Act of Union, the present deplorable condition of Ireland—“that the Union was the last and mortal blow to Ireland as a nation”. I interpret him, then, as advocating constitutional [I am off using big words again!] and peaceful means to undo the Union. After quoting Curran, he continued:–

“These words were, you are aware, spoken by Counsellor Curran, nearly thirty-five years ago. If he were now living, what would he think of the conditions of a country, in which after the thousands upon thousands that have, all the years, died of want and fevers caused by want, two million six hundred destitute persons are trying to live on rations consisting of yellow meal daily for each adult and half a pound for a child under nine years old—what would he think when he would have learned that of the countless multitudes that fled from famine to find an asylum, as they thought, in British America, there were in Grosse Island alone, no less than two thousand lying sick of fever on the 9th of June last; on which day there were 120 burials in that place. What could be his feelings on reflecting that, at the very time, that these calamities desolated the country, now almost bankrupt, from its having been so long draining of its wealth which afforded means of employment and food to foreigners; what would be his feelings on knowing that half a million, at least, of his countrymen were taken off by famine and pestilence; while 2,000,000 more of them, one third of the entire population are living on rations? Finding that at a period of such an awful state of our country, “Irish property”—the fitting word would be “Irish poverty”, would be required to support “Irish poverty” would not beseech Irishmen, old and young, and of every sect, to look to England and learn wisdom?

Mr Lawless seems to admonish the Irish people for their disagreements among themselves—this piece of his missive is interesting argument:–

“Many of the Irish resident gentry, finding that legislation has decreed that the property of Ireland must support its poverty are beginning to think that self-government is no bad thing. They know very well that, though the potato crop failed in England last year, none of the English starved; they know that the millions taken yearly from Ireland have promoted English trade and manufactures; they know that the artisans and labourers of England, under the fostering care of a native parliament were never reduced to the necessity of living on potato diet; they know that was the principal support of the population and that after the destruction of the potatoes, one-third of them of the whole population became dependent for their subsistence on public charity.”

Would the Famine have occurred if Ireland had a native Parliament and government. I do not know the answer but it is worth discussing. Mr Lawless is mistaken (I honestly believe) in thinking that millions were taken away yearly from Ireland to support English manufactures. The resources of coal and iron gave momentum to the industrial revolution in England.

From The Wexford Independent the 25th of September 1847:–


On the 21st instant, at Bannow, of consumption, in the 17th year of her age, Mary, eldest daughter of Mr P. Barry. Death, at any period of life, is an unwelcome visitant to the family hearth; but when the victim of the ruthless tyrant is the young, the lovely, and the pure, the bereavement is the more acutely felt and flings a deep shade of sorrow over the saddened hearts of the relatives and friends of the thus early departed.”

Consumption was a colloquial name for T.B. or Tuberculosis, a lung disease which often proved fatal up the mid twentieth century: the bacillus could remain in the walls or roof of a house over generations and it could wipe out most, if not all, of a family. The eloquent wording of the death notice (and cost of its publication) may attest to two things: the preciousness of the lives of their children to their parents in that era and the implication that death was not an unremarkable thing at that time. In the above notice, the death was, especially, mourned as that of one so young, implying that people may have expected to live a reasonably long life. While this was the time of the Great Famine, this death was not attributed to it.

From The Wexford Independent the 27th of January 1858:–


We understand that a rather extensive and destructive fire took place on Friday last, at Coolebrook, the residence of Thomas Martin Esq., near Ballymitty. Carrying out the rapidly increasing improved system of house feeding, Mr Martin had a stove or cooking apparatus of food for cattle set up in part of the extensive out offices and situate nearly central. On Friday, as usual, the man who had charge of the business, lit the fire and put all going and then locked the door and went to attend to other duties.—In the course of the afternoon the whole range was found to be on fire internally and soon after the doors were opened the roofs fell in and the loss sustained is stated to be considerable. This should be a caution to all persons erecting stoves, particularly in old buildings where sufficient care is not taken generally in avoiding the near approach or insertion of timber beams and rafters to the flue. The origin of this accident is attributed to this cause.”

“To The Chairmen and Members of the

Poor Relief Committees

Of the division of Taghmon, Killurin, Mulrankin, Ambrosetown and Bannow

Gentlemen –I beg to solicit the honor of your votes and influence in the election of a Medical Officer to the Fever Hospital about being established in the neighbourhood of Taghmon. I do so, solely on the grounds of qualification and under the conviction of my ability to discharge with effect the duties attached to such an institution.

Possessing the diploma of the Dublin College of Surgeons and also, a Medical Degree, together with ten years practical experience in my profession, I am emboldened to seek your suffrages.

The appointment I look upon as one of extreme importance which, though a temporary provision now, may become permanent and, therefore, requiring at your hands that due consideration, as to the merits of the Candidates, moral and professional, which should guarantee success—

I have the honour to be

Your very obedient servant,

Richard Lett M. D., L. R. C. S. I.

From The Enniscorthy Guardian the 10th of October 1980:–

“Eileen Elizabeth Furlong

The death has occurred in  Gorey of Eileen Elizabeth Furlong, Merrion Lodge, Gorey, who was widow of Rev. William Furlong, who was curate of Bannow and Duncormack parishes in the 1930’s. Rev. Furlong was Precentor of Ferns when he died. Mrs Furlong was very popular in the Bannow Parish during her stay in it. She is survived by her stepson and she was buried in Gorey Cemetery.”

From the Bannow notes in The Free Press, November 25th 1960:–

“Fishing Cot Disappears—the fishing cot, Bluebell, owned by Mr John Hillis, Coolbrook, was blown from its mooring in the Bannow estuary during the height of the storm and it is feared she is a total loss, as no trace of her can be found.

.Straw Rick Collapses—Mr John Codd, Kilderry, popular Ballymitty Gael, had a lucky escape from injury when a straw rick he was helping to build on a neighbour’s farm collapsed. First aid was rendered by his team-mate, Mr Jim O’Hanlon, of Ballinglee.”

The County Wexford Independent on June 16th 1906 reported a public speech by Mr Peter Ffrench M. P.—I quote a piece of it:–

“The Insurrection of ’98, Mr Ffrench said was brought about by the British Government (cheers). Ireland, under her own Parliament, had made wonderful strides in trade, commerce and wealth, so that England had become jealous of Ireland’s progress and prosperity (cheers and a voice—“Good man”). Now, my friends, said Mr Ffrench, you have often been often told that the people of Wexford are not of the Celtic race. They say we are Normans or French or Anglo-Saxon—anything but Celtic. Now don’t believe a word of that. A strong race like the Celts never loses its individuality by mingling with other races (cheers). Those who have studied the racial problem say that mongrels all die out and, after a few generations, the strong race is just as pure as it was at the first. And the conduct of the men of ’98 is a proof of the theory, characteristic of the Celt is patience, sincerity and an excessive love of justice and that love of justice sometimes leads to an amount of submission that almost appears to be slavishness. In the year 1798 the Wexfordmen did everything that men could do in the interests of peace. They gave up their arms, they submitted to the most terrible indignities. The Wexford yeos [Yeomanry], North Cork Militia and the regular army of England all vied with each other in persecuting the people of this country (boohs and hisses). The pitch-cap, the triangle, the lash and other unheard of cruelties were requisitioned and at last, the people of Wexford, like all other Celts—because when you tread on the Celt he is likely to take a terrible vengeance—after their submission to such cruelties and indignities rushed to arms (cheers). They armed themselves with a few muskets, duck guns, Irish pikes, and whatever in the nature of a weapon they could lay their hands on. They had no military leaders, but all the same they defeated ignominiously England’s disciplined army (cheers and a voice—“Good man.”). Yes it was only when the full might of England’s army was hurled against one country that the insurrection was surpassed. Soon after the insurrection was surpassed the Irish Parliament was taken away. That, of course, was the object of the Rebellion—to destroy the Irish Parliament. That has been a great loss to Ireland—there is no doubt whatever about that…”

Peter Ffrench was a native of Bannow and nobody from the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow ever tells lies or deliberately distorts the truth: the problem with the above is that is not correct history, with some glaring and obvious mistakes, some of them risible. The writing of history in that era was hampered by the lack of intensely investigated research, so public figures—in part for speeches— imagined it.

The comparatively impartial and fair-minded Lord Lieutenant, Cornwallis who came to Ireland as the Rebellion ended rightly blamed the influence of the Orange Order for precipitating the Rebellion. Conversely, the United Irish organisation, inspired by the ideals and reality of the French Revolution, intended to stage a rebellion in Ireland; they had a military dimension and –cynically, I think—sought to link up with agrarian terrorist groups like the Defenders, (made up of labourers, small farmers, hedge school masters etc et al) to acquire greater numbers of fighting men. A certain quota of Protestants were in the upper echelons of the United Irish organisation. The disparity between the rebel army and the British forces was enormous.

The Normans who came to the south County Wexford simply obliterated the Gaelic civilisation there. The Anglo-Saxon language was spoken in the baronies of Forth and Bargy for centuries afterwards. There were constant wars between the Normans and the Gaelic tribes for centuries after the Norman invasion.

The Norman invaders and the Gaelic natives were merged into the one society by the most disturbing event in early modern European history—the Reformation and the establishment of the Protestant Churches. The Normans in Ireland would not break their allegiance to the Pope in Rome; in the Rebellion of 1641 they joined in a juxtaposition—maybe an uneasy alliance—with the Gaelic Irish. Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan Ruler of England, came to Ireland and brutally crushed all Catholic resistance. The Normans now became known as the old English in Ireland: their lands were taken and distributed to soldiers, adventurers and financiers in the Cromwellian expedition in Ireland.

Lord Castlereagh, as is documented, closed down the Irish Parliament, in 1880, because he, and his advisors, were convinced that the Orange Order and extreme Protestants had too much power in it. In uniting Ireland to England they intended that British standards of justice would be impartially applied in Ireland, a bit like the Direct Rule in Northern Ireland in latter times. The residual Protestant ascendancy was consequently whittled gradually away as the nineteenth century progressed.

Mr Peter Ffrench’s phrase “a terrible vengeance” is noteworthy: the imperative of vengeance recurs in the writing of Patrick Pearse, a most gentle and refined man. The memories of the wars of the Reformation and the grotesque plantations of settlers on Irish lands must have seared into the Irish collective mind-set and folk memory.

History is a foreign country (to use a metaphor) and men and women thought differently then: the challenge of the historian is to understand them and their conditions and context. I hope that I do that.

The Irish Parliamentary Party, to which Mr Peter Ffrench belonged, worked to have a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin. Hence Mr Ffrench put so much emphasis on a native Parliament. They anticipated that the achievement of Home Rule would integrate Ireland more permanently into the British Empire. The separatist nationalism of those who organised the Easter Rebellion wanted a total separation of Ireland from the British Empire and were ready to enter into armed insurrection to achieve that.