Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming and charismatic, historian supreme, a right boyo, an intelligence greater that Einstein, eloquent, blessed among the women, moves and talks with panache, a crafted raconteur, a unique scholar, erudite, a florist and a marathon runner. I am, as somebody used to say, the most devious and wily of them all, that wily boy from beside the mine pits.
The weather this early June has been abominable and without many precedents: the summer of 1959 started badly and morphed into a wonderful summer but the conditions in 1958 were quite alike to this sickening early summer and developed to one of the wettest summers ever. 1960 was weirdly cold but the fields were not flooded as in 1958.
According to The Wexford Independent on the 12th of December 1838, Dan O’Connell, the Liberator, on Wednesday the 3rd of December—“reached the new bridge about two miles from the residence of Mr Boyse at Bannow, where he was due to dine and sleep. Several roads converge to this spot from different parts of the country, from each of which were seen pouring countless multitudes of men, women and children…The road from the bridge to Mr Boyse’s house was literally so deeply crowded that it could have held no more.”
Dan O’Connell spoke from the balcony of Bannow House and while it is the invariable penchant of democratic politicians to exaggerate and to indulge in hyperbole and effusive tributes to everybody, it is difficult to disagree with this excerpt from what he said to the cheering crowds:–
“a noble and bold peasantry, well clad and well housed and the most lovely women I have ever looked upon.”
The historians are uncertain about Dan O’Connell’s attraction to the women: there were accusations of that kind from a Dublin woman and amused pronouncements from some of his contemporaries about his amorous exploits but my former teacher Professor Robert (Robin) Dudley Edwards absolutely rejected such charges.
On the 15th of January 1903, an irate Fr Gregory Pettit wrote to the Commissioners of National Education:
“I have written on three occasions re the sanctioning of the Assistant Teacher (Miss O’Connor) in above [Ballymitty] School and have received no reply. We have had the required coverage for year ending and which I forwarded in one of my letters.
I am now having recourse to a registered letter so that it will reach your hands and have an early reply.
Gregory Petitt C. C.”
The People on the 1st of July 1899 carried this intriguing promise:–
“The Buried City
A Legend of Old Bannow
In our supplement next week we will publish a most interesting legend of Bannow.”
On July 8th 1899, The People unveiled its “Legend”—and I was quite disappointed with it. Essentially it seems to me to be nothing more that a piece of historical fiction; it is titled—“The Fate of Aileen Tierney by Ballysop (written specially for our Journals)”. The story follows the conventional—and facile—literary pattern of purporting to be a repetition of a tale related by an old man to the author as he reclined on the cliffs of Fethard, beside the lime-kiln in the wood. The old man’s tale is an account of a terrible storm causing “the old city” of Bannow to disappear, with a love story intertwined into it.
The most significant message of the story, to me, is the unquestioned certainty that Bannow was submerged under the waters; this seems to have been an entrenched notion, in that era.
From The Free Press, the 28th of April, 1961:–
Gone to Sydney—Miss Stella Smith, Ballyowen, Wellingtonbridge, a student nurse at St Ebbis’s Hospital, Epsom, Surrey, England, left for Sydney, Australia, last week, for a two years’ course in physiology. As she embarked on the liner Strathaird at Finsbury Docks, London, Nurse Smith was seen off by her mother, brothers, sister and a large number of nursing colleagues who wished her a pleasant voyage and success in her new surroundings.”
On the 14th of January The Wexford Herald reported:—
“Died—At Rosegarland Cottage, in this county, aged 96, relict of the late William Hincks, Esq., of Gurteen, Co. Kilkenny. She was kind and benevolent to the poor and is sincerely regretted by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
From The People the 1st of July 1899:–
The Venerable Dean of Ferns
The death after a brief illness of the Venerable Patrick Charles Sheridan, Archdeacon of Ferns and pastor of Bannow, has occasioned universal sorrow in the county; for the Archdeacon was widely known and much beloved. He contracted cold about a fortnight since, congestion of the lungs supervened, to which he succumbed on Thursday morning. Archdeacon Sheridan was born in Askamore 71 years ago. He was educated at St Peter’s College and, afterwards, at Maynooth. In 1854 he was ordained and appointed C. C. [Catholic Curate] of Bannow. Two years later he was transferred to St Peter’s College as professor and a little later on the appointment of the President, Dean Kirwan to the pastoral charge of Piercestown, Father Sheridan became President of St Peter’s, an office the duties of which he discharged with great success. Never had this excellent institution a more prosperous career than under his wise and able administration. On the death of the Very Rev. Peter Corish P. P., Bannow and Chancellor of Ferns in 1873, Father Sheridan succeeded him in both offices. About a year ago, he was appointed Archdeacon of Ferns. Archdeacon Sheridan was a remarkably holy and exemplary priest. He was of a most retiring disposition and seldom took part in public affairs. When, however, his services were required by his people, he was ready to lend them his counsel and assistance. He was a warm but unostentatious patriot, but he was a priest before everything. His parishioners fully appreciated his holiness of life and held him in the very highest esteem and warmest affection. He was truly a father to them and none repaired to him for counsel or guidance in vain. They feel his death as a severe blow and deeply mourn his great loss. The Archdeacon was brother of the late Very Rev. Thomas Sheridan P. P. Oylegate and of Dr Sheridan P. P. J. P. Wexford, with whom there is great sympathy in the bereavement of an attached brother. He is, also, uncle of Rev. N. T. Sheridan, President of St Peter’s College. The funeral obsequies will take place this (Saturday) morning, after which the remains will be interred in Bannow Church. R. I. P.”
I assume that “Bannow Church” refers to Carrig-on-Bannow Chapel, and not the ancient building at Bannow. The Bishop of Ferns presided at the obsequies.
From a report of the Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union of Wexford in the People on the 1st of August 1900:–
“The Fence at Bannow Dispensary Residence
The following letter was read from Dr Connolly, Medical Officer—“Kindly direct the attention of the Guardians to the fence erected by them a few months ago in the land attached to the Bannow Dispensary District. This fence, which is simply a mound of earth, about two feet high, allows the neighbouring cattle to trespass freely. A good wire paling, if put on immediately, would prevent the cattle which pass over it, at present, from pulling it down altogether.”
The consideration of the matter was adjourned for a week, until it was ascertained whether the contractor was obliged by the specification to put paling on the fence.”
From The Free Press, the 5th of May 1961; report of two games in the New Ross district Junior Hurling Championship:–
The game between Ballymitty and Cushinstown proved more interesting and although Ballymitty won by 7—6 to 5—3, it was only in the closing quarter that they were assured of victory. At the interval, Ballymitty led by 5—4 to 2—1.
On the change of ends Cushinstown showed improvement in all sectors and there was only a single point between the sides entering the last quarter. Ballymitty then staged a spirited final rally and were deserving winners when full time was called.
Referee, Mr J. Maddock, New Ross….
Ballymitty—J. Byrne, P. Devereux, W. Davitt, J. Ferguson, J. Roche, J. Staunton, D. Roche, M. Moran, F. Cullen, M. Fanning, M. Harpur, R. Walsh, M. Doran, M. White, G. Byrne.”
Both teams scored more goals than points! The emphasis on ground hurling would tilt a game to that outcome; another factor was the heavy hurling ball then used making it less likely that shots for points from out the field would go over the cross-bar for points; the long striking out of defence and midfield meant a veritable raining down of balls around the opposing goal-mouth area—that seemed to be the situation around the Wexford goal-mouth when the magnificent Bobby Rackard moved back to full-back in the 1954 All-Ireland Final (after an injury to Nick O’Donnell) where he astounded all present by the facility with which he repulsed a wave of attacks. Christy Ring said that one should always head for goal.
From The People the 5th of July 1899:–
“Lost on the 14th June, between Coolbrook and Ballymitty, a Silver Patent Lever Watch; number known. A reward will be given if left at the R. I. C. Barracks, Wellingtonbridge, or at The People Office, Wexford.
Lost in the Chapel of Carrig, or about, a purse and money, on the 30th June, the property of a working man. Anyone bringing it to Mr Breen will get a reward.”
The People on the 8th of August 1900, in its report of a meeting of the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union indicated a resolution of a fencing saga, alluded to above:
“Bannow Dispensary Residence
In connection with the fence round Bannow Dispensary Residence, a letter concerning which was before the last meeting, it transpired that there was no mention made of a paling in the contractor’s specification. It as decided that a committee of the local councillors get the paling erected.”
From the diary of Fr Paul Kehoe, a native of Tullicanna and later Parish Priest of Cloughbawn:–
“February 17th 1882—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 and Mr T. P. Fortune 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 kindness on that occasion.”
There is an apparent paradox in the above; as the young Paul Kehoe wrote to thank Mr Fortune who purchased his family’s cattle at a Sheriff’s auction! The paradox may be resolved by reference to the campaign of the Land league to have tenants withhold their rents indefinitely; the landlords retaliated by seeking decrees from the courts to sell the tenants’ farms and/or cattle or other property. At the resultant auctions, the tenants, or friends of the tenants, bought their farms or cattle back at a price equivalent to the arrears of rents plus legal and sheriff’s costs. Mr Fortune would have, of course, bought the cattle with the intention of returning them to the Kehoe family. I am not sure of the purpose of this campaign, in terms of benefit to the tenants—maybe it was uses as a means of harassing the landlords.
For the 17th of January 1881, Fr Kehoe recorded:–
“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 (8 pm) falling rapidly and it must be a foot deep over the world this moment.”
From The Wexford Evening Post, the 10th of February 1817:–
“In our paper of the 26th ult., we stated the loss of the sloop Elizabeth, laden with teas, sugar, &c on one of the Keroe Islands; a circumstance has since been imparted to us which we have the utmost pleasure in recording. The cargo was insured but the vessel worth £150, unhappily, was not. She was the sole property of the Captain and his father-in-law who, by this misfortune, have been reduced to beggary. Thomas Boyse (who risked his life in saving the lives of the crew) and the Rev. George Carr of New Ross put in their claims for salvage and having received the sum of £75 gave it to the two sufferers above mentioned. This sum, so humanely applied, would never have been sought for, if they had not such an object in mind.”
The wealth of Tom Boyse was as extensive as his humanity and his humanity was as extensive at his wealth, both nigh limitless.
From The Wexford Evening Post, the 29th of February 1828:–
“Rev. Doyle, Cloak, to be sold at the Pound of Bannow on the 10th of March.” The observations of the Editor of the newspaper are most pertinent:
“first that tithe we understand has not been drawn from these lands [at Grantstown and leased by the Augustinians], until they came into the possession of Mrs Colclough and secondly we believe that it not customary to exact tithes from land held by a clergyman.”
The tithes, a charge effectively of one-tenth on arable land, were required to be paid by all, Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, on the risible basis that the rector of the Established or Protestant Church ministered to the spiritual needs of everyone in his parish. It was a most odious and offensive tax and the Catholic community loathed it. As a general rule, the Catholic clergy were not approached to pay it, for obvious reasons. My assumption is that a new tithe proctor on the Colclough estate initiated these bizarre proceedings—the chances of anybody buying Fr Doyle’s Cloak and wearing it to Mass at Grantstown was virtually zero. Tom Boyse won mega fame for his speeches opposing the tithes.
The Enniscorthy Guardian on the 24th of August 1889 carried this evocative and most beautiful account of the 15th of August at Cullenstown—the “Big Day”:–
“This being the grand fete day in Cullenstown, it attracted crowds of folks from Wexford to New Ross, Enniscorthy and even from under the shadows of Mount Leinster. Every conceivable vehicle from the stately waggonettes to the long drays from Bantry—equestrians and cyclists from beyond our country’s range with pedestrians innumerable poured into the pleasant water side. The weather, too, was extremely favourable for, though at times, the sky looked heavy and lowering, still Sol [the Sun God] asserted his rights and shone out most gloriously.
The Carrig Fife and Drum Band, with its beautiful star-spangled banner, put in an appearance and discoursed some stirring airs which added much to the entertainment of the visitors.”
Had the star-spangled banner any connection, imagined or real, to the Flag of the United States?
Music and songs were another—albeit metaphorical—intoxicant of the nineteenth century. Crowds would inevitably accumulate behind or around a band. Maybe they could not afford radios or televisions and so had not other means of listening to music!