Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, obliging, kind, modest, a historian supreme, innovative, original, a right boyo and above all else—wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. If it is true, it ain’t bragging; a phoney modesty is deceit, blah, blah….Carrig-on-Bannow is a place of history and surely it is appropriate that destiny should decree that a truly great historian should come from there—as St Kevin of Kilkavan prophesised, albeit in Latin. Actually there was a famous historian in the place where I now am, in Ballymackessy—the Rev. James Bentley Gordon wrote many history books and one of them, his history of the Rebellion of 1798, proved controversial but not for the reason one would expect. Rev. Gordon claimed that he intended to write objective history, to call a spade a spade sort of stuff. Some commentators argue that he wanted to excise all connection between the Catholic gentry who took on leadership roles in the Rebellion and the United Irish movement. One of them Jeremiah Fitzhenry of Ballymackessy had leased Boro Lodge and a 50 acre farm to Rev. Gordon. Fitzhenry later defected from Napoleon’s army in the Peninsular Wars. Many people in the Rev. Gordon’s Protestant (Established Church) community were outraged both by his leniency to the United Irish rebels and by describing Loyalist excesses and cruelties. Rev. Gordon was not a zealous Liberal on Catholic rights (say, like Tom Boyse): he grudgingly conceded that Catholics were entitled to Emancipation but added sourly that the emancipation of the Catholics from the control of the Catholic priesthood was more urgently required.
On Wednesday morning a bulky letter came in my door and I assumed that it must be a communication from Irish Water or some such organisation, perhaps, enclosing a calendar. I always pay my charges, blah, blah….Actually it was The Local History Review, the Journal of the Federation of Local History Societies. The Bannow History Society is affiliated to the Federation. They had published my article on the issue of continuity between Boro Lodge and Boro Hill House, Ballymackessy. I had submitted it in August but was not confident that it would be included—an enormous amount of material must be submitted to its editor from all over Ireland. It is a superb article and I advise all my readers to procure a copy of the Journal
On August 26th 1835 Tom Moore accompanied by Tom Boyse set off from the corn-market in Wexford for Bannow for his famous visit—this is how describes it all in his diary:–
“Wrote a hasty letter to my sweet Bess before we started and then set off in gay style, rosettes at the ears of the horses (four very dashing posters), cockades in the hats of the boys, &c. Several groups whom we saw in the fields on our way, too hard at work at the harvest to join our sport, stood up and cheered as we passed. As we approached Bannow, Boyse was evidently anxious lest the doubt that had existed as to my time and way of coming might have caused a dispersion of the multitude and so produce a failure in the effect of the cavalcade. We now saw at a distance a party of horsemen on the look-out for us, bearing green banners and surrounded by people on foot. This party, which turned out to be a mere detachment from the main body, now proceeded in advance of us and, after a short time we came in sight of the great multitude—chiefly on foot, but as we passed along we found numbers of carriages of different kinds, filled with ladies, drawn up on each side of the road, which, after we had passed them, fell into line and followed in procession. When we arrived at the first triumphal arch, there was the decorated car and my Nine Muses, some of them remarkably pretty girls, particularly the one who placed the crown on my head; and after we had proceeded a little way, seeing how much they were pressed by the crowd, I made her and two of her companions get up on the car behind me. As the whole affair has been described in print (diffusely and enthusiastically enough, Heaven knows) I shall not here waste time and words upon it, though certainly it would be difficult to say too much of the warmth and cordiality of feeling evinced by the whole assemblage, as well as the quickness and intelligence with which the very lowest of them entered into the whole spirit of the ceremony. In advance of the car was a band of amateur musicians, smart young fellows, in a uniform of blue jackets and white trousers, who, whenever we stopped at the arches erected along the road played some of the most popular Irish melodies, and, likewise, more than once, an air that had been adapted to Byron’s “Here’s a Health to Thee, Tom Moore.” As we proceeded slowly along, I said to my pretty Muse behind me, “This is a long journey for you”. “Oh sir” she exclaimed, with a sweetness and kindness of look not to be found in more artificial life, “I wish it was more than three hundred miles.” It is curious and not easy, perhaps, to be accounted for that as I passed along in all this triumph, with so many cordial and sweet faces turned towards me, a feeling of deep sadness came more than once over my heart. Whether it might not have been some of the Irish airs they played that called up mournful associations connected with the reverse of all this smiling picture, I know not, but so it was.
When we arrived in front of the Graigue House, the speeches from Boyse and myself (as reported) took place; Boyse very eloquent evidently in high favour with the people. I then went with him to his new house, or rather the few fragments of the old one he has left standing; the offices being all that are as yet built of the new. He had told me before I came that I was literally to dine in one cock-loft and sleep in another; but I found that he had given me up his own bedroom, which was on the ground floor and left standing quite alone, all around it having been thrown down. It was, however, made very comfortable by dint of green baize curtain, & &. Was now introduced to his mother, a very handsome old lady, about eighty-one or so; and his maiden sister, a nice, intelligent and very amiable person; and likewise a little round, joyous girl, their niece, between fourteen and fifteen years old who, I was told, could not conceive what sort of a thing a bard was, never having seen one and had been, accordingly, most anxious for my arrival. Old Mr Boyse (about the same age as my mother) was confined to his bed with illness and I did not see him all the time I remained. Before dinner Miss Boyse drove me in her pony chaise to see the grounds of the Graigue House, a new property they have lately purchased and the same that Boyse wrote last summer to offer to me and my family in case I should wish for a quiet retreat for two or three months. We fancied it, from his description, to be a small cottage overhanging the sea; but it is, in fact, a large house with extensive pleasure grounds and the walk to the sea (a sort of garden walk all along) is not less, I should think, than three-quarters of a mile in length. Miss Boyse, her niece and I took this walk after dinner and the open breathing space over the sea felt highly refreshing.
August 28th 1835. Prepared while dressing my short answer to the deputations which, I understood, were to wait upon me. Found that there had been bonfires lighted in various directions during the night. Proceeded towards twelve o’clock to Graigue, where we found a great part of the crowd of yesterday re-assembled in their gayest trim, this day being devoted to a fete for the lads and lasses on the green. Went through my reception of the different addresses very successfully, and (as Boyse told me afterwards) spoke much louder and less Englishly than I did the day before. I find that the English accent (which I always had, by the by, never having at any time of my life, spoken with much brogue) is not liked by the genuine Pats. Among other introductions I was presented in form to the reverend president of St Peter’s College and a number of Catholic clergymen who accompanied him. Just as I was approaching this reverend body, I saw among the groups that lined the way, my pretty Muse of yesterday and her young companions, still arrayed in their green wreaths and gowns. Flesh and blood could not resist the impulse of stopping a minute to shake hands with a few of them, which I did most heartily, to the great amusement of all around, not excepting the reverend president, himself, who had been approaching me with a grave face when I was thus interrupted; and who immediately joining in the laugh, said very good-humouredly, “I like to see character display itself.”
After these ceremonies were over, Boyse took me in his curricle to see some points of view in his immediate neighbourhood; not the most agreeable part of our operations, as I saw, he was not much in the habit of driving and one of the horses was what is called “an awkward customer”. After driving about a little (the roads being like avenues and everything, in short, wearing a face of comfort and prosperity) we went to the house of an honest Quaker, Mr Elly, one of those most zealous, Boyse told me, in organising all the preparations for my reception. There we found a large party assembled and a dejeuner prepared; the young amateur band being in attendance and playing, occasionally, my songs. The situation of the villa, commanding a view of the Tintern shore, appeared to me, except for the want of trees, very beautiful and a large flag waving from the top of the house displayed with the words, “Erin go bragh and Tom Moore for ever.” The dejeuner (i. e. the eating part of it) was provided, ungallantly enough, for the males alone; an anomaly, of which I had already witnessed another instance at the Zoological Gardens in Dublin, where it was not till after the men had feasted, that the ladies were admitted into the gardens. Dined, as the day before, with Boyse’s family party and all went afterwards to the fete at Graigue, where we found them in high dance and glee. The music being very inspiring, I took out my young Muse (Boyse having, in spite of his lameness, turned out with another) and after dancing down a few couples, surrendered her (very unwillingly, I own) to her former partner. Should have liked exceedingly a little more of the fun but thought it better, on every account, to stop where I did. Among other reasons, I feared that Boyse might think it necessary to go as long as I did.
Two very nice Quaker young women were among the crowd looking at the dancing and as I had taken some pains to place them where they could have a good view, one of them, encouraged by this attention, said to me, very modestly, “If it would not be asking too much, I should like to have two lines of thine with thy name to them.” Promised, of course, that she should have them. In the course of the evening, a green balloon was seen ascending above the dancers’ heads with “Welcome, Tom Moore” upon it. When it grew dusk, Miss Boyse, her niece, and myself came away, leaving the dancers to keep up the fete, as they did, I believe, till near morning. Wishing for a solitary walk to the sea, I asked Miss Boyse to direct me to the path we had taken the evening before; but with my usual confusion as to localities, I missed the right way and could find nothing but those smooth roads which I had admired so much in the morning but felt now rather inclined to anathematise, having seldom ever thirsted more keenly for actual beverage than I did at that moment for a draught of the fresh sea air.”
August 28th —Either this morning or yesterday I forgot which, was taken by Boyse to a spot which he had fixed upon for the erection of a tower in commemoration of my visit to Bannow. Went through the ceremony of laying the first stone, soon after which my excellent host and myself set off together in a chaise and four for Enniscorthy.”
Tom Moore was reputed to have an eye for the girls but I think that he sought out the Muse too much; I am sure that if any other man, say an ordinary man in Bannow, had foisted so much attention on a very young girl that the Reverend President of St Peter’s College would not have laughed! The first triumphal arch was at the cross of Kiltra and Moore entered the special car there. Tom Boyse rode on a horse along side this car as it went towards Bannow.
Anna Maria Hall described the home of Fr Ned Murphy, Parish Priest of Carrig-on-Bannow, in her youth as follows:–
“The house stood on a bleak hill side, exposed to the full rush of the sea blast, without a tree to shelter either dwelling barn or yard. On such a night its exterior presented anything but a comfortable appearance; it was an ill-built slated house, flanked by thatched offices, which formed a sort of triangle; at the smallest point of which a wide gate stood, or rather hung….The inside of the dwelling was rambling and inconvenient; it had a dark entrance-hall, or passage, a kitchen, a parlour, a cellar, on the ground floor; while a sort of ladder stair-case led to the upper chambers. The kitchen was the general family room, the parlour being reserved for company and kept in tolerable order by the Priest’s niece, a dark eyed little lass of sixteen.”
The biographical details as given by Mrs Hall are inevitably jumbled up for purposes of symbolism and narrative. She describes his dining and living room is these grim images:–
“On an old fashioned table, partially covered with a half bleached cloth, was spread the Priest’s supper; a large round of salted beef, a silver pint mug, with an inscription somewhat worn by time, an unbroken cake of griddle bread with a “pat” of fresh butter on a wooden platter and two old bottles, containing something much stronger than water. An antique arm chair with an embroidered but much soiled cushion, was placed opposite the massive silver-handled knife and fork; all awaiting his Reverence’s coming. From the rafters of this wild looking apartment hung various portions of dried meat and fish, and the pigs’ heads, that looked ghastly enough in the flickering light.
On January 19th 1936 The Free Press reported that a sudden death had occurred near Ballymitty on the previous Monday night or Tuesday morning—an elderly man named Andrew O’Hanlon, residing about a mile from the village, was found dead in bed. “The deceased was over 70 years of age and lived alone in the famous “Land League Cottage”, once occupied by the late Nicholas O’Hanlon-Walsh, to whose sister he had been married.” His wife died a few years ago. The report in the local notes added:–
“A nephew, a young lad named James O’Hanlon, residing at Ballingly, came daily to the deceased but did not remain at night and on Tuesday when he came about 11 o’clock he got no answer to his knock. He forced the door open and found his uncle dead in bed. As the old man had been under medical treatment an inquest was deemed unnecessary.”
I am astounded that a man and wife would have lived in the Land League Cottage built for Nicholas O’Hanlon-Walsh after he and his mother were evicted from their prosperous Knocktartin farm. Is it still there? Maybe some of my readers would tell me. If it is, they should put a preservation order on it. The famous Fr Davey O’Hanlon-Walsh was brother of Nicholas O’Hanlon-Walsh.