Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, eloquent, grandiloquent, only describable in superlatives, modest, self-effacing, humble, innovative, visionary, inspired and inspiring, kind, a right boyo, blessed among the women and above all else—wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits.

The number now giving me material for my lecture on the history of hurling plus the Cloughbawn senior hurlers 1947—52 exceeds the numbers needed to make up a team in the era when they played a 100 a side! The great hurling commentator Carbery noted the distinctive shape of the Wexford hurl used in the 19th century and earlier—“the sickle shaped, round handled camán of the Wexford men.” The Echo in January 1969 had an article on a hurl used in the 1890 All-Ireland final by the 45 year old Crossabeg goalkeeper: it had a round handle and curved shape at the end of the base like a scythe. This hurl was preserved but it looks more suited to ground striking than any other mode of hurling. I will have a hurling ballad from Bannow in my next blog. As I say (and if I have said it once I have said it a thousand times!) the only losers on the night of my lecture will be the tiny number of people who stay at home to watch television or read the newspapers or read their mobile texts….fill in the rest yourself. The lecture is on Tuesday night September 29th at 8.30 pm in the Clonroche Community Centre.

From Rev. William Hickey’s (rector of Bannow) report on The Bannow Agricultural Society to The Royal Dublin Society dated February 20th 1823:–

“Every house upon this [Tom Boyse] estate is, with its adjacent offices and court yard, dashed and whitened in the best manner; the gates, doors and windows in general painted so as to give the entire property the appearance of a prosperous and extended village. The houses are of an excellent description; the roof correctly thatched; the ridge and chimneys whitened; many of the cottages are ornamented in the rural way with woodbines and flowers and the cleanliness of the interior is strictly observed.”

“Bannow, it is not too much to say is the most remarkable parish in Ireland, being the site of the Irish Herculaneum, or buried city, which was submerged some centuries ago but at what particular period I am unable to say nor even is it known whether its disappearance was of sudden occurrence or whether it was gradual: whether it sunk into the water or whether the silting sands gradually covered it but that the city, or town, more probably of Bannow existed is beyond doubt” The above is taken from The New Ross Standard December 25th 1903, page 2. In the old days when the boy from Barrystown was at school and later at the university they would give a quotation like that one on an examination paper and direct you to “discuss” it.

If I were asked to discuss the above quotation, I would express agreement with the first part: there can be no doubt in anybody’s mind that Bannow is the most remarkable parish in Ireland. The writer is, also, correct in his statement that Bannow was a city or town—such is attested to by extant documents from time immemorial. The rest of what the writer in The New Ross Standard stated in that quotation is, simply, incorrect, and laughably so. The myth of the buried city of Bannow probably had its antecedents in the myth of ancient cities and civilisations submerged beneath the sea—the sand could be viewed as an extension of the sea. This was the theory of Patrick Kennedy, the famous nineteenth century writer. In this genus of mythology there are numerous cities and civilisations buried beneath the sea. As a child in Barrystown I was acquainted with the belief that Bannow was buried beneath the sand but of course I would not have believed it. While such was the popular belief the theory of the Herculaneum of Bannow—or under-ground city—was proved impossible by a series of scholars. The town of Bannow disappeared because the eastern channel, its harbour, silted over, closing down most of the inward trade that sustained its economy. It may, also, have been hit by an epidemic or series of epidemics, such as the Black Death; in that era, people clustered together in an urban setting would be most vulnerable to an epidemic; it would sweep through such a settlement. The probability is that the walls of the houses were knocked and the stones drawn away to erect buildings elsewhere. John C. Tuomy—who may have lived near Bannow even though he had wretched houses leased out in Taghmon—claimed that he saw local farmers drawing away the clay walls of fishermen cabins to fertilize their fields. If Tuomy lived in Bannow I do not know how he travelled to teach in Taghmon national school.

I will now give another long quotation from the article in The New Ross Standard in late 1903:–

“The parish of Bannow contains as many Norman castles as any parish in the barony of Forth. There is Denn’s Castle, built by Reginald Denn, where Bishop Denn was born and lived, I believe, for some time; but it has long been the residence of one of the very old Norman families of Devereux whose kinsfolk are buried in Bannow Church. One of them—the Rev. Andrew Devereux—was Parish Priest of Bannow during the latter part of the 18th century. Here are a few inscriptions from the family tomb of the Devereuxs:–

“Beneath are deposited the remains of the Rev. Andrew Devereux, Parish Priest of Bannow, who departed this life on the 26th May, in the year of Our Lord 1795, in the 43rd of his age. Also, his nephew, the Rev. Philip Devereux, who departed this life on the 9th of April, in the year of Our Lord 1835, in the 39th year of his life.

Beneath this tomb are deposited the mortal remains of James Devereux, late of Danescastle, who departed this life August 25th 1826, aged 78 years. Also, his son, William Devereux, who departed this life August 15th 1828, aged 25 years. Also, his wife Margaret Devereux alias Colfer, who departed this life February 14th, 1853 aged 83 years.”

The writer repeats the silly old error that Counsellor George Carr of Graigue House was the uncle of Anna Maria Hall; he was the second husband of the grand-mother of Anna Maria Hall (I think). He adds that Counsellor George Carr “was a kinsman of the Rev. George Carr, of New Ross, the pioneer of the Temperance movement in this county.” The Temperance campaign aimed to persuade people to abstain from drinking alcohol. I will give another quotation from the article:–

“Another remarkable tomb at Bannow is that of the family of Ffrench. The principal stronghold of the Frenches was Ballytory Castle, now the residence of Mr James E. Mayler. It was here the Most Rev. Dr Ffrench, Lord Bishop of Ferns, was born. Another branch of this family resided at Bannow, who were remarkable for their longevity, as the following inscription from their tomb in Bannow will show:–

“Erected by Laurence Ffrench, of Grange, in memory of his wife, Eliza Ffrench, alias Cullinane, who departed this life February 25th 1845, aged 29 years. Also, his grandfather Thomas Ffrench, died May 27th 1823, aged 102 years.”

“Here lieth the body of Walter Ffrench who departed this life the 14th of January 1701, aged 140 years. Here also, lieth the body of John Ffrench who departed this life the 7th January 1745, aged 80 years.”

“This Walter Ffrench who died at the remarkable age of 140 years might have lived very much longer were it not that his death was the result of an accident. For in his 140th years he had travelled into Wexford for a load of iron at a time when travelling was exceedingly difficult for the new line of road to Wellingtonbridge had not been built for many years after. He was caught in a snowstorm and his horse being unable to proceed he is said to have taken the iron on his shoulders and in the course of proceeding to Bannow, met with an accident which he did not long survive.

Mr Peter French M. P. for South Wexford, is a member of this family as, also, are the Lords De Freyne, Lords Ffrench of Emo and the Ffrenches of Galway.”

This is my final delightful quotation from that article:–

“There are two coffins in Bannow church, the lid of one being beautifully embossed. This belongs to the Norman family of Cullin, of Cullinstown Castle, hard by who, too, represented Clonmines in the Irish Parliament. The suffered the same fate as the other Norman proprietors and their residence, Cullinstown Castle, for some time, served as a dower house or seat for the minor branches of the Boyse family and, also, for the Radfords. The following inscription I take from the tomb in Bannow Church:–

“Erected by Nathaniel Radford of Cullinstown Castle, in memory of his father, Stanley Boyse Radford, who departed this life April 24th 1800, aged 65 years. Also his wife, Anne Radford who departed this life March 16th, 1820, aged 75 years. Also their youngest son, John Radford who departed this life, July 27th 1846, aged 72 years. In memory of the above named Nathaniel Radford of Cullinstown Castle, who died…

They were succeeded by the Sparrow family and Miss Burnside, who at present resides in Cullinstown Castle.”

From The Free Press July 5th 1952:–

New Teacher Appointed—Miss Broderick N. T. , a native of Kerry, has been appointed assistant teacher in Carrig-on-Bannow National School. She replaces Miss M. Sheehan N. T., who has taken up an appointment in her native county….

Aerial Invasion—Hundreds of carrier pigeons were observed along the coast line in Bannow area during the week. Almost every house along the seaboard had some of the birds resting, the birds evidently having had an exhausting flight. After a couple of days they flew off in a northerly direction.”  It could have been the gulls!

From Sights and Scenes by Thomas Lacy, circa 1860:–

“The harbour of Bannow is navigable for smacks of small size and at Newtown is a quay where coal, culm and slates, imported from Wales, are landed and stored; timber is brought to this place from Ross and Waterford and corn is sometimes shipped here for exportation….At Grantstown, which is half a mile from Carrick, there is a very beautiful church, which belongs to the Friars of the Augustinian Order. The convent of the brethren adjoins the chapel and being nicely situated and surrounded by ornamental plantations, it, together with the chapel, presents a remarkable appearance.”

At the Inquest on Thomas Furlong who died as a result of eating beef from diseased heifer slaughtered by Mr Leigh of Rosegarland in September 1883, Mr James Lambert deposed:–

“I live in Foulksmills and work for Mr Leigh; on Monday about one o’clock, I got a portion of the meat at the same time in which every man in the harvest field got it; it did not sicken me; I eat about a quarter of  a pound; I brought the remainder home to my family; John Doyle came in while we were eating it; he eat some of the meat; my wife took some of the meat and it did not sicken her; I got no bad taste from it; my daughter and son complained of pains in their feet and head after taking the meat; he got sick, also; my wife was sick; my son brought home about the same quantity as myself.

Thomas Canning deposed—I am in Mr Leigh’s employment; eat some of this beef; did not drink any beer; got the meat from my daughter; brought it from Rosegarland, where we had been working; I felt no ill-effects; my daughter is ill but is better to-day.

Michael Canning deposed—I got about half a pound of the beef; drank no beer with it; felt no ill effects.

John Gordon, plasterer, deposed he lived in Wexford; got some of the beef on Monday; felt no ill effects; his two fellow tradesmen got it and he did not hear them complain.

Patrick Cleary deposed—I work for Mr Leigh; on Monday I got some of the beef; eat about three quarters of a lb and eat it on Tuesday; I eat about a quarter of a lb; I was not sick but found my bowels a little soft; I drank beer; brought home a bit of the meat to my family on Tuesday.”

From the Irish Times September 8th 1883:–

“On Monday 3rd September, an inquest was held on the body of James Whelan, a workman of Mr Leigh’s, aged 60, who leaves a wife and three children.

The evidence was essentially the same as in the previous inquest, except that Dr Cardiff deposed to making a post-mortem examination of the body with Dr J. W. Boyd of New Ross. Found the liver and kidney healthy but the stomach was much ingested with irritant poison, from which he died.

Joseph Whelan deposed to the salting of the meat. He used two kinds of salt which he got in Mr Leigh’s larder—a fine and a coarse salt.

The inquest was adjourned to Friday next to have the stomach of the deceased man and the samples of the meat, salt and beer used analysed by Dr Cameron.

The jury on the first inquest returned a verdict of death from irritant poisoning.

The affair has caused the greatest excitement in the surrounding country. The man Whelan was buried yesterday and more deaths are expected.”

The last detail proved (thankfully) wrong: there were no more deaths from the poisoned meat. The workmen should have suspected that the meat was dangerous given that so much of it was offered to them. The Leighs, father and sons, were extremely reckless or stupid to have given meat from a deceased heifer to their workmen; the habitual inadequate and Spartan diet of the latter would induce them to eat beef, even, beef of a deceased animal. They would compulsively gulf it down. As a general rule anything that you get for nothing is not worth taking at the very least and at the very worst, it may harm you. One would not give that beef to the family dog.