Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, obliging, innovative, original, inspired and inspiring, historian supreme, a man of vision, a trainor of hurling teams, marathon runner, a whiz at Mathematics, Latin and Law, one who moves and speaks with panache, like St Francis a kind friend to the birds, the rabbits, the dogs and cats and many other species as well, and blessed among women. I am currently writing the story of my most eventful life and if any of my readers has any recollections of the times and events of my early life let me know . The boy from Barrystown is ever the most devious and most wily of them all—that wily boy from beside the mine-pits.
From The Echo the 4th of July 1938:–
“Lecture at Bannow
On Tuesday evening last Very Rev. P. Murphy P. P. Glynn delivered a lecture in Carrig-on-Bannow on “Harvey and his Bargy Men”. The attendance was very large. After the lecture, a number of concert items were contributed by the local artists.”
I assume that Fr Murphy who gloried in his soubriquet of Fr “1798 Murphy”, as far as I can make out, would have been associated with the Sinn Fein Volunteers in 1916 and afterwards. The Rebellion of 1798 was a sacred event to him and he insisted that the 150th anniversary of the Rebellion should be commemorated or celebrated in 1938, ten years before the time as Fr Murphy feared that he might be dead by 1948. As it turned out he lived a very long life and was there for the commemoration of Easter 1916 in 1966. I assume that he relied on Fr Kavanagh’s history of the 1798 Rebellion. Fr Kavanagh saw the Rebellion as an uprising of the Catholic people against their English oppressors. His history was, however, more sophisticated that I initially anticipated and in many respects is not a bad account of what happened but it would not pass the test of latter day hyper political correctness. Fr Canon Pat Murphy died on the 14th of January 1971 within two weeks of celebrating his ninety-fifth birthday.
In a charming article in Enniscorthy Guardian on the 21st of June 1978, Mervyn Moore wrote of how ten miles out of Wexford he stopped at Stafford’s pub in Tullicanna to enquire where “one of South Wexford’s best known characters” lived and was told by a local lady—“Sure everybody knows where Jim Hawkins lives.” Mr Moore only knew that his address was Ambrosetown, Duncormack. The kind lady told him to “Go half a mile up the road and turn right and it’s the first house on your right.” The “half-mile” turned out to subjectively become almost three miles but he eventually ended up at the homestead of the man everybody knows, athlete, singer, dancer and accordion player extra-ordinary—Jim Hawkins. The neatness of the garden of the little cottage “told us someone special lived there.”
Jim Hawkins was born in 1898 but could not remember the month and would be eighty that year . He was “as fast and alert as a man fifty years younger and still handles the keyboard of his beloved squeeze box with the dexterity and talent he displayed when his sister first bought him one in Wexford—and he was only twelve then.”
Music was his whole life, especially traditional Irish music and no matter how much Mr Moore sought to have him talk of legendary exploits in South County Wexford, he reverted back to talking about music. Jim told him:–
“I was never hungry or dry any night and often stayed up half the night playing at cross-roads dances and traveller weddings.” He never received music lessons but the countless trophies on the sideboard, cups, plaques and certificates, were ample proof of his ability. A few weeks previously “he was a prominent member of the Duncormack Tops of the County who were second in the tops competitions at Rathdowney Holiday Inn.”
Jim was born in Tullicanna and was known to every farmer in the South County Wexford for a very obvious reason: he worked for over forty years for them during harvest time driving “a Wallace and Stephenson threshing machine—a picture of which takes pride of place on the wall of his cosy sitting room.” Threshing crews were a feature of rural life, during the months of August and September “and the harvest festivities which sometimes lasted days.” Jim provided the music and he and his good friends, the late Jem Cullen and Mike Molloy, formed a musical trio that was to become one of the best known and loved trios in the county.”
The trio performed throughout the thirties and forties “for every type of function” but broke up when Mr Hawkins went to Wales to work but the parting lasted only a short time.
Jim Hawkins would never forget the 26th of August 1940, when German air force flyers, having over-flown their English target, it was later claimed, decided to jettison their lethal cargoes on the innocent people of Campile and Duncormack. It is possible that they had were confused as to where they were or feared returning to Germany with the bombs, as this would be proof to their ruthless superiors of a futile mission. Jim described his experiences that day:–
“He was fixing a bicycle in his back garden shortly after one o’clock when he heard a buzzing sound. It was a damp, cloudy day and he could see nothing in the sky but suddenly there was a terrible crash in a field across the road. Jim dashed inside the house and no sooner had he done so than the windows and part of the front wall came crashing in showering him and his wife Johanna with masonry and glass.
“I was petrified. All we could do was huddle in a corner and pray. Another bomb fell in the back garden and when one fell just outside the gate the bedroom doors were blown off the hinges”, Jim told us.
Jim believes that it was a miracle which saved himself and his family from death that day. “It was the grace of God that saved us. The only injury I got was when I went to the pub in Tullicanna later for a few jars. I put my hand in my pocket to get out the money and cut my fingers on glass which had been blown in there from the window, he recalled with a grin.”
In 1930 when in Wales Jim took part in the sports meeting at Clydagh “on the urgings of another Ballymitty man, Matt Cullen. Mr Cullen was one of the organisers of the sports. After the meeting it was found that the trophy for the event Hawkins had won had been mislaid and Cullen promised to look it up for him. It took him a long time to find it but in the end the presentation was made in a Bannow pub last year. “God, that was some night. It took me a month to get over it,” Jim recalls.
The astounding thing was that while Jim was at or over eighty he had retired only a few years previously from work.
The Free Press on May 20th 1939 carried this advertisement:–
(Illustrated by Lantern Slides of the
Life of the Little Flower
will be given by the Very Reverend
Provincial of the De La Salle order
On Sunday Night
(May 21st) at 7 o’clock (old time)
Admission—1/6 and 1/-
From The People the 5th of October 1912:–
“A cyclist was riding through Carrig village on Monday night and when opposite Mr Devereux’s licensed premises he collided with a pedestrian named Walsh from the Bannow direction who was crossing the street at the time. Both were placed hors de combat and the crash could be heard all over the place and the occupants of the houses near by ran to their doors to see the cause of the turmoil. The cyclist picked himself up and his lamp and bicycle up as quickly as possible and rode away with as much haste as the remarks of the pedestrian as he scrambled to his feet were anything but complimentary to the cyclist. Fortunately both escaped without serious injury and many were surprised that the accident should have happened when the cyclist had a lamp.”
From The People the 12th of October 1912:–
“Success of a Young Wexford Lady
The many friends of Miss M. K. Byrne, Ballyknock, near Ballymitty will be pleased to hear of her success at the recent examinations held in the Hull Training College. Miss Byrne was educated at the Loreto Convent, Wexford, where, having gone through the Intermediate course she qualified for the Matriculation Examination and by her success became an undergraduate of the Royal University of Ireland. Later on, she went to the Hull Training College for a two years’ course of training, at the expiration of which time, she has now secured her diploma with distinctions. Every success to this talented young lady.
The story of Peter Crean, a native of Ballymitty is extraordinary; I take this extract from the Enniscorthy notes in The Echo on the 13th of May 1939 [the phrase of upward social mobility, so prevalent in modern social science parlance, comes to mind]:–
“Mr Peter Crean of Templeshannon, shop assistant, who died last January, left £9, 800. He gave £25 each to his cousin, Maggie Cullen, his friend Annie Keating; towards the restoration of Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy; to House of Missions; to the Convent of Mercy, Enniscorthy and to Rev. Francis Donnelly; £100 upon trust for the renovation of the Catholic Church, Ballymitty; £25 to St Mary’s Conference at Enniscorthy of St Vincent de Paul Society; £500 each to and the residue of his property between his brothers, Patrick, David, John and Laurence; his nephews, Aidan and the Rev. Victor Xavier Crean and his nieces Alicia and Marie Crean. Mr Crean finished his education at the age of 13 and entered a shop in Taghmon where he stayed for 16 years. He, then, came to Enniscorthy where he joined the staff of Messrs Donohoe Ltd, wholesalers at the grocery counter. In time he came to be manager of that department and a large shareholder in the firm with which he worked for 47 years.”
From The Wexford Independent the 28th of February 1846:–
“The Rev. M[artin] Moran, the esteemed and amiable Catholic Curate of Bannow has been appointed Parish Priest of Blackwater.
The Rev. Nicholas Codd C. C. Enniscorthy has been removed to Bannow, vice Rev. Mr Moran.”
Fr Martin Moran ministered from Carrig as the actual Parish Priest Fr Peter Corish lived at Ballymitty. Fr Moran left behind a hefty estate, in money terms, which went to charities, and he gave a good bit of money to the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow.
From the Wexford Independent the 1st of October 1853:–
“To Be Let
In the Parish of Bannow
And Immediate Possession Given
A Farm Containing 22 Acres Irish Measure, having a great Facility of Manure, with a good Farm House and Offices thereon. Also, another farm in the Barony of Shilmalier, containing 39 acres Irish measure. To Be Let
From 25th MARCH NEXT.
Apply by Letter to X. Y. Z., Independent Office, Wexford.”
From The Wexford Independent the 3rd of January 1855; extract from report of the proceedings of the Board of the Wexford Poor Law Guardians:–
“The Admission of Paupers
The admission of Paupers occupied a long time but no case requiring particular notice occurred. We regret to have heard from the Relieving Officers of Bridgetown and Bannow Dispensary Districts that fever was again on the increase in Kilmore Electoral Division and also appearing to extend along the coast towards Bannow. The other districts were in a favourable condition.”
From The People the 1st of February 1890:–
On the 23rd ultimate, at Carrig-on-Bannow, Dr Cardiff held an inquest on the body of an old man named John Carroll, who was found expiring on his own threshold the previous day. Verdict—Death from natural causes.”
The fact that an inquest was legally required to be held in the case of any unexplained death proves that the authorities placed a basic value on the life of every citizen. My difficulty is in understanding what these old men lived on—in an era without any old age pensions. Did some of them expire from sheer lack of food?
From the People the 3rd of June 1889:–
“The Cottage at Ballymitty
The Clerk—Mr Dillon attended at Ballymitty on Tuesday and got possession of the house from Connor. We had to throw out all the furniture as the tenant gave all the opposition he could. I gave Mr Dillon directions to nail down the window and to lock the door and put a padlock on it. I suppose we will advertise for a tenant at once.
The above report is pure pathos, utterly pathetic: I presume that the tenant had not the money to pay the arrears of rent. I would not be sure how any man could easily procure such money if short of it, in that era. One usually associated evictions with powerful and grasping landlords but the spectacle of the Board of the Poor Law Guardians of Wexford Union actually evicting a labourer from a labourer’s cottage is stomach churning. A reduction to a grim absurdity.
Captain Henry A. H. Boyse, plaintiff; John Breen, defendant
All the defendant’s right title and interest (if any he has) in and to all that and those, that part of the lands of Danescastle, as now in his possession with the houses and buildings thereon, containing 9 acres, plantation measure, be the same more or less, situate in the parish of Bannow, barony of Bargy, held under lease dated 11th February 1845, made between Thomas Boyse of the one part and Thomas White of the other part, for the term of 46 years from 25th March 1844, at the yearly rent of £9 13 shillings. Also, part of the lands of Cullenstown, containing 5 acres 2 roods 25 perches, plantation measure or thereabouts, be the same, more or less, situate in the said parish and barony, held under lease dated 23rd day of August 1880, for the term of 35 years, from 1st May 1880, at the yearly rent of £11.
Amount due £27 15 shillings 6 pence.
Mr Hayes asked Mr Edwards[agent to the Boyse estate] if he was prepared to give any reduction in this case as the tenant was a very poor man.
The Agent said not now.
Mr Hayes—Do knock off the law expenses and he will pay the rent. Take the matter, sir, into your consideration and don’t put any more burden than the back can bear.
Mr Edwards—He was told what would be allowed before proceedings were taken. He would not reduce six pence now.
Mr Hayes—That is very encouraging to the tenant.
The tenant then stepped up to the desk, pulled out his check book and handed in a check for the full amount.
This ended the proceedings and the Sheriff complimented those present on their orderly conduct for the day.”
During the plan of campaign in the Land League agitation, the tenants with-held their rents and the landlords sought and usually obtained decrees in the courts to gain possession of these farms. I presume that is what happened in the case of John Breen of Danescastle. The Sheriff’s sales of these farms were invariably attended by a dark and noxious comedy and liberal supplies of the beal bocht or poor mouth pleading. I do not think, for one moment, that John Breen was a poor man. It would seem that he bought the residue of the leases of Thomas White who was presumably deceased. I, also, presume that John Breen, being a busy and industrious man, had become exasperated by the futile argumentation by his legal representative at the auction and decided to expedite things by writing out a cheque to buy back his lands!