Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, ebullient, scholarly, erudite, learned, innovative and above all else—wily. Tuesday is my birthday and on Thursday night April 24th I will speak at the Stanville Lodge Hotel, Barntown at 8pm this Thursday night April 24th on Mr Hawkshaw of Hillburn, Taghmon. Mr Hawkshaw conducted numerous inquests on infants and some of them were clearly murdered and in other cases there was a reasonable suspicion that they were murdered as well. It was invariably pleaded that these infants were still born; the courts were loath to bring in verdicts of murder in these cases—indeed the police were, also, loath to press charges of murder. The assumption was that these mothers were under intolerable strain, usually left in desperate straits by callous men, some of them married. The only recourse for these mothers was the grim option of going to the Workhouse; the father could be prosecuted and made to pay maintenance for his offspring. I totally reject the colourful thesis that there was a sexually permissive culture in the Ireland before the Famine in 1845-48. If such were the case then, as a matter of inevitability, a tsunami of pregnancies would follow. The economy and society of that time could not cope with such a development. The registers of the Catholic parishes have no indications of massive numbers of unmarried mothers. The Catholic clergy were implacably opposed to sexual activity of any kind except in marriage and, frankly, it is hard to see how they could have advocated sexual permissiveness in the society of their time! It would be a fat place for it! The Catholic clergy were equally opposed to fighting and in that they were equally correct! I will speak on the urge to impetuous violence and fighting on Thursday night. Groups of men and individual men, also, fought on impulse, sometimes inflicting serious injury on one another and even killing one another. I think that fighting was more intoxicating to them than the strong home and illegally brewed beer sold to them in shebeens. The beer heightened the urge to fight.
I am convinced that John C. Tuomy, the Taghmon schoolmaster, was attracted to the beautiful girls down at Carrig-on-Bannow; he spent an inordinate amount of his free time there and I suspect that he stayed at Dicky Keane’s place as he keeps writing about the latter. The girls of my native parish are indeed very fragrant, charming and alluring and maybe a scholar could do worse than go there is pursuit of them. On December 2nd 1850 Mr Tuomy wrote as follows to the Wexford Independent:–
“In one of my former letters touching the present site of the extinct Bannow and its eastern channel, you may recollect that I mentioned the large quantity of bones, found within 18 inches of the surface of the islet of St Clare, on the verge of the land blocked channel. I then noticed what supposed to be the tusk of a boar, which I had found in the cutting and which I would have sent to your office, but that it was mislaid. On a very recent occasion when again examining Clare’s Islet I discovered the accompanying portion of the head of some animal; the side which contains the teeth presented itself to my view in the perpendicular cutting and though I loosened it with great care, from its position, yet it broke off into two parts when I removed it. This brittleness I attributed to the action of the atmosphere for the last two years, during which period it lay exposed to the weather—the excavation from which I extracted it having been made to form a portion of the embankment to Roche’s reclaimed land. My object being to establish the existence of a former eastern channel, through which the waters of the bay communicated with those of the harbour, it would be foreign to my purpose to say what species of animal within the wide range of animated nature this fragment belonged—that I will leave to you, sir, or some of your friends among the naturalists of Wexford and probably it would be well to forward it to the Rev. Mr Graves for in its possession, the Rev. gentleman will have a vestige of some animal which may have grunted or squeaked at the door of some fat burgess, at a period when the present green pasturage of this locality was covered with streets, houses and busy inhabitants. Were there no records of the olden times to tell of this channel, I think I have adduced evidence sufficient to establish its existence at some bygone period and not the least of my proofs are those bones of Clare’s Island. Tradition and the result of my investigation agree in placing the islet on the eastern verge of the channel and the shells and bones as I before remarked, tradition says, were thrown upon it by the sailors and fishermen at anchor alongside.
I will here give an extract from Mac Geoghegan which strongly corroborates the Rev. Mr Graves’ opinion that Fitzstephen first landed at Bannow:–
“William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, being in danger of shipwreck, on his passage from England to Ireland, made a vow to build a religious house in consequence of which he founded A. D. 1199, the Abbey, in a village of that name on the coast of Ireland.”
Just so on the harbour of Bannow and had the Rev. Mr Graves been here this afternoon, he would have seen the “Exile”, a beautiful “hermaphrodite brig” of 170 tons, belonging to Bannow, run into the same harbour nearly under bare poles, in a sharp gale of wind from the southward, and drop her anchors nearly opposite Tintern Abbey. Probably it was in the harbour of Bannow that William Marshall found shelter, if not, why select it for the purpose of performing his vow. The Abbey was founded 30 years after the first landing of the Anglo-Normans, but how long after the storm we know not, and therefore we may infer that from A. D. 1169 until A. D. 1199, Bannow was considered a safe harbour and frequented by the English adventurers.
As the two most antagonistic parties in Ireland at present are the landlords and leaguers and as each are very busy calculating their chances at the far or near, but at least, expected elections, it will not be here uninteresting to give you Dicky Kane’s recollections of the last election for the old borough of Bannow and as nearly as possible in his own words:–
“The morning was very fine and at noon the lord, himself, and three or four more gentlemen, came dashing down in a carriage to the ould church. They pulled out their big books and laid them down upon the chimney of what they called the Town-Hall. After talking and writing for some time a big black cloud covered the sun and shortly after, the rain came down pell mell. There was no house at hand and the parliament men and myself, ran for shelter under the walls of the ould church. The lord was a fine gentleman and a good fellow and as plain spoken as a poor man. Richard, says he to me, do you see that ould castle and that little garden behind it. I said, yis, my lord. Well Richard, says he, if we ever have another election here, I will have a house built upon that garden so that we will not be cot again in the rain. But his lordship never came again; he went to Dublin and I heard that he shortly after died. I was then a young man but I never since saw another election in Bannow, nor the big books laid open upon the ould chimney.
Elections were easily managed in those days and this story bears me out in the assertion “that the massive chimney of the town-hall” derived its name from the fact of the “parlament men”, using it as a table in lieu of a better. Since I last wrote on Bannow I read a review of a work published by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society and also, their query sheet and I am happy to find that your learned correspondent the Rev. Mr Graves, is the master spirit of that valuable institution. For his kind and over flattering notice of my feeble attempt at describing the present state of Bannow of the olden time, and my endeavour to dispel the mist of fiction in which modern fancy writers had enveloped it, I felt truly grateful at the time and if I did not then state so much, it was not in consequence of not having your paper by me when waiting my last letter.
John C. Tuomy
Bannow December 2, 1850.”
The sheer length of this letter would leave Mr Tuomy with little time for other diversions! But the puzzle remains: why was he so often and for such great length of time in Bannow? It is possible that some girl in Bannow typed it up for him on her laptop.
The drama “The Hook in the Harvest” written by Fr Philip A. Doyle of Maudlintown, Wellingtonbridge, and then Prior of an Augustinian House in Dublin, had its first production in Dublin in October 1915. It dealt with life sixty years before and it was widely complimented in the Press. I think that Fr Doyle may have exaggerated the olden and rudely primal character of the Irish society that he portrayed.
From the Enniscorthy Guardian on October 9th 1915:–
“The sad news of the serious illness of the Very Rev. John Kehoe ex-Prior O. S. A., Grantstown, coming so close on his reputed recovery from his late attack has come as a shock to the people to whom he so paternally ministered for a term of over thirty years with an assiduity equalled only by his lovable disposition and the zeal of the true soggarth who shepherds the every want of his flock. The picturesque grounds of Grantstown Friary witnessed for the past few weeks the people of the historic “Seven Castles” and other districts hasten to congratulate him of his recovery. They hoped that many years were yet spared their revered Father but early this week the news spread of a second attack and at the time of writing he is in a precarious condition. With the tender nursing of two sisters of the Order of St John of God, subject to the Divine Will, it is to be hoped that he may be spared to labour further in the vineyard of his Divine Master. He is a native of Lacken, near New Ross; his only living brother being Mr James Kehoe, Lacken..”
The older generations of people lived for the faith and discerned in the priests men raised to semi-divine status. After missions the people in order to manifest their utter attachment to the priests conducting the mission or retreat would block the roads to prevent them leaving.
In January 1891 Frank Leigh of Rosegarland withdrew a case by him against Michael Prendergast of Ballymitty for trespassing on Leigh’s land at Ballingly, in pursuit of game on the 8th of December 1890.
From The People June 17th 1950:–
“Chain of Accidents—Mr William Carthy the veteran Ballymitty footballer received a broken wrist when engaged in a practice match at Carrig last Tuesday. He received immediate treatment from Dr Brady and later in the Co. Hospital. Master M. Burns son of Mr O. Burns N. T. Tullicanna, dislocated his knee while hurling and Master C. Murphy, Lacken, dislocated his elbow. A group of cyclists from Taghmon while descending the steep hill at Cullenstown had a rather serious spill. One of the party received severe facial injuries.
Departure for England—Mr Paddy Colfer, Bannow, a popular figure in Gaelic circles, has departed to take up a position in Swansea. His many friends wish him a safe journey and success in the land of his adoption.
Kilcavan Pattern—One of the largest patterns was held in Kilcavan last Sunday. The Rosary was recited by Rev. L. Kinsella C. C. People from all parts of the county visited the graves and holy well.
School Medical Services—Mr Mc Donagh, dentist, attached to Health Office, Co. Hall, attended in Tullicanna National School last week. Over 90 per cent of the pupils availed of his service. Parents and teachers were loud in praise of his valuable work.”
Cycling was clearly popular in 1950! The Health Service was administered from the County Hall and was part of the remit of the Co. Council (I am open to correction on that). The famous freedom fighter T. D. Sinnott was secretary of the Co. Health Board (or Committee) before his appointment as Co. Secretary. I doubt if many of my readers recall Owen Burns as master in Tullicanna but if they do maybe they could share their recollections of him and his school with the Blog. In 1950 a schoolmaster was regarded with most high esteem and was so widely known: most of the pupils left school at 14 years of age¸ if they went that long! The system was burdened with a requirement to teach Irish on an almost continuous basis.
From The People November 1st 1913:–
“On Friday last a very much respected old man passed away in the person of Mr Michael Kane, who resided at Harriestown, Ballymitty. He had attained the fine old age of 97 years. During his life he had followed the occupation of horse-trainer and up to a short time ago enjoyed good health.”
Lloyd George’s Budget circa 1909 introduced the old age pension which prompts the query: what did old people live on previously? One answer may be that people as a rule did not live past 70 years and many of the poorer ones who were heading towards 70 probably sought shelter in the Work House. Parle of Barrystown was 90 or more when he died circa 1912; he had not gone to the Workhouse. The leader of the Easter 1916 Rebellion Patrick Pearse did not want the introduction of old age pensions as he—a pure idealist—believed that young people would feel honoured to provide for their elderly loved ones and relatives. In reality the young people would often not be able to provide for themselves!