Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, ebullient, moves and talks with panache, historian supreme, a right boyo, a genius, an intelligence greater than ever Einstein had, a whiz at Latin and at legal complexities, an orator; a man born to read, write and speak history; plus a creative genius with flowers. Will there be any sowing season for the flowers this year? Or shall we have to wait until next year? What is another year to wait for a season to sow the flowers?

Rev. Andrew V. Cleary was born at Maxboley in 1776 and died on the 4th of August 1829 at Placentia, Newfoundland. He is buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Placentia, Newfoundland. Dr Lambert came to Newfoundland from the Franciscan seminary in Wexford and was 55 years of age when consecrated Bishop. Fr. Andrew Cleary and Fr Denis Kelly and a Mr James Sinnott accompanied him to Newfoundland. Fr Cleary served as Curate of the Sacred Heart Church, Placentia, Newfoundland from 1806—1810. He had as Curate the Rev. Father Devereux who was the first priest stationed in Burin. Fr Cleary built the first house and old chapel there. Rev. Denis Kelly returned home to the barony of Forth where he died in 1824.

The last testament and will of Fr Andrew Cleary is atrociously written and most lacking in clarity; the surprising thing about it is that Fr Andrew Cleary had so little to bequeath—unlike his nephew, Fr Patrick Cleary, who gave instructions about large sums of money. The obvious reasoned conjecture is that the Catholic Irish in Newfoundland had prospered in the nineteenth century, in a country only in its initial stages of existence. They simply had more to give to their clergy and emigration brought more of the Irish, especially from south west Wexford to Newfoundland.

Fr Cleary first bequeathed his soul to God and his body to rottenness and worms. The theology of that era drew a conflicting distinction between body and soul: the body was the repository of sinful desires, especially sexual ones, but the soul was made in the image of God Almighty. The image of rottenness and worms expressed Fr Cleary’s contempt of his body. He left “my dearly beloved niece Mrs Mary Murphy, alias Pardy” little in terms of money, presumably because he had no money saved. This is the list of things bequeathed by him to Mrs Mary Murphy:–

“all my moveables and immoveables, my garden meadows household furniture beds and bedding and all moveable articles under my roof of whatever description….my travelling chalice missal and one suit of vestments known to the Rev. Edward Morison….all my English books and all balance of cash due to me in this bay in any other part of Newfoundland or elsewhere….I bequeath also to my above mentioned niece my horse”

The above syntax is atrocious. I assume that Mrs Mary Murphy was previously Mary Fardy (not Jardy). If so, then it might explicate the enigma of Elizabeth Fardy who claimed kinship with Fr Patrick Cleary although he did not refer to her in his will. The meadows bequeathed to Mrs Murphy may have been of considerable material value but I am not if she was left meadows of hay or the fields in which the hay was sown. Fr Cleary would need a supply of hay for his horse.

His bequest to Fr Patrick Cleary is useful in determining that he was the uncle of him:–

“Thirdly and lastly I bequeath to my beloved nephew, the Revd Patrick Cleary the remainder of my books, vestments and chalices.”

From The People the 13 of July 1891:–

“Sinnott—July 15, at Vernegly Cottage, Mr Nicholas Sinnott, late of Ballymadder, aged 81 years. Interment in Mayglass. R. I. P. American papers please copy.”

Mr Elly the shipping agent to Lloyds had lived in Vernegly Cottage and when Tom Moore the poet visited Bannow he and the local notables had lunch in Vernegly Cottage.”

From the report on the Duncormack Petty Sessions in The People on the 27th of July 1895:–

“Transfer of License

Mrs Dake, Bannow, asked for transfer of her late husband’s license at Brandane, Bannow. Mr M. J. O’Connor for applicant. Granted.”

I am back to the Cromwellian Depositions:–

“The examination of John Keating of Balwinstown in the county of Wexford, gentleman, aged thirty-one years or thereabouts taken upon oath on the behalf of the Commonwealth concerning Patrick Cullen of Bannow in the county Wexford, gentleman,

To the first Interrogator, the Examinant said and deposed that the said Patrick did live at Bannow in the said County in the Irish quarters the first year and the whole time of the Rebellion [of 1641] and did not thence remove into the English quarters, as he might have done as well as Nicholas Rowe, one Mr Humphreys and other Protestants living in said barony with the said Patrick

To the second interrogator he cannot depose nor to any of the rest of the interrogators but being demanded concerning the carriage and demeanour of the said Patrick Cullen since the Lord General Cromwell access to the Government (as this deponent and other inhabitants of the barony of Bargy were) and a contributor to the maintenance of the English army, did, (about four or five months after Wexford was taken and Colonel Cooke settled thereof as governor of the said County) did issue warrants under his hand, directed to the petty constables in Kilcowan peere [sic], for raising moneys for maintenance or payment on one Kavanagh, an officer of the Irish or Rebels party then in arms, which warrant, coming to this examinant’s hands he the examinant took the same from the said petty constable and carried the said warrant or sent it to the said Colonel Cooke, as aforesaid, which warrant the said Patrick signed and sent out without the priuity [sic] of allowance of the said Colonel Cooke, he the said Patrick being at that time neither Trustee Collector or constable for ought known to this examinant and further said not…”

As a translation of the above, I venture to say that it means that Pat Cullen of Bannow refused to live with the Protestants during the 1641 Rebellion and later tried to raise public monies to discharge a payment on a Kavanagh an officer in the Confederate army in the Rebellion of  1641.”

In the mid nineteen-forties [1940s] John C. Tuomy, the Taghmon schoolmaster and voluminous writer on Bannow, published long letters, under the pseudonym “Rambler”  written in elegant English but a trifle pompous, in The Wexford Independent, somewhat critical of prevailing practices and assumptions. Unfortunately the intended message of his missives was frequently obscured in the interminable verbiage that he indulged himself in. John C. Tuomy never used one word where 100 could be used instead but his descriptive powers were awesome.

His letter published in The Wexford Independent on the 14th of April 1847 is extraordinary in one aspect: my millions of readers will concur with me in stating that Mr Tuomy ever praised, indeed adulated, Tom Boyse of Bannow but in this open letter, directed to Tom Boyse, he entered a mild, indeed slightly reprimanding, criticism of the iconic proprietor from Bannow—I will quote it all:–

“To Thomas Boyse

Sir—As a landed proprietor, your laudable ambition, for a series of years, has been to render Bannow, in an agricultural point of view, the model parish of the County of Wexford. How far you have succeeded in improving the physical properties of the soil and the comfort and happiness of its industrious, warm-hearted and generous occupiers is not my purpose at present to notice. My business, just now, is not with the productions of mother earth but with the treasures which may be fished up from the boson of her elder sister, the ocean; and, I fear, that in your anxiety to develop the productive qualities of the former, you have in a great measure over-looked the advantages derivable from a little attention to the latter.”

Mr Tuomy’s theme was very topical in that era:–the incessant campaigns for a harbour in Kilmore were founded on the conviction that an enormous food resource abounded in the sea—harbours, or properly constructed ones, were a pre-requisite for fishing boats to take to the sea in winter time, in pursuit of the bonny shoals of herring, or whatever other species of fish one cares to mention.

Mr Tuomy then wrote of a recent walk along Mr Boyse’s “sea-board” and of how he—

“stood upon the bare-bones of the ill-fated Niobe, as the workmen burst from her timbers, the planking which but a short time since, sheathed a beautiful and finely moulded Yankee merchantman. Alas! said I, nature had given to our island home harbours and coves innumerable but our rulers have neglected to make them available to the tempest-tossed mariner, as places of refuge from impending shipwreck.”

Mr Tuomy is here writing of a recent ship-wreck; the workmen were stripping the good timbers from it—I am a bit lost with the technical terms. Like the fine writer that he was, Mr Tuomy was developing his story craftily, augmenting it as he went—there were several other wreckages in recent months along Tom Boyse’s sea-board:–

“This was not the first shattered foreign vessel I had visited on our shores, during the present year. Here I beheld the hopes of the adventurous American dashed to pieces; and the materials of his late ship strewn upon your beach.”

The possessive adjective “your” is presumably deliberate rhetorical ploy, to emphasise to Tom Boyse and other proprietors with lands adjoining the sea, their responsibility (at least morally) to provide the mariner with the protection of a harbour. There were other wrecks:–

“At another point I had seen the glistening eye of the noble-looking Spaniard watch his abandoned and doomed vessel, while the billowy mountains, as if in playful wantonness and in mockery of man’s power, swept her decks and threatened every instant to shiver her to atoms.”

I presume that the mountains referred to are those of the ocean waves—the writing has the evocative power of that of an accomplished novelist.

At this stage the letter focuses on a precise place along Tom Boyse’s sea-board.

“I quitted the wreck of the Niobe and ascended the precipitous “sea bank” where your “look out house” stands. The day was calm, an April sun shone out brilliantly; not a ripple disturbed the sleeping placidity of the grassy surface of that large and deep circular bay of which a line drawn from Forlorn Point, Kilmore to Bag-in-Bun head would form the chord and the spot upon which I stood, nearly the bisecting point of the arc-line.”

The winter of “black 1847” was the darkest period in the gothic Famine years and, inevitably, minds turned to seek out an alternative to the potato—Mr Tuomy’s next reflections are a perfect example:–

“There, thought I, is a basin teeming with fish, worth the catching; and here or nearly so, if possible, should be the safety pier or harbour of the fisherman. I could not forget the melancholy fact that when the land, as if over-powered and sickened by the too frequent production of a single vegetable, spewed up the potato, a mass of rottenness and filth, our people died of starvation, while our coasts swarmed with fish-food, but we had not the appliances by which to lay hold of it.”

Mr Tuomy then related that he met and spoke with “an outlandish customer, whom I knew to be half-sea, half landsman, by the jaunty gait and swing of his movements”; I am not fully sure if he met such a man—he could be a fictional literary device to make the story more impressive! He told Mr Tuomy that there were “not more than 4 or 5 boats” fishing along the coast “and no one follows it as a trade”.

Mr Tuomy asked him if there was no small creek or cove in the line of beach between Lough and the “Ferry” at which a small pier could be erected, so as to afford a place of refuge to the fishermen to run for in bad weather.” The answer, in my opinion, is too eloquent and mixed with some elegant diction for it to be the response of an ordinary fisherman—he is a fictional literary device, indeed:–

“From where you stand….to the church at Bannow, with one exception there is not. All is rock, piled upon rock, and high precipitous earth banks, against which the high tides dash with great fury and where the earth banks come in contact with the beating surge, they are every year giving way, and the sea in some places is making inwards upon the fields of the tenants. Yet there is a meet spot already fashioned by the name of the Bay—and “if”, concluded the man in the pee-jacket, “you feel an interest in such matters, continue your ramble for a mile and a half southward and you can judge for yourself.” I need not inform you that man of outré appearance spoke truth.”

John C. Tuomy continued his ramble and found the cove or possible harbour:–

“This cove or in local parlance “Kilnbay” is admirably adapted for a small fishery pier, by the expenditure of a few hundred pounds—nature has  played her part well in the formation and it rests with man to complete what she has left unfinished. One of the best of the many beautiful roads which intersect Bannow leads down to it, an excellent stone quarry is on the spot; and these are first rate advantages which were not to be had, in all instances, where such works have been executed. The “bay” is in shape, a parallelogram, the longer sides running out to sea for a considerable distance and those sides bounded by continuous ledges of perpendicular rock, rising to about three feet above the level of low water. This stratum of rock then stretches out on both sides and presents a flat surface, bare at half ebb and twenty feet or more at high water in the basin. Upon this raised surface of rock your north and south breakwaters could be erected. But why need I enter into minute particulars of a “bay” the natural advantages of which must be well known to you, Sir, and appreciated though you may have neglected to have them converted into public and private accommodation and profit. Nor need, I inform you, Sir, that upon a memorial from the proprietor, the Board of Works will send down a surveyor and if he report favourably, the Government will advance three-fourths of the necessary expense of building the pier.”

The construction of the harbour at Kilmore, with Government assistance, in the proportions specified by Mr Tuomy proved controversial with dissatisfaction at the finished harbour. It would inevitably prove difficult to raise the local contribution to the building of the proposed harbour.

Mr Tuomy’s account seems to indicate persistent coastal erosion in process at the time. He gives an informative and entrancing sketch of the sea shore:–

“and the shores of Bannow certainly present a bold and formidable barrier to the watery world; yet I did perceive the landslips and some of them of considerable breadth. I could not admire the industry and perseverance with which your people [Mr Boyse’s people] have cut through earth and rock to form roads or slips, leading down to the beach, for the purpose of collecting sea weed for manure—the surface at the tops of some of these inclined planes is, at least, forty or fifty feet above the level of the sea at low water—I did arrive at the “bay” and a beautiful little one it is…”