Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, a trifle depressed this week as on Tuesday my little terrier, Dinny M–, now approaching his fourteenth birthday, had to go to the veterinary surgeon, with a predictable outcome: as I expected his heart is failing but I hope that with medication he may, at least, reach his fourteenth birthday. While extremely intelligent, he was hyper and too quick to erupt in snarling rages. His volatile disposition made him famous near and far. His breed of dog was developed in Wales, I think, to kill rats, in an era when rodents existed in intimidating numbers. It has been traditionally assumed that small animals such as dogs and cats demise at about twelve years but modern veterinary science now decrees that they do so generally because curable maladies are not treated. Blindness in old dogs may be, in some cases, at least, be averted by treating blood pressure, a predictable condition of advancing years. I know that all of my legions of readers will be hoping (and maybe praying) for my little dog in his challenging health condition.
In the late nineteenth century they published in the newspapers, lists of those who purchased dog licenses.
I am not certain that Jonas King of Barrystown (despite the prophecy of St Kevin of Kilcavan that gold and silver would always pursue the inhabitants of Barrystown; Jonas was not, I think, a native of Barrystown) was deluged in money. In the summer of 1857 he applied for the job of Coroner for the South Division of the County of Wexford, as did a large number of candidates—but the remuneration was less than spectacular. The appointment was by election of those who had the franchise (I think) resident in the specific Poor Law Union but not all of them voted: the task of getting to the County Court in Wexford town would put most of them off. In the event, a very high proportion of those qualified to vote did so; cars (presumably drawn by horses) were sent all South Co. Wexford to bring voters to this election.
At one o’clock the County Court was densely crowded but the “lovers of speechifying were much chagrined to learn that only two of the candidates would make their appearance in the arena and that very little exciting matter was to be expected.”
There were only two candidates left and Mr John Nunn J. P. (Justice of the Peace) told the crown that he came to propose Mr Clement Roice but that since he had withdrawn his candidature, he would now propose Mr Jonas King—he continued, in a speech, that had a useful bit of etymology (look in your dictionary for meaning of that big word) plus history:–
“I know Mr King from his infancy and know him to be a gentleman, who possesses great intelligence, principle and integrity, all of which eminently qualify to discharge the duties of Coroner. He is a young man, but I trust he will have time enough to grow old in his office. Another consideration in the case of Mr King is that he lives in the centre of the district and when it is the Cesspayers who have to pay the Coroner’s mileage, this matter is too important to be over-looked, as by having a person placed in the centre of his duties, the payment of mileage will be considerably less than it would otherwise be. ….The office of Coroner is one of the oldest under the Crown, it is, in fact, derived from the word “corona”, or crown; the person filling it becomes invested with judicial functions and to discharge his duties properly, he should possess sagacity, intelligence and integrity. If I did not know Mr King to possess those qualities, I would not come here to-day to propose him as a fit and proper person to be elected Coroner (hear, hear).”
Jonas did not possess, in my judgement, sagacity: he was too hot-headed and not sufficiently appreciative of nuance and finer legal distinctions. Mr Nunn cleverly emphasised the judicial aspect of the office of Coroner—Jonas was a Justice of the Peace or magistrate.
Mr Tom Mayler, presumably of or related to the Harriestown, Ballymitty family, then proposed Dr W. C. Ryan. Both candidates were required to verify their statements of property qualifications by oath.
Jonas then addressed the crowd, a brief but not necessarily succinct speech; his lack of an elegant education dictated the brevity of it (I think):–
“Mr King then said—Gentlemen Electors of the Southern Division of the County of the CountyWexford: I shall only detain you by very few words. If elected you may depend on me doing my duty to the utmost of my power; and as I live in a central position, some expenses will be saved to the cesspayer in travelling charges. My experience as a Magistrate, I trust, will aid me in the investigations consequent on the office which I seek—and as I am sure the Electors will act fairly and
impartially in choosing him whom they conceive will best serve the interests of the community, I shall leave myself in their hands, fully confident of a successful result and resolved to poll to the last man (cheers).
Dr Ryan adroitly pushed his own best quality to be the Coroner:–
“Mr King has given a statement of the qualifications which he considers fit him for the office of Coroner and I do not intend to contradict him—but I hope you will permit me to say, on my own behalf, that I believe the knowledge and practice of a Medical man are not to be disregarded and that without any invidious rivalry they may be put fairly in competition with the claims of the Magistrate or the mere country gentleman (hear, hear). I have the honour to belong to the medical profession, and besides that, I have been put forward on the popular interest. There were three of the popular party, but owing to the systematic arrangement two other gentlemen have withdrawn and the contest now rests between Mr King and myself. Such being the case, I think I may therefore place myself in your hands with a fair prospect of success from your support and I firmly hope that all will be terminated without owing anything to sectarian feeling or landlord influence (hear, hear). I say this, without reference to, or consulting the opinions of others, and merely on my own part, and should I be, as I confidently hope I will, the person of your choice, I pledge myself to the discharge of the duties of the office so as to prove myself worthy of the support you have so kindly offered me (hear, hear, hear).”
The popular party who favoured Dr Ryan would be a loose combination of the Liberal or Whig party plus the Tenant Right agitators: all these would be supported by the Catholic community—thus victory would as a matter of probability go the candidate of the popular party. Dr Ryan deliberately, if tactfully, distanced himself from the Magistrates and country gentlemen.
The first day’s polling was on the Friday at the sole polling place, the County Court House; and the results at four o’clock indicated trends in the election. King had a majority of 136 to 40 (for Dr Ryan) in the barony of Bargy; in the barony of Shelburne, King had a majority of 173 to 45. Dr Ryan had majorities in barony of Forth, 136 to 40; Dr Ryan had a majority of 129 to 73 in Shilmalier West; Dr Ryan had a majority of 54 to 43 in the barony of Shilmalier East and in the barony of Bantry he had a majority of 128 to 34 (for King). It would seem that the votes for Jonas King came from areas where he or relatives had tenants. Nevertheless at the end of the first day’s polling King had an overall majority of 22.
The People newspaper gave a superb account of the voting on Saturday, the second day of polling:–
“The polling was resumed at the County Court House at eight o’clock on Saturday morning and continued actively during the greater part of the day. The majority obtained by Mr King on Friday was speedily lessened by Dr Ryan on this day, who kept the lead to the close of the proceedings. There was a greater degree of local interest in reference to this Coronership, than was experienced at the County Election; landlords and agents were understood to working actively and not very constitutionally on the part of Mr King, while the personal friends of Dr Ryan were indefatigable in his behalf, and as the contest, in some degree, assumed a religious complexion, the sympathies of the people were to a large degree enlisted on behalf of the professor of the ancient faith.”
In translation, the Catholic voters wanted to vote for Dr Ryan.
The previous Coroner Travers Robert Hawkshaw, while of the Established Church (Protestant), was of the Liberal or Whig disposition and had supported Catholic Emancipation and opposed the tithes (even though his father and brother had been clergymen). He would have ample support from Catholic Electors. The Richard King would not have been noted for his support of the interests of the Catholic community, to put it mildly. He was a decent man but not a flaming radical.
2, 159 votes were polled out of an available constituency of about 2, 500; not more than 400 electors did not exercise their franchise. The People added—
“Several were no doubt indifferent as to the result of the struggle and but that cars were sent out extensively through the district, the voters would not have numbered so strong as they did.”
As the election campaign closed placards were placed all over Wexford town with “a vile and calumnious attack on the Rev. Richard King, the respected father of Mr Jonas King, one of the candidates for the Coronership.” Dr Ryan had a notice inserted in The Wexford Independent repudiating the message on the placards. In election campaigns, the coarser elements in Irish society engaged in unsavoury and sometimes, violent activity. They were usually intoxicated with drink bought for them by the supporters of rival candidates.
On the following Monday morning the Sub-Sheriff attended to tot up the books and declaring the Coroner. There was a limited attendance of the public; Dr Ryan and some of his friends were present but predictably, Jonas King, nor anyone on his behalf, did not appear.
At eleven o’clock the Sheriff rose from his seat on the bench and announced the result of the poll, which was as follows:–
For Dr Ryan…..1, 170
For Mr King….989
Majority for Dr Ryan….181.
The People on Saturday April 9th 1881 reported that on the previous Thursday the Sub-Sheriff, Mr Wilkinson, at the County Courthouse, Wexford, put up for auction farms on which the landlords had obtained decrees to evict from the courts. These auctions usually were a boisterous comedy as tenants bought back their farms for the rent arrears plus the legal charges. The landlords usually had a person present in the court to bid up the price of each farm until a bid equal to the aggregate amount of rent arrears and legal charges was made. The Land League were superb at their brand of toxic humour and these occasions were not pleasant places for agents of landlords to be. On this occasion things got totally inverted: on a day when humour was in meagre supply, Jonas King of Barriestown, had turned up to bid against the tenants—and he was, also, the star comic turn; he should have done comedy (like the district justice in one of John Mc Gahern’s wonderful novels) as his day job! This is what the People reported:–
“There was no excitement whatsoever exhibited by the crowd and the whole proceeding would have been dull and prosy enough, were it not enlivened, somewhat by the quips and vagaries of Jonas King who, thinking no doubt, that the Sub-Sheriff was desirous of securing a speaking likeness of his veritable self, pulled a photo out of his pocket, and presented it to Mr Wilson. “Here, Wilkinson, I was about half-drunk, when that was taken” said the generous donor, as he handed the card to the Sub-Sheriff: “Here’s a picture of mad Jonas King.” The Sub-Sheriff thanked the ex-J. P. for his gift and the card was then handed around the court. As the Sub-Sheriff commenced an explanation of the sale, Mr King then provoked the laughter of the crowd by shouting “Silence! You’ll waken the baby” and when Mr Wilkinson said—“Now the auctioneer may proceed with the sale”, Jonas again exclaimed, “Is he drunk, too?” At a later stage Jonas after bidding £5, said he would go asleep.
Jonas at that stage had a few months left on this earth. The signs are that he was alcoholic; he had spoken in circa 1849 at the opening of the new harbour at Kilmore about how he would not be separated from his tumbler after it was noticed that his father, the Rev. Richard King had gone home. I am unable to confidently respond to his gesture in showing a photograph of himself: was a photograph a rare novelty in that era? Was this a sign of alcoholic foolishness? He was ever a rough and ready man but with a touch of ready wit. He detested the Land League. On the 19th of March 1881, The People reported a most unprecedented outrage in Taghmon:–
“On Wednesday last Mr Jonas King went about this neighbourhood with a revolver in his hand, asking every one he met was he a Land Leaguer; and if he said he was, he (Jonas) would swear his G—he would shoot him, and in one instance, he did fire. I am told a prosecution is pending—A Correspondent”. That is Jonas King, for ye!
They had races on the Bannow Strand in early February 1864. It was an exceedingly fine day and in a pony race Pat Colfer’s of Danescastle, pony, ridden “in quite artistic fashion by young Hanlon of Carrig ” after dead heats eventually won from that of John Colfer of Newtown. But our focus on this occasion is on Jonas King at the races:–
“The racing was all over by half-past two o’clock and when three o’clock came the dismantling of the tents took place, which was carried out with the greatest good-will by the proprietors the moment the order was given for so doing by Mr Jonas King J. P. and the efficient body of Constabulary on the ground. The crowd dispersed very quietely, there being scarcely any symptoms of intoxication, and wherever there was any loud or angry talk, Mr King charged on his powerful steed, and made the malcontents skedaddle instanter. In fact, the 11th Hussars, and Lord Cardigan at their head, would not disperse a refractory crowd as well as Mr King, and he deserves great credit for it—especially as he did not hurt a hair of any man’s head.”
Drunken and consequently rowdy and violent crowds at race meetings, sports gathering, fairs etc were a grotesque and lethal nuisance. Men in that era were prone to bouts of impetuous violence; may even have felt obliged to fight violently (or threaten to do so) to prove their masculinity. For most of them that may have been the only way of proving masculinity as their impoverished circumstances rendered marriage unlikely and if attained a living hell (due to the desperate shortage of money).
In the nineteenth the Catholic clergy supervised many public events to discourage violent affrays, with much success. The Royal Irish Constabulary also, sought to prevent such fighting. But the law enforcement style of Jonas King at Bannow strand was illegal: he wrongly assumed that as a Magistrate he could roughly compel boisterous youngsters to behave themselves. In the nineteenth century Irish society was increasingly subject to the rule of statute law, that is law enacted by Parliament and written. The law was the same for all. The correct legal response to rowdyism on Bannow strand would be for the Constabulary to summon the offenders to appear before the Petty Sessions in Duncormack and to be charged as having breached a particular law. Circa 1855 Jonas arrested an Enniscorthy butcher at the fair in Taghmon for not paying him for a cow that he sold to him. Martin, the Enniscorthy butcher, sued Jonas for wrongful arrest and Jonas had to pay £50 compensation to him. The court found that he acted without any legal authority. Magistrates in previous centuries had been much freer to act but the setting up of the Irish Constabulary post 1830 was meant to excise all arbitrary actions by Magistrates—the Constabulary represented a stage in attaining greater civil rights of the citizen and equality before the law. In February 1864 Jonas King acted without proper authority, and assumed that ancient traditions of the power of a magistrate enabled him to do so: he was wrong, mistaken and anachronistic in his legal logic.
In my next blog I will get around to quoting a letter by Dr Richard Long of Arthurstown Dispensary and FeverHospital on hydrophobia or rabies to the Dublin Journal of Medical Science in August 1836. Dr Long, in fairness to him, had no confidence in the prevailing methods of treating this “direful disease”; rabies was spread by infected dogs who became mad and dangerous under its influence. The methods of responding to the disease as outlined by Dr Long would certainly ensure that the people of that era would be most loath to demand an extension of the health services.