Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, erudite, scholarly, a historian supreme, witty, humble, unassuming, visionary, innovative, a right boyo (is there a left one?) and above all else—wily. It was always gold and silver for the children of Barrystown. To paraphrase Goldsmith and his cross village schoolmaster the wonder must grow that the boy from beside the mine pits can carry all that he knows inside his head?

I do not need to tell a Carrig-on-Bannow readership that Fr Martin Moran C. C. celebrated the first Mass in the built (but by no means completed) new Carrig-on-Bannow Chapel in 1838; Fr Peter Corish the Parish Priest, due to some obscure dispute, lived at Ballymitty. Fr Martin Moran died as Parish Priest of Blackwater in late 1874 and in January 1875 Peter J. O’Flaherty solicitor at Enniscorthy published the provisions—for charitable and religious purposes— of Fr Moran’s will, made on April 7th 1874. The details on his farms are vague but it would seem that he had three holdings of land plus an aggregate of three and a half thousand pounds sterling. It would seem a fabulous estate for a Parish Priest to leave but it was not unusual in that era for Catholic priests to have considerable wealth but where would it come from? Hardly from the greater majority of his poverty stricken flock, often as cottiers, sub-tenants and very small holders living in hellish deprivation. I think that most of the secular clergy came from prosperous families and inherited their wealth from them. Wealthy individuals especially if in the spinster or bachelor state, often favoured the clergy in their wills. These legacies and bequests usually required the clergyman to direct the money to religious or charitable uses.

Fr Martin Moran effectively left his worldly wealth to religious and charitable purposes—he made special reference to widows, poor women and aged single women. Their plight was pitiful, a matter of pathos. His donation to his former parish of Carrig-on-Bannow was verily meagre: “£10 to the poor of Bannow parish”. Lamentable! We live in times when commentators are itching to cite all kinds of clerical wrong-doing and misdemeanours so it is proper to point out that Fr Moran effectively left all his estate to religious and charitable uses.

Mrs Raymond Corish died at her residence at Ballingly on Thursday May 7th 1896 aged 63 years after a very protracted illness that extended to about two years. She was mother to Rev. Aidan Corish C. C. Courtnacuddy. Her sister Mrs Sinnott of Cottage had died a few weeks previously. A couple of extracts from the report in The People are either informative or enigmatic. This is the first one:–

“On Saturday an immense cortege attended the remains to Ballymitty Church, where Solemn Office and Requiem High Mass took place previous to interment.” Are we to assume that the remains of a deceased person in that era remained at home until the day of the funeral service? The wording of the death notice of Eliza Sweetman, in 1876, (formerly Eliza Kehoe of Coolhull) of Ballymackessy, Clonroche seemed to me to imply a like arrangement except that in her case while the funeral Mass was celebrated at Cloughbawn her remains stayed at Ballymackessy House until the time of beginning the long journey to Carrig-on-Bannow cemetery where she was buried.

This is the second extract:

“After the solemn ceremonies the remains were interred in the ruins of the old church of Ballingly—the chapel of ease of the district in the pre-Reformation days….”

I concur with the view that Ballingly Abbey as the locals called it (according to John O’Donovan’s notes while doing the Ordnance Survey Maps of 1839) was a chapel in use before the Reformation and probably not used for worship after it. The word Abbey may denote a Church belonging to a community of monks or nuns—was there such a community in or near Ballingly?

Patent Roll 9 Richard II; 3 October 1385:–

“Commission by mainprize of Matthew Fitz Henry and William Boscher of Co. Wexford to Simon Nevell of custody of the manor of Roscarloun of which Philip Furlang died seised.”

The Furlong man died in possession of the manor, I presume. Roscarloun is an antiquated form of Rosegarland.

Patent Roll 10 Henry V, 26th April 1422:–

“Appointment of John Neville, baron of Roscarlon, as seneschal of the liberty of Wexford.”

The above two items leave no doubt that the Nevilles owned Rosegarland in pre-Reformation times. They would have been Catholics and of French/Norman descent, possibly from an area of that name in France.

The Free Press, August 2nd 1952:–

“Crossed Irish Sea in Open Boat

Surprise Call on Bannow Relatives

The most surprised people in south Wexford on Sunday morning were the relatives of Mr Ryhnart, a Mercantile Marine Officer, when he landed from a small motor boat almost at his own doorstep at Blackhall. He had crossed the Channel during the night and sailed down for the Tuskar from the Wicklow coast. When off the Tuskar he encountered a very rough sea but was able to make the Bannow coast without much difficulty.”

From The Free Press Friday January 24th 1964:–

“Sir—Please allow me space to return grateful thanks to all who helped to quell the serious outbreak of fire at my residence in the early hours of Monday last. I specially wish to mention the members of Wexford Fire Brigade and my neighbours. Their splendid united efforts undoubtedly prevented more serious damage.

Mogue Kenny

Barriestown, Wellingtonbridge.”

Dr John O’Donovan the foremost scholar of the 19th century in his Ordnance Survey Letters of 1840 was crassly dismissive of the theory of Bannow as the “Irish Herculaneum”. Dr Grattan-Flood was in turn bitterly critical of Dr O’Donovan’s reductionism about Bannow but first I will quote O’Donovan in one of his Letters of 1840:–

“A great deal of nonsense has been written about the town of Bannow having been buried in the sands. There never was a house of it covered in the sands but the people believe that there was an old Irish village there, the houses of which were of mud and wood, which fell to decay like the town of Mayo but they do not believe (for there is no appearance of it) that the sands have all encroached on the place. How people do write such nonsense!” In riposte Dr Grattan-Flood pointed out that Bannow had nine or ten streets in the 17th century. While it certainly had about ten streets I am not sure if the town/city of Bannow existed into the seventeenth century. Dr Flood wrote in relation to the appellations of Bannow, etc:–

“The derivation of the place name Bannow has been a crux but it was solved by Keating and by O’Flaherty and it is simply an anglicised corruption of Banubh—more fully Cuan-an-bhainibh, that is the harbour of the Bonniv or the suckling pig. Keating, however, says that Baubh may be a proper name and O’Donovan was of opinion that it might stand for Baubh, the brother of Sleine who gave his name to the river Slaney. The more productive derivation is that of Bonniv or Pig, from the physical conformation of the bay, as very frequently in Irish topography the association of ideas with animals often gave the name to the place. I feel the more convinced of this from the fact that the adjoining Island in called Keroe Island: that is Inis na gcaorach or the Island of the sheep. I have not seen any allusion made to “Keroe” before but it is certainly an anglicised survival of the Irish form and I am the more satisfied of this distinction from the undoubted fact that in a State paper of the year 1296 the place is called “Island of Keyrach”, that is sheep Island. Another interesting and also hitherto unnoticed point in the topography of the district around Bannow is the nomenclature of Clare Island. Some English writers in a flippant, off-hand style, state that Clare Island has reference to Richard de Clare, who landed there in 1169. As a matter of fact it was not Richard de Clare who landed there but Robert FitzStephen but this is only a detail. The name Clare Island has no reference whatever to the Welsh pirate but it is so called from the Irish and indeed one has a similar instance in Clare and Clare Abbey, names which really mean “a board” or “wooden bridge”. Almost unnecessary to add the name of Clare existed long before the 12th century and certainly long before the coming of de Clare to this country.”

Dr Grattan-Flood gives a convincing explanation of the genesis of the Grange of Bannow (where Sam and Tom Boyse later resided):–

“After the invasion Dermot Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, gave Bannow, with other property, to Henry de Mount-Mariseo (?) (Mount-Norris) and this Norman grabber made a present of it to the Prior and Monks of Canterbury. In 1245 the Canterbury Monks finding it inconvenient to farm such an out of the way grange, disposed of it to the Cistercian Monks of Tintern. The Canterbury Monks were “Black” to whom allusion is made in County Wexford deeds of the early 13th century but the Tintern Monks were “White” Monks.”

Dr Flood referred to the debris of an Elizabethan (if such it is) house found at Bannow in 1860 and adds that it was inscribed on a stone that the house was erected in 1598 by James Fitz-Laurence Cullen and his wife Marian Sinnott. It would be superb if this was all really true! As Flood notes the stone was fragmentary and later examination of it suggested that the 5 was actually a 3, giving the date 1398. This date to me seems much more credible. The proof here is that Bannow as a town or city was extant later that 1398.

When James Ennis of Woodgraigue died in Bristol in England in very early November 1862, aged 35 years, The People published a glowing tribute to him and announced him as a vigorous Land Leaguer. One of the constant enigmas of history is that men (and women) sometimes embark on courses at variance with either their personal advantage or the interest of their class. A correspondent to The People focussed on this aspect of James Ennis’s life:

“In his own district of Carrig-on-Bannow where he was vice-president of the late Land League he was untiring in his exertions in the cause of the tenant farmers, though not belonging to that class himself; he felt deeply for their wrongs, with nothing to gain and everything to lose he was foremost in the campaign against Landlordism. And when Foster’s Coercion Act came into force in this country Mr Ennis was one of the first who was torn from his family and locked in Kilmainham where he spent six months in durance vile. His incarceration in that damp dungeon told fearfully on his delicate constitution and although he came home healthy in appearance, the seeds of the disease which snatched him away, had taken deep root and soon after he began to fail. He succumbed at the George Hotel, Bristol, on his way to Torquay for the benefit of his health.”

Mr Ennis identified with the reformist socialism of the Land League:–

“as he was a true friend to the labourer as well as to the farmer; he advocated the same independence and the same right to his house and plot of land for the labourer as the largest farmer in the land….”

He was buried in the family vault in Kilkavan. I presume that the James Ennis aged 81 who died at Woodgraigue in August 1852 was the father of the James Ennis who died in 1882.

My presumption is that the Ennis family (and most others of the Catholic gentry) held their land by farm fee grant, that is with a lease renewable for 999 years—in effect a veritable form of permanent ownership provided one paid the rent. A farm fee grant was very close to full ownership.

Kitty Kenny of Carrig village was 16 years of age in 1966 and a pupil in The Loreto Convent Wexford; her poem won third prize in a National Competition to commemorate the Easter Rebellion of 1916:–


I saw in the dying of the rose

The fading hopes of a war-scarred nation

The waning spirit of a blood drained people.

I saw in the setting of the sun

The shadow of death to a race despairing

The swift approach of a gloom unending.

And yet—

In the moaning of the wind

I heard the crying of the dead for justice,

I heard the sobbing of the vanquished for freedom.

And in the restless roll of the sea

I heard the voice of the few still dreaming

I saw new hope for a people uncaring.

In the looming mass of the clouds

I saw the towering of righteous anger,

I saw, for the tyrants, a bloody danger.

1916 DAWNS

Now in the wailing of the wind

I heard a savage cry for freedom,

I heard a summons that wakened a nation.

In the mighty clash of the thundering clouds

I saw the meeting of roaring cannon

With the unconquerable wall of embittered passion.

In the upheaval of the sea

I saw the strength of desperation

I saw a terrible beauty in motion.

AFTER 1916

I heard in the fading of the wind

The echoing gasp of each dying leader

Urging us on to mighty endeavour.

I saw in the falling of the rain

The dying rose in joy awakening,

Like to the cause of the Leaders blooming.

I saw in the rising of the sun

The pregnant promise of approaching freedom,

The terrible birth pangs of a young-old nation.”

I think that the above poem reflects the mood, the imagery, disposition and dreams of 1966: I was at school in Enniscorthy in 1966 and the atmosphere of that time is still embedded in my consciousness. They were commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. Later in the university in Dublin the revisionist mode of Irish historiography had come in vogue and the over-whelming certainty about the magnificence of Easter 1916 was challenged.  Brother Tom Mc Donagh laughed and said that he and another teacher—of advancing years like himself—would be pushing up the daisies by the time when the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rebellion would be commemorated!

Irish poetry in saturated (to use an inapt metaphor) with climatic imagery; understandable in a country with such an erratic and irrational weather system—bad weather impeded the production of food which was ever a scarce commodity in those by-gone times. William Butler Yeats used such images as did the lesser known Francis Ledwidge. There is a resonance of both poets in Kitty’s poem. She might have achieved a better effect if more succinct, perhaps epigrammatic. She was, perhaps, too uncritical of the fundamental theories of the extreme nationalist movement. My former teacher Professor Pat O’Farrell of Sydney said that every historian is a critic (I am not sure if I agree) and I paraphrase that by saying that every poet should be a critic. The men of 1916 were sometimes critical of each other! Eoin Mac Neill reasoned that Ireland was not an animate being or goddess in opposition to Patrick Pearse’s exotic romanticist theories. Mick Collins later wrote to a friend that while he would have followed James Connolly through fire he would think twice before following Pearse. In the early years of the twentieth century thinkers all over Europe were fixated on the heroism of war.