Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown; most of my readers must have my astonishing attributes well memorised by now but I shall recite them as a matter of protocol:– charming, charismatic, inspired and inspiring, blessed amongst women, historian supreme, eloquent, uses big words (appropriately), moves and speaks with panache, (it was written of uncle Paddy that he pulled tug-o’-war with panache), of a far greater intelligence than Einstein (infinitely so), erudite, scholarly, with soubriquets of “the professor” and “the book”, a trainor of hurling teams, a marathon runner, a florist and cultivator of fabulous sunflowers, humble, self-effacing, modest, easily pleased, and above all else, devious and most wily, that wily boy from beside the mine-pits, if they are still there. If it is true, it ain’t bragging.
I will lecture on the genesis of the first Co. Wexford Strawberry Fair in Enniscorthy in 1968 and the early phases of the Strawberry Fair in Clonroche Community Centre at 8.30 pm on Wednesday October 12. Muintir Na Tire initiated the Strawberry Fair; Muintir now exists in a residual form, and organises the welcome and useful Community Alert schemes. The Strawberry Fair was a phenomenal success, equally unexpected and massively attended. There were guilds of Muintir Na Tire in most parishes then, including Carrig-on-Bannow. Muintir intended to promote a rural idyll of sorts, Christian, agricultural but as the 1960s moved on, Muintir was looking towards greater industrial activity in Ireland.
This letter is taken from the Wexford Independent:–
“To The Editor of the Wexford Independent
“Bannow, May 12th 1847
Sir—In your number of Saturday last, a letter appears from S. D. Goff Esq., Chairman of the Electoral Division of Horetown to Mr Labouchere which I respectfully suggest ought to be re-echoed by the organs respectively of every Relief Committee in every union of the County of Wexford.
It is a sad reflection, Sir, that after the exemplary forbearance, fortitude and patience with which the labouring poor of this country have borne the privations and perils of the past dreary winter, they should during the comparatively short interval between the present time and the coming harvest, be threatened with the loss of employment on the public works, or in plainer language, with the loss of life, for to that most certainly would the total stoppage of public works now necessarily amount.
The reasons enumerated by Mr S. D. Goff for their longer continuance are unanswerable. Farmers cannot at a season of such pressure give adequate employment to the poor. A pound of meal is a miserable and pitiful pittance of food, with which to mock the cravings of a healthy man’s appetite. The inordinately high price of provisions has consigned many persons to want, who otherwise would have been able to maintain themselves. The public roads which have been broken up cannot be left in their present unfinished –and in many cases dangerous—condition and indisputably the present is the time best adapted to their completion. For these reasons I beg to add my humble remonstrance, on behalf of the committee and the people of this division, to those so ably put forth by Mr Goff and to express their earnest hope that immediate direction may be issued by the Government for continuing the employment of the destitute labourers on the unfinished public works.
Let it be remembered that we have, with God’s blessing, already passed through seven months of the most awful ordeal—and that only three more remain to be encountered. Is it worth while, I ask then, for this comparatively short time, so to deaden the energies of the people, by suspending all public employment and by refusing to leave to the Relief Committee the discretionary admeasurement of the food necessary to subsist the destitute, as to render them unable to meet the remnant of their dreadful trial, without incurring the risk of consequences which one shudders to contemplate?
Would it not be most desirable that Relief Committees should everywhere and at once be heard firmly and unitedly expostulating with her Majesty’s Government on the inexpediency of now lessening the amount of relief hitherto extended to the suffering poor.
Your obedient servant,
A poor man yesterday showed me the paltry “pound of meal” made into a cake which he had equally and accurately trisected thus—by chalked lines—one compartment he called his breakfast, another his dinner, the third his supper. He reasoned well—that the pound of meal was a mockery and his simple diagram ingeniously proved it.
T. B. [Thomas Boyse].”
Tom Boyse was alarmed by the closing down of the public works in the late winter of 1847, throwing destitute men, on whom entire families, in many cases were dependent, out of work. An outdoor relief system was to replace the public works but this would not come on stream for some weeks. I am unsure as to what Tom Boyse meant by his reference to the “interval between the present time and the coming harvest”—but I think that he anticipates that a good harvest would alleviate the worst of the distress. The outdoor relief would provide only the most frugal and meagre amounts of meal to the afflicted people—hence Boyse’s item at the end about the poor man who made his paltry pound of meal into a cake. His reference to “the risk of consequences which one shudders to contemplate” is revealing about Tom Boyse’s disposition: he shuddered at the prospect of people starving to death—hence his anger at the closing of the public works and his own spending of large amounts of his own fortune to relieve the starvation. His Christian conscience and humanity is obvious in the above letter. It would be appalling to offer any man a pound of meal to live on for an entire day; hence Tom Boyse’s angry laughter at the outdoor relief. As I always say, any account of the history of Bannow should have a vignette of the greatness of Tom Boyse.
This is another letter from Bannow:–
“To The Editor of The Independent
Sir—To use a homely but sadly expressive term—both the potato and bean crops are “blasted”, badly blasted in this district. Many of the bean fields this day (August 2) look as blackened, as I have seen them in the month of September, the period at which they are generally pulled. This blight has taken the farmers by surprise and its visible effects on the leaves of the bean haulm preceded the appearance of the old enemy upon the potato gardens, by a few days. What effect this sudden and premature crisp and blackening of the leaf and haulm may have upon the pulse, I leave your agricultural friends to say; but of this early appearance of the plague spot upon the potato, I have not the nerve to say anything. Alas! no–poor Ireland has already felt too long its deadly influence upon the lives of her people. The whitened bones of the uncoffined dead in the south and west attest the fact that the potato was the staff of life to the Irish peasant. Why was it so—let those who are responsible answer. The people here are a thrifty, frugal, industrious race and first class industrialists. They have nobly stood erect amid the desolation of the Famine years and have met every demand from that of the landlord to the last of the other taxmen but as the strongest oak will smash beneath the pressure of a continued hurricane, so I fear the present “blast” will have the effect of uprooting some of them, if the screw be applied as tight as usual. By a long life of unceasing toil and good management they had in 1845 laid by some money, as a provision with which to settle their children in life. As the produce of no one year since covered the expenses of the year, this little hoarded treasure was drawn upon to make up this deficit. They stand just now clear with the world but the reserve is gone. How many thousands of their class stood in the same position this day five years, and where are they now? The wilds of America, the Irish Workhouses and the rank plethoric grave-yards answer—Here. Let all concerned look to it in time; for I will not anticipate the alternative.
Bannow, August 2, 1850”
The explicit attacks on the landlord or landlords in the above letter make it unlikely that John C. Tuomy wrote it. The editor of the Wexford Independent confirmed that the potato blight was lurking about in the late summer of 1850 but he was unsure if it would unleash havoc.
From The Wexford Independent August 9th 1848:–
“Expulsion of Strange Beggars and Vagrants
The honest, hardworking and virtuous community of Kilmore and Mulrankin have suffered so much from the recent inundation and misconduct of strolling vagrants from the far west” that they have adapted the following resolutions at a meeting held on the 31st ultimate. Mr Lewis Barry in the Chair.
Proposed by Mr William Sparrow; seconded by Mr Francis Keating
Resolved—That considering the extreme annoyance which the people of this locality have been suffering from the misconduct and thefts committed by the number of strangers and strollers that are constantly amongst us, We feel called upon in protection to ourselves, to request of our local magistrates to enforce those Acts of Parliament which empower them to relieve the community of such a grievance.
Proposed by Mr John Day; seconded by Mr James Keating:
Resolved—That copies of this resolution be forwarded to our local representatives with the expression of our wish to aid them to carry it into effect.
The magistrates of the district, Messrs [John] Rowe, [Captain] Harvey and [Captain Samuel] Greene have cordially complied with the wishes of the people and forwarded orders to the pettit sessions stations of their district—Wellingtonbridge, Tullacanna (sic) and Bridgetown—for the provisions of the Acts of Parliament to be strictly enforced. As we wish to see our county maintain its moral supremacy, we trust that the magistrates of the several rural districts within our local confines, will emulate the example here set to them.”
It is a logical query to ask what would the policemen in the barracks at Tullicanna and Wellingtonbridge have to do, given the law abiding character of the people of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow? The vagrants were a kind of criminal fraternity who seemed to come from the west of Ireland—they burgled houses, and stole where-ever possible and in some cases required ordinary people to pay levies to them as a kind of protection money. Under legislation then prevailing, the police or Royal Irish Constabulary [the Royal may not have been added yet by 1848] were empowered to arrest vagrants, wandering about without any legitimate source of income, and bring them before the Petty Sessions where they could be fined and even jailed. They were a literal scourge. Tom Boyse of Bannow detested them and would allow no truck with them.
From The Wexford Independent July 18th 1846:–
“We are pained to state that the accounts which have reached us from several quarters leave very little doubt on our mind that the disease which affected the potato last year, has already exhibited itself this season in a form calculated to excite the most serious apprehensions. Our friend Mr Mayler of Harristown, one of the most practical and successful agriculturalists in the County, has ploughed up a large field (preparatory to the reception of some other crop) which had been sown with this esculent and which afforded very promisingly in the early part of the year.”
“Notice of Charitable Bequests
In the Goods of
John Cullen, late of Lower Bay House, Bannow, in the county of Wexford, Farmer, deceased.
Notice is here by given pursuant to the Statute 30 and 31 Cap. 54 that the above named deceased who died on the 30th day of November 1936, by his last Will, dated the 25th day of June, 1934, made the following charitable bequests, viz.:–
£220 to the Parish Priest for the time being of Carrig-on-Bannow, to expend on repairs to the Church at Carrig-on-Bannow
£250 each to his nieces, Ellen White and Margaret White, both members of the Community of the Convent of Ramsgrange, County Wexford for the benefit of the Technical and Training College maintained there.
£300 to the Prior of the Augustinian Community for the time being at Grantstown for the benefit of said Community.
£100 to the Trustees of the Haughton Hospital at New Ross for the benefit of said Hospital.
£100 to the Reverend Father Doyle C. C. Carrig-on-Bannow for Masses for the repose of his soul and the souls of his deceased relatives and friends.
£100 to the Parish Priest for the time being at Carrig-on-Bannow for Masses for the repose of his soul and the souls of his deceased relatives and friends.
All said Masses to be celebrated in a Church or Chapel open for public worship in Ireland, at a stipend of 10 shillings for each Mass.
£100 to the Prior for the time being of the Augustinian Community at New Ross for the benefit of the College of Good Counsel at New Ross.
£100 to the Prior for the time being of the Carmelite Order, White Friar Street, Dublin, for the benefit of said Order.
£100 to the Prior for the time being of the Franciscan Order at Wexford, for the benefit of said Order.
£25 in having Funeral Office and High Mass celebrated for the repose of his soul.
After certain other pecuniary legacies, the deceased bequeathed the residue of his property to his Executors for such charitable purpose in the County of Wexford as they in their absolute discretion may decide.
The deceased by his said Will appointed Walter Connick of Ballyhennigan, Taghmon, in the county of Wexford, farmer, and John White of Farm House, Bannow, in said county, Live Stock Exporter, his Executors and Trustees and Probate of said Will was on the 26th day of January 1937 granted forth of the Waterford District Registry of the High Court of Justice Saorstat Eireann, to the said Walter Connick and John White as Such Executors and Trustees.
Dated this 19th day of March 1937
Solicitors for said Executors etc…..”
A bequest in a Will means that the stipulated amount of money or property must be given to the intended person or persons before the rest of the estate is administered. Bequests are usually small—or relatively small—gifts of money to a friend or relative who would not otherwise benefit from the will and related distribution of the estate. Unless Mr Cullen was a very rich man, altogether—and he may have been—the bequests in this will in this will are inordinately large. The bequests undoubtedly reflect a most religious outlook and belie suggestions that the people were otherwise than most devoted to the Catholic faith.
There is no need for me to point out that the boy from Barrystown is a whiz at legal matters so I will explain some of the terms used in the above notice which appeared in the Enniscorthy Guardian on the 27th of March 1937.
The person making a will not be in a position to enforce the instructions that he has given in his (or her) will—that task has to be carried out by the Executor, who is usually somebody closely connected to the person who makes the will. In practice the Executor delegates his role to that of the solicitor who drew up the will.
From The People the 4th of July 1936:–
“A Heroic Act
A horse which had been in a yard unyoked during the celebration of Mass at Carrig-on-Bannow last Sunday somehow got loose and galloped up the street just as the people were emerging from the Church. There was grave danger of some one being injured. A young man Richard Dake at great danger to himself crossed in front of the animal and grabbed the reins and succeeded in bringing him to a standstill. Much praise is due to the young man for his most heroic act.”
My mother told me of how at a concert in Carrig, Dick Dake came out before each act to announce it—I presume that he was master of ceremonies, M. C. He was certainly a brave young man to go in front of a wild horse.