Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, ebullient, charming, charismatic, scholarly, erudite, resilient, resourceful, composed, creative and—wily—that wily boy from beside the mine pits, the historian supreme. Gold and Silver for the Barrystown children!

It has been decided that I will speak on Travers R. Hawkshaw of Hillburn, Taghmon at the Stanville Hotel, Barntown on Thursday night April 24th at 8pm. Hawkshaw was a farmer, Co. Coroner, son of a Church of Ireland clergyman and brother of another, a magistrate at the Taghmon Petty Sessions and an elected member of the Board of Guardians of the Wexford Poor Law union. The lecture deals with quotidian society—illegal fishing, the Petty Court at Taghmon, farming, inquests on dead infants and suspicions of murder of such infants, vagrants burned to death at the lime kilns, election mobs, the famine, cholera epidemic, crowds stoning the police and—the campaign of Mr Hawkshaw against the requirement on the Catholic community to pay the tithes for the upkeep of the Protestant clergy. He joined Tom Boyse on platforms at monster meetings (including one at Taghmon) to protest against the tithes. In confrontation with critics Mr Hawkshaw was quick to jibe in a crude manner at his opponents but this personality defect should not obscure the sincerity of his campaigns to improve the situation of the Catholic community. Needless to remark all are welcome at this lecture and I hope that people in my native Carrig-on-Bannow will come. The date is Thursday the 24th of April, two days after my birthday on the 22nd of April. The birthday of the boy from Barrystown, beside the mine pits, should be made into a national holiday.

Before we went home for the Christmas holidays from Clonroche School in 1962 the master Mr Healy indicated that he would like a few of us to do our party pieces, in other words sing a song. I ignored the suggestion as I felt it too outgoing or friendly or something like that to do so; I liked to cultivate a mystique to myself. One senior boy stood up and sang the ballad of Jack Kennedy—some choice phrases from it still resonate in my mind; he is a real old Irishman and he’s got a real old Irish name; the President of America is a Wexford man—Jack Kennedy from New Ross. The singer did a beautiful rendition of it. In recent research I was astounded by the numbers of people—with humble education—publishing poems in the local newspapers during the first 60 years of the twentieth century; invariably they were earnest efforts but lacking high quality or genius. They seldom used metre or poetic format. They were big on rhyme. My mother told me many years ago that Murt Smith of Rospile wrote poetry; Murtagh Smith was a close cousin of my father and they both pulled tug-of-war in the time of their youth. As Mc Cutcheon wrote, they shook the Dublin guards in a famous contest. The Free Press on May 14th 1965 published a poem by Murtagh Smith almost inevitably in the prolonged aftermath oh his assassination, a poem on Jack Kennedy. It is extremely long, far too long— as poems are best when terse, brief and succinct. In the Wexford of that time Kennedy was revered as demi-divine, a paragon of heroism and virtue. There was a culture of heroism in the Co. Wexford in the 1950’s. I referred in the last blog to Sean Lemass’s reserve about Kennedy and his visit: the visionary Irish Taoiseach felt that Kennedy was too focussed on electoral calculations and playing up the shamrock, shillelaghs and leprechaun image of Ireland too much. Murt Smith in the poem notes:–

“He nobly died by his darling’s side

For history use the pen;

To fatally fall by a sniper’s ball

And meet in Heaven again.”

Retrospectively this sounds naïve and foolish—Kennedy was given to philandering (like old Joe his father); after the death of their infant son Patrick, the marriage of Kennedy to Jacqueline seemed in the aftermath of the tragedy to suddenly improve and Jacqueline felt more confident that they could have a happy and exclusive relationship together. She went with him to Dallas on that fateful day in November 1963 on the basis of their restored relationship. In 1965 and indeed for many years afterwards I, myself, would have believed that the marriage of Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy was a perfect—veritably unique—paradigm of Christian marriage and marital fidelity.

In the old university in Dublin in 1973 Professor Pat O’Farrell of Sydney—I think after I provoked him!—asserted that the historian is always a critic—that is a person putting radical and novel queries to society about its past. The poet is, also, I dare to suggest, a critic with this special aura: poetry at its best is an exquisite array of words and sounds. Murt Smyth’s poem is too full of conventional verities and certainties (which are not often true at all) and while he uses good English and proper punctuation the memorable turn of phrase eludes him. Like all the lesser poets of that time he wanted it sung to an air; in this case “Lonely Banna Strand” and I presume that this is the ballad about the executed leader of the Easter Rebellion of 1916, Roger Casement. Setting a poem to the air of a ballad created the possibility of it been sung and thereby giving it longevity. People are much less likely to recite a poem. The Free Press had this observation:–

“This song was compiled by Murtagh Smith, Rospile, Foulkesmills, who also, composed many other leading songs, including “The Lonely Wexford Shore”. He was, also, the founder, the trainer and the leader-out of the famous Bryanstown tug-o’-war team in the early 20’s with the help of the late Robert Cahill of Loughnageer. The ballad has been sung on a few occasions by Mr Jem Smith of Dysertmore, Wellingtonbridge and now in Kilkenny, in the Radio Eireann weekly musical programme, “A Job of Journeywork”.”

Fr Philip A. Doyle O. S. A. died on August 16th 1965 at Good Counsel, Ballyboden, Dublin. He was interred in Glasnevin Cemetery on Wednesday August 18th 1965. I was unable to find an obituary of him. There is no need to inform a Carrig-on-Bannow readership that he was a native of Maudlintown, Wellingtonbridge. He was a historian and literary man.

From the Free Press on Friday September 17th 1965:–

“Dance—St Brendan’s Supporters’ Club have finalised their arrangements for their annual dance to be held in St Mary’s Hall, Carrig on Sunday night. A first class band has been booked for the occasion. See adv.” Despite my determined endeavours I could not find the advertisement. I presume that St Brendan’s was the Football and Hurling club in Bannow but I am surprised to find it still in existence in 1965 as it was reported in early 1958 that representatives of the Corah Ramblers, Ballymitty  and St. Brendan’s Bannow had agreed to form the new Club called the Ballymitty Ramblers.

From the Report of the Bannow and Ballymitty branch of the Land League in The People on July 6th 1893:–

“Met on Sunday, Mr John M’Cormack V. P., presiding. The attendance of the committee is not as it might be expected or ought to be. Surely men who were elected on the committee cannot plead the excuse of not having time to attend, as one hour of a Sunday once in a month could hardly be called a sacrifice and the weather during the summer months, for the present at any rate, is most suitable for driving a couple of miles or less once a month.”

I had not previously understood that the monthly meetings of each parish branches of the Land League were of the elected committees, rather than of the full membership. The committees were elected annually. The Land League was technically illegal and operated under varying guises, at this time, The Irish National Federation (I. N. F.).

In February of 1894 Mr Devereux the Relieving Officer, reported that a case of typhus fever had occurred in Busherstown, Harristown Electoral Division, the afflicted person being John Chapman. He had been attended by Dr Byrne and was removed to the fever hospital on Saturday night, February 10th. “Clerk—The doctor recommended that the house should be properly disinfected and limewashed and the clothes burned. He (the clerk) asked the doctor if it would be enough for the clothes to be brought into the house [Workhouse] and fumigated and put through the apparatus. The doctor said this would be sufficient and by this means the quilts and other things would be saved. The tick, however, had been burned. The wife and children were put in the out-house. Mr Peacocke said the action of the doctor was very proper; it was a great saving not to have the clothes destroyed. Clerk—The other case is a far more dangerous one. Mr Murphy of Kilrane who was a guardian formerly, was in here yesterday and wanted to know if we could remove a case of fever from Ballymitty. It appears the case was attended by Dr Cardiff and not by out own doctor and that it is a patient who can pay. It is a case that does come within our rights; but it is a dangerous thing and I believe that the people out there were getting very excited and keeping away from the neighbourhood.”

The second case was that of a daughter of a farmer who had 30 to 40 acres. The Ballymitty referred to is not—I think—the townsland in the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow—it may be in the Fethard area. Maybe some of my readers will check the matter for me. A tick was an antique name for a mattress. Dr Freddie Stock had burned all the clothes of a man in the Bree parish to prevent the spread of infection; the man sought payment for his clothes which the Enniscorthy Board of Guardians granted. I suspect that most people in that era would be happy to have their clothes burned for medical reasons as this would entitle them to new clothes purchased at the expense of the Board of Guardians. In the nineteenth century people did not regularly change clothes or even wash them. In the time of my youth back in the 1960s men’s short coats and trousers became inevitably greased with dirt. Thus the fixation of nineteenth century doctors on burning such clothes in the event of a threatened epidemic—these awful clothes would be a perfect breeding environment for pathogens. The report of the typhus fever case is an indication of the panic in that era at the prospect of an epidemic. There was little effective medical response to an epidemic so preventative measures were the obvious course to follow.

“To Francis Augustus Leigh Esq., Proprietor of the Rosegarland Estate

Sir—One of your numerous destitute tenantry submissively entreats your assistance in allaying the present misery, by affording them employment in some shape or other in the improvement of your estate. A beautiful example has already been set the neighbouring proprietors, Mrs Boyse and Mr George Powell Houghton, which if followed will leave you no loser; while it will bring happiness again to many a desolate hearth. This request cannot be deemed impertinent for an impoverished tenantry or one of that body to ask from a landlord the means of existence to whom they are and have been the source of affluence.

I remain, sir, your obedient servant

A Poor Tenant”

The above letter was published in The Wexford Independent on May 30th 1849. I do not believe that a tenant wrote it: my suspicion is that John Tuomy, the Taghmon schoolmaster and Tom Boyse admirer composed but it is possible that a tenant on the Leigh estate may have agreed to post it—under his name— to Jack Greene’s paper. The objective would have been to put pressure on Leigh to commence drainage works to alleviate Famine distress and thus lessen the burden on Tom Boyse, who undertook to pay all expenses incurred by Fr Peter Corish P. P. Carrig-on-Bannow, in providing for all the distressed people in the parish as the Famine waged. Mrs Leigh did raise funds to help the local victims of the Famine. One of the Mrs Leighs in the late nineteenth century was a Catholic and she contributed generously the Catholic Chapel at Clongeen. Mrs Boyse was the wife of Tom Boyse who inherited the Tintern estate of Caesar Colclough—until the will that she inherited under was overthrown in a famous court case. Mr Powell Houghton was a model landlord and a most humanitarian man. She, in the best modern way (to paraphrase Yeats the great poet), packed in her marriage to Boyse after a few weeks and went to France and found a new man.

The Enniscorthy Guardian reported on January 26th 1924 that Fr John Donnelly B. A. O. S. A., a native of Ballymitty, had died about two weeks before. He was educated at the Good Counsel, New Ross, afterwards in Orlagh and was ordained in Rome in 1918. After his ordination he left for the Australian mission. His brother Fr Frank Donnelly O. S. A. had left for Rome the previous October. Another brother Fr Patrick Donnelly was a priest of the diocese of Ferns.

At a boxing tournament in Ballymadder, Bannow in October 1935 Rev. J. Doyle C. C. Carrig-on-Bannow thanked the spectators and competitors and also thanked Major Boyse for his patronage and assistance, without which the tournament could not have been provided. The committee, to whom Fr Doyle, also, paid tribute included Mr John White, Bannow, Chairman; M. Lynch P. C. and J. Breen N. T., Hon. Secretaries. The attendance included:–Mr M. F. O’Connor and his guest Mr Stephen Anderson, former heavyweight champion to the French Foreign Legion and amateur boxing champion of the Irish universities in 1931 to 1933, when he was, also, runner up for the championship of the British universities. Mr G. Kelly, Irish light-weight champion was referee; Mr T. J. Whitty, Wexford, timekeeper and Mr T. Crosbie, stage manager.

Fr L. C. P. Fox O. M. I. published “Reminiscences of Many Years of Missionary Life” in “Donohoe’s Magazine” circa 1905; he referred to a mission that he gave in Ballymitty. He wrote;–

“In that same parish there abode an excellent family of the name of Crane. We went to pay a visit to the old lady who presided over them. The only members of her family who were then at home with her were her eldest son and his wife and a youth of about seventeen years, who was on his vacation from college. When we were leaving her house she came to the front door with her youngest and said to me, “Father I have given five of my sons to St Augustine to the Blessed Virgin. Will you have him?” I accepted the offer without hesitation and never had cause to regret so valuable a legacy. He entered our novitiate without delay and became a zealous and edifying Oblate Father of Mary Immaculate. He died very lately in Australia—R. I. P. Another of his brothers was the Prior of these good Augustinians in Dublin who rendered me such valuable aid at the time of the inception of our mission at Inchicore. Yet another of this holy family had intended to belong to the same Order as his brothers but was debarred by the bursting of his gun whereby his hand was so mutilated that he could never be ordained as a priest. He endeavoured to compensate for this accident by giving two of his sons to St Augustine and a daughter to a religious congregation. Finally I must not omit to add that the only sister of the friars became a Carmelite nun.”

The mindset of Mrs Crane and of Fr Fox sounds astounding and discomfiting to the modern person. The children were regarded as in the gift of the parents to give to the Church as priests and nuns: such authority or power would seem excessive, in terms of the natural rights of the offspring. It is, also, difficult to see how such vocations could have sacramental validity. Anyway the piece ends thus:–

“Father Fox’s allusions to the old and respected family of Crane of Barrystown and Slevoy are sure to be read with interest. All the brothers are now passed away, including the bishop of Sandhurst to whom Father Fox refers as having given his community so much help in Dublin. Except the eldest, they sleep in foreign lands, where they laboured in Catholic missions. Father Peter died last. Father Nicholas who was dedicated by his mother to the Blessed Virgin as an O. M. I. predeceased him by only a year. Their sister, the Carmelite nun, still presides over the community of Mount Carmel, New Ross, while their nephew Very Rev. John P. Crane O. S. A. is Prior of Callan. It is a remarkable fact that Father Pat Crane O. S. A., the eldest of the family, christened his youngest brother Father Nicholas.”

The last detail is puzzling and my head is not really getting around it. I assume that Fr Pat Crane was circa 25 years of age at this Baptism; Mrs Crane must have married at a very early age.

Tom Leacy in his famous book Sights and Scenes etc” of Ireland written about 1860 plus says of Bannow:–

“It does not appear that there is any record of the charter of incorporation granted to this borough; although in inquisitions of the reigns of James I and Charles I reference  is made to parties who held premises here under burgage tenures; but no mention is made in any of these of a corporation. It is not a little extraordinary that, notwithstanding, the destruction or decay of the town [of Bannow], it still continued to send two representatives to the Irish Parliament, until the period of the legislative union, the sum of £15,000, awarded as a compensation for the loss of the franchise was paid to Charles, Marquis of Ely and Charles Tottenham Esq., of Ballycurry, in the county of Wicklow. The harbour of Bannow is navigable for smacks of small size and at Newtown is a quay where coal, culm and slates, imported from Wales, are landed and stored; timber is brought to this place from Ross and Waterford and corn is sometimes shipped here for exportation.”

Back in the 1960’s they used to have Tops of the Parish—drama contests between groups from different parts of a parish; usually to raise funds for the parish projects. I presume that the joke was re-cycled but anyway here goes:–one man tells the other that he received a letter from the Taoiseach and shows him the bit of Irish at the end, (a standard format in official letters then) “Is mise, le meas”. I could have made an alternative career in the circus.