Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, back like the good weather; charming, charismatic, inspiring and inspiring; an intelligence far greater than Einstein; historian supreme, blessed amongst women; scholarly, erudite, visionary, a marathon runner, an expert on strawberries, a trainor of hurling teams, a prophet, a seer, moves and talks with panache, and above all else, wily that wily boy from beside the mine pits, actually the most wily and devious boy of them all. St Kevin of Kilkevan prophesised that it would always be gold and silver for the Barrystown children. On reflection, it might not need the gift of prophecy to divine that the children of Barrystown would always merit gold and silver: you could call that an axiom—a proposition that is so overwhelmingly true that it is useless to seek to prove it. There was wealth in the mines at Barrystown but it seems that the very land of Barrystown was a reservoir of wealth, also:–
“There are three districts: Ballymitty, Bannow and the district around Duncormick. The last is really part of Bannow but because its soil type is so very different, we treat it apart.
Bannow proper is a district of the very best land. From Barriestown down to the sea there is probably no more fertile spot in Wexford. The farms are generally small, the owners exceptionally hard working. On the loading bank at Wellingtonbridge, you get few to touch the Bannow men for speed in spronging out a trailer of beet.
Tillage is intensive with beet again the most important crop. Cattle are wintered on turnips even more than in other places. They come out in Spring as fat as snails.
The production of pigs in Bannow is important. More of them are kept and in general they’re better looked after than elsewhere. But even here, a lot has to be done before pigs get the attention they’re due and deserve.”
I am not making this up to confirm my thesis of the greatness of the people of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow: it was written in a book that is in most agricultural households—“Forty Years of Wexford Agriculture; M. T. Connolly.” It contains all the annual reports made by the advisory staff of the Co. Wexford Committee of Agriculture from 1935 to 1977. As a contribution to my lecture on the Co. Wexford Strawberry Fairs in Enniscorthy, people have been bringing this tome to me: it describes an agricultural cosmos now largely departed and in that sense it is a historical document. It is, also, testimony to the earnest and efficient endeavours of all those connected with the Co. Wexford Committee of Agriculture to improve farming productivity and incomes. The agricultural instructor Mr B. Mc Cabe wrote in the 1960 report of his area of operations, which included Bannow. The passage quoted at the outset comes from Mr Mc Cabe’s account and here is another extract from his report:–
“The Hook, Lower Bannow and the Duncannon coastline is limestone. It is a very narrow coastal belt. In Fethard, Bannow, Ramsgrange and the townlands along Bannow Bay (around Saltmills and Clonmines) it was an old custom to draw sea sand for green crop. The result is today that in some fields the lime content is uneven. This shows up as patchiness in beet.”
I am unsure of Mr Mc Cabe’s meaning here: I think that the sea sand brought in marine/coastal limestone with it. Anyway, Mr Mc Cabe continued:–
“From Nuke around to the Barrow Bridge, slob went out instead of sand. Where this was done, the soils today are sticky and hard to work. Slob has too much silt in it.
Another old custom was the collection of wore for green crop. Today, it has all but died out, except in the Hook and Bannow. Even here the amount gathered off Slade or Bannow is only a tiny fraction of what it once was.
The people in these districts regard wore more highly for beet than farmyard manure. In this they are probably right. Wore is very high in potash and salt, has some nitrogen and little or no phosphates. Soils getting wore, or that have once got wore, are nearly always high in potash.
Not surprisingly beet yields in the Hook and Bannow, as in Kilmore, are usually a few tons higher than in the inland parishes.”
Mr Mc Cabe seems to have—deliberately—introduced slight touches of the colloquial: “they are” is telegraphed to “they’re” and the word “spronging” seems to be a peculiar usage of the baronies of Forth and Bargy. The word sprong is not in my little dictionary. I understand that the word sprong is not used in that manner outside the south Co. Wexford but I am open to correction.
These old books from the Co. Wexford Committee of Agriculture are gems: they are a succinct index to the weather conditions, types of crops, the breeds of livestock and transition from a farming done by horse power to that of tractors and other machinery such as combine harvesters. My mother regarded the threshings in the haggard as pure annoyance.
The erratic and irrational character of Irish weather is proved by the statistics in those books. In 1960 the total rainfall recorded at Johnstown Castle was 51.6 inches; in 1958 the amount recorded was 55.4 inches. In 1960 two-thirds of the rainfall came in the second moiety of the year. To me as a nine year old child, the summer of 1960 seemed overtaken by a Biblical pestilence and a spoof report on Radio Eireann about the world ending on the 14th of July was taken seriously by some people. I asked an older boy at Clonroche School, who was sitting on the window sill if we were getting the summer holidays that day: he laughed and told me that the world was ending at two-thirty in the afternoon. There was a clap of thunder and a flash of lightening at 2.30pm and two men sheltering from it in one of our sheds jested to my mother that the end of the world had commenced!The rainfall in 1959 was 35.36 inches with only 3.5 inches for the months July, August and Spetember. The rainfall in 1976 was (at Johnstown Castle) was 35. 78 inches and 28.79 inches for 1975. The yearly average for the previous 25 years was 40.10 inches. I could go and on quoting these statistics anywhere I like but that won’t stop people believing that seasons was absolutely regular in times gone by. No two years, in climatic terms, in Ireland are ever alike.
From The People July 1st 1899:–
“Lost on Sunday, 25th June, between Ballyregan and Horetown Church, a small gold and ruby brooch. Any person bringing the above to Mrs Lett will be rewarded…….
Lost on the 14th June, between Coolbrook and Ballymitty, a Silver Patent Lever Watch; number known. A reward will be given if left at the R. I. C. Barracks, Wellingtonbridge or at –The People Office, Wexford.”
From The People, the 8th of July 1899:–
“Ballymitty Erin’s Hope v New Ross Young Ireland’s—The return challenge will be played in New Ross on Sunday next, the 9th inst., at Dousley’s Barn, at three o’clock. The local bands will attend.”
The Wexford Independent on the 8th of March 1854 reported of the Assizes at Wexford, inter alia:–
“Matthew Walsh was indicted that he on the 1st day of February last, did at Taghmon, take from the person of Martin Nugent, 21 shillings and 8 pence, his property.
Martin Nugent sworn—Witness was at the fair in Taghmon on the day stated; he was in Mr Cooney’s shop and had 22 shillings there in his purse; the prisoner was there, too, and saw the money with witness; witness pulled out his purse and took a four penny bit out of it; witness’s horse was at the door; both went out of the shop together; witness got on his horse and the prisoner, after asking to be carried for some time got up behind him; no other person was near him; they parted at Ballymitty; witness on reaching home put his hand in his pocket to give some cakes to a child but found he had none; he, also, then, missed his purse; prisoner had his hand round witness’s person as they rode along; went to where prisoner worked at Mr Corish’s of Coolhull with a policeman and charged him with stealing his purse and then the prisoner threatened violence if he was again accused; after some time he said he found a purse in the street of Taghmon and he showed it to witness; it was his purse; there were then 16 shillings and 6 pence in it; prisoner gave up the purse.
To a Juror—Witness is confident he had the purse in his breeches pocket when prisoner got up behind him.
To the Court—Had drank some that day; but was not tipsy; drank four glasses during the day; got his dinner in Taghmon between the drinking as a cousin’s; prisoner’s hands were round witness. The purse now shown is his.
To Prisoner—was not drunk, nor helped up on his horse leaving Taghmon.
Constable John Molloy sworn—searched the prisoner on the 3rd of February and found the purse on him; he was, then, at work in his employer’s barn.
Michael Corish (sworn)—prisoner works with witness; he showed him a purse which he said he found opposite Mr Cooney’s door in Taghmon, containing 16 shillings and 6 pence; prisoner bore a good character as long as he had been with witness which was three months.
The Prosecutor was again called on the table; when he missed his money he suspected the prisoner for taking it, and went next day to Taghmon to enquire about his character; the day following witness went five miles to Mr Corish’s, where he found he lived; thought it was he robbed him, before he went to enquire about his character; found on enquiry that it was a very indifferent one.
The prisoner was found guilty.”
Mr Nugent seemed to enter hearsay about the defendant’s previous character, or lack of it, as proof that he stole his purse and the money contained in it. That would seem to be a flawed legal procedure. I would not rule out the possibility that the purse fell out of Mr Nugent’s breeches (to use that antiquated word). The one big issue against W—was that he made no effort to trace the owner of the purse—that is if he did find it. I am puzzled as to why he carried the purse around with him; maybe he slept in an outhouse and feared that rats might carry it away if he left it there behind him. I think that Nugent was careless with his money. I do not know why he let W—put his hands about his person on the horse—maybe W—felt that he could fall off. In that event I would let him walk!
From The People the 18th of March 1854:–
“TO BE LET
PART OF THE
LANDS OF HALSYRATH
containing about 82 acres, 2 roods and 0 perches, close to Tullycanna and Duncormack.
Proposals in writing to Mr Henry C. Sweeny—Gardeners Place, Dublin.”
From The Free Press, the 30th of May 1969:–
“Historians to visit Norman Sites
The Military History of Ireland Society will visit the site of the Norman landings on the south Wexford coast in 1169-70 at Bannow-Baginbun on Sunday.
The visit will be conducted by Mr Richard Roche, Deputy Editor, Irish Independent, who is a native of the county and an authority on the subject. The party will assemble at the Martello Tower, Baginbun Head, one mile from Fethard-on-Sea, at 1pm.
There will be a lecture on the site by Mr Roche at which General Sir Eric de Burgh, Vice-President of the Society, Bargy Castle (the old residence of Bagenal Harvey in 1798) will preside. Co. Patrick Hally, Commanding Officer, Eastern Command and Mr Tom Walsh, the Wexford historian will speak.
There will be time available for members to visit places of interest in the locality, e.g. Bannow Bay, Tintern Abbey, Dunbrody Abbey, John F. Kennedy Park, &c.
Dinner will be served at 6pm at “Five Counties Hotel”, half a mile from New Ross. Visitors are welcome.”
According to The Wexford Independent on the 15th of April 1854, there were 12 paupers in the Wexford Workhouse from the electoral division of Bannow: their upkeep in the Workhouse would be charged on the ratepayers of the division.
The Echo on the 24th of April 1909 reported on a meeting of the Clongeen branch of the United Irish Party; there were tenants from the Leigh estate, some of them evicted, at the meeting in Foulksmills; I quote from the report of the speech made by Mr Peter Ffrench M. P., a native of Bannow:–
“Mr Ffrench who was cordially received congratulated the meeting in having the Rev. Father Lyng in the chair and in having their Curate present. Touching on the past history of the country, they found the priests and people marching down through centuries side by side and shoulder to shoulder, facing oppression and wrong and winning reform after reform and he hoped that this union would be maintained until time was no more. He referred to the great changes that had been brought about by legislation, which had been won for the country through the efforts of the Irish Party by peaceful and constitutional agitation. About 7 and a half million acres of land had been purchased, or agreements signed for purchase, and said the people in those districts would be no longer troubled by landlordism. Continuing, he referred to the fact that sums of £250 each had been promised for the dredging of the harbours of Courtown, Kilmore and the Slaney at Enniscorthy and mentioned that £4,000 a year had been made a present of to the country by the amendment which he had carried to the Local Government Bill, abolishing the office of inspector of explosives and throwing the duty on the shoulders of the R. I. C. He did not know how Mr Leigh felt on the question of the evicted tenants but he could not see how he could object to the restoration of the tenants, because he would get full value for his land. The Land Bill had been approved of by the National Convention and the cleverest men in the Party were drafting amendments in order to get it into better shape and by the time it left the House of Commons it would be very much improved. It contained a compulsory provision and he did not think it would be rejected by the Lords because their friends, the landlords, were badly in need of money, and the Bill provided £10,000 a year for land purchase. He advised the Leigh tenants to confer amongst themselves as to the action they should take and as they were anxious to purchase the lands, he informed them how they could best act under the circumstances, remarking that in he finish there would be such a thing as compulsory purchase.”
At the 1918 General Election, with nigh universal franchise (for males anyway), the Irish Party, were roundly defeated by Sinn Fein claiming continuity with, and the mantle of the new nationalist tradition inspired by the Easter 1916 Rebellion. In south Wexford Mr Peter Ffrench, a candidate of the Irish Party was (somewhat narrowly) defeated by Dr James Ryan, of Tomcoole, Taghmon, the Sinn Fein candidate. In his speech at Foulkesmills in April 1909, Mr Ffrench effectively outlined the rationale of his Party’s approach: they wished to eschew violent and military action against British rule and wished to work within the prevailing political system to win concessions from the British Parliament and Governments to better conditions for the people in Ireland. Some of Mr Ffrench’s history as stated at Foulkesmills is a trifle dubious but then he never went to third level study as he was quite busy earning a livelihood! His achievement in becoming a Member of Parliament was enormous. The United Irish Party or the Irish Parliamentary Party had wholeheartedly supported the Land League struggle; this had begun with demands far short of driving the landlords out but culminated in the British Governments (I use the plural as a series of Land Act were enacted) steadily moving to the most radical solution imaginable: the buying out of the landlord estates by the Land Commission who in turn sold the lands to each tenant in occupation of his leased lands. The tenant, the occupier became the owner of his farm—in return for paying annuities to the Land Commission over a long number of years as his purchase price of the farm. The Wyndham Land Act of circa 1903 effectively invited the Landlords to sell out their estates and enabled the tenants to become owners of their own lands.
On that basis, Mr Peter Ffrench did have a good deal to boast about at that meeting in Foulkesmills. “Legislation”—the enactment of reform laws—had indeed wrought great changes; but he did not address the coming crucial issue: should the Irish, in conformity with the zeitgeist [spirit of the age] then prevailing, all over Europe, opt to assert Irish nationhood in armed revolt? The new nationalists or separatists eschewed parliamentary action as prolonging British rule. Those are the kind of arguments that obsess historians.