Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, original, inspiring and inspired, historian supreme, pure genius with an astronomical intelligence, blessed among the women, a right boyo, historian supreme, scholarly, erudite with a hawk eye (as one of his mentors once noted) for telling detail, with the gift of prophecy, visionary, far-sighted and the most devious and wily of them all—that wily boy from beside the mine pits. The story I tell you of myself is true and precisely because if it is true it ain’t bragging. What is write of myself is merely descriptive and objective. Muhammad Ali was remarkable for his witticisms but I suspect that some of them may have been a recycling or amendment or adaptation of previous ones; his jesting riposte to George Foreman’s massive punch—Is that the best that you have got, George?—seems similar to a similar quip by Jack Johnson to Tommy Burns, made many years before. Tommy Burns fought Jem Roche of Wexford in a farcical and seconds duration championship contest. Jem Roche also played Gaelic football, on one occasion (I think) against Ballymitty-Bannow. The really great witticism of Ali was his protestation—if it is true, it ain’t bragging. All those blessed with genius must have felt like that! No native of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow ever brags or tell lies—but such is axiomatic.
If there is any one of my billions of readers interested in the life of Rev. John Macbeth of Killegney parish, near Clonroche, they can contact me 0872937960.
The People on November 1st 1913 had in the term used by the headline, a melancholy, indeed sombre, story to relate:–
“An old man named Michael –, a resident of Cullenstown, is missing since Tuesday, and it is feared that he has been drowned. Mr M.– who is well-known personage in Cullenstown had reached the advanced age of 94 years and it had been his custom for a number of years to spend the day patrolling along the beach, partly, because he found it to do his health good, and in the hope of picking up any wreckage that might be cast up by the sea. As usual on Tuesday he went on his daily rounds and was last seen near the edge of the water [at] a point of the strand under Mr White’s Cullenstown. This appears to have been the last glimpse that was caught of the feeble old man and when he did not turn up to his meals, as usual in the evening his people became uneasy and a search was made for him but nowhere could he be found. It is presumed that the poor old man in his efforts to recover some piece of wood or other object from the sea was overcome by its force and carried away. At any rate, although a diligent search was made all along the whole strand and neighbouring district, no trace of him could be found and the search party continued their efforts all through Wednesday, watching the tides, expecting his body to be cast up on the shore. Poor –was a native of the district and a most respectable old man. He took a keen interest in the prosperity of the village and the development of the Gaelic games, especially, handball of which he was an enthusiastic adherent. His familiar appearance on the strand brought him into contact with most of the visitors who frequented Cullenstown and who took great delight in listening to the stories he used to tell.
Patrick Boyse found – drowned body on Thursday at Blackhall, Bannow. An inquest will be held.”
I am puzzled as to why a 94 year old man would spend his time walking on the Cullenstown strand in late October; the most obvious use of timber washed ashore would be as firewood—when it dried out. Due to David Lloyd George budget of 1909 (?), all 70 years or over, if they passed the means test (not too difficult for most elderly people then!) would be given the pension of (I think) 10 shillings a week. One very possible outcome of walking along the Cullenstown strand in the inhospitable and inclement weather of late November would be to be afflicted with hypothermia. The sheer cold might precipitate a heart attack, also. There would not have been a fuel allowance at that time—the pension would at best extend to buying food and a meagre amount of clothes. Nevertheless, the people in that era found the pension a welcome guest, a trifle magical. Fr Paul Kehoe the Parish Priest of Cloughbawn, at a bazaar in Clonroche in the summer of 1918—there is need for me to tell my readership that Fr Kehoe was a native of Moortown, Ballymitty—told of how a neighbouring Parish Priest who reproached his congregation in his Sunday Mass sermon for the absence of his marriages in his parish was later told by one of the same parishioners that only people on the old age pension could contemplate marriage!
On the 5th and 8th of November 1913 The People carried identical reports of the inquest on the drowned body. The legal requirement that an inquest be carried out in the event of an unexpected death by implication, indicated that the life of every citizen was deemed of a certain basic importance.
The inquest was held on Friday the 31st of October in Mrs Horgan’s licensed premises at Cullenstown by Mr Peter Ffrench M. P. Coroner for South Wexford (Mr Ffrench was a native of Bannow). The report states that it related to “the death of an old man, named M– –of that place who was accidentally drowned there on the 28th ult.” This in strictly legal terms would have to be incorrect: if is was incontestably known that he died accidentally, there would be no need of an inquest; if reality, the report is practically correct since it would be difficult to come to any conclusion other than that this man was accidentally drowned.
The following were sworn on the jury:–Messrs J. Mahoney (foreman), F. Cahill, M. Colfer, R. Bowe, N. Roche, T. Horgan, M. Stafford, P. Bowe, T. Stafford, J. Galvin, G. Galvin, W. Audley, (senior), and J. Searles. Acting-Sergeant Dolan and Constables Foley and Ryan, Wellingtonbridge were present representing the Crown.
The first witness examined was Edward Corcoran, a labourer residing at Carrig, who last saw deceased alive. He deposed, in reply to Acting-Sergeant Dolan that he was drawing sea weed from off the strand at Cullenstown on Tuesday, 28th October at about 1.35 pm., and observed the deceased standing on a rock, near the bank on the shore. The sea was very rough at the time. The tide was coming in strong and washing up around where the deceased was standing. He appeared to be gathering bits of wood that were being washed in, as he had two bits in his hand. Witness considered he was in a dangerous place for such an old man.
Foreman—But at the time you did not consider that he required assistance?
Witness—No, as the old man was constantly about the strand.
Coroner—Could you have rendered him assistance if you thought he required any?
Witness—Yes; if I considered he required assistance. I could easily have brought him up fro where I saw him. I then passed by. I saw him no ore alive.
The next witness examined was Michael W–, a grandson of deceased, who resided with him at Cullenstown. He gave evidence of identification and deposed that he was in his usual good health on the 28th inst., the day he was missed from home. He last saw him alive between 3.30 and 4 pm on that evening and going in the direction of the beach. He next saw his body at about ten am on the 30 inst. He was, then, covered with sand and sea weed, washed in by the tide.
James Boyse of Blackhall who found the body next deposed in reply to the Acting-Sergeant, that on the morning of the 30th, at about 9.30 o’clock, he went for a load of sea weed to the strand at Blackhall and arrived there at about 9.50 am. When passing along the shore he noticed a man’s body, partly covered with sand and weeds. I looked at it and identified it as that of the deceased M—. I have no idea how long it was there, but I believe it was washed in by that morning’s tide. I then sent word about finding it to the deceased’s friends at Cullenstown.
Acting-Sergeant Dolan, in reply to the Coroner, deposed to receiving information at about eleven am on the 30th inst., that a body had been found washed in at Blackhall and, at once, proceeded there. On arrival he saw the body just as described by Mr Boyse, the last witness. It was, almost, covered with sand and weeds. He searched the clothes and found some pieces of corks and small bits of wood in the outside pockets, and in an inside vest pocket he found the sum of £1 11 shillings and 6 pence. Deceased friends were present at the time. I had the body removed to his late residence at Cullenstown.
Michael W–, who gave evidence of identification was recalled and in reply to Dr O’Brien, Medical Officer of Bannow, deposed that the deceased was subject to weaknesses occasionally.
Dr O’Brien deposed that after the evidence given by W–, the deceased’s grandson, “as to his being subject to weaknesses, witness [Dr O’Brien] believed that the cause of death was heart failure, accelerated by immersion.”
The Jury returned a verdict in accordance with the evidence of Dr O’Brien. The Coroner, Mr Ffrench, and the police sympathised with the family and loved ones of the deceased man.
From The Bannow and District Notes in The People on January 6th 1951:–
“Recent Death—The death has occurred at the residence of his daughter, Mrs Joyce, Ringsend, Dublin of Mr James Donnelly, Kiltra. Mr Donnelly was for over forty years an employee of the Dublin Gas Company. He was father of Messrs Jimmy and Paddy Donnelly, well known Irish boxers. He was a familiar figure at Croke Park never missing a match when Wexford teams were engaged. The attendance at the funeral to Kilcavan cemetery on Friday night was large and representative. Chief mourners:–Messrs James, Sean, Patrick and Thomas Donnelly (sons) and Mrs Joyce (daughter). Very Rev. J. O’Brien P. P. Bannow, officiated at the graveside. R. I. P….
Death of a Famous Racing Pony—The racing pony “Tom Moore”, owned by Mr Neville, Bannow, died during the week. He was over 30 years of age. He figured prominently in pony races in South Wexford about twenty years ago. The name Tom Moore indicates a continuing memory of the poet’s visit to Bannow.
From The Wexford Independent February 16th 1861:–
“Rosegarland Coursing Meeting
The coursing at Rosegarland, the property of F. A. Leigh, promises to be the best private coursing in the south of Ireland. For the last two years, the game has been strictly preserved, not for Mr Leigh’s sport—as he does not keep greyhounds—but for the amusement of his friends and those in the neighbourhood, who wish to enjoy coursing. The tenants on the estate, who, heretofore, were indifferent about preserving game, are now most anxious to preserve them, as they have every opportunity of seeing the sport, and enjoy it very much. The lands immediately joining the demesne, consisting of hundreds of acres, present a different appearance to what they did some years ago. They are now in Mr Leigh’s possession, fences have been levelled, drainage has been carried on extensively, and where dry husky grass and Irish furze abounded, you will now see acres of luxuriant corn and green crops and large flocks of highly bred sheep and oxen. You meet everywhere, horses and carts, ploughs, harrows and all the modern implements which science has invented, in active employment. What a benefit to the people in the neighbourhood. Would that our poor country had many such resident landlords and employers!”
The transformation of bog-land and waste land, generally, into cultivatable and productive land was one of the major changes that occurred in the nineteenth century—such reclamation obsessed the minds of men, then. The general disposition to animals, then, was most callous and cruel; to the credit of the Rev. William Hickey, the Rector of Bannow 1820—26, in his writings on agriculture, he condemned the appalling treatment of pigs in that era. One of Wexford’s greatest hurlers, who played in Croke Park in the years immediately after the death of Mr James Donnelly of Kiltra, told me that he had followed coursing in his youth but later came to abhor it: sport should be, he said, a contest between equals. I am probably squeamish but I am uncomfortable with any unnecessary suffering to animals. I respect the right of others to disagree with me on such issues.
The Irish Times on Monday October 22nd 1906 carried an advertisement for a parlour-maid, with good references; wages £20 [per year, I presume]. Applications to A. Roche, Moortown, Ballymitty, Co. Wexford.
In his will, as published in The Irish Times on March 1st 1955, Tobias Rossiter Mayler, Harristown, Ballymitty was stated to have left an estate of £7, 535.
The Irish Times on Saturday November 8th 1952 reported (perhaps as spoof):–
“An expensive bantam hen lives in Ballymitty, Wexford. The lady will not eat bread, unless it is buttered—and butter costs 3 shillings 10 pence a llb [pound weight]. She had not even started laying yet to pay her way, despite the tempting price of eggs at 5 shillings per dozen.”
The above prices are puzzling: my recollection is that in 1960 a farm worker earned £5 per week and eat his own meals at his home. Farm worker wages had risen in that the preceding years, especially at General Election times. They were set by regulations pursuant to law. If a farm worker in 1952 had, say six children, he would find it hard to provide butter on their bread; he would have no problem about providing butter on their eggs as they would not have eggs, at all, at that price!
Fr Matthew Keating P. P. of Carrig-on-Bannow died in a Nursing Home in Enniscorthy on Sunday April 2nd 1950. He was a native of Duncormack and a brother of Mr John Keating Member County Council, former Fine Gael Member of Dail Eireann, and a prominent cattle exporter and farmer. In 1931, following the death of Very Rev. Mortimer Canon Sullivan, Fr Keating was appointed Parish Priest of Carrig-on-Bannow. He was initially based at the House of Missions in Enniscorthy where he spent twenty-eight years conducting retreats and missions in many parts of Ireland and England.
My father recalled both Fr Sullivan and Fr Keating as formidable men, with enormous prestige and local authority. The death of a Parish Priest in that era involved prolonged and intense local mourning, as is testified to by this footnote to the report of Fr Keating’s demise:–
“As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Very Rev. Matthew Keating P. P. , all social activities will cease for a month.” The Free Press on April 8th 1950 carried this notice:–
Owing to the death of the Very Rev. M. Keating P. P., the Cinema, Carrig-on-Bannow will be closed until further notice.” The elaborate mode of describing a priest denoted the mega respect for the clergy in that era.
The Free Press on May 4th 1962 reported:–
“Presentation to Newly Ordained Priest
Tributes to Rev. Sean Cullen, Ballymity
Ballymity G. A. A. Club presented Rev. Sean Cullen, Knockbyne, Ballymitty, with a watch on Wednesday night to mark the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood and as a token of remembrance of Father Cullen’s associations with the club in recent years.
Mr R. Howlin, Chairman of the Club, addressing the large assembly said—
Rev. Fathers, fellow members and friends, I have been asked to speak on behalf of the members of the Ballymitty Football Club. We have come here tonight in a spirit of love and thankfulness to pay tribute to Rev. Fr Sean Cullen and to congratulate him on his ordination. We feel grateful of having been associated with him on many happy occasions in the field of sport. Please God, we may always remain associated in spirit with him on the mission field, or wherever his sacred calling may take him. We, also, wish to express our high regard and affection for Father Cullen and to pray that God may bless him in all his work at home and abroad. As a token of our friendship and regard for Father Sean, we would like him to accept this present from the Club with our best wishes.
Rev. T. Byrne, who made the presentation, congratulated Father Cullen on his ordination and wished him every blessing and success in his new life.
Mr J. Hayes, Secretary of the Club, joined in the tributes and good wishes extended to Father Cullen.
Father Cullen thanked all sincerely for their kindness and good wishes. He said he would always remember the happy days he had enjoyed among the members of the Club and gave his blessing to all present.”
The J. Hayes, Secretary, was I presume Garda John Hayes stationed at Carrig.