Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, a genius beyond comparison, historian supreme, charming, charismatic, innovative, inspiring and inspired, a right boyo, blessed among the women, humble, modest, self-effacing, devoid of conceit, eloquent and grandiloquent, of commanding oratory and anticipated by St Kevin of Kilkevan as the luminary of learning that would ghost out of the mine pits at Barrystown. If it is true it ain’t bragging: no native of Bannow has ever bragged.

From The People the 13th of January, 1904:–

“Vinegar Hill Memorial

On Thursday night a meeting of the Wexfordmen’s Association 1798 Committee was held in the Ormond Hotel. Mr T. J. Laffan presided and there was a good attendance. The hon. Secretaries, Messrs Codd and O’Brien submitted the minutes of last meeting, which were singed and, also, some letters of apology for non-attendance from some members of the Committee. Mr Lacey handed in subscriptions of two guineas each from Mr John Redmond M. P. and Mr John F. Small, solicitor, Newry, ex-M. P. for south Wexford. A letter was received from the Rev. N. A. Staples O. C. C. Kildare approving the action of the Committee in honouring the heroes of ’98, promising his support to the movement and enclosing a subscription of £2. The Chairman stated that as the angel of death had been busy among amongst near relatives of the Committee, since their last meeting they would not transact any further business beyond the reading of the correspondence. He proposed that votes of condolence be passed with Messrs John and James Whyte, the Coombe, on the death of their father which took place last week at Bannow, Co. Wexford and, also, with another energetic member of their Committee, Mr J. Mahon, on the death of his mother-in-law, Mrs Bolger, Courtclough, Blackwater. Mr E. Murphy, in a few suitable words, seconded, after which the meeting adjourned.”

The young Whytes seemed to be living in the one house.

The people of the Co. Wexford at that time were obsessed about the Rebellion of 1798: their knowledge of it was mainly derived from the ballads of P. J. Mc Call and, for the more literate, the book written by Fr Patrick Kavanagh, the friar in Wexford. (who came, I think, from north Wexford). Fr Kavanagh depicted the Rebellion as the Catholic people fighting against religious persecution, to a great extent. A Christian Brother at Enniscorthy, dismayed at the slow progress of his classes in learning mathematics jibed that they could in Enniscorthy only remember Vinegar Hill and sometimes they did not remember that either. He was a Dublin man and is now in the heavenly mansions, God rest his soul.

I returned to the researching and writing of history in 1998 by examining the career and home (Boro Hill House, Ballymackessy) of Jeremiah Fitzhenry, a rebel leader in 1798 but after that I deliberately stayed away from further perusal of 1798 and Easter 1916—I felt that too many others had written on both subjects; subconsciously the jibe by the Christian Brother may have influenced me. His other influence on me was to make me curious about mathematics and at 45 years of age I embarked on two years formal study of the subject. Mathematics is logic and abstractions: I hope that my historiography is informed by an enhanced logic and ease with abstract thinking!

“Sir—I send you for the information of the readers of the Independent, a list of the Representatives of the County and Boroughs of Wexford, that sat in the Parliament, in the reign of Queen Anne, that enacted the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics of Ireland. Twelve of them voted that Papists should not be entrusted with any political power; nor should they be guardians to their own children, or keep a horse worth five pounds, &c, &c—two were absent and four were of a contrary opinion. Two of the latter were members for the Borough of Bannow, the ancestors of Thomas Boyse of Grange and Anthony Cliffe, esq., of Belview….

This was the opening part of a letter published in The Wexford Independent on the 29th of October 1836. The ancestor of Tom Boyse who voted against the penal laws was Nathaniel Boyse. The Cliffes would (apart from their estate at Belview) have been tenants of part of the Boyse estate—a map of it is online. The Cliffes were generally sympathetic to the Catholic community and they intermarried with the Carews of Castleboro.

The writer concluded by asserting that on the estates of the tolerant landlords, those who favoured religious and civil liberties one found:–

“the well clad, rosey cheeked children lisping the praises of a kind and generous benefactor—a grateful and happy tenantry, whose intellectual acquirements and example of morality are fast eradicating drunkenness and sloth, the handmaids of pauperism, from the neighbouring districts. Who has visited the estates of Mr Boyse, that will not subscribe to the above; nay more—on all his extensive possessions and (extensive they are) a single mendicant is not to be found.”

Tom Boyse abhorred both drunkenness and beggars. The impression from the above is that the tenants were obsequious to their landlord; they may have looked up to such powerful persons—maybe even saw their authority as part of the natural order. The Land League effected—or was affected by—a sea change in the mind-set of the peasantry as the latter felt an urge to cast off the shackles—as they now saw it—of landlordism.

At the hustings, the voter had to publicly declare who he was voting for; the vote was not registered until he did that. Women were not allowed to vote. The pressure would be on a tenant to vote for the candidate favoured by his landlord but they did not always do that. As a general rule the Catholic tenants voted for the Whig or Liberal candidates and the Established Church tenants voted for the Conservative candidates but there was a further division in that the Orange Order was sometimes represented in elections. Tom Boyse was disdainful of landlords interfering with the voter’s choice—on June 24 1835 the Wexford Independent reported:–

“Glorious Example For the Imitation of Landlords—Mr Boyse of Bannow

We are delighted to announce to our readers that that sterling patriot, Mr Boyse of Bannow, has left his tenantry to vote as they please at the present election. This (which we always expected) is as it should be and we pledge ourselves that this single act of Mr Boyse will endear him more to his grateful tenantry than all the flimsy theories of our would be liberal and conservative landlords would effect in half a century….”

In late November 1831 the organisers of a public dinner in New Ross, to Messrs Lambert and Walker, the representatives for the town and county of Wexford invited Tom Boyse to attend as a special guest of honour.

Writing from Bannow on December 1st, 1831 Tom Boyse explained that due to his health he did not usually travel from home and he regretted that he could not, therefore, attend. In part of the reply, he stated:–

“You are so good as to intimate I should be received with kindness at Ross; but in the most perfect singleness of soul, I repeat what I have one hundred times declared in public, that my public opinions and public conduct have never been regulated by the wish to court popular manifestations of applause. To deserve well of Ireland has ever been my anxious wish. I have during my whole life, identified myself with her cause; and I hope the day which sees me departed from it may be my last.”

The patriotism of Tom Boyse was genuine enough in his determination to work for the good of Ireland but he envisaged a free Ireland as bonded to the British Empire. He revered Queen Victoria. I think that the nationalism of John Redmond and his Parliamentary Party was in continuity, to a considerable extent, with that of Boyse. The new nationalism of the Irish Republican Brotherhood that led to the Easter Week Rebellion in 1916 was separatist: they sought to have an Irish Republic completely separated from Great Britain—I am not convinced that the Home Rule settlement pursued by John Redmond would have satisfied Pearse and the I. R. B.

From The Wexford Independent, December 12th 1860:–

“About thirty years back, when Farming Societies were in their infancy, the late Thomas Boyse—clarum et venerabile nomen [the resounding and venerable name, know your Latin]—with the cooperation of several landed proprietors, established one of those institutions in South Wexford, which proceeded in its laudable and useful mission for a few years, until at one of the meetings (we believe at Foulksmills) a member of the fleeting but disastrous confraternity of that day, called the Brunswick Club—God help poor Irishmen destined to be ever torn asunder by combinations of one class or another—gave a toast obnoxious to the Catholics and liberal Protestants present, and away went Berkshire pigs, green crops, Durham Bulls, cleanly homesteads and scientific tillage. The Secretary resigned in disgust—subscribers withheld their cash—and the Society fell asunder.”

The Secretary was, I presume, Tom Boyse. The Brunswick Clubs sought to arrest the decline of Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland and would have been allied—or acting parallel—to the Orange Order. They detested Tom Boyse and his liberal principles of civil and religious liberty. I think that they also disapproved of his support of the introduction of a Poor Law system to provide for the destitute. They were obnoxious and Tom Boyse had no tolerance of them.

An article in The Enniscorthy Guardian on June 24th 1933 claimed that an entry in the records of the Irish Linen Board stated, under date of April 7, 1819, there was an application from Samuel Boyse, Esq., for the grant of 30 wheels “for the benefit of the industrious poor in the parish of Bannow and Kilkevan, Co. Wexford.”

The People on May 15th 1886 reported under “Deaths”:–

“April 16th at Oakland, California, Mr Nicholas Ffrench, aged 76 years, “the young farmer of Bannow”, mentioned in a memoir of Thomas Moore, our greatest poet, by James Burke, Esq., A. B. B. l., who some 50 years ago, on the occasion of what Moore himself called “his triumphal entry into Bannow” read an address to the Bard from the inhabitants of that parish. He was the son of a rebel of ’98, the late Mr Laurence Ffrench, Farmhouse, Bannow.”

Nicholas Ffrench would not have been evicted from the family farm at Bannow; he would have gone to the United States in search of greater opportunity and I presume that Tom Boyse would have subsided his emigration. The Ffrenches were ever prosperous and in good standing with the Boyses. They were an excellent family.

The President of St Peter’s College who met Tom Moore at Bannow was Rev. John Sinnott

The Wexford Independent on September 19th 1838 carried this notice but I am at a loss to know exactly what it means:–

“The deputation of the game on the townlands of Grange, Ballymadder, Graige, Cullinstown, Coolseskin, Coolhull, Little Graige, Ballyfrory (?), Coolishall, Moor of Bannow, Two Newtowns, Kiltra, Grageen-buoy (?), Carrig, Danescastle, Blackhall, Haggard, Vernely, Upper Bannow and Lower Bannow, the property of Mr Boyse, having been given to me, I hereby caution all persons, not authorised, in writing by the proprietor, from sporting on said lands, on pain of being prosecuted, as the law directs.

Roger Sweetman

Kiltra Cottage, 19th September 1838.”

From the Bannow and District noted in the Enniscorthy Guardian, the 18th of May 1957:–

“Mumming—The Bannow Mummers travelled to Rosslare on Sunday night to take part in the national junior mumming competition. They gave a very fine display and won the first prize which consisted of a trophy and a set of medal and received the highest praise from the judges for their very fine performance. They will, also, take part in the senior competition. Members of the set are:–Mick Coller (captain), Peter Dyce, John Carthy, Thomas Walsh, Sean Carthy, Jack Foley, James Foley, Mick Monaghan, Sean Dunphy, Jimmy Kelly, Patrick White, and Thomas Ryan.”

From The Wexford Herald 13th of May 1829:–

“Some nights since three deal trees were cut down and carried off that part of the lands of Kiltra, in the possession of William Marchant, Esq. Mr Marchant has offered a reward for the prosecution of the persons concerned in this wanton outrage, which we trust will lead to their detection.”

Mr Marchant lived at Kiltra House.

From The Wexford Independent September 24th 1859:–

“September 19, in Paris, at the early age of 36, to the inexpressible grief of his sorrowing parents of his sorrowing parents and widow, Augustus Freeman Boyse Esq., only child of our estimable friend, the Rev. Richard Boyse of Halkin Street, West, Belgrave Square, London and Bannow House, county Wexford; and nephew of the late lamented Thomas Boyse, one of the most gifted and honest Patriots of the age in which he lived and on which he shed so bright a lustre.

According to The Free Press on October 18th 1963:–

“A foundation stone of a tower intended to commemorate the poet’s [Tom Moore] visit was laid by him but the tower was never erected and the site where the stone was ceremoniously put into position is unknown.” The date of the visit in that article was wrongly given as September 1835; Moore was there is August.

The Slaney Club Band was formed in Wexford in circa March 1832; they led the parade of Tom Moore and the people in August 1835 during his visit to Bannow.

I quote from John C. Tuomy (who else?):–

“Anna Maria Hall Carr, died 26th July 1815, aged 56 years.

This lady was the grandmother of Mrs S. C. Hall, the authoress and, I am sorry to say, caricaturist of the Irish peasantry. As Miss Fielding, Mrs Hall and her family are kindly remembered here, but as Mrs Hall the “bookmaker” she has attained an unenviable notoriety with the simple and honest peasantry with whom she spent the happiest portion of her life—her early youth. This lady has shamefully borne “false witness” against the manners and customs of the Irish people, and against none more so than against her native parish, Bannow.”

I think that Mr Tuomy is both harsh and inaccurate in these strident comments but I will let him continue:–

“I could never discover here anything like a truthful original for any of her sketches, but one, and from this one she must have painted all her caricatures. There is an old and idiotic beggarman, Tom Grant, who has travelled backwards and forwards through this district for the last twenty-five or thirty years. This “natural” has his fingers covered over with brass rings; his old coat, in like manner, with large brass buttons and frequently, two hats on his head, and a third in his hand. He is decidedly a harmless simpleton and decked out in all the ridiculous tom-foolery imaginable. His language is pretty similar to that which Mrs S. C. Hall put into the mouths of our people. “My lady” and all the other expressions, with which she has gulled her English and, I fear, many of her Irish readers are quite “on the top of his tongue.”

One aspect of Tuomy’s criticism is correct: Mrs Hall wrote for the entertainment of her—largely gentry and aristocratic—readership—she was not particular about fact or chronology. In that context, I believe that the story of Colclough bringing a team of hurlers to England must be regarded with considerable caution and the gusto with which so many have recounted this story depresses me! Every historical document must be analysed and deliberated on: in the Colclough story, every detail is taken literally and perhaps, dogmatically. Most of those who now tell the story do not connect it with Mrs Hall but that is where it came from.