Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, innovative, inspired and inspiring, blessed among women, a right boyo, historian supreme, scholarly, erudite, florist extraordinary, modest, bashful, self-effacing but if it is true it ain’t bragging. As I always say, one of the wiliest of them all, that wily boy from beside the mine pits; gold and silver for the Barrystown children.
The Journal of the Taghmon Historical Society is published on Friday night April 1st at Taghmon. I have an article in it on Reville of Coolaw who circa 1817 had an illicit distillery under-ground and connected to the fire-place in his home! It would be virtually impossible to detect.
My birthday is on the 22nd of April and I presume that my legions of readers and admirers and followers will ply me with a cornucopia of presents and tributes. On Tuesday night May 3rd, at 8.30pm in Clonroche Community Centre I will lecture on “Patrick Pearse and the Easter Rebellion in the context of World War I” The lecture had a cornucopia of original ideas and insights, refers to a vast range of latter day scholarship and corrects some of the common mistakes in the historiography of the Irish revolution. I have anguished over the details for the past six months. I wrote a short thesis on the affinity between the new nationalism of 1916 and the Catholic aspirations of Irish society in the summer of 1973. These issues have haunted me ever since. Anybody who respects himself or herself will be at my lecture. The celebrations of my birthday will end on the night of my lecture.
I am unsure, despite a few re-readings of that chapter in Robert Brennan’s book, of the exact day but I think that it is Thursday of Easter Week 1916; the Volunteers at Enniscorthy came out in revolt on that day so I chance that as the day and will quote Robert Brennan:–
“All that long dreary rainy day the boys kept coming in from all over South Wexford. The Rathangan and the Bannow men had cycled some fifteen miles in the drenching downpour. As soon as they arrived, they collected carts and horses from the neighbouring farms for the march to Enniscorthy and there was only one case where there was an unwillingness to give.”
The image of men going long distances on bicycles does seem a hundred years ago, although in my childhood many or most people went about by bicycle. I rode a bicycle to the Enniscorthy Christian Brothers School from September 1965 to April 1967 until under the Donagh O’Malley “free education” plan buses were provided to bring us to school. During the 50th Commemoration of the Easter Rebellion the phrase about cherishing all the children of the nation equally was relied on to assert the prospect of free secondary education and in 1968, a system of University Grants was introduced. A minority of us at school in Enniscorthy felt that if we did not go to university that our lives would be seriously deficient. We would go through hell fire and floods to get there and do that. We may not have been fully prepared for the challenge of third level education, coming often from a culture where academic learning was not generally sought after; where youngsters on reaching 14 years of age or even sooner, had to seek work, simply for material and economic reasons. We had learned by rote or memory work at school; in fairness to the Christian Brothers they had no choice but to proceed that way, as their pupils were traditionally from the poorer classes and homes without much intellectual stimulation. I said in my interview for the oral history project of the Wexford Library that in my time there seemed to be a disposition among the school-children opposed to learning and focussed, as a former school-mate told me, on getting to fourteen years of age and leaving school. In October 1970 the ancient Irish history scholar Professor John Francis Byrne wrote at the end of my essay that I was highly intelligent but that my diction—my range of words, vocabulary—could be extended. In late 1972 Professor Pat O’Farrell of Sydney—then teaching for a year in U. C. D.—spoke of certain men, such as the Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia in 1917 who believed that their lives could not be properly lived unless they fought for and participated in revolution. He thought that men and women who fought in Easter Week 1916 or during the War of Independence were of a kind who lived for the experience of staging a revolution.
The local branch of the United Irish League met at Carrig on the first Sunday in July 1916 and it passed this resolution:–
“That we have the fullest confidence in Mr John Redmond and the Irish Party to guard the interests of Ireland in the present crisis, as they have done in the past and although we regret that any part of Ireland should be excluded from Home Rule even for a time, we still have the fullest confidence that the Irish Party will guard the interests of the excluded counties and fight the battle of Ireland; a nation, one and undivided. We strongly condemn the unfair criticism of certain newspapers and parties who are always fault finding while doing nothing themselves to forward anything for the good of the country.”
They were representative of the local community but exceedingly optimistic: the Rebellion of Easter 1916 had effectively ended the Irish Party as a major force in Irish life. Still, it was good to expect the best; if you like a reversal of Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong)!
At the Duncormack Petty Sessions in April 1916 “Nicholas – of Kilmore Quay prosecuted Jerry M- — for trespass on Ballyteigue burrow and taking two rabbits therefrom. Mr –stated that he had taken over the Ballyteigue burrow for the rabbit trapping and the defendant had been caught there by his trapper. Defendant was a native of Waterford and was, at present, engaged at the work of removing the wreck of the Mexico from the Keeragh Island. He was the driver of a motor boat. Mr –said he did not want to press the case; he only wanted to warn others against this practice of taking rabbits from off the burrow, as a lot of this kind of work had been carried on lately.
A fine of 10 shillings with 3 shillings and 6 pence costs was imposed.”
The burrow of Ballyteigue abounded with rabbits, and were exported by the owners of the burrow (or whoever it was leased to). 1916 truly belonged to another time.
The Bannow and District Notes in The People on September 16th 1950 related:–
“Mr Walter M’Donald, an old and respected resident, who lived alone at Tailers Lane, Ballyfrory, passed away rather unexpectedly last week. He spent much of his earlier days in U. S. A. He was predeceased by his wife over 20 years ago.
Hurling—Following the good example of the cailini of the district in forming a camogie Club, the young men are now set on organising a hurling club. Hurleys have been procured and Mr John White, Farm House, has given a field for practise. The parish, around the 18th century, had a great hurling tradition. A field in the locality is known to the present day as the hurling green….”
The editor of The People on June 21st 1873 reported that another of these priests who may be truly called the lux mundi et sal terae of the diocese of Ferns “has passed from among us.”
The report stated:–“ The Very Rev. Peter Corish P. P. of Bannow and Ballymitty and Chancellor of this diocese, died at the Parochial House, Ballymitty, on Monday last, the 16th of June, in the 88th year of his age, the 61st of his priesthood and 43rd of his pastoral charge.” The place of the death of Fr Corish is puzzling, nigh confounding. A row at the time of his appointment obliged him to live at Ballymitty rather than at Carrig. The report continued:–“Born of a highly respectable family in the district of which he died the worthy pastor about the year 1785,….” The inexactness of the date of his birth is surprising and an indication of the unreliability of ages for that era. The report continued:–
“Manifesting in his youth an inclination for the Sacred Ministry, which at the time presented little else than danger, his parents gave him the best education which the unhappy era afforded. Having acquired a knowledge of the Latin and Greek rudiments he was sent to the Protestant Diocesan School of Wexford, then kept by Mr Behan. Indeed, it may be said that most of the old priests of the diocese were prepared for their higher studies in Mr Behan’s establishment. From this Mr Corish passed to Carlow College, where he commenced and finished his theological studies and was ordained in the year 1812 by the Right Rev. Dr Ryan, attended by the late Dr Murphy. The friendship then formed with the latter was as deep as it was lasting—ending only with the tomb.”
His first appointment was in The Hook where he ministered for eight years; from there he was, in 1820, removed to Gorey and in 1830, on the death of Fr Edward Murphy—the basis of Father Martin in one of Anna Maria Hall’s stories—he was appointed Parish Priest of Carrig-on-Bannow.
The obituary is remarkable not for what it tells of Fr Corish but for what it leaves out—the two major controversies of his life. The first was in Gorey where an Established Church or Protestant clergyman, the Rev. Mr Webb (if I recollect rightly) in a letter to the Wexford Herald charged that Fr Corish threatened a young servant girl, then close to death, that he would not give her the Sacrament of the Dying—Extreme Unction, as they called it in the school at Danescastle—unless she paid him a fee. I believe that this was a false and malicious charge, made in an era when some unsavoury disputes arose between Protestant and Catholic clergy. Fr Corish in incandescent letters to the Wexford Herald absolutely denied the charge made against him.
The second controversy I am not well informed on: when Fr Corish was appointed Parish Priest of Carrig-on-Bannow the local people, as I understand it, wanted a priest already serving in the parish to become Parish Priest; so he stayed at Carrig and Fr Corish lived at Ballymitty.
From The People February 28th 1953:–
“CLEARING AT BIG REDUCTIONS
From 1/3 per dozen
Mens’ shirts from 10/-
Boys’ shirts, jerseys and pants, from —5/-
Clearing lines in ladies shoes from –12/6
S. M. KENNY
Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford.”
From The Bannow and District Notes in The People on May 23rd 1953:–
“The Storm—One of the most severe storms ever experienced in May took place over the district last week end, causing severe damage to crops in exposed places along the sea-board. Early corn had a severe set-back, being burned and blackened by the sea wind, while the early potato crop was battered and broken by the westerly gales. Farmers are hoping that fine, mild, moist conditions will return to offset the damage done. The tides were the highest ever for the time of the year.”
In November 1890 (as related by The People November 8th 1890), Major Boyse, Bannow House, sought to eject William Rochford, senior, for William Rochford and others, from the lands of Danescastle, on the grounds of over-holding. Mr Corvan B. L. appeared for the landlord. Mr Wakely B. L. (instructed by Mr Healy) appeared for the tenant. Mr Walker, the agent, proved that the premises were held under a lease and for which he received rent, until the lease was out and then he refused the rent, as he wanted possession of the place. Mr Wakely raised a point that under the 21st section of the Land Act of 1887, that at the expiration of the lease, the tenant was a yearly tenant and could not be proceeded against, without the service of a notice to quit. Mr Corvan contended that the tenant had sub-let the place and had thus deprived himself of the benefits of a yearly tenant. Mr Wakely rejoined that the sub-letting was carried out with the consent and knowledge of the landlord and that such sub-letting was trivial.
William Rochford said that Major Boyse was aware all along of these sub-tenants, as he had paid the rent for some of them; a woman named Mackelroy was there and she owed me some rent and he sent his agent, Mr Edwards, to pay for it. There was another sub-tenant, named Dunne and Major Boyse was aware of the fact that he was tenant. Mr Edwards, the late agent, was aware of it and was often down at the place.
In reply to Mr Corvan, William Rochford said that Mr Edwards, agent to Mr Boyse, paid him the rent for this woman “and that Major Boyse sent him with it.” Mr Corvan said that this was evidence about a dead man and Mr Wakely riposted—“Are you going to produce Major Boyse; he is not dead?” (the court burst into laughter).
Mr Corvan said that they would produce Major Boyse except that he was in London. Mr Rochford further stated that there was a tenant named Kane who held a statute acre and another tenant named Colfer who held a house. The judge said he was afraid he should adjourn the case until the following morning; Mr Wakely again referred to the absence of Major Boyse—he knew most about the place. Mr Walker stated that he was in London with a broken leg. The judge concluded:–“I think the case will turn very much on the point as to whether the sub-letting is trivial or not. I will give my decision in the morning.”
Sub-tenants were tenants of another tenant: on a farm, the farmer might have leased part of his farm to under tenants, usually on small patches of land. The authorities and the landlords did their utmost to discourage sub-letting and most leases make it a breach of the lease to take on sub-tenants. But in a country burgeoning with population, they were taken on. The judge gave his decision against Mr Rochford, a judicially correct decision but in terms of ordinary morality and ethics, very unfair. If Rochford did not have these sub-tenants, he would have become a yearly tenant, under the 1887 Act. The apparently incredible story told by Mr Rochford in court that Mr Edwards, the agent to the Boyse estate, paid the rents for the sub-tenants of William Rochford is more credible if one discerns a cute motive there: if Rochford evicted his sub-tenants for non-payment of rent, then—once his own lease ran out—he would be entitled to a yearly lease. The probability of sub-tenants paying rent was ever low: if Major Boyse paid the rents for them that would give an appearance of these as genuine tenants or sub-tenants. If their rents were never paid, then the courts might merely regard them as permissive trespassers or squatters. And Mr Rochford could become a yearly tenant.
The People on August 8th 1891 had an account of an eviction at Bannow:–
“On Monday last some evictions were carried out in Bannow on the estate of Major Boyse. It appears the leases under which the tenants on a certain townland held their holdings expired in the beginning of 1890. Ejectments for over-holding were served by the landlord on all the tenants and with one exception, they allowed judgement to go by default. Major Boyse then entered into new agreements with the tenants, raising their rents in nearly all cases.”
Usually the rent on a lease remained the same for the entire duration of the lease, which could be for a period of years, say 21 years or for a life or lives, say the life of Mr White of Bannow House or the life of Parnell. At the expiry of the lease, the landlord could simply renew the lease in which case the old rent would still obtain. It a new lease was negotiated, then a raised rent could be inserted. We will let The People continue its story:–
“The one exception mentioned was Mr William Rochford who defended the ejectment brought against him. Mr Rochford’s holding contained about ten acres, held under a lease for 90 years, at the yearly rent of £5. When the first rent became due after the expiration of the lease, Mr Rochford tendered it as usual but it would not be accepted. Major Boyse wanted possession of the land, though not a penny was due by the tenant. The ejectment came before the County Court Judge and afterwards before Judge O’Brien at Assize, the result being that as there was an under-tenant, who held a house and about an acre of the land for many years, the Judge decided that it was not a present tenancy and the ejectment decree was put in force on Monday last.”
This part of the story puts Major Boyse in a slightly better light: if Mr Rochford had agreed to make a new lease, then Major Boyse would not have proceeded against him. The rent was very slight: was this a holding on the Moor, especially given the long lease involved; however this lease would have been made in 1800, before the Boyses came to Bannow. It does look as if it was very poor land, akin to that of the Moor. The original rents on the Moor were about 2 shillings and 6 pence plus. The People described the eviction scene with pathos:–
“None of the public were present. No one knew at what time the eviction would be carried out. Mr Walker, the agent, Pierse, his clerk, and D—the Taghmon bailiff, with an assistant put in an appearance and evicted Mr Rochford, Michael Colfer and wife, Mary Kearns, Thomas Keane, with four in family and John Wallace, his wife and two children, all cottiers. The latter two were re-admitted as caretakers. Wallace and his family have been evicted twice in six months, first by Mr Sheppard of Ballygow, from a holding that was reclaimed from a knock into a state of cultivation by Wallace, who paid for fifty years four times the valuation. He offered double the valuation or to leave the matter to arbitration which was proposed by Mr Sharpe who afterwards went back of it. This appears to be an opportune time for landlords to vent their vengeance on those who took an active part in the agitation” A man from Carrig was put in as caretaker of the farm. There was no branch of the Land League or whatever its current name was. William Rochford was an extensive builder.