Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, everybody’s favourite historian and the. historian supreme; the boy from, beside the mine pits, the place of silver which plus gold has always been the only appropriate award for the Barrystown children. Do I need to recite my attributes—genius, grandiloquent, eloquent, inspiring, inspired, original, innovative, charismatic, charming, a right  boyo, blessed among the women, like Dan O’Connell and Jack Kennedy and…Tom Moore the poet! Above all else, wily, that wily boy….A trainor of hurling teams, a marathon runner, a prize winner at reciting poetry, a gifted gardener….

May I put on record my appreciation of the wonderful support given by the staff of Wexford Library to those studying the history of the Co. Wexford in general and of Mr Michael Dempsey, in particular? Mr Dempsey goes to exhaustive lengths to procure all kinds of information, especially that online.

According to the Ph. D. thesis of Mr Henry Goff, Nathaniel Boyse was born in 1640, the son of John Boyse of Mullaghterry, CountyTyrone. I thought that he came from Dublin but Mr Goff’s thesis is marked by extensive research and sound reasoning so I have no doubt that he is correct. Boyse in his will expressed a desire to be buried in Enniscorthy, according the thesis of Mr Goff. The thesis is well worth reading in its entirety; there is a typescript copy in the Wexford Library.

It is clear from ancient documents that the Boyses had owned the Moor of Bannow from at least 1703 and I am nigh sure from the time Bannow was first granted to them. Tom Boyse did not inveigle the inhabitants of the Moor to become his tenants and surrender their natural rights to the Moor—as he had no need to; his family owned the Moor of Bannow or Commons of Bannow as it is called in the ancient documents from a long time back. The charge of a sleight off hand over the Moor seriously wronged him and his father Sam Boyse.

From The People January 30th 1864:–

“A Friend in Need”

To The Editor of The People

Sir—In your last issue appears an article headed as the above, well calculated to create a false impression regarding charity and its administration in Bannow—may I therefore ask you to give insertion to a few remarks, which will serve to throw a little light on the matter? In the first place your correspondent says:–“I am solicited on behalf of the poor of Bannow to request that you would present in your next issue, their most grateful thanks to the Rev. Mr Boyse, for his humane supply of blankets and flannel for the last four winters.” Your correspondent, a would be aristocrat, I presume, from the “solicitations” lavished on him, disclaims all connection “with the poor of Bannow” though you’ll find hereafter he admits being a participator in the spoils:–he merely announces Mr Boyses’ generous and meritorious act, in having bestowed a humane supply (everything in Bannow is humane) of blankets and flannel for the last four winters. But that is not all. He wished to make known to the public that he is—what most are already aware of—the paid but thankless scribe of Bannow. He (correspondent) acknowledges himself a recipient of “Mr Boyse’s private generosity during his summer residence in Bannow.” Can anything be plainer? Yet your correspondent does not think so—he proceeds further—he is willing to render himself intelligible to all and, therefore, to crown the climax, he concludes by subscribing himself “A partaker of blankets, flannels and all”! It would have been much better had your correspondent remained silent on this matter—for what charity is in Bannow is too well known to need comment. The parties benefited feel grateful, I’m sure, to Mr Boyse, for his generosity in supplying them with warm clothing, but you may rely on it that the poor and needy think and feel otherwise, that is, if the subject is worthy of their consideration at all.

A Bannow Diogenes”

The identity of the writer of the above is difficult to determine. John C. Tuomy the great idoliser of Tom Boyse spent each summer in Bannow and wrote missives in profuse praise of Mr Boyse to the Wexford Independent over two decades, I estimate. But I have two problems in concluding that he wrote the above letter. The first is that of his longevity: could he still be alive and bounding with energy in 1864? The other problem is that John C. Tuomy was both a schoolmaster in Taghmon and a landlord of wretched houses in the village of Taghmon and hardly pinched for money to buy blankets and flannels; the latter were possibly trousers. In the original letter, he disclaimed all connection with the poor of Bannow so my assumption is that it is Mr Tuomy. I am not sure if the Rev. Richard Boyse, the brother of Tom Boyse, who succeeded to the Bannow estate would have felt comfortable with the letter written by Diogenes: one does not boast of giving a comparatively small amount of charity, certainly not a Christian clergyman—it would seem unsavoury and bad taste to do so.

On February 6th in The People, Veritas answered Diogenes:–

“A Bannow Diogenes

To The Editor of The People

“Sir—There appeared in your last issue an article signed as above. It proposes to present you with a peculiar mode of showing light that baffles Solomon’s optics. He describes his ingenious invention by assailing my character as being deputed to make false impressions, a would be aristocrat, a paid scribe, &., &.,–all this without a shadow of proof but the mere issue of a vicious, hollow brain. Now, Mr Editor, I appeal to your impartial judgement and that of the public. Is it just if the Bannow officials displeased “Diogenes” or his friend—is that a just pretext to rob me and the other poor class in Bannow of their only means of paying a debt of gratitude to the donor of comfort both day and night? Had not “Diogenes” so unfoundedly calumniated me as he did, I would not have so long trespassed on your valuable space. He did not think a poor man in Bannow would have refuted his giddy, vain and groundless assertions. He knows me not as the writer of the article alluded to but I know him well and know him for what he is worth.


John C. Tuomy, as a literary type of writer, assumed a variety of personae: on one occasion, he posed as the soul of the old castle in Taghmon; he regularly called himself “Rambler” in letters to The Wexford Independent”. Writing as “Veritas” in the controversy about the Moor of Bannow he gave his abode, for over sixty years, as the KeeraghIslands. I am assuming that he is these letters posing as one of the Bannow poor (with whom he disclaimed connection).

It was customary for landlords to provide blankets, flannels, underwear and firing (coal and firewood) to the poor people on their estates at Christmas time but the amount of succour distributed, on a once off basis annually, would be seriously inadequate to meet the intimidating needs of these impoverished people.

On the 24th of March 1864 The People reported:–

“Death of a Miser—Tom Grant, a well-known mendicant in Bargy, died suddenly on Wednesday night, at Mr Doyle’s, Kilcayan (sic). It is said more than thirty “yellow” sovereigns were found safely deposited on his person, though in life he never indulged even in the common luxury of shoes. His costume generally consisted of a large frieze coat, confined tightly by a leather belt round the waist, a cap or hat usually ornamented with a large bunch of ribbons, of various colours and a lash in hand to prevent wicked youths from cultivating too near an acquaintance.”

The above would be a great story, if it were true! On the 2nd of April 1864 the People corrected its earlier report:–

“Death of a Miser—With regard to the paragraph under this heading in our last issue, we understand that our correspondent was misinformed and that in reality Tom Grant died not worth a penny and that it was by the charity of Mr Michael Doyle, Kilkavan, that he was buried.”

I have found it difficult to write on the Land League despite the ample evidence in The People newspaper; my fear is that I will (despite my best intentions) stir anew some old feuds, remembrance of cruel deeds and/or accusations of treachery.

In the summer of 1891, in early June, evictions were carried on the Leigh estate in the village of Clongeen and Ballylannon. The People, the newspaper representing the Land League, reported these evictions in graphic and piteous details and imagery. One of those evicted was young John Neville of Ballylannon “who a couple of years ago married the widow of a blacksmith named Busher.” The report added:–

“He held one acre of land and for this solitary acre, because his predecessor happened to build a forge on the little place to try and earn his bread, the landlord received a rent £10 per annum….The tenant finding himself unable to pay his rent put his case into the Land Court but the application to have a fair rent fixed was dismissed on the grounds that the farm was not an agricultural farm.” Reading between the lines, I conjecture that John Neville, a young man, married the widow Busher and operated the forge built by Busher, the deceased husband of the widow woman. In November 1884 the Carrig-on-Bannow branch of the Land League passed a motion praising Busher, the smith of Ballylannon: the indications, then, are that Busher, in the interim, had departed from earthly life. Mr Leigh was given as having 8, 800 acres. A man named William Neill was evicted from his miserable hovel at Clongeen village: this was pure pathos, as Neil’s wife had just died leaving behind a half dozen of soft children. A neighbour gave Neill shelter for himself and his family in the village of Clongeen.

The Rev. William Hickey, the rector of Bannow 1820 -26 wrote:–

“There are faint indications of a street near the old churchyard, which, with the walls of the Church, are on an elevation of about thirty feet above the sea shore. The ruins of the church are unquestionably more modern than those in a field at no great distance, which are, probably, the remains of what was once a sacred edifice of much older date.”

The Rev. Hickey was, ever, revolted by abject human misery. He told his distinguished audience, at The Royal Dublin Society in 1860, that “discomforts” was too mild an expression to describe conditions in the labourer’s household. The objects of his solicitude [the farm labourers] were “the most powerless, destitute, and least cared for class of our community.” This subject had occupied his attention during the many years of a long life (he still had 15 to go!).

The People on Wednesday February 23rd 1887 reported on the series of Football Contests for the Inter-CountyChampionship at Forthside:–

“Ballymitty v Glenbrien

Ballymitty—(green and white)—John Neville (Captain), John Kane (goal-keeper), John Byrne, John Browne, James Coghlan, James Furlong, Patrick Browne, Michael Grady, Adam Colothan, Andrew Hanlon, James Colfer, Thomas Neville, John Murphy, Moses Sullivan, Thomas Harpur, John Browne, Thomas Galavan, Matthew White, John Kane, James Walsh, Andrew Carthy….

Scarcely had play commenced when Ballymitty rushed the ball through the goal and soon gave evidence of being the better team. As sides were changed, a very heavy scrimmage ensued and a gigantic effort was made by Glenbrien for a goal, but they were unsuccessful. The scores were—Ballymitty, 1 goal, 2 points and 2 forfeit points; Glenbrien.

An obvious problem of the Poor Law Unions building the new labourers’ cottages was the frequent inability of the tenants to pay the rent; on rare occasion the relevant Board of Guardians found itself acting like the “leveller Leigh” (or at least like the demonised persona that landlord had in Land League propaganda) as in this report of a meeting of the Wexford Board of Guardians in late May 1889:–

“The Cottage at Ballymitty

The Clerk—Mr Dillon attended at Ballymitty on Tuesday and got possession of the house from C–.We had to throw out all the furniture, as the tenant gave us all the opposition he could. I gave Mr Dillon directions to nail down the windows and to lock the door and put a padlock on it. I suppose we will advertise for a tenant at once.

Ordered accordingly.”

The above is a sad and disturbing story.

From The Free Press the 4th of January 1941:-

“A Regretted Departure—The departure of Mr Thomas Butler N. T. to take up an appointment as principal teacher in Cushinstown National School, in succession to Mr M. Murphy N. T., who has retired on pension, has caused general regret in Tullicanna, where he has been teaching for some years past. Mr Butler was very popular with pupils and parents in Tullicanna as his genial and unassuming disposition was much appreciated. Many hearty congratulations and good wishes for success in his new appointment have been extended to him.

A New Appointment—Mr John Dillon N. T., son of the late Mr Richard Dillon, Harpoonstown, Bridgetown, has been appointed principal of TullicannaNationalSchool in succession to Mr T. Butler N. T. For some years past Mr Dillon has been principal of BallyroebuckNationalSchool, near Ferns. He, like Mr Butler, is a G. A. A. enthusiast with the St Anne’s Club in the championship.”

From The People the 1st of February 1890:–


On the 23rd ult., at Carrig-on-Bannow, Dr Cardiff, held an inquest on the body of an old man named John Carroll, who was found expiring on his own threshold the previous day. Verdict—Death from natural causes.”

From The Free Press the 2nd of December 1960:–

“Eight Titles in a row—Making it eight titles in a row, Peter Tobin, a native of Ballymity, has set a record in Gaelic Football and Hurling. He has just completed his eight championship win when he annexed a Warwickshire County Championship medal in senior hurling. Playing for his present club, St Chad’s, Birmingham, he gave his usual brilliant display. Better known for his football ability in the playing fields of CountyWexford, he is sorely missed by his local club, as is, also, his brother Rich. Their loss, with that of Aidan Mc Cormick, is keenly felt in their local club, Ballymitty.”

The statistics of the above puzzles me! The superb Peter Tobin left the army in 1958 and emigrated to England; by 1960 he was only two years in England. A man of small stature, he was described to me by the late Jim Byrne as a wizard.

From The People the 5th of February 1890:–


Dr Boyd reported six defaulters in Bannow; two were unfit for vaccination.”

On June 24th 1846 The Wexford Independent published this missive:–

“You will feel pleasure in learning that a generous contribution to the Taghmon Relief Fun has been received from Thomas Boyse, Esq., Bannow, through his agent, Mr Dillon, by whom it has been transmitted to the Rev. Mr Scallen. This act of Mr Boyse is exceedingly generous, as he has not any property in this district. Would that many of the landed proprietors, who as yet have not even answered the Secretary’s circular, should follow his example. I hope such noble conduct as that of Mr Thomas Boyse will stimulate them. A great many of our respectable farmers have not as yet subscribed—many of them declining under the plea that so much public works are going on was will ruin them. Now that the period for repayment is extended to ten years, I hope they will act more liberally. The Committee have reduced the price of Indian meal to all poor persons to 10 pence per stone; and now that so many public works are to commence immediately, I expect, there will not be an unemployed labourer in the district.”

I have no doubt that John C. Tuomy wrote the above letter and I have, equally, no doubt that Mr Tuomy put enormous pressure on Tom Boyse to subscribe. John C. Tuomy was, forever, sending circulars seeking money for his myriad of causes to local people; he usually got very few answers—a matter that left him angry.

During the Famine the British Government advanced loans to the Grand Juries to spend on roads, bridges and possibly drainage. These loans were to be repaid by increased cess in various baronies. On the 29th of April 1846 a Presentment Session for the barony of Bargy had before it a proposition to:

“15.—To build a protecting wall on the road leading from Wexford to Bannow between the mines of Barristown [Barrystown] and the bridge of Kiltrea (sic), not to exceed £330.”

From The Free Press April 26 1952:–

“A well known farmer in the Harristown district of Ballymitty made a mistake last week which left him in a dilemma. He had obtained a supply of cement to do some building and some fertilizers to manure his crop, all of course now issued in paper bags. Being in a hurry to get in his potatoes he was rather rushed, but what was his chagrin when he discovered that he had sown his cement in the drills instead of the potato manure.”

The People on February 4th 1905 carried an extract from an article of Fr L. C. P. Fox O. M. I. “Reminiscences of Many Years of Missionary Life” in “Donahoe’s Magazine” “in which he refers to a mission which he gave in Ballymitty, County Wexford:–

“Amongst the rural missions in which I took part from time to time, none were more successful than those which were preached to the faithful and patriotic Catholics of Wexford. In Ballymitty the pastor, who was a zealous but eccentric man, had just built a new chapel and he determined to inaugurate its opening by a mission. Among his other peculiarities, he would not have a single window made so that it could be opened, “for” said he, “if the worshippers only minded their prayers they would not care for too much bodily heat, or too little fresh air.” The result was that at the very first Mass while I was preaching, first one and then another fainted away. Each one was carried to the sacristy where the excellent parish priest gave a glass of wine to every sufferer. In this way he employed no fewer than three bottles of the altar wine. Dreading that these fainting fits would become contagious, especially with the prospect of a glass of good wine to help to bring them round again, I announced in the evening that anyone who felt that an attack of weakness was coming on should retire at once, without disturbing the congregation and that the pastor would give them a glass of water, as he could not afford to dispense any more wine. But this was not the only device which I adopted to check these attacks and their consequent disturbance. I engaged two young men to provide themselves with long sticks and before the people assembled for the evening service, I went with them all round the chapel and directed them to smash half a dozen small panes of glass, in each of the tall windows. The remedy was extreme but it was effectual, for not a single case of fainting occurred from that time till the close of the mission.

In the same parish there abode an excellent family of the name of Crane [at Barrystown]. We went to pay a visit to the old lady, who presided over them. The only member of her family who was 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 son and said to me:–

“Father, I have given five of my sons to St Augustine but I would like to give this, my youngest son, to the Blessed Virgin. Will you have him?” I accepted the offer without hesitation and never had cause to regret so valuable 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 at 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 from doing so 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 state that the only sister of the Friars became a Carmelite nun. ”

The People added inter alia that it is “a remarkable fact that Father Pat Crane O. S. A., the eldest of the family, christened his youngest brother, Father Nicholas.”

The People article, also, related:–

“The old P. P. to whom Father Fox refers as having built BallymittyChurch was the lamented Very Rev. Peter Corish P. P. Chancellor of Ferns, a member of a well known family at Lough and Ballyowen, whose kinsfolk for many generations lie interred in the old Church of Bannow. His uncle, another P. P. built the parish church of Kilmore but he is not interred there. His remains rest in the family tomb in Bannow graveyard.”

The puzzling aspect of all of the above was the paradigm of parents giving their children to the priesthood and other forms of religious life: not alone could a parent legally and morally have such a right but would such a vocation be genuine?