Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, kind, obliging, modest, self-effacing, innovative, inspiring and inspired, original, daring, eloquent, grandiloquent, articulate, erudite, scholarly, a right boyo, blessed among the women (as St Kevin of Kilkevan prophesised) and above all else—wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits.

The Wexford Evening Post on the 16th of May 1826 carried an article by Anna Maria Hall in which, via an elderly Tintern man, she related the story of Colclough of Tintern bringing a hurling team to England to play before the King. They wore yellow handkerchiefs around their middles and every now and then the King and Queen would shout out—“Hurra for the yellow bellies.” Like any other story by Mrs Hall it is, probably, a juggling of fact and fiction and coated over by romanticism and sentimentality. My particular interest is in the game organised by Colclough before he went; he had a contest of the Scarroghs and Beany Bags and picked the best twenty-one men from them. Mrs Hall has a footnote to the appellation, Scarroghs:–

“Those who live to the south of the scar of Barrystown are called Scarroghs, sometimes by way of contempt. The word seems, however, compounded of Scar, a separation and rough, the best; which would imply superiority. The people of the baronies of Forth and Bargy are called Beany Bags, because they are the only people in Ireland who cultivate beans, a practice which their neighbours would do well to imitate. The Scarroghs and the Beany Bags are, however, implacable enemies.”

My lecture on hurling on Tuesday night September 29th at Clonroche Community Centre will deal, inter alia, with these olden hurling matches and the elements of similarity—where such applies—between them.

Mrs Hall omits to tell who won the hurling contest between the Scarroghs and the Beany Bags but one may assume, without fear of contradiction, which the Scarroghs won. Mrs Hall wished to be tactful with the Beany Bags! It was ever gold and silver for the Barrystown children, even, those living south of it!

In 1848 the Young Ireland movement attempted a Rebellion; it was a farcical and pathetic event, led by the hapless William Smith O’Brien. The 1848 Rebellion—an Irish variant of violent revolutionary occurrences on mainland Europe—occurred in Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary—and finished as a silly affray in the Widow Mc Cormack’s garden—why I don’t know! The Young Ireland movement had differed with the Liberator Dan O’Connell on the basic issue of using violence or revolutionary physical force. Dan O’Connell asserted that the freeing of Ireland was not worth the shedding of one drop of human blood but recent historiography is suggesting that O’Connell’s opposition to physical force was, also, guided, in part at least, by practical calculations: he believed that an insurrection had no realistic chance of success—Tom Boyse argued along similar lines. The latter once remarked that a rebellion would only suit those who would be paid to put it down. These observations are explanatory to a letter that appeared in The Wexford Independent on the 15th of October 1864. The writer in dubbing himself “An Old Irelander” is intending to reverse the priorities of the Young Ireland movement and in that manner to poke fun at them. He is from Graigue where Tom Boyse had an estate so maybe he would say charming things about the Bannow proprietor! I am interested in his calling Mr Boyse “Tom Boyse”; another writer thirty years before observed that the name “Tom Boyse” was an eulogium in itself: that he was so called was an indication, in itself, that Boyse was not of high minded disposition but inclined to regard himself as on a level with ordinary humanity.

“Bannow Revisited

By An Old Irelander

When the mighty mountain of 1848 was in the throes of labour, and a few days previous to its happy delivery of the Ballingarry mouse, I dropped down to Fethard to escape the jaws of the anticipated young monster who was to have swallowed up the “English garrison in Ireland”—boots, bayonets and all.

I had often heard of the submerged city of Bannow and now in its neighbourhood, I resolved to visit it and probably have a glass of grog with Mrs Hall’s Boat man. I took a boat from the little pier at Fethard and I was pulled across the bay, in which it has long been shown that Fitzstephen in May 1169 brought his little fleet to anchor. I was landed immediately below the old church and in a few minutes was standing in front of its crumbling walls.

I asked a Coast-Guardsman, who was on duty with telescope shouldered, “where was the old town?” “You are standing on it” was the reply. “Standing on it!” (I exclaimed); do you mean to tell me the city lies beneath the green turf on which we stand?” “I do” said he, “and there is the chimney of the Parliament house” pointing to a block of masonry in the angle of the burial ground. By this time my own two boats had made their appearance and in due time having seen all then visible of the city in the sea” and heard a good deal about it which was invisible, we started for the new Bannow, or village of Carrig, as it called. To get value out of your boatman, you must meet wet them inwardly; to outside wetting, they say, they are too accustomed; so on passing a wayside public house, which displayed the sign of the Plough and Horses (and indeed a very clumsy one it was, drawn by two very grey garrons) we entered and had a glass of what our host called the best Bishop’s water. I had often heard of Tom Boyse of Bannow, saw him once at a public meeting in your County Courthouse “scurriffunging” (as he called it) the rotten English boroughs in the year 1835, but now I saw him as a landlord on his ground and indeed everything I saw, redounded to his honour. I was pointed out a very fine farmhouse and farm, which at one time, he had handed over to the parish minister, as a model farm, in connection with an agricultural school, for the purpose of instructing the sons of his tenantry in the most approved methods of agriculture. But the most noble act of his munificent generosity was the erection of the large and costly Chapel at new Bannow, then in an unfinished state. Bishop’s water had by this time wonderfully developed the bump of communicativeness in one of my boatmen for when about to return from Carrig, he shrugged his shoulders and asked me, “won’t we go into Neddy’s?” “Neddy who?” said I, “Neddy the lord” returned he. “Has he hump on his back?” said I, “Oh the devil a hump” said he “but he is the Lord of Carrig and so was his father before him and always keeps a stronger dhrop than the man of the Plough and Horses.” His lordship’s shop stood opposite the chapel gates; my lord Carrig was at home, behind one of his counters, with a tumbler of whiskey punch before him, with which he now and again “moistened his clay.” He was a man of middle age, middle size, a wit and a punster, and cracked his jokes on my Fethard friends, telling them “the stone hacker had gone to pot, since the Tintern people were no longer able to purchase limestone, the black potatoes having beggared them all.”

We bade adieu to the Lord of Carrig—his lordship, with the air and dignity of peer, bowing us out of the shop; and we returned to our boat, under the  lee of the ould church and reached the little pier at Fethard, as the last rays of  July sun were setting behind the blue outline of the mountains, which bound your country to the north-east.

Eight years have since glided by—the Ballingarry mouse was crushed in a Peeler’s wig; its sponsors, poor fellows, were scattered to the four winds of the world—the black potatoes, it is hoped, are also, about to vanish and the Fethard stone hackers are again in the home trade, as I had lately an opportunity of witnessing. Yes, I spent some time, last month, in the neighbourhood of Fethard and again paid a visit to the “city in the sea”. The old church yard still braves the power and might of time but the wave and the drift sand are fast approaching it. I observed some new tombs and more old ones, broken since the period of my last visit. On one of the former, in the chancel, is the following inscription:

“Beneath this stone lies buried Samuel Boyse, of this parish, who died on the 26th of December 1839

Also, his wife Dorothea Boyse

Who died on the 29th December 1835

Also, their daughter, Dorothea Boyse

Also their son, Shapland Boyse

Also their daughter Jane Boyse.”

This slab, I understand was erected in 1852 by the late Mr Thomas Boyse, who died himself in Dublin in January 1854, and is buried in the metropolis.

The Wooden Plough still hangs over the wayside public house and as I walked to Carrig, I noticed nothing, which had not previously pointed out to me. But Boyse’s Chapel, as the Lord of Carrig designates it, is much improved, particularly the interior, and what doubly enhances it, in my estimation is—that is the work of a native, a Mr Hughes of Wexford, as his lordship informed me. The gilding of the altars and tabernacles is superb and all the painting, executed in a most finished style and in exact keeping with the ecclesiastical character of the building. Indeed at first look, you would consider all the wood work of rich old oak; and except to the eye of the adept in painting, would pass off as such. The sanctuary is, in itself, a master piece of the painter’s art. A field of rich purple, dotted with innumerable gold stars, typical of a heavenly pavement.

The tout ensemble of the interior, does credit to the acumen of the resident clergyman, in the choice of a Church decorator and the work should be a passport to the highly talented artist, for securing to him the patronage of the venerated Clergy of his native Diocese. I paid a last visit to my lord of Carrig’s establishment and had a drop of his “mighty strong”—He complained of declining years and the loss of his ould landlord, the great Tom Boyse, but consoled himself by hoping that “young Mr Augustus” as he called him, would follow in the track marked out for him by his late noble minded and patriotic uncle.

Graigue—Kilkenny, October 11th, 1856.”

In 1838 the Tithe were commutated to a rent charge: the problem was who would pay the charge—the tenant or the landlord? Most of the Liberal landlords opted to pay the charge themselves: the tithes as a payment which all regardless of their denomination, Catholic, Presbyterian Dissenter, etc, had to pay to the upkeep of the Established Church [ie, the Protestant] clergy was gravely offensive to the Catholic community. The Wexford Independent on the 1st of September 1838 noted—

“that Mr Boyse of Bannow has communicated the pleasing news to his tenantry that, in the present state of the Tithe law, it is not his intention to require his Catholic tenants (though nearly all his tenantry profess the ancient faith) to repay the rent-charge substituted for Tithes, to which he is now legally liable.” On the 11th of August 1838 The Wexford Independent noted:–

“We have just heard that Mr Boyse has lately purchased a considerable estate in his neighbourhood through which he last winter made another road to the sea at his own expense.”

These estates bought by Boyse were leases held by others on lands which Tom Boyse and his father held in fee simple or full ownership. They were simply buying out these leases. All around Carrig village was previously held by Cliffe of Bellvue, Ballyhogue under a lease; Cliffe leased this land to a number of tenants.

Patrick J. Kennedy born in the Marshalstown area and who was educated in the famous school at Cloughbawn, near Clonroche, (in which the legendary Hugh O’Neill was the master) later wrote a series of renowned books. There are parallels between his works and that of Anna Maria Hall; both wrote of the early years of the nineteenth century; both wrote in praise of the Whig or Liberal landlords—Kennedy extolled Robert Carew of Castleboro (the future first Lord Carew) and depicted his estate as a model of perfect social order. He excised, almost to extinction, any hint of conflict of class, of religion, of social interest or of clannish warfare. Anna Maria Hall lauded Tom Boyse—the first cousin of Robert Carew—and employed all kinds of rhetorical gymnastics to seduce her readers into an acceptance that there was no real sectarian or denominational tensions in Co. Wexford in her youth. Both Kennedy and Mrs Hall were exquisite writers, and both focussed most accurately and descriptively not only on social and cultural realities but, also, on topography. Patrick Kennedy writing in The University Magazine had this to relate of the Baronies of Forth and Bargy:–

“The chief inconvenience to which they have been subject is the difficulty of procuring fuel for though bogs were not rare in old times, they are present below the sand and shingle of the beach…..Beans were subsequently cultivated and they boiled the potatoes with their withered stalks. Their dialect seemed a cross between Dutch and the Somerset variety of English.”

There is no need for me to point out to my Bannow readership that the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow is in the Barony of Bargy (a bit in the northern end may be in the Barony of Shelburne) but in explaining that Bannow is so situated I am thinking of my overseas readers, my readers in the Americas, maybe even those on planets a mega distance away.

I do not know how Pat Kennedy was informed that turf bogs were under the sand and shingle off the south coast of Wexford. A turf formation and remnants of primitive houses were found off the Kilmore coast in the late 1950ies so Kennedy was correct. If he was correct then climate must have undergone enormous, indeed, mega change centuries or millennia ago. The extant poems in the Yola have sounds, words and phrases that definitely sound Dutch. The endlessly quoted poem on the hurling circa 1200 in Duncormack is an example as is the address presented to the reforming Lord Lieutenant Mulgrave when he made his triumphant tour of Co. Wexford in the summer of 1836. At the official dinner in Wexford, Tom Boyse told Mulgrave that he would not witness girls anywhere to match the beauty of the girls of the county of Wexford: I believe that Tom Boyse said that there was no matching the beauty of the girls of Carrig-on-Bannow parish but that the Wexford Independent altered his words! It was verbal sleight of hand. If I may make a little jest, Tom Boyse made a great fist of his marriage….as it, in the best modern way (to paraphrase William Butler, the poet), fizzled out in a few months.