Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, obliging, eloquent, inspiring and inspired, visionary, a prophet, a poet, a trainor of hurling teams, a marathon runner, (and as the woman in Clonroche village prophesised twenty five years ago or more) blessed among the women, uses big words (appropriately), historian supreme, a right boyo, an intelligence far greater than Einstein, humble, modest, self-effacing; the most devious and most wily of them all; as I always say, if it is true it ain’t bragging. No native of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow has any need to brag: as some great orator of the English language asserted—maybe it was Jack Kennedy in the Dail in Dublin town in 1963—there are two genus of Irish people—those who are natives of Bannow and those who wish they were. Barrystown invariably features in the stories of Anna Maria Hall—on a sunny Saturday a few years ago, I walked with Dinny–, the little terrier, (alas since departed to the doggy mansions in the sky) along the cockle strand and was astounded by the immediate closeness of Bannow to Barrystown.
My new blog about the history of the Clonroche district may be accessed at clonrochehistorypages.blogspot.ie or at clonrochehistorypages.ie. The initial essays on it are about the first Lord Bob Carew, the first cousin of Tom Boyse of Bannow. I wrote them close on twenty years ago; at that time it was not heard of to resort to the local newspapers as source material and very few historians bothered to research in the Dublin archives about local history. There was a vacuity, an emptiness, a lack of intimacy to the writing of local history at that time:–I believe that I countered that and recreated a model of the Clonroche society of the nineteenth century that captured the intimate details and dispositions of that era. Some articles based on this research later appeared in the history journals. Without bragging I could also, claim that I was one of the first to concentrate on themes other than that of 1798 and Easter 1916 in writing the history of the Co. Wexford. I have repeatedly focussed on the lives of ordinary people and lifted the anonymity that previously enveloped them.
On March 26th 1842 Edmund Hore the editor of the Wexford Independent, also, wrote of the very poor, a little bit north of Carrig-on-Bannow:–
“On Monday last the wife of a labourer named John Neill, residing in Horetown bog, presented her husband with his fifteenth child—ten of whom are living—the whole of whose possessions consist in the length and breadth of a miserable hovel in a dreary and melancholy waste. We trust that He who “tempers the wind to the shorn lamb” will move those whom he has blessed with affluence to extend the hand of relief to the poor creature, who has furnished, under such adverse circumstances, so many subjects to the Crown, whose stalworth arms may yet be destined to play a prominent part in their country’s defence and honor.”
In the autumn of 1914 the British army had to reject a high proportion of those applying to sign up to fight in World War I as they were suffering from malnutrition. The Neill children, if they survived into their teenage years, would be most likely suffering from malnutrition and so could not go the wars. The burgeoning and obscene demographics so graphically illuminated in the story of the family on the Horetown bog invited the catastrophe of the great Famine 1845-48. The Horetown item is, also, a pungent index to the appalling child mortality of that era.
As I always say, any account of the history of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow should begin with a vignette of the greatness of Tom Boyse, the patriot of Bannow, the man of stentorian voice who used big words, etc, et al.
The editor of the Wexford Independent in the middle of January 1847, yes “black ‘47”, had unusual visitors to his office in Wexford town:–
“A few days back a poor man by the name of James M’Ilroy, engaged as a labourer on the public roads in the neighbourhood of Bannow, was deputed by his brother labourers to come to this office, as their representative, in order that we should publish the good offices of the single-hearted “Boyse of Bannow” in their behalf. The poor fellows subscribed one penny each to bear the expenses of their plenipotentiary; and never did any of her Majesty’s charges d’affairs more fervently or jealously perform his duty; with a truthfulness and simplicity, that peculiarly belong to our fine people, he depicted with tears in his eyes, what “his honour had done for ninety men, who had been thrown out of work in the district”. On his own responsibility, he gave them employment and his purse is ever open to the calls of charity throughout the whole parish. We merely insert these facts in order to gratify the grateful recipients of his bounty; as we know the amiable and enlightened Donor shrinks from public notoriety of this nature; and would rather that the one hand should not know the acts of benevolence performed by the other.”
My impression of these drainage works is that landlords like Tom Boyse sunk a lot of money into them without any surety of a dividend or long term gain: like the public works they operated to alleviate the famine distress. Boyse was determined that no body in the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow should starve to death. At that point in the Famine distress, the authorities had formally ended the public works schemes, thereby throwing large numbers out of work and the attached meagre earnings. The intention was to substitute out door relief for the public works—in my opinion out door relief was the most efficient use of public money to prevent starvation. Difficulty arose with delays in getting the out door relief initiated; therefore the most destitute of people were left hungry. The amount of food granted under such relief was appallingly little: Tom Boyse, himself, wrote an incandescent letter to the newspapers ridiculing the amount of food that an adult man was expected to live on—he put in an illustration of a cake with his missive! I do not think that Tom Boyse would have approved of the publicity given to his efforts to alleviate distress during the Famine—a priest at Graignamanagh who wrote of Boyse’s exertions in his parish, feared that he might be displeased by his (the priest’s) missive to the newspapers.
Conversely very poor people in the throes of desperation may look to any potentate, secular, ecclesiastical or imaginary to alleviate their appalling circumstances. Some historians suggest that Mussolini was, on that basis, able to mesmerise countless people in Italy.
The following is taken from the Enniscorthy Guardian on September 2nd 1950:–
“The name of John Philpot Curran is familiar to the student of Irish history as one of the most illustrious or our orators, a great patriot, a fine advocate who defended many leaders of the United Irishmen, including Wolfe Tone and who was father of Sarah Curran—the lover of Robert Emmet. Were it not for a Wexfordman, Curran might have been unheard of for it was the Rev. Mr Boyse who hailed from Bannow, Co. Wexford that gave him a start in life. That Curran in his days of prosperity did not forget his early patron is fully proved in the following anecdote taken from the great advocate’s life, written by his son.
“Allow me, gentlemen” said Curran one evening, “to give you a sentiment. When a boy, I was one morning playing at marbles in the village Ball-Alley, with a light heart and a lighter pocket. The gibe and the jest went gladly round when suddenly amongst us appeared a stranger of a remarkable and very cheerful aspect; his intrusion was not the least restraint upon our merry little assemblage. He was a benevolent creature and the days of infancy, after all the happiest we shall ever see, perhaps, rose upon his memory. Heaven bless him! I see his fine form at the distance of half a century just as he stood before me in the little ball alley, in the days of my childhood. His name was Boyse—he was Rector of Newmarket. To me he took a particular fancy. I was winning and full of waggery, thinking everything that was eccentric and by, no means, a miser of my eccentricities. Everyone was welcome to a share of them. Everyone was welcome to a share of them and I had plenty to spare after having freighted the company. Some sweetmeats easily bribed me home with him.
I learned from Boyse my alphabet and my grammar and the rudiments of the classics. He taught me all he could and then sent me to school at Middleton. In short he made me a man. I recollect it was some thirty-five years afterwards when I had risen to some eminence at the Bar and when I had a seat in Parliament, on my return one day from court, I found an old gentleman seated alone in my drawing-room, his feet familiarly placed on each side of the Italian marble chimney place and his whole air bespeaking the consciousness of one quite at home. He turned round—it was my friend of the ball-alley. I rushed instinctively into his arms and burst into tears. Words cannot describe the scene which followed—
“You are right, sir, your are right; the chimney-piece is yours—the pictures are yours—the house is yours. You gave me all I have—my friend—my benefactor. He dined with me and in the evening I caught the tear glistening in his fine blue eye, when he saw poor little Jack, the creature of his bounty, rising in the house of Commons to reply to a right honourable. Poor Boyse! He is now gone and no suitor had a longer deposit of practical benevolence in the Court above. This is his wine—let us drink to his memory!” Richard Boyse, Curran’s patron’s brother died in the year 1793 at Bannow….Curran’s tributes to the memory of his benefactor was indeed a touching one. At the time of his death the Rev. Mr Boyse was rector of Newcastle, Co. Cork.”
I am not sure if the writer of the above was reading from the same pages of Bannow history as I am! Are we on different pages?
The Rev. Mr Boyse referred to is obviously a brother of Sam Boyse but the puzzle for me is how he could be a native of Bannow; Sam Boyse was not a native of Bannow. A Richard Boyse could have died at Bannow in 1793; I think that another source (actually a letter of Mrs Anna Maria Hall) that this man had a lease of part of the Boyse estate and that this lease became the George Carr estate at Graigue. I would have to get back to that letter to confirm that. Anna Maria Hall spent her formative years at Graigue House the residence of George Carr.
Anne Farrell in a lovely article in the Bannow-Ballymitty Journal some years ago on the famed schoolmaster of Danescastle National School, Paddy Garvey, states that the “newly-qualified National Teacher arrived in Wexford to the little National School in Tullicanna in 1939, from the townsland of Ballinloughig, at the foot Mt Brandon Co. Kerry.” My recollection may be wrong but I thought that one of his obituaries stated that he taught at Rathnure for a few months at the outset of his teaching career. One of the Ballymitty footballers told me that Gaelic Football was Paddy Garvey’s god; Ann Farrell (as do other sources) says that he had a passionate love—in particular—of Kerry football. On Sunday June 15th 1941 Paddy Garvey played in goal for the Ballymitty-Bannow football team. I can find no other mention of him playing football. The newspapers noted the presence of Paddy Garvey when Bannow-Ballymitty won the Co. Intermediate Football title in October 1975; he had presumably travelled from Templerainey, Arklow, Co. Wicklow to the match. The snippet noted that Paddy Garvey was elated by the victory and in a slight exaggeration asserted that he had introduced all the players on the victorious team to Gaelic football. My last sighting of him was at O’Kennedy Park in New Ross in warm summer weather in 1969 when Carrig-on-Bannow won the Nicky Rackard rural schools league football title; as the game ended people congratulated Paddy Garvey as he walked along the side line towards the dressing rooms. I thought that he looked old—maybe in a young man’s mind everybody is old! He wore a hat that evening as he invariably did and I am told that he spoke with a Kerry accent but I do not remember that. I could only track down one speech by him in the early 1970s. Before he left Carrig-on-Bannow the people made a presentation to him but I have found no account of it in the newspapers; maybe some one of my millions of readers could give me the date of that presentation.
I have little doubt that Anna Maria Hall wrote the short story “The City In The Sea” published under the series “Superstitions of the Irish Peasantry—No 111” in The Dublin and London magazine. The setting of the story is the wake of Peter Revel of Lacken, “a piece of ground that gradually descends to the water, formed by the bar of Lough and lies in that part of the county of Wexford called Bargie, between the little villages of Duncormack and Bannow.” The corpse was laid out in Mr Revel’s spacious barn—that would suggest a lack of much space in his abode. There was a surreal series of tragedies in that family—“for the table on which his body lay, within the last twelve months, waked his wife and six children.”
Mrs Hall in the story says that these people spoke a mixture of Irish, English, “the ancient British” dialect; she adds:–“They have, of course, their superstitions; and that of “The City in the Sea” is not the least remarkable.” Mrs Hall recreates the dialogue among the women mourning the deceased—one remarks:–
“some evil eye fell upon the Revels and a cromsmaul in particular on poor Peter.
“That comes” said another old woman, “of building his house in the path of the “gud people”
“Fade [what] is that you say?” asked an old man
“Ich [I] am saying” she replied, “nothin’ but downright truth; for since the hour Peter Revell built his house in the path of the Sheeoges [fairies] he had’nt a day’s luck. His cow, his caul [horse], his pig, and his sheep died; but as he did’nt take warnen, his children died one afther another; then his maun [wife] and now himself. Sure is’nt well known that his house is haunted every liven night in the year?”
“How is that?” enquired Katty.
“Why, because,” replied the old woman, “it stands where it ought’nt to stand¸ in the way the gud people travel from the wrath [rath] to the “City in the Sea”—that is Bannow that was”
As a digression I recall that in June 1963, Jack Kennedy, of exalted memory, told a cheering crowd in Berlin—“Ich bin ein Berliner”, meaning “I am emotionally and spiritually a Berliner, a citizen of Berlin”. Unknown to Jack Kennedy, the word Berliner was a sobriquet for a doughnut then sold in Berlin and his noble assertion still provokes mirth and raucous amusement. The verb “Ich” if used in Lacken in Mrs Hall’s time clearly denotes the ancient Saxon origins of the idiom used in the baronies of Forth and Bargy. The German language evolved out of the Saxon dialect.
A young fellow, Luke Sparrow, of the Protestant faith, sat “with Peggy Roach on his knee, in the far corner of the barn”; they dubbed him “the buck of Duncormack. This is not stated but I presume that he was a writer of some repute and maybe wrote a book. Luke Sparrow laughed heartily and uproariously at the “ould women’s goster”. The Buck asked a local fisherman—
“And fade [what] brought the city [of Bannow] there?”
“Some say” the fisherman replied, “an earthquake; but I believe it was enchantment.”
The people at the wake were both shocked at Luke’s scepticism about the fairies and frightened that fairy vengeance might be visited on him. He was one of the few Protestants in the neighbourhood and, consequently, “they soon comforted themselves by reflecting that his opinions respecting another world were entitled to no respect.” I am not sure of Mrs Hall’s meaning but suffice to say the Established Church or Protestant doctrine excluded all recognition of para-normal and ghostly phenomena and disdained the ease of Catholic people towards such superstitious nonsense.
The morning after the wake Luke set off “in his regimentals….to attend parade at Taghmon….the commander choose him to carry a dispatch to Duncannon.” He opted to cross the Scar of Barriestown on his journey home; “the screech of the curlew and the cry of the plover assured him that he was near the Scar; and in a few minutes the broad expanse of strand and water shone as white as silver beneath the beams of a declining moon.” The ghost of Peter Revel on a horse appeared beside him and Luke’s horse “in spite of his endeavours” followed it; the narrative continues:–
“When they came to the channel of the Scar the water separated; and the Buck to his great terror and amazement found himself sinking in the earth and thought he heard a noise over his head as if the waves were closing above….” Buck had been drawn into the City in the Sea, that is into Bannow; he later as in a hallucination, encountered both the British soldiers in retreat during the 1798 Rebellion and later a score of pikemen. When he eventually awoke “an explanation took place, after several hours’ wonder, it was discovered that Luke had been a prisoner in “The City in the Sea” for nearly twenty years as a punishment for his contempt of the Sheeoges; and that during his absence from this world, the Rebellion of Ninety-Eight had been provoked and proclaimed, the Buck having encountered the royal army in its retreat from Wexford to Duncannon.”
The editor of the magazine commented—superciliously, perhaps—that primitive peoples often believed in the presence of cities in the sea and cited other examples. But I will let him laugh to his heart’s content; if given a euro to laugh, he would laugh endlessly!