Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, ebullient, innovative, original, obliging, larger that life, a right boyo, a historian supreme and surely proof that gold and silver always pursues the Barrystown children.

After Edward Purdon was evicted from Killoughram, in 1879, the local lore has it that the steam plough was sent to Leigh’s of Rosegarland but that as it crossed a bridge over the Urrin the bridge broke under its weight. The plough valued at £750 was given by the Royal Dublin Society as a special gift of gratitude to Edward Purdon and he had it sent by rail to Killoughram, Caime, near Enniscorthy. It consisted of an engine, a plough and a cultivator. It operated by a windlass—the engine if set in one field, could enable the plough to work both in that field and in an adjacent field. It could be used to drive a threshing set. It could plough between seven and ten acres in a day. The most obvious lesson learnt by the Purdons at Killoughram or rather their land engineer Mr Goode, was the importance of lime: Mr Goode initially economised on lime but the crops failed on the reclaimed soil. The Purdons sought to demonstrate that science and capital could transform Irish agriculture; in a sense it had by that time. Agricultural experts like Ned Carroll of Courtnacuddy and former editor of The Farmers’ Gazette—owned by the Purdon Brothers—were convinced that ever improving methods of agriculture anticipated the possibility of ensuring an adequate supply of food for all classes of people. The Board of Public Works advanced £2,300 in loans to the Purdons to underline the enormous cost of lifting the roots of trees on 500 acres; they did 300 acres but by then were overwhelmed by the sheer costs. They were only able to pay back £1,000 of the loans. Their costs were exacerbated by legal costs in a dispute over a Mass Path that went through the wood; a compromise of placing an alternative path at the boundary of the new farm was agreed after costly litigation. The inhabitants of Mangan had a sacrosanct estimation of the Mass Path: the faith of the ordinary people then was intense and they would incur any risk, hardship or peril rather than suffer any slight to it. The Purdons were lacking in empathy but they did not intend a deliberate insult to the faith. The interest in my lecture on October 14th at Clonroche at 8.30pm is big and I hope that I won’t disappoint anyone. Those who don’t go will still tell their grand-children that they were there as they will be ashamed to say otherwise. Something like the frightened young men afraid to join General Patton’s army who would have to tell their grand-children that they shovelled manure during World War II. The likelihood is that if at the latter sordid activity you would be alive to talk to your grand-children!

In The Wexford Independent January 21st 1874:–

“To be sold and immediate possession given, the tenant’s interest in a Farm of thirty Irish acres—Thirty-one years’ lease—Twenty-seven and a half of which are unexpired. The House is nearly new, commanding extensive views of the river and surrounding country. The lawn in front comprises four acres. The offices are new and suitable for the farm. The lands are good, eighteen acres under grass, the remainder in tillage. Boating, fishing, wild fowl shooting and sea bathing in the immediate vicinity. The Wexford Hounds meet often in the neighbourhood.

For particulars apply to A. F. Gardiner, Colebrook Cottage, Ballymitty, New Ross.”

There would be circa fifty acres in the above but the lifestyle anticipated would not be sustained on such a farm unless one had an alternative career or income.

From The Wexford Independent April 28th 1866:–

“A Tour Through Bannow

To the Editor of the Independent

Sir—After a lapse of some years, business having occasioned me to pass through Bannow, I was greatly struck with the improvements made during that short period. On all sides may be seen clean and tidy cottages and farm-houses—the well tilled land—the hedge-ways trimmed with the greatest care—everything evincing both skill and judgement in its management—I find that the present proprietor, Captain Boyse, in whose hands the estate is only a short time, has become a resident landlord and that he has evinced the greatest desire to carry on improvements, to employ labourers and confer all benefit on his tenantry. I have noticed, also, that a new gate house is about being erected; this with a suitable entrance will add considerably to the already pleasing appearance. In the demesne, which is also, much improved, from its having been much enlarged, I observed a rustic monument, beautifully covered with honeysuckle, etc, erected to the memory of the late Thomas Boyse, Esq. After some time a visit to this locality would be well worthy the attention of the tourist for he cannot fail to find much to please and delight him.”

We will go this in this blog to the Petty Sessions at Duncormack in February 1860. I take my readers around the different places in pursuit of truth, historical truth as distinct from historical imagination.

John Rowe of Ballycross, Kilmore was in the chair; an extensive owner in fee of land and an initiator of the project to drain the Ballyteigue Lough; Conservative in politics but lenient as a Justice of the Peace, ever seeking excuses to apply minimal sentences. Christian Wilson of Sleedagh was first cousin of Jonas King of Barriestown. Jonas King was of course on the Bench that day. The Resident Magistrate was Thomas Dennehy—he was I presume better qualified in legal matters that the others and in effect a professional Justice.

There were a large number of cases prosecuted by the Constabulary for animals wandering on the roads, all of which resulted in the usual fine of 6 pence and costs.

The Rev. Richard Boyse prosecuted John and Michael Davy and Martin Cullin for “trespassing on complainant’s property with dog and gun”

George Galavan deposed to this party landing with their boat on the Kerow (as written sic) Island, on 13th December last.

Chairman—What were they doing on the Island?

Galavan—Shooting, to be sure, widgeon and other fowl.

Chairman—Well man, what have you to say?

Davy—Why your worships, we have leave from the late Mr Boyse.

Galavan—Aye, dead men don’t tell truth or lies.

Chairman—Have you liberty from the late Mr Boyse in writing?

Davy—No, your worships, but we have liberty to go over when we like.

Chairman—But you must know the property has passed into other hands and if you have not the authority of the present owner, you should at least, produce the written leave of the deceased as a justification of your offence.

Galavan—Leave, they never got leave; but they want to trespass in defiance of all law and order.

The Chairman remonstrated with the parties and cautioned them not again to trespass—if they should they would not be so leniently dealt with. Ordered—each to pay 1 shilling and 6 pence costs.”

I think that John Rowe was privately sceptical of the draconian deterrents to comparatively harmless items of wrong-doing (is that an oxymoron?).

The Rev. Richard Boyse prosecuted John Devereux and John Roche “for wilful trespass by taking seaweed off the Bannow strand.

George Galavan again sworn and deposed to finding both parties drawing away seaweed from the strand on 17th December last. He stated that those men were fined for a similar offence before and designated them as unruly characters who will trespass when they please in defiance of all law and order.

Chairman—What have you to say to the charge against you?

Devereux—Why, your honours, we had no intention at all to take the seaweed, we only went down to look after the wrecked beams and just put a few sprongs of the weed in the car.

Roche made a similar statement.

Chairman adverted to their previous guilt, gave both  a severe reprimand and ordered each to pay 2 shillings and 6 pence fine and 2 shillings and 6 pence costs.”

William Coghlan, Esq., receiver of wreck, prosecuted James Maher, Ballygarret—for wrongfully and illegally removing and carrying away a quantity of tobacco and copper, same being wrecked at Bannow, on 2nd January.

Mr Sweetman, solicitor, appeared on behalf of the Board of Trade, to sustain the prosecution.

Abraham Goodall, sworn and examined by Mr Sweetman. He stated that on the morning of 2nd January, between 12 and 2 o’clock in the morning while on duty, he saw the defendant with a horse and car, in which he had about 50 lbs of tobacco; it was wet; would not weigh so much if dry; he had, also, a quantity of copper and in his possession, a small hammer and something like a cold chisel; brought him up to Cullin’s and gave him in charge to the police; had no doubt whatever but that the tobacco and copper were part of the wreck of the Arethusa; the defendant stated to him that only part of the tobacco was his own.

Chairman—Now Maher, if you have no professional gentleman to defend you, you can enter into your own defence; but I advise you to say nothing that may criminate yourself as the charge against you is of a very serious nature.

Maher—Why, your honours, I will tell you the truth and be satisfied with whatever you do with me. I went down that Sunday morning to see the wreck and took the horse and car to carry me; when I got down on the strand I saw everyone pulling and husling about. I put in a few sticks in the car and some other men came up, threw tobacco in my car and ran away.

Chairman—The evidence on my mind appears clear against you.

In this view the Bench fully concurred.

Francis Davis in a letter of late 1831 made a scathing denunciation of the dreadful place that he had gone from to Canada:

“When in Ireland I rented a farm from Mr Leigh of Rosegarland and although I was up daily with the lark I could not make a shilling that I could call my own; and only for a little which I possessed, my family would be driven to beggary. Rents, tithes, Church and parish cess, cost of manure, servant’s wages etc swallow up every shilling which the farmer can procure in Ireland. I have seen a family of five children, with the father and mother, sitting down to a scanty meal of dry potatoes, in that unfortunate country.”

The Rev. William Hickey, who served as Rector at Bannow and who circa 1824 was facilitated in establishing a school by a grant of land from Sam Boyse, to teach youngsters agricultural skills, wrote:

“I lately went into the cabin of a poor widow who was endeavouring to satisfy the hunger of seven children when oatmeal was one guinea per cwt and potatoes six pence per stone; prices which I shudder to relate, limited her and her little ones to one meal a day.” The Rev. Hickey deemed a code of callous frugality as necessary to the survival of the poorer people: “Thus fed or unfed the cottager or small holder has no business to keep a dog.” I do not know why the Rev. Hickey had such detestation of dogs—Captain Arthur Hunt Boyse also detested dogs and forbade his tenants to have dogs! The Rev. Hickey eschewed instruction in the more academic subjects in his school as he felt that a minimum of instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic plus training in agricultural skills best fitted the children of ordinary people to material survival. His only economic vista was that of agrarian activity, perhaps because no alternative economic activity existed. His vision of an infinite series of intensely worked smallholdings, veritable gardens, may have transcended mere economic logic: there is the eschatological hint in his writings of a re-enactment of Eden. Improving landlords like the Boyses, the Carews, the Grogan Morgans etc may have subscribed to a lesser or greater extent to this vision. It was a scriptural vision.