Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, inspiring and inspired, innovative, a pure genius, blessed among women, marathon runner, florist beyond contest, a right boyo, historian supreme, uses big words, eloquent, lyrical, modest, self-effacing, humble and—wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. It was always gold and silver for the Barrystown children. If it is true, it ain’t bragging.
The tulips are finally coming to bloom. The famous historian, the Rev. James Gordon of Boro Lodge, Ballymackessy (the first historian in Ballymackessy) was so short sighted that he mistook a peony for a rose or was it the other way around.
My birthday is on the 22nd of April, surely an important date by any standards. The celebrations will end on Tuesday night May 3rd when I will give my lecture at Clonroche Community Centre at 8.30pm on “Patrick Pearse and the Easter 1916 Rebellion in the context of World War I.” As I always say—the past is a foreign country and the events and personalities of one hundred years ago were so radically different to those of latter times. Thus I have been sceptical of attempts to imagine Easter 1916 on the basis of the present day society and agendas. I have gone repeatedly back to the sources and have, also, consulted the wide range of scholarship on the subject. One should never underestimate the horror of war or fantasize that it was akin to victory in an All-Ireland final.
In the summer of 1973 I wrote a short thesis outlining why Irish Catholicism so favoured a free Ireland. Josephine “Min” Ryan of Tomcoole, Taghmon recounted in her Witness Statement to the Bureau of Military History:–
“My family was first attracted to the national movement through my eldest brother—later Father Martin Ryan—who was then in Maynooth as a student. At that time Maynooth was leader of young opinion, especially regarding the language and afterwards regarding Sinn Fein….He would come home at holiday time and talk tremendously about the language movement and Sinn Fein. We started to read everything that was said by Arthur Griffith in connection with the Sinn Fein movement….At the time it was only ourselves in our locality had that sort of interest. It was purely a small intellectual crowd who was interested in these new ideas—particularly priests.”
Arthur Griffith did not intend that his Sinn Fein movement should take the road of Rebellion—and in reality the I. R. B. organised the Easter Rebellion. Sinn Fein attracted a large crowd of belligerent young men, despite the principles of passive and political action favoured by Griffith. In the government established by the first Dail, Arthur Griffith was a senior minister and he went to London with Michael Collins and others to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He may not have ever approved of the war of Independence. Anyway come to hear me on the 3rd of May.
The Journal of the Taghmon Historical Society was published last Friday night and my article is of “Temperance, Intemperance and Faction Fights in pre-Famine Taghmon”.
From The People February 18th 1893:–
“The Anniversary Office and High Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Miss Doyle Kilcavan will be held in Ballymitty on Thursday, 23rd inst., at 10.30 o’clock.”
Dr James Boyd, Medical Officer, Bannow wrote to the Wexford Board of Guardians on the 22nd of May 1860:–
“The following persons applied to me for out door relief. Patrick Dunphy, Coolhull, Bannow Division, ill since 16th April with inflammation of the bowels, now convalescent and able to be up but very weak and unable to be removed to Poorhouse at present, 74 years of age and his illness has made him poor….”
The purpose of Dr Boyd’s letter was to pressurise the Board to pay out-door relief to those persons named by him.
One of the Guardians “thought that in all cases of applications for out-door relief the Board should know if any members of the family were in employment or was there anything behind the mere statement that the person was not in a fit state to be removed.”
It was agreed to give Pat Dunphy 2 shillings and 6 pence for the ensuing week. In that era, old age pensions were not paid and one encounters instances of men well over 70 years of age working.
“The Hook in the Harvest” was a three act drama, published in March 1916, about peasant or rural life in the Fethard area about the year 1856, authored by Fr Philip Doyle O. S. A., a native of Maudlintown, Wellingtonbridge. There was a review of it in The Echo:–
“This drama gives a realistic picture of Irish peasant life sixty years ago and the many shadows of that deplorable time. Here is the story. A poor farmer who has struggled through the famine years, reclaimed his patch of bog and only tries to live in peace and save his children from the “coffin ship”, is harassed by the prevailing anti-Irish spirit of the governing classes. Small nations received small consideration in those days. In the National School, his son Roddy and his daughter and his daughter Maureen are taught to despise everything Irish. The disgraceful tallies are hung on their neck so that every word of their native language may be marked by punishment. As the poor man improves his little farm, his rent is raised, doubled, trebled and finally he receives notice to quit for having voted against the absentee landlord’s Orange candidate. His son and daughter must emigrate and the sad tidings are told to them by their sad parents, in a scene of great beauty and dramatic power. While the words are spoken the poor old granny croons a lament, the wailing music of which suits admirable the simple pathos of her song. Years go by and Roddy returns to find the old home desolate, his mother dead and his father about to sail for America.
“The Irish Emigrant” song is very aptly introduced and with the old fiddler’s vision of brighter days in store for Ireland the beautiful and poetic drama ends. No doubt the shadow of the Famine gives a sombre tinge to the play, but it does not prevent a merry ripple of laughter at the innocent drollery of young Roddy, the fiddler’s criticism on Saddleir and Keogh and Granny’s caustic remarks on “National” education. The play is Catholic, Irish, wholesome and well deserves the success which has already attended its first production.”
Maunsell and Co. Dublin and London published the drama at a cost of one shilling per copy.
My little dictionary defines “pathos” as the power of arousing pity or sympathy.” That is my difficulty with Fr Doyle’s drama: he has introduced incorrect historical details to invest this play with buckets of pathos.
The Catholic clergy in the Co. Wexford co-operated with the National School system and most of the National Schools in Co. Wexford were managed Parish Priests or their Curates. The Established Church [Protestant] clergy did not co-operate with the National School system, as they wanted Scriptural instruction in the schools.
When the British Government were negotiating with Dan O’Connell and his supporters about granting Catholic Emancipation, one of the controversial measures conceded by O’Connell was that in return for Catholic Emancipation, the franchise or vote would be taken from the miserably poor 40 shilling free-holders and restricted to £10 free-holders. This meant that after 1828 that any farmer with the vote had to be a comparatively prosperous one.
This theory that in 1856 children wore tallies to record the amount of Irish spoken by them is preposterous. There is no provision for such a measure in any of the regulations of the Board of Commissioners of National Education. The teachers were, generally, Irish, Catholic and natives of the area in which they taught. John C. Tuomy was a teacher at Taghmon National School at this time. He was not anti-national. The iconic Hugh O’Neill and his sons taught at the Clonroche National School. O’Neill was revered by the local people.
As a general rule, farmers held their lands by leases for a period of years or life or lives; sometimes a combination of both. The landlord could not evict a tenant who held by lease at will or raise the rent during the period of the lease. It one had a franchise in 1856 then one had to prove that one had a lease of property: on that basis the farmer in the drama could not have his rent raised arbitrarily.
In 1907 “Bridget Howlin, late midwife at Ballymitty, wrote asking the Board [of Wexford Poor Law Guardians] to grant her some superannuation in respect of her 27 years’ service.
The following letter was, also, read:–
Dear Sir—Your letter to hand informing me of the order of your Board of Saturday, the 17th, calling on me to resign my position of midwife. If I resign, I don’t know how I am to live, as I have no possible means of support unless the Board allow me something. I have filled the position for thirty years for a mere trifle. I agreed in 1896 to resign when Mrs Howlin would vacate her position, but it was with the view of being amply provided for in my old age, and now I respectfully ask the Board for at least, £30, otherwise I shall wait to be dismissed—I remain yours truly,
Mr J. Murphy said if the other midwife was to get superannuation she should get it too. He would give notice that the question be discussed that day five weeks. Mr Hore agreed.
After some further remarks it was decided to write to Mrs Siggins and tell her that the Board could do nothing unless she resigned.
From The Echo March 29th 1907:–
“Ballymitty, March 21st 1907
Dear Sir—Having seen by the Press where the Local Government Board have sanctioned me for £10 a year, I wish to remind the Guardians that I will not commence duty the next three months unless I get the other £10, as in my agreement when elected midwife—Yours respectfully, F. Doyle, District Nurse.
Mr Ennis—Was not the promise that she get it when the other nurse resigned.
Clerk—Yes. I was to write to the old midwife telling her we could not do anything till she resigned.
Mr Ennis—That was to Mrs Siggins. But Miss Doyle was only to get the other £10 when the two nurses resigned. Mr Hore—She won’t stop unless she gets the increase. Mr Ennis—Better write to Miss Doyle and tell her that the old woman has not yet resigned. Mr Hore—Write to Mrs Siggins, also, and tell her we hold her to the original agreement that she should resign when the other nurse resigned.
Clerk—The three months we gave her to resign will be up on the 12th of April and we have heard nothing from her yet.
Mr Hore—She may take it as a matter of course she will get the same superannuation as we allowed the last one.
It was accordingly decided that Mrs Siggins be asked for a definite answer to the proposal of the Council (sic) that she should resign.
From the People 5th of January 1856:–
On the 5th of January, of disease of the heart, in the bloom of youth, to the deep sorrow of her family, Mary, the amiable and beloved child of Mr Stephen Colfer, Carrig, Bannow.”
From The People March 3rd 1866:–
“John S—Cullenstown, applied for compensation for the malicious burning of part of a rick of hay and three cocks of hay, on the 27th April 1865. Amount claimed £15. The Presenting Sessions decided that the injury was malicious and agreed to pay £7 10 shillings damages, to cover all the costs and recommended this sum to be levied off the townlands of Cullenstown and Ballygow. The proof of malice in this case was the posting of certain notices, threatening any person who would eject tenants from their holdings, S—having ejected several. A report of this evidence, as given before the Presenting Sessions at Duncormack, appeared in this paper.
The Grand Jury passed the presentment without altering the recommendation of the Magistrates and Cesspayers.”
From The Morning Chronicle April 5th 1827:–
“Copy of the Certificate of the Magistrates
We, the undersigned Magistrates, having fully investigated a charge brought before us by William Hely, junior, respecting poisonous matter alleged to have been detected by him in whey and cream served up to the Rev. Murphy, by some of the servants of the Augustinian Convent at New Ross and tending to stigmatize the character of the Rev. James Crane and the Rev. John Furlong of said Convent; and having examined, on oath, the said Healy and other witnesses brought before us on the occasion—do hereby declare it as our undivided opinion, that the said charge is totally false and unfounded.
Given under our hands, this 28th day of October 1826,
John H. Talbot
Edward Keough (Deputy Sovereign of New Ross)
Mr Conway would only add that this Rev. Mr Murphy had been several times suspended—at Callan, in the County Kilkenny—at Grantstown, in the county Wexford, and again at New Ross in the same county. He then came to Dublin; and in consequence of marrying there, while under suspension, two persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity, he was excommunicated….”
The Barrystown interest in the above is obvious: Fr James Crane was one of the famous family from that illustrious townland.
From The Wexford Independent December 6th 1837:–
On Thursday in the Catholic Church of Danescastle, by the Rev. Martin Moran, Mr Thomas French of Agricultural Place, Bannow to Mary, eldest daughter of Mr Bartholomew Colfer of Newtown.”
From The People Saturday August 26th 1944:–
“Deep regret was occasioned by the death of Mr Thomas Devereux, son of the late Mr Andrew Devereux, which occurred, following a short illness at his residence, Danescastle, Carrig-on-Bannow. He was attended by Very Rev. M. Keating P. P. and Rev. G. O’Connor C. C. during his illness. The late Mr Devereux was an extensive farmer and was a popular and esteemed member of the community. He was identified with the fight for Irish freedom in 1916 and the Tan War and received the medal and ribbon in recognition of his services. At the removal of the remains to Carrig-on-Bannow church on Tuesday evening the L. S. F. (sic), of which he was a most active member, formed a guard of honour and, also, marched in a body beside the hearse. The members of the L. D. F. also participated. Funeral Office and High Mass were offered in Carrig-on-Bannow church on Wednesday morning and interment took place in the local cemetery. Rev. G. O’Connor C. C. and Rev. M. Berney, S. P. C., officiated at the graveside. The chief mourners were:–Mr Patrick Devereux (brother), Miss M. A. Devereux (sister), Mrs M. Kenny, Carrig-on-Bannow, Mrs K. Cleary, Wexford, Miss K. Devereux, Ambrosetown and Nurse B. M. Sinnott, Wexford (nieces); Messrs L. Cummins, Wexford (brother-in-law), Wm Devereux, Wexford, Jas Sinnott, Ballinakill, Ferns, Lorcan Sinnott, Limerick, Jas Cummins, Wexford and Andrew Cummins, Danescastle, (nephews).
From The People, February 4th 1871:–
“Derelict Goods—The strong south-westerly wind prevailing for the past few days has caused a considerable quantity of casks containing paraffin oil to be driven in between the Bar of Lough and Bannow Bay, from some wreck, which, probably, may have occurred in the Channel during the late storm.” The paper reported on the same date that Mr Searle of Bannow had contributed 6 shillings to the French Peasant Relief Fund.
From The People August 6th 1955:–
“Bannow and District Notes
To Croke Park—A large number of hurling fans from the district made the long journey to Dublin on Sunday to see Wexford play Kilkenny in the Leinster hurling Final. All were elated by Wexford’s victory.
Wheat Midge—The wheat crop is suffering from a heavy attack of the midge, probably due to the very warm weather.
Early Harvest—The oat crop has been cut on some farms during the past week; the very warm weather having ripened the crop quickly. The harvest this year promises to be one of the earliest on record.
Fishing—The fishermen from Bar of Lough river had some very good catches of mackerel during the past week, which met a ready sale at good prices.”