Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, inspiring and inspired, eloquent, blessed among the women, uses big words (appropriately), historian supreme, original, a trainor of hurling teams, a marathon runner, an intelligence that dwarfs and warps that of Einstein, writes, talks and moves with panache and above all else the most devious and wily of them all—that wily boy from beside the mine pits. It must have been an ingenuous idea of the fates to have silver in Barrystown; a pity that they did not put gold there as well but anyway, it is always gold and silver for the Barrystown childre. I believe that many of the very ancient saints of the Catholic Church were not actually canonised but by tradition regarded as saints: it would be interesting to investigate if St Kevin of Kilcaven was formally canonised—the holiness of such men was so pronounced that with or without formal canonisation they would be saints, anyway.
In the middle 1960ies the ruling establishment of Irish society became fixated on education as the elixir that would transform Irish society and, especially, its economy. Thus large numbers of young men and women from humble social antecedents flooded into the universities in those years: I was one of them and for most of us the degrees were of little practical value. In my own case for a variety of reasons, I spent most of my time in the VIIIB History Group, of seven students; one could describe it as elitist—it certainly it was a fabulous opportunity to study history but for practical purposes one would really need to combine it with a legal course of study and qualification. It was inhabited mainly by aspiring lawyers and most (maybe all) of these achieved high distinction in the legal cosmos. The VIII History Group years left me with a mix of rhetorical skills, a tendency to engage in forensic type analysis, a tendency, (perhaps a compulsion) to use big words, an appreciation of legal concepts, a panache in speaking and writing (had to get the word panache in!) and a capacity to write history of a most original kind. The practical application of such attributes was limited—especially in an era when one might not get a job cleaning windows.
In the 1840ies they were fixated on a much simpler and earthier strategy to transform Irish society: the famous priest, the Capuchin, Fr Matthew, set out to preach Temperance—abstinence from alcoholic drink and to be fair to him, one could not think of a more useful change to achieve in the Ireland of that time. As far as I can gauge, Fr Matthew was Unionist in political outlook in the simple sense that he favoured the retention of the Union of Ireland and Great Britain and there was an acrimony between him and the iconic nationalist Archbishop of Tuam, John Mac Hale. Fr Matthew had a disdain of superstition: he refused to comfort people afflicted with various maladies, lesions, infections, blindness, sores, tumours etc with false promises that he could effect miraculous cures. Tens of thousands followed him about. They had a Temperance Ball in Carrig village in late January 1846, as reported in the Wexford Independent on January 31, 1846: the problem about it—like my own tendency—is that it is written in very big words and really needs to be translated:–
“The steady friends and firm supporters of the great and hallowed principle of Temperance, in the Bannow district, assembled on last Tuesday night, to celebrate the first anniversary of the fixed establishment amongst them, of those convivial meetings, so calculated to preserve ever green, in the minds of the people, the inevitable benefits, which the Apostolic labours of the great and good Father Matthew have conferred on the present and future generation of Irishmen. The revered and venerated Catholic clergymen who have been the originators of these festive assemblages in different localities of our county…..have not confined them exclusively to Tee-totalers, but have invariably thrown open their ball-room to the admission of those who wedded to old habits, have not nerve and strength of resolution sufficient to burst the trammels which the wily and fascinating demon of alcoholic drinks has ever thrown over the shoulders of her unhappy votaries.”
I believe that the above translates as meaning that the Temperance priests permitted alcoholic drinkers to come to the Temperance dances. Because these people had not experienced the “salutary effects” of Temperance and from “old associations and customs cannot conceive that festive throng will enjoy those pleasurable sensations of delight and amusement, which the word ball or soiree is sure to conjure up in the imagination, in the absence of the wine-cup and punch-bowl.” They were admitted to the Carrig Temperance ball to convince them otherwise.
The dance was held in the National School House at Carrig and the newspaper reporter entered the School at nine o’clock. He described the proceedings as follows:–
“The band who, we are happy to say, have much improved since the last Ball, were playing at the moment—A string band were also in attendance, for the duties of the dance and in the back ground, perched upon a little eminence, we observed a wandering minstrel, not with gentle harp, but with the equally national bagpipes—who at intervals, through the night, did good service on his “chaunter and drone”. The entire assembly were seated at tea and we felt exultation in beholding the kind-hearted and good priest [Fr Martin Moran], surrounded by a more select group of his more aged and respectable parishioners, enjoying with evident delight, the happy scene around him. There were 180 persons present, fully representing the wealth, respectability and comfort of the happy tenantry of that excellent landlord…Thomas Boyse, Esq., whose late happy union with the wealthy and accomplished Mrs Colclough has given him an additional extensive field for the exercise of the duties of the kind and generous “natural protector”. The Rev. Mr Moran, having delivered a short address suited to the occasion, left at an early hour and at four o’clock in the morning your reporter departed, leaving the joyous groups doing homage at the shrine of Terpsichore—our old and sterling friend, Roger Sweetman Esq., of Kiltra Cottage, acting as Master of Ceremonies, with the elasticity of spring and buoyancy of spirits of the young gentleman of twenty.
The refreshments were excellent and reflect credit on the caterer, our worthy friend Mr Edward Colfer, to whose kind attention we can safely recommend any of our friends who shall ever visit the picturesque scenery of Bannow and its winding shores.”
I have no idea of how they got 180 persons to fit into that School-house. The drinking of copious amounts of tea was an invariable feature of these Temperance Balls or dances. There were two notable absences from the Festive night, one of them surely conspicuous by his absence: Tom Boyse and his recent bride Mrs Jane Kirwan Colclough/Boyse were not there—it was not a good omen for their marriage.
These Balls or dances—perhaps, because they were so infrequent—invariably went on into the following day. Fr Martin Moran could not stay that length, not only because his ecclesiastical and priestly regulations would prohibit him participating in a dancing session but also because he would have to get up in the morning to celebrate Mass. The Temperance Society of Carrig-on-Bannow would seem on the basis of the above to have been set up in 1845—a dismal time in Ireland.
At the Duncormack Petty Sessions in May 1916, it was reported in the People on May 14 1912:–
John Mahoney, Danescastle, Bannow, applied for transfer of the premises lately held by John Barry, same place. Mr Brennan for applicant handed in conveyance of premises to applicant and the police making no objection, the application was granted.”
The Echo on the 7th of July 1909 reported:–
“On Sunday the remains of Capt. Roche, Ballygow, Bannow, were laid to rest in the quiet graveyard at Carrig. The funeral assembly was a large one and testified to the popularity of the deceased in the district. Capt. Roche who held a large farm of land was, also, a merchant on an extensive scale, being the possessor of two coal yards and a number of vessels and traction engines.”
From The Echo the 3rd of July 1909:–
“Tullacana (sic) Tug-Of-War Team
A special meeting of the above was held on Tuesday evening. Mr P. M’Cormack was unanimously elected captain of the team, with Mr T. Chapman as Treasurer and Secretary. It was decided to travel to Bree on the 11th instant and take part in the competitions there.
The Echo on the 6th of 1909 reported:–
“Go Ahead Ballymitty
The enterprising little village of Ballymitty is still forging ahead, one of the latest attractions being a bicycle and out-fitting depot, which has been opened by Messrs Furlong Bros.”
The Enniscorthy Echo, in its Duncormick notes on the 19th of June 1909 related:–
The annual “pattern” or “dressing” of graves was held in Kilcavan on last Sunday. A crowd of about one hundred people attended to celebrate this old Irish custom. Anyone visiting the grand old graveyard, with its historical old ruins, cannot but admire the many graves so tastefully decorated at this time of the year. It shows at least that the people of the locality have not forgotten their departed friends.”
The Echo on the 12th of June 1909 in its feature “From The Southern Baronies” reported:–
“Large Attendance At A Football Match
Over eight hundred people witnessed the match between Wexford and Ballymitty Football Clubs at Kilkavan on Sunday last.”
Long, long ago, at the old university, they used to pose a quotation from somebody or other at the top of an examination paper and follow it with the direction—“discuss”. One might discuss the query as to whether John C. Tuomy, alias Fair Play, alias Rambler was always correct in matters of fact and substance. One way to test the veracity of John C. Tuomy’s opus is to compare it, or some aspect of it, to other sources. The Wexford Independent on April 16th 1856 published a missive from Mr Tuomy entitled “Bannow—Boyse—And The Catholic Church”:–
“Sir—Your notice of the dedication sermon preached by Dr Cahill at Bannow on Sunday April 6th, together with your own” allusion to the late Thomas Boyse Esq., reminds me of some incidents connected with the building of the beautiful Catholic Church at Carrick.
One fine day in the summer of 1836 might be seen a venerable old man, his hair whitened with the snows of some 80 winters, mounted on a pony, and riding through the handsome village of Carrick (sic). He was accompanied on foot by another gentleman, some 25 years or more his junior. Both gentlemen turned into the chapel yard and were met by the Catholic Curate of Bannow. The white headed old man was Samuel Boyse, Esq., the younger one his illustrious son, Thomas Boyse—and the Clergyman, your townsman—the present venerated Parish Priest of Blackwater.
A number of the villagers and other tenants on the Boyse property were in attendance awaiting the arrival of their landlord; and the business of the day the laying of the Stone of that spacious and costly Sacred Edifice which our beloved Bishop dedicated on last Sunday and in which Dr Cahill delivered one of those sermons, which have made his name famous over the old and new continents of the world. Thus unostentatiously, surrounded by his tenantry and in the presence of his son, the inheritor of his estates, his virtues and his liberality, did the late Protestant Samuel Boyse of Bannow found the New Catholic Church of the Irish Herculaneum, for the accommodation of his Catholic people and a first instalment laid down £200.
An incident occurred at the close of the interesting ceremony, which may be worthy of remark, illustrating as it does, the ready wit and gratitude of our countymen. Captain Walter O’Brien of the Bannow and Bar of Lough coasting trades doffed his “Sounvester” and in language rich and racy of the soil, such as none but a regular Jack Tar could master, when half seas over, launched into a glorious panegyric on the liberality of the Messrs Boyse and invoked the blessings of Heaven on the honoured head of the old and princely landlord of Bannow.
The building is from a design by that eminent Architect Martin Day Esq., and up to the year 1845 was carried out under the immediate, zealous and untiring superintendence of the Rev. M. Moran. From 1845 to 1851, the goodly work of completion nearly lay in abeyance. Samuel Boyse had been gathered to his fathers and his ashes reposed within the walls of the chancel of the old church; the scene of the Rev. Mr Moran’s labours for the salvation of souls had been changed from Bannow to Blackwater and Thomas Boyse was busily engaged in preserving his people intact from the frightful devastation that the Famine years were making over the length and breadth of the land. Still he had a fixed purpose in mind and that purpose was to have the interior of the Church finished in a style commeasurable with the exterior of the Church and to see the cross surmounting the apex of the tall spire which was to have run up from the head of the bell tower as originally designed. In this object he was nobly supported by his amiable and benevolent sister, Miss M. Boyse. Bannow being the favoured summer resort of strangers for the purpose of sea bathing, Boyse’s New Chapel became an object of curiosity and remarks were made freely on its unfinished state. Even some of your literary correspondents in describing the present state of the Irish Herculaneum, drew attention to the contrast between the stained glass windows of the New Church and its raw unplastered walls and broken up earthen floor and further deplored the roofless, unfinished state of the magnificent bell tower, which became the eyry of the owl, the swallow and the daw. The fault was not Boyse’s, however. The work was resumed in 1851 and by what I have lately read in your columns, I am gratified to learn that the completion of the gifted and noble minded Thomas Boyse’s Catholic Church at Bannow is at hand.
The present generation of Bannow-men will pass away—the old church, the last vestige of a once flourishing sea-port may become buried beneath the drift sands or wiped away by the billowy wave, but the New Church will stand as a lasting monument of the liberality of the Boyses of Bannow during the first half of the Nineteenth century
April 12, 1856”
John C. Tuomy has firstly got the year wrong! The Wexford Independent reported on the 31st of May 1837 that Sam Boyse had performed the ceremony of “laying the first stone” of the new Chapel at Carrig on the previous Monday week. The report asserted that thousands of his grateful and happy tenantry were present—that has to be either an exaggeration or an imprecise statement. Strictly speaking, there could not be thousands of tenants of the Boyse estate at Bannow—counting in the families of each tenant would bring one nearer to the thousands figure but it could only be reached if people from adjoining parishes gathered at the ceremony. I have no doubt that people could have come long distances to this event. Sam Boyse and his far famed son Thomas arrived in the Chapel yard at about twelve o’clock. There were three priests present—Fr Martin Moran C. C., Fr Peter Corish P. P. and Fr James Walsh P. P. the Pastor of Kilmore.
I doubt if Mr Tuomy was present as he give a pre-eminent place to Fr Moran and does not mention the actual Parish Priest Fr Peter Corish. The conundrum was that the people of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow on the death of Fr Edward Murphy on the 24th of July 1830 wanted his Curate Fr John Barry to succeed him as Parish Priest. Appointed Parish Priest in August 1830, Fr Corish went to live in Ballymitty where he remained until his death on the 16th of June 1873. Fr Martin Moran was appointed Curate at Carrig-on-Bannow on the 25th of February 1834 and ministered in Carrig, regularly saying Mass there. He celebrated the first Mass in the new Chapel in 1938, in the presence of the Bishop Dr Keating. Fr Peter Corish was a native of Lough and seems to have been quite a cross priest. Fr Philip Doyle O. S. A. of Maudlintown recalled a former altar boy who served Mass for Fr Corish telling him:–“We feared him but we loved him. His horsewhip was law all over the district and he often used it on the altar boys.”
The report in The Wexford Independent gives the leading clerical role at the laying of the first stone ceremony to Fr Corish who gave the reply to Sam Boyse’s laboured address (he was a challenged public speaker).
Mr Tuomy asserts that Tom Boyse inherited his father’s liberality but Sam Boyse would doubt that! Sam Boyse told a meeting held to promote Catholic Emancipation that he had imbibed anti-Catholic prejudice with his mother’s milk (his words, albeit somewhat jarring) but that his son Thomas had convinced him of correctness of seeking civil and religious rights; he quoted a poem to the effect that to be just was to be great; the corollary was that if one was not just one could not be great.
Fr Corish spoke in his address of Sam Boyse as “the Lord of the Soil, the landlord of the greater portion of those who surround him…” The mindset of Fr Corish could be described as an Irish variant of the doctrine of Gallicanism: the Catholic Church in that era believed that all authority replicates that of Heavenly form and that consequently Catholics were obliged to obey the political ruler in their country. To him as to his Bishop Dr Keating, the landlord Mr Sam Boyse was as the landed proprietor, a replication of God’s authority.
Mr Tuomy’s references to the “Irish Herculaneum” of Bannow is puzzling: the Rev. Robert Walsh in the 1830ies was criticised for so describing it and most writers of that era—including Tuomy, himself—were dismissive of the Bannow as Herculaneum theory.
I do not think that Tom Boyse would have tolerated the puerile and idiotic sycophancy of Walter O’Brien: Boyse believed effectively in the equality of all people—he was, after all, a dedicated Liberal or Whig in his politics. He resented attempts to honour him for his patriotic services, flatly refusing to attend a public dinner on one occasion in his honour. The “O” prefix was not generally used be fore Irish names in that era. I think that O’Brien is a product of Mr Tuomy’s imagination but I could be wrong.