Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charismatic, charming, grandiloquent, eloquent, marked by panache, historian supreme, a right boyo, blessed among the women, inspiring and inspired, a visionary and a prophet, a sheer genius of astronomical intellect; yet humble and self-effacing—the most manipulative, devious and wily of them all; that wily boy from beside the mine pits. St Kevin of Kilkevan prophesised that gold and silver would ever adorn the Barrystown children.

I am unsure how to respond to the suggestion that the Bannow Historical Society acquire a mission statement. The basic difficulty for all historical societies is the public apathy towards history, especially to serious scholarship and intensive research. Traditionally, history was, exclusively, regarded in Ireland, as an immutable lore to further the cause of Irish nationality and nationalism. In Co. Wexford the recurrent tendency is to recall Vinegar Hill and 1798 plus the activity in Enniscorthy in Easter Week 1916. Brother Michael Ronan who taught us mathematics said that in Enniscorthy they could only remember Vinegar Hill and 1798 and even then they sometimes forgot that—he wanted them to remember the mathematical formulae. He was, at least, slightly wrong: I acquired an urge to understand complex mathematical theory from him and at 45 resumed the study of mathematics! I am sure that Brother Ronan is in the heavenly mansions.

The basic purpose of a local history society should be to encourage the study of the history of that area and if possible to generate a local fascination with such research and study. Carrig-on-Bannow is steeped in history. The assumption that there is no material to be researched is wrong—just look at my blog! The secondary purpose of a local history society should be to stimulate an interest in history generally.

One of the girls who was in the educational mills with me told me that her aunt counselled her to always have a couple of aspirin in case the master should start on the history….dates of battles and wars, names of long dead kings and queens; it could do her head in! [I was tempted to say a dram of whiskey to make a better story of the aunt’s advice but she did not say that!] There is a heavy negativity towards the study of history and in local societies it is difficult to keep the members interested. I assert that history is a fascinating study.

In the old university, the late Professor Robin Dudley Edwards insisted that history is based on documentary sources: he discerned a parallel between the physical sciences and historical study in that scrupulous and intense research on extant documents could lead to objectively correct conclusions. The deficiency in that approach is that such history lacks populist and popular appeal: it is replete with nuances, ambiguity, footnotes and allusions to sources; and seldom in black and white conclusions. The converse deficiency in the more populist history is that it is too simple and not really objective. There is a tendency still to imagine what happened, often on the basis of present day realities and views. The most fundamental rule of history is: the past is a foreign country. You cannot imagine or conjecture what happened.

I have followed the prescription of Robin Dudley Edwards closely in my historical writings. My disappointment with the various Journals of local historical societies is that they contain comparatively sparse accounts of those districts.

In a footnote to his Notes and Gleanings relating to the County Wexford, published in 1868, the Rev. William Hickey—Rector at Bannow from 1820-27—wrote:–

“Forty years ago we happened to see a man, in the parish of Bannow, on the road side, flogging a boy severely with a cart rope. On our remonstrating indignantly with the executioner, he stated that the youth, his own son, had found the rope near the man’s cottage and had brought it indoors instead of leaving it on the hedge opposite, where the owner might have the opportunity of finding it—according to the custom of the parish.”

Mr Walsh who taught us geometry in the C. B. S. at Enniscorthy over 50 years ago defined an axiom as a statement so obvious that it would be futile to try to prove it: you might as well prove that Co. Wexford is in the southeast of Ireland. That the people of the people of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow are ever honest, in every era, is utterly obvious; the Rev. Hickey’s story is not only silly and incredible but proof of an axiom. No native of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow ever lies, ever is dishonest and never brags: all that is blindingly obvious.

The Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union in the summer of 1894 were set on a most unusual, if not bizarre, plan: according to the report of the July 1894 meeting of the Guardians, the Local Government Board “also enclosed  a copy of the report of the board’s engineering inspector, Mr Deane, relating to the existing house in the townland of Kiltra proposed to be acquired by the Guardians and to request that the board may be furnished with a plan and specification and estimate of the additions and improvements suggested by Mr Deane.”

As far as I can make out, the Board of Guardians, sought to acquire or buy a house in Kiltra and upgrade it to the level of a labourer’s cottage; legislation had shortly before been enacted requiring the Boards of Guardians build suitable cottages for labouring men. This was Mr Deane’s report on the house in Kiltra:–

“I visited this cottage on the 21st inst. It contains on ground floor a small kitchen and bedroom and a very low loft over-head and there is a lean-to and piggery at rere. The walls are plumb and the roof is covered with slates which are coated with tar. The sashes are new and the woodwork generally is in fair condition. If this cottage is acquired by the guardians, it will be necessary to provide an additional bedroom, to build a privy at a distance of ten feet from back wall. I would suggest that the shed at rere be slated and used as a bedroom and store; the partition in kitchen removed and the floor of same laid with concrete. If these alterations are made it would be suitable and I would recommend the cottage to be included in the provisional order.”

One of the Guardians, Mr Devereux “said he had been talking to the owner and he told him he was prepared to do all the repairs that were necessary for the window. He would, also, put in a new floor and take away the pigsty. He would be satisfied to do these things himself. Clerk [to the Wexford Board of Guardians]—This house is exactly the same size as the houses we have built. We have two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. Mr Hore—What about the roof?

Mr Devereux—The roof is a new one. Mr Hore—What did we agree to give to get possession? Clerk–£40. Mr Roche—And if we have to spend £30 or £40 more, it will be about the price of the new one, and the new one would certainly be better than this one when we are done with it.”

Mr Roche expressed what would be my own bafflement about this transaction: would it not be simpler for the Guardians to employ a contractor to build a new cottage? The Clerk seemed to attempt an explanation:–

“Clerk—The unfortunate position we are in is this, that if we wanted to get shut of a house as unsanitary, they would say it was a splendid one. If we wanted to prove now that this house was unfit for habitation, they would go so far as they would be able and call it a first class house. But now, when we want this house, they find fault with it. Mr Hore—I think if you pointed out to them that this house had the very same rooms as one of our own houses, they might not insist on these additions. It is very strange to see them recommending this house.”

I am unsure exactly who “they” were; I would conjecture that “they” are the Board of Works. The discussions continued as follows:–

“Mr Devereux—The roof of the loft is low but they do not complain about that. The loft of our houses is 6 and a half feet high and the height of this house is 5 feet 10 inches. It would hardly be worth stirring for that. Mr Hore—Why they require an additional bedroom for these people I cannot say. Mr Devereux—Mr O’Connor could point out also that the kitchen he refers to is within six inches as large as the ones of our cottages.

Chairman—It appears from the ground plan to be a very suitable little cottage. Will you approve of our executive officer writing and drawing the attention of the Local Government Board to the very slight difference in the area of this house that we propose to take over and the houses that we built throughout the union? [Poor Law Union of Wexford]. I take it that if that is shown to them plainly they cannot take any objection to it. Mr Devereux—He told me he would tale away the pig-stye and put it further back and he will settle the shed so that a car could be put in it. Clerk—I would certainly be for putting down a concrete floor. Mr Devereux—That would not be very much expense.”

It is possible that the purchase of this house would add to the stock of labourers’ cottages held by Wexford Board of Guardians without the hassle and legal difficulty of acquiring a site to build a cottage on: both the landlords and farmers directly involved often resented and opposed the taking of a half an acre of land off a farm to provide a site on which to build a labourer’s cottage and leave the labourer with a small parcel of land on which to sow potatoes, vegetables and/or keep a goat or an ass.

The Wexford Conservative on April 19th 1843 carried this advertisement:

“To Be Sold

The Interest in the Lands of Ballone

Near Rosegarland

In The County Wexford

Containing thirty six acre plantation measure, well laid down, fenced and drained, on which there is a comfortable cottage, out-offices, kitchen garden and orchard, these lands are most desirably situated, being only ten miles from Wexford, nine from Ross and two from the splendid bathing place called Cullinstown and within ten minutes walk of the Bannow Grammar School. The sea ebbs and flows to part of the said lands, which will enable the purchaser to land coal, culm or limestone, or any other commodity he may think proper to embark in, &c, &c.

The Purchaser may have the Chattel property at valuation if required.

Application at premises, or at the Conservative Office.

April 18th 1843.”

I think that approximately five Irish acres equalled eight statute acres. My little dictionary defines chattels merely as possessions. I estimate that it would take fifteen minutes to walk a mile so the Bannow Grammar School must have been less than a mile from “Ballone”.

From The People July 20th 1881:–

“Duncormack Petty Sessions

The Wexford Board of Guardians, by Relieving Officer Dillon, summoned Lucy H– and Cecilia B–, under the Sanitary Act, about a house of which Mrs H– was landlady and Mrs B–, tenant.

Dr Boyd deposed that the house had no roof on the part of it in which the occupant slept and it was not fit for human habitation. Mrs H– said she received no rent for the house for a considerable time and, for this reason, she did not repair it.

Mrs B– said the roof was blown off in a storm and she paid rent for it for a long time after this occurred and in October last she declined paying rent when it would not be repaired.

Mrs H—was ordered to repair the house within one month and Mrs B—was ordered to leave it until such repairs would be done as would render it fit for human habitation.”

The relevant legislation—the misnamed Sanitary Act—demanded that houses unfit for human habitation should—unless rectified—be destroyed, presumably to prevent anybody living in them: the catch 22 of such legislation was that while the provisions of the law were a sharp deterrent to the leasing of such wretched abodes, the problem remained that the occupants had no alternative accommodation. Unless destitute they might not be admitted to the Workhouse. Where was Mrs B—to go to, at least, while the house was being repaired? And where would Mrs—go to if the owner did not repair the house within a month as directed by the Petty Sessions and the Sanitary Authorities, the Board of Wexford Guardians, had the house knocked down?

Bartholomew Ffrench, a native of Bannow, died in San Francisco on the 15th of June 1881.

From The Bannow and District Notes in The People on September 30th 1950:–

“It gave great satisfaction to the people of the Bannow area to learn that Mr J. J. Furlong, Little Graigue, had been elected to the Co. Council. For years the Bannow area had no resident councillor.

Corporation Election—Mr Michael Broaders, South Main Street, Wexford, who is a native of Ballygow was elected to Wexford Corporation. The people of the area are pleased that a person from the parish has been selected to such a position in the principal town of the county. Mr Patrick Colfer Clonmines, elected in the interests of Labour on the Co. Council has, also, associations with the Bannow area, his father hailing from the district.

Visitors—Mr Patrick Broaders, Carrig, is at present on a short holiday from Coventry. Mr Broaders comes of a famous handballing family in Carrig. Before going to England he was a member of the local handball and football clubs. He served for a period in the National Army. Miss Josie Purcell is on a short visit from London to the home of her parents at Little Graigue. Before going to England, Miss Purcell was well known in local dramatic circles and frequently contributed to concert programmes, her forte being Irish step-dancing.

Crops—Mr Martin Waters, Brandane, threshed one acre of Spring wheat and had a yield of eleven barrels, 15 stone which must be considered a record for this season. A sheaf taken from this crop won first prize at the Bannow and Rathangan Show held recently at Little Graigue.

Sporting Success—Mr P. Colfer, Vernegly, who emigrated recently to Neath, South Wales won valuable trophies presented for a rifle shooting competition in that town. Before departing for Wales, Mr Colfer was section leader of Bannow F. C. A.

E. S. B.—Work on the rural electrification scheme in the area has now been practically completed. Lights were switched on in Cullenstown area on Friday last. Bannow area has had the light for the past few weeks. All regard the scheme as a great boon to the district.”

From The Wexford Conservative November 13th 1841:–

“It having been universally known that the Very Rev. Mr Matthew would attend at the Augustinian Convent of Grantstown on the 10th inst., to preach a sermon in aid of the funds for defraying the expenses of erecting a chapel there and, also, to enrol under the hallowed and peace-bestowing banner of Temperance such as were anxious to take the pledge. At an early hour that morning thousands of all ages and sexes began to assemble and even from very considerable distances. Great numbers of Tee-totalers attended for the for the purpose of expressing their gratitude for the blessings they had reaped through his instrumentality and by their example and countenance to encourage the wavering and confirm the incipient wish to join the Society manifested by an immense multitude and their virtuous intentions were crowned with ample success.

Before the Very Rev. Gentleman commenced administering the Pledge he exhorted them in the most fervent manner to look back on their past lives, to consider the effects which a want of a strict self-denial of all intoxicating drinks had been productive—and of the mental and corporal enjoyments obtained by all who had happily overcome their old desires and become sterling members of Tee-totalism. He exhorted all to weigh well the solemnity of the pledge they were to make and to form a steadfast resolution to abide firmly by it to the end of their days and not to run headlong and thoughtlessly to make a solemn vow and in a short time as thoughtlessly and most shamefully break it.

The address appears to have had a most favourable effect, as at the lowest calculation, it is estimated that 10,000 persons took the pledge and among them many who had previously done so, but whose good resolutions had not sufficiently matured to withstand the temptations and allurements of old and confirmed habits.

The Very Rev. Gentleman appeared in the most robust health and easy buoyancy of spirits.”

It was unusual for the Wexford Conservative to carry the full text of any speech made by a Catholic priest; it represented the disposition of those who supported the Orange Order. Fr Matthew was, indeed, a Catholic priest but a Unionist in politics—he believed that Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Temperance campaign in its initial phase was promoted—to the greater extent—by the Established Church or Protestant clergy; in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, the Catholic clergy took up the issue of Temperance and appealed to memories of the heroism of the rebels of 1798 to inspire young men to abstain from alcohol. The Land League, and the republican separatists, including the I. R. B., plus the Gaelic League all strove for Temperance; in Enniscorthy during Easter Week, the Volunteers on taking control of the town closed all public houses.