Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming and charismatic, historian supreme, an intelligence in excess of Einstein, a right boyo, erudite, scholarly, original, inspired and inspiring and above all else, the most wily and devious of them all—that wily boy from beside the mine pits. I left Barrystown in the month of May and this May the symbols have been particularly positive for me.

I was, as I told the meeting, gratified that so many new members came to the A. G. M. of the Bannow Historical Society on last Monday night: the irrepressible impression was of renewal, of fresh growth—a May and early summer symbolism of surging beauty. Before the meeting, I walked back from Wellingtonbridge towards Barrystown and was surprised by the number of beautiful new houses now constructed along that piece of road. It is, perhaps, the most alluring and beautiful place on this earth. The poet Jack Mc Cutcheon opined that Carrig-on-Bannow was the fairest parish in Erin. It is, also, the most historical: the first landing of the Normans was at Bannow,  an event that altered the course of Irish history for many centuries to come.

“Our Open Column

The Mumming Challenge

To The Editor, “The Free Press”

Sir—I was pleased to read in your last issue that Tagoat has accepted the challenge made by my team. Neither I nor my team consider ourselves the vanquished side and I was much amused, I may say, at Tagoat stipulating. However, we are prepared to meet Tagoat at Ballymitty on St Patrick’s night. I will lodge the £3 with Mr White, Secretary of the Ballymitty Hall Committee and, I trust, Tagoat will do likewise. I may remind their captain that the question of expense never crossed our minds, our one aim being the uplifting of Wexford’s own dance.

I understand that a panel of judges will attend Ballymitty Hall on St Patrick’ night when one capable of comparing both sides will, I am sure, be available.

In the meantime, practice and hard work must prevail and I hope the better team will receive the honours due them on St Patrick’s night.

J. Sinnott (Capt)

“The Bridge Boys”

Harristown, Taghmon.”

The above was published in Free Press on the 20th of February 1937.

From the report of the Petty Sessions at Duncormack on the 27th of February 1897 in The People:–

“John Kehoe, Clongeen, was charged by Constable Bradley with being drunk in charge of a jennet and car at Wellingtonbridge. The defendant, a respectable looking middle aged man, expressed great regret for his offence, as during his whole lifetime, he never received a summons and he assured their worships it would be the last. He had travelled to-day, near seven miles, to meet the charge. He hoped to be dealt with leniently with, as he promised the like would never again occur; in fact, he felt ashamed it should ever have taken place.

Mr Roche said as the defendant seemed a very respectable man and, through his whole life, had a clean record and as he expressed such sorrow for his first offence, he would be for taking a very merciful view of the case. The Chairman and Mr Scallan agreed and defendant was let go with the small penalty of 1 shilling and costs.”

From The Bannow and District Notes in The People on the 9th of February 1952:–

“Bannow and Rathangan Y. F. C. — Mr Kevin Breen of Bannow and Rathangan Young Farmers’ Club at Little Graigue on Friday night of last week. There was an interesting discussion on wheat and beet-growing and prices. It was decided to get the views of the general body on the matter. Complaints were made by several members on the lack of weighing facilities for livestock and it was decided to have alternative enquiries made as to the price of a suitable weighbridge.

Food Production — Mr K. Maloney B. Agr. Sc. lectured in St Mary’s Hall, Carrig-on-Bannow on Thursday night on food production. An interesting discussion followed. Mr J. J. Furlong M. C. C. presided.

Whist Drive—Mr Dick Crosbie was the winner of the top score prize at a whist drive held in St Brendan’s Hall on Thursday night. Other prizes were won by Messrs P. Doyle and P. Roche and Misses Eileen and Peggy Colfer. There was a large attendance. Mr P. Morris was M. C.”

The above notes denote a strong emphasis on food production: after 1960 Western and Irish society moved towards a more technological mode of economic activity and the fear of food shortages (the French and Russian Revolutions were precipitated by scarcities of food) largely dissipated. Technology made for dramatic increases in food production.

From The People the 29th of July 1911:–

“Sale of Land

On Wednesday, 26th inst., Mr R. P. Corish put up for sale a farm, the property of Miss Cousins, Busherstown, containing about 25 acres statute. Bidding started at £40 and rapidly increased to £140, at which amount Mr John Chapman, Busherstown, was declared purchaser. Mr P. Carroll, Busherstown was runner up.”

From The People the 28th of July 1909:–

“Wanted a Blacksmith; must be a good shoer; constant work. Apply to J. Dake, Coolishall, Carrig-on-Bannow.”

From The People the 28th of July 1900:–

“Accident to a Ballymitty Football Player

A young man, named John Cullen, was the victim of a serious accident in Wexford Park on Sunday. It appears that he was one of the Ballymitty team in the football match against Gorey on Sunday and during the progress of the game came into collision with a member of the opposing team, being struck in the groin, which caused him serious injury. Cullen went to see Dr Hadden, at the County Infirmary, that evening and was advised to remain for treatment. This, however, he seemed reluctant to do and after receiving some instructions from the doctor went home. During the week he was in a very critical condition and endured much pain. A telegram from Wellingtonbridge yesterday (Friday) stated that his condition is still very low but that hopes are entertained of his recovery.”

A telegram was a message phoned from one Post Office to another: one was charged by the number of words in the message conveyed which was written down by the Post Master or Post Mistress in the Post Office that it was sent to and then delivered to the intended recipient. The wording of telegrams was very terse, even cryptic to diminish the cost of sending it.

It has ever been a puzzle to me how men playing physical contact sports coped with injuries in an era of very limited medical expertise.

From The People the 4th of August 1900:–

“Harvesting Trial in South Wexford

The New Milwaukee Binder at Work

A most interesting and instructive harvesting trial took place in South Wexford on Wednesday, when, in the presence of a large number of spectators, the Milwaukee binder was shown at work on the farm of Mr Joseph W. Deane, Longraigue. The machine was started in a splendid ten-acre field of very heavy crop, long tawny oats, part of which was badly lodged.

The first trial was made in the best standing part of the crop and just as a number of farmers had put in an appearance in the field. The result was pleasing in the extreme. The machine was then put into some tangled grain and the work done under these circumstances surprised those present, the cut being clean and low and the trapping just as good as in the more favourable circumstances. The straw was about five and a half feet long [inches?] and it was wonderful to see the way the machine handled the tangled crop, which was partly lying away from the knives and leaning heavily across the divider. The great and foremost principle of the machine is the floating and flexible elevator it possess—a contrivance which it may be explained has the great advantage of automatically adapting the canvas to light or heavy iron—and for this feature the Milwaukee binder was awarded the silver medal (the highest given in such a case) of the Royal Agricultural Society of England at the York meeting on June 22nd last. The judges appointed by the Royal Society on that occasion endeavoured by both fair and foul means to choke the elevator by loading up the platform of the canvas to a depth of nine inches with unbound green dye. They afterwards put bound sheaves through the machine, about twenty in all, and found it   absolutely impossible, under these exceptionally trying conditions, to succeed in choking the elevator. The machine, exhibited on Mr Deane’s farm more than satisfied us and those who were present as to its great capacity for handling rough and heavy crops. The draught of the machine is well within the power of two horses on level land, but when it has to bind up hill three horses are necessary. The reel of the binder can be set backwards, or forward, up or down, by means of one lever only, which is conveniently situated for the driver. In fact, all the levers for manipulating the machine so as to adapt itself to various kinds of crops, are situated most conveniently and can be handled instantaneously. The fingers of the machine are actually lower than the bottom of the platform, thus enabling it to cut stubble only an inch long if the surface of the land will permit it. The machine can be set to tie five different sizes of sheaves, and the adjustment for loose or tight binding can be regulated in one moment. Messrs Michael Hearn and Son, New Ross, having previously informed respecting this new type of binder, arranged at the last Dublin Spring Cattle and Agricultural Implement Show for the agency of it for the counties of Wexford and Carlow and for South Kilkenny from the wholesale importers, Messrs Hugh Reid, Griffin and Co. London. It is impossible to speak too highly of the Milwaukee binder. There are several new features in the machine which apply to this machine only. The floating and flexible elevator, for instance, is attached to no other binder in the world and is an invaluable feature. Mr Waddell, representing the London firm of importers, was present at the trial and explained very fully the principles of the machine to those present. The makers are the Milwaukee Harvester Company, whose Mammoth Works are situated at Milwaukee, State of Wisconsin, and this was the first company which ever manufactured a binder to tie with string. Their first binder was manufactured as far back as 1874. The machine now under notice cuts a width of five feet. The machines are manufactured in two widths of cut—five and six feet—but for the requirements of Ireland it appears the five foot cut is the better. Messrs Hearn and Son, New Ross, have already disposed of a considerable number of the Milwaukee binders and the field work of Wednesday was so satisfactory that some purchasers were made on the ground. The following were amongst those who witnessed the trial: Mr Waddell (importer’s representative), Mr Nicholas Hendrick, Messrs J. W. Deane, Longraigue, W. J. Deane, do; John Redmond, Nash; Patrick Fowler, do; Edward Browne, Creacon; James Ryan, Clonleigh; John Hendrick, Rathfardon; James Ryan District Councillor, Mullinderry; Thomas Bennett, Cushinstown; Robert Bennett, do; Patrick Quigley, Lacken; Patrick Fitzgerald, Wetherstown, county Kilkenny; –Robinson, Bryanstown; George Cooney, Old Ross, Colonel Stronge, etc, etc.”

During the awfully wet harvest of 1960, at nine years of age, I caught my close-up glimpse of a binder (tractor driven) at work. I was fascinated—and it is east to imagine the fascination that men must have felt in 1900 at such machines. An enormous increase in agricultural productivity was certain with the advent of such machinery. I was enthralled, as a child, by the binding twine, used to tie the sheaves.

The great novelist Francis Mac Manus, in his epic novel “This House Was Mine” has the aged Michael Hickey return to survey the ruins of his family home and observe a young man operating one of the newly introduced mowing machines. The young man was kindly contemptuous of Michael Hickey looking at the old ruins: the future of agriculture was incipiently that of mechanisation and technology.

From The People the 15th of August 1900:–

“To The Editor

Sir—I shall be obliged for a little space in your paper to make some remarks on the meeting of the county committee of the G. A. A., held on the 29th ult., to consider objection from Ballymitty. The report of said meeting, as appearing in last Saturday’s Free Press makes it more necessary that the full facts should be made known, so that everybody can see how the business was conducted. The representatives of Ballymitty went to that meeting under the impression that their case would get a full and patient hearing, but in this they were sadly deceived. The chairman, Mr Cosgrave, was impatient, not to say intolerant, from the first; and at once tried to shelve the principal objection by refusing to entertain it. I would ask why did he entertain it afterwards and allow a poll to be taken? The answer to this ought to be interesting . Now mark, Mr Cosgrave awarded Gorey the match by voting right and left without having any report from the referee before him. An hour ought to have been played, a member of the committee present proved that the time was considerably short of this; the referee sent no report claiming an hour’s play nor to account for the curtailment, and yet, it was quite in order with the chairman. It did not matter that the Young Ireland’s had to replay the Volunteers for similar reason. Mr Cosgrave affected not to hear this, or at least had nothing to say. There was sufficient evidence of many abuses in connection with the match and only we believed that on this account there was a moral certainty of having it replayed, we could easily have objected on insufficiency of notice—only four clear days being given. But we did not care to take advantage of matters of this kind, being confident that the justice of our claim on the points submitted would be recognised. Mr Cosgrave will do well to note that Mr Behan did not allow these abuses to go unchecked at last Saturday’s match, one result being the removal of the best but foulest of the Gorey team. But you know Mr Cosgrave will uphold the referee’s decision even without what it is, and no matter what such referees’ qualifications are. Rather rash for a county chairman! But then he managed sports for the past eight years—before Ballymitty was thought of. So he told us. There was his warrant for treating us as he pleased; but he seemed not to know that for many years in succession and until recently, Gaelic sports were successfully held here, and that in the early days of the Gaelic revival. Ballymitty were in the thick of it in Murrintown and elsewhere. And yet because the present club has not the chairman’s long acquaintance we are entitled to small consideration—or rather to insult. Of course the dignity of a few members was grossly offended by Mr Doyle’s remarks as to having their minds made up, though they seemed not to hear a courteous and reassuring remark to our representative from the chairman previously. I will not occupy any more of your valuable space by further details—I am, yours very truly,

John M’Cormick, Captain, Erin’s Hope

Ballymitty, August 10.”

Jack Mc Cormack was elected as a member of the Wexford District Council and served as a public representative: hence his ease with polemics, arguments and words.

From The People the 19th of July 1908:–

“Big Throngs in Cullenstown

Tremendous crowds invaded Cullenstown on Sunday last. Attracted by the gloriously fine day visitors came on motors, cycles and cars from all parts and enjoyed the invigorating breezes of the Atlantic till a late hour in the evening. An excellent handball contest took place in the new alley, particulars of which appear below, and was keenly watched by a large and excited crowd on the banks, which provide an admirable grand stand for such occasions. It is only fair to remark that the conduct of the crowd was most praiseworthy and not a sign of drink was seen on anybody during the entire day.”