Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown whose fame and renown is broadcast to the winds that will carry it to the four corners of the earth. If I were not a native of Carrig-on-Bannow parish I would boast of myself but a native of that sacred domain does not blow his own coals. They were finding coal in Ballymitty in late 1933 plus a bit of silver on Whitty’s Hill. The notes in the Free Press seemed a trifle amused by the reports of the coal findings.

I would like to send some accounts of hidden gems of history in my native parish to the Federation of Local History Societies to put on their world wide website. I sent the Bannow Boatman—Paddy Cahill. About 500 words is required and a photo. One may write of some local personality or place: Carrig-on-Bannow is replete with history. I find it hard to obtain photos to match personalities or places that I might write of. I take it for granted that my millions of readers will be only too willing to oblige me. The Bannow Historical Society is, of course, affiliated to the Federation of Local History Societies but one does not have to belong to an affiliated Society to send in an item.

The story that Colclough of Tintern brought a team of hurlers from Forth and Bargy to play hurling before King William III of England has taken wings again: I genuinely doubt that William of Orange would look at Wexford hurlers—besides Mrs Hall wrote the story.

The Wexford Evening Post on the 16th of May 1826 reprinted from the “The Dublin and London Monthly Magazine an article entitled “Legendary Tales of the Irish Peasantry” with a sub-title—“Caesar Colclough of Tintern Abbey”. The author is not named but I have no doubt that it was Mrs Anna Maria Hall, the novelist, story-writer and travel writer who spent her formative years at Counsellor George Carr’s mansion at Graigue, Bannow. The latter was married (a second time, I think) to her grandmother. The child Anna Maria Fielding came there from Dublin with her mother but both went to London when Maria was in her teens.

The opening sentence leaves little doubt about the identity of the author: the writer trusts that the reader will “recollect the precise year—for I do not—that Mr Colclough, the candidate for the representation of the County Wexford, was killed in a duel by his opponent, a gentleman of the name of Alcock.” The author added—“I hate dates and politics….”

More basically, Anna Maria Hall hated figures; she recollected that the schoolmaster Ben Radford, of Cullenstown, endeavoured without success to teach her arithmetic on his visits to the Graigue mansion to educate her; she made no progress and as a matter of tact—and maybe to hide his own ineffectiveness in the matter—master Ben would mark her answers correct.

It was a day “remarkably serene and beautiful” and Mrs Hall had been at the Abbey of Dunbrody in the morning and at about two o’clock arrived at Tintern. The village, she wrote, was in morning for the death of Sir John Colclough as a result of a duel with Mr Alcock of Bree; “every aspect wore the countenance of unaffected sorrow.” I presume that she means that the sorrowful countenances were not merely postured. The Colcloughs were of the more lenient genus of Irish landlord and presumably supporters of the Whig or Liberal Party and its politics of redress of Catholic grievance in Ireland. Even factoring that in, I am not completely convinced that the entirety of the local peasantry felt such profound grief for the departed aristocrat. The famous historian, the Rev. James Bentley Gordon, wrote in circa 1814 that the peasantry, in his parish of Killegney, including Clonroche, were not averse to insurrection should the opportunity occur.

The writings of Mrs Hall are of great literary power and charm but her staple themes are ever surrealistic—in terms of objective historical reality—and have to be underlined by an imagined narrative, at least in part. The paranormal is central to her stories. She romanticised the subterranean culture of the Catholic peasantry, cottiers, labourers, beggars, con-men, smugglers and rogues. In Mrs Hall’s cosmos, the Catholic community are both locked into reciprocal profound amity with the Established Church denomination and in adoration of the British Royalty.

While most of the people had gone forward to meet the funeral, Mrs Hall “strolled into the depository of the dead; and not far from the newly opened grave, I saw an old man, to whose countenance I became instantly partial.” She judged that he had come from a long distance, far from his native hamlet. The probability is that this man was no more that fifty years of age—the average longevity then was much shorter than in latter times.

She seated herself on a tombstone beside him and he (the Irish peasantry were not as sullen or taciturn as the British one) spoke first—

“I wonder” said he, “will the birn be soon here?”

The word birn was colloquial for burying; Mrs Hall ascribed a most quaint idiom to the peasantry. The Taghmon schoolmaster John C. Tuomy accused her (harshly, perhaps) of reducing the peasantry to caricature. In exchanges with Mrs Hall, over the tragic demise of Mr Colclough, the old man enunciated a startling theory or belief:

“Aye, but everybody knew that a Colclough can never die on a bed like another Christian.”

I quote the core part of the old man’s narrative on the authentic cause of the curse or jinx on the Colcloughs, their inexorable fate never to die in their beds:–

“for often and often, Tim Farrell of the Boughereen, who has a long head of his own, tould me that the Colcloughs never would have good luck nor grace bekase they quarrelled with the “good people”. The first of the family who settled in Tintern was called Caesar, an’ like Sir John, he was a great man for making improvements. He built a market house and brought over weavers from Jarmany to learn his poor tenants how to manufacture cloth; but Och! themselves and their weaving is all gone to pot now. Well, as I was saying, Mr Colclough was always fond of making alterations; an’ among other things that stood in his way was a mote. One day he ordered his men to dig it and carry it away to fill up a quarry hole, but one o’ the men who knew something about the matter, advised the masther to make a haha of it, for that it was’nt lucky nor safe to meddle with it where Sheeoges lived. Mr Colclough only laughed at the poor fellow and ordered the men to do as they were bid. The first spit they took, however, broke the feck, an’ the first car load that was drawn away sank in the bog an’ the horse wid it. Begad the men got fritend and refused to do any more, when Mr Colclough seized the pick-axe an fell to work, called his servants to help ‘im an soon levelled the mote for good an all. An ould fairy woman, who lived hard by, sed he’d suffer for it, an so he did, as it afterwards came to pass.”

If taken literally, the above proves the existence of a separate species of animate and intelligent beings, endowed with mystical powers: the fairies. John C. Tuomy, in his letter of October 8th 1850 to the Wexford Independent was tantalisingly ironic about the fairy lore, presumably then prevalent:–

“I have neither seen not heard them, neither have I seen those who did, but I saw some who knew others that have seen them and you know this is confirmation strong with those who still hold the doctrine of fairyism.” The modern reader’s dilemma with the stories of Mrs Hall is the imperative of an absolute suspension of incredulity. The related issue is that latter day readers, not well acquainted with this genre of writing, –or depending on second hundred handed accounts of what she wrote—invariably read her writings literally! That stricture applies to this story in particular, as we shall see….In Mrs Hall’s writings the agenda, message or theme justifies the fantastical narrative.

The old man continued that the Colcloughs were always interested in hurling while Caesar Colclough was, “too, a great favourite in England, an was hand in glove wid the King, not Georgy, but some other.”

The “Georgy” may be merely colloquial but more likely is intended to denote affection for the King George in question—it hints at a peasantry at ease with Royalty!

The old man told Mrs Hall that the Monarch challenged Mr Colclough to a game, in England, between twenty-one English hurlers and an equal number of Co. Wexford men and continued in his rustic idiom:–

“Well, when Colclough returned home, he gave out that the Scarroghs would hurl against the Beany Bags and accordingly they met; an when the match was over, he picked out twenty one of the best from both sides; for pustuchaans, as the Barony Forth fellows are, begad they were always fine hurlers.”

The geography of the above confounds me! According to Mrs Hall’s footnotes, the Scarroghs lived south of the scar of Barrystown—my native place— and the people of the baronies of Forth and Bargy were called Beanybags [cultivated beans, I presume]. The two groups were implacable enemies. My understanding is that Barrystown and south of it is in the barony of Bargy.

The old man remarked that one could almost see the tower of Hook from there but there was no tower then “but a fine grandcastle, in which an ould Irish gintleman—one o’ the real sort—lived, who had the prettiest daughter of his own in the seven counties. She was a great fortune to boot…” Colclough fell in love with her “head and ears” (romance in myriad forms is a staple of Mrs Hall’s writings, often ill-fated, thwarted, inappropriate and, sometimes, blissful). Mr Colclough went to take his leave of her “and she was disconsolate entirely—so she was; for something tould her he’d never return.” She promised that she would keep a light burning in her window, that over looked the sea, “until he came back, for fear his vessel might be racked on the rocks, for want of something to guide her.”

I will quote the peasant’s description of the match in England: the language is rustic, perhaps exaggerated in its quaintness and archaism  but the excited narrative, moving at the speed of light and powered by hyperbole and rampant emotion—and of course oblivious to ordinary human limitations— is classic Anna Maria Hall writing:–

“When Colclough arrived in England with his twenty-one hurlers the King gave ‘em a hundred thousand welcomes; and when the day come for the match to take place, the boys began to strip. The Englishmen looked with contempt on our hurlers and thought they would have only childer’s play in putting out the goal. But, egad, they were out in their reckoning; for the masther gave ‘em a glass of whiskey, a piece, and bid ‘em tie a yallow handkerchief round their middles the way they would know one another. The King, Queen, and all the gintlemen and ladies of the three kingdoms were looken on; an a fine sight they had when the ball was thrown up. Oh! then it would do your heart good to see our boys; how they tossed about the Englishmen, as if they were nothing in their hands; and every now and then, the king and queen would cry out, “Well done, yallow bellies—fine fellows, yallow bellies” meaning our boys, who wore yallow handkerchiefs about their middles. You may be sure the Paddies won the day; an when the goal was put out every body cried, “Hurra for the yallow bellies” an from that day to this the people of Wexford are called “Yallow bellies”. Troth, that’s the sole reason; for their skin, astore, is just as white as another’s.”

Nowhere in the story is it said that Colclough went to Cornwall.

The Wexford men are, as an implication of their feats, infused with demi-divine power: they are playing for the honour of Mr Colclough, to whom they are in thrall and delirious in the royal praise and adulation. The story is a subtle but charming Royalist tract, in one of its dimensions and in another, it depicts a peasantry at ease with their landlord and, indeed, with aristocracy and above all else, with the British Monarchy. Some historians of hurling have written of the hurlers who played on the Moor of Mulrankin, a few miles away, as fighting on the United Irish rebel side at the battles o Horetown and New Ross in 1798. There seems to be a risible incongruity somewhere in these rival descriptions of peasant political disposition.

I do not deny that—indeed I have written quite a lot on this tendency—some of the Landlords, who were of the Stuart disposition and later supportive of the Whig or Liberal Party, were both, in contradiction of ordinary intuition, comparatively kind and helpful to their tenantry and sympathetic to native Irish culture. I do doubt, however, that the peasantry, labourers and cottiers were fervently Royalist: even on the estates of the better landlords the peasantry were ever not averse to insurrection, should the opportunity arise, as one famous Protestant historian put it. The whiff of anglophobia and anti-authoritarianism was ever there.

After Colclough won his wager with the King, he left England “an making all haste to his sweetheart, who was waiting for ‘im night after night in her fadher’s castle, wid her light burning to direct him where to sail for.” One night as she sat watching she heard “the finest music in the world. It was so soft and delicious; an she was so weary, that she fell off fast asleep. When she awoke, she found her candle out, and the waves running mountains high.” She “heard the screams of poor sailors in distress and thought she could mark her Colclough’s voice among the rest.”

She ran down and alerted her father and all the servants, but to no effective avail. The old man then outlined the essence of this story:–

“Next morning the body of the great Colclough was washed ashore, an thus the good people were avenged; for sure it was them, and nobody else, that purposely set the poor young lady asleep wid their music, that they might put out the light, and raise the storm. Indeed one o’ the men who was saved, sed they hard the music an saw a light, but it was a false light, and led ‘em astray. The poor young lady, you may be sure, was almost broken-hearted; an, she ever afterwards had pity for poor sailors, she turned her father’s castle into a light house, an a light house it is to this very day.”

We are not told if the hurlers were on the same boat returning home. Maybe they took an air flight home….

This is, indeed, in essence a fairy story: the account of the hurling is literary ornamentation and enables the basic plot to move on. There is no evidence that King William III was the Monarch involved: in a Mrs Hall story, time, space and personalities float off into an alternative cosmos of the paranormal and mysterious. In one of her stories, Jonas King the Protestant landlord of Barrystown, Bannow, —my native place—is morphed effortlessly into the Catholic Mr Barry of Barrystown; in another story, Mr Corish—of a prominent Catholic family—becomes a Protestant proprietor. “Agricola” in the Wexford Independent in May 1864 stated that King William III had enacted the law prohibiting hurling on Sunday (or the Sabbath) to prevent adherents of the Stuart cause from having political meetings under the guise of hurling matches. I am most puzzled that King William III would have the Wexford hurlers over in his kingdom playing! To seek a fixity of anything in Mrs Hall’s fiction is to miss the point of it: it is entertainment, a mix of fantasy, imagination, touches of the exotic subterranean culture of Irish society and a Royalist disposition. Her work was charming and in literary terms excellent—but most of it cannot be true in any literal and objective sense!

From The Free Press, 14th November 1933:–

“Wexford Mineral Survey

Johnson Pasha’s Pioneer Work

It seems as if the pioneering work of the late Johnson Pasha may be turned to economic use after all, writes “Quidnunc” in the Irish Times. For many years after his return from the service of the Egyptian Government until his death last year he devoted his knowledge, time and money to the investigation of the potential mineral wealth of Wexford. Almost from the moment of his return to live in Wexford he gave attention to the Barrystown gold mine, abandoned as long as 1846, but still of considerable interest to one who had rediscovered the gold mines of ancient Egypt. A new survey is now to be made of this mine and there are hopes that Johnson Pasha’s high experimental opinions will be justified….For nearly twenty-five years Johnson Pasha gave his whole heart to the economic development of Wexford—in co-operative societies and private investigation—and he should be remembered.”

Barrystown was a lead and silver mine and was going a bit later that 1846, I think.

From The Free Press, 28th of October 1933:–

“The Ballymitty “Coal”!—The Ballymitty coal question had created considerable interest all over the district and the possibility of a mine being found in the locality has created much excitement. A crop of stories of coal being found in the locality has come to light, one being that a Mrs Barnwell (in the Horetown locality) burned some of the “coal”. The further story is told of an old man who can prove that he saw this “coal” burning. A third story is that a certain family set about sinking a well but after a short time found nothing but coal and dug away on it for fuel purposes. The hole at length became so deep that a cow fell in and was killed and the “mine” had to be closed.”

In an obituary on January 31st 1894, the Wexford Independent stated—

“The Cliffe family [of Bellevue, Ballyhogue] are old residents of the County, for in 1661 we find one of them Member of Parliament for Taghmon and another representing Bannow from 1692 to 1715.”