Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, erudite and scholarly; historian supreme, blessed among women, a right boyo, a genius with an intelligence far in excess of Einstein, moves and talks with panache, an inspiration in this age and ever fated to the historian of Carrig-on-Bannow, the most devious and wily of them all, that wily boy from beside the mine pits.
In the times long ago, when we talked interminably about the phenomenon of Prince Michael Naele of the Saltee Islands, my mother remarked that she read a report of a justice in court who posed a query as to the origin of the title. In latter years I have searched for this court case and assumed that it was a court in the County Wexford. One assumes all kinds of things! In the last fortnight or so I found the case: it is The Free Press, the 24th of March 1945:–
“Prince of the Saltee Islands
Wexford Landowner Decreed
Prince Michael Neale, who stated he owned 575 acres in Co. Wexford and was the biggest beet grower in that county, was at Rathfarnham on Friday of last week, ordered to pay £13 9 shillings and 3 pence rates, claimed by Dublin Co. Council, on Tolka Agricultural Mills. He said he had given up tenancy of the mills in March 1944 and had told the Co. Council this be telephone. He objected to the suggestion that he was opposed to the Government or to the payment of rates. He admitted that under the Registration of Business Names, his name appeared as the owner of the mills.
Asked by Mr Justice Reddin how he acquired the title “Prince” he said that the name had been taken out through the Heraldry Office in London. He took it because when in England he intended to buy the Saltee Island and make himself Prince of the Island. He did not claim any relationship to the O’Neill clan.”
I do not know if the Saltee Islands were counted in the 575 acres referred to by the Prince.
These are two extracts from the account of Tintern parish by the Archdeacon William Archdale, Curate in William Shaw-Mason’s Statistical Account in circa 1814:–
“Some few quarries of building stone are worked here. We have abundance of sea-sand, which is sea-sand, used for manure with good effect. The bay of Bannow produces plenty of shell and other fish. It is remarkable for large cockles and oysters; the cockles are carried by hundreds of jolters as far as Kilkenny. Preparations are now making for forming a salmon weir on an improved plan, introduced with some good effect, into this neighbourhood; but what the success may be cannot be even conjectured.”
And this extract:–
“The Bay of Bannow is navigable for ships of 150 tons burthen and if there was a quay built, for which there is a convenient site at Saltmills, considerable trade might be carried on; this, Mr Colclough who has lately returned from a captivity of many years in France, proposes to do. There are two boulting mills in the parish, both on Mr Colclough’s estate, one at Galetown, on the Blackwater, the other at Tintern, the produce of which might be shipped at the Bay of Bannow; but now depends principally, if not entirely, on home consumption. The two bleach-yards mentioned, are on the same estate.”
From The People the 21st of January 1882:–
“The Month’s Mind, Office and High Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Mrs A. Ryan, mother of Rev. Maurice W. Ryan O. S. A. and sister of the late Rev. James Creane O. S. A., Prior, New Ross Convent, will be held on Thursday 26th inst., in the Parish Church, Glynn, at 11 o’clock.”
From The People the 8th of February 1882:–
“Captain Boyse’s Tenants
An important meeting of the Boyse tenantry was held on Friday night, to determine what action should be taken in view of the attitude of the landlord, who has served an unprecedented number of writs. Nearly all the tenants on the estate were present and they resolved to demand a reduction of 6 shillings in some cases and 3 shillings in others. A number of the tenants waited on the agent, Mr Edwards and conveyed to him the intention of the tenants and also requested him to say if the landlord had determined on selling out the tenants on whom writs had been served. Mr Edwards declined to make any reduction and stated that the landlord was inexorable that the farms would be put up to the hammer. It is an unquestionable fact that the tenants are unable to pay the demands made upon them but, with the reasonable concessions, which they asked for, if granted, might be able to tide over the present crisis.”
From The People the 4th of March 1882:–
The Bannow Tenants of Captain Boyse resolved in meeting to suspend all agricultural work pending the final settlement of the rent question. And that all labourers be retained in their present employment on their present terms.”
From The People the 22nd of March 1882:–
To the Editor of the people
Dear Sir—The storm of Thursday has subsided into calm repose as to appearance. You would not think that Bannow was prepared by military the day previous. St Patrick’s Day brought with it peace and goodwill. This 17th of March is a reflex. After St Patrick’s preaching and teaching his mission was not complete without sanctifying our dear little Island, and in order to do so he banished from our shores all reptiles. Let us hope that his action is but history repeating itself and that a brighter dawn is breaking for Bannow—that before another St Patrick’s Day, we will see the departure of those noxious animals that are taking the life blood of her worthy sons and in such a manner that, should a portion of the blessed soil be found in contact with any of them, it would prove too much for their degenerate nature. When it was decreed that man should live by the sweat of his brow, by all means let him have the fruits of his labour and become the owner of the soil he tills, when his taskmaster is dissatisfied with the results of his stewardship. We are beginning to understand that we are no longer the creatures of creatures, but of the Creator, and to carry out His behest, we will now assert our rights of living on the soil made and given for our use. We will sow and, please God, we will reap the fruits of our soil. There was an illustration in your Saturday’s edition of confiscation. Would I not put to any sane body of men that such illustration could, to a very comprehensive extent, be generally applied and the land law protect our confiscators. Well for argument sake, we will say that the landlord has a certain interest. Let him dispose of it and if I am not mistaken in our Bannow men they will, on the computation of a fair rent, rid him of their intolerable presence by an offer of from ten to twelve years purchase of their separate holdings. This, I think, would meet the present difficulty under the existing constitution. A year or two hence this offer may be far beyond the market value and by striking the iron, while it is hot he might, at the end of the two years, be exulting himself at availing himself of the suggestion.
Report speaks here that Knocktarton is again vacated and that at no distant day, the Rev. O’Hanlon-Walsh will be a peasant proprietor—a desire that will be shared by many of his admirers and by none more than his Bannow compatriots, although Hook claimed him as theirs. Over that we will not quarrel, as he is banded with good men and true, and who would be more Hook than themselves when the hour of separation arrives.
The weather is now seasonable and the time for sowing has arrived.
The tenants held their usual meeting, rescinded their resolution of “No Work” and are now preparing for potato planting. Wishing them a prosperous return, I remain yours,
The Bannow correspondent, if one ignores or endures the extraneous allusions and awkward sentence construction is saying important things: at that stage—even the iconic Fr Davey O’Hanlon Walsh included—the Land League spokespersons were seeking fair rents—that is drastically reduced rents: the Bannow correspondent is asserting the principle of occupier ownership, the farmer becoming the owner of the land that he previously leased. The time then may not have been opportune for such a move but the Wyndham Land Act of 1903 provided monies for the tenants (on a promise of repayment by land annuities on their farms) to buy out their farms, which was the best possible solution.
I am puzzled by the prediction that Fr Davey O’Hanlon-Walsh would become the tenant owner—the peasant proprietor—of his mother’s farm at Knocktarton. Surely, in that event, his brother Nicholas O’Hanlon-Walsh would become the owner? The latter spent his life after the eviction, working as a rent collector for the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union and lived in Wexford town.
The correspondent repeats a familiar trope of Land League propaganda: the theological or quasi-theological theory that God made the land of Ireland for the Irish. I suspect that most of this rhetoric was scripted by the upper echelons of the Land League organisation.
From the report of the meeting of the Board of Guardians of Wexford Poor Law Union as published in The People on the 29th of June 1872:–
“Out-door Relief—The wife and children of Patrick Busher, Carrig, were allowed 3 shillings per week. Her husband was in the hospital.
A man named George Galavan applied to the Board for recompense for caring for Johanna Leary, who died on the 16th of May. Applicant stated that he had kept her in his house for 5 weeks during which time he received 16 shillings from the Relieving Officer (Mr Whitty).
Mr J. Murphy—What did you keep her for?
Applicant—What did I keep her for! Why it was not to make bacon of her anyway. A man of your capacity to ask such a question!
Mr Murphy—Did you ask Mr Whitty to take her away?
Applicant—No indeed, I did not.
Mr Murphy to Mr Whitty—Did you give the money to the woman herself or to this man?
Mr Whitty—I gave it to the man.
Mr Murphy—I think that it is very wrong to be throwing away the public money in this manner. You should have given it to herself.
Mr Whitty stated that he had visited this woman 3 times during three weeks and he believe that to be quite sufficient.
Mr Rossiter, Guardian of the Division, said that what the applicant stated was quite correct and that he believed him to be an honest man.
A certificate from Dr Boyd was produced stating that this woman was unfit for removal.
Mr Murphy—I think it is a little out of course to give money to this person. He should have delivered it himself.
The Clerk here explained to Mr Murphy how there were but two Relieving Officers for the Union and that it could not be expected of these to visit five or six hundred people frequently.
Mr Nolan—It is perfectly ridiculous to expect it.
The recommendation of Dr Boyd was read to the Board.
Messrs P. and R. Murphy considered it rather “soft.”
This question was afterwards put to the Board and it was decided on allowing the applicant 10 shillings for his attention.
The applicant was not at all “elated” upon hearing of the amount allotted to him, indeed, quite the reverse. After receiving his cash, he went from the Board-room complaining of the way he had been treated, muttering unbroken sentences and monosyllables which were but sufficiently distinct to make us aware of their not being intended to convey his thanks to the Board. Amongst the most intelligent of his observations were, “Its almost a shame” and a “great scandal” for to treat me in this manner.”
From The People the 22nd of February 1882:–
“The Sheriff’s Sale
It will be to the recollection of the readers of The People that in August 1881, Mrs Furlong of Moortown and Mr Kehoe, both received writs at the suit of the Right Hon. Hore-Ruthven, whose affairs have gone into chancery; and they will, also, recollect a very remarkable circumstance in connection with this matter which was published about the same time, in which the sense of injustice of the part of the judge and the absence of feeling for the tenants on the part of the agent were striking features. The tenants pressed down and bending under the weight of exorbitant rents, submitted a memorial to the court stating their case fully and fairly and praying for a reasonable reduction. The judge having considered all the circumstances of their case, expressed his readiness to sanction a reduction equal to 4 shillings in the pound, provided the agent signified his concurrence; but what was the agent’s answer to this just concession on the part of the judge? Why, not a single fraction of the demand would he abate—that he should have the rent and the whole rent. No doubt in taking this course Mr Browne can boast that he has acted consistently with his own character for harsh dealing with the tenants of this or of any other estate for which he is agent, as it would be impossible to point to a single case in which he has taken the grinding pressures of the times into consideration, even though he enjoyed full latitude if only he had the desire to exercise a proper discretion. The result was that on Tuesday week Mr Browne, jun., and a posse of police in charge of Mr Ball of Taghmon and an emergency man named White, arrived at Moortown and commenced operations. ‘Tis said the military who had been so thoroughly disgusted with the proceedings at Bregorteen, refused to be the landlords’ lackeys any more for that day. The amount claimed from Mrs Furlong was £101 odd, being the rent due, with an addition of £17 for costs. In Mr Kehoe’s case, the costs amounted to £13 and when the full amount had been realised less by 9 shillings, the deputy-sheriff, in order to exhibit his consideration, put up a heap of manure for the amount, saying he would very soon have it in full. Neither from the sheriff nor the agent did the tenants receive the least concession. The latter when asked about the reduction recommended by the judge said this is no place for controversy, which is a very convenient way of putting on the cloture, when a disagreeable subject is broached. In each case the amount of the rent, with the enormous costs, was realised, the stock having been bought for the tenants who, no doubt, will cherish to their dying day the memory of their agent’s kindness and the deputy-sheriff’s characteristic urbanity.”
Mr Kehoe was the father of Father Paul Kehoe (then a clerical student), the future Parish Priest of Cloughbawn. Mr Keating of Taghmon, a friend of the family, bought the seized cattle back, presumably at a knock-down price (as recorded in Fr Paul Kehoe’s diary). The danger is these sheriff’s sales was that an outside person would buy the farm and stock for a very small price. The reasoning of the Land League is incomprehensible to me on this matter of tenants refusing to pay their rents with the consequence of the Landlord getting a decree in the courts to sell the farm and livestock—or part of same—to recover the arrears of rent; the legal costs had to be paid by the tenant plus the actual arrears of rent. In the above cases both the judge and the military has serious reservations about the proceedings.