Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown; charming, charismatic, innovative, engrossing, original, inventive, modest, self-effacing, in fine fettle, erudite, scholarly, a right boyo and above all else—wily. The ancient saint, St Kevin of Kilkavan, in a sermon many years—I think at Christmas time— ago prophesised that gold and silver would always pursue the Barrystown children, or childre as Mrs Anna Maria Hall would have her characters say. If it is true, it ain’t bragging. As I always say read my blog, pay all your charges and close the door after you.

I have begun the daunting task of examining the estate records of Major Boyse, dated in and about 1880; they are at the Co. Wexford Library Headquarters at Ardcavan and anybody who wishes to know the history of his or her own parish should go there but first make an arrangement with Grainne Doran. She is doing wonderful work for the historiography of the County Wexford. It is pathetic not to know the history of one’s own parish and now there is no excuse for not knowing it—as so much archival material is coming on-line.

The first item I looked at on the Boyse estate papers was that of the representatives of Gregory Barry of Bannow. It was a twenty one year lease made in 1859 and it seems renewed in 1880. The Poor Law Valuation was £69 5 shillings and the rent per year was £89. There are three observations on the ledger.

1. “Laurence Walsh, husband of Bridget Barry (representative of Gregory Barry), on the 18th June 1880 was of great assistance in settling matters.

Signed advert in “People” newspaper against hunting in 1884.

Judicial Rent for this holding fixed by Land Court, October 23 1883—at £72 10 shillings being term of Fair Rent Agreement.”

During the Land League Agitation the farmers put up notices prohibiting the fox hunt from galloping over their lands: this move was motivated by venomous feelings towards the landlords and not by any softer feelings for the pursued foxes! There is unstated threat in this note that Major Boyse might not renew the lease when the present term expired.

The Land Commission Courts heard applications from most of the tenants on every estate to have their rents reduced and a judicial rent imposed instead of that imposed by the landlord. Some landlords applied to the Land Commission Courts to increase the rents on some farms which they reckoned were too low! The Land Commission Courts would pay little attention to such applications by the landlords! As far as I can judge, Laurence Walsh got a reduction of £17 in his rent.

I will return with further gems of detail from the Boyse estate papers in my next blog. I now turn to the Cliffe maps and indexes; available online and I think in the archives of the Wexford Co. Library at Ardcavan. I am open to correction on that. The relevant matter here is that these maps done by the famous Valentine Gill are of areas in the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow held by the Cliffes; it seems now that the Kings of Barrystown and Duncormack held from Cliffe. These maps are of 1810 vintage.

Newtown, Bannow had a Cliffe holding of 90 acres plus with a number of tenants on very small holdings. The fields are numbered and mapped out. But my interest in this blog is on Kiltra where the Cliffe family had 109 acres; I am not sure if this was statute measure or Irish plantation measure—if it was the latter the ratio of an Irish acre to a statute one could be 5 to 8. The Irish measure was much bigger.

Fields are numbered but not given names—except on a few occasions—in these maps. William Marchant had 23 acres plus at Kiltra—field no 4 is called pigeon house field. Mr Marchant leased a further 6 acres of four fields to Andrew Colfer—it is called the Mill Holding.

Mr Marchant leased 2 acres 3 roods and 26 perches to Thomas Colfer—there was a cabin on this, presumably where Tom Colfer lived. Marchant had a total of 32 acres, 3 roods and 4 perches.

Marchant lived where Dr Boyd was later.

Rev. Joseph Miller had 19 acres and 19 perches. He leased 4 acres to Tom Colfer. Rev. Miller had a house at Kiltra. It would be sketched on the map as would the cabins. The tenants had such small farms with tiny fields; for example John Walsh had a field of 2 roods and 7 perches. Ambrose Potts had a field of 1 rood and 34 perches. Gregory Rossiter leased 2 acres plus a tiny bit to N. Brennan. I will give precise details on these tenancies in my next blog. I presume that these people would have fished, and/or engaged in trades and labours of other kinds. Ambrose Potts had 7 fields (counting the cabin and arable surrounding ground) and 4 acres. It is a topography of famine to come1

There were four fields in the bit of land that we had at Barrystown plus the mine yard or pits; in total 14 acres. I am not absolutely certain if the fields were named but I do think that the field over-looking Patrick Byrne’s house was called (at least by us) the hill field and the field beside the mine pits was called the mine field. With the aid of a discarded pram I used to career down the hill field. There were also four fields in the farm that we went to in Ballymackessy plus a piece of shrub. My mother told me that she walked the farm on a Sunday afternoon—she was in bad health at the time—and when she looked over the gate of the fourth field the vista in it of bogs, bushes, shrub, marl, white soil and rabbits so discouraged her that she went home without looking at it. There had been reclamation in the 1950s but in 1960 a lot of boggy and over-grown land remained. In later years that field became tolerably useful for grass; not great but more productive than before.

From The People on July 5th 1890:–

“Ballymitty Donkey and Jennet Races and Athletic Sports

These races and sports came off on Sunday 29th inst., at Ballymitty in a filed given for the occasion by Mr S. W. Boxwell, Hilltown. The weather was most unfavourable as heavy showers fell during the afternoon which made it most unpleasant for outdoor amusement. The attendance was very large, it being the pattern day of Ballymitty but everything passed off very creditably and I saw no sign of intoxication on any one during the day, which speaks well for the people who attended and shows they can enjoy a legitimate day’s amusement in innocent recreation with credit to themselves and to the parish. During the donkey race the order of the crowd might have been better, as they kept running here and there through the field, which led to some confusion. In the 100 yards, also, the crowds pressed in and scarcely left room for the competitors and I think that unless in a roped or paled enclosure there is not much use in trying to keep the crowds back on each side. For the donkey race ten started. Mr Redmond’s taking the first heat, Mr Keating’s second. A dispute then arose in which it was contended on the part of Mr Redmond that some person in the crowd followed Mr Keating’s donkey and rushed him in. The other side denied this and at length it was finally decided to let the two run for the prize on some other day to be named. For the jennet race five started but in both heats Mr Peter Ffrench’s of Tullicanna made the running and I think a good deal of this is due to the skilful manner in which she was ridden by Pat Swords of Wexford. Mr Breen’s of Dirr made a good second. After an exciting contest the half mile for men fell to the old veteran Moses Carty of Balloughton who showed some younger boys the stuff that was in him. 100 yards was won by John Rossiter of Grange; 400 yards by M. Morris; Egg and Spoon Race by William Connor of Hilltown. Twin Race, a most exciting contest, but I regret that I failed to catch the names of the winners. A juvenile race wound up the day’s sport and a young lad, named Carroll, from Ballymitty, carried the off winning colours. The prizes were then distributed to the winners amid cheers and the people returned to their homes well pleased with the day’s amusement and longing for a return of same. I think much credit is due to the two young men, Messrs Furlong and Ffrench for the admirable manner in which they worked up the day’s amusement. The only fault I saw was these –did not get assistance enough on the field in the matter of keeping order during the different events. Of course what is everybody’s business is nobody’s but even on small occasions a regular staff of stewards should be told to keep order. I cannot find fault with Sunday’s proceedings as everything passed off admirably but too much care and responsibility should not be thrown on one or two who are in consequence overworked in catering for our pleasure and trying to give satisfaction to all by carrying to a pleasant finality an innocent day’s recreation and I hope this may be only the beginning of many pleasant re-unions in Ballymitty.”

Was Moses Carty an ancestor of the famous Sim Purcell? I think he was but I have to verify it. I do not know how word was spread of the sports unless the people were told at Mass. There was hardly any local radio in those times but it might have been advertised in The People. There was a great interest in athletic events in the second half of the nineteenth century: Archbishop Croke had envisaged the Gaelic Athletic Association as a means of promoting athletics above all else. The name of the organisation indicates this priority.

When Captain Boyse obtained a decree to evict James Barry a complication arose over the building used by the Guardians of the Wexford Poor Law Union as their health dispensary for the Bannow area. The building was at Ballyfrory and leased by James Barry to the Guardians. The question now arose: to whom should the Guardians pay the rent to? James T. Edwards, the agent to the Boyse estate, felt that the Guardians should without further ado pay the rent to him as agent to the Boyse estate; the Guardians were most unsure about the legality of that. Most of them were elected by the votes of farmers involved in the Land League and consequently they regarded any landlord evicting tenants with contempt and hostility. Mr Huggard, a coarse man, acted as solicitor, to Mr Edwards: the latter insisted that the Guardians should pay the rent to Mr Edwards without him sending any bill stating the amount owing. A crazy correspondence ensued between the Clerk to the Wexford Board of Guardians and Mr Huggard—this is an account of part of a meeting

“The Clerk—Well, gentlemen, to that letter of Mr Huggard’s, I sent the following reply:–

19th February 1883

Dear Sir—In reply to your letter of the 17th inst., I beg to state that I cannot allow you to assume what is not the truth. I never declined paying the rent due by the guardians for the Bannow dispensary. I only asked you to state for their information the amount you required. This you have not done. I assure you that, apart from the atrocious grammar in your communication, I could not help smiling at your singularly appropriate allusion to the squandering of rates—I am

Dear sir, yours truly, James O’Connor.

(laughter and applause)

The Clerk—That was my answer, gentlemen and it would appear that it annoyed him a bit.

The Chairman—I would be surprised if it did not. Facts are stubborn things and sometimes very annoying (hear, hear).

Mr Cassin—You served him right.

The Clerk—That it annoyed him, I have no doubt, because I received the following reply from him:–

21st February 1883

Edwards v Guardians, Wexford Union

Sir—In answer to your ignorant and impudent epistle of the 19th inst., received last night on my return from Dublin, as I have neither time nor inclination to enter into a discussion with you upon grammar, or to allow you to try to come the schoolmaster over me (which you can do on the paupers if you please or on the guardians if they tolerate it), I decline to have any further correspondence with you; and beg to inform you that unless within one week from this date I receive payment from your board of the amount of rent due by them for the Bannow dispensary, the amount of which you and they will know, or ought to know, I shall send a card of invitation to meet the County Court Judge on the 26th of April next with the account books of the Union, when you will be informed therefrom what is due and instructed how to answer honestly and properly a civil application for payment of a debt which it appears to me you have not yet learned how to do.

Yours obediently M. Huggard.

The Clerk—You will observe that is all one long winded sentence, gentlemen (laughter). To that I sent the following answer:–

Dear Sir—I am not at all surprised at your objection to enter into a discussion on grammar; you have good reasons. Your evident dislike to schoolmasters is fully as apparent and with justice. Without presuming to make a legal suggestion to one so eminent I take the liberty of drawing your attention—as a remunerative speculation—to the fact that an action would probably lie against the gentleman who taught you. I shall be most happy to produce your letters—yours of the 21st would be very strong—in court and on this evidence alone I have not the slightest doubt but that an intelligent jury would give very substantial damages. You had better not adopt this course without some consideration and advice as the defendant would probably put in a plea of “stupidity of plaintiff” which might or might not weigh with a jury. You are not to take me as deterring you in any way; I merely throw out the idea for you to think over. The exquisite humour you display in your “card of invitation” will, I fear, be lost on an “ignorant and impudent” public. Kindly allow me to give a short summary of our correspondence: You make a slightly impertinent (I do not now blame you for the impertinence—you cannot help it) demand for money. You are civilly requested to state the amount you require and you convert your reply into an insinuation against the guardians and myself. You received an answer that probably astonished you and now you adopt that last resource of a small mind, viz.:–a bad style of Billingsgate (for you are even good at that). You assumed the big Bully when you should have remembered you are only a little Kerry [cow] after all. I am awfully sorry that you have declined further correspondence. It has been a source of infinite amusement  to me during the past ten days. I assure you that I shall treasure your letters with the greatest care and show them to my friends as a beautiful example of “how not to do it.” This letter is unofficial and I would not have written it at all were it not for a yearning that is within me for your welfare. I conclude with a small bit of advice:” Never again try on the bully until you know your opponent.” Adieu!—Yours feelingly

James O’Connor.

The members of the Board advised the Clerk to frame his letter and put it on his mantelpiece.