Hi, It is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, ebullient, scholarly, erudite—and wildly and think up more superlatives yourself appropriate to me. As I always say it is gold and silver for the Barrystown children. A historian supreme. A massive crowd at my Lieut – Col Ryan lecture and most prolonged applause at the end, but then one would expect that to happen.

In The Hibernian Magazine October No. 1792 a letter was published from “a gentleman in Dublin to his friend in Wales on a tour in Co. Wexford in 1790”. My invariable disappointment with these accounts is the paucity of detail, especially otherwise unknown facts, in them. What is said about Clonmines, Barrystown and Bannow in the 1790 letter is most concise and devoid of detail:–

“Next to Clonmines, another borough town. This was, also, in former days a thriving populous town. Here are the ruins of seven castles and the inhabitants tell you there is a subterranean passage from this to Tintern Abbey, a few miles distant. Leaving Clonmines I passed that part of Bannow Bay, called the Scar of Barrystown, which is fordable when the tide is out, but at other times extremely dangerous. I then visited another borough town called Bannow. This was in King Henry the Second’s reign a seaport of some consequence and lying opposite that part of Wales from which the English adventurers emigrated, it soon became populous, being very well adapted to the shipping then in use but since that period the sea has thrown up a bar against its entrance so that it is accessible only to the smallest boat.”

The author of the letter previously observed:–

“I went to visit the barony of Forth which is situated at the extremity of this county, where are the remains of an ancient colony, planted there during the reign of Henry II, King of England. They have preserved their ancient manners and customs and have intermarried little or none with the natives. Their language is peculiar to themselves alone as I imagine it varies from that of the whole world. These people live well, are industrious, cleanly and of good morals; the poorest farmers live better than the generality of their kind in this county or perhaps in Ireland; their houses are well built, well thatched and have every out-office necessary for a farmer.”

From The Enniscorthy Guardian August 12th 1923:–

“Grantstown Gaelic Class

In recognition of her great services to the class, Miss Deirdre Dillon N. T. , Duncormack, has been presented with a solid silver dressing suit. This was a spontaneous act on the part of the class, the individual members of which fully recognised that she was more than worthy of this small token of their esteem. Twice weekly throughout the session Miss Dillon cycled to Grantstown and proved by her energy she was devoted to her class and eager to advance the cause of the dear old tongue.”

In my thesis in the summer of 1973—in the old university– I wrote on the Catholic dynamics of early twentieth century nationalism: the objective of an independent Ireland, especially if separate from Britain, was envisaged as sealing off the morally pernicious influences of the external world, that is of urbanisation, impure literature, immodest dress, obscene language, agnosticism and excessive rationalism. The revival of the Irish language would operate at two levels in making Ireland a great Catholic nation and the nucleus of a missionary empire. Firstly an Irish speaking people would not be as likely to access the English newspapers and decadent books, art and drama; secondly the revival of Irish would enable the Irish people to reach back (as in an archaeological dig) beyond modern history to the ancient Gaelic soul which was deemed to be authentically Christian and Catholic. That is why the people of that era were so determined and jealous about speaking Irish; to do that they had to first learn it. The class at Grantstown was undoubtedly for adults coming there after their work, presumably in bicycles or on foot in all kinds of weather. To do that you would have to be seized by an intense enthusiasm, by a conviction of imperative purpose. It is also astounding that Miss Dillon had no apprehension of strangers accosting her as she cycled back and forth to Grantstown. It may have been in matters of sexual morality a more innocent era.

The attempt to revive Irish failed because the children in the National Schools—often badly fed and surely badly clothed—were unable to progress beyond learning a few words and phrases of it. The grammar of Irish is exceeding difficult and irrational; the children came from homes and a culture that were often opposed to learning or at least not convinced of the value of learning. Enormous amounts of time in the National Schools were devoted to Irish; a matter that annoyed the National Teachers, themselves, since it left with very little time to teach other subjects such as English and arithmetic. The religious imperative of reviving Irish as the generations moved on was forgotten about and back in 1973 even the historians of that time were astounded by the claim in my thesis that the revival of Irish was intended to facilitate the heightening of the Catholic faith of the Irish people. The past is a foreign country and all students of history should always remember that.

From The People July 18th 1883:–

“Master’s Report

The Master’s Journal contained the following entry:–I sent the workhouse car to Bannow for a woman named Catherine Neville, at the request of the medical officer of the district on the 10th inst. She was admitted to hospital at 7pm and died at 4 o’clock. The matter was referred to relieving officer and Doctor for the district.”

The Workhouse car was not a modern type automated vehicle; it was horse drawn and inclined to bump on the awful roads of stones, sometimes loose.

The People on February 8th 1889 carried a feature on the parish of Clongeen. The article referred to the Leighs of Rosegarland as clearing out the people:–“For long distances you may look for the old walls of a cabin but none you can see. In the midst of what should be a rich and thickly populated country you meet nothing but long stretches of barren sheep-walks while seldom you encounter a human being with the exception of travellers by the public road. Here the evictor in years past had destroyed happy and industrious homes. Here is the land over which the family of the Leighs of Rosegarland hold sway….

The Rev. Thomas Finn is at present stationed as a curate in the same parish from where years ago his family were cleared out. The land surrounding the old home is still known as “Finn’s Farm”. The pretty little Church stands at one end of the village of Clongeen alongside the residence of the beloved pastor of the parish.

Up to lately St Aidan’s chapel, as the parish church of Clongeen is named, was in a state bordering on dilapidation; for those who were expected to support it had been beggared by the landlords. Father O’Sullivan came to the place scarcely twelve months ago, having been raised from the curacy of Ballykelly to the pastor-ship of Clongeen and with his energetic curate Father Finn they resolved to put the house of God into better repair. The work once undertaken went on with earnestness and the Church will shortly second to none in the district. A splendid floor has been made to replace the old one and the sanctuary and other portions of the chapel have been nicely decorated. While giving the doings of the Leigh family as exterminators in this locality I think but fair to mention the fact that the late Mrs Leigh (a Catholic lady) was a great benefactress to this Church and her daughters (also Catholics) followed in the footsteps of their mother. When Father O’Sullivan had finished the work he so zealously began, he was consistently in debt; so a concert was arranged to be held in the place to defray the expense.”

From The Enniscorthy Guardian on December 16th 1922:

“Still there are reports coming in of robberies from several parts of the district. [Forth and Bargy Notes]. The premises of Mr James Wade, shopkeeper, Carrig-on-Bannow, was entered on a Sunday quite recently and a sum of money taken. It appears that Mr Wade and his wife went to Wellingtonbridge on that Sunday afternoon leaving no one in the house. Whilst they were away and during their absence  the house was entered and the money taken. The robbers gained entry to the house by a back window. The general opinion in the locality is that the robbers are from the district who are well acquainted with the premises from the fact that the window through which they entered only belongs to a shed formerly used as a shoemaker’s workshop entrance to the house and shop. Although the shop was well stocked with various goods, yet nothing was taken except the cash but, of course, it is surmised that nothing else could be taken owing to the time being daylight. The affair is universally condemned around Carrig where Mr Wade is highly popular.”

Crime in latter times is lucrative for many criminals and punishment is comparatively lenient with myriad legal defences and legal technicalities. The past is a foreign country and I think that it is possible that those who committed crime in the distant past did so out of genuine need and that they ran a real risk of severe punishment.

The Irish Times carried this article on February 10th 1951 but it is a puzzle to me:–

“Cullenstown Co. Wexford is a village within the Republic—thanks to an ancient charter given by a king of England to one of his retainers so long ago that the local people can’t remember the date.

But they do remember their privileges. That is why the roadway through the village is unique in the Model County. On this mile and a half stretch no county council worker sets foot to work though if carries all the main road traffic to Carrig-on-Bannow and Duncormack.

To the annoyance of tourists it carries no road signs for the same reason that it’s private property. But because it doesn’t come under county council jurisdiction its surface is the worst in the county—thanks to the busy tractors which use the road to remove building material from the nearby beach.

Elsewhere in Ireland the Minister for Industry and Commerce controls the foreshore to the high water mark—but not at Cullenstown.

Some local residents, tired of their responsibility for keeping their little republic in order want to ask the Wexford County Council to take over. But they are not in the majority. Most Cullenstown folk want to hold on to their ancient privileges and are willing to do their share of repairing the road now and then and keeping the hedges trimmed.

And they have one good reason for their attitude. If their animals break loose and wander about the road the owners cannot be prosecuted. Years ago a test case was brought against a local man but was thrown out because, ruled the magistrate, the case was beyond Court jurisdiction. Nobody in Cullenstown has considered other possibilities of the unique status: the issuance of stamps and currency or the installation of customs. There isn’t even a toll at Cullenstown. Reason perhaps, is that the people are too busy attending their lands. Cullenstown is one of the finest early potato growing districts in Ireland. Its popularity as a seaside resort is also increasing.”