Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, innovative, eloquent, inspiring and inspired, a prophet, a right boyo, blessed among the women, humble, self-effacing, uses big words (appropriately), a genius, scholar, erudite, of astronomical intelligence, a marathon runner, a trainor of hurling teams, florist who grows fabulous sunflowers and hollyhocks and dahlias, and above all  else, the most devious, and wily of them all—that wily boy from beside the mine pits in Barristown as they called it centuries ago. If it is true, it ain’t bragging and no native of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow ever brags or tells lies.

I will be on the tour on Saturday and I hope that somebody will remember to ask me to recite a poem by Fr Paul Kehoe, a native of Moortown Ballymitty, who became Parish Priest of Cloughbawn. His was a bit of a poet, like Tarry Flynn, alias Paddy Kavanagh but he was not a great poet. Incidentally Paddy Kavanagh’s Raglan Road is not an extolling of human romance but a lament (infused with sour grapes) that a poetic mind should succumb to the tyranny of such earthly urges. “that my reason must allow/ That I loved not as I should, a creature made of clay/ When the angel wooed the clay, he’s lose his wings at the dawning of the day.” It could also be an extolling of dedicated celibacy: in Paddy Kavanagh’s time, one did not automatically think in terms of romance and marriage, for many these were impractical quests! Raglan Road is primarily a poem and I won fifty pounds many years ago at the talent show in Clonroche for reciting it. The ballad version does not capture the mood or sense of the poem. For me only the Clancy Brothers—Liam especially—could sing a ballad in a properly expressive manner.

No narrative of the history of Carrig-on-Bannow parish should ever begin without some reference to Tom Boyse of glorious memory. In July 29th 1846, (when the Famine was at its height) Fr Peter Corish, the Pastor of Bannow (who lived at Ballymitty) wrote to the Wexford Independent about a further donation from Mr Boyse for the erection of the new chapel at Danescastle. The final paragraph of the report in the newspaper is astounding:–

“The Rev. Mr Corish adds that Mr Boyse has given a carte blanche to him, to subscribe any sum to the relief of the poor, that in the Reverend gentleman’s opinion may be required—his motto being “no want in the Bannow district, under any circumstances.” I think that Tom Boyse anticipated the twentieth century social welfare system, where the basic needs of all would of necessity be provided for. The local pastor in Graignamanagh wrote that the tenants on Tom Boyse’s estate there had no need of relief during the famine but that Mr Boyse provided for the wants of starving people on surrounding estates. There were no limits either on Tom Boyse’s philanthropy or (equally) his means.

From The People, April 25th of 1953:–

“Bannow And District Notes

Woodwork Classes—The highly successful woodwork classes held in Ballymitty Hall during the past few months, will conclude this week. The work includes ladders, creels, wheelbarrows, furniture and a boat built by Mr Paddy Martin, Tullicanna. Experienced seamen who have already inspected this small craft were amazed at the beautiful lines, as well as the craftsmanship involved.”

If memory serves me right, they had difficulty getting the boat out of the Hall and had to remove the door to manoeuvre it out, or something to that effect.

From The People May 23 1953:–


Religious Inspection—Rev. P. Roche, Diocesan Inspector, visited Danescastle and Bannow schools on Wednesday of last week and examined the children in Christian doctrine. He was well pleased with their answering. A number of children from both schools made their first Holy Communion last Saturday morning. Very Rev. J. O’Brien P. P. congratulated the parents and teachers on the manner in which they were presented to receive the Blessed Sacrament….

The Storm—One of the most severe storms ever experienced in May took place over the district, during last week end, causing severe damage to crops in exposed places along the seaboard. Early corn had a severe set-back, being burned and blackened by the sea wind, while the early potato crop was battered and broken by the westerly gales. Farmers are hoping that fine, moist conditions will return to offset the damage done. The tides were the highest ever for the time of year.

A Big Catch—While line fishing on Bannow Bar, Mr W. Roche, Bannow, got 58 Bass in one tide.”

From The Free Press, February 6th, 1909:–


January 28th 1909, at the Sacred Heart Convent of Mercy, Mount Saint Joseph, Cappaquin, Co. Waterford, Mother M. Evangelist, seventh daughter of the late John Crosbie, Ballingly Mill, Ballymitty, Co. Wexford, in the 56th of her age and the 37th of her religious profession.”


To be let or the interest therein sold

The BOLTING MILL of Kiltra, with eight acres of land, having thereon a very neat cottage and out offices. The land is in good heart; two acres of which are under potatoes; all situate near the Scar of Barrystown, in the beautiful neighbourhood of Bannow and within two miles drive of Wexford.

The premises can be seen, by application, to Matthew Colfer, who resides thereon; and application to be made (if by letter post-paid) to Thomas Hore, Raheen, Enniscorthy.

September 13, 1837”

According the Danescastle National School Folklore Collection done in or circa 1938, there had been these fields in the Kiltra district:

The coal yard field where the coal boats came from St Kearns and deposited their coals in it.

Flat field because it was so level. The Moat Field. The Mine Road.

My mother recalled with a touch of amusement that my father had a coal shed on Kiltra strand during the World War II years. You would have to be optimistic to hope to sell much coal in that time!

On Sunday night March 24th 1957, the County Federation of Muintir na Tire had a Forum at Ballycogley Parish Hall and Fr Patrick N. Magee O. S. A. Grantstown was on the debating panel. The other members of the were suitably distinguished: Sir Anthony Esmonde T. D.; Mr Malachi Sweetman, Enniscorthy; Mr Myles Shevlin, Solicitor and Dr H. Aughney, County Medical Officer, the Chairperson (and there is no report of her taking it).

The first question to the panel was:–Should bachelors be taxed? My focus is on the answers given by Fr Magee.

Fr Magee said that he was against the suggestion: “He believed no one should be forced into marriage” and then proceeded to contradict himself! I quote:–

“The type of bachelor, he believed, should be taxed was the small farmer, with a hundred acres who lives, perhaps all alone. If Ireland is going to make any kind of progress something should be done about this type of bachelor, because he is leading a useless life, in no way contributing to the prosperity of the country. As soon as he is taxed out of existence the sooner the country will be on the road to recovery. Bachelors, in general, Fr Magee concluded, should not be taxed.”

A man with 100 acres in 1957 would not be a small farmer. There is a lack of empathy in Fr Magee’s pronouncement: it would be unusual for a very young man to inherit or acquire that amount of land—siblings would have to be provided for and assisted into other means of making a livelihood. Most bachelors were in that state simply because no body would marry them!

The next question was: Has the youth of Ireland a reasonable alternative to emigration and what inducements would you give to farm workers, including farmers’ sons to keep them on the land?

“Father Magee said that he was pretty hot on the point that the Land Commission was not doing its duty. He believed that the Land Commission should have the power, even, if it meant passing an act in the Dail, to acquire, compulsorily, if necessary, farms from inefficient bachelors and by so doing not to interfere with man’s right to property. Something such as that would have to be done in view of our dwindling population. Farms of 100 acres or so should be taken over and compensation paid for them. They should then be divided into holdings of fifty to sixty acres and rented to farm labourers, who are skilled in the management of land, and, also, to farmers’ sons who would be prepared to work the land. The present policy of the Land Commission, Father Magee said, is to give land only to those who already have their name to a Receivable Order. It would be far better if the land was given to people who would be really interested in it. The result would be that half our emigration problems would be solved.”

I am sure that Fr Magee’s proposal would have, if implemented, proved un-constitutional. The Supreme Court would probably strike down such a law. But all that is by the way, a digression. Fr Magee was an able man, lecture in social science for extra-mural courses organised by University College Cork, an expert bee-keeper who broadcast on Radio Eireann and a former teacher—and before his ordination a champion step-dancer and later producer for rural dramatic groups. So I am surprised at the impractical and juvenile thinking in the above discourse. Any child at Danescastle National School would know that 100 divided by 50 equals 2! The number of farms of 100 acres or plus, operated by a bachelor man would be limited enough so there would very few extra farms to give to the labouring men and sons of farmers! The revenue available to the Irish governments in that era was tiny and proposals to buy out a significant fraction of the country’s farms would not be financially feasible. Where the Land Commission did acquire lands, it payed in land bonds which proved slightly better than no money, if one could redeem them. The tendency of the Land Commission was to give extra land to men, with families, who had shown initiative by buying land, themselves. On the basis of these two criteria, my father was given land in Ballymackessy, after years of pleading, in May 1960. Farm labourers and indeed farmers’ sons if given 50 acre farms would, also, have to be given substantial capital.

The next question was: what are the qualities a girl should look for in the man she is going to marry?

“Fr Magee said that if he was a girl he would prefer to meet a quiet type of man, who would support her and who would be temperate in spending. Dr Esmonde said that there never has been a man who knew what a woman is really thinking…” It was a different time and space—I am not sure if anybody could publicly say such a thing nowadays.

The next question was: is the Civil Service unwieldy and wasteful?

“Fr Magee said that it was. While not casting any aspersions on the Departments he knew that there was a duplication of services in them, demanding as a result, increased rates and taxation. He believed and would deliberately say, that the offices of the County Council in Wexford could be run and maintained with half the present staff.”

The next question reflected a now diminished (but previously powerful) conviction in Irish society: are there any such things as ghosts?

“Fr Magee said he never came across a ghost but that did not mean that he denied the possibility of their existence. If they placed any reliance on the findings of the Pyschic Research Society of London, then they were up against the problem that the supernatural had been experienced in this world. It was pretty certain that 99 per cent of the apparitions reported are fake, but a certain one per cent must be looked upon as true. He would say that there as are such things as ghosts, taking them in the supernatural sense.”

I doubt if anyone in latter day society actually believes in ghosts; I never did. The departed may well be present in an alternative place and space but I am unable to see how I or anybody else may contact them.

I will leave the forum at Ballycogley at that.

Maybe some of the millions of people who read this, will tell me what this report in The Irish Times on Saturday February 10th 1951 is about—exotic news, spoof, or what?

“Cullenstown, Co. Wexford, is a village republic 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 it 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.

Several 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 on 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 these people are too busy attending their lands. Cullenstown is one of the finest early potato and beet growing districts in Ireland. Its popularity as a seaside resort is also increasing.”

The People September 26th 1896 reported on the Land Commission Court at New Ross and the first case was that of Mr Biddulph Colclough, landlord; James Tierney, Bannow Island, tenant. Mr Morris Goddard appeared for the landlord and Mr J. R. Colfer for the tenant. Laurence Tierney, son of the tenant, deposed that his father lived on the holding and the family was there over eighty years. The rent was raised about fourteen years ago from £20 to its present figure. The holding was situate about fifteen Irish miles from the nearest market towns, Wexford and New Ross. The farm stood in detached patches. There was a mile and a half of bad roadway leading to the holding, which was often flooded for a half day. Chairman—And how are we to get there? Mr Colfer—Yes, that’s the startling information for the two commissioners. Witness—I could sail them up (laughter). Mr Colfer—But suppose they took the trouble of approaching the holding by land when the tide was out should they not go by Wellingtonbridge? Yes. Witness, continuing, stated that about twelve acres of land were tilled annually. He then described the buildings. Mr Goddard mentioned that considerable assistance had been from time to time rendered the tenants by the landlord in the way of giving timber and slates free for buildings. Mr Colfer (to witness)—Within your recollection was there ever any timber, slates, or money contributed by your landlord? No. What age are you? Twenty-seven. Mr Goddard—Oh! well, he is a very young man. The Chairman observed that records of all such services by landlords were generally kept in the estate books and that gave the landlord an advantage over the tenant who never scarcely kept such records. Mr Goddard contended that these records were kept only on exceptionally well managed estates. Mr Colfer observed that they were kept in the Kavanagh estate books. He contended that it should be presumed that the buildings were wholly erected by the tenants in the absence of specific evidence to the contrary. Evidence of some fence improvements having been given, together with the statement that the tenant obtained seaweed occasionally, Mr Goddard cross-examined Patrick Tierney, New Ross, uncle to the last witness and brother to the tenant, who said he was reared on this farm and could remember over 60 years. All the buildings in witness’s time were thatched. Except three, they were built within the last 60 years. At one time witness’s father was building a dwelling house and the Colcloughs were in the habit of giving timber and slates to the tenants but, in consequence, of their having refused them to his father, he discontinued the erection of the dwelling and it was still there. To Mr Goddard—My father was building the dwelling about 50 years ago. What age are you? I’ll tell you. I’ll be sixty-nine if I live till next Holy Thursday, if you know anything about it (laughter). In the course of some further questions Mr Goddard said that he could not understand the witness and Mr Tierney replied that he could make him understand if he had any understanding in him (laughter). Mr Goddard put no further questions. Mr Mc Grath valued on 25 acres at £12 15 shillings for the tenant. He did not take isolation into account. If the Commissioners were to allow for isolation, they should allow £1 10 shillings. Chairman—Mr Mc Grath, do you think when making your valuation, that £12 15 shillings would be a fair rent? Yes, certainly. To Mr Colfer—My net value would be £11 5 shillings. Mr Martin valued for the landlord on 35 acres 2 roods, 13 perches statute, at £24 16 shillings 5 pence. He considered that the division of the farm was for the tenant’s own convenience.”

I am puzzled by the unequal extent of the lands valued by the rival valuers. The valuer for the tenant would seek to give the lowest possible value to it and the valuer for the landlord would seek to arrive at the highest valuation of the farm. I think that Pat Tierney was either confused or simply tantalising Mr Goddard. His answers are difficult to make anything of.