Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, original, innovative, a pure genius, with an I. Q. without precedent, with a gift for prophecy, blessed among women, a right boyo, historian supreme, humble, self-effacing, modest, inspired and inspiring—wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits.

There will be a meeting of the Clonroche Historical Society on Tuesday night March 15th at 8.30 pm in the Clonroche Community Centre to discuss a proposed tour to Kilmainham Jail; our problem is to ensure that enough are interested in going to cover the cost or most of it. The indications are of a surge of interest in it but I will wait to Tuesday night before a metaphorical count of chickens.

In my childhood years there was a District Justice in the Co. Wexford, named Donagh Mc Donagh: he was the only son of the executed leader of the Easter Rebellion of 1916, Thomas Mc Donagh of Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. Tom Mc Donagh was lecturer in English literature in University College Dublin and, perhaps, because of that, his views differed from that of Pearse and the Gaelic League on the necessity of Gaelic or Irish to properly express the Irish way of thinking: the latter regarded Gaelic as essential to such expression of true Irish feeling and indeed to express the soul of Ireland. Tom Mc Donagh argued that as the Irish people were by, then, using English as their vernacular, the English language, as spoken by them, was the proper expression of their feelings and thoughts.

Thomas Mc Donagh whistled as they brought him to the execution place in the stone breakers yard in Kilmainham Jail in early May 1916. The young British soldiers, who formed the shooting squads (some of them teenagers), were distraught: their rifles waved like a field of corn, in their trembling hands. William Butler Yeats a gifted but most eccentric poet wrote that Tom Mc Donagh might have won fame if had kept at the poetry! District Justice Mc Donagh died before his time. His father wrote to him before his execution that the Irish nation would provide for him and his sister: the new Irish state after 1922 did provide for young Mc Donagh’s maintenance and education, with some special pleading by him, at times.

The editor of the Wexford Independent on July 29th 1846 related that he had received a note from that “truly pious and well beloved Pastor of Bannow, the Rev. Peter Corish” informing him that Tom Boyse had given a further instalment of £20, towards the completion of the new Catholic Chapel of Danescastle, in addition to his previous subscription, exceeding £900, “for the erection of that sacred edifice.” Fr Corish asked in his letter:–“Where shall a parallel be found for such exalted liberality?” Jack Green, the editor and proprietor of the Independent observed that “few possessed of station and fortune among us have mind moulded like that of Thomas Boyse.” If you seamed the history of a million countries in a thousand centuries, one would not find a parallel to Tom Boyse!  The concluding sentence—in its remarkable under-emphasis of the undertaking outlined in it—was typical of Boyse’s anguish at starvation on or near his estate:–

“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”.  The Parish Priest of Graignamanagh wrote to the newspapers that Tom Boyse had provided extensive relief for starving people living not on his estate there—where the tenants were comparatively prosperous—but on adjoining estates in the parish of Graignamanagh.

From The Echo January 18th 1913:–

“A Whale Ashore

On Wednesday week a dead whale was driven ashore at Bannow. It is stated that it measured over 40 feet in length and that there were some lines attached so that evidently the monster had been harpooned but had succeeded in escaping. The presence of a whale in the locality was something of a novelty and many journeyed to the place to get a glimpse of it.”

The more likely explanation is that the unfortunate creature died from the trauma and injuries inflicted by the harpoons: the suffering and cruelty involved would be appalling but in an era when everything, including food, was so hard to come by, considerations of compassion were not entertained. About three years ago I published an article in the Kilmore Parish Journal on whales coming, inexplicitly, onto strands and not able to swim back out again: in the nineteenth century and of course, earlier the local people would descend with pikes, guns, knifes, sprongs, iron bars etc, et al and savagely attack and systematically kill them, for their meat and oil. There was no squeamishness permitted. A representative of a whaling organisation later contacted me and said that he had asked the editor of the Kilmore Parish Journal for permission to put the article on its website; the editor explained to him that the organisation would have to seek my permission as author of the article—so they were doing that. I had no issue with the organisation putting the article on their website—provided that they put my name to it! If it is true, it ain’t bragging and anyway no native of Carrig-on-Bannow ever brags or tells lies. I presume that the organisation were promoting the welfare of whales; the harpooning of them appals me.

From The Wexford Independent, March 7th 1903:–

“Thrilling Experience at Sea

In our last issue we stated that the anxiety for the safety of the Bannow schooner, “Mary Ellen” and her crew and stevedores had ceased. The following facts have been related to us by one of those who was on board (Mr Edward Neville):–About one o’clock in Thursday the “Mary Ellen” proceeded to the Bay in order to lighten the cargo of the steamer “Alliance”, loaded with super-phosphate, which was consigned to Mr Patrick O’Neill, Enniscorthy. The following were on board:–J. Sweeny (master), Edward Neville, William Neville (father and son), Laurence Pender, James Pender (brothers), James Newport, William Neill, Nicholas Walsh and another seaman. The vessel, which was brought out by the tug “Wexford” moored alongside about four o’clock. The men commenced discharging the cargo immediately and closed work about 5.40, having at the time succeeded in getting about twenty tons on board. A nasty swell then got up and the vessel commenced to roll. It was, then, found that they could no longer remain in their position near the steamer and the latter went astern. The sea continuing to be rough, the “Alliance” pulled her anchors. The breeze continued to increase and the “Mary Ellen” paid out to the anchor about forty fathoms. The wind was blowing west-ward about 12.10 when the big anchor parted, the small anchor being now no use in such weather. It was blowing a hurricane, with a short lull at times. The schooner then shipped the small anchor chain and let out before the wind. It was pitch dark at the time and Tuskar and all lights were lost sight of. The vessel started off, the captain nor those on board not knowing exactly what position they were in. They were judging that they were near the Long Bank, but, luckily, they got clear. After passing the Lucifer Lightship, a tremendous sea broke aboard carrying away the boat and upsetting all utensils on deck and the cabin stores. The boat was smashed by the heavy impact of the sea and it was impossible to see the compass. However, when they got out of the rough they managed to catch an odd glimpse of it by striking matches and the use of cut candles. When the seas broke over clearing almost everything in their way, the captain and his men withstood the strain in dogged style, the former standing to the wheel all the time. The “Mary Ellen” was at the this time running under bare poles. At 12.40 they rigged up a double foresail and standing jin and went for the channel as much as they could, for there was no light to be seen. At 1.20 the South Arklow Lightship was caught sight of below them. Towards daybreak, it loomed land but they were unable to tell what part it was. The vessel was proceeding along when Lambay Island and Howth Head came upon their view; she then sped before the gale which was at that time was blowing into a full hurricane; it being at this time at the height of its fury and went into the channel. When the wind abated on Friday they beat about and managed to head the vessel for the Irish shore, the captain being still at the wheel. On Saturday morning the Kish Lighthouse was sighted and the schooner reached it and made for Kingstown Pier. The weather was fine and the wind from the North West, so they decided on going further south. They passed on Bray and proceeded to Wicklow, where they hoisted colours for a pilot, who was not longing coming on board and bringing the ship safely to the Pier. Throughout all this trying time, the captain stood at the wheel, a period of 30 hours. He was perfectly cool and collected during the whole time and it was mainly due to this that his vessel succeeded in braving the storm and regaining a place of safety uninjured. In fact all those on board fared similarly and when they arrived in Wicklow and were accorded considerable hospitality, it was very welcome to them. The captain, Nicholas Walsh, and the boy remained to take charge of the vessel while the others came home to Wexford by the 10 o’clock train and were met at the railway station by numerous friends who congratulated them upon having so safely arrived.”

While I would never accuse a native of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow of bragging, the detail that the captain stayed 30 hours at the wheel is astounding. Conversely, natives of that “dear parish—none fairer in Erin” as Mc Cutcheon the poet wrote, have performed herculean feats throughout recorded history.

Before I put in the next item, may I point out that later on Mr Curran made a  financial settlement with the widow Mrs Murphy—for which she indicated in the newspapers, she was quite satisfied—for the hotel at Wellingtonbridge. It is or has a strong continuity with the present day Tir nOg premises. I am quoting The People on Wednesday August 19th 1885:–


As your readers are aware, the Fifteenth of August is a big day in Cullenstown. People come from all parts to spend the day on the banks or enjoy themselves on the strand. Formerly everyone who could sport a bit of blood got up impromptu matches on the strand and rode like thunder to the admiration of all the spectators on the banks, but latterly the strand is pretty cut up and we have not such good galloping ground. Where such numbers congregate, it is only a matter of course that there should be a sup stirring amongst the boys and considering the great heat of the day, you could not blame them to take a cider or a lemonade. But there is one remarkable feature in the day’s proceedings which should not be allowed to pass unnoticed—viz., the total abstention from all intoxicating or other drinks in the neighbourhood of Wellingtonbridge. There could not be less than 500 cars passing the Bridge to and fro during the day but I can state without fear of contradiction, that not one ever stopped at Curran’s. One young fellow who said his mouth was “parching” as he came up to the Bridge was heard to declare that he would rather drink the puddle out of the car tracks than taste a drop of the grabber’s beer. Every car rolled along as if Curran’s house was a police barrack, although, formerly, when the evicted tenant, Mrs Murphy, had the place, your horse, in spite of you, even if you didn’t  want a drink, he did, and he was sure to wheel short up to the door. Great amusement was caused by a little game which was played as a trap to catch the public but the public were too wary on this occasion. Just about the time the people were in full swing going by Curran’s, a couple of traps, filled by flunkeys, were drawn up to the door and fastened to it. This was meant to convey to the passers-by that the new proprietor was doing a roaring trade but it was no go. The little game was seen through and instead of an attraction it was accepted only as a challenge which was answered back with cheers for the National League and hurrah for Parnell. Bravo, Bannow! This will shine to your credit in after years—A Correspondent.”

At the Duncormack Petty Sessions in January 1889, with Mr J. J. Roche in the Chair and also on the Bench, Mr C. F. Walker, it was reported:–

“Francis A. Leigh v Patrick Fardy for refusing to give up permission of a farm of which he was caretaker, under the Land Act. Mr J. R. Colfer appeared for Mr Leigh and handed in the usual proofs of defendant being but a caretaker.

Mrs Fardy, addressing Mr Colfer, said if your honour give us a little time, we will have the rent. My husband is gone to America and he will shortly send home the money. Mr Colfer said he would do what he could for Mrs Fardy in the matter. A warrant for possession was granted, addressed to the Sheriff, to be executed in not less than seven days or more than two months from date of issue. Mr Colfer said that he would see that Mrs Fardy would get all reasonable time. Mrs Fardy—Thank you, sir. I’ll have the money before the two months is out. Thank you all, gentlemen.

…..Acting Sergeant Currid said Thomas Curran’s and John Barry’s dogs were strolling around, too, with no wire on. Fined 1 shilling and costs.”

In November 1887, Major Boyse got a decree against Catherine, John and Mary Devereux, Moor of Bannow. Rent–£4; due £10. Stay if £2 and costs be paid in four months. Laurence Devereux, Haggard; rent £6; due £27. Decree. P. Browne and William Stafford, Bannow. Decree…..

Jonas King v James Harpur, Barrystown. Rent £14 12 shillings and 6 pence. Due–£87 15 shillings. Decree.

On the above figures these tenants had not payed rents for, at least, a few years—in depressed times, it was probable that they were unable to pay them.

The famous Jonas King was about six years dead by then; this could be a son or the legal representatives of the late Jonas King.

From The People August 19th 1893:–

“Dear sir—I am glad to inform you that the “big” day in Cullenstown is losing none of its importance. The weather was truly magnificent and owing to the sea breeze not oppressive, it was a day to induce pleasure seekers to a day’s outing, to visit this popular haunt and take a plunge into the briny. Never before was the crowd so great—vehicles from every part of the county crammed every available farm-yard—so that about three o’clock the banks, shore, and roads were swarming with people on pleasure bent. There were the usual fraternity of gamblers, all surrounded with lookers-on, according to their different tastes. No inebriates were to be seen—no disturbing influence of any kind—pleasant features to record. Had there been a few bands to discourse sweet music it would add much to the public amusement. On the whole I think all enjoyed themselves thoroughly and will await with pleasure the return of the next pattern.”

A flunkey was a person working on an evicted farm and paid by the landlord. Not many would apply for such a job!

The Bannow Dispensary Committee met at Kilcavan on September 14th 1887. Present were:–Messrs A. Keating (in the chair), James M’Grath, Denis Crosbie and John Breen. The Medical Officer reported that there is no infectious disease in the district except a few cases of whooping cough. There had been a considerable number of cases since last meeting. Dr Boyd read a report of drawing the attention of the Committee to the want of water in the village of Ballymitty, in the townland of Hilltown. The local guardian endorsed the recommendation of the medical officer’s report and expressed a desire that the well-hole, which is within, perhaps, ten feet of the public road, might be utilised for the benefit of the schools and the inhabitants. The Secretary was instructed by the Committee to say that under the sanction of the Board they had no objection, providing that portion of Harveystown division included in the area of charge for Danescastle public pump be exempt.”

A quote from the Collected Works of Martin Doyle, alias Rev. William Hickey, Rector of Bannow 1820-26 (approx.):–

“and should you wish to see a model house for a petty farmer, take a walk to nurse M’Cabe’s or Pat Summers at Castleboro….to my friend John Mahony’s cottage and garden at Taghmon; or to Peter French’s at Bannow where all the dashing and white washing of farmers’ and labourers houses, in this county commenced under the directions of Mr Boyse, the principal proprietor…”

From The Echo, the 1st of March 1913:–

“Duncormack Petty Sessions

County Council Prosecutions

Mr Barry, Co. Surveyor, against John Kane, Blackhall, Bannow, for refusing to cut down hedges as required by surveyors. Evidence of notice was proved. Mr Elgee, junior, appeared for the Co. Council.

Mr Kehoe and Mr Treanor, two assistant surveyors, were examined to prove the necessity of having these high hedges cut down to about four feet; they were now 11 or 12 feet high.

An order was made for defendant to cut down the hedges as requested within a week.”

A word of caution to devotees of Bannow was carried by the Enniscorthy Guardian on February 14th 1923:–

“It is a very popular mistake to think that “Banna Banks” has reference to Bannow. That sweet old song has no connection with Bannow. Banna is simply the river Bann in north Wexford, to which the letter “a” has been added to make it rhyme with Anna, a lady’s name, a poetic licence. It is told of old Father James Roche, pastor of Wexford, who built two beautiful churches in the town, that when collecting from country districts to Wexford, in the corn season, he often sang “Banna Banks” and then made a collection after doing so for the new churches, to which his country friends contributed liberally. The song was composed by the Right Hon. George Ogle of Belleview (Ogle’s Blues) when he was wooing the Lady Catherine Annesley of Camolin Park, who did not return his affections….The correct name of the song known as “Banna’s Banks” is “Molly Asthore”.

I think that the song refers to the river Bann in north Co. Wexford but the author of the above piece seems to have basic details mixed up—where is the Anna?