Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, elegant, inspiring and inspired, charismatic, original, humble, self-effacing, modest and not given to blowing his coals, fearless, adventurous, challenging and above all else-wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits.
On the Petty/Down Survey maps, circa 1660, Bannow Island is clearly an island surrounded by water with a definite channel on the east. An old castle is marked on the early Ordnance Survey map to the side of Bannow Church. Banno corporation and the commonage of the Moor of Bannow are on Down Survey lists.
From The Co. Wexford Independent, 11 August 1906:–
“On Bannow’s Banks
(Special to the “Co. Wexford Independent”)
For years I have longed to visit Bannow, having heard so much of the pretty spot washed by the waves of the broad Atlantic and bounded by that long arm of land on which stands the noted castle of Baganbun, the spot where the Normans first landed in Ireland. I fortunately had a well versed companion who knew all the history of the once famous city and from him I gleaned the little information which I now beat into form for my readers. It had reached mid-day as we arrived and several excursion parties had already settled down on the mossy hill to do justice to a good luncheon, after enjoying the invigorating ozone of the sweet blue sea. The view from the old churchyard which stands on the hill and holds the sacred Abbey with many relics of ancient days cannot be surpassed. We look northward where every hill in North Wexford to the far off Wicklow Mountains can be viewed, then Waterford Hills and part of Kilkenny. To our left is the sacred spot known as the Buried city of Bannow. The Island with its few scattered houses and the long stretch of land running for some miles to the south or like an arm into the ocean. The Kereight Islands stud the long span of water ere the Saltees Island bound the view on the extreme south. We visit the old churchyard and are struck with the well kept and preserved head-stones that mark the resting places of the ancient inhabitants of Bannow. Amongst others there is a grave bearing the name of Ffrench, the date 1701 and notifying that the age reached by the deceased was 140 years. This is the burial ground of our respected M. P. for South Wexford. On entering the Abbey we find a huge coffin of stone the cutting of which must have taken a considerable time; the nook for the head is beautifully carved and the lid which is broken, lies along side this wonderful piece of art. The next large stone coffin reveals the carving of two forms on the top which are raised in stone. This coffin, I learn, holds the remains of Fitzstephen and Eva. It appears Fitzstephen was a general under Strongbow and married Eva, her father being Chief of Bannow. The story of their wooing would occupy more space than is allowed me on this occasion. Suffice to say that she sent by her father to a convent but she afterwards escaped and married Fitzstephen; both were eventually found dead in the snow and laid to rest in the grave we visited. In the eastern side is the family vaults of the Boyses of Bannow and also the remains of the celebrated author Mrs Hall. There are but a few of the many things of interest to be seen at Bannow, whose ancient and interesting history is held in much respect by the men of Bargy and Shelmalier. In 1777 the borough of Bannow was represented by Henry Loftus and Nicholas Loftus Tottenham. It is now a small country village.
N. J. C. “
I do not know who N. J. C. is but while his historiography of Bannow is probably mistaken on a number of issues the importance of his article is that it serves as evidence of the fascination with Bannow in that and previous eras.
From Forth and Bargy notes in the Free Press October 11th 1952:–
“Angling in Cullenstown—In the past two years Cullenstown has become one of the most popular rod fishing centres on the South Wexford Coast. While formerly only a few locals engaged in the sport, now anglers from all parts of the county come to enjoy themselves on the Bar of Lough river. Presently the river is teeming with bass and the most successful rod-man to date is Paddy Martin of Tullicanna.
From The Free Press Saturday December 13th 1952:–
“Oldest Inhabitant Dead—The oldest inhabitant of Bannow parish, Mr Patrick Murphy, Whitty’s Hill, Wellingtonbridge, aged 91 years, passed to his reward on Tuesday. Mr Murphy enjoyed good health up to the time of his death. He led an active life and was an employee of the Great Southern Railway for a long number of years. He was in charge of their pumping station at Duncormack up to the time of his retirement 20 years ago. The funeral to Kilkavan Cemetery on Thursday was of large dimensions and testified to the esteem in which deceased was held in the district. Very Rev. Fr Donnelly O. S. A. and Rev. Laurence Kinsella C. C. officiated at the graveside.—R. I. P.”
Also from The Free Press on December 13th 1952:–
“We regret to announce the death of Mr Patrick J. O’Connor, eldest son of the late Mr and Mrs John O’Connor of Ballyshelin, Cleariestown which occurred in Chicago, U. S. A. on Thursday of last week. The late Mr O’Connor emigrated half a century ago and built up a very prosperous and lucrative business in Chicago. He came home on a vacation in 1911 and during his vacation in this country he married Mrs Margaret Cullen of Bannow Bay. Unwilling to sacrifice the commercial career he had founded Mr and Mrs O’Connor returned to America in the autumn of the same year…..”
From the “Forth and Bargy” notes in The Free Press on November 29th 1952:–
“New Farming Methods—A demonstration of mechanised farming was given on Mr Aidan Keane’s farm at Balloughton, Wellingtonbridge on Friday of last week. A large gathering of interested farmers and their workmen were present. The exhibition was arranged by Enniscorthy Motor Company and all the latest models of power plant for ploughing, beet lifting, trench cutting, hedge trimming, land cultivation were demonstrated.”
Pulling beet by hand was a hellish occupation, invariably done in very cold weather. The coming of machinery and mechanisation both transformed the productivity of agriculture and eliminated some of the worst hardships and cruelties connected with it.
Tom Moore, the famous poet, described in his diary the scenes as he approached Bannow on the 26th of August 1835:–
“Several groups whom we saw in the fields on our way, hard at work at the harvest, stood up and cheered us as we passed. As we approached Bannow, Boyse was evidently anxious lest the doubt that had existed as to my time and way of coming might have caused a dispersion of the multitude and so produce in the effect of the cavalcade. We now saw at a distance a party of horsemen on the look-out for us, bearing green banners and surrounded by people on foot. This party, which turned out to be a mere detachment from the main body, now proceeded in advance of us and after a short time we came in sight of the great multitude—chiefly on foot but as we passed along we found number of carriages of different kinds, filled with ladies, drawn up on each side of the road, which after we passed them, fell into the line and followed in procession. When we arrived at the first triumphal arch, [at Kiltra] there was the decorated car and my nine Muses, some of them remarkably pretty girls, particularly the one who placed the crown on my head; and after we had proceeded a little way, seeing how much they were pressed by the crowd, I made her and two of her companions get up on the car behind me….certainly it would be difficult to say too much of the warmth and cordiality of feeling evinced by the whole assemblage, as well as by the quickness and intelligence with which the very lowest of them entered into the whole spirit of the ceremony. In advance of the car was a band of amateur musicians, smart young fellows, in a uniform of blue jackets, caps and white trousers who, whenever we stopped at the arches erected along the road played some of the most popular Irish melodies and likewise, more than once, an air that has been adapted to Byron’s “Here’s a health thee, Tom Moore”. As we proceeded slowly along I said to my pretty Muse behind me, “This is a long journey for you” “Oh sir”, she exclaimed with a sweetness and kindness of look not to be found in more artificial life, “I wish it were more than three hundred miles.”…..
When we arrived in front of Graigue House, the speeches from Boyse and myself (as reported) took place; Boyse very eloquent and, evidently, in high favour with the people.
Frazer in his Statistical Account of the County Wexford (circa 1814) made these observations on the sea weed:–
“Tag or sea weed is a species of manure to which farmers on the sea coast have access and which has the peculiar quality of being applicable to every kind of soil, as often as it can be got and with the greatest imaginable benefit. After a storm from the south or south-west, this weed is drifted down the channel in vast heaps and is watched for by the people with the greatest solicitude; you would imagine their very existence depended on their exertions; all the hands that can be collected, men, women and children, press forward to the beach and rush knee deep into the sea and some up to their middle, with prongs and pitchforks in their hands, struggling to save and carry off on cars, what the tide has wafted in; this labour is renewed night and day, between the ebb and flow of tides, as long as a morsel of the weed remains on the beach: besides there is a quantity of sea sand and gravel used; these they mix with the weed, which forms a rich compost and sometimes with mould or, as is very often the case, they lay it out by itself on heavy grounds, with great success.
The Wexford Independent January 24th 1835 reported:–
“We are delighted in being able to announce to our readers that that sterling patriot, Mr Boyse of Bannow, has left his tenantry to vote as they please at the present election. This (which we always expected) is as it should be and we pledge ourselves that this single act of Mr Boyse will endear him more to his grateful tenantry than all the flimsy theories of ours would be liberal and conservative landlords would effect in half a century. To the people we say, think on this and reflect on the benefits that would result from repeal and of the advantages to be derived from resident proprietary.”
The above needs a modicum of translation. At the hustings each voter had to publicly declare who he was voting for. To qualify to vote one had to have a lease for an indefinite period, that is for a life or lives. One could have a lease for the lifetime of the bishop of Ferns. The value of the lease had to be 40 shillings up to the time of the granting of Catholic Emancipation but as a result of an arrangement between O’Connell and the British Government after Emancipation the required valuation was ten pounds sterling. The British authorities feared that Catholic demagogues or revolutionaries would be elected to Parliament. A regular criticism was that the forty shilling free-hold qualification for the franchise (the right to vote) was motivating landlords to excessively sub-divide their estates as each forty shilling free-holder was, in effect, a voter and very often, the landlord dictated or at least expected that his tenants would vote as their landlord desired.
They were not celebrating an All-Ireland hurling victory at Bannow in April 1835 but they were most ecstatic for a most unusual reason as this report in the Wexford Independent on April 11th 1835 indicates:–
“Thomas Boyse of Bannow, Esq.,
The purchase lately made by this highly estimable gentleman of the property of Mr Osborne Boyse, was attended by circumstances as rare as they are admirable and which might afford an instructive lesson to the landlords of this distracted country. The tenantry on this extensive estate assembled in considerable numbers to express their delight at the accession of territory acquired by their beloved and revered landlord. Bonfires were lighted and every demonstration of joy exhibited that could emanate from happy breasts and which were well calculated to convey heartfelt pleasure to the man who spreads around him prosperity and contentment. But this is not all, many of them came forward spontaneously with an offer of several thousand pounds (acquired under himself) to enable him to complete his purchase!….”
Tom Boyse would have no need of loans from his tenants to buy the Graigue estate: his wealth was on a mega level, of awesome extent but the possession by his tenants of considerable amounts of money in bank accounts indicates a surprising prosperity in Bannow. According to the certificate granting the Bannow estate to Nathaniel Boyse, dated 24th August 1666, it comprised 4,340 acres, statute measure. In 1816 only about 1900 acres minus was directly leased by the Boyses to ordinary tenants. The obvious conclusion is that upwards of 2,000 acres was leased by the Boyses to other large proprietors such as the Cliffes and I presume to those of the Graigue estate. In the 1830s Tom Boyse set about buying these leases back; in other words he was buying leases on tracts of land which he (Tom Boyse) owned in fee simple or full ownership. Those who held these leases, held from Sam and Tom Boyse; in Cliffe’s case he had a goodly number of tenants of his own, including Fr Edward Murphy, Parish Priest of Bannow.