Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, inspiring, comedic, erudite, scholarly, describable only in superlatives and—wily; a historian supreme and one of the Barrystown children ever recipients of gold and silver! I suppose that I should add in the extra adjective “famous” to the above list but my humility ever stands out. I see that there is material on the Ellys and Samuel Elly who lived at Bannow in the early to middle decades of the nineteenth century. I see that they quote some of my own writings on Elly—some of that would seem to have been on one of my blogs. I am delighted by that development, especially, if it demonstrates that both the web-site and the Blogs are reaching to wider readership. Google “Samuel Elly, Bannow”. Some other group asked me to permit them to put up the article that I wrote on whales—for last year’s Kilmore Journal— taking their (unplanned) vacation in Kilmore. I agreed but I do not have the web-site. The Kilmore Journals are good annual productions and worth buying and above all else—reading.
Anna Maria Hall, in one of her novels, interpreted the motivation of the Whiteboys as “the wild justice of revenge”. She tended to slightly romanticize the outlaws of her era—the vagrants, the smugglers, the highway men and the feral political gangs. The meaning of her phrase is that in an era when legal remedies were largely unavailable and financially prohibitive for the landless and those holding tenancies at the whim of landlords, men might be ambiguous—even agree with— about visiting frightening vengeance on those who oppressed the poor and marginalised. Their reasoning was that landlords would be less likely to evict and other men to take evicted lands if both faced the prospect of vengeance on a murderous scale. As I said in my lecture on the Land League last February the Land league in its time was fighting Irish history: men had always taken evicted land and the Land League was urging them not to have anything to do with evicted farms—they ostracised those who did take evicted farms, an infinitely less severe deterrent than that used by the Whitefeet. In the 1830 gangs of White Feet—as they were termed—crossed over the Blackstairs mountains into the Co. Wexford from the Counties Carlow and Kilkenny. I wrote about them in an article in the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society 2011. They were utterly appalling; they inflicted the most awful violence, in some cases leading to death, on those that they visited. They looked to me more like criminal gangs than political idealists. In May 1833 they visited a farm at Tullicanna; The Wexford Conservative recorded their gruesome actions there in its issue of May 4th 1833:–
“On the night of Saturday last or rather early on the morning of Sunday—a party of four men visited the house of Coghlan of Tullacannon, whose barn was burned some time ago—but which, at the time we allude to, as since, was occupied by a person named Donnelly. One of the party, whose name is Edward Murphy (at present in our county prison) knocked at the window and on Donnelly demanding who was there, replied the Whitefeet and told him if he quitted not the holding, they would assuredly destroy the house and put his wife and children to death. While Murphy was thus engaged parleying with Donnelly one of those wretches told him—“not to be contending with Donnelly but to clap the fire to the house”. However, he did not comply with this request. They withdrew—but shortly afterwards returned and repeated their menaces. Upon tidings of this outrage reaching the Tullacannon police they commenced a search and apprehended Murphy, who was up in a chimney. Murphy has been fully committed by Sir Wm Cox and his companion held to bail.”
The Whitefeet—like the Whiteboys before them— usually kept their promise; and fulfilled their threats. Their threats were made in letters that they sent to the alleged transgressor or otherwise placed on his gate or door. The farming community detested them for obvious reasons but in the wider community and especially in the subterranean strata there was sympathy with them. Mrs Roche the widow of the man in Adamstown murdered by them, in 1833, feared at the inquest that the crowd there favoured the Whitefeet.
Criminals in that era did not enjoy the enormous wealth that modern criminal gangs may amass; they could be detected and convicted in which case they faced fearsome punishment such as execution by hanging, burning on their hands, and transportation to Australia and/or long years of imprisonment with hard labour. The Whitefeet—a practice with other gangs as well—sometimes regaled themselves on the meagre stocks of food in the houses visited by them—a sign, in itself, that they were not affluent men.
From The Wexford Herald March 26th 1825:–
“The Sloop Foyle of Cork, Edward Mc Donnell, Master, foundered on Thursday afternoon about a mile from shore, off Bannow. She was coal laden, two days out from Cardiff and bound for Youghal. The crew saved themselves with difficulty in their small boat.”
From The People, Saturday, October 23rd 1875:–
“Accidental Death—On Friday evening at Cullinstown, Walter Furlong, servant at Mr Burnsides, received a kick from a pony in the abdomen, from the effects of which he died the following Monday
From The People July 5th 1899:
“Letting a Cottage
For the vacant cottage at Brandane there were three applicants—John Roche, Brandane, James Byrne, Kiltra, and John Byrne, Bannow. Roche was recommended by Mrs White, on whose land the house is built. She said he was a thoroughly upright and honest workman. He was recommended by the late Archdeacon Sheridan and a number of ratepayers. James Byrne was strongly recommended by Mr Bagenal Boyd, with whom he worked and by other ratepayers. John Byrne wrote stating that he had applied under every scheme for the last twelve years. He was at present living in a house that was condemned. He was recommended by several ratepayers.
Mr Pettit asked if there were any arrears on the cottage. Lord M. Fitzgerald—I would not handicap the new tenant by making him pay arrears, particularly when wages are as we know they are. I think it would be a great hardship to put that debt around his neck. The proper system would be to prevent those arrears accruing but I think we should let the man in free of all debt. The fault of these arrears is our own and I think it would be far kinder to the tenants themselves if they were not allowed to run into arrears. We should instruct our relieving officer that they must collect the rents punctually and not allow arrears.
Mr Petitt—I quite agree with you that we should not allow these arrears to accrue but the question of whether the new tenant should pay them or not was often discussed here before and I thought it as well to bring it up. Chairman—It was quite right to bring it up. In some cases at this time of the year there would be a crop of some sort on the plot and if the new tenant got that it would be no great injustice to him if he paid the arrears in return for it. Mr Keane—There is no crop on the plot. Mr M. Murphy—In that case let the man in free.
John Byrne came before the Board [of Wexford Poor Law Guardians] and said he was a married man and had six children and a wife. He lived in a hut. He had often applied for a house before. His eldest child was twenty one and the youngest two years old. He was an agricultural labourer. He worked with Mr Wm Rochford. To Mr Devereux—He worked more than twenty days with Mr Rochford on the farm.
Mr Howlin—The house is only twelve feet long. Mr Devereux—He is not from Bannow.
John Roche—stated he had two in family and lived with his brother-in-law. He was an agricultural labourer and worked on the farm where the house was situated. He had formerly applied for a house but he had never attended an inquiry. Mrs White, for whom he worked, was anxious that he should get a house.
James Byrne stated he was married and had a wife and one child. He was at lodgings and worked with Mr Boyd. Chairman—You seem to be a bad case, too. Mr Byrne—I have lost three or four days, too, looking for a house. The house I was living in was condemned by the doctor.
Mr Howlin proposed that John Byrne be appointed tenant. Byrne had been years looking for a house and the one he was living in at present was a despicable looking hut, not fit to live in. In fact John Byrne said if he did not get a house before the winter he would be obliged to go into the workhouse for the winter with his family.
Lord M. Fitzgerald seconded and said he was in favour of Byrne because he had a large family and the other two men had only one child each. If they were to be guided at all by the condition of the applicants there was no question about John Byrne being the worst case.
Mr T. Devereux proposed James Byrne. Mr P. Scallan—I second that. He is a young man and there is no use setting the houses to old men. Chairman—You cannot say any of them is an old man.
Mr Keane proposed John Roche. Mr J. Furlong seconded. Mr T. Devereux—John Byrne has some sort of a house but the other men have no other houses. Besides, John Byrne never lived in the division. He is from another division altogether.
Mr Ffrench said it would be hard to give a cottage to a man from outside the division while there were men in the division wanting houses. Mr Howlin—John Byrne has been working in the division for four five years. Mr Keane—Neither Mr Devereux nor I have anything to say to any of the men. I think one man has a better claim and he thinks the other.
On a poll being taken, three voted for James Byrne; Messrs Devereux, Peacocke¸ Scallan, Adams, the Chairman, M. Murphy and Devereux (7).
For Roche—Messrs Cogley, Keane, Ffrench, Joyce, Rossiter, Doyle, Bourke, Keating¸Pettitt and J. Furlong (10).
For John Byrne—Messrs John Codd, Donohoe, Fortune, Laffan, Howlin, Clancy, Sinnott, Malone, and Lord M. Fitzgerald (9).
On a show of hands being taken as between John Byrne and Roche, 14 voted for the latter and 11 for the former. The cottage was given to Roche.”
From The Free Press on March 28th 1908:–
“Diphtheria in Bannow
At Saturday’s meeting of the Wexford Guardians it was ordered that relief be given in the case of a boy named Broaders in the Bannow dispensary district. The boy had recently suffered from diphtheria, from which one of his family died.
The Chairman (Lady Maurice Fitzgerald) asked if the boy was recovering. The Relieving Officer, Mr Walsh, replied that he was somewhat better. There were seven children in the family between the ages of three and fourteen.”
From The Free Press, Forth and Bargy notes on May 3rd 1952:–
“Afforestation—It is stated that arrangements are being made to take over a tract of land at Halseyrath, Ballymitty, for planting up as a state forest.”
From The Forth and Bargy notes on April 19th 1952:–
“Fishermen from many parts met at Cullenstown during the Easter holidays to try their luck at the bar of Lough. Catches were on the small side for it is yet very early in the season but nevertheless all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. This is becoming a popular fishing centre and last season was a very popular one for rodmen….
Life Saving Improvements—Electric current is to be connected up to the Bar of Lough Life Saving station. This amenity will make the station one of the most-up-to date along the coast.”
The General Providers Ltd, Wellingtonbridge, in April 1952 were advertising—
Motor Hearse and Saloon Car at shortest notice.
Day and Night service.
‘Phone, Wellingtonbridge 3.”
They may have used mobile phones in that era but it seems from the above that house phones, landlines were exceedingly scarce in Wellingtonbridge and elsewhere. A motor hearse was still a novelty so horse drawn hearses must have been in use up to 1950 or thereabouts.
From the Forth and Bargy notes on April 5th 1952:–
“Mr John English of Aughermon, Ballymitty, aged over 80 years, tripped in a reins and suffered injury to his face. He was taken to hospital. It was only then that it was discovered that he had also broken his clay pipe and that part of the stem of the pipe had lodged in the nose and caused the bad bleeding. When it was removed he was able to go home.”
Eighty years in that era was a fine longevity. In the culture of the time there was no consciousness of the malignant implications of smoking. In 1952 a wood work teacher as he finished a series of adult classes was give a presentation of a cigarette holder and cigarettes by a national teacher representing those on the course!
The Free Press reported in April 1952 that Mr Erskine Childers the Minister for Post and Telegraphs answered queries on the applicants for the vacancy at Wellingtonbridge for a sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress. Johnny O’Leary T. D. and Sir Anthony Esmonde T. D. asked the questions with a focus on the issue of whether the successful applicant should reside at the Post Office for security reasons. Mr Childers answered that it was not essential that the person appointed should reside on the premises but added that the person appointed while not at that time resident there intended to live there—if that was regarded as desirable. He said that one man and two women applied for the vacancy. Such appointments inevitably caused contention and as always public representatives were exceedingly eager to make representations but I simply don’t know if these were of any value. I am not sure if the Minister had a direct (or any) influence in determining who got the appointment but I doubt if he did. Would it not be a matter for the postal authorities? The conditions of that era meant that people had to seek after each and every opportunity and it is wrong for a later generation to be too judgemental about the intensity of their efforts to grasp such opportunities.