Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, as ever charming,, charismatic (the word denotes a mystical and enigmatic power to attract, influence and heal people), original, ebullient, scholarly, erudite, eloquent, articulate, a raconteur, like Uncle Paddy), a right boyo, blessed among the women, a trainer of hurling teams, marathon runner, a genius with an I. Q. far in excess of Einstein, blah, blah, I could go and on in recital of my own greatness and I nearly forgot…. I am that wily boy from beside the mine pits. I always say that most wily and most devious boy. The perception of genius had followed me all my life and not a day goes by that somebody does not remind me of it: yet inwardly, I am conscious of my mistakes, my perception of acting and/or speaking foolishly at times. Every human being is a mix—I opine—of great intelligence and foolishness. It is the anniversary of Dinny—the little terrier dog who died a week short of his 14th birthday in late January 2016: he was very clever and clearly comprehended the meaning of a lot of words but I was not convinced that he understood grammar, the past, present and future tenses. He could precipitate actions on his part and later modify his actions accordingly. In the end that most feral of little dogs became a personification (I use the word in a deliberately un-semantic way) of a canine domesticity with so many inquiring of his condition in the closing weeks of his life.

The Rev. William Hickey Rector of Bannow from 1820 to 1827 (approximately) used the pseudonym of Martin Doyle for his writings on agriculture. Why did he use that pseudonym? For some years, it was not known that Martin Doyle was a pseudonym but “The Athenaeum: A Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, etc” in 1840 observed:–

“We must observe that the last number of the Dublin University Magazine unmasks Mr Martin Doyle of Ballyorley and stripping off the pseudonym discovers to us the Rev. William Hickey of Mulrankin, the same gentleman who….”

The Rev. Hickey used this pseudonym as he felt that agricultural instructions from A Rector of the Established Church might occasion a certain scepticism—as he was trying to reach the Catholic farmers, he clearly feared that the denominational factor could intervene adversely for his objective of improving agriculture.

According to The People on the 18th of February 1893—

“The anniversary Office and High Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Miss Anne Doyle, Kilcavan, will be held in Ballymitty on Thursday, 23rd instant, at 10.30 o’clock”

From The Wexford Conservative the 29th of April 1835:–

“Malicious Outrage

“There no magic in an earthly name”

A few nights ago, some miscreants set fire to a new boat on the stocks, ready to be launched, the property of Francis Leigh junior, of Rosegarland, which was burned right through the centre and rendered useless, the incendiary having placed a tar barrel found in the neighbourhood under the boat and lighted it, which soon accomplished their evil design. We understand the boat was to be launched next morning and to be christened “Dan O’Connell”; but even this popular name was insufficient to shield her from the depredations of our fine pisantry. We venture a bet that had Mr Leigh had spirit enough to have christened his boat “The Conservative” she would not have been meddled  with.”

From The People the 3rd of February 1912:–

“The parcelling out of the Ballybrack lands opened a new chapter on the Leigh estate but the work of turning over additional leaves of the chapter seems to be a very slow process. Acres upon acres of untenanted land are on the Leigh estate but since the Ballybrack lands were parcelled out the work of acquiring more of these lands seems to have come to a standstill. There they are in places covered with coarse grass as far as the eye can reach, not even in an extra fit state for the bullock. It is hardly possible that that such a state of affairs can continue if the country is to come into that period of prosperity so long expected. The tenants on the Ballybrack estate are making a pleasing change in the appearance of the lands. Fences have erected and, recently, a large amount of ploughing has been carried out by a large number of the people on the surrounding townlands, assisting the tenants in the work. Rev. M. Hickey, the zealous pastor of Clongeen parish, in which Ballybrack is situate, interested himself on the tenants’ behalf and the results of his good offices were that the people gathered with their horses and ploughs and assisted in the ploughing of the lands. This is but one of the many ways in which Father Hickey has laboured for the good of the people since his appointment to the pastorate of Clongeen. The terms under which the tenants were given the Ballybrack lands were not as good as they should have been and hence the tenants have a big task in front of them before they can be said to be properly settled in their places. To the observer, one thing requiring attention is the lane or road from Loughnageer to Ballybrack. This lane or road runs partly through the newly acquired lands and is used by the tenants in their everyday occupations and is, also, a leading way from the places named. It seems to be a road of public utility and such as would justify the expenditure of a sum of money to put into proper repair. Until something is done to improve its condition the tenants will be seriously handicapped in their work. The work of providing good roads where untenanted lands have been acquired is not a consideration to be overlooked.”

Mr Ryan the editor of The Wexford Conservative clearly believed that any softness or compromise by the Established Church/Protestant landed proprietors would be seen as weakness by the “pisantry”—that is the Catholic farmers and labourers.

From the report of the Crown Court proceedings at the Wexford Assizes in March 1877, as reported in the People:–

“Bannow Church…

Mr John Gibson, on behalf of the Representative Church Body, laid before his Lordship a petition asking for compensation for the malicious injury of Kilcavan Church. Having pointed out the acts under which the proceedings were instituted, Mr Gibson examined.

The Rev. Mr Corvan who deposed—I am Rector of Bannow in which this  church is situated; I produce the petition from the Representative Church Body necessary under the act; the injury complained of I noticed on the 10th of September.

Witness here pointed out from a ground plan of the Church the windows which were broken.

Examination continued—There were ten windows broken including six in the transept; they were stained glass windows, which had been kindly put up be Captain Boyse a short time previously; that Church belongs to the Irish Church Representative Body; the windows were worth £100.

Judge—By whom were the windows put up?

Witness—By Captain Boyse of Bannow House.

What figures were represented on the windows?—Faith, hope and charity on some of them.

Did any represent the likeness of saints?—There did (sic).

Was there any objection to stained glass windows in the parish?—Yes but those I overcome; the objections were not such as would imperil the parish and by my arguments I overcame them and the windows were put up by the universal consent of the Select Vestry.

Mr O’Flaherty said that with his Lordship’s permission, he appeared for the cesspayers merely with a view of watching the manner in which the amount would be levied. He would ask the witness whether a lunatic in the neighbourhood was suspected or not? He wished to ask this witness that question in order that the answer might show that the neighbourhood could not be held liable for the offence.

Witness said that a lunatic had been arrested charged with this offence.

Mr O’Flaherty—You do not suspect the injury to have been committed through ill-feeling in the parish? I hope not.

Did you hear that this lunatic went to Captain Boyse before this thing occurred? I heard so.

Did he then say anything about revenge? I cannot give you any proof of that?

Mr O’Flaherty—I do not oppose but I only want to show that this is not an offence for which the neighbourhood should be held amenable.

Mr Corvan—I believe Mrs Boyse heard this lunatic say something threatening.

Did the threatening occur on the occasion of the injury? The same evening I believe.

George Galavan was then examined and he proved the service of the necessary notices.

Ruddy, the sexton of Kilvaven Church proved the discovery of the broken windows on the Sunday morning.

Mr M. Sillery, church decorator, proved that the sum necessary to restore the windows would be £79 5 shillings.

Captain Boyse R. N. deposed—All the windows were erected by me; a lunatic named Moore was arrested on suspicion of having broken them.

Mr O’Flaherty—Did this lunatic try to break into your house? Yes, that same night he tried to do so, and broke two iron scrapers at my door.

Was it not your impression that the windows were broken by him?—I was under that impression but I cannot swear to it. Moore only came into the neighbourhood a day or two before the offence was committed.

His Lordship said that when the application was brought before him he thought that the question would be raised that the lunatic so frequently mentioned was the irresponsible actor in the scene and that therefore no claim for malicious injury could be made. But from the evidence he found that the grand jury are at liberty to consider that some person has perpetrated the injury and to present as much as would restore the windows.

Mr Gibson suggested that the costs, £10, might be included in the award of the grand jury

His Lordship, also, left the costs in the hands of the grand jury.

The grand jury subsequently awarded £85, to be levied off the county.”

The rationale of malicious damages legislation was to put pressure on ordinary people to give information of criminal activity in their neighbourhood. If the culprit was not apprehended then the aggrieved person or persons could apply to the courts for compensation for the damage done to his or their property; the compensation would be levied on the parish in which the offence occurred. In other words the ratepayers in that area would have to pay for the damage done—if the culprit or criminal could not be apprehended.

The case of the Kilcaven Church would not qualify for malicious damages if the Grand Jury [a forerunner of modern local authorities] knew who did the criminal damage: in this case on the basis of the evidence heard in the court, it was not absolutely certain that the lunatic Moore broke the windows in Kilcaven Church. Therefore the Grand Jury could conclude that a person not known for certain had carried out criminal damage to the Church. There is an element of counting the number of angels that could dance on a pin head, like the mediaeval  Spanish theologians. My own opinion is that as a matter of overwhelming probability Moore broke the windows at Kilcaven Church and it would be most unjust to force the people of the civil parish of Kilcaven to pay malicious damages. That is why—I presume and I am a whiz at law—I believe that the Grand Jury levied the damages off the county at large

From The Wexford Independent the 8th of January 1853:–

“Ship News

The brig, whose disastrous loss on Cullenstown strand was reported in this journal on Saturday last, appears (from documents thrown on shore during the week) to be the Alcibides, 290 tons burthen, Nicholas Loiso, Master. One of the papers found shows that she sailed from Cardiff in August 1851 for Tunis with a cargo of coals and thirteen of a crew.”

I presume that the brig was not sailing on the main without going to land since 1851. The Irish Rover sailed for 7 years at least but the ballad reflected a traditional sense of sea-faring as extremely risky and without a guarantee of ever getting to the intended destination.

From The People the 1st of July 1911:–

“Mr Peter Ffrench Member of Parliament, who was cordially received, said—Dean Kavanagh and men of Wexford, I beg to support the resolution proposed by my friend, Mr William Redmond and seconded by my old friend, Father Cullen, whom I am so glad to meet once more. I have been at a great many meetings in my time and I am bound to say that this great temperance demonstration here to-day on Vinegar Hill is amongst the largest and most important meeting that ever it has been my privilege to witness. And Vinegar Hill is a fitting place for a temperance demonstration (“Right you are”). Here in the year ’98 the people assembled to fight for home and country (cheers). Our homes would be brighter, happier, and more prosperous if we did not consume so much more intoxicating drink. Our country would be more prosperous and more progressive, our people more physically fit to fight the great battle of life, if we did not consume so much intoxicating drink. We often hear the drunkard say, “I never injured anybody but myself”. Oh, didn’t he indeed! What about the wreck and ruin brought on many homestead? What about the pale wife and emaciated children? What about the terrible diseases he transmits to the human race? In the year ’81, I met and eminent medical man. I have met him several times since and recently, he and I. discussed the effects of over-indulgence in intoxicating drink. He said, “If you sat in my chair and saw all the wrecks, all the misery, degradation and disease brought about by over-indulgence in alcoholic drinks, you would be horrified.” If you want to see the terrible effects of drunkenness, go to some of the public institutions; go to the lunatic asylums. You will find that Ireland has in her own asylums, over 24, 000 patients at a cost of nearly £480, 000 annually and that about one-fifth of the patients are there owing to drunkenness. Go to the hospitals. See all the people suffering from accidents, cancer, tuberculosis, epilepsy and other diseases, injuries wilfully inducted by the patient himself, or somebody else and if you inquire, you will find a vast proportion are there owing to the abuse of alcohol. Go to the jails and the workhouses and you will find that here, also, alcohol is one of the greatest and most prolific causes which produce criminals and paupers. The annual crop of deaths due to actual drunkenness in the Three Kingdoms is somewhere between six and seven thousand. The number of inquests is about thirty-seven thousand and a large proportion of these is traceable to over-indulgence in intoxicating drink. With the process of nation building before him, a great cause to work for, an Irishman should be ashamed to be even under the influence of drink. And the man who is not is, undoubtedly, a person to be avoided. Unquestionably, our people are getting more self-respect and a better spirit is growing up amongst them. Let us hope that it will continue to grow until every Irishman feels that he loses caste if he drinks to excess and that he is on the high road to worse. Now all available forces should be enlisted in the cause of temperance. We have our great force and nobody, so far, has ever said what it is, or attempted to explain it. To my mind it is the intense patriotism and love of old Ireland that is deep down in the heart of every Irishman. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down, sometimes we are scattered, sometimes we are torn asunder by factionism but when things are looking worst a great unseen force comes along, pricks us up, binds us together and impels us forward to the great goal of National self-government (loud cheers). Well, now, so as to the mind of men who can penetrate into futurity Home Rule is certain and when it is attained which will be in the near future surely our best and wisest men, our good bishops and priests and laymen can devise some means by which, at least, a portion of this great unconquerable force can be utilised in the cause of temperance (prolonged applause).”

Within the short time that I studied English literature at the old University—before Noah’s Ark and the Flood—they used to set pieces from prescribed texts, novels, dramas, poems, etc on the examinations and request that the students do a textual analysis of them. I will attempt to do a textual and historical analysis of Peter Ffrench’s speech. There is no need for me to point out that he was one of the distinguished family of Bannow and a native of there.

The tone and wording and alleged detail of the piece is hyperbolic, which the dictionary defines as exaggeration for effect and I would add that it most likely to occur when the speaker in feeling swept ahead by emotion. Most of the medical conditions cited by him as derivative of alcoholism could not possible have any connection with alcoholism: a mix of genetic, environmental, random and sheer bad luck mean that some are afflicted with these ugly conditions—in our era we have moved well along the road to curing them.

The speech is  a perfect example of a very specific genre of speech made in that era: the speaker would use powerful modes of suggestion to inculcate a deluded belief that the young men of that era were by some enigmatic power, into a continuum with the Insurrection of 1798: conversely, the resort to that 1798 Rebellion as a inspiration to the campaign to get the men of Ireland to stop drinking alcohol so copiously probably indicates that the nationalist emotions—the images and memories plus folklore of Rebellions and Insurrections plus martyrs for Ireland—was the most potent inspiration in the popular mind-set. To use an apt metaphor, stirring up the 1798 emotions was a playing with fire: in 1911, very few expected that 1798 would ever be re-enacted in Ireland and essentially that is how things turned out. But the temperance campaign with its relentless resort to memories and images of 1798 must have contributed to the new separatist “new” nationalism of Sinn Fein and to the Rebellion of Easter Week of 1916 and the subsequent War of Independence. The temperance campaign were right on a most basic issue: alcoholism was a blight of the most grotesque kind on Irish society.

Peter Ffrench’s speech like that of most politicians, is proved by elaborate statistics: he does not give the source for these statistics—are they reasoned conjecture on his part? President Harry Truman said that there were lies, damned lies and—statistics. You may manipulate statistics, spin them, amend them or even—make them up! But the process of government relies heavily on statistics, as it has to.

On a point of historical fact the people did not assemble to fight at Vinegar Hill; the rebel United Irish army camped there and the British forces attacked them with their artillery. They were sitting ducks for such a concerted attacks and fearful loss of life resulted. Many of the Catholic community fled to Vinegar Hill but they were helpless and hapless people, victims of war. The emotional impact of an image of people in armed conflict with oppressive forces was much more potent than of a rebel United Irish army opposing the Red-Coats. Most modern democratic politicians use spin, a juggling of amended details, potent imagery, hyperbole, symbolism, all kinds of truth, true truth, alternative truth, etc et al: I think that my textual analysis shows that Peter Ffrench was using techniques that are in much more powerful vogue in latter times. The rigorous attention to detail that historians seek may be inappropriate to a political speech where the objective is to persuade the audience of the overall truth of what the speaker is saying.