Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, modest, humble, self-effacing, charismatic, ebullient, scholarly, erudite, sensitive, empathic and—wily; a right boyo, a historian supreme and describable only in superlatives.

In The Free Press on Match 29 1963 there was a photograph with the headline, “Wexford Soldiers in the Congo”; they were Trooper Patsy Quirke, Wellingtonbridge, Trooper Christy Curran, Fethard-on-Sea and Trooper Vincent Bennett, Lough, Duncormack. The indications from the picture are that it was very warm there. The Irish army sent contingents of soldiers to aid the United Peace-Keeping operations in the Congo in 1960 and as a child I read avidly about it in the Irish Press. There was a tradition of young men in the Wellingtonbridge locality joining the army.

From The Free Press, May 17th 1963:–

“St Mary’s Hall Committee, Carrig-on-Bannow, at their monthly meeting passed a vote of sympathy with the Treasurer, Mr John Chapman, on the death of his father.”

From The People March 10th 1877:–

“March 8 at Carrig Hill, Bannow, Mr Stephen Colfer, aged 83 years. This venerable octogenarian practised through life a praiseworthy and persevering industry in cultivating and multiplying the fruits of the earth, was ever prompt in the discharge of his duties and vigilant in his business concerns, so that he earned for himself the proud distinction of being “a good farmer”; whilst his uprightness in all his dealings and sterling worth won for him the character of “an honest man” which the poet has written is “noblest work of God.” Stephen Colfer bequeathed a considerable amount of money to the poor of the parish of Carrig-on-Bannow.

Jim Daly of Balloughton was an elected member of the Board of Guardians of the Wexford Poor Law Union in 1891.

From The Wexford Herald August 31st 1815:–

“To Be Sold

A profit rent set at £40 per annum for two lives, arising out of thirty-five acres of the lands of Cullinstown, in the parish of Bannow and Barony of Bargy, subject to £12 per annum head rent; distant 12 miles from Wexford and about 6 from Taghmon. Apply to Benjamin Radford, Gibson’s Lane, Wexford”

The above needs to be explained! A lease could be for a set period of so many years—of definite duration; or a lease could be for the lifetime of a person or persons. You could have your tenancy for the life-time of the boy from Barrystown or the life-time of Brother Delaney. A lease for a life or leases was of indefinite duration. The franchise or the right to vote in elections in that era was attached to property: if you had a lease of value forty shillings for a life or lives then—as your lease was of indefinite duration—you were entitled to the franchise or vote.

Head rent was the rent paid by the leaseholder to the landlord who usually held in fee simple, that is, full ownership. In the above case £12 was paid to Sam Boyse and Radford in turn leased the farm—presumably divided into smaller units—to other men, who in aggregate paid him £32 (at least in a good year). Master Ben Radford, the central figure in one of Anna Maria Hall’s stories, lived at Cullinstown. The miles in the advertisement for Radford’s holding are Irish miles which were longer than the modern statute miles.

Do these names and occupations taken from an account of a meeting of the Carrig-on-Bannow branch of the Land League in late January 1886 mean anything to any of my readers? James Neville, blacksmith, Harristown; John Keane, shoe-maker, Tullicanna; James Neville, carpenter, Brandane; Pat Dake, blacksmith, Grange, Robert Colman, Bannow and Pat Butler, Ballinglee both artisans.

John C. Tuomy the Taghmon schoolmaster wrote in early 1848 that he had visited Bannow for the first time in February 1836. He had, however, written about Bannow and Tom Boyse some years before that. He wrote that he was accompanied by a late lamented friend and they went to see Paddy Cahill, who was the basis of Anna Maria Hall’s “Bannow Boatman”. Paddy Cahill died on the Bannow Island aged 85 years on the 7th of January 1848; he and his people had rented the island, containing about 110 acres of land, from the Colcloughs for nearly the previous two centuries. There were later five tenants on the Island: it was held in fee simple or full ownership by the Colcloughs. Mr Tuomy wrote:–

“Cahill in early life, to the business of a farmer added that of a mariner and traded in his own sloop to different ports along the Irish coast and beyond the channel. It was in “the sear and yellow leaf” of life and when his family had grown up that Paddy betook himself to the occupation of ferryman.” He would ferry people across to the Island, I presume. One acerbic writer claimed that it only becomes an island when surrounded by the tide. Is that right or wrong? Tuomy continued:–

“True to Mrs Hall’s sketch we found him on the bank, his boat upturned on the beach and in the immediate vicinity of a wretched thatched cabin. He was a man of herculean frame and after a first salutation “to go acrass!” we answered not and said we had only come to see him. Aye, aye, he said, this is some of Mrs Hall’s doings. “Order me out half-a-pint (pointing to the cabin) and you shall know all. The “native” was quickly forthcoming and Paddy having quaffed a glass to our good healths, entered into many interesting anecdotes of Miss Fielding’s [Mrs Hall’s maiden name] early life, how often he had since passed her and her husband Mr Hall “acrass the ferry” and related how many strangers, induced by her sketch, had come to see him. The cabin was not the boatman’s house, it was that of a poor woman, who generally kept “a drop to warm the people” passing and repassing the ferry.”

His mortal remains were on Sunday January 9th 1848 interred within the mouldering walls of the old church of Bannow.

John Tuomy was later most bitter abut Mrs Hall putting such quaint and rustic language and diction in the mouths of her characters but it is noticeable that he quotes Pat Cahill using the word “acrass”.

This is the letter—published in The People on December 20th 1862— that started the Moor of Bannow controversy:–

“Sir—Many years have elapsed since I last trespassed on your space; indeed I had thought of enjoying the remainder of my life in peaceful seclusion but latterly many acts of landlord oppression, deserving public exposure, coming under my notice, I felt I should be ignoring an important duty by remaining silent longer. One of these, however, will be sufficient for the present occasion. In order to convey even an inadequate idea of the nature of this grievance, it will be necessary to give a slight typographical of the place it occurred. The townland of the Moor is situated near the lower extremity of Bannow, adjoining Graigue. It consists of an extensive plain, which might probably contain 120 statute acres. The inhabitants are generally small farmers, whose holdings vary from one to ten acres. They are a peaceful, industrious class, and possess a good deal of original simplicity of manners. Viewing them about fifty years ago, when the seeds of the present evil were sown, a happier or more contented people could not be found. They had, then, nothing to fear—their houses and premises though rude, were their own—they were not under the lash of landlordism—they knew of it but by name—their farms for generations had been free, but alas! cunning and subtlety were brought to act upon them and the unhappy results arising therefrom will be presently shown. These are the facts. Previous to the commencement of my narrative, the Boyse family settled in the neighbourhood and purchased, from time to time, several townlands in the immediate vicinity. The townland of the Moor being in close proximity to these purchases, Mr Boyse anxiously wished to have a claim on it and with that intention, ingratiated himself into the favour of the tenantry by performing many specious acts of kindness towards them. Shortly afterwards he entertained them at a public fete and acted most hospitably by sitting down at the head of the festive board, at which he made himself quite agreeable and seemed to take such warm interest in their welfare, that the poor simple people were quite delighted. It was evident that the festival was not given without a motive—hence Mr Boyse thought this a very fitting opportunity to address his friends. He represented to them, that they could materially add to their respectability—that they could have free votes, etc (this was the time of the forty shilling freeholders), with immense privileges if they would consent to pay him a nominal rent for their holdings—that they might have any length of lease they chose and these renewable for ever. This did not appear a great sacrifice and some to oblige the great man, who had treated them with such courtesy, availed themselves of the offer immediately and after a while all had acquiesced to his wishes and were satisfied to accept a lease of fifty years, or three lives, at the small rent of 2 shillings and 6 pence an acre. But there were a few who still kept aloof, amongst whom, one Larry Moore, the schoolmaster stood aloof in the ranks—he, poor man, foresaw the evil likely to arise, lowering in the distance and struggled nobly against it. Gentle persuasions were tried but in vain—still he would not succumb. Example was powerful, however, and Larry’s sons being employed, at the big house—his wife represented to him that it would be to their ruin, so at length, he consented, though contrary to his judgement and to make matters worse both his sons were sent home in a few days. But pardon me, sir, for my digression. The lease of the Moor has expired within the last few months and the tenants trusting to Mr Boyse’s word of honour, were quite content, thinking all they had to do was to get a renewal of their leases at the usual rate but in this they were disappointed. The agent now appeared and gave notice that the rents were to be raised; the townland was surveyed and the valuation computed so that on an average they are obliged to pay a guinea an acre and to be satisfied with the short term of twenty one years for future leases should they feel inclined to procure them. The Rev. Mr Boyse, the present possessor, however, has not broken his brother’s faith with the tenants, as the leases are renewable for ever, but at a rent they had very little expected. Now, sir, were you to see this land about half a century ago, it was literally as its name implies, a moor—marshy, wet and quite unfit for cultivation; but owing to the industry of its inhabitants who drained, manured and fenced in their holdings the aspect of the place is altogether changed. In most cases the tenants have built substantial farmhouses and out-offices, which is the cause of additional murmuring, seeing they have only served to increase their valuation. Surely this is a melancholy example of tenant right in the nineteenth century. And yet, for the perpetrators of this very deed, a contemporary of yours recommends the erection of a monument. Is it to commemorate of this vile proceeding: if such be the case I can assure him there will be no occasion—as tradition will cause his name to be handed down, in connection with the Moor, to succeeding generations so that centuries henceforth this transaction will be remembered and spoken of quite as familiarly as at the present time. But fearing I have already trespassed too much on your valuable space, I conclude, and remain, sir, very truly yours,

An Ex-Bannow Man.”

The above writer replied to criticism of his letter, in The People on March 7th 1863, as follows:–

“Tenant Right—Bannow

To the Editor of the People

Sir—I perceive by your last Robinson Crusoe has secured a powerful auxiliary in his man Friday who, finding his master likely to be submerged in the tremendous surf raging around him—swims boldly to his rescue, well provided with all the material necessary to prolong a literary warfare….

I shall first respond to the imaginary “Veritas”—a few observations will be quite sufficient to convince your readers of the weakness, I may say absurdity of “Bannow Man’s” letter. Having carefully scanned his (“Veritas”) all-important epistle, I was struck with the inimitable artifice resorted to by him, to evade complying with my previous request, viz., to point out a single error in the statements which I have made. His silence is, however, not surprising for facts are such stern antagonists as not to admit of contradiction—the attempt therefore, would not only prove futile, but might be the means of attaching additional opprobrium to his cause. Would that “Bannow Man” had been equally judicious but since he has not, he must only be prepared to hear unpleasant truths—the provoking of which, I have no doubt, considerably lessen him in his master’s estimation.

“Veritas” accuses me of having unceremoniously exposed the acts of a private gentleman without just cause. He will be surprised, no doubt, when informed that I understand not the cause of such accusation—that I consider the dealings existing between landlord and tenant as public as any other transaction occurring between man and man and that when a grievous evil, no matter of what nature, becomes prevalent in any locality, it is not only right but just to expose it. “Veritas” thinks otherwise.  Here are his arguments:–“The landlord Rev. Mr Boyse, is an urbane, charitable and tender-hearted gentleman—consequently could not be capable of harassing his tenantry in the manner described.” These are noble attributes, indeed—’tis a pity the conclusion is illogical. Allowing Mr Boyse is all that is represented by “Veritas” still like most of our absentee landlords—he cannot be fully aware of the true state of his tenantry. Were he residing in their midst, the case might be different for them—he would not be depending on the information of paid servants, whose sole aim is to secure their master’s interest and this they find is best done by replenishing his coffers and their own—no matter at what sacrifice—this being in most cases the one thing necessary. Again “Veritas” states that it is evident to all that I am totally ignorant of the topics on which I wrote and that it would be time enough for my appearance on the public stage when the people of Bannow would begin to complain. As a proof that I am not ignorant of the topics on which I have written, I leave your readers to pass judgement, seeing that a single assertion of mine has not been contradicted—that my letters were uncalled for—I candidly admit such to be the case, at least, by certain interested persons—that my silence would have been far more acceptable to them, for it must be an unpleasant subject for meditation to Mr Boyse, when he reflects that his deeds have been placed in the crucible of public opinion. That there is distress in Bannow, I have shown in my former letter; I need not, therefore, dwell on it here, further than to remark that this worthy supporter of Sir Robert Peel’s doctrine on Irish distress, is just as worthy of credence on this head as his respected protégé….

A few words to Bannow Man whose cognomen is ill-chosen and I have done. My letter on the Moor of Bannow appeared in the People of 20th December, ult., his on the 20th February, so that it has taken nine entire weeks of indefatigable labour and research on his part to concoct this rambling shadow of a contradiction. He commences by stating that he, “in common, with the resident men of Bannow, does not approve of my letters”. This forcibly reminds me of the celebrated Dean Swift who, on one occasion, being about to deliver a lecture to his audience (which consisted solely of his servant) addresses him thus—“Dearly beloved Roger”. The Bannow Man’s case is exactly similar—a few paid employees and perhaps, one or two others—participators of favours—constitute the resident men of Bannow. He acknowledges the Moor to be a freehold in these words—“When the soil was the property of the owners” etc but he does not attempt to disprove the means resorted to by Mr Thomas Boyse to acquire dominion over it. He says, “Something more substantial than promises were given to the tenantry—money and guiding advice—that they were of the opinion hey had bettered their condition by the transfer—that had matters remained as usual, they would continue to be no better than paupers and that their prospect would be the same to-day, if not worse than it was fifty years ago!” Anything more false and hollow than these assertions I have never read. As to Mr Boyse giving them money in lieu of money, or any other purpose—save a trifle to a few, to assist in building, it is untrue. So far for the money question. His guiding advice was given, however, with no niggardly measure—there was quite an abundance of that, as can be testified by many poor families who, if not pliable to his will, were sure to get “guiding” enough. It is not true that the tenants were satisfied with the transfer, for they saw clearly they were gulled, when it was too late to retract. They consoled, themselves, however, with the thought that 2 shillings and 6 pence per acre, and leases renewable for ever would still leave them pretty independent—it was till they found the leases were not renewable without an increase of rent likewise, that they fully comprehended the amount of misery entailed upon them, by their unfortunate dealings with Mr Boyse. That matters would have remained as usual—that they would continue to be no better than paupers and that their prospects would be the same today, if not worse than fifty years ago—I cannot comprehend why such should be the case. “Bannow Man” might as well say the world ought to have remained stationary, as far as progress is concerned, for the last fifty years—or does he think it impossible for a hardy, industrious race, such as the tenantry of the Moor, would not be capable of present improvement on their land in the same period. At least, they have done so, without the lavish aid of which “Bannow Man” loves to speak and, I am sure, they feel little obliged to him, for his vile insinuation. And to crown the climax, when speaking of erecting a monument, he says, “there is a deathless monument to his memory in the spacious and splendid Chapel of Carrig”, etc. It is true that Mr Boyse handsomely contributed towards the building in question—being a man of deep penetration—and knowing it would be a lasting monument—he wished to have his name inseparably connected with it. Was it not wise? You see he has now a sanctuary of refuge sufficient to cover his faults. I am surprised they have not caused an inscription, emblazoned with gold, to be placed thereon, to commemorate his name. His was not fond of inscriptions, however, or print of any kind—he had a natural aversion to such things and would not even allow his tenantry to subscribe towards a public newspaper¸ without incurring his serious displeasure! A gloomy vault in Harold’s Cross contains all that is now mortal of this great man and it might prove a salutary reflection for his successors to remember it is in their own power by dealing kindly and moderately with their own tenants, to have their memories revered by them, for future generations.

I am, sir, very truly yours

An Ex-Bannow Man”

I am sceptical of the exact accuracy of the thesis of the Ex-Bannow man. It would not be legally possible for men holding land as their own property to become tenants of any landlord and even if such leases were made, they would be struck down by the courts. My own opinion is that the inhabitants of the Moor lived on it as a then valueless Moor—and effectively a commons— but it is very possible that Nathaniel Boyse in the grant of Bannow to him was made the owner of the Moor. In the early decades of the nineteenth century the Catholic community considered it most important for as many of them to obtain the franchise—in which event they could ensure that only candidates favourable to the Catholic interest, could get elected. In 1829 Dan O’Connell agreed with the British Government that the franchise or vote should be restricted to those with a £10 valuation on their property: the English administrators feared that if Catholics could be elected to Parliament then very poor and radical Catholics could be elected to the Westminster Parliament in London. Catholic Emancipation in 1829 meant that a Catholic could be elected to Parliament.

The letters to the newspapers then were of interminable length, if that is not an oxymoron! They had little means of passing spare time and so they spent very long periods writing these letters to while away their time: they felt so proud of their productions that they spread them out as far as possible—that is why they go round the houses at such inordinate length and insert allusions to classical literature and really big words. They specialised in offending each other.