Griffiths: Chronicles of the County Wexford

Pdf Griffiths, George. Chronicles of the County Wexford. Enniscorthy: The Watchman, 1877.
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George Griffths' Chronicles of the County of Wexford published in 1877 charts the history of the county through a deliberately rambling collection of 'memorable incidents, disasters, social occurrences, crimes and biographies of eminent persons.'

Griffths found that much of the historical record prior to the 1800s no longer existed as valuable irreplaceable documents were destroyed in the 1798 Rebellion in towns such as Enniscorthy, Gorey, New Ross and Wexford. He believed that history of County Wexford is so richly interwoven that the various strands he wished to cover in his chronicle could only be best appreciated through his writing style that brings together a wide range of material in a rather chaotic order.

In his introduction Griffths remarks on how few if any monuments or tombs remain to commemorate the legacy of the various Old English families which came to ruled County Wexford from the time of Strongbow. He suspects that many of them fell victim to the Cromwellian armies which defeat the alliance of Old English and Gaelic Irish families of the Catholic Confederacy who support Charles I during the English Civil War.

The leading Old English families mentioned include the surnames Furlong, Wadding, Prenderghast, Hay, Barry and Walsh while the Gaelic Irish surnames include the Kavanagh, Murphy, O'Connor, Byrne, O'Toole and Breen. Wexford was the scene of the first Norman invasion in 1169 when a Norman army was invited to Ireland to fight on behalf of Diarmuid McMurrough, King of Leinster.

During the medieval period monasticism flourished in County Wexford . The principle Catholic monasteries in the region were at Glascarrig Priory, Clonmines Priory, Tintern Abbey and Dunbrody Abbey. During the reign of Henry VIII, following his break with Rome over his divorce of Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, the powerful wealthy monasteries were dissolved and pulled down.

The Wexford coast over the centuries was the scene of numerous maritime disasters. Tuskar Rock was the culprit in scores of these shipwrecks. A lighthouse was built on the feature in the early 19th century.

Among the importantevents described in the chronicle is how the port of Wexford town played a major role during the English Civil War when privateers allied with the Confederacy attacked Parliamentarian ships and used the revenue to fund the Catholic Confederacy based in Kilkenny. Consequently Wexford town was burned by the Parliamentarians in 1649 and its population was massacred.

Later in 1690 following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, the Catholic King James II fled Duncannon, Co. Wexford for Kinsale, Co. Cork and subsequently to France . Just over a century later Wexford was the most important theatre of the 1798 rebellion centred in Wexford town and other large towns such as New Ross and Enniscorthy. There was fierce fighting and heavy loss of life and also murderous atrocities committed by both rebels and government forces.

In the 19th century the Great Famine saw thousands perish in County Wexford and the beginning of mass emigration to the New World and the British colonies. The 1850-60s witnessed the arrival of the railways which eventually linked the important east coast towns of Wexford with Dublin and the rest of the country culminating in the Land War. At the time of that Griffiths wrote his chronicle land agitation and agrarian outrages were becoming widespread across Ireland . In time the Irish Parliamentary Party, led by Charles Stuart Parnell, born in neighbouring County Wicklow , would force through a series of agrarian reforms and bring about the decline of the various Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy familes described in Griffths' chronicle.


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