By Thomas P Walsh
This data is taken from the notes Thomas Walsh used for the guided tour of the Waterford Estuary. The notes were typed for Thomas by Sean Jones, who was taught as a child by Thomas Walsh, an edited and modernised version will be posted in due course by compiled by Sean Jones.
The traveler from passage to Dunmore East or Woodstown passes by the rectangular area of land now known as Geneva Barracks or New Geneva, about a mile from the village of Passage, and near the headland of Crooke, and facing Duncannon Fort and historic Waterford Harbour. The enclosure now contains an area of about eleven acres surrounded by a high stonewall of about ten to twelve feet high and enclosing a farmstead. It occupies a commanding site over the harbour and although it only sprang into prominence in the late eighteenth century, it witnessed, down the centuries, the many stirring events which happened on its doorstep in Waterford Harbour, where it is said the history of Ireland could have been written. The area which can be seen from it is indeed a historic one, fading back into the mists of antiquity.
The Hook is visible from it where the ancient Ith, the uncles of Milesius is supposed to have landed and chartered the territory from Credan Head to the confluence of the Suir, Nore and Barrow, and gave the area its first name of Magh Itha, in preparation for the eventual coming of Milesius himself. There also it saw the Inatha de Danann Chieftain Eadar with his wife Mairgha and daughter Aisi reside at one time. Aisi we are told, was fatally killed in a drowning accident at the Hook, a happening which gave Hook Head the name of Rinn Ainn Aisi and from whence Eadar fled in grief following the death of his child, to Howth Head, since called Beann Eadaoin and from whence his wife Mairgha, also in grief left him to reside in loneliness on the slopes of the Slieve Margy Range between Carlow and Portlaoise and thereby giving the name to that particular range of hills.
It saw too the coming of Fionn Mac Cumhaill to the area, for the Dinseanchas tells us that Fionn Mac Cumhaill had a house or habitation at the Hook and that Conan of the Fianna had a fortress at the “head of the hill” opposite, which site is now Duncannon Fort, which place derives its name Dun Chonain from that early establishment of the Fianna.
It saw too the emergence of Christianity when the pilgrim Dubhan, came across from South Wales and set foot on the opposite Wexford Coast and established a monastry there which served the area faithfully and well down to the dissolution of the monasteries.
There too it saw the first flickering light of the beacon fire lit by the same Dubhan, which beacon was the fore-runner of the present Hook Power, certainly the oldest lighthouse in Ireland and possibly in Europe whose light has welcomed the ceaseless passage of ships into Waterford Harbour down the centuries and has been described as a mighty flail beating the darkness out of the waves. The same Dubhan gave its name to the present Rinn Dubhan.
It witnessed the arrival of the Danes in their long boats sailing upstream to found the city of Waterford and the same Danes in their first incursions did not interfere with Dubhan’s little monastery across the way as the welcoming light of his hill-top beacon was too useful to them in avoiding the treacherous rocks on their route into the harbour.
The area around it – Crooke is without doubt, a historic area too – it means from its Norse origin a curve or crook in the river and the fact that nearby Passage which from time immemorial had a ferry which gave it its name – “Passagium” in the Latin, had an important effect on Geneva in later years. Almost directly in front of it began the Great Norman Invasion when Raymond Le Gras left his stronghold at Baginbua in October 1170 and made contact with Strongbow for whom he had been waiting and ” then both of them proceeded to the siege and conquest of Waterford from whence there was no turning back and the conquest of Ireland was begun. Here too, on the following year, came Henry II and forty years later came King John on his second visit to Ireland.
In 1495, Penkin Warbeck set sail from here after his unsuccessful siege of Waterford in 1495. Across the way too it saw the establishment of the fme Abbey of Dunbrody and was in fact part of the hands of Dunbrody having been granted to the Abbot of that monastry by King John. The abbot lost it however when after a law case it was granted to the Templars who held it till they were eventually disbanded in the beginning of the 14th century. Apart from the Templar foundations around it, it saw the establishment of the great preceptory of Killagin or Templeton on the opposite bank and also the command of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem who succeeded them in the same place.
It saw the eviction of Ballylack Castle by the Hospitallers – which castle and the ferry combined was the termination of the great road from Leinster into Munster. It witnessed Conan’s Fort across the way grow from the time of Elizabeth into the mighty fort of Duncannon whose strategic position in conjunction with Passage controlled the harbour and it saw the comings and goings at the fort which culminated in the great siege of three months in 1645 during the Confederate wars when Preston ousted Sir Laurence Esmonde and the flag of the Confederation was hoisted on its battlements. It saw Ruiciccini and Scarampi and watched the ship that carried Oliver Plunkett to Rome and priesthood and eventual martyrdom and canonization. Following that King James passed it by on his way to France after his flight from the Boyne. King William came the way and before them, Cromwell and his hordes.
In short, it had in those years a royal time with the coming and going of Kings. It played a big part in the atrocities of ’98 and its aftermath. It saw the English come and when fInally in 1921 the Irish flag was hoisted for the fIrst time since 1690 over the battlements of Duncannon Fort, it saw the English go. Such then in short is the history of the area around Geneva. Past it have sailed and walked Kings and Princes, prelates and priests and saints, pirates and nobles alike and now the grass covered plot which is New Geneva is a silent witness to their passing.
But with access to the sea at Passage long before the English left however – in 1783 in fact great innovations and changes were envisaged for New Geneva. This great movement recalls the days of the Irish Parliament – a Protestant one of course. In that year the Parliament resolved to introduce a colony of Genevese here – hence the name ‘New Geneva’. This was to be a bold and original undertaking in an effort to lift Ireland and Irish industry generally from the doldrums of econo~c depression and subservience which had been their lot during and after the Penal Laws, unjust taxes and dominance by England.
With the object of establishing a Genevese colony in the vicinity of New Geneva, land around the area was bought up, costing about £23,000. Unfortunately, however revolutionary the project was and however worthwhile, it was from the beginning, doomed to failure. In the acquired land a colony of Genevese craftsmen established themselves in 1783 and they were established under the most liberal patronage of the Irish Legislature. Even an assay office was established for the particular convenience of the craftsmen and a special set of hallmarks was designated for their workmanship. I am sure that many of the people who live around the village of Passage today never realise how near it was once to becoming the centre of a large and flourishing city where there would be academies of science and the arts and many thriving industries. This city was as it happened, a dream of the late eighteenth century but was a dream that came very near to realisation.
HOW IT BEGAN
In 1781, an Insurrection occurred in the city state of Geneva, which was ruled by an alliance that included France and the states of Zurich and Berne. The majority of its population of 24,000 wanted their independence. The French and Swiss armies quickly surrounded the city and laid siege to it, joined later by the forces of the King of Sardinia, who had an interest in the affair. After prolonged negotiations, the rebellious citizens were allowed to leave with all their belongings. Some settled in Brussels and others near Lake Constance, but the rest scattered throughout Europe seeking sanctuary.
I would like to point out here that the area envisaged for this project was not the present rectangular enclosure that is named Geneva Barracks. Neither was it the present Passage area. No, it was much bigger. It extended right down the coast from Passage to Bredan Head and enclosed the present Geneva Barracks and some of the Passage Forts, which forts had been contemporaries with the similar fortifications at Duncannon. .The whole area covered about 11,000 acres, which as you can see bears no relation to the present small area.
Why was this plan conceived and why did it fail? It is a very complicated story woven out of the troubled history of two small states. In the second last decade of the eighteenth century, the city of Geneva was in a state of turmoil. It had a very conservative aristocracy and also a very prosperous and ambitious middle class and this middle class had been deeply affected by the very liberal ideas of that time. Rousseau himself had lived in Geneva and Voltaire had lived not very far away. Geneva itself was a hot-bed of humanitarian thinking and this proved very disquieting to its rulers and also to its neighbours in the kingdom of France.
In the year 1768, at a time when there was a similar upheaval in Geneva, Rousseau had stated: “There is a last course left for you to take. Instead of staining your hands with the blood of your compatriots, you can abandon these walls which should have been the refuge of liberty and now are to become the resort of tyrants” . In 1782, the troubles came to a head in a small but bloodless revolution. The representatives of the middle class overthrew and imprisoned the aristocratic council. However in a very short time the council was restored to power, by a joint invasion of the armies of France, Savoy and the Couton of Berne. The followers of Rousseau’s ideals and the advocates of democratic ideas were thrown into despair and they decided that the only hope for their afflicted city was for the democrats to emigrate in a body, bringing with them their crafts and craftsmen, chief among whom were the watchmakers. On them the prosperity of Geneva was based.
In our days we had the boat people from Cambodia and later from Bosnia – not particularly wanted anywhere as we know. But those days were in many ways wiser than ours and refugees were welcome in various countries. When it became known that the Genevan craftsmen considered emigrating, invitations came to them from many European Kings and Princes. Through the medium of an English Republican and a great friend of Geneva, one Lord Mahon, an invitation came from George III of England. They accepted the invitation and it seems that the Genevese themselves suggested that if they actually moved, their colony should be in Ireland, rather than in England. In England they feared the jealousy and competition of the English watchmakers and also the competitive claims on English sympathies of the loyalist refugees from the War of Independence in America. Moreover, Ireland herself was at that time entering a period of idealism and enthusiasm.
That was the year of the Convention of Dungannon, when the Volunteers were founded – Grattan’s Volunteers that is – and they extorted from England those concessions which made Grattan’s Parliament possible. On October 3rd the Dublin Volunteers commanded by Henry Grattan assembled in Dublin and passed resolutions which stated that “Irishmen aimed for the defense of their constitution and liberty ought naturally to be attached to every country or body of men armed for the defence of a like glorious cause”. Therefore the virtuous Genevese had the most lively claim on their pity and should be received among them as brothers and friends.
Commissioners from the Genevese were sent over to Dublin and they waited on the Government to make terms for the future colony. The welcome and courtesy extended to them was really unbounded and the Government seemed anxious to grant them every concession asked for. The French Huguenots, who had already settled in Waterford expected a large influx to swell their congregation at the time. The Duke of Leinster, the Commander of the Southern branch of the Volunteers, himself offered 2,000 acres to the Genevese near Athy and also accommodation for 100 refugees in Leinster Lodge until such time as houses had been built for them.
Lord Ely (Loftus Hale) in offering them land in Wexford explains that he was quite disinterested. “I am already extremely rich” he said, “I wish to benefit the most enlightened people on earth, the Genevese. When I am called to leave this earth, I shall repose with the serenity of a man who knows that in giving happiness to you, he has reared a monument more durable than marble and shaped by the most able artist”. He certainly held the Genevese people in very high esteem.
The newspapers of the time and the speeches of the Volunteers were fIlled with eulogies of the virtuous Genevese who had stood up so bravely against tyrannical domination. Some of them were given honorary rank in the volunteer regiments. However it was not the Duke of Leinster’s land near Athy which was chosen, but some confiscated land near Waterford Harbour, which belonged to the British Government.
Lord Temple, the Viceroy favoured the project and a grant of £50,000 as well as 11,000 acres, including the town of Passage was decreed. From this sum, the transport of the citizens’ families from Geneva was to be paid and the building of the town was to be started. Apart from the land set aside by the Government, buying up of further privately owned land got under way. Alexander Alcock Esq., received £12,796 for his interest in the lands of Knockroe. William Kennedy and J. Donnellan, contractors for building the town of New Geneva received £310 on account. James Gandon, Architect of Dublin’s Caston House, was commissioned to plan the new town and he laid out the new town on a gridirow plan.
The Rt. Hon. James Coffey was paid £465 for superintending the project. William Gibson, Architect was paid £207. Altogether a total of £23,336 was spent and the remainder £32,519 was refunded, making the total grant of Parliament to be £55,855. The Alexander Alcock who received the £12,796 was one of the family of Henry Alcock who was M.P. for Waterford City in the year 1783.
In the whole project, the sincerity of the Volunteers is in no doubt, but Swiss writers have cast doubts on the generous motives of the British Government. At that time, Co. Waterford was much disturbed by the activity of the Whiteboys and the notable John Beresford, one of the architects of the Act of Union was not only a large landowner in the area, but he was also a member of the Commission for the Genevese Settlement. Lord Temple himself in a letter to a friend, explains why a southern, rather than a northern site was chosen for them. “I wish to remove them from the northern republicans”. He said and “to place them where they might make an essential reform in the religion, industry and manners of the south”. The Genevese, however interpreted their role differently. “We must not overlook the need to conciliate the poor”, they said “who cultivate the land that is offered to us; the greed and harshness of the great landowners have made the tenants violent and irritable. That is the reason for the disorders of which you have heard”. So said one of the Genevese Commissioners – Clariene. “The Irish are in revolt against treachery and abominable outrage. If we behave well, we shall gain their confidence”. They were people of exceptional ability and accomplishments. Amongst them was a man named Claviere, a talented businessman, who later became the French Minister of Finance, and a Master Watchmaker by the name of Chalons, who had walked and worked his way around Europe for many years, extending his knowledge and skills. He was a versatile linguist and spoke excellent English.
Eventually a group of Genevese arrived in Waterford and work on the project began. An engineer visited the site and made plans for a water supply, a cotton factory and a laundry. For a start there were to be 50 houses, a communal bakery and a hotel. There was also to be a tannery and a paper factory. But the highlight of the plan was to be a big square on which would stand a university, which it was hoped would attract, like the Academy of Sciences at Geneva, scholars from allover Europe. It was to have 44 professors and their assistants and was to cost £4,554 per annum. In a plan of the settlement, a boundary line runs from Passage to the base of Credan Head, including nearly 1000 acres of tidal land which was described as land suitable for reclamation. Most of that promised land still forms Woodstown Strand!
When things were in progress one of the Genevese members of the Commission Ami Melly went back to rally the rest of the refugees who were assembled at Neuchatal and to summon the watchmakers to emigration. Four of the principal watchmakers
employed 2000 men and their being laid off would naturally be a serious blow to the city. Melly had taken the precaution of becoming an Irish citizen, but even so, he was lodged in jail by the rulers of Geneva. He was tried and despite the protests of the English Government and the personal support of two Irishmen he was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. He, however managed to escape by using a knotted sheet and he rejoined the refugees at Neuchatel. The warder who had looked after Melly was arrested. It was characteristic of Swiss justice and attention to detail that not only was he punished for allowing or conniving at Melly’s escape, but he was punished for stealing two of Melly’s shirts as well. At the time there was a printing press in Waterford known as Nouvelle Geneva, where a poem was written about the settlement. Seemingly, they had a press established in the city especially for them.
The poem dealt with Melly’s escape and described how Melly was led out of prison by an Angel. Though, as I said, there was a New Geneva printing press at Waterford which printed some French poems, it is more likely that this poem was printed in Neuchatel than in Ireland.
The poet, not a very good one, exhorts the Genevese craftsmen and scholars to follow Melley to Waterford.
“For you and your children a city is rising
One can already see New Geneva being built It is there that prosperity
Await you for sure, and liberty too, On the banks of the Suir in Cork Dublin is sympathetic
And in different ways George favours you”.
You may wonder what “Cook” (Crooke) has to do with it, until it is recalled that the old Templed Castle at Croke was included in the grant to the Genevans.
Melly had a discouraging reception when he met the watchmakers. They were now beginning to get used to the new regime and they were beginning to dread the hazards of a journey to Ireland. Remember a year more or less had gone by. That was the beginning of the end and the outlook for New Geneva was not very promising for this time. For all that in July 1784, Mr. Cuffer, an Irish enthusiast laid the foundation stone for the projected city. On it was a bronze plaque inscribed with the date and the reason for the settlement. In a large tent over the place where a stature of Lord Temple was to be erected, a fete was given to the burgesses of the city and their friends and a good time was had by all.
In a short six weeks after that both the Government and the Genevese representations had decided to abandon the plan and New Geneva never came into being. Some of those who remained were silk weavers and the story goes that they tried planting mulberry trees around the area, but that they failed because the climate was too severe. A few of the Genevese settlers remained in Waterford, but the majority scattered over Europe, waiting for better times to return to their native city.
WHY DID THE PLAN COLLAPSE?
Firstly there were the demands of the Genevese themselves, which did not appeal too well to the Government. They wanted to be represented in Parliament and they wanted to be governed by their own laws. But Home Rule for New Geneva for this speck of land over Waterford while the majority of the nation were shut out from even parliamentary representation was too much of a monopoly. The giving of Home Rule for a comparatively few acres of land was considered to be incompatible with the laws and constitution of Ireland.
But the Genevans attributed it to a change of Viceroy and Government policy. Lord Temple, a serious man had sponsored the idea, but the Genevese were not to the liking of his successor, the Duke of Rutland. Moreover, George III began to distrust the Genevese rebels. Another theory is that the Corporation of Waterford became jealous and insisted that New Geneva should be under its jurisdiction. The aristocratic party in Geneva had a capable representative in London and he managed to persuade the Government that Melley, though he might be an Irish citizen, had a wife and family in Geneva, as well as a house and a shop. His attempt to cause a widespread emigration of wealth and skill from his native town could not be overlooked. George III, when he recovered from his short sympathy with the Genevese rebels, set out to woo their oppressors with courtly compliments in his best royal Latin. Louis XVI’s agents were working hard to frustrate the emigration also.
As for the local magnates of Waterford, they considered that the Genevese were expecting a far more liberal system of franchise than was current in Ireland. In a very short time, if it was granted, the safe seats of the landlords, would be in danger. To others it appeared a bit unwise to establish a body of foreign republicans at the mouth of the Waterford river right opposite Duncannon Fort. At a time when the defences of the harbour were so important. As I have said already with Duncannon Fort on one side and Geneva Fort on the other – both commanded the entrance to Waterford itself. Could they – the Genevese be trusted in the event of an invasion. Ami Melley
was the leader of the watchmaking as opposed to the intellectual brand of the emigration. When Ireland failed him he obtained the consent of the liberal Emperor Joseph II to set up a colony of Geneva watchmakers in the city of Constance.
A total of £30,000 had been spent on dwellings and other buildings for the near town at the time of the collapse and these now became the headquarters of the Waterford Militia when it was formed in 1793. Later the massive high wall was erected around the whole site.
The influx of a large number of conscripts – some of rough character, had a bad effect on the locality and the older houses on the road between Geneva and Passage, had no
windows facing the road – as there was a danger of them being broken by the boys returning from the pubs in Passage.
For many years afterwards, buildings and blocks of stone lay about the abandoned site. There was a proposal to colonise it with American loyalists but the idea came to nothing. However mixed may have been the motives of the British and Irish Governments in encouraging the Geneva colony, it is hard not to regret its failure. If it had succeeded what a different place the Passage area would have been today. New Geneva may have passed out of history but the name lingers on today in that
well-known ballad “The Croppy Boy” – when it says ‘In Geneva Barracks that young man died, and at Passage, they have his body laid”.
A short time afterwards, New Geneva was converted into a military barracks to augment the defences already at Passage and Duncannon. Geneva Barracks was abandoned by the military in the early 1830’s and changed hands a number of times until it was sold to a Mr. Galwey of Dungarvan for a nominal sum and he shipped the material to Dungarvan, to erect cabins for his tenants.
The many unsuccessful French expeditions to Ireland in the 1790’s had shown the authorities how vulnerable large areas of the coast were and of the necessity to look to their defences. So in the same years it was decided to provide accommodation for additional troops in New Ross (36 horse), Duncannon (292 foot), and New Geneva (440 foot). Also Waterford, Wexford, Dungarvan and other places. Barracks were built for them or added to if they already existed. These barracks existed in New Geneva for many years until they were eventually levelled and the materials sold. But in 1798 New Geneva sprang into prominence again as a detention centre for captured Insurgents. When the battle of New Ross (June 7th) ended in failure and the break- through into Waterford and Munster did not materialise, the main party of the weary and disillusioned men marched to Shine Coillte (now Kennedy Park) as part of a vague plan to renew the attack on the town, command the river to prevent the garrisons in Ross and Duncannon from using it. The plan did not succeed.
Here, the sick, wounded and dying were tended and in an effort to restore order, Bagenal Harvey was forced to resign the chief command of the southern forces, and he was succeeded by Father Philip Roche. (“Twas at Slieve Coillte our pikes were reeking with the crimson blood of the beaten Yeos”). After three days, the party moved on again towards Wexford and left a small holding party on the hill. Many of these and many who had never reached Slieve Coillte had become disheartened and tried to make their way home. Many of them were captured and lodged in Duncannon Fort (Croppies Cell), Ballyhack Castle and even in the Tower of Hook, and were then shipped across the river to Geneva Barracks, where they were kept and many of them tortured, before being tried and condemned to such places as Fort St. George and other dungeons in England and Scotland.
People forget that although County Waterford remained comparatively quiet during the Rebellion of ’98, many ardent young men from Waterford and this area made their way to join the Insurgents at Vinegar Hill and New Ross where many of them fell. Those who survived and escaped the Redcoats tried to make their way home and in twos and threes, they were smuggled across the river at such places as Checkpoint, Ballyhack and below New Geneva, and were hidden and sheltered in cabins and farmhouses until the heat was off, and they could return to their native localities again.
One of the most famous Insurgents to be imprisoned in Geneva was Thomas Cloney, who after his capture was confmed there, amongst other places, before being sent to Fort St. George and he tells us in his own narrative of 1798 that he carried for life, the marks of the chains he wore in Geneva. He is buried in the graveyard in St. Mullins.
As I mentioned the Croppies being held in Duncannon Fort before going to Geneva Barracks, I would like to mention that the fort itself had a comparatively quiet time during the Rebellion. It was commanded by Major-Gen. Fawcett and was a refuge for those Royalists who did not see eye to eye with the Insurgents. But one fme day in June Fawcett marched out at the head of a company hoping to reach Wexford and near the famous ‘Three Rocks’ his advance guard was attacked and defeated by John Kelly of Killane and he turned tail back to Duncannon, where he stayed for the rest of the campaign and wreaked his vengeance on captured Insurgents before sending them to New Geneva.
Well at Geneva Barracks, “the young man died” and to this day, they show you his grave in Crook Churchyard. He was of course not one particular person, but a symbol for the many brave men who died for Ireland in 1798.
We have traced the fortunes of New Geneva, what might have been and what was. The rectangular plot still overlooks Waterford Harbour, a silent witness to bygone days, but it will live in the minds of Irishmen until the Croppy Boy is forgotten, even though it is not now the city which formed the big dream of 1798.
PRISONERS IN GENEVA
At one stage there were 1,200 prisoners within the walls of Geneva and overcrowding led to violence, disorders and fevers. The local Protestant Vicar. Rev. M. Roberts – son of John Roberts, architect of many of the former buildings in Waterford, reported that he was sorry that some of those who were prisoners there, were Protestants, and he visited them regularly at the hazard of his life on which a wife and nine children depended. The hazard to his life could have been from the militia as well as from the prisoners, as one report tells of a woman visitor being stripped by them and tossed high into the air again and again in a blanket. The screaming terrified woman could be seen by those outside the walls as she reached the high point of her flight.
Geneva too got a bad reputation for cruelty to prisoners awaiting transportation. Amongst those who were tortured and lashed was a Fr. Dixon, a curate from Castlebridge, who was transported to Australia. He returned later to the Diocese and was appointed Parish Priest of Crossabeg.
Tom Cloney arrived in Geneva in a gunboat from New Ross. Cloney stated in his account of Geneva that the Barracks formed a most damp and loathsome place and offered no comfort at all to its inmates. “I met many of my former acquaintances there” he said, “our fust night was one of gloomy foreboding. There may possibly have been higher degrees in human misery than I had yet suffered, but I was not prepared to encounter them. The fIlth all around us and the intolerable smell in our sleeping place baffles description”.
Strangely, the man who fared best out of events at New Geneva was the local P.P. Father Hearn. He lived at the time in a small house at Carey’s Bridge, just beyond New Geneva. Since this area was to be much more extensive than the present 12 acres or so, Fr. Hearn did not wish to be surrounded on all sides by Protestants, so he petitioned the Government to exchange his house for land further up at Knockparson. Possibly he promised to keep the locals quiet during the incursions that were to come. Anyhow he ended up getting 20 acres from the Government – amazing in Penal Times – on which he built a very substantial house – Crook Villa. He wrote in praise of the goodness of the officers and they gave him a silver snuff box in thanksgiving!
There was one gentleman in this area who acquired an unenviable reputation through his association with Geneva Barracks, during its time as a penal settlement and who deservedly merited the hate of the local people. He was a notorious magistrate, who lived at Kilhile House. He was originally a Huguenot, who came over to Ireland with William II, Prince of Orange and was given large tracts of land as a reward for his services. As well as being a magistrate, he also had under his command, a company of Yeomen, who were justly hated in 1798, and many were the floggings and pitch- cappings and cabin roof burnings inflicted by this gentleman to extract information before and after the Rising. He sent his unfortunate victims across the river to Geneva Barracks, in the hope of seeing them executed or deported. When he died a ballad was composed in order to perpetuate his memory. Its chorus went as follows:-
“Hell is full of Orangemen
The Croppies cant get in
We’ll make the Devils begging bag, Of Lowcay’s yellow skin”!
After his death, he was succeeded in Kilhile by his nephew – Jeras King Lowcay and he died there in 1892. He was a man of eccentric habits, but he ‘was certainly no fool, because when he died he left an estate worth £40,000 (in 1892) – mostly from investments. He had shares in the Provincial Bank and in the Great Southern and Western Railway. He was an only child and had no heirs, and so was the last of the Lowcay family to inhabit County Wexford (how many mourned him!!)
ESCAPES FROM GENEVA
There were many dramatic attempts to escape from the barracks. Escaping by making a tunnel under the walls did not succeed after a prolonged effort. The clay from this tunneling effort was taken out by the prisoners wives – under their dresses! Another prisoner escaped under a load of horse manure being taken out in a cart.
Another story relates how three Kerry men (croppies) were brought in handcuffed. They were imprisoned for seven days and were to be hanged the next morning. During the last night one of the men suddenly jumped up and seized the gun the guard was carrying and threatened to blow his head off if he moved. This kept the fellow quiet while the other two made off. The man with the gun was then making off when the guard begged him to leave him his gun or he would be shot himself in the morning. The poor man took compassion on the guard and handed back the gun, to be promptly shot.