Bunclody or Newtownbarry?
A SMALL parcel of people shows their
vintage by referring to Bunclody as Newtownbarry. Bunclody was
recognised as the official name from January 1st 1952 – sixty years
ago this week.
The ratepayers were asked to choose between the names, a ballot was
conducted by Wexford County Council and the result was subsequently
approved by Dáil Éireann.
The attractive market town of Bunclody owes its origins to the
Newtownbarry estate and was developed as an estate town, in fact in
1728, permission was granted to hold two fairs annually, therefore,
that would be a reliable indicator that the town was growing in
importance at that stage.
Very little is found in the records regarding the change of name to
Bunclody or Bun Clóidi, meaning in the Irish, ‘bottom of the Clody’,
but it could safely be assumed that it may have had its roots in
nationalist at the time! Samuel Lewis wrote a strong piece about
Newtownbarry in his Topographical Dictionary, published in 1837,
stating that it had 3,592 inhabitants, of which 1,430 resided in the
He noted that it was originally built in the form of an irregular
square, but had extended in various directions, and in 1831
contained 250 houses, and Lewis noted that “most were well built,
and the whole has a cheerful and thriving appearance.”
It is acknowledged that “the town was formerly called Bunclody,” so
the plebiscite of sixty years ago merely sought to turn back the
The bridge is an old crossing too. Lewis refers to “a stone bridge
of seven arches” and the Saturday market gets favourable mention. He
says that the market is chiefly for provisions – there is no other
in ten miles of it – and the fairs were chiefly for cattle, coarse
linen and flannel, happening on various dates yearly.
And if there was any more evidence required to emphasise the
importance of the town occupying “a sequestered and beautifully
romantic site on the banks of the Slaney,” it was the location of a
police barracks, a detachment of revenue police were stationed there
and petty sessions, which were held weekly until 1831, were
afterwards held on alternative Saturdays.
Located at the foot of lofty Mount Leinster, it comprised of 8,680
statute acres of good land, chiefly under tillage. The only waste
land was the mountain which provided the inhabitants with fuel.
Slate quarries at Drumcree and Glasslackin, described as “of
excellent quality,” building stone and granite were plentiful in the
Unfortunately, it is recorded that the importation of slate from
Wales, brought across the channel to Wexford Harbour and distributed
up the River Slaney aboard Slaney cots or gabbards, considerably
diminished the trade.
It was once thought that coal existed in Ryland, but it was never
subjected to mining.
Employment was found mainly in agriculture and in stone and slate
quarries, and near the town was an extensive flour mill. There were
three public schools and five private schools, a dispensary open
three days a week for the medical relief of the poor, who, if they
were unable to attend, were visited at their own dwellings.
Bunclody once operated a fever hospital, built about 1820, which
contained beds for twelve, but was capable of accommodating twenty a
similar situation to a modern hospital in this country and the
medical attendant was paid £120 per annum for attending the
dispensary and £20 for visiting the hospital.
By the streams of Bunclody the inhabitants lived their lives,
working locally and supporting their families in difficult times,
but clearly it was an important small town at that point. By the
1950’s the town had deteriorated, however, spirits were consistently
high and the pride of place held its reverence.
There was a time when it was felt that a branch of the railway would
serve Bunclody, but such an innovative notion never materialised. A
railway service would have served the town well, but only for a
short time judging by the general decline of the railways in Carlow,
however, a commercial link with Enniscorthy could have been
sustained for a few decades, at least.
Modern Bunclody depends on the townspeople, those in the hinterland,
and a small passing trade for its commercial survival. Slaney Foods
at Clohamon has been gaining a foothold over the past forty years
and employs 350, an important ingredient in the success of many
To most people the transition from Newtownbarry to Bunclody will
mean very little, especially since it is six decades since it was
afforded legal status. Certainly it would be difficult to imagine
Luke Kelly singing “The Streams of Newtownbarry”, perhaps, it was to
facilitate the lyrics of that wonderful and timeless ballad that the
change was necessary!