Mechanics’ Institute, Benefit Societies, &c - Wexford Guide and Directory, 1885

About “Wexford County Guide and Directory,” 1885

George Henry Bassett produced 7 Irish county directories in the 1880s: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Kilkenny, Louth, Tipperary and Wexford. Each provides useful history of the respective counties as well as lists of office holders, farmers, traders, and other residents of the individual cities, towns and villages.

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The directories are naturally an invaluable resource for those tracing family history. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.

  1. This online version of Bassett’s Wexford County Guide and Directory is designed primarily as a genealogical research tool and therefore the numerous advertisements in the original book, many full page, and quite a few illustrated, have been excluded.
  2. The text has been proofed with due care, but with large bodies of text typographical errors are inevitably bound to occur.
  3. Be aware that there were often inconsistencies in spelling surnames in the 19th century and also that many forenames are abbreviated in Bassett’s directories.

With respect to the last point, surnames which today begin with the “Mc” prefix, for example, were often formerly spelt as “M‘,”. For a list of some of the more common forename abbreviations used in the directory, see Forename Abbreviations.

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MODERN Wexford has no more interesting history than that of the Mechanics’ Institute. In June, 1849, Mr. James Johnson, now the Rev. James Johnson, a Redemptorist Father, living in England, Rev. William Moran, now P.P. of Clongeen, Foulksmill, Mr. George Codd, deceased, Mr. Michael Hughes, deceased, James A. McGee, afterwards Lieut.-Col. of the 69th New York Regiment, and associate editor of McGee’s Weekly (brother of D’Arcy McGee), and Mr. Ben. Hughes of the Independent, had a social meeting at Temperance Hall, Selskar. Mr. Ben. Hughes, about the same time, had been reading articles in the People’s Journal, on the subject of Mechanics’ Institutes, and having referred to them, Mr. Johnson said it was a pity Wexford should be without one. It was finally agreed that Mr. Ben. Hughes and Mr. Codd should wait upon the Vice-Lieutenant of the County, Mr. Charles Arthur Walker, and on Sir Francis Le Hunte, R.N., for the purpose of taking their views as to the advisability of promoting a fund. Interviews soon followed with the gentlemen named, both of whom expressed warm approval of the proposition.

Sir Francis Le Hunte had a good library and a choice collection of corals. Being then on the point of leaving home, he had written a letter to the Clonmel Library offering to it the books and coral collection. This letter he gave to Mr. Ben. Hughes, with the assurance that the gift would be made to the Wexford Mechanics’ Institute, towards the cost of the erection of which he subscribed £100. With a library of 1,000 volumes, a coral collection and £100, as a nucleus, the organizers felt justified in making a house to house collection. The result of this was so encouraging that a site was secured in the Main Street, at the head of Anne Street, and a brick building, three stories in height, was erected at a cost of £800. The opening ceremony was without formality or flourish, and occurred in 1858. At the death of Sir Francis Le Hunte, it was found that he had remembered the Mechanics’ Institute to the extent of an extra £600.

Mr. Ben. Hughes continued his efforts on behalf of the Institute until he ultimately succeeded in securing for it quite a respectable library. It should be mentioned that the Vice-Lieutenant of the County, Mr. Walker, in the first instance, gave a liberal subscription. The late Mrs. S. C. Hall, who was one of the Fieldings of Bannow, presented over one hundred volumes, including all her own works. Mr. Francis Codd, Dublin, deceased, a Wexfordman, presented 300 volumes. Mr. William Boxwell West, deceased, a native of Wexford, who was for many years United States Consul in Dublin, gave over 100 books, and several trifles for the MuseuM. Mr. West left Wexford in 1851, He had been a practising attorney there. At the time of the Railway Craze in 1845, he and an engineer named M‘Call, promoted a scheme for a line from Wexford to Valencia. It was favored by the Duke of Wellington, and an Act passed. The famine intervened and put an end to it.

Mr. J. Lloyd, Thornville, gave 100 volumes to the library, and Dr. Thomas J. Hutchinson, of Florence, late British Consul at Fernando Po, gave forty volumes for the library, and to the Museum a number of African curiosities, including the bamboo crown used at the coronation of the King of Bassapoo, at Fernando Po, in 1857, a royal drum taken from the bow of the canoe, in which King George of Gaboon used to pay state visits, a fetish idol from Iddah, on Niger, a one-stringed harp from the River Nazareth, spears, calabashes, &c. Among the single book presentations was one by Queen Victoria, with autograph.

The reading-room of the Institute also serves the purposes of library, and MuseuM. It is lofty, well-lighted, and well ventilated. In a glass-case are specimens of the paper currency of many countries, an extra share of space being given to that of the United States. The ex-Confederate States are also represented. Not the least striking object in the room is a blue-faced Chimpanzee, in an attitude which pays the very highest tribute to the merit of the naturalist. A well-arranged mineral cabinet occupies a position between the two large windows which overlook the Main Street. Over the mantelpiece is a portrait in oil of the Institute’s most liberal benefactor, Sir Francis Le Hunte, R.N. It was executed by Mr. Ambrose Fortune, a native of Wexford, and cost the members £50. The next place of honor is given to a portrait in oil, by the same artist, of Mr. Ben. Hughes, who is styled “the Originator of the Institute.” The cost of this was also borne by the members, and was a compliment most worthily bestowed.

A billiard-room, committee-rooms and lavatory occupy, with the reading-room, the entire building. An excellent chance would be afforded for technical instruction in an Institute like this. The late Mr. Robert F. Wyke, during several years, taught drawing and French classes under its auspices. Now the educational influences depend entirely on the books, the Museum, the Dublin daily newspapers, the local newspapers, and the American and English magazines.

Without any intention of showing a connection between the Mechanics’ Institute and the Benefit Societies of Wexford, it may be no harm if some reader should find it appropriate to have reference made to them in the same chapter. The tendency to helpfulness which takes practical shape in the formation of Benefit Societies is a peculiarity of social life in Wexford. Upwards of thirty of such societies exist at present. The main objects are relief of the sick and burial of the dead. Members pay sixpence per week into a fund. Upon the death of a member his widow, or next-of-kin receives £3 3s., and two shillings from each member. Each society has from fifty to sixty members. At Christmas the amount remaining in the fund is divided share and share. The expenses for rooms and sickness averages about six shillings per member per year. Mr Ben. Hughes, of the Independent, to whom I am indebted for much information concerning Wexford, has been in membership with one or more of these societies for many years, and he says they are free from annoying formalities, and work well.

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