Jonathon Swift, one of Irelands many literary heroes, best known perhaps for his children’s story Gullivers Travels. Not sure what he would think of Jack Blacks latest interpretation, but I’m sure he would be pleased that the story is still being told nearly 300 years since its first publication! During his lifetime, he was the Dean of St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin and on his death he left a large sum of money to establish St Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles, which opened in 1757, and which still exists today as a psychiatric hospital and rehabilitation centre. A vocal supporter of the Irish, despite having been born of English parents, became a beloved Irish patriot. So it was very fitting that his face once adorned the Irish ten punt note. But what is his connection with Wexford?
Well, like many people Jonathon Swift recognised Wexford for what it is, a wonderful place in the countryside that you visit “for the betterment of your health” He actually came to Gorey for his holidays, just like thousands of others do every year!
And why wouldn’t he, sure it had everything in the 1700s that it has now, great accommodation, fresh air, friendly locals, lively pubs…… Thankfully however, we no longer have scoundrel landlords above in the Manor House making life dangerous for travelling gentlemen.
Swift and his friend had just departed one of the lively public drinking houses that were scattered up and down the Main Street and were making plans to bed down for the night. Having been told rooms were available in what is now Bobs Bar the two gents made to cross the wide and spacious road. A busy Market Town then as now, the footpaths were designed to accommodate both pedestrians and stalls and the road itself was wider than typical for towns of that time, And on this summers evening the roads were quiet so there should have been plenty of room. The friend had gone ahead and Swift and another man were standing on the corner of McDermott Street and Main Street when a coach pulled by four horses appeared out of nowhere. Dust billowing under the hooves as it raced down the street.
Shouts rang out, angry bystanders yelled to the driver to slow down, Dean Swift and the other gentleman standing beside him watched in horror as the Coach Driver seemingly on purpose swerved to hit his friend. They shouted a warning and at the last second, his friend jumped and fell into the dried mud in John Street, nothing more than a laneway at that time. The horses thundered by, the wheels of the coach groaning and creaking as they struggled to keep the coach upright. Did the driver stop? Not at all, he hurried away and on leaving Dean Swift, his friend and the unnamed gentleman to compose themselves.
The Dean and his friend needed a restorative brandy to calm their nerves and soon discovered that the owner of the coach was none other than Lord Ram. The local landlord.