Who Was David Jones?


TOM WILLIAMS

No records have yet appeared which indicate that Taghmon ever had its own newspaper. However, in 1835 an attempt was made to publish a Taghmon newspaper or news sheet, within the pages of a Wexford town paper, 'The Wexford Independent'. Founded in 1830 and owned and edited by John Greene, it had the enormous circulation figure of 162,500 and was then the most important newspaper circulating in the county. Greene was a Catholic, seven times Mayor of Wexford and, in his early years a champion of many popular causes. His newspaper was strongly supported by the Catholic clergy and reflected the increasingly militant Catholic outlook of the times .

EDITION NO. 1

Under the date of 13 July 1835, the following letter appeared in the 'Wexford Independent'
'Sir,
There are three newspapers (such as they are) published in Wexford. And why not? I find no fault with their existence. But I can see no reason why there should not be one paper published in the improving. and may I add, the independent town of Taghmon. It was my intention for some time, to give a useful publication to the good people of Taghmon, but was persuaded from the undertaking by prudential reasons. But, Sir, if you consent to give me space in your broad-sheet, I will promise never to occupy more than a column, and every good object I had in view may be attained. As to profits, you know that we, gentlemen of the press care but little for that, provided we can enlighten the public mind. I have made all my arrangements, and I see no reason why we should not begin at once.'

There followed the first edition of The Common Sense or The Taghmon Rational Gazette. Four further editions were to follow in the pages of the 'Wexford Independent' - No.2 dated 25 July 1835; No. 3 dated 27 July 1835; No. 4 dated 10 August 1835 and No. 5 dated 20 August 1935. These five editions were notable for very flowery prose, pungent, sarcastic comment, biting satire and knowledgeable forthright commentary on the current political events in the town of Wexford and further afield. It usually occupied one full column or slightly more in 'The Wexford Independent'.

Edition No. 1 began with this tongue-in-cheek introduction: 'The foreign journals contain no news of importance; there may be some fighting in Spain . If I thought the Common Sense would find its way to them, I would give them some advice that would be of use to them.' It went on to chastise Mr. Matthew Pettit concerning his lack of knowledge about his relationship to Mr. J. Power MP. Matthew Pettit was to become Mayor of Wexford, in 1838, and J. Power was one of the Wexford brewing family.

The first edition was signed as follows: 'Published for the author - David Jones' and a note at the end of this first edition from the editor of ''The Wexford Independent'' signified his willingness to publish the ramblings of the Taghmon journalist: 'We assure our respected Taghmon contemporary, that contrary to the received doctrine- ''two of a trade'' &c., we are likely to pull in the same harness, until we reach the gaol (sic)of constitutional freedom. Although our contemporary confesses to be a younker in politics, his first essay ('number', we beg your pardon) wears all the appearance of a refined maturity of judgement - and minute acquaintance with the political world; and we shall therefore devote a column hebdomadally to his exclusive use; and as to the profits accruing from the undertaking, we can settle this matter, on that ''day of reckoning'' significantly mentioned in holy writ.'

IDENTIFYING 'DAVID JONES'

As can readily be seen, David Jones's writings were sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek and not without humour. He professed to have the solution to all the ills of the world and his writings reflected the outpourings of a well-educated man of somewhat arrogant disposition. Identifying him proved a difficult task, as he was not listed in 'Slater's 1846 Directory' or in any other lists from the period. 'Griffiths Valuations', published in 1853, lists a Margaret Jones residing at Chapel St., Taghmon. The birth records of the family of Leo Jones of Whiterock South, Wexford (formerly of Taghmon) go back to the 1840's - but no David appears . It is of course, very possible that 'David Jones' was a non-de-plume, in which case it is unlikely that the identity of the editor of The Taghmon Rational Gazette will ever be known.

EDITION NO. 2

Edition No. 2 began with a criticism of the compositors of 'The Wexford Independent' for mistakes made in the first edition of The Taghmon Rational Gazette and a request that they 'will not clip whole sentences from any part as we assure them it cannot be spared ---'.

There followed a long paragraph, written in editorial style, on the subject of the mayoral elections in Wexford. In it David Jones railed against 'Monied pride, intellectual narrowness, selfishness of purpose'. He seemed particularly disturbed at the methods used to elect Mr. Frank Harper as Mayor. 'Did not every thing Orange, every thing illiberal, every thing anti-popular, flock to its standard and assist it, in making a Mayor. Did not the big Orange aristocracy, and the little monied aristocracy join, and coalesce, and work hard against the people?'

The Taghmon Rational Gazette was now attracting correspondence and David Jones answered them at the foot of his column with an imperious few words of dismissal!

This edition also carried a sarcastic attack on Jemmy Howlin, who was 'a particularly pugnacious and litigious Protestant gentleman of the Co. Wexford' . This must have delighted John Greene, who teased Howlin at length in his columns and a few years later, in 1836, found himself as plaintiff in a libel action taken by Howlin.

EDITION NO. 3

It began with the following: 'Two little numbers of The Common Sense have just made their appearance in this strange world. Enough, we have already, even in our very infancy, roused the spite of that sagacious print, the Freeman' . Aye, how free he is! Why he should attack us so soon we are at a loss to conjecture. Is it with our name that he quarrels, or is it we said that the lovers of scandal, in this town, were amusing themselves with the report, of certain gentlemen in Wexford doffing their hats, as they passed the Bank. If this be the cause, we assure him the report did not originate with us. Or, is it because we informed Mr. Pettit of some of his family connections? If this be the cause, we entreat him to go and learn a little Common Sense. It will profit him more than quarrelling with us. But if he takes not our advice, and fight he must, the fight (for what we write) must be with us and not with the 'Independent'; and we can tell him - bantlings though we be - he will find, we are not all out dunghills.'

The outpourings of David Jones were beginning to raise hackles in establishment quarters in Wexford and may have led to some nervousness in the confines of 'The Independent'. The comment - 'the fight...must be with us and not with the Independent ' may have been inserted at the behest of the 'Independent's editor , as a clarification that the views expressed were solely those of Mr. Jones. Libel cases involving the paper were a common occurrence and were becoming a burden on its proprietor, John Greene. Some encouragement for David Jones came in the 3rd edition in the form of a letter from 'Humanitas of Tagoat' who wrote to the 'Independent' complimenting the content of The Common Sense.

EDITION NO. 4

Edition No.4 began with a tirade against the current political situation in France . There follows a long diatribe concerning the murder of Rev. Mr. Walsh and suggestions as to what faction represent the perpetrators. David Jones is in no doubt that an Orange faction was responsible and some of his comments, in this edition, are anti-loyalist in the extreme. 'Humanitas of Tagoat' had another letter in this edition.

EDITION NO. 5

Edition No. 5 began with another commentary on the French and European political situation. Then, very quickly, it launched into another violently anti-Orange tirade. '....Should the State say --equal justice to all -- the Orange monster roars louder and louder for blood. Should he burst forth from his keepers, he might make but little scruple whether he would slake his vengeance in a people's or a monarch's blood. In the heat of rebellious frenzy, he might not be content with ordinary fare. But the Orangemen must be protected! Protected from what? Protected in villainy --plunder--and murder.'

A new correspondent in this edition was 'A Piercestown Farmer' who wrote a long letter concerning the political affiliation of some of Wexford's bankers. The bankers were named as Mr. Hughes of the Provincial Bank and Mr. Redmond of the Bank of Ireland.

David Jones then goes on to pay a tribute to Mr. Sheppard Jeffares. 'We have been informed that Mr. Sheppard Jeffares, not long since, went to visit his tenants, in the neighbourhood of Rathangan; he took with him a few friends from town, and a cart load of good things. Mr. Jeffares, we understand, is a Protestant, his tenants are Catholics; they, with their venerable and patriotic pastor, and his worthy curate, were invited to dine with Mr. Jeffares and his friends when they all had, as we are informed, in deed and in truth, a "feast of reason and flow of ...(deleted). Many good speeches and patriotic sentiments were delivered at the happy amalgamation of priest and parishioner, landlord and tenant. Mr. Jeffares, we are told, when addressing the tenants, informed them, that whenever election occurred, they were perfectly free to vote as their conscience directed them, and if they did otherwise, he would look on them as unworthy of his confidence. Landlords of the county Wexford would you go and do likewise; the example is worthy of your imitation. We regret that we did not know of this dinner taking place, or we should have sent our reporter. --We wish Mr. Jeffares and his happy tenantry every prosperity.'
Sheppard Jeffares was Mayor of Wexford in 1840,1846 and 1847. He is listed as a grocer, spirit dealer and tallow handler at Main St., Wexford in 1846 . His residence was at Barntown Castle. He died in 1859 and is buried in Mulrankin .

THE END OF 'THE TAGHMON RATIONAL GAZETTE'

This was the last edition of the Taghmon 'newspaper'. The editor, David Jones, may have died. A more likely eventuality however, is that he was silenced by an increasingly nervous 'Wexford Independent' who may have decided to withdraw editorial space for the contentious musings of the Taghmon firebrand The targets of David Jones's venomous outbursts were influential and important people in Wexford, who would have been in a position to bring pressure to bear on John Greene of 'The Wexford Independent', who, in June 1834, had spent a week in gaol, having being found guilty of criminal libel . Although Greene himself was not above regular editorial barrages against anti-populous sentiments, he may have felt that further risks of libel and the burden of habitually censuring the Taghmon correspondent was more trouble than it was worth.

Whatever the reasons, no more was heard from The Common Sense or The Taghmon Rational Gazette and thus ended a five edition saga of the only recorded 'newspaper' from Taghmon.

FOOTNOTES

  1. 'as late as 1857 ..the 'Independent' was claiming a circulation of 162,500' -- - John Greene and the Wexford Independent in 'The Past' No. 17 p.6
  2. ibid.
  3. The three Wexford newspapers were: 'The Wexford Freeman' which failed in 1838; 'The Wexford Conservative' which failed in 1846 and 'The Wexford Independent'.
  4. This was the First Carlist War (1833-39) in Spain.
  5. weekly
  6. Taghmon Catholic birth registers - at The Parochial House, Taghmon (my thanks is due to Fr. Tom McCormick P.P. for permission to inspect these records)
  7. 'John Greene and the Wexford Independent' in The Past No. 17
  8. This refers to 'The Wexford Freeman'
  9. a young child or brat.
  10. This refers to the unrest in France during the monarchy of Louis Philippe. Initially welcomed by the business interests and professional classes, the new ruler eventually lost favour and was dislodged in the February Revolution of 1848 which established the Second Republic.
  11. Rev. Mr. Walsh was a Catholic clergyman of Borris, Co. Carlow who was murdered in 1835.
  12. Slater's 1846 Directory of Wexford, Enniscorthy, New Ross and Taghmon.
  13. 'Wexford - A Municipal History' by Padge Reck
  14. 'John Greene and the Wexford Independent' in The Past No. 17 p.9 Journal of The Taghmon Historical Society