History of malting barley comes to life
Well-known Enniscorthy man David Hasslacher gave a most informative and interesting lecture on Thursday evening last at Enniscorthy Library on his family's history and the tradition of malting barley in the Wexford area.
David, a member of the well-known Roche family, final occupants of Enniscorthy Castle and owners of the Roche Malting Plant at Island Road, Enniscorthy. told the large audience that his people came from Flanders in Belgium across to Wales and from there to Wexford during the Norman Invasion of 1169.
Enniscorthy was little more than a hamlet at that time and through the generations the Roche family did much to develop and transform it. In 1579, during the reign of Elizabeth 1, Henry Wallop was granted lands in Ireland and saw huge potential in the massive oak forest in the Enniscorthy area - Dubh Tire. The Castle was in ruin at this time being constantly pillaged and plundered by the maraudering Kavanagh Clan but as Wallop felled the forest depriving them of their cover the raids became less frequent allowing the town to prosper and develop. The timber from the forest was used by the Royal Navy, the Castle was rebuilt, there was an increase in trade and the town began to grow and flourish.
By the mid 1700s much of the forest had been cleared, exposing some of the best malting barley land in Ireland and with the establishment of Arthur Guinness in 1759 the time was right for a new industry for Enniscorthy with the Roche family seeing the potential immediately and the rest as they say is history.
David went on to talk about his great, great grandfather Henry Roche 1778-1854, a shrewd businessman who began the malting dynasty, his great grandfather Patrick Joseph Roche 1818-1915, who purchased Enniscorthy Castle from Lord Portsmouth and his grandfather Henry Joseph Roche 1862-1947 who on a visit to cousins the Foleys who lived on a farm in Baltimore, Maryland, called Enniscorthy, met and subsequently married Josephine Shriver and returned to live at the Castle in Enniscorthy that his father had given them as a wedding present.
David is understandably very proud of his family's history and the rich tradition they brought to the Enniscorthy area, providing major employment for many years in the town and talks passionately about the malting business, which he said was not just part of his family's history but the part of the history of many Enniscorthy families and he would love to see some kind of permanent exhibition in the town about it incorporating the Power and Jameson traditions as well.
Now wouldn't that create a wonderful Enniscorthy experience for visitors to our town.