Contributed by Lorraine O’Dwyer

The Travellers Lament

Just outside the town of Enniscorthy there is a long stretch of road, very straight and very long with very few houses along it and in the past, there were even less.
This road led to the port of New Ross and where much of the exports of that time were sent off abroad. All along the quay were ships piled high with barrels filled with anything and everything from herrings to whiskey, barley to pork and mingling amongst the carts and shorehands where wealthy merchant passengers waiting to board ships to England.
Many of these same merchants had travelled from their luxurious homes surrounding Enniscorthy and the rest of Wexford along this long quiet stretch of road.
It became known as the Travellers Lament as this road quickly became the haunt of Highwaymen and no one was more notorious than James Freney or “The Robber Freney”
He and his horse, Beefsteaks, robbed hundreds if not thousands of wealthy travellers over just a few short years and there are many tales detailing his Robin Hood-like escapades!
Many a poor widow found her rent money left by the turf pile or a poor beggar found a years wages stuffed into his cup!

He was said to be utterly charming during a robbery, even ensuring that any women he robbed, were left with enough funds to get them to their destination safely!

And so a legend began to surround the man, with locals treating him as a celebrity of sorts. And this worked out very well for him!
There was one time where he was only moments from being caught by the British Soldiers sent to hunt him down.
He escaped by running into a nearby Inn only to find, his friend and ally, the Innkeeper, had passed away.
The neighbours were gathered around his coffin waking the poor man, But no matter! The neighbours quickly scooped the body of the Innkeeper up and pushed him into a cupboard, while James slipped into the coffin and with a liberal powdering of flour the soldiers never caught on. James lived to rob another day!

James was so prolific with his highway robbery, he was known to hide money in old stone walls and in rotting tree stumps. Some of which has been found, but some is still said to be out there!
And though James was eventually caught, that charm he was known for came into good use yet again.
He somehow managed, not only to avoid the noose for Highway Robbery but to also receive a job offer, which he gladly took. James Freney lived out his days as the most vigilant of all the Revenue Officers!

Well, you know what they say, it takes a thief to catch one!!



Lorraine O’Dwyer, “The Travellers Lament,” Ancient Connections, accessed August 8, 2023,