Waterford Harbour

Waterford Harbour
Cheekpoint village 1940's

Friday, 25 September 2015

The night the "devil" came for the captains corpse

I was raised on the story of Captain Udvardy's grave in Faithlegg,  My grandmother was a young girl at the time, and was a front seat witness to the affair, and had played a cameo role in the tale.  Despite all the stories I was told, there was one she omitted but which I was told much later in life.  The story of the "devil" coming for the captain's corpse.

In 1932, a Hungarian sea captain, Rudolph Udvardy, who was master of the MV Honved,was in the port of Waterford with a cargo of Maize.  To free up berth space, the Honved dropped down to Cheekpoint, where she anchored while the ship waited for an outgoing cargo.  (Following the Market crash there was a shipping slump, and ships struggled to find cargo)  Apparently Captain Udvardy was already ill when entering port.  So he continued to receive medical attention when at anchor off the Russsianside. The doctor travelled over from Dunmore East, and was regularly rowed out from Moran's poles to the ship by my Grandmothers brothers, who also waited to return him to shore.

gathering at Faithlegg church gates 
As the ship had only limited stores, the crew were forced to forage for food to supplement their diet. The village rallied around.  Fish was dropped alongside, and items such as bread, milk and other supplies were shared.  My Grandmothers cameo came one morning when as a young girl she was going around her chores before walking off to school.  Coming out of the house with an ash bucket she walked straight into a man.  But it was no ordinary man.  A man with dark skin and dark curly hair.  She dropped her ash bucket in terror and turned to run, the dark man reached out for her and started to speak with a strange accent, she managed to break free, just as her mother came out the door.  She fled into her parents bedroom and crawled in under the bed.  She was still there when her brother Christy came in later that evening and he finally managed, what everyone else failed to do, to entice her out from her hiding place.

The captain's body leaving his ship for the last time aboard the
"Point Lass" with Billy & Denny Doherty (The Green)
She told him all about the "coal man" and how he terrified her,  and Christy in turn told her about the Arab sailors that helped make up the crew of the Hónved and how their skin was different to our own. Ali would become a familiar visitor to the house, coming as he did on the instruction of her father to get eggs, vegetables or spuds.  She was never comfortable around him, but he used to whistle to announce his coming, which gave her time to get to her mothers side.

Alas, the Captain died on Friday 2nd September 1932.  And he was removed next day to Faithlegg on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Later that night the chapel-woman (I think it was Statia Nugent, an aunt to my grandmother) went to lock the church door.  As she was about to close it out she noticed a silhouette near to the altar. Moving closer she could hear a low mumbling sound.  Terrified, she turned on her heals and ran to her home - The lodge at Faithlegg gates.  There she explained what she had witnessed to her husband and another man who was there playing cards.  There was a lot of talk about the devil coming for the captain, there was a lot of winking amongst the men too.

They agreed to accompany her back to the church.  Strolling in, they had a light step, but this froze at the back of the church when they too heard sounds.  More cautious now, they scooped up some holy water and began to inch forward, splashing it as they went, hoping t'wud be enough to keep any evil away.  In the darkness nothing could be seen, but as they inched forward, the mumbling could be discerned to words, strange and foreign words.  Panic was rising amongst the three and the holy water was being splashed with abandon when one of them stumbled and emitted a cry.  All went silent, no mumbling could be heard, and then a whisper came from the area where the Captains coffin stood. Someone was asking who was there, in broken English and in a strange tongue, but human undoubtedly.

Moving forward the protectors of the Captains coffin were confronted by the Arab crew,  They did not understand the Christian custom of leaving the coffin on its own in the Church overnight.  Their custom, they explained, was to remain.

The chapel was left open that night and next morning the Captain's body was committed to foreign soil.  The grave was surrounded by his officers and crew.  And there was a huge turnout from the area, a turnout as befitted a sailor who died so far away from his family, something well known to the village of Cheekpoint.
The graveside, bedecked in local flowers
The ship remained for a few more weeks, and finally with a new Captain sailed out the harbour. His wife would later sent a small plant in a pot, asking that it be planted to mark her husbands grave. She need not have worried however.  His grave was originally marked by a very distinctive metal plaque (John Sullivan could tell me that this was made by Jimmy Shanahan (RIP)) and when this finally disintegrated, a local benefactor provided the headstone that now marks his last resting place.  Flowers still appear on the grave from time to time,  A reflection of how deep the connection to the events that autumn in 1932 went.
Udvardy Rezso: Elt So Evet, Szept 2 1932. Beke Hamvaria.
Sea Captain Honved, Nationality Hungarian. Died aboard Ship Honved at Cheekpoint



Photo credit:  I took copies of the three photos above from an article by John O'Connor in the Munster Express a few years back.  My grandmother had a full set of photos, as did many others in the village, but these are no longer at home.  One of the ships officers had a camera and took several photos in the village at the time.  He made several copies and posted them back, I'm guessing in some token of appreciation for the kindness shown.


Friday, 18 September 2015

T.F.Meagher; four graves and no body

I often had to correct visitors who believe that Thomas Francis Meagher's body is interred in Faithlegg. Yet the family tomb is there, as are three other family plots, that I know of, around the world. But Thomas alas is in none of them.  He's the man with four graves you see, but no body.

Thomas was born at what is now the Granville Hotel in Waterford 3rd Aug 1823. He went on to get a first class education and to study at the bar, but the plight of his fellow countrymen and the control of Ireland from London led to his political activities that would see him design and fly the first Irish tricolour and culminate in 1848 with the Young Irelanders rebellion.
TF Meagher image via
http://www.1848tricolour.com/
Tried and convicted of high treason, he was transported to Tasmania where he married a lady named Catherine Bennett.  In 1852 he escaped (but had to leave the pregnant Catherine behind) and via whaling ship eventually arrived in New York to a hero's welcome. Catherine and Thomas' first son Henry died during his escape and the infant was buried in Australia.  This is the first grave.

Catherine was eventually reunited with her husband in New York, but she returned to Waterford where a second son, Thomas, was born. She was a popular advocate for her husband's political activities and was in much demand for rallies and other speaking events.  Poor health followed however, and Catherine died in Waterford in 1854 and was buried in the family tomb at Faithlegg. This is the second grave, and the one most commonly associated with him in Ireland.
Meagher tomb in Faithlegg
At the outbreak of the American Civil War Thomas joined the union side and in 1862 he founded the Irish Brigade which fought with distinction. He would later go on to become governor of Montana and would be an unpopular man because of his strong convictions and public stance on issues such as slavery. 

On 1st July 1867 while travelling on the Missouri river by paddle boat, Meagher disappeared over the side of the ship.  The cause of his fall is a matter of intense speculation even to this day.  
No grave, but remembered nonetheless
His second son Thomas Junior was raised by the family in Waterford and emigrated to America age 18 in 1872 to find his fortune.  He died in 1909 in Manila, Philippines and there he is buried.  A third family plot.

And the fourth.  Well Thomas married for a second time in 1856 to Elizabeth Townsend  and she was a devoted wife to him.  Following his death she returned to New York where she died on July 5th 1906.  She was buried in Green-wood cemetery.

And of Thomas. Well as already said, he was lost overboard in the Missouri River in 1867, and despite months of searching, his body was never recovered. However, in 2008, a headstone was erected beside the grave of his second wife, Elizabeth.

So all told TF Meagher is a man who despite having four family graves around the world is found in none of them.  But then again his reputation lives on in a much more meaningful way and is celebrated in Waterford each year to remember the raising of the first Irish tri-colour in Ireland at 33 the Mall, Waterford.

Thanks to my cousin, James (Jim) Doherty who supplied me with some essential information that made this blog possible.  Jim is a founder member of the 1848 Tricolour Celebration, a festival that has gone from strength to strength.  This years programme starts today more details on the 1848 Tricolour Celebration website.

Friday, 11 September 2015

the Faithlegg woman who died twice?

One of the oldest grave stones in Faithlegg belongs to a family named Fortune.  But the headstone creates a bit of a stir...it gives two dates of death for the lady...1745 & 1746

The headstone reads;


Here lyeth ye body of ANSTAS 
FORTUNE alias QUINLAN (daughter 
to QUNER FOURE) who departed 
this life Wensday (sic) Janry ye 22d
1745-6 aged 21 years.






So who was the lady and did she arise from her grave like some halloween yarn or is there an explanation Despite searching I have not as yet found any further information relating to Anstas or her Father.  Present day searches suggest however that Anstas is now a boys name. Apparently it means resurrection! Was someone having a joke? Or was Anstas as fortunate as her surname suggests and got two cracks at the one life?

Well locally it was held that the solution to this mystery was a dispute between two calendars. The first calendar to mention is the Julian Calendar, which dated to 46 BC and commissioned by emperor Julius Caesar, who at the time wanted to amalgamate all the regions of his empire under the one system. All went well initially, and we still hold on to much of that system including the days of the week and months of the year. However an issue arose for the christian church in the middle ages.The calendar did not accurately calculate the exact time of each year - 365.24 days and as a consequence by the time of Pope Gregory, Church holidays were way out of whack with what the Christian church had traditionally adhered too.

To alleviate the situation Gregory XIII initiated a review of the system and in 1582 a new calendar was initiated known as the Gregorian Calendar. This allowed for a more accurate holding ofchurch holidays and dealt with the vexed issue of the date of Easter. But to align with the church festivals the new calendar required a reboot of the system. Thus in 1582 10 days were dropped from the year.


Not everyone was enamored with the Churches approach however. Much of protestant Europe protested and refused to embrace the change. Ireland was in a bit of a dilemma, ruled from protestant England yet in matters of faith leaning more towards Rome, many in the Irish church seem to have employed the Gregorian calendar years before it was finally embraced by England, (and thus politically, Ireland) in September 1752.

Now that still doesn't explain to me why a lady who died on 22nd Jan 1745, also listed 1746. As said the difference between the calendars was originally 10 days but as the years progressed it slowly widened - today it stands at 13 apparently, which you might need to know if you happen to visit with the nomadic Berber of North Africa, who till hold to Cesar's calendar. But at least we can relax about the chance of meeting the un-dead on a visit to Faithlegg







Friday, 4 September 2015

Sailor Doyle and the voyages of James Cook

Faithlegg Graveyard always raises mixed emotions in me.  I still find it hard to read my brothers headstone for example, without being carried back in time to the afternoon he drowned. Then I look at "Big Patsy" Doherty's headstone, with its carving of the "Portlairge" the treasured dredger of Waterford, and can't help smiling with the memory of fishing yarns and tall tales.  But then there are others such as the one I will write about today, that are intriguing, historic, but rarely visited, much less prayed over but meriting a pause nonetheless.

Beside the old church is a family grave, part of which is to mark a seaman named Doyle.  What makes it intriguing is that it records that he sailed around the world with none other than Captain James Cook and was present at his death at Hawaii.

The actual stone (pictured above) records that; This stone was erected by | MARY DINN of Passage | as a mark of her burial ground and in memory | of her father NICHOLAS, her mother HONORA, her | brother MARTIN, her sisters and | particularly of her brother WILLIAM DINN | alias DOYLE, who sailed round the Globe | with Captr COOK, and was present at the death | of that great circumnavigator at Owhyhee. | and who died respected and regretted at Stoke | near Devonport in England, in June 1840 |having spent a long life as a Warrant Officer | in the Services of his Country. | "May they Rest in Peace. Amen".

James Cook was born in 1728 to a farm hand and apprenticed himself to a coal merchant in Whitby to learn his trade as a mariner.  In 1755, after nine years at Whitby, he left and joined the Royal Navy and within two years was appointed Ships Master, in charge of navigation.  He excelled at this and also developed a particular skill in map making, something of immense value to the navy and the empire builders at the time.
Captain Cook
In 1769 he departed for his first and probably his most successful voyage on HMS Endevour to chart the southern seas and it was a voyage that would see him "discover" New Zealand and Australia and claim them for Great Britain.  Discover is of course a disputed term now, after all Polynesian explores had previously settled New Zealand, and the Aboriginal peoples of Australia had lived happily for thousands of years before.

He returned home in 1771 and received a heroes welcome.  At that stage he had remapped almost 1/3 of the known world.  (Worth remembering however he had the assistance of a Tahitian priest and navigator) He was also renowned as he had not lost a single man to the affliction of scurvy - caused from poor diet and lack of vitamin C - which was more common a reason for sailors to die on long voyages than accidents, drownings or other misadventures which probably include keelhauling!

Such was his success, and enthusiasm, he was dispatched in 1772 to the south seas again, this time to try discover the great southern continent - which to the seekers of new lands and opportunities for expansion turned out to be a great disappointment - Antarctica.

Sketch of the three voyage routes

His final voyage departed in 1776 with two ships; HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery.  One of the other officers on the trip was a chap named William Bligh - who would later become infamous in his own right, if for very different reasons.  This voyage was to discover the North West Passage, a fabled route to the China tea plantations over North America and Canada.  The trip seems to have been a disaster from he outset, with Cook becoming more erratic and less tolerant which probably led to his death.

Arriving in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) in 1779 they were initially treated as guests.  Once provisioned they departed but returned a few days later to repair a broken mast.  This time the islanders were lees hospitable.  Apparently the cause of his death is subject to intense academic debate, but he was essentially hacked to death after he and a party of ships marines went ashore with guns to take a king of the tribe hostage.

Of Doyle, I could find little enough except for his his epitaph, in Faithlegg.  I could not find him on any crew lists for the trips.  But then again these recorded the officers, and gentlemen who traveled, not the ordinary seamen.  Each ship would have had a compliment of at least 100.  If you want to look for yourself here's the link.

Michael O Sullivan of the Waterford History Group has previously sent me on information about Faithlegg Graveyard amongst which is a mention of Doyle.  "Resolution muster on Cook's Third Voyage", a WILLIAM DOYLE (138) can be found listed. He joined 16 May 1776, served as AB Boatswain's Mate from 28 May 1776, born Waterford 1756."

From reading his epitaph it could be speculated that he had been on more than one journey.  Indeed many sailors did sign up time and again to serve under Cook, such was the respect he appears to have been held in.   Doyle was 20 when he joined the last voyage based on the info above.  He would certainly have been old enough to have made the second voyage also.

Why is he mentioned in Faithlegg Graveyard.  Again, just speculation but Mary Dinn lived in Passage.  Were she a Passage woman I would assume she would be buried there.  More likely a Cheekpoint or Faithlegg woman in the past who returned to a family grave to be buried.  The record suggests that William Doyle was born in Waterford.  But as I have often found and recorded here, in the past the word Waterford was used to record all manner of event in relation to the harbour area. Just as likely then that William was also born in the area.

The third great voyage of Cook may have ended in death and failure for the man, but both ships returned to Britain in 1780 and no doubt warrant officer Doyle continued to have many more adventures before the mast.  Spare a thought for the man, and maybe even a visit, for the sailor lying in the graveyard who in his own small way contributed to a greater understanding of the world.

Many thanks to Michael O Sullivan of the Waterford History Group for assistance with this piece.