Waterford Harbour

Waterford Harbour
Cheekpoint village 1940's

Friday, 30 December 2016

Reclaiming an Irish Way of St James

This weeks blog marks a new departure, which is appropriate as we enter a new year.  I've asked a number of people to contribute a piece of writing on the harbour, and these will feature on the last Friday of each coming month. Today's piece first featured in History Ireland this year and was written by a neighbor of mine, Damien McLellan.  The article explores the historical and present day evidence that points to the harbours past prominence in medieval pilgrimage.  

Every year for the past 16 years I have walked one of the many medieval pilgrim roads in France and Spain that lead to Santiago de Compostella in the far north western corner of Spain. I usually travelled by Irish Ferries to France and then by train or bus to continue on the Chemin de St Jacques de Compostelle in France or the Camino in Spain. But last year, following an invitation from the Gaultier Historical Society to include in my talk a local connection to the pilgrimage, I walked from my own front door in Faithlegg, Co Waterford, to take the much shorter and cheaper (€2) ferry from Passage East to Ballyhack in Co Wexford. To my great delight, not long after starting up the hill from Ballyhack, I realised I was walking on an Irish Way of St James, on what I now believe is the medieval route that Irish pilgrims would have taken travelling from St James Gate in Dublin to Waterford or returning to Dublin and the eastern half of the country. This article offers the reasons why I came to that realisation and all the information you need to make the same journey, whether on foot or by armchair.
Tomb of James Rice in Waterford's protestant cathedral
Waterford Estuary was the arrival and departure point on many significant occasions in Irish history. It was here at Crooke, near Passage East, on St Bartholomew’s Eve, August 23rd 1170 that Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare, better known to us as Strongbow, arrived to complete the Norman invasion. Later that same year something happened in the English county of Kent that is not normally seen as relevant to Irish history but I believe is very much so. On a bitterly cold 29th of December, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was brutally murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting, so they assumed, on behalf of King Henry 11, then ruler of England, Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Aquitaine and much of Wales. Thomas had been the King’s closest friend but had infuriated Henry on becoming Archbishop by, among other things, refusing to hand over to the crown for punishment churchmen accused of sexually assaulting and murdering subjects. When he became Archbishop, Thomas was expected to abolish this canon law practice but he refused to. According to tradition, a hot headed and exasperated Henry had declaimed after perhaps too much wine, “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” and the loyal knights left France immediately for England.
Pope Alexander 111 demanded that the knights atone for this sacrilegious atrocity by making pilgrimage to Rome or Santiago de Compostella. Jerusalem was not an option as it was then under Muslim control. In the following year, at the Council of Argentan in July, Henry was relieved of making a penitential crusade to the Holy Land until he had secured control of Ireland. Ireland had its own troublesome priests and Rome was anxious to bring them into line. Henry was in no hurry to return to London either. Pilgrims were already thronging to Canterbury in huge numbers attracted by the miracles being attributed to Thomas the Martyr. Henry’s head was being called for and his crown was in peril.

On October 17th 1171 the bows of Henry’s 400 ships crunched up onto the safe sandy beaches at Crooke and Passage East. The ships are said to have carried 500 knights, 4000 men at arms and archers, and thousands of horses. On the following day, the feast of St Luke, Henry 11 advanced on Waterford and set about bringing the Normans, the Irish and the remaining Norsemen into submission to the crown of England. Before leaving for Dublin he founded a church dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr outside the walls of Waterford. The church no longer exists but Thomas Hill still leads towards the site from O’Connell Street in the city centre.
Frances Jobson map of  1591 depicting the temple of St James, Ballyhack
In the following year, 1172, at Avranches, Henry was given absolution for his part in the murder of Thomas a Becket but his penance was to provide for the maintenance of 200 Knights Templars in the Holy Land and to undertake a crusade, either to the Holy Land or to Compostella. Fearing that his avaricious sons (especially the future Kings John and Richard the Lionheart) would usurp his crown while abroad and knowing that funding 200 knights would bankrupt the kingdom, Henry offered instead strategically important tracts of lands in Waterford to the Knights Templars, including control of the lucrative ferry rights between Passage East and Ballyhack in Co. Wexford. In return, they provided sanctuary and protection to travellers, especially pilgrims.

The first recorded pilgrimage to Santiago took place in AD 951 and was led by Godescalc, the Bishop of Le Puy, a town in the Auverne region of France. Among the millions of pilgrims who descended on Santiago during the next few hundred years were the Irish pilgrims who were identified by the scallop shells and bone relics recovered with their remains in the 1986 archaeological excavations in Tuam and in 1996 in Mullingar.

The pilgrimage experienced a significant lull because of the Black Death in 1347-1349 and the 100 Years War between England and France which ended in 1453. There then immediately followed a long pent-up resurgence of pilgrims making their way to Santiago, a hundred years more of pilgrimage which ended with the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Wars of Religion.
Before I began to look at the Irish dimension I had assumed that only wealthy people, such as James Rice, mayor of Waterford and wine merchant, could afford to make the journey by sea, as he did twice, in 1473 and 1483. But also in 1473, the Mary London, a ship carrying 400 Irish pilgrims returning from Santiago to Waterford was captured by pirates but released, minus their belongings, one would assume, at Youghal. In May 1456, an English pilgrim, William Wey counted 84 ships, many of them from Ireland, moored in Corunna, the port an easy week’s walk to Santiago. The authority on this issue, Roger Stalley, estimated that perhaps 5000 pilgrims arrived within the space of a few days and that in this peak period, two million pilgrims were on the move. This would mean that a remarkable number of Irish pilgrims were returning to the ports of Dublin, Drogheda, Galway, Dingle, New Ross and Waterford. I set myself the task of answering my own question: how would pilgrims who had travelled from St James Gate in Dublin return there from Waterford?

I was assuming that the majority of pilgrims were without the funds to purchase direct passage to Corunna and would walk overland from Dublin to Waterford or New Ross and then by sea to France to continue overland across the Pyrenees to Santiago. The motivation for the pilgrimage for many was to save their souls from eternal damnation and the devout pilgrims understood that the journey should be a penance and an ordeal, not that a sea voyage across the Bay of Biscay in those days would be a picnic. They would also know, by word of mouth, that abbeys would provide a chain of accommodation, food and medical care from the coast of France to Santiago, free of charge, providing they were genuine pilgrims.
A laneway out of Ballyhack
My plan that day was to walk from the quay at Ballyhack north towards New Ross as the crow flies, or as the pilgrim walks, the easiest and most direct route and to see what I encountered on the way. I had done some earlier research, looking for a church to start from, a pilgrim essential. On the current Ordinance Survey map a graveyard is indicated nearby and Frances Jobson’s 1591 map shows that a church of St James once stood on that site. This was a very exciting discovery as there are churches dedicated to St James at Dingle, Drogheda and Dublin, at St James’ Gate, all known departure points for pilgrims, The churchyard presently looks down on to Arthur’s Bay but I understand that its earlier name was St James’ Bay. The returning pilgrim, landing at St James’ Bay would surely give thanks at the church before continuing up a broad track that today leads to a large open field where a fair was held every Michaelmas and also on St James’ Day, July 25th. specialising in black bullocks and hogs. At the top of the hill the pilgrim would see ahead the Blackstairs Mountain and Mount Leinster and looking back would view Creedon Head looming left out into Waterford Estuary.

But if you are following my footsteps, return to the churchyard, walk through it towards the main gate, and turn right after climbing the style at the gate. This is the old road which was replaced by the modern road below you, taking traffic to and from the ferry. On your left you will come to a very old ruined farmhouse which I mistook first for the church because it is exactly oriented towards the east. Lying on the ground before this building is a millstone and if you explore further to your left you will find the protected remains of where millstones were cut in medieval times from the surface of the outcropping red sandstone. There must have been accommodation here for the monks from nearby Nook and perhaps pilgrims waiting for a boat to France or England, with commanding views up and down the river, might have earned their keep in return for some manual labour.
Dunbrody Abbey, Co Wexford
Continue to the end of this road and turn right on to the main road up from Ballyhack. Soon you will be facing a green lane and you may well imagine you are now walking a Way of St James. Turn left when it re-joins the main road. Turn left again when you reach Grange and on your right you will pass a Holy Well. Your next stop will be Dunbrody Abbey where pilgrims would have been able to claim hospitality. Continue to head north and you are in Horeswood, passing another church of St James.

Next stop, keeping straight on as always, is Burntschool Cross Roads, past standing stones to Whitechurch, where there is a church, through Ballykelly, another church, and then the very medieval hamlet of Oldcourt, where there is a church behind a barn. This number of churches and ancient remains suggests to me that there are strong reasons to believe this road is a holy way.

It is now a long slog beside the main road into New Ross and I chose to drive the next very long section from New Ross to St Mullins. The river Barrow is practically a gorge between these points and there is no river path. At St Mullins among the many ruins you will find a small chapel dedicated to St James but again no explanation as to why, although a very popular Pattern Day is held here every year, on July 25th, the feast-day of St James.
St James cell, St Mullins, Carlow
Below the medieval ruins the river now has a broad towpath on the right bank facing north, called ‘the trackline’ by Barrow people but in my opinion it is in fact the Slighe Chualann, identified by Colm O’Loughlainn as one of the five ancient roads, the Road of Cuala, “a district comprising South Co. Dublin and part of Co. Wicklow”. Going north or home as a pilgrim you will continue alongside the Barrow through Graiguenamanagh to Leighlinbridge, where you will turn right away from the river and head north east on the Slighe Cualainn though the possible pilgrim stops of Tullow, Rathvilly, Baltinglass, Dunlavin, Ballymore Eustace, Kilteel, Rathcoole, Saggart, and Tallaght.

You will now be within easy reach of the original starting point at the church of St James in Dublin where pilgrims would certainly have offered prayers of gratitude to St James for a safe journey home and one made possible by the roads and facilities on offer all along the way since arriving at St James Bay in Waterford Harbour.

Damien McLellan is a consultant psychotherapist and also teaches at Carlow College. He is grateful to his colleague, historian Dr Margaret Murphy, for her generous assistance in providing crucial research material.

Niall Byrne K.M. (2008) The Irish Crusade Dublin: Linden Publishing
Billy Colfer (2004) The Hook Peninsula Cork: Cork University Press
Patrick C Power (1990) History of Waterford City and County Dublin: Mercier Press

I'd like to thank Damien for trusting me me to reprint his article here today. I hope to line up other contributions which will go out on the last Friday of each month. For January we will have a memory of Dunmore East in the 1950's from David O'Carroll, the son of the then harbour master. David's piece literally takes us back in time, and captures the comings and goings and daily happenings in a busy fishing harbour. For February we will have a piece from my cousin James Doherty on the incidents of 18th C smuggling in Waterford harbour. In it James looks at the evidence from newspaper accounts and other sources which highlight the scale of this once common practice. If you have a piece you would like to submit for consideration, all I ask is that it relates to Waterford harbour, increases the knowledge and appreciation of our rich maritime heritage and is approximately 1200 words long.  Please contact me via russianside@gmail.com

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Friday, 23 December 2016

An emigrants Christmas wish

To celebrate Christmas this year, I thought I'd bring you the words across the Irish sea, an emigrant's lament, a cousin of mine from the Russianside, but one of my grandmother's generation.  Fr Tom Doyle was one of two brothers to enter the priesthood and both spent their years in England and beyond.  This piece was published in the Munster Express in the 1960's and the clipping was found by a relation of mine recently.
Fr Tom saying mass in the home of his cousin in 1980's
L-R Jim Duffin RIP, Maura Moran (my maternal Grandmother) RIP, Gerry Murphy, Ella Hallahan RIP
Mary McDernott RIP, Fr Tom RIP, Brian McDermott RIP, Maureen Burke RIP
Memories
T'was Christmas Eve, I stood on Mersey's Strand
And wished I were back home in Ireland.
Down by the Suir and gazing at the hook
Blinking "welcome home" to Passage and to Crook.
To Cheekpoint and my home of days gone by.
When Christmas really was a feast of joy.

I heard the slough of boots across the pass
That led to Faithlegg Church and Midnight Mass.
The heart greetings "Merry Christmas Pat"
The same to you, may all your pigs grow fat!

And in the morn, the tang of burning peat
Spurred on by turning wheel to cook the meat.
The crowded table on the old stone floor.
The stranger always welcome at the door.

The lamp-lit darkness of the Christmas night.
When tales of ghosts turned many faces white:
The fiddler played, the elders danced with glee.
And Grandpa bounced me on his bony knee!

Those were the days with innocence abroad
And Irishmen knew how to praise the Lord.
I see it all and sigh, and inward' pray.
God bless the Emerald Isle on Christmas Day

Tom- An Exile

The house described above, is my aunts, Margaret O'Leary. His Grandpa was my own Great Grandfather;  Joseph (called Jose) Doherty of the Russianside who was married to Ellen nee Walsh. They had 9 children; one was my Grandfather, Andy, another, Tom's mother Ciss. Ciss married a Wexford man named Joseph Doyle and they had 6 children, Tom was one of the youngest, born in 1919.  The family emigrated to Liverpool early on.
Ellen & Jose in the Russianside early 1900's
Photo courtesy of Sean Doherty
Tom and his older brother Michael, both entered the priesthood, Tom was ordained a priest of the Monfort Fathers in 1948.  Fr Tom arrived  to Cheekpoint every summer for his holidays and offered mass in local homes, and always mass at Faithlegg church and Crooke if required.  I recall one Sunday, when I was serving as an altar boy.  A new PA system had been recently installed, so that the priest didn't need to strain his voice to be heard. Now Tom had no fear of straining his voice, which boomed out and dominated every conversation. As my Father put it, "you'd hear him in Wexford even if there was a gale from the east". When Tom started mass that morning even the sleepiest parishioners sat bolt upright under the aural assault. So much so, that during the mass I was called back into the sacristy by the chapel woman at the time, Joan O'Dwyer and told to turn off the PA. 

Fr Tom was the only priest I ever heard called by his first name, something he actively encouraged. He considered Cheekpoint home, and never missed a visit to the Russianside.  One of my fondest memories of him was the summer I was asked to show him round the village, and tell him the names of the people inside and who they were related to. Once I connected it back to my Gran's era it all fell into place with him, and when the door was opened he was immediately at home, and always welcomed. On the occasions I got inside the threshold, I'd be treated like royalty, even if the occupant would turn their head to me normally.  Fed and watered and occasionally an envelope passed to Tom for prayers, we would saunter on to the next house and my intelligence called for once more. At the end of the visits each day, there was "an economic recompense for my time", as he put it.

The one thing I never realised until I started to research this piece, and certainly not apparent from the poem above, was that Tom wasn't actually born in the Russianside at all.  I can only imagine that having been born into the Irish emigrant community of Liverpool, the Christmas traditions must have been ingrained into him from the stories of his mother and his older siblings.  It was obvious to me all those years ago, that he certainly felt like he was coming home each summer.  Fr Tom died on the 10th November 1997 aged 78 and was buried in his communities burial ground at Romsey near Southampton. His obituary has more of his career.



I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Remembering the SS Formby and SS Coningbeg

Within two days in December 1917, Waterford experienced its biggest loss of seafaring lives with the sinking of Clyde Shipping's SS Formby and SS Coningbeg. Of the 83 souls who perished 67 were from Waterford, the harbour and hinterland and the effects were profound.  Because it was wartime, very little was written due to censorship, and many misunderstood the reasons behind it.  But in 1992 a Wexford man, Richard McElwee, committed pen to paper and finally told the full story of the loss.

The SS Formby was built by Caledon SB. & Eng. Co. Ltd., Dundee in 1914 and was considered the flagship of the Clyde shipping company. She was 270 feet long, 1283 tons and had a top speed of 14.5 knots. Although primarily a cattle transport vessel she could accommodate 39 first class and 45 steerage passengers.  
Photo of a ghostlike SS Formby
via Shaun McGuire who had it from a daughter of Thomas Coffey
The SS Coningbeg was originally SS Clodagh built for the Waterford Steamship company by Ailsa shipbuilders in Troon, Scotland, August 1903. When the company was sold to the Clyde in 1912 she was renamed. In 1913 she underwent a total refit. She was also 270 feet long, 1278 tons and capable of a top speed of 16.5 knots. She could carry between 5-600 head of cattle and 86 first class and 74 steerage passengers. 
SS Coningbeg accessed 3/12/16 via
http://www.waterfordtreasures.com/news/bite-size-culture-talks
-the-sinking-of-ss-formby-the-ss-coningbeg

Both ships ran a twice weekly service carrying passengers, livestock, foodstuff and general cargo from Waterford and returning with passengers and general cargo from Liverpool. The trip was 16hrs one way and both ships had a reputation for strict time keeping.  As WWI raged the ships and crews were constantly in danger.  Not alone did they assist the war effort, but the kept both sides of the Irish sea fed, and more importantly for themselves, no doubt, provided food and an income for their own families.  Both ships had had skirmishes with U Boats and one example I found from the Munster Express of Feb 1915 concerned the Irish sea being temporarily closed to shipping due to a U Boat threat. The Coningbeg was confined to Waterford port which caused mayhem as her cargo of cattle had to be unshipped and accommodated elsewhere. Meanwhile the families of the Formby gathered under an increasing cloud, fearful as there were unfounded rumours that she was sunk.  Later that month, the Kerry News ran a story that the Coningbeg failed to put to sea, due to a dispute between the crew and the owners over a war bonus for the risks they were taking.

At 11am on Saturday 15th December the SS Formby slipped her moorings and travelled out the Mersey and into the Irish sea. Aboard were 37 crew and 2 passengers.  She was due into Waterford the following morning, but when she did not arrive there was only minor concern.  As Saturday had progressed a storm of sleet and snow had developed and had become a gale overnight, causing widespread damage.  In Waterford it was presumed the Formby was sheltering and would be in to port later on Sunday. She never arrived.  As the fears grew it was decided to send word to Liverpool to halt the sailing on the Coningbeg.  No telegrams could be sent however, as all the lines were down following the storm.

Having sat out the storm in Liverpool, the Coningbeg set sail for Waterford Monday 17th December at 1pm.  Oblivious to the concerns in Waterford she departed with a crew of 40 and 4 passengers. When she failed to arrive pandamonium esued.  Family, relatives, neighbours and friends gathered at the Clyde company offices for any scrap of news.  Over Christmas the vigil continued but on Thursday 27th December the company felt obliged to write to each family confirming everyones worst fears, that they could no longer hold any hopes for their loved ones return.

Of the ships no trace was reported, and although locally it was considered to be too much of a coincidence that two fine ships would both disappear within two days of each other, except there was hostile involvement. A special appeal fund was created to fundraise and provide for the seamen's families until such time as they could qualify for the Board of Trade War Loss Pension (1920 in some cases). The appeal fund was still in use in 1927.

In time the body of the Formby stewardess Annie O'Callaghan would wash ashore in Wales, the only body to be recovered apparently (or at least positively identified).  The remains of two lifeboats and a nameplate of the Formby also.  (I read a newspaper report of a nameplate of a nameplate of the Coningbeg washing up too, but could not find any evidence of it.) But it would be the publication of Ernest Hashagens war diary which would finally confirm the fate of both ships, blasted from the Irish sea without any warning, or chance to get to their lifeboats*, by the U Boat U-62.

Down the years many still held that the ships were lost in a terrific storm. But on the 75 anniversary Richard McElwee published his account of "The last voyages of the Waterford Steamers".  The book which goes into significant details into the sinkings and included excerpts from Hashagens memoirs makes for chilling reading.  But it also served to remind the public of the service these sailors gave to the city, country and the war effort of WWI. 
In remembering them, it possibly also led to the significant memorial, now situated on the quay of Waterford (above) which lists all the names (as does the link here written by a fellow Cheekpoint man) and was unveiled by the then president of Ireland Mary Robinson in February 1997. They are also remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial in London to merchant seamen, the Dunmore East memorial wall to Waterford seafarers and the more recent memorial wall in Dungarvan to those who died in WW I.  But I imagine, they are remembered no where more often than in the hearts of their own families and particularly at this time of year.

If you would like to hear the story here's a fine audio piece from the BBC on the sinkings and aftermath narrated by Julian Walton

* It should be said that each ship had a gun aboard with two Royal Navy Gunners apiece.  Had the U Boat surfaced and gave an opportunity to evacuate the ship, there was also a risk of being fired on, rammed or being outrun.  On the other hand, and perhaps more dangerously, it could have been a Q ship

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Tides'n'tales walk via Mark Power Waterford Epic Locations



I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Friday, 9 December 2016

The construction of Dunmore Pier

In 1824 Rev Richard Hopkins Ryland published The history, topography and antiquities of the County and City of Waterford.  The Dungarvan native and amateur historian had set out to challenge "the incorrect ideas and false representations of flying travellers and tourists"1.  As part of his research he visited the port of Dunmore as it was being transformed under the watchful eye of the great engineer Alexander Nimmo. What follows is his description of the construction.
Steam paddle packets Meteor and Royal Sovereign which operated
on the Dunmore service in the 1820s
Maritime Museum, Greenwich via Roger Antell 
"Nearly at the entrance of the harbour is the village of Dunmore, formerly a place of resort for fishermen, but now a delightful and fashionable watering place...Dunmore has latterly been much enlarged; it is now a post town and a station for the packets which carry the mails between England the south of Ireland. {I've written previously about the earlier Waterford service} By an act passed in the 58th year of Geo III cap.72 the limits of the harbour of Dunmore are defined to be 'from Shannoon Point otherwise called Black Nobb, to Ardnamult Point' This act also regulates the duties to be charged on vessels arriving at, or sailing from, the harbour: it also authorises the appointment of a harbour master...


The pier of Dunmore is situated on the southern shore of the bay of Waterford, where the haven joins the Atlantic Ocean.  The harbour for the packets is formed under Dunmore head by the projection of a mole, which is carried a considerable distance to the sea.  The object being to reduce the fury of the waves, which, when impelled by the south and west winds, dash against the coast with inconceivable violence, a mole, supported by an immense breakwater, was commenced from a little within the head of Dunmore.  By vast exertions, and by procuring rocks of great size, the mole was extended 800 feet into the sea, which, at the place where the breakwater is formed, is from four, five to six fathoms deep.  The mole is raised on an inclined surface between forty and fifty feet above low water mark, roofed or paved with great masses of stone, embedded in a species of mortar which becomes hard under water; the inclination is such to allow the fury of of the waves to expend itself before reaching the parapet, which surmounts the whole, at an elevation of seventy feet perpendicular above the foundation.  The pier and quay for the shipping are erected inside the mole, and present a most beautiful specimen of masonry.  This pier, or quay, is 600 feet in length: the depth of low water at the entrance is twenty five feet, and at the innermost part eighteen feet.  The greatest part of this noble quay under low water has been built by means of a diving bell, of which useful machines there are two here, on very improved principals.

Under the superintendence of skillful engineers, the workmen (untaught peasants) soon learned to move rocks with admirable dexterity: few of these were less than five or six tons weight, and some exceed ten tons.  Those immense mountain masses, torn from the solid rock, were transported with apparent ease, on inclined planes and iron railways, to the place where they were squared with the greatest exactness: they were then disposed in their places, accurately fitted and joined together without the clumsy iron bolts and bands, which are at the same time laborious and expensive...

Steam packets sail every day between Waterford and Milford and afford a cheap and expeditious conveyance: the passage is usually effected in about 9 hours.  The time occupied in conveying the mail between London and Waterford rarely exceeds eight and forty hours*.  On the arrival of the packet at Dunmore, in the evening, a well appointed mail coach is to convey the passengers to Waterford; and from thence coaches proceed to Dublin and Cork, where they arrive the following morning.

*The Cinderella, the first vessel of this description on this part of the coast, performed the passage in a little better than seven hours. She left Milford at half past nine in the morning of the 16th April, and arrived at Dunmore a quarter before five the same evening. The usual hour of arrival is between seven and eight; but it is expected that when the arrangements are completed, the packets will arrive three or four hours earlier. The packets do not leave Dunmore now until twelve o'clock at night.          [Rylands endnote]


The results of the building work described can still be appreciated today, and it's certain that the Reverend had first hand accounts with both his eyes and ears and from the engineers employed in the construction.  It was a pity he gave no mention to the construction of the lighthouse, which leads me to think he visited Dunmore a few years before the book was published.  The mails continued to arrive and depart at Dunmore until 1835.  But with the coming of steam power and the ability to bend the winds and tides to the will of the ships, the packet moved to Waterford city.

1 short biographical account via Fewer.T.N. Waterford People. A biographical Dictionary.  2004.  Ballylough Books. Waterford

The extract above was sourced from Ryland.R.H. The history, topography and antiquities of the County and City of Waterford. 1982. Welbrook Press. Kilkenny pp239-243.  Thanks to Damien McLellan for the loan of his copy.


I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Friday, 2 December 2016

Lime kilns of the harbour

A lime kiln is a structure used to break-down limestone rock using heat, into limestone powder. The kilns sites we have remaining in the harbour are based on a similar design and probably date from the mid 18th century.  Most are double kilns, ie two separate fire chambers, which assisted the burning process, as the heat from the first burn was retained by the brick and stone, which aided a more efficient burn in the next chamber.  We have two examples of the triple that I am aware of.
Double kiln at Jack Meades, 1 of 2 on the property
The kilns are sited close to water, as the limestone which was burned, was generally ferried by river.  In the Suir and Barrow, the boats used to carry the stone were termed LightersThese had a three man crew; one held the tiller and two pushed the flat bottomed craft along using poles.  The crew also loaded and unloaded the craft. 
second double at Jack Meades.  Note: appears as if it was initially
constructed as a single, and a second was added.  
An internal view of the firing chamber
A double kiln then, would have two firing chambers.  Chambers were egg shaped, with the top cut off.  The chamber was loaded with a charge initially - something flammable such as furze or very dry timber which would get the fire going.  Onto this the layers of limestone were added with an extra layer of firing material to keep the chamber burning (three to five layers of stone to one layer of firing material).  The fuel could be more timber but also used was coal slack or calum.  The fire was lit from the base through a draw hole.  As the lime was burned down by the heat in the chamber it was drawn off through these holes. 
A draw hole at the base, for lighting and controlling the fire, and
drawing off the lime powder

Double at Cheekpoint, below the lower quay
photo by Brendan Grogan
There could be more than one draw hole, which seems to have been a technique to avoid ash being mixed with the lime. It also allowed more air into the chamber.  I imagine these holes could be blocked if required to adjust the burning. The Lime was drawn off into barrels or carts for delivery to farms or homes.  

Triple at Woodstown
Lime had a variety of uses and these could include spreading on grass for fertiliser, whitewashing houses, building material, cleaning wells, used in dry toilets and probably many others.


A lime kiln at Dunmore harbour early 1900's
photo courtesy of Tommy Deegan WHG
In recent weeks I've tried to catalogue the kilns that are/were in the Gaultier area.  Starting at Jack Meades and working my way around.  This is what I could locate, with the help of the OSI Historic Maps.
Double x 2 Lime Kilns at Jack Meades, both photographed
a triple below Jack Meades pill, on private property
a single at Faithlegg, again on private property
a double at Cheekpoint, photographed
a triple at Woodstown, photographed
a single (based on the OSI maps/open to correction) at Dunmore.  Since demolished.  Photographed

Here's an interesting account/reenactment of the lime burning in action. No job for the faint hearted

I haven't sourced any others in the area.  Its surprising to find nothing in or around Passage East,, and again west of Dunmore.  Any corrections or further information gratefully received. Thanks to Brendan Grogan, Tommy Deegan, Waterford History Group and Michael Farrell of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society for assistance.

Previously, I wrote two pieces about the local kilns in the Cheekpoint area
Part I: http://russianside.blogspot.ie/2014/05/limekilns-in-cheekpoint-faithlegg-area.html
Part II: http://russianside.blogspot.ie/2014/05/limekilns-in-cheekpoint-faithlegg-area_23.html

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

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Friday, 25 November 2016

Waterford- November 1784; a Frenchmans view

The Marquis de Bombells visited Waterford in November 1784, and over a week, made some observations on the area which he probably would not have had the time for, except that he was waiting on a ship to take him away.  Similar indeed, to another foreign visitor we have met previously, Arthur Young. Marc de Bombells was a young French aristocrat who entered the diplomatic corp and would later become an emissary on behalf of his country's king, Louis XVI

accessed 24.11.16 via
http://clif.over-blog.com/article-marquis-de-bombelles-65267768.html
He arrived to Waterford on the 14th November taking, it is believed, the ferry at Grannagh.  Here he tells us it was his good fortune to take a small row boat across, the main ferry being full of pigs. The weather was atrocious and they had to nearly use violence, to prevent others boarding the ferry and I presume risk it being overloaded.

Due to the weather, no ships can sail and he becomes the guest of Lord Waterford for the next week, visiting the city and environs.  On the 19th November he received news of a potential sailing via Passage East to Swansea in the Bristol channel.  He immediately set out for the village to look over the ship.

Passage we are told is a little town covering a small beach between the river and the steep rocks which threaten the roofs of many of the houses.  It affords an excellent anchorage, and the place is populated almost entirely with customs officers.  At anchor is a kings man-o-war, and two naval cutters who he is told are constantly on station to combat smugglers.  de Bombells is less than impressed with the character of the ships captain offering him a berth to England however, and the ridiculous high price sealed the decision to remain.

On the 20th of November he drove to Ballycanvan to visit with a man we have often referred to here, Cornelius Bolton.  At the time, Bolton is laying the foundations to a fine mansion, (the now Faithlegg House Hotel) which we are told will be a good location to all the enterprises currently taking place at Cheekpoint.  During the day he calls to the village where the harbour is under construction, in anticipation of the basing of the official second mail route between Ireland and England.

The Inn which Bolton has established we are told is already profitable with an abundance of passengers in what he describes as excellent lodgings. Very much at variance to the many reviews that would be published in later years!  Mind you the Marquis didn't sleep overnight.

Later in the afternoon he visits New Geneva, for which he has as a venture, very little positive to say. I wonder did he share his opinion with Bolton, who was one of the sponsors of the scheme.  From his vantage point overlooking the harbour he espies the incoming Mail Packet, and when he later speaks to the Captain, he's assured of a next day sailing.
Accessed 25.11.16 via http://500years.royalmailgroup.com/features/
royal-mail-500-special-stamps-to-mark-500-years-of-postal-history/
At Midday on November 21st Mr Bolton drove his guest to Cheekpoint where he boarded the Mail Packet which departed in beautiful weather at 2.30pm.  There's an interesting aside in that as they approach Passage, another passenger joins the ship. Although he does not say whether the packet calls to the quay or that the lady is rowed out to the ship, I'm assuming the latter.

Further downriver he passeses under the cannon of Duncannon Fort, an old castle which, we are told, is kept by invalids.  Then the Duncannon bar, the only obstacle to the harbour; "at low tide there is only 13ft of water, but at high water any ship can pass with safety".  Whilst here another three ships of the king of England pass.

His companions are two ladies and four gentlemen, none of which it appears have good sea legs and when the ship gets becalmed in the night in the Irish sea, he is surrounded by groans and vomiting. At 6am on the 22nd, the wind gets up and later that morning they put into Milford Haven.

His writing was done as a journal of his travels and was never, apparently intended as a book at all. As such he is less guarded in what he writes and perhaps a little non PC.  If you can read French it's free via google books, and if you prefer the print version it's at amazon starting at £38.

Reflecting on de Bombelles work, it's clear that although he's opinionated, pompous and judgemental in parts the writing is very informative and instructive of Waterford at the time.  Another thought is that he has seems to have a very specific interest in recording military strengths or points of strategic importance.  I wonder if given the role of emissary included being something of a spy, was his journal as much an aid to memory in reporting the strengths or deficiencies of the English crowns forces.


This piece this morning is based on an article written in the Journal of the Waterford Archaeolgical and Historical Society, Decies #55 entitled "As others saw us: A French visitor's impression of Waterford 1784 pp17-26.  By Béatrice Payat and Donnachadh Ó Ceallacháin

Back issues of Decies is available on PDF via the Waterford City and County Libraries and also in the Waterford Room of Central Library

Here's a short you tube video of his life.  Funnily enough it's the same information repeated on several sites including the wiki link above, but at least it shows a few portraits.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

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Friday, 18 November 2016

My first season of herring fishing 1983

I’d imagine that for as long as humans have lived in the harbour of Waterford, men and women have gone to fish.  Perhaps one of the most common and dependable species was the Herring.  My first experience of the fishery was as a boy washing fish boxes and running errands for the men who salted and barreled at Cheekpoint quay.  But catching them was an altogether harder job, especially when using a driftnet, something I was first introduced to in the winter of 1983.

I set out on the Reaper that winter, with Jim and Denis Doherty.  The other boats in Cheekpoint village was Robert Fergusons Boy Alan, Dick Mason skippered the St Agnes, Ned Power had the Colleen II and Mickey Duffin skippered the Maid of the West

As the Reaper and the other Cheekpoint boats proceeded downriver, we were joined by the Passage and Ballyhack men.  I heard family names associated with the boats such as Whitty, Connors, Pepper and Bolger from Passage and from Ballyhack Foley, Roche and Myler.  Together we formed a convoy of decked and half decked motor boats of varying size and power and a multitude of colours. 
the Cheekpoint fleet from around this time
Photo courtesy of Anthony Rogers
Arriving in the lower harbour, the boats fanned out, hungrily searching the deep waters for signs of herring shoals.  Some boats were close in to the shore, beneath Loftus Hall and further down towards the Hook. Others stretched as far as Creaden Head.  Boats took various courses, and many zig zagged amongst each other, keen to “mark” a herring shoal on the fish finder and establish a pattern of where to “shoot” the nets.  Dunmore boats skippered by Paul Power, Napper Kelly and Mick Sheen would be sounding as they came across to meet us.
Herring barrels at Cheekpoint in the 1970s
Photo via Tomás Sullivan
As the gloom of the evening gathered and the sun set over the Commeraghs away to the west, the frenzy grew.  Boats were eager to set the nets in daylight, to better see where others were setting nets, and also because the herring tended to rise with the dusk and skippers felt they would miss their chance of a decent haul if they left it too late.

Many a night the shoals could not be found.  It was generally obvious from a lack of bird activity, the tell-tale signs of gulls wheeling overhead, or divers such as the majestic and gigantic gannets plunging from a hundred feet or more into the freezing seas and emerging with a beak full of silver meat.  On these nights the boats tended to be well spread out and the VHF radio was quiet. 

Other nights were different, thankfully.  The seas were alive with birds and seals.  A slick of oil, released from the herring on the sea bed, which Denis said you could smell and taste in your mouth, something I never manged to do.  The radio was buzzing with sightings and at times Jim would call us in to look at the fish finder marking a herring shoal, the extent of it mapped out on the grey blue paper as a stylus etched the fish below.

Once satisfied that the herring were abundant enough the winkie[1] was turned on and cast over, followed by the nets.  I looked after the lead rope initially, not trusted as yet with the head rope and ensuring that the cans were paid out clear of the nets and set to the correct depth[2].  Generally all the nets were set, but occasionally, Jim might heave too, concerned by the markings on the fish finder and the extent of the shoal.  When you hit the herring in large quantities a couple of nets could fill the boat, and the last thing you needed was extra work.  Once set, the nets were tied via a hauling rope to the bow of the boat we hung from them.  

This was a signal to get the tea on, and the grub bag out. The kettle was boiled on a gas stove and the tea bags were added as the kettle started to sing.  Hot and sweet, tea with a sandwich never tasted any better.  

Hauling was a tough affair when the nets were full.  Here's an interesting example from Northern Ireland.  But at least a net hauler made the work easier.  Generations of fishermen had used their bare hands.  Once ready to commence, the rope was hauled in to the gunwale and opened from the net.  Then the head and lead ropes were gathered up and placed over the hauler drum.  The hydraulics engaged and the nets were then pulled on and helped in over the side. 
Anthony Rogers photo of the Cheekpoint boats early 1980s
While Jim kept the boat up to the nets, Denis hauled the ropes and I gathered up the nets as they fell to the deck and dragged them to the stowing area.  When the catch was light this was easy enough, but on nights with a big catch, this was hard arduous work.  The netting coming in over the drum could be three feet wide and it was all I could do to help Denis and Jim at the hauler and then stagger away under the weight of the nets to stow them on the boats deck. 

Having hauled a big catch, there was always a sense of euphoria aboard. Once you had a market, it meant a decent wage that week, and in the weeks coming up to Christmas, or indeed after it, such a catch was always welcome.  As we headed home, you took a break for a time, but in truth the nights work was just beginning, the fish had to be cleared, and thereafter boxed and sold.  None of which was straightforward.

I wrote a series of accounts of the Herring fishing previously. These include

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

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[1] A flashing light that was used to mark the nets.  Battery operated it only worked in the dark, and when not in use it was unscrewed to break the connection and so keep the batteries.
[2] I was raised with drift nets, but although we used the same method for herring fishing, the nets were deeper, longer, with smaller mashes.  The other difference was that plastic cans with a fathom or two of rope was used to allow the nets sink to reach the herring.  The length required was altered as required.