The SS Alfred D Snow and Cheekpoint Green

When I was a child I used to come to the cottage on the Green on Sundays, long weekends and summer holidays.  It was my Grandparents, Tommy and May White’s house and it was always full of cousins, aunts and uncles and lots of gatherings and parties were held there.  Grandad had bought it in the 1950’s from “Billy the Green” Doherty who had reared a large family in the house.

The summers were the best because you got to play all day on the Green and be with your friends from morning til night.  The village was always busy in the summer months too with fishermen on the quay, coming and going from fishing, mending nets, checking boats.  There were always visitors on holidays and people coming to Mac’s for food.

When the cottage was full with cousins Nanny would make up extra beds in the sitting room and we would all pile in.  In the mornings the jackdaws in the big open fireplace would waken us with their squawking and flapping wings. 

My favourite place to sleep though, was in the small back bedroom. We were told this was an old ships cabin from a ship that had been wrecked in the harbour many years before.  This room had a low wooden ceiling with some iron rivets across it in places.  There was a small skylight which was then closed in place but could have been opened in the past to allow fresh, if salty air into the cabin on a ship that crossed the Atlantic for her trade.  It was a cosy room and often too hot on a warm summer evening.  It was only years later that I learned that the cabin came from an American ship called the Alfred D Snow.

The Alfred D Snow was a three masted fully rigged all timber ship which was built in the Samuel Watts shipbuilding yard in Maine USA.  She was 232 feet long with a beam of 42 feet and was built in 1877. 

image courtesy of Andrew Kelly

She left San Francisco on Aug 30th 1887 bound for Liverpool with a cargo of wheat under Captain William J Wiley.  She had fair weather on the trip, including the rounding of Cape Horn but as she came up towards the Irish Sea a south east gale blew up and the captain found that evasive measures were required.  The crew battled bravely but the storm grew in force and they were forced to call into Waterford Estuary to try find some shelter.  Sails were dropped, leaving her without much helm and they tried to inch the ship in under the hook peninsula that would have given them some shelter.  However the ship struck the sand close to Broomhill and got stuck fast.  Heeling over, the waves crashing over, the ships boats were launched with some difficulty and one managed to make it away but it was swamped and all aboard were drowned.  The others took to the rigging in the hopes of salvation.

On land the people were helpless to give direct assistance.  The Dunmore East lifeboat was called but didn’t respond until much later, which was a matter of controversy at the time.  The tug Dauntless did try to respond.  She was sheltering at Passage East but as she approached one of her paddles broke and she drifted helplessly away back up the harbour.  As the gale continued to roar and the seas continued to pound, the ship started to break up and the remaining crew were washed away and they too were drowned. 

In total all 29 crew men died.  Mostly American but also men from England, France, Germany, Norway and Russia.  There was an Irish crew man named Michael O Sullivan but I haven’t found out where he came from.  However in researching this piece I did learn that there was a survivor; the ships dog, a sheepdog, managed to swim to shore and climbed up the rocks to safety.

During the days that followed the Captains body was recovered and was shipped home for burial in a lead lined, brandy filled casket, (I wonder did he like a drink?).  Other crew men were interred in Ballyhack, but most were never found.  Pieces of the wreck floated in all along the harbour.  These were secured by the Coastguard apparently and were auctioned off.  That’s one possibility for how it arrived in Cheekpoint.

A model with the cabin behind the foremast
image courtesy of Andrew Kelly

Locally, it is said that it came to Cheekpoint quay and using rollers was brought up the village and the backroad and then down behind the cottage and put in place.  The Boreen wasn’t wide enough apparently.  It remained as it was until a few years back when my cousin renovated the house, so that in total the shipwrights at Samuel Watts yard created a cabin that lasted over 130 years.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to sleep in the cabin, but I don’t know if I would have slept so soundly had I known the whole history of the ship at that time.

Deena Bible 23/8/2014
Piece first read at the Heritage Week event in Reading Room Cheekpoint

With thanks to Andrew Kelly for further information.
John Power – A Maritime History of County Wexford Vol 1(2011)

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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Cheekpoint and the Three Sisters – The influence of the river on the community

The Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project will host a social evening in the Reading Room Cheekpoint on Saturday 23rd Aug 2014 at 7.30 – 10pm.  The event has a charge of €5 but senior citizens and children are free. Funds raised will go towards the running costs of the Reading Room.

Each year since 2005 the Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project has contributed an event to the annual Heritage week celebration.  The week focus’s attention on our country’s rich and varied heritage.  The first year we participated was to stage an event as part of the Ireland Newfoundland exchange and included the now infamous Prong race which can be viewed via you tube.

Subsequently we did static displays of fishing practices, presentations about the fishery including a history of artisanal fishing practices, a presentation on weirs and the origins, a number of guided walks around the village and strand and last year we delivered 10 symbols of our fishing heritage to our biggest group of attendees yet.

This year is again something very different.  We will host a social night in the Reading Room to which anyone with a song, poem or story about the fishery or our maritime past is welcome to contribute.  It will be an informal setting but will include a cup of tea and plenty of entertainment.

A number of people have generously offered to come along on the night and contribute something already.  To whet the appetite here’s a synopsis of what you can expect –


Music with a watery theme will be provided by a number including; Dylan Bible and Brendan Martin,  Tom Mullane, and Members of Passage East Community Choir

We have a wide variety of poems from the village and William Doherty as agreed to come along and recite one of the more popular – The Schooner BI

Waterford historian James Doherty – will tell of the remarkable WWII life of Patrick Hanlon who was sailing with the Merchant Marine and was a prisoner aboard the pride of the German fleet the Admiral Graf Spee.

Ray McGrath, who is working on a place names of the River project will present some of the outcomes, and possibly seek some further assistance, names such as the Lady’s Rock, Glassy’s Dock, Walsh’s mud, Sullivan’s quay and the White Stone are sure to feature

Eamon Duffin’s most recent work has been published with the Tramore writers group .  This is the second collection with the group and Eamon has been published elsewhere.  His writing includes our fishing heritage and captures the uniqueness of it beautifully.  Eamon will do some self selected readings on the night. 

Sean Doherty will look at the Weirs in the three rivers and talk about the use’s and the heritage attached to them.
Deena Bible will remember her summers on Cheekpoint Green as a child and her sleeping place when she stayed there – the salvaged cabin of a 19th Century sailing ship
We will also do a 5 minute slide show of the senior citizen Christmas dinners of the 1980’s and possibly a piece from RTE’s nationwide about prongs and punts which was broadcast in 2006.
For myself, I will do a piece about my father, who received an award with others from his crew, who rescued 6 sailors from the SS Bannprince from the river Mersey in the winter of 1955

Needless to say pieces from others in the community on the night will be encouraged / welcomed.  But if you just want to come along and enjoy the contributions of others you will be most welcome
Hope to see you there on the night

Saturday 23rd August 2014, 7.30pm Reading Room, Cheekpoint.


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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Water water everywhere…

Politicians in Ireland are currently at each others throats
on the matter of water
charges
.  Whatever your political
views, which probably lie on or between two polar opposites – that water is a
human right and should be provided free out of existing taxes, to water should be privatised and
turned into a commodity – my philosophical view is that water is a valuable resource
which should be cherished.

My grandmother,
Nanny, thought me a lot about valuing water, or as she put it “sparing”
it.  She would pour water from the tap
into a plastic basin which sat in her Belfast sink in the kitchen every
morning.  Very often the water would
rinse an egg from under a chicken before it was boiled for breakfast, do several rinses of dishes during the day
and her to wash her hands as required.  It might be
topped up with water being drained from steamed spuds or veg.  Usually it was early evening or night time
before the basin water was thrown out, but never discarded.  No, it went on plants in pots, a shrub in the
garden or maybe to wash the steps. 

We often chided her about it, but of course to her it was
just a habit.  Nanny would tell us about
walking as child to the wells to draw water. 
It was the child’s job and was done as soon as they were strong enough.  It was a daily chore, seven days a week
and had to be done even before she would go to school in the morning and on her return.  It was also a
woman’s job, as her brothers would have been fishing as soon as they could pull
an oar.

Spring well at Barn Quay
The
closest well in the Russianside was on the strand between Morans Poles and
Whelans Road.  This was 200 yards away
and was a steep climb up to the house with the filled pails, one in each
hand.  Sometimes this was tainted with
seawater following a flood or a storm. 
She would need to wait then for her father and the neighbours to remove
the seaweed and flotsam, pour lime into it to cleanse it and then give it a few days to
settle.  While waiting she would need to
walk to Ryans Quay a further 300 yards to the nest nearest well.

She was born in 1919 and it was not until the early 1950’s
that the council constructed the new house and provided the luxury of a tap
outside.  In the 1960s, Chris Sullivan
(who did all the odd jobs around when he wasn’t fishing) put a new tap and
Belfast sink into her back kitchen.  But
although the water flowed her old habits remained.

The other water source she valued was the water barrel.  She had one at the front and back, placed
under the down pipe of the gutters and she often used it to wash, saying her
hair was always softer after the rainwater. 
She also vowed that it was much better for watering plants.

One of the wells that still is in use is the well pictured above at the Barn Quay.  We often drink from it and to my mind it tastes delicious.  The Teen’s told me that Jenny O’Brien recently did a science project for school in water analysis and used the water from the well which emerges out of the cliff face where once there was a Slate quarry.  Apparently the water was pure and free of any pollution.

The other wells that I can recall; one in the high street
under Margaret and Des O’Keffee’s , one in the basement of Daisybank House, one in the Rookery, one in the Marsh under
Mahon’s (now Ray McGraths), three in
Coolbunnia; by Ned Powers  as you head up
the Hurthill, below Everetts (where Malachy & Michelle Doherty now live)
and at “Maggie Mooncoins” below my brother Robert’s.  The nicest well water I remember was at Larry
Cassins on the Old Road.  As children we
often stopped with my mother to slake our thirst.  He would come out with some mugs and
distribute them round to us as my mother filled them from an earthenware jug
that was always available. I have no doubt but there were many others.

Water Pump on the Green, Cheekpoint

I’m not sure when the
water pumps were added to the village landscape, but there were two.  The first is still in place on the village
green and was in use into the 1980s. Pat Murphy of the Green told me it was
there before his family arrived in the 1940’s. 
It’s still a beautiful feature but if memory serves it was painted green when I was a child.  The other was at the cross roads, between the
present shop and my Uncle Sonny’s house. 
It was removed by the council in the early 1990’s. 

According to a recent piece I read in the Irish Independent by Damien Corless (09/08/14), wells were built across the country following the discovery by John Snow in London, that Cholera was spread by dirty water.  The discovery in 1854, led to a building boom of parish pumps across the UK including Ireland – which had been ravaged by cholera at the end of the famine period.  Perhaps the Cheekpoint pumps date from that period. 

Some recent maps I’ve seen would tend to support this view.  Looking on the OSI site at their historic maps of Ireland I learned that some of the first maps produced of the area, Historic 6″ map doesn’t show the well on the green, these were drawn between 1829-41.  However, it is shown on the Historic 25″ maps which were dated 1897-1913.  So at least we can see for certain that it dates from 1913, and most probably earlier.

De La Salle scouts having a drink at the well on Green 1969
photo courtesy of Brendan Grogan

Pat Moran remembers walking up the Mount to a
tap on the road by Josephine Elliots, so perhaps the council were supplying water in other
areas using a similar method.  Pat was a child at the time so it would have been in the mid to late 1950’s. His story got me thinking about a tap at Joanie Hanlons (where Charlie and Paul Hanlon now live) which was inside her hedge but away from the house.  I always wondered why it would not have been placed on her house wall.  Maybe it served the Russianside in a similar way.

Nanny’s habit of water conservation was learned at an early age, and her valuing
of water lasted her lifetime.  It was
something to be spared and used with consideration.  There’s a lesson there for us all whatever
our political outlook.  And in the future
it could save us a lot of money.

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:  

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The Irish Folklore commission’s visit to Faithlegg National School 1937

In 1937, the Irish Folklore Commission visited Faithlegg National School, then situated on the Old Road.  They asked pupils in the boys class to go home and interview their relatives or elderly neighbours and to write down the stories about the village or area they came from.  The boys stories, written in their own hand can be viewed online at the following link.  The girls participated also, but separately from the boys, (in those days they were in different rooms)  which can be viewed here.

Faithlegg School House on the Old Road closed 1961

One of the  boys who participated was Martin Mahon.  Martin was a gentle soul who as long as I could remember lived in the Rookery, Cheekpoint.  He wrote about Occupations in the village and stated that he wanted to follow his father into the fishing trade.  This he did as well as going to sea.  Martin liked nothing better than a pint, a smoke and telling a few yarns. 

Martin and Bridgid Power stepping it out at a Dinner Dance 1980’s
Photo courtesy of Bridgid Power

Martin  never married and died on October 8th 1999. He is buried at the top of Faithlegg Graveyard.  The following is what he had to write about the fishing.

“25th Sept 1937

Faithlegg National School (Boys)
Occupations

Pupil: Martin Mahon
Salmon Fishing.

Salmon Fishing is very common here in Cheekpoint.  Most of the men are fishing salmon.  My father is a fisherman, and I hope to be
one also.  The men sometimes make their
own nets but most of them buy them now. 
The salmon season opens in February and ends on the fifteenth of
August. 

The fishermen have to get a license to fish for salmon.  Before the season opens they get their nets
ready.  The first thing they have to do
is to oil the nets and put them out to dry. 
When the nets are dry they get some rope and rope them with twine.  Before they rope the nets to put corks on the
rope about a fathom apart.  When the nets
are roped they put some leads on them and then they are ready for fishing.

The fishermen fish in all weathers and in the night
sometimes.  Every day during the season
Mr Power and Mr Doherty go to town with any fish the fishermen catch.  The fishermen say that when the wind is to
the south is the best time to get fish over on the bank when the tide is coming
in.  When a fish goes into the nets the
fishermen leave go the end of the nets and pull to where the fish is lashing
and getting the gaff ready catch the part of the nets where the fish is and
sticking the gaff in the fish they pull him in and kill him. 

There are four or five places where the fishermen have to
wait for their turn to set their nets. 
One place is “The Rock” and another is Buttermilk Castle.  There are two boundaries and if they go
outside them they will be summoned.  One
is from Duncannon Head to Drumdowney point and if you were seen outside that
boundary you would be summoned. The fishermen also say that when the water is
clear it’s not a good time to get a salmon, because the fish can see the nets
and turn away or swim out around them.”

How much life and the Salmon fishing has changed in that time.  Driftnetting for Salmon was suspended in Ireland in 2006.  It has yet to re-open.

Many thanks to Jim Doherty for passing on this story originally to me, and to Catherine Connolly who posted the links to both accounts on the Cheekpoint Coolbunnia/Faithlegg Facebook page.

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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and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  

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Launching the punts

As a child in Cheekpoint there were various rhythms to the
year.  One was a boring repetitive one-
school.  There were others however, which were much more pleasant and one of the more interesting
and natural was the fishery.

I mentioned before the way of the tides and the fishing.  But around the fishing there was
also a natural cycle with the boats; from half deckers, prongs and punts.  For now I’d like to concentrate on the punts.

In those days they were made of timber,
generally larch planks over oak frames. 
Following the long spring and summer of the salmon fishing and eel
fishing boats were heavy with absorbed water into the planks and needing some repair. 

Wear and tear on punts could have been simple or more complicated including; damaged keel bands (a band of
metal that protected the keel) could be loose or broken following a
season of beaching on gravel or stone.,
natural wear on timber from weather, damage to gunwales from hauling nets or ropes, faded paint work and repairs such as few gaps in planks where caulking would have fallen out or rotted to having to replace timbers or planks, knees, thwarts etc.

Boats were generally hauled out on some of the high tides
such as the equinox springs in late September. 
These tended to be a community event, groups of men (and boys) gathering
to help to drag up the punts from high water and onto the shoreline.  Once up, they would be turned over,
keel side up and the gunwales raised off the ground with rocks under them to
allow the wind blow under and dry them out.

Turning over a punt at Moran’s poles. Photo: Hannah Doherty

In the village the Green was the favourite spot to
overwinter.  The Rookery quay would also
have a few boats.  Moran’s poles was a
favourite of Paddy & Pat Moran, Paddy, Christy and Johnny Doherty and
Maurice Doherty too.  Further along
towards Whelan’s Road Charlie Duffin kept his boat and in the next spot Jim
Duffin.  Ned “Garragier” Power kept his
punt and prong down under the house on the strand.

Over the winter, the barnacles and green moss that would
have grown on the boats bottom during the heat of the summer would have died
back.  At some stage these would be scrapped off and washed down. 
Some preferred to do it soon after, others not until they were readying
the hull in the spring.  There was always
someone down at the boats tinkering away at something.  As children we loved to come across the men
working on the boats.  There was always a
yarn, maybe a few bob for running an errand or an opportunity to learn some
particular skill. 

work in progress. Photo: Molly Doherty

One Sunday morning I returned home from the poles and asked my
father if I could light his fag.  He
was sitting at the fire and nearly choked on his cup of tea.  Anyway I
persisted and he said “go on so”.  So I
took the fag in my mouth struck the match on the box and cupped me hand around
the flame.  Bending down I puffed hard
and came up with the fag lit to perfection. 
Amazed, he asked me “Where did you learn that” – “Paddy Doherty just
showed me” I said, beaming with pride, “He said any man that fishes needs to
know how to light a fag when out in a gale”. 
“Well, you’re on your way so” said my father as he snatched it out of my fingers


Before the boat was turned it would need to be coated with a
mixture of tar and pitch to seal the hull. 
Any caulking that had come undone would be replaced prior to this.  Manys the time the tar and pitch we used came
from Johnny Hearne’s on the quay, but people had many sources, and I remember it said that the best you could get was from the Harbour Board. 

launching from Moran’s poles 1990’s.  Photo: Deena Bible

This would be melted down in a pot or an old paint can over
an open fire and you had to be careful that the tar didn’t boil too hot or it
could catch fire.  The brush used would
have to be a good one, or it would fall apart in the heat.  The same pot and brush tended to be used from
year to year.  Once the hull was tarred
it would be left to dry and then turned over to expose the inside.

Then this too would be tarred and finally the gunwales and
strikes would be painted inside and out. 
Each boat had her own traditional colours and a lot of care was
generally paid to ensure that the upper paint work looked well. 

Blessing of a punt at the Green Cheekpoint c1964

Once all was in order, it was time to launch.  This tended to be done a few weeks before the
new season started as boats needed time to swell in the water and close up
after the planks had dried out and most probably shrunk.  Again it was a big event and most boats would
go out together to save on time.

modern day launching
Sat 26th July 2014

Repairs these days take place with power tools, hence boats tend to come
out on a trailer and be towed home to a shed and a nearby power source.  It’s also a fact that most boats these days
are fibreglass or are timber boats that have a fiberglass coating.  Hence the traditions described above have either died out or are significantly altered and reduced, which when you think about it, is a big loss to a local tradition.

Thanks to Tomás Sullivan for suggesting the topic of this blog.

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