The Duncannon Lighthouses

A guest Blog by Pete Goulding. Last month I mentioned in the story about 1790 navigation into Waterford that my good blogging buddy Pete was working on a story of the lighthouses at Duncannon. It’s one of those stories I always wanted to tell, but let’s face it, when it comes to lighthouses Pete’s the man, certainly in an Irish context. So over to Mr Irish Lightouses!

Reposing in the shadow of Hook Head (not literally, except during very peculiar astronomical events), the lights of Duncannon Fort might not enjoy the limelight of its illustrious neighbour but it has an interesting history nonetheless.

The Lighthouse at Duncannon Fort. Commissioners of Irish Lights

The problem for shipping bound for Waterford in the 1700s was that, having breathed a huge sigh of relief on rounding Hook Head, they then got caught out by a nasty bar just south of Duncannon Fort. Not the sort that sells frothy pints and stale pies, but a sand bar, lying from one shore of the Suir to the other. A French visitor in 1784 wrote that it was the only natural obstacle to the harbour, with a draft of only 13 feet at low tide. Sayer’s Sailing Directions (1790) – the full title is the length of a short story in itself – clarifies this by saying that the thirteen feet only applies to low tides when accompanied by a northerly wind. The only feasible crossing place for this bar was on the Wexford side of the river at a place only 600 feet (a cable length) wide.

The narrow channel off Duncannon Fort is clearly shown here from Sayers Chart (1787)

The above-mentioned publication also gives two methods of crossing the bar in 1790. One was to line up Newtown’s Trees and Hogan’s House, which must have had many a foreign sea-captain scratching his head. The other was to keep the two lights in line.

The Lighthouse Digest[1] suggests a date of 1774 for the foundation of a light station in the fort, as does a handwritten note in a 1930s Commissioners of Irish Lights ledger. Certainly, the lights were there by 1790, as per Sayer’s above. However, a Notice to Mariners[2] for 1791 states that “a new lighthouse” would be established on 29th September of that year. The two lights, one above the other, would shine like “two stars of full magnitude” and, when the fort was passed, only one light would show.

This would seem to indicate that the 1791 lighthouse, with its two lights, one above the other, superseded an older arrangement, maybe a light from a fort window or flat roof lined up to a perch on the coast, probably coal fires. The 1791 light was, almost definitely, the first of its kind in Ireland, with its two lights in one tower. The lights incidentally were white and fixed and powered by three Argand lamps. They could be seen for 8¼ miles. The tower was 25 feet tall and the top light sat 53 feet above high water.

Duncannon Fort Light – Pete Goulding Collection

The notion of having a lighthouse in a military installation was not new, however. The first light at what became the site of Charlesfort on the approach to Kinsale was at Barry Og’s castle in 1665. When the castle was destroyed, the light shone from a window in the newly built Charles Fort. Similarly, Rosslare Fort at the entrance to Wexford harbour also had a lighthouse. Not only did this move safeguard the lighthouse from vandalism by forces who saw the harvest of shipwrecks as a God-given right, but the Commissioners of Barracks were made responsible for lighting Ireland’s shores from 1767 to 1796. As such, they killed two seagulls with one cannonball.

Funding for the light was not straightforward. An allowance was given to the Lighthouse Superintendent Samuel Newport but he had to convene a hurried meeting with the Waterford merchants and shipowners in 1793 as the money was practically gone!

Duncannon Fort was one of fourteen coastal lights that were handed over to the Ballast Board (the precursor of Irish Lights) when that body was charged with lighting our shores in 1810. According to Engineer John Swan Sloane (writing in 1880) the cost of repairing, converting and upgrading the light at the time was £845 10s 6d[3].

By 1832, the lights were paying their own way, costing £83 for maintenance and salary per year, and taking in £308 in light dues, out-performing all other harbour lights, except Poolbeg, and indeed many sea lights such as Loop Head and Clare Island.

Duncannon North Lighthouse. Commissioners of Irish Lights

In the 1830s, a new light was erected at Duncannon North (Blackhead), though one suspects this had more to do with the situation at Roches Point at the mouth of Cork Harbour. Basically, it was decided the small light there was too insignificant for such an important headland, so they decided to build a new one and move the old lighthouse somewhere else. Duncannon North came to mind and so the new light, half a mile to the north of the Fort, was established on 1st June 1838., after being transported from Cork in two boats.

North Light – Pete Goulding collection

Because of this, the top light at the Fort became the front leading light, with Duncannon North as the rear leading light. The lower light at the Fort became a tide light, only showing at half-tide or less.

In 1859, the light was classed as a 3rd order catoptric lens, using prisms to concentrate the light. A red light was added in 1882.

Unfortunately, none of the names of any of those early keepers, who came to light the light, have come to light. During a Trinity House inspection cruise in 1859, though, it was reported that the keeper at the time succeeded his father in the job. As he was not required during the hours of daylight, his pay was only £21 per year, compared to his counterpart at Duncannon North, who raked in £46 per year.

The first name I could find for a lightkeeper at Duncannon Fort was one John Redmond who served there as Attendant Keeper in 1871. Through the years, the two Duncannon lights, with others such as Donaghadee, Dungarvan and Broadhaven, were regarded as handy numbers. Not for them the isolation of the rock stations, the relief in mountainous seas and the life without medicine or religion. As such, it was often regarded as a nice, pre-pension station, a reward for those who had spent their years battling the elements of inhospitable cliff faces.

North Light upclose. Pete Goulding collection

The further complication of having two keepers in Duncannon, each managing one of the lights, means that very often we do not know who was at the Fort and who was at the North light. Maybe when, or should I say if, Irish Lights ever get around to publishing their archives, we should get a better idea. But until then, there’s a lot of either / ors. (Post Publication edit: see comment from Attendant keeper Martin Kennedy below)

For example, George Brownell, 58-year-old keeper at Balbriggan, county Dublin, states on the 1901 census that he was born at Duncannon, county Wexford. His father, Michael, was a keeper and so was likely the keeper at one of the two lights when George was born in 1841.

Similarly, a newspaper report from 1881 reports that one of the keepers, Hugh Duggan, fell down the stairs of his house and was killed. The other keeper in town, Timothy O’Leary, was called as a witness.

My sincere thanks to Pete Goulding for this excellent reprise of the navigation around Duncannon. Pete is the lighthouse blogger at Pete’s Irish Lighthouses. And author of When the Lights Go Out – a detailed history of deaths associated with Irish lightkeepers and their families.


[1] https://www.lighthousedigest.com/Digest/database/uniquelighthouse.cfm?value=4866

[2] Freeman’s Journal 20th September 1791

[3] The Irish Builder 15th June 1880

Sailing directions to Waterford Harbour 1790

Recently I chanced upon the 1790 sailing directions into Waterford and although it’s for a different era, it offers some fascinating insights into the practicalities, the difficulties, and the practices of navigation at a time when all sailors had was their wits and intelligence. Oh, and a fair bit of good luck too.

The new and complete Channel Pilot; or Sailing Directions for navigating the British Channel on the English and French Coasts as well as on the South West and West Coasts of Ireland – Adapted to the Sayers Charts of the Channel – Oh I will stop there – that’s just part of the title of this booklet I chanced upon recently. It dates from 1790 and two details excited me about the find. Firstly I have been doing research into the practicalities of accessing Waterford in this era and the detail contained was so illuminating. Secondly, I have the Sayers chart in my files – and the details below tally perfectly with the information provided in the map.

WATERFORD HARBOUR – is spacious and safe, having a light house on the Point of Hook, on the east side of the entrance; and after dark Two Lights more, which are put up in Duncannon Fort, 6 miles up the harbour; there is a Perch besides on the point of sand near Passage. A ridge of sand stretches quite across the Channel about 1/2 mile above Credenhead [sic], which at low spring tide has 10 feet of water, at high water, spring tide, 20 feet, and at high water, neap tide, 18 feet water. The usual place to anchor is about a quarter mile above Passage nearest the W. side in 5 or 6 fathoms water.

To fall in with Waterford Harbour, coming from the Southward of the Eastward, keep Sleanaman [Slievenamon I think?] Mountain N.E.12 N. or the Great Saltee island S.S.E> till you see Hook Light House, and stand at least a cables length or two, from the E. Point, to avoid the irregular streams of tide there.

Passage Perch – and Ballyhack Church – note Arthurstown was not yet built

To sail to the anchorage at Passage; after you are past the Hook, take flood tide or a brisk leading wind, steering for Creden [sic] Head, and keeping near a cable’s length from it [ a nautical unit of measure equal to one tenth of a nautical mile or approximately 100 fathoms] from thence steer N. by N. for Duncannon Fort, keeping half a cable’s length from it; after which steer N. on the church of Ballihake [sic] which stands on an Eminence, till you see the Perch near Passage bearing on the Town of Passage; then steer past the Town for anchorage.

In steering for Duncannon Fort, avoid the sandbanks that extend from both Shores: that on the starboard side begins at Bluff Head, and extends more than half a mile from the shore, terminating at Duncannon Fort. Between the Fort and Bluff Head is Ballystraw Bay. The opposite Sand is Drumroe Bank, which extends more than a mile from the shore, narrowing the passage abreast Duncannon Fort to about a cable’s length. The thwart mark for knowing when you are in the narrowest part of the channel is when Newtown Trees and Hogan’s House are in one; the Two Lights in a line are the leading mark through it.

Here’s the thwart mark line from Sayers Chart

Three-quarters of a mile Nortward of Creden House is a Bar which runs across E.N.E. and W.S.W. a little more than a ships length over; there are only 13 feet of water on it when Northerly winds prevail, but 26 when Southerly winds. The deepest water is nearly abreast of the lights; on the bar you have from 2 1/2 to 9 fathoms water.

There is a very good anchorage two or three miles above Passage, where the stream is much weaker than at Passage. In sailing to this place, avoid a shallow spit of Sand which extends S.W. from the Point at Buttermilk Castle, about half over to the opposite side, with 9 feet of water on it. Avoid also a small bank, which lies on the S side of Cheek Point [sic] two cables lengths from the shore {Carters Patch} with only 9 feet of water on it, the least water, and half at tide 14 feet. If it is about low water keep the middle between the Points, or rather nearer Buttermilk Point, or keep in the rough stream of tide.

Such vessels as draw not above 10 or 11 feet of water may go up to the town of Waterford, where there are about two fathoms about a ship’s length from the quay. In sailing to or from the town of Waterford the safest channel is on the N. side of the Little Island {the Ford}, the other side {Kings Channel} has the deepest water, but the channel is narrow and winding and subject to eddy winds and tides.

Join me on a guided walk around Dunmore this Sunday. €10 pp pre-booking here!
I’m leading a walk along the Johns River to remember the Lightermen and their struggles on Sat Oct 7th. Cost €10pp pre-booking here!

There it concludes, but there is a few points to make for the modern reader.

One point to make clearly – The details provided are primarily for day time navigation. Day marks are the main navigation prompts for sea captains and the modern era of lighthouses, radar, and sat nav are many years in the future.

The two lights mentioned at Duncannon refer to a system for keeping to the narrow channel leading past it. Pete Goulding – our blogging buddy with a passion for Irish Lighthouses will guest blog on the system in weeks to come. Stay tuned

The thwart mark is an intriguing phrase, something I cannot find in a dictionary or any of my nautical phrasebooks. However, the image from the chart shows it clearly above. Any further clarity on this is appreciated. Update Post publication. Blog regular, D. Peter Boucher, Kt. SMOM, International Master Mariner had this update. Thwart in Old English means “from one side to another” hence our use of it for boat benches and thus I guess “thwart mark”.

The perch at Passage was a day mark, shown clearly in the chart. It did not have a light atop, so when the Spit Light was added in 1867 this radically improved navigation after darkness or in poor visibility.

The Church at Ballyhack was a perfect landmark for sailing vessels, alas, nothing of it now remains except perhaps the altar in the current graveyard on the hill.

Passage was the preferred anchorage, but Buttermilk and Cheekpoint are shown too

No mention of pilots which only became a requirement after 1816. Still disappointed that there was no mention of hobblers.

Finally, very interesting to read that the Ford Channel (sometimes referred to as the Queen’s Channel on charts) was recommended over the Kings Channel at this point. However the depth of water is an issue, as is obvious from the associated chart with a foot of water in places at low water. The need for dredging was essential to the development of the port, something only achieved once the Harbour Commissioners were established in 1816. More to come on that story next month, all going well.

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White Stone – Cheekpoint fisherman’s foul mark

A lighter in operation in New Ross

For generations of Cheekpoint fishermen, the White Stone was a foul mark to be wary of, a river-based location that was notorious for dragging nets to the bottom and causing costly damage. 

Recently I stumbled upon the back story to the foul, the cause of so much anxiety and upset to us drift netters of the past.  It arose from a dispute following the introduction of scotch weirs and the difficulties posed to traditional navigation, especially in this instance to craft using the Campile Pill.  But needless to say there were different opinions and numerous twists and turns before the White stone foul emerged!

Placenames on the river

I’m certain that my regular readers will be well aware of the relevance of place names and the important role each play in preserving the history and heritage of a locality.  In a fishing community river or coastal place names can be just as valuable but with an added significant role in fishing terms too.

Place names on the river at Cheekpoint denoted the commencement or end of drifts, marked hindrances to navigation or fishing, and useful landmarks for the location of nets, eel pots, etc.  They also marked fouls, spots notorious to fishermen, a location to be avoided, skirted around or just to show more caution.  One of the most infamous marks for the Cheekpoint men was the White Stone.  This blog looks at the origins of this foul mark, arising from some research I had conducted previously into the navigation of the Campile Pill. 

Salmon Driftnetting at Cheekpoint

When fishing salmon driftnets on the flood tide at Cheekpoint we principally concentrated our efforts along the Shelburne Bank, to the Campile Pill, and along up the “bank wall” – the embankment that held in the reclaimed marsh land at Kilmannock in Co Wexford.  The drift terminated at Great Island Power Station. 

As you proceeded up the bank wall, there was a mark in the wall, made by a piece of flat faced white rock which gave us the name White Stone.  This marked a notorious foul and as we approached the drift nets were hauled aboard, which pulled the boat away from the shore, and crews had their own preferred distance of net to retrieve.  (Later in the tide you might tighten up the foot rope, and take a chance on passing over) When a crew was satisfied, they would wait patiently for the onrushing tide, to drag the punt upriver, and once safely passed, the crew would resume the drift by setting the nets back into the shore.  Depending on the time of tide, some crews would set the entirety of the nets out at this point, others waiting until they got up to the “pailing” – a concrete fence post, before setting the remainder of the driftnets along the mud, or the wall – depending on how high the river had risen.   

A recent video highlighting the location
Salmon Fishery hearing 1864

Now the origins of the foul were reputed to be an old weir, but only recently did I actually get more details of this, arising from evidence gathered in New Ross in 1864. The hearing was part of a fishery commission established to examine fish weirs located countrywide – many of which had been established in the early 1800s as Scotch Weirs or had been adapted from the traditional Head Weirs.  I’ve written numerous accounts of the Weir Wars that resulted

Some of the placenames featured in my first book, Before the Tide Went Out.
Note the White Stone at Great Island

At New Ross, on March 10th, 1864 the Commission sat to gather evidence into the Kilmannock Weir with the three-person special commissioners in charge – Fredrick Eden, Captain W Houston RN, and W O’Conner Morris.   

From the report, it seems the only matter under examination was the impediment that the weir might cause to navigation, specifically traffic between the Pill and the River Barrow.  We learn that Mr. Knox of Kilmannock is the owner and the weir is fished by Richard Hewitson.  These men were represented by Mr. Ryland, instructed by Mr. Boyd, and called several witnesses to highlight that the weir posed no issues at all. Opposing this evidence was Mr. E Carr – representing the Nore, Barrow, and Suir Navigation Co. 

The entrance to the Pill is just below the lighthouse on the Bank Wall…we called this the Corner of the Pill

I won’t go into the opposing views that were reported, these continued for several days, though it is interesting to note that Fredrick Eden was less than enamored with the information provided stating that “…The evidence on both sides is biased and is to be taken with considerable caution.”

Legalities of the Kilmannock Weir

He summed up the legalities quite definitively, however – Basically the weir at Kilmannock was granted legal status under the fishery act of 1842 –  this was based on a lease dated 1669.  However other documents now presented had caused concern as they pointed to a different weir – in a different location, and the weir at use in 1864 was actually repositioned after the embankment was constructed, (The embankment is not shown in the first OSI map of the area {1829-1842} but is in the subsequent edition from 1914) or perhaps before in anticipation of its construction.  Therefore the weir was not strictly legal, as the older legal documents were for a weir, which was at that point either part of the embankment or covered in soil on the reclaimed marshland.   The decision made was that the weir should be removed.

Mahons Weir. Cheekpoint, Photo credit: William Doherty
Salmon Fishery hearing 1867

The weir verdict must have been appealed however as in 1867 it was again before the Salmon Fishery Commission in New Ross.  On this occasion appealing a decision to remove or alter the Kilmannock Weir was Maurice Wilson Knox of Kilmannock.  Several witnesses were called who operated lighters on the Pill to clarify that the weir was no impediment to navigation. 

An extract from Sayers chart of the harbour in 1787, no embankment and I’d imagine the weir was close to the first line on the right, where the river meets the shoreline at low water. I’m afraid no weir is shown in the location on any map or chart I have, not even in the OSI historic series. The only weir in the vicinity is a flood weir shown close to the present jetty and Kents Point.

The first witness was Matthew Power – a boatman on the Pill, working lighters for 45 years.  Power described his trade, and that they carried limestones from above Waterford and reached the Cheekpoint area (I’d imagine he means here Snow Hill or Drumdowney Point) on the ebb tide where they anchored.  On the next flood tide they crossed to Cheekpoint and (depending on the tides and weather I guess) sometimes waited on the next tide before crossing to the Pill.  They went up the Pill on the flood tide.  No detail is given of how long the journey was, but I would imagine it could be two tides – as they would be under too much pressure to make it through the New Bridge.

Power later clarified that was a tenant of Knox but that the only difficulty posed by the weir was if they were heading to the Ross River (Barrow) and even that was not a major issue.  They generally headed towards Waterford and they used a single-lug sail when the wind was right.  The weir he claimed was no impediment on this tack.

John Carroll of Horsewood (spelled Hore’s Wood in the article) was another witness who had worked the Campile River for 40 years.  When heading to New Ross, he steered a course well outside the weir, keeping a line for Kents Weir on the Great Island.  He stated it was useful on a foggy night as a landmark as there is no other light (suggesting there was a light on the weir perhaps).  He remembered boats going up inside the weir in the days before the Embankment was built but not since.   The lawyer acting on behalf of the Cotmen Mr Carr, is less than taken with their evidence however and although it is not part of the article it is obvious that Carr knows very well the issues caused by the weir for lighters depending on poles and oars to get into or out of the Pill when trying to keep to the shore heading for New Ross.

A lighter in operation in New Ross
A lighter in operation in New Ross – courtesy of Myles Courtney

Another witness is a Coastguard based at Arthurstown Daniel Jenkins.  Jenkins gave evidence about the tides and how the weir impacts these.  A fisherman Richard Power had no issue with the weir either – the ground is too steep for trawling and no great advantage there to a drift net either apparently (Cheekpoint fishermen of my generation would certainly disagree – and in the 1870s there were 90 driftnet licences in the harbour area!).  Another boatman Michael Doyle also gave evidence. 

The Commission made no decision on the day – asking for a survey of the site by the Coastguard officer, to be completed in the company of one of Mr Knox’s men, and once submitted a decision would be forthcoming! 

The White Stone
Outstanding Questions

I can’t find any detail as to how the White Stone in the wall originated. It seems to have been there from the outset of the building of the embankment. I’m also not clear as to the exact date for the removal of the weir, and I can not be sure if this was a redesigned head weir that had the wing extended to the shoreline, or some other specific design like some of the scotch weirs in the Kings Channel for example. 

Conclusion

Whatever part of the weir that was left behind when ir was removed, proved to be a considerable obstacle up to my years of salmon driftnetting.   Although we have not set a driftnet at the spot since it was banned in 2006, I daresay any of those left who remember the foul would still show it some respect if were allowed back fishing tomorrow.

As regulars will know I am deeply interested in the workings of the Lighter vessels and the lightermen, and this evidence has given me a rare glimpse into the activities of these men. The details of the journey from Grannagh to Campile although brief, give a glimpse into the lives of these men who worked in harmony with the tides in order to move their freight cargos. Patience was a virtue, they had to have a deep knowledge of the river and its tides, but they also required a lot of luck for the job to go well. I’m ever hopeful of finding other snippets of their lives as my research continues.

I’m grateful to Tommy Sullivan for letting me discuss the White Stone with him recently to clarify some points. Its been so long ago I like to check in with others to be sure I am not imagining stuff. All errors and omissions are my own needless to say.

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Tides and Tales Heritage Week 2023 events

It’s been a hectic Heritage Week 2023, in fact, my busiest yet with three seperate events.

We kicked off on Sunday 13th August with a presentation in Byrnes of Ballyhack, Co Wexford which focused on the history of Salmon fishing here in the harbour area, the boats, nets and what the fishery meant to the communities. I was invited to provide this on behalf of the Ballyhack & Arthurstown Residents Association.

A busy Arthurstown during the Salmon fishing season, photo courtesy of Liam Ryan. While below some images of Passage and Ballyhack via Brian and Eoghan Cleare

My second event was in the county library in Dungarvan on Thursday 17th August at 6.30pm. The evening was in memory of the late John Young. John was a hero of mine, one of these passionate local history champions who did so much to promote the maritime history of Dungarvan and my 40-minute talk concentrated on the book that he wrote on the subject. This was the largest audience I ever had, estimated at over 100, with standing room only.

I knew that the audience was not there to hear me as such, but rather to support the family of Johns. However, somehow I managed to rise above the nerves that threatened to choke me and, from the feedback I received after, managed to connect with the crowd. Johns’s family had decided to donate a large number of Johns books to the library to support others’ research, and among them are many titles that are now collectibles and crucial to the maritime history of Waterford including titles by the late Bill Irish, Niall O’Brien’s book on the Blackwater, the works of Eddie Bourke etc. A terrific collection, now freely available.

Me, trying to look confident, I did warm to the task though, photo courtesy of Damien Geoghegan

My final event was on home turf – a really personal project of mine – Time and Tide wait for no one. This event focused on the role of the tides in Cheekpoint in the days of the commercial fishery. I thought this fitted nicely into Water Heritage Day. A wonderful group of very enthusiastic and questioning participants came along and it made for a terrific engagement. We explored the tides and how they work, spring and neaps and how you can read the signs of these on the strand, the various fishing practices and how these harnessed the tides, the salmon drifts and how these were governed by state laws, but also laws that were more important – rules handed down within the community. Tomás Sullivan came along with his boat and took groups of four away to experience the tides from the river, and we were fortunate to have not one, but two ships pass up. Time for a well earned break now

Explaining the workings of a fishing weir – thanks to Deena for the photo
Talking neap tides but I needed to stop and discuss the roles of shipping and pilots as the MV Eemslift Ellen came up. Something I take for granted was a real wow factor for the group. An Arklow ship came up later. Photo via Alison
Tomás provided a very popular element to the talk, we’re hoping to do more like this if the weather improves, stay tuned for more info
Fish sales and my father’s conch shell, used to signal the fish buyer to stop.

Thanks to all who came along to the events this year, looking forward to next years already

Cheekpoint Quay

The oldest map I have seen of the area (1764) indicates Cheekpoint at what we know locally as the Sheag Rock close to the Mount Avenue. The present village and a quay are indicated but called Faithlegg Slip! We know that a quay was here for the Mail Packet ships from 1787.

However, in the early 1870s, a campaign was being run locally to have the quay refurbished. The reportage takes a number of angles to highlight the plight of the quay. One is that the contemporary quay is in a state of dilapidation – making the point that it was hurriedly erected at the time of the packets, that it was built on a small budget, and that it is neither safe nor fit for purpose.

The local landlord (Patrick Power at this stage) was also vocal, explaining that a refurbished and extended quay would facilitate paddle steamer connections between the village and the city, and this would be beneficial to trade, particularly from his Faithlegg estate.

It was 1883 before I found anything further. At this stage a Harbour and Piers Commissioners were sitting and looking at the needs of coastal and river villages, Cheekpoint among them. The next few paragraphs shaded blue are taken from an article in the Waterford Standard – Wednesday 14 November 1883; page 3

THE CHEEKPOINT PIER. Yesterday, eleven o’clock, Mr Blake, M.P, Major Hayes, Mr Johnston, and Major Brady sat in the County Courthouse, Waterford, to hear an application to extend the present pier at Checkpoint.

Evidence was given that there were 30 boats fishing from the village. The men fished salmon, cod and hake, extending down as far as Creaden Head using nets and long lines. They felt that the remains of the old pier were more of a hindrance to fishermen than assistance.  There was a strong suggestion that this be used as a breakwater.  There is also a “present quay” up from the old quay and this it was the preference of the witnesses that this be updated and extended.  Various locals gave testimony including Nicholas Power, John Barry, William Doherty, Ed Power (Master of Pat Powers steam yacht, James Heffernan, and Thomas Dunphy of Bellisle – which is a new name on me but he came across to Cheekpoint, so either a KK or WEX placename! 

Mr J. Wilson Downey also spoke in his capacity as a manager of the Waterford Steamship Company. He regarded the want of a suitable pier Cheekpoint—one that the paddle steamer could call at—as a very great inconvenience not only to the fisherman but the inhabitants of the district. There was great difficulty and much danger in getting goods on board the steamer which was done by means of boats going out to meet her. The steamer took animals, goods, fish, and passengers to Waterford.

The landlord Pat Power also spoke in support of the views expressed by the fishermen .  He also stated that if the commissioners recommended an expenditure of £2,500 towards the repair and extension of the pier, he would contribute £7OO, or a fourth of the amount. The evidence must have been convincing and it was recommended that the work be surveyed.

Wexford and Kilkenny Express – Saturday 24 May 1884; page 4
Wexford and Kilkenny Express – Saturday 26 March 1887; page 4
the fees associated with shipping from Cheekpoint in 1892 – image courtesy of Waterford County Archive
I believe this image of the quay is circa 1900, its very similar to how it looked in my youth, except for the concrete surface that was later added.
A wet February morning in the 1930s for the blessing of the boats…the surface here is hard to determine, but I am guessing cobbled stone with some filling added
An image from the early 70s before the concrete was poured. Photo was given to me by Tomás Sullivan originally but I don’t recall the source. Shows Bill dips Doherty in his Sunday best on the quay, I think its my uncle John is behind him on the boat

As a child in the 1970s, I remember the new look of the surface of the quay, which had been concreted and had tar poured between the concrete sections to allow it to expand and contract.

A few years back the end of the quay was shuttered and strengthened as there was a risk it would collapse. One theory was that dredging work may have undermined whatever foundation it was built on. It was also raised by at least a foot at that time, but the remainder of the quay was left as was.

Last year – 2022 perhaps the most significant addition to the structure was made when a new pontoon was added.

Tommy Sullivan cuts the ribbon on the new pontoon. Photo Tomás Sullivan

In May of 2023, a notice went up explaining that the quay would now be closed and asked that boats be removed from beside it in the dock to allow works to proceed. Below are some early morning images I took of the work as it proceeded. Essentially the inside wall was pointed, the quay drilled and thousands of tonnes of concrete poured in to make the structure solid, and then the surface was raised. New railings were added, the storm wall was raised, and new ladders and mooring bollards were added. Photos below.