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

Red Iron Recalled

Waterford Greenway has brought many benefits to the City & County, and one of them for me was the first views it gave of the Suir Railway Bridge or known in more recent times as the Red Iron located at Grannagh.  Although it might have been new to me, several generations of Waterford youth grew up around the bridge. In choosing it as the title for one of his most popular plays, Jim Nolan captured to many the essence of the bridge, a gathering point, a hangout, a safe space for teens who wanted to just be, and how can you just be, unless you are away from the eyes of adults.  But did you realise that the Red Iron was originally planned to be located much closer to the city?

The Red Iron, or Suir Railway Bridge in its heyday. Note the buoys in position below the bridge opening span in the River Suir for warping. What looks like a lighter is moving with the tide on the Waterford bank to the left. The Kilkenny bank is to the right.

Suir Railway Bridge was opened in 1906 as a means of connecting the railway line which had just opened to Rosslare and via the crossing to travel on to Cork, via Kilmacthomas, Dungarvan, Lismore, Fermoy and Mallow. Once completed the Waterford South Station became redundant to rail, and the North Station then became the city’s sole terminal.  The bridge was in regular use up to March 1967 when the last passenger train left Dungarvan for Rosslare. The line was reopened again to facilitate a magnesite ore processing plant at Ballinacourty but this closed in 1982. CIE would have run occasional maintenance locomotives on the line up to the 90s. A span was removed over the weekend of May 27-28th 1995 and dumped on the Kilkenny bank. I guess the hope of its owners was that the rest of the bridge would rust away into the river.

I had a bit to say to the camera about the Suir Bridge and its opening span to filmmaker Ben Rowland back in 2021. The program was C5’s World’s Most Scenic River Journeys. Disappointingly for me, most of what had to say went on the cutting room floor

The underused, and later abandoned bridge became a mecca for young people in Waterford City from the 1970s onwards.  And my good pal Mark Power recently shared his own personal memory of the bridge which gives a sense of its attraction and danger!

My memories of growing up in the 80s in Waterford were of adventure, curiosity, wonder, and endless fun during the long hot summers. Without a care in the world, a group of us from the same street would head off out to the Red Iron Bridge, during much simpler times, with no phones and gone for the day. We would walk or BMX our way there. It was around the time of the film “Stand by Me” 1986 and we would walk and recite the dialogue from the film on our way there. One could start a line from the film and the rest of us would finish it off.  We’d cut up left just past the dog pound where the track ran over the road. We would run, throw stones into the mud, play tig, and climb the ladder to the top of the tower in the middle to get the best views. Some even walked along the top, but only the brave would dare follow.

Although dangerous as it seems now, we did not see the danger, we just saw it as a day of having a laugh with our friends. The centre span was still intact at that point, and you could walk all the way across to the “lemonade factory”, I think it was some soft drinks store. I remember cycling across the flat part next to the track on my BMX, you needed to pay attention for that one, as you’re looking down and can see through the gaps down to the water. One of my friends tried it and ended up flying over the handlebars. He was fine after a few minutes, as we were made of rubber and invincible then, but he knew better than to try it again.

 Then there was always the threat of the infamous “Yellow Cab” coming across the bridge and catching you. I was told it was a small carriage that was used to police the track. I still don’t know if there was ever any truth to it because as many times I had been over there, I always avoided “getting caught”. I personally had never laid eyes on it, so it was most probably a made-up story, but it was real for me back then and the fear was always there. It’s funny really that “The Yellow Cab” was the only thing we were scared of, with a million and one other thing that should have killed us. In the end, we made it out alive, and it gave me and my friends memories that will last forever (you know who you are). I still bring my girls out there and tell them the stories and fun we had back in the 80s. It was our “Stand by Me”, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I really appreciate Mark sharing his memories with me. It reminded me of our own gallivanting around Cheekpoint, away for the day on the strand, the rivers, the Minaun, Hurthill or to the Barrow Railway Bridge- long wonder-filled days, adventure, some danger, and lots of laughs. But we were a long walk from the Red Iron!

Mark Power AKA the amazing videographer that is Waterford Epic Locations
Mark highlights the damage to the Red Iron at the start of his video, following a train crash on the 24th July 1945, miraculously no one died as far as I am aware

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Suir Bridge was not originally planned for Grannagh at all.  The siting and construction were actually a tortured affair. Initially, in 1890 a plan was proposed to cross a mere 1300 ft above the then road bridge in the city, Timbertoes.  However as ships would have to transit through the rail bridge also, the Commissioners, raised serious concerns about the merit of the proposal.

Effectively at the time ships had to “warp” through such bridges.  Many ships of this era still did not have engine power and so were at the mercy of wind and tide when underway.  Warping involved a sailing ship approaching a bridge at the correct time of tide – either side of high or low water was used, depending on the direction the ship was traveling.  The vessel heaved to at the opening span, and ropes were run through buoys on either side of the bridge by hobblers (local skilled boatmen).  When ready the ship manoeuvred through using the tides and the ropes to safely negotiate the bridge.

Captain Nicholas Parle of the Harbour Commissioners was to the fore in pointing out the very obvious issues with transiting sailing vessels, then without any auxiliary engine power, not through one but two opening spans.  Even with the very capable assistance of the Hobbler crews, such a manoeuvre was hardly feasible through two bridges. Moving several ships both upriver and downriver at the correct time of tide would have been impractical and probably caused bottlenecks, and most possibly involve ships having to wait for an entire tide (6hrs or 12 hrs, depending on the direction of travel) between the two bridges. 

An image of a sailing vessel being warped through Timbertoes. I realise this is an anorak special, many readers may not really care, but the skill and timing required for this were admirable, and I find it fascinating. Such a procedure is rarely photographed, but you may notice that below the bridge one of the buoys used can be seen in the river. Above the bridge a hobbler craft is at one of the upper buoys whilst another hawser is off to the right outside of the shot. Onboard the sailors were probably singing a chanty as the hauled the hawsers aboard. Another two hawsers were paid out from astern keeping the ship on course. This protected the bridge and the ships rigging and spars, yards and masts.
A close-up of the above image shows both hawsers leading away from the bow of the vessel. Hopefully, this might give some appreciation of the space required to warp just one vessel through. Perhaps it might help the reader appreciate the Harbour Commissioners concerns. Also note the yards on the three masts have been moved to assist the transit.

In 1898 the plan was revived and it seems that not one but two different rail companies had plans to cross the Suir, at much the same point as the 1890 plan.  William Friel as Engineer of the Commissioners raised similar objections about the position, but as the plan included a solid base or abutment reaching some 50 feet into the river from the Kilkenny side, Friel also raised the issue of silt deposits along the railway wharf and beyond if such an impediment were placed into the river.  If the modern reader has any doubts about this point, take a drive out to Cheekpoint at low water!  He proposed, and it was accepted, that an extra span of the bridge to reach the shore would alleviate the issue.

Another concern of the railway was the requirement of a 6ft wide footbridge to allow citizens to cross the Suir without the cost of the Timbertoes toll, it seems the rail companies avoided this expense by agreeing to a payment of £5,000 to the Corporation, which went into a fund towards the cost of buying out the toll, something which was later achieved and the end of 1907.

The Toll Gates on Timbertoes. The Bridge was finally made toll-free on the last day of December 1907

It seems that the bridge was still to go ahead in the proposed location up to 1899 when a contractor was employed to survey the area, and they realised that the ground was too soft and they would have to bore to a significant depth to reach the hard ground.  It was 1902 before an alternative location was sought, which eventually led to the siting and construction at Grannagh.  The Suir Bridge was commenced in 1904 and was ready by 1906. 

A notice published in the local papers giving notice of the new bridge

As stated previously, the last passenger train left Dungarvan in March 1967 and in March 2017 the greenway opened along the original railway line.  The opening span was removed from the Suir Bridge in 1995, and I have seen comments on social media saying it should be replaced and the bridge incorporated into the greenway infrastructure.  Watch this space, I guess. 

The removed span resting on the margains of the CIE goods yard rusting away

Two parting thoughts on the location.  Would CIE, now Iarnród Éireann have ever got away with simply removing a span out of the Suir Bridge and letting it rust into the River Suir if it was located in the town?  I hope not, it certainly would have been a much more controversial decision at the time, than it seems to have been.

But really what I am left with about the Red Iron is how fortunate that move of the location to Grannagh.  Would the Red Iron have been as nearly as relevant to so many of the youth of Waterford if it had been located as originally planned in the town?   Would Jim Nolans classic play have ever come to be? The Red Iron was a mecca because it was out of the way, removed from the glare of disapproving adults, a spot where young people could just be themselves, take risks, imagine themselves as they yearned to be, and laugh out loud without judgment.  Mark Power and his pals might be judged harshly by this generation’s more safety conscious parents, but were they at any more risk in relative terms, than a child today alone in their room glued to a smartphone? 

I drew on newspaper reportage of the era for its article, but mostly I referred to Ernie Shepherd’s excellent work on the railway line – Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbour Company.

I have a number of events planned for the coming year, please visit the Talks & Walks section of my website for details and booking. Our next event is this coming Sunday – a gentle stroll through the Faithlegg estate. If you would like to subscribe to my monthly maritime blog, please complete the details below

The Whaler’s last voyage – Boat Cove, Tramore     

I’m delighted to be able to introduce this guest blog from Eddy Deevy, a story of an old sail boat at Tramore, but also an insight into a social scene now but a memory. And yet what a great story to be preserved and retold. The story of the Seahound!

Let me tell you about her beginnings and the course of events that will lead us to embark on her last voyage. She was known as ‘the Whaler’, one of many such craft about our coast. These whaleboats were the Morris Minors of the Seven Seas, so to speak. Dating from the 17th century, these excellent seaboats were adopted by the Navy as workboats, landing craft, and also as lifeboats on larger ships.

The architect who ‘perfected’ the design was Admiral Montague. When Governor of Newfoundland he needed a coastal patrol boat to protect the fishing grounds from ‘privateers’ (pirates more or less). Many adventures were endured in these seaworthy crafts, among them Shackleton’s famous rescue voyage across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia with Tom Crean our great Antarctic survivor. At Tramore we were privileged to have had one in our harbour; Our bit of connectedness with the world of sail, which slipped away so quickly with the introduction of steam in the mid-19th century.

The Whaler

This small pier was built at what was then known as Lady Elizabeth’s Cove. The structure was intended for local needs, unsuitable for a French or Spanish landing. The fear of a foreign invasion (through the back door) caused many limitations to maritime development projects in Ireland. As a shallow onshore harbour, it endured the Atlantic swells for many years. But the storms of the 1880s had washed the walls to rubble.

Tramore Bay, on the south coast of Ireland, is open to the forces of the Atlantic Ocean across the Celtic seabed. Heaving seas have wreaked havoc and claimed many lives along this stretch of coast. Five great beacon towers were positioned on its headlands to warn away shipping after the tragic loss of 363 souls from the transport ship Sea Horse in 1816.
There were a further 55 shipwrecks in the Bay from 1816-1859 when a Lifeboat Station was built on the beach-head ; Later relocated to Long House Lane in 1899 for easier launch and recovery.

The new pier was built in 1907. This was a sturdier construction of grey limestone slabs with concrete capping. It had bollards and ladders, three sets of steps, and two slipways. Afterward, a north wall was added to block the backwash from the cliff face. Local fishermen earned a living from the bountiful sea and fed the town of Tramore through
the war years. Boating became an added attraction to those who kept ‘holiday-homes’ in this now fashionable seaside resort. A regatta was held each August which brought a large attendance from neighbouring counties. There were picnics, sports, and keenly contested swimming races, rowing, and yachting.

The popularity of local regattas in the 19th and early 20th Century is also but a memory now

Later, in our time, Tommy (‘Grumpy’ or ‘Smiles’) Murray’s boat, the Morning Star occupied the last steps, obstructing swimmers and mariners alike. There was good water here for most of the tide, protected by the storm wall against the force of the Atlantic rollers. However, the persistent gales wrecked many a craft as breakers poured over the sea wall swamping boats moored in the harbour. Smaller boats had to be “hauled up” and “chocked” beside the boathouse until the weather settled.

The Whaler was generally up here as she rarely went to sea now since misadventure had crossed her bows. Children played in her timbers and sand in the ribs told its own story. The masts had been removed since she pulled her moorings in the harbour. Yet she still looked like a formidable craft. The rounded rudder remained in place with a long baulk of a tiller and there were a couple of sturdy oars stowed inside the gunwales. Her hull was coated with thick white paint and tarry black on the inside. But the engine hadn’t been replaced after removal for winter maintenance some years previously. No one seemed to know who
owned her now since Dr. Ambrose had ‘crossed the bar’; Once a fine craft, she was registered with Lloyds of London as ‘The Seahound’.

Her story begins in Portsmouth in 1916, where she was clincher-built as a general-purpose service boat for HMRN. A full 27ft in length, with a 6ft beam. She had a dual rig, as a Gunter sloop with gaff main and jib: Or could be ketch rigged with mizzen mast, a loose-footed main, and a small jib. Well equipped from stem to stern, the Seahound had a fine anchor and chain locker. There even was a removable bracket for a Lewis machine gun!

In service, she patrolled the Waterford/Wexford Coast recording the comings and goings of shipping on the Celtic Sea. A keen watch was kept for German submarines which sank many a merchantman along these Western Approaches. After the Great War, she was presented to Dr. C. Ambrose Esq., LLD who lived at Crobally House, Tramore.

Then for many years, she sailed along the South East shores as Charles Ambrose, a keen oceanographer, carried out his own coast watch. In those days, the Seahound was generally moored in the boat-cove at Tramore and sometimes berthed in Dunmore East harbour. Always well cared-for she attracted the attention of many young men and stories are still told of voyages made out to sea and in waters beyond the home ground. At the Autumn equinox each year she would be sailed up the Rinnashark, through the Back-strand to the ‘Firs-field’ where she was taken out of the water onto rolling poles and a turn-table. Here she would rest, downside-up for wintering and maintenance. Years later her five thwarts had been reduced to four, making room for the engine, an Amanco 8 hp.

A contemporary postcard circa 1900

So it was for many years, she brought much pleasure and adventure to the locality until Dr. Ambrose’s demise. His daughter Bebe Cathleen didn’t pass the boat on to those who were caring for and maintaining it. Instead, it was her intention that the boat be used by a wider circle of young men. Sadly Danny Sage and Jack Whalley reluctantly moved on to other interests. Having been laid up for some time and then into the care of many, she suffered as most boats do. Now at 40 years old, she rested on the hard at the boat house, drying out and wasting away above the slip at Tramore pier.

The mid-1950s were quiet years. The only Celtic Tiger then was in the Esso Blue paraffin stove, yet a good time to be growing up. Boys made their own entertainment and long summer days brought their own bit of diversion. It might have been Jim Mac’s idea to take the Whaler out for a trip to the Strand and back. She was just lying there, an idle craft so to speak.

Few preparations were made as she appeared sea-worthy by her size and reputation. This expedition couldn’t be made on a fine sunny day with too many ‘visitors’ about. A darker day was chosen and the crew of six assembled on the slip at full tide. The Seahound was
heaved into position. Then down she came rolling like thunder on the running poles, a force unleashed. As an onlooker, I stood aghast in boyhood wonder as she plunged into the sea.

They all piled in and pushed off with a flaying of oars and confusion of instructions. Oliver J. soon got control of the call and brought the oar stroke into unison. The Whaler was underway leaving the North wall to port and then out through the harbour mouth. The rowers were in high spirits, as the wash from the storm wall slung her stern out to seaward. The helmsman leaned on the tiller and a course was set for the Strand. It was the intention to keep her close to the familiar cliff face in case of emergency, hugging the shoreline.

Conditions were fair with a following sea. The huge sky was puffed with clouds scuffing in from the ocean. The wind wasn’t a gale but it blew a few white horses onto their wake. Curious seagulls rode high above, watching the proceedings. Keen eyes kept a friendly look-out from the charred remains of the Coast Guard Battery on the Doneraile. Oars dug
deep as voices were low and senses alert. Tension in the air soon gave way to alarm on board as feet were getting wet. Who was meant to put the bung in? “ Has anyone got the plug? Put a sock in it quickly”. The order of the pull was lost and oar strokes became irregular. Oops, as a white horse came in over the side, more water on board. ‘Where did that come from? Progress was painfully slow now. The bailer was working full swing. The wind was backing into the southwest with a strong following sea.

The pier looking out towards Newtown Head, AH Poole – NLI

A swamped craft is an unmanageable thing at the mercy of the sea. Waves were breaking far out from the beach, much farther than anticipated. To turn her about now was unthinkable. Energy levels were draining into the bilge, awash with brine. Eyes and minds strayed to the shore.

Someone had alerted the Gardai, ( there’s always a squealer). On the strand, Guard Connolly and a group of men lined the water’s edge to encourage the whaler and crew ashore. Trousers rolled up to the knees and jackets off, they waved and called against the roar of the incoming sea. The scene was ominous as onlookers gathered. Progress depended on luck now, which ran out quickly as the whaler slung sideways to a comber, and all were thrown into the sea. The roar of the rollers drowned out all sounds of calling voices as the
the adventure turned to near disaster.

Time stood still as heads appeared and disappeared in the troughs. Thankfully, no life was lost as all were good swimmers in those days. One by one they appeared out of the surf, some wrestling with floating oars. The shore reception was angry but eased with relief
and compassion. Exhilarated with survival the crew were accompanied ashore with offers of towels before making their way homeward, exhausted and saturated yet alive to tell the tale.

It wasn’t the first time the ‘Whaler ‘had been beached at the Strand. In July 1953, there had been another misadventure in the surf, when lifeguards Malone and Molloy assisted with the rescue of a lady crew member. On that occasion, the craft had been under sail but the helmsman couldn’t gibe her about, so he ran her into the beach surf where she was rolled and capsized. After a week on the beach head, she was rowed back to the boat cove. Afterward, Reverend Wolfe censured this irresponsible outing.

Now a few years later the Whaler remained beached on the Strand for weeks afterward, her timbers so damaged she never went to sea again. Our crew, now fully recovered, were hailed as heroes and survivors of a ship-wreck, a much better outcome than the ill-fated
Seahorse of years ago. Punishment had been doled out behind closed doors and a warning read out from the pulpit by Fr. Power, sadly not enough to avert the canoe loss with all hands, just a few years later.

A tractor and trailer returned the Seahound to its place above the cove slipway where she was chocked and chained to a stanchion. There she remained a sorry-looking sight. People soon lost interest in her as she decayed into a forgotten hulk.

In modern times – Brendan Grogan collection

For the rest of us, it was back to rubber tubes and rafts in the safety of the harbour walls. Extra thrills were got by giant leaps off the storm wall down into the depths of ‘the hole’.

Ah, those were wonderful summer days in ‘Glorious Tramore’.

A fuller history of the Seahound may yet be told. This story is a recollection of around 60 years afterward. Some names have been changed to protect the ‘innocent’. I hope those who sailed in her will excuse this composition and perhaps contribute some information to expand the story of this great boat. Where did she eventually shed her timbers? Was she left there to rot along with much of our maritime heritage, uphill of the rusting old capstan
and the remains of the Guiding Star.

My thanks to Eddy Deevy for sending this delightful account for inclusion on TidesandTales. Another nugget of our maritime heritage to be preserved, enjoyed, and hopefully enhanced by others. Thanks also to Brendan Grogan for assistance with photos.

Canada Street – the Emigration Connection

Although many will associate the famine as a time of mass emigration from Ireland, the fact is tens of thousands were fleeing the country for many years prior to the catastrophic events of the 1840s. Canada Street owes its name to this era, and in this blog, I want to explore how and why this came to be, and also to look at the reality of seabourn emigration from the South East of Ireland at the time.

Despite the antiquity of Waterford City, Canada St is relatively new. According to Dan Dowlings Waterford Streets, Past & Present the street dates to 1828 when the city started to expand outwards along what had been a strategically important marsh for centuries.  This boggy ground, then known as Lombards Marsh, which was regularly flooded, had on many occasions helped to keep the city’s south, and southwest flank safe from invaders. 

The street, as it still does today, bookended William St, beyond which was more marsh and countryside. The Richards & Scale map of 1764 shows a track leading along from William St to a Sugar House at what is probably now Newpark School. The modern Park Road passes the Peoples Park, but this was only created in 1857. The 1764 map shows a route toward Newtown, but the main road of that era was via Johns Bridge, and out Johnstown.  Canada Street was constructed to connect with the Scotch Quay beside the River Suir and ran past William St to Johns Pill at the opposite end.  The Pill was realigned to create the park, and so now runs several meters from its original course, but perhaps this explains the sense of a dead end at this side of Canada St for many years.

The Park end of Canada St with William St on Rt and Park Road on left. The end of the street now opens into the Peoples Park but when constructed it met St Johns Pill

As you can imagine such a location would have seen a lot of commercial trade, especially those associated with the river and waterborne trade.   The bustling Scotch Quay, – the area was also known as Gorges Quay at times – ran from the mouth of the pill to the William St Bridge.  I suppose we could argue that this section of St Johns River is probably best described as the Scotch Pill?  Whatever about such debates, what is unquestioned is the quantity of trade associated with the area.

A screengrab from the OSI Historic Map series…note the original line of the Johns Pill is illustrated as a broken line running to the west of Canada St

At one point the most prestigious industry associated with the street was Neptune Ironworks. Neptune Cottage was located where the present Marina Hotel operates. Behind this, the Malcomsons operated the Neptune shipyard (1843 -1882)- the location for some of the finest steamships built in the world of that era. But the name of the street owes itself to another Quaker enterprise – that of the Graves family – although in this case the partnership of Watson and Graves which were operating at the time that the street was built.

The river end of Canada St, the Marina Hotel now stands where Neptune Cottage once stood.

In 1828 when the street was laid out, the quaker partnership of William Graves and a man named Watson was operating an office from the new street and also in New Ross. I can find little information about Watson, the name does not feature in any street directories that I have and it seems from a newspaper article I chanced upon from 1834 that the partnership may have dissolved in difficult circumstances. William Graves would continue to flourish, however.

An advertisement of the time

Watson and Graves was the local agent for the Canada Company then settling eastern Canada. Advertisements were posted seeking people with an agricultural background with “sober, honest and industrious habits” to settle the lands taken from native tribes ( 1 million acres alone around Lake Huron alone). Of course, much of these lands needed to be cleared for agriculture which provided another welcome cargo home on the ships.  When the emigrants were carried across the Atlantic, the holds were cleared of their temporary bunks and bedding and stuffed with lucrative shipments of Canadian timber for the return trip to Waterford.  The timber was landed close by, and in my own childhood Graves timber yard still operated from the area.

Advertisements were carried in local papers and the terms offered must have seemed mouthwatering to Irish families who were suffering so much neglect and abuse on their own native shore.

The CANADA COMPANY, desirous of settling their Territories with EMIGRANTS, of sober, honest, and industrious habits, offer the following inducements to such:—The Company will give the choice of the valuable Lands of the Province ; and, as the object of the Company is not to encourage or deal with Speculators, but to open access to their Settlements bv steady and Agricultural! Population, to Individuals, or Families, or Associations of Families of that description, the Company will afford every fair and liberal Encouragement regards Price and Terms of Payment. In order to place within the reach of poor Individuals of good Character, a Settlement, the Company will erect Houses, and grant Sums of Money, to enable such Settlers cultivate their Farms, and provide for their Families, until they can raise crops from their own Lands, by which means the Payments those Advances can neither inconvenience nor distress the Settler. The Company has entered into Contracts with the Proprietors of Steam Boats and other public Conveyances along the Lakes and River St. Lawrence, to convey their Settlers at about one-third of the Price less than others are charged, which arrangement only Twenty-two Shillings and Six Pence is charged for grown People, and Half that Sum for Children, for the passage from Montreal to York, the capital.  And Settlers going to the new Town of Goderich , on Maitland River (Lake Huron’, from Buffalo or the Welland Canal, are, during the present season, conveyed free of charge.

The Company are allowed by Government to expend £45,000 in opening Roads and other useful Public Works. The well-conducted Farmers and labourers of this Country, are now offered inducements to emigrate, which never before existed, and are within the reach of every individual who can produce satisfactory vouchers of good character from two Magistrates, and the Protestant or Roman Catholic Clergymen  of their Parish, to WATSON and GRAVES, Agents to the Canada Company for Ross and Waterford.

Waterford Chronicle – Saturday 24 May 1828; page 3

This advert appeared in numerous papers around the SE during the spring and early summer of 1828. To get a sense of the numbers travelling at the time, here’s a flavour from April 1831;

On Tuesday last the City of Waterford John Morgan, master, dropped down the river, bound for Quebec. Her ample deck was crowded by passengers their number was, we are informed, 103 adults ; 17 under fourteen years; 30 under seven- total, 150. The Ocean, Joseph Hearn, master, also departed same day for Quebec. Her passengers are stated about eighty. Several other vessels, both here and at Ross, are preparing sail for different ports of America, including Newfoundland.

The invulnerable, Frances and Mary and Little Ann, are to sail in the next few days for Newfoundland with passengers; also the Don and Argyle for Halifax—the latter has about 180 passengers on board. The Bolivar, with a large number passengers is bound for Quebec.

The Town of Ross sailed on the 30th ult., from Ross for Quebec, having on board 230 emigrants; upwards of 150 of them had their passage and provisions supplied their benevolent and humane landlord, the Hon, Butler Clake Wandesford brother to the Marquis of Ormonde

Waterford Mail – Saturday 09 April 1831; page 4

The same article also gives a sense of the dangers and human cost of such journeys, in these cases, even before they have to endure the Atlantic. For example, William McGrath died at Passage East after falling into the hold of the ship Ocean.  His wife and 8 children were aboard at the time.  An unnamed woman from Thurles in Tipperary died in a lodging house in Waterford where she was waiting with her husband and 7 children on a ship to Halifax.  Finally, a small boat overturned after leaving the quay with emigrants who were being rowed out to the ship Argyle which was at anchor in the middle of the Suir. All survived after seamen went to their rescue it was believed.

We explored the difficulties posed by cholera in this era before and the reception that awaited emigrants at Grosse Isle Quebec

Carlow Sentinel – Saturday 14th July 1832; page 1

Today Canada Street is a commercial and residential area, much like it was when it was named, but it is now firmly located within the city which has extended many miles into the countryside. As a nation working to accommodate immigration from many war-torn and economically deprived countries, and where the rise of anti-immigration sentiments are rising, it’s perhaps no harm to be reminded of our own history of having to flee.

I’d like to thank my readers for all the support in 2022 and wish you and yours a very happy, prosperous and safe 2023. If you would like to join my small but loyal mailing list, you can add your email below and get an email update on each blog published directly to your inbox.

Imagine arts – Great Westerns Wake

For this years Imagine Arts festival I am doing two talks – both in Jordans on the Quay and both on the theme of Waterford Maritime History.

The first is “In the Great Westerns Wake” – a reminisce of the ship that traded from the early 1930s to the mid-1960s from the Adelphi Wharf and which is synonymous with the city, trade, and emigration. This informal talk is delivered without any visual aids and is based on excerpts of stories I was told and some historical snippets. It takes place on Tuesday 25th October at 1 pm. Free entry. More details here

An appropriate view of the ship given the title of my talk I think

The second is my welcome return (speaking for myself here obviously) to the Booze Blaas and Banter on Saturday 29th October. The early morning hootenanny is described as a homage to the bonhomie and craic that were the early hours Dockers Taverns of yore where dockers gathered to ” clear the wrinkles outa their nuts” Sponsored by Waterford Council of Trade Unions, this year has another great lineup of speakers, poets, and songsters, always a magical morning. More details are here.

And these are just two events that feature yours truly, there’s also a fantastic lineup of other heritage events to choose from, have a browse.