Christy’s weir drama

There is a yarn I was told years ago about a quiet, unassuming man named Christy Doherty (RIP) that speaks to me of the fishermen of Cheekpoint. It concerned an incident at a fishing weir located just below the village close to the Mount Quay and Sheag Rock. The story went that Christy rowed down to the Sheag Weir one winter’s morning to haul the net on the low water. It was “black dark” as they say and as Christy hauled down the “gob rope” to the cod end a squall came on, blowing hard from the North West, by far the worst wind you could get at that particular weir. In the space of a minute the squall rose to a hurricane and the punt sank beneath him. All Christy could do was jump onto the top of the net and claw his way, hand over hand towards the weir. On getting to the mouth of the net, he managed to scale the poles and finally reaching the head (or top) of the weir, he collapsed in exhaustion.
The wind had died away, just as quickly as it arose leaving it a cold dark morning. The tide was turning flood, the punt was gone, and Christy would have to await a passing punt or to hail someone on the shore. He found his cigarettes and matches, which had somehow managed to stay dry and curling himself up to cold, he lit one and settled down to await a rescue.
The Sheag Weir, 1960’s I’d imagine.
Photo courtesy of Sean Doherty

Around dawn, the village started to come alive and it was realised that Christy was missing.  A punt set off immediately and coming on the Sheag Weir they hailed Christy and asked was he ok.  “Just in time lads” was his reply.  Fearing the worst, they asked was he hurt.  “No” came the reply, “but I’m on me last cigarette”

The story epitomises the men of the village of Cheekpoint in the past. No nonsense, hard working, resilient and very accepting. Christy could have died that morning for nothing more than a few flats, herring or a cod or two. But it would have made a meal that day or bought/bartered milk or butter. I was warned not to repeat it, probably because such stories would embarrass the man. And despite the fact that as an adult Christy would fill with me stories of paddle steamers, herring fishing, and regattas, I bit my tongue and respected his privacy.

The oldest image I know of a Head Weir.  Duncannon circa 1685 from a sketch by Thomas Philips
With thanks to J Murphy. (original held by NLI)
This year for Heritage week I’m doing a presentation and workshop on the weirs of the harbour. The event is held in Ormond Castle at the invitation of the Office of Public Works. The plan is to provide an overview of the weir history, the technique, their uses with a specific mention about the old eel traps made by the Shanahans of Carrick (including a replica of the trap). I will then look at the introduction of the Salmon weirs, or Scotch Weirs and the social unrest they caused which has been referred to in recent years as the Weir Wars between the fishing families on the Suir and Barrow extending as far as Carrick and New Ross. Finally I will do a re-enactment of the build technique of the weir, and specifically how the upright poles were driven. You can book a free place here.
I realise fishing isn’t everyone’s interest, but there are literally hundreds of events on over the course of heritage week.  Here’s a link to all things maritime.
Only a selection of Whats on in Waterford via Tracey McEnaney

Other local events include our resident local Geologist Bill Sheppard. His walks are called a

GEOLOGIST’S EYE VIEW OF SOUTHEAST IRELAND
18 August, 3pm – 5pm
23 August, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Meet at Faithlegg School, near Cheekpoint, Northeast Waterford
The event will be a walk to overview the landscape and examine some outcropping rocks. A selection of insights into the history of our every-changing earth will be revealed. Expect a surprise or two from this geologist’s eye view. Good footwear recommended. The paths and coastal walks have reasonable surfaces and gradients. They cover an elevation range of 150m. Confirm your place on washere@indigo.ie or by texting 0872126677. Limited to about 20 persons. Donations will be appreciated.
And my colleagues in the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society will host a
                                     
Public Conversation on Local History
The Barony of Gaultier Historical Society will hold a Public Conversation on Local History in the Dunmore East Library at The Fisherman’s Hall on Thursday, 23rd August. This event which will take place at 10.30 am will involve BGHS committee members talking over a cup of coffee on various aspects of local history from all parts of the Barony of Gaultier. Anyone that has an interest in the local history of Dunmore East and other areas within the Barony of Gaultier is invited to attend this event. Admission is free and all are welcome.
While a popular guest blogger on my site, Joe Falvey is
                      
Talking the Walk,History and Stories of the Dunmore Road
Join Joe for a Walk and a Talk on the Dunmore Road, commencing at Ardkeen Library on Tuesday 21st August at 6.30pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.
This will be my last blog for a few weeks as we are Canada bound for a family wedding.  See you Friday 15th September for a look back at the visit of King Edward VII, naturally from a maritime perspective. 
I publish a blog about Waterford Harbours maritime heritage each Friday.  
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