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.
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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:  

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Old Faithlegg Church

With the
coming of the Normans to Ireland  a man named Aylward was granted the lands of Faithlegg in 1177 and this led to the establishment of a parish.  At the heart of this parish system was an early church close by to which was a Motte and Baily castle.  This would have been the centre of administration and control associated with governing the area. 



Faithlegg Churches 1928

According to Julian Walton there is a written record
of this church in the 12th century, however what we know as Old Faithlegg Church has been dated as 13th or possibly 14th Century.  An older church on the site may have been a timber construction, the remains of which would have
quickly disappeared.  It is also a matter of local speculation that the site of the old church is in fact the ruins of two seperate
churches. 

The older part, it is speculated, is located
furthest from the road.  This measures
6.8m by 5.2m and has been referred to as the “Chancel” or “Sanctuary”.  The entrance to this is via a Romanesque
style arch which dates it earlier than the main church and belfry  gable beside
it.  The other features that would suggest this are; a different roof pitch, a different wall size and when the building became undermined in the 1990’s it was the chancel that was most seriously damaged. (The very obvious difference in roof pitch is still visible in the inside gable to the left of the Romanesque arched doorway)

On the western side, facing the road is the “Church”.  This measures 13m by 6.5m and is in
the Venetian Gothic style which is a later style.  The windows are also of a different design, although some have speculated that these may have been added at a later stage.  The roof would have been of thatch.



Faithlegg 1888 – Lapham Collection
Sourced from Tomás Sullivan

It is probably that the church would have given a couple of hundred years of service to Catholics despite the upheavals in the country with the Reformation in England and the uncertainty this would have brought.  It was most certainly closed when in 1649 the Aylwards were finally removed as landlords of the parish and replaced by Captain WIlliam Bolton.  Bolton was described as a “stern old puritan” and the likelihood of a church surviving under his stewardship would be unthinkable.  Locally there is a story that before the Cromwellian Army marched on Faithlegg the Priest of the Church buried his vestments with the church silver vowing that they would be recovered once the invaders had been vanquished.  Alas, the Cromwellian’s won out, and the Faithlegg treasure remains hidden.

The Down Survey of 1658 stated that the church at Faithlegg
was “out of repair” and down through the years it has remained as such, although this did not prevent the Bolton family of Faithlegg and some of their relations being interred in the chapel of the church.  At one point it also held a bell in the eastern gable, as depicted in a drawing by Charles Newport Bolton in 1843, presumably this was the church bell up until the new Spire and Belfry was added to the New Faithlegg Church in 1873.


Sketch by Charles Newport Bolton 1843
(Who is interred in the church with his Bolton relatives)
Sourced from Tomás Sullivan

As a child I remember the graveyard men – at the time Martin Nugent and my mothers Uncle, Paddy Moran- used to store their tools in the old church behind a padlocked gate.  Once the graveyard committee was established and work proceeded on developing and enhancing the graveyard, the old church became a focus of attention and numerous letters were written to seek state support in  preserving the building.  However, this met with no success and by the mid 1990’s part of the chancel wall collapsed and it
became increasingly hazardous.  There was a genuine fear that the whole building could collapse.



Photo copied from Kevin Ryan original 1999 of collapsed wall
Photo copied from Kevin Ryan original 1999 of the collapse

In 1999 Kevin Ryan began a survey of the
building with a view to determine how best
to structurally secure it. Kevin’s survey work combined with others enthusiasm formed the
basis of a successful application for funding.  £10,000 was granted by the Heritage Council
of Ireland and a further £15,000 raised locally to carry out the necessary
works.   The resulting work has served to protect the building and make it safe and accessible to the present and future generations.
A hope of the scheme at the time was that an archaeological survey might be carried out.  However, the powers that be determined that there was little to be learned from the site and were of the opinion that such a survey would never be warranted.  Such a pity, as the Church silver may have been unearthed, although more likely some evidence of an earlier church might have been proved or disproved. 

Another mystery of course is what happened to the bell that hung in the gable of the old church.  The new belfry got a new bell so where is the old one, and how old was it?…but that’s another story for another time

in 2001 there were some concerns that the sum of €25,000 was a high price to pay to preserve such an ancient piece of our built heritage.  Personally, I’m very glad that the Graveyard committee had the foresight to work so hard to preserve the building, and that we were so lucky to have someone like Kevin Ryan in our midst that gave so freely of his time and expertise.  The building is an historic landmark of Norman times, not just of Faithlegg, but of Gaultier, Waterford and indeed, in my own view, of Ireland. 

Visitors can now access the old church in safety and with ease
Photo credit: Hannah Doherty

 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 grand opening of the Barrow Bridge 21st July 1906

We have written previously about the planning and construction of the Barrow Bridge. The bridge started in 1902 by the firm of William Arrol & Co to a design by one of the foremost engineers of the time Sir Benjamin Barker. The purpose of the railway line was to open up the South West of Ireland to exports with England in an efficient and quick manner, and speed the crossing times to England and Wales for passengers.  The lines specific distinction is that it was the last major railway line to be constructed in Ireland.  Barrow bridge is 2131 feet in length and has an opening span to allow shipping through to the port of New Ross.

An excellent video showcasing the magnificent structure of the Barrow Bridge
A promotional poster from the time

Both the bridge and the line, including the new pier at Rosslare, Co Wexford was officially opened on Saturday July 21st 1906.  Five hundred guest traveled on a special event train which started out in Dublin.  The train had twenty one saloon carriages attached including the royal saloon in which was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Lord Aberdeen, who was to perform the inauguration.  It is said that it was the longest special event train ever seen in the country.  It stopped off at Carlow, Kilkenny and finally Waterford station to collect further guests including the Marquis of Waterford and then on to Rosslare via the new Barrow Bridge.  According to Susan Jacob, her grandmother Aggie Power (who lived in Daisybank house) was on that first train, a story handed down through the family. I do recall my father saying that there was some connection between the family and some of the engineers working on the project and Pat Murphy has told me in the past that he understood that some men stayed at Daisybank as lodgers during the construction.

Apparently some of the guests fainted with the fear associated with the crossing of the Bridge.  Well they might be in awe, for it was by far the longest rail bridge ever built in the country at the time and would retain that distinction (and possibly still should regarding the expanse of water crossed) until Belfast’s Dargan Bridge and related works were constructed in 1994. It might be hard now to imagine the fear that the travelers might have held in such a crossing, but it should be remembered that the designer and builder had only a few short years before completed a project to replace the largest rail bridge in the British Isles – The Tay Bridge , the predecessor of which had collapsed into the River Tay in 1879 while a train was crossing with the loss of all aboard.

The opening span was also a concern no doubt, but passengers need have had no fear.  The opening span was operated from a control tower atop of the opening, which was manned and operated via an electrical generator below on the protective pontoon.  The operator couldn’t open the centre span unless and until signal men on both the Waterford and Campile sides gave a signal to say there was nothing on the line. 

Ship entering the Barrow spring 2014
The view from the train –
meeting of the three sisters via Emma Sharpe

Indeed initially ships would not proceed through the opening until a signal was also raised from the control tower, a black ball.  This would later include a green light when the bridge opening was extended to nightime.  Many is the time I marvelled at the nerves of these men sitting atop the span as ships passed through, and I’m sure their nerves were well tested as ships struck the bridge on at least two occasions.

Notwithstanding any guests concerns, the special event train proceeded onto the bridge and came to a halt half way across to give everyone a view of the meeting of the three sisters at Cheekpoint.

The scene at Rosslare Pier
via John Power, A Maritime History of Wexford Vol 1
It then continued on its way to Rosslare, where the three masted schooner “Czarina” lay at anchor and the steamship “Pembroke” was at the pier, having sailed earlier from Fishguard with invited guests.  As it crossed into Rosslare a 21 gun salute was fired by the local coastguard.  The new service was inaugurated from the pier by the Lord Lieutenant and this was followed by a party where several toasts were made to the good fortune of the new company.  The freight rail service was the first to start running on the line thereafter, followed by a passenger service which came into operation on August 1st 1906 and the first cross channel ferry left Rosslare on Fri 24th August 1906, sailing on the SS St Patrick.

 

The significant selling point – shorter sea voyage
via John Power, A Maritime History of Wexford Vol 1

The Barrow Bridge gave over 100 years of loyal service before being closed in 2010.  An event we have also marked.

We would like to acknowledge the following sources:
Jack O’Neill, A Waterford Miscellany. 2004.  Rectory Press
Ernie Shepard – The South Wexford Line.  Journal of the Bannow Historical Society (2013)
John Power – A Maritime History of County Wexford Vol 1(2011)



 
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and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
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