A brief history of Faithlegg

This Sunday 21st August my wife Deena and I will conduct a heritage walk through Faithlegg commencing at 12noon at the Church.  Its the 11th year that we’ve organised something for Heritage Week . Faithlegg is probably best known now as a location for weddings, its hotel or to golfers who want 18 rounds in a stunning location.  But to others, its a significant historic location.  So what might you see in Faithlegg.

Well to start with the Churches themselves make a beautiful starting point.  The newer church dates from 1826 and is still in use today.  I served as an altar boy here in my youth, and I mentioned before how we traveled on the mass bus every Sunday morning, something that usually leaves younger readers agape.  There’s an interesting love story attached to the stain glass windows concerning a young heiress of the Power family and an ex Mayor of Waterford, John A Blake. Blake was the man responsible for the Peoples Park in Waterford city.

The church beside it of course is ancient, and many hold the view that it is the site of two churches, and probably stands on the remains of something earlier.  Of course the townland next door is called Kilcullen, or the Church of Cullen, and another church site is located there. If that’s not enough, there was a chapel in Faithlegg House, and mass was conducted on the Minaun in penal times! Surely to be interred here means automatic entry through the pearly gates.

Last resting place of the Bolton family

We have graves historic, such as the tomb of Thomas Francis Meagher, we have graves for sea captains, sailors and the lady who died twice! But most of all we have, in the Council award winning graveyard, the graves of men and women who worked their fingers to the bone to raise a family and try and live a good life.  I put a few of them into the ground, as I worked as a gravedigger in the 1980’s when work was scarce and any job was welcome.

Faithlegg itself has a long history.  It was granted by Henry II to a Bristol Merchant named Aylward after the Norman landings in 1171/2.  Aylward initially built a Motte and Baily to protect himself, but as tensions eased a fine stone castle was built on the lands above the church.  The last of the Aylwards were hung from the trees around abouts after the siege during the Cromwellian invasion, and to this day, there is the mystery of the abandoned Faithlegg village around the castle site.

Motte & Baily with Keep atop – via Google images

Entering Faithlegg we come across the emblem of the area, St Huberts Deer, probably reflecting the Power family’s love of hunting, St Hubert being the patron saint of Hunters and their dogs.  Hubert, the legend goes, was an avid hunter who went out one Good
Friday morning into the Ardennes in search of a stag. As he was pursuing his
quarry the animal turned with apparently, a crucifix standing between its
antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to
the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into
hell”.  He quickly converted! 

Faithlegg House was designed and built in 1783 for Cornelius Bolton, who would later go on to create an industrial village at Cheekpoint, we covered that at last years Heritage Week event. Bolton was the last in the line of the family who gained the estate after the Cromwellian invasion. Following bankruptcy it was bought by the Power family in 1816, and the Hotel as it stands today is largely the extension and ornate refit of the house undertaken by the newly wedded Pat Power and Olivia Nugent (daughter of the Earl of Westmeath) in the 1870’s

Faithlegg Harries at the “Big House” AH Poole photo 1890’s

Returning to Faithlegg we can’t but stop to consider the early christian site, dedicated to St Ita.  Her holy well has long been a feature in the parish, but it was once known as Tobar Sionnach. or the Well of the Fox.

These and much more will feature on our walk this coming Sunday 21st August, at 12 noon.  But if you want to walk it yourself here’s a self guided walk to follow.  And if you are coming, your own stories of the area would be welcome too.

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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Who was Adelaide Blake of Faithlegg

Adelaide Blake was the third daughter of Nicholas Mahon Power, landlord of Faithlegg from 1819 to 1873.  His youngest child, she was forty before she married John A Blake MP. Part of her legacy was the establishment of the Reading Rooms, Cheekpoint and the stained glass window behind the altar at Faithlegg Church.  Their story is a love story of the Victorian era and the strict conventions of the time.

Adelaide was the fifth and youngest child of Nicholas and Margaret Mahon Power who moved to Faithlegg in 1819. Adelaide would have grown up in the area and she was schooled like all the children, at least initially, in the school room which is now a dining suite at Faithlegg House Hotel.

John Aloysius Blake  was born in Waterford City (Gladstone St) the son of a merchant and landowner, and the family home was in O’Connell St.  Blake was elected to a position of mayor in 1855 when he was not yet thirty and was reappointed to the position for three years running.  The current people’s park in Waterford was constructed during his time, and thanks to his foresight.

In 1857 he was elected to parliament in Westminster as a liberal, and represented the city until 1869.  He stood down at this point as he was appointed as Inspector of Fisheries.  He served in this position until 1874 when the government of Gladstone fell. He seems to have taken to his duties with some energy and was an ardent supporter of an Irish fishing industry (something we have never had much vision around at official level).  Following this, he represented the county from 1880-1884 and finally he represented Carlow from 1886-87 cut short by his untimely demise.  An obituary at the time gives a sense of his passing.

I don’t know when John and Adelaide first met but it could have been at Faithlegg at one of the many balls that it was fashionable to attend in this era.  It could also have been at any of the fine houses that were sited in the city and county.  Mind you it could just have easily been in Dublin, where Adelaide’s mother hailed from, or perhaps the summer season in London, to which all the upper classes aspired, and to which Adelaide doubtless belonged.

Adelaide Blake nee Power

In any case the two fell in love and courted for many years.  However, Nicholas Mahon Power was not pleased with his daughters suitor and refused any marriage proposals.  It was not until her father died in 1873, that her brother Patrick, following a period of mourning, consented to allow the marriage to take place.

Adelaide was 40 years old (8 years younger than John A) when the two were wed and lived in Dublin or London, depending on her husbands schedule.   At the time the age was too great for children to be considered.  It must have come as quite a shock for her to loose her husband in his 61st year in 1877. He died in London and it was there that Adelaide had him buried, in Kensal Green Cemetery marking his grave with a Celtic cross.  The stained glass in the Faithlegg Church (which her father had built circa 1823) was also commissioned and installed by Adelaide in his memory.

Stained glass at Altar of Faithlegg Church

Adelaide continued to live in Dublin but was a regular visitor to the Faithlegg area according to locals.  She resided at Temple Hill in Dublin and one of her interests seems to have been historical studies and she was a member of the The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1896 and again in 1900.

She finally died herself on 20th Feb 1911 in her 77th year.  Her lasting legacy to the area is not just the stained glass window or indeed her name on a meeting room in Faithlegg House Hotel, but also the Reading Room in Cheekpoint, which I’ve described before.  There a copy of her obituary hangs on the wall, as does her portrait.

Adelaide’s obituary

Most of the information used in this piece is drawn from the work of Julian Walton’s On This Day Vol 1 pp 204-5.  Thanks also to Pat Murphy Cheekpoint for much of the local information.

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 tidesandtales@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

The Reading Rooms Cheekpoint

Pat Murphy of the Green always told me that according to Aggie Power of Daisy Bank House (Susan Jacobs Grandmother) the Reading Room was built in 1895, the year a horse called The Wild Man of Borneo won the Grand National. Mrs Adelaide Blake, (originally Adelaide Power – Faithlegg House), who then resided at Fairy Mount had it built as a free library for the people of the area. I always wondered what it would have looked like in this era, with the pot bellied stove sitting in the middle of the floor and people sitting around in it reading a paper or a book or playing cards and chatting. 

At some point in my teens I read D.H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.  In the story the central character, Paul Morel, struggled to move away from his working class mining roots in Wales through, in part, his visits to the mining unions sponsored Reading Rooms.  In it were stocked lines of books and a supply of current newspapers, that the miners and their families could be better informed and have broader horizons.  Had this been Adelaide’s intention? The
Reading Room has always been a feature in our lives in Cheekpoint.  For social, health, community matters and education, it has played a continuous role.  For some it was probably a tentative role, an occasional visit but to me it was always central, important and respected.

Jim Duffin playing “the Box” 1990’s
Photo credit Bridgid Power

One of my earliest memories was queuing to attend a sale of work coming up to Christmas time.  Doors opening, we rushed in to buy a comic, book or some toy or other. Home baking was also part of the day and if lucky we might get to share with others in a bag of homemade buns or biscuits and a fizzy lemonade.  Whatever few bob we had would be quickly spent, but I could always rely on my Grandmother for an extra dig out.

At the end of the day we might pick up some pieces that no one else would buy, as the place was cleaned up and I recall Martin Nugent (and later Jim Duffin) burning some magazines and other odds and ends outside by the back door.  In those days a tall hedge blocked the “Hall” as we sometimes called it, from the road and all around was a mixture of grass and mud.

The Hall in the past was a simple affair.  No toilet, a small porch, the large room that could be divided in two by sliding doors and the stage area and back door which was an addition in the early 1950’s.  Tommy Sullivan’s father Chris had taken on the job, with the help of local volunteers.  The Hall had been originally made of a timber framework with corrugated iron walls and roof and internally was panelled by wooden lathes.  The “insulation” was horsehair and there was many the night that we huddled around an old Superser gas heater trying to keep warm.

Sunday morning social gathering 1940’s

The stage at the rear of the hall was used for concerts and as a musical stage and in our own times as the space where the DJ’s of the youth club discos spun their vinyl discs.  Principal DJ was Philip Duffin and deputy was Michael “bugsy” Moran.  Philip preferred disco, Bugsy was rock and it was always a bone of contention.  I can still remember Bugsy stripping wires with his teeth in an effort to add an extra speaker to “burst some eardrums”.  My first and last appearance on the stage was a mid 70’s concert where I performed “Little Boy Blue”, not my finest hour!

Ray McGrath regales the villagers at a recent Heritage week event

There was also a brown wardrobe which gave the hall its other function this was the Dispensary.  I’m a little in the dark about the origins of it, but in our day it was where you went on a Tuesday to see the doctor and the wardrobe was unlocked and swung back to reveal an array of medications, timber spatulas for depressing your toung and worst of all – syringes.  At some point in the 1980’s the wardrobe disappeared and locally it was known that there was some issues about medications being stored in “inappropriate places”  It was only a few years back in Dungarvan that a local man told me how he and friends used to travel around the rural dispensaries in a search for drugs, he joked about how easy it was to break into these cabinets and to both medicate yourself and provide an income boost from supplying others! 

John Jacob entertaining the Thursday Club 1990’s
Photo Credit; Bridgid Power

I’ve written before about how important it was as a venue for civil defence.  But it was also a space for community meetings and social gatherings for young and old.  It was the need to improve conditions for all members of the community that spurred voluntary efforts in the 1980’s and many years after to improve the hall to the standards it is at now.  Details of those many volunteers were captured in a 2009 publication “Cheekpoint & Faithlegg; Through the Ages” via the Development Group



My Aunts Margaret O Leary and Ellen Doherty (RIP) at last years craft fair
photo credit Becky Cunningham – Cheekpoint FB page

I’ve often heard remarks about the Hall being unfit for modern purposes.  And to be honest, it probably is a bit modest compared to some of the venues that are on offer in the area and that citizens might be used to availing of.  But for me the Reading Room is a special place, filled with memories, fulfilling a modest useful purpose and a testament to the vision and probably the hopes for the community of Adelaide Power. Ar dheis Dé a anam Adelaide

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales