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.

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the Faithlegg woman who died twice?

One of the oldest grave stones in Faithlegg belongs to a family named Fortune.  But the headstone creates a bit of a stir…it gives two dates of death for the lady…1745 & 1746

The headstone reads;

Here lyeth ye body of ANSTAS 
FORTUNE alias QUINLAN (daughter 
to QUNER FOURE) who departed 
this life Wensday (sic) Janry ye 22d
1745-6 aged 21 years.

So who was the lady and did she arise from her grave like some halloween yarn or is there an explanation Despite searching I have not as yet found any further information relating to Anstas or her Father.  Present day searches suggest however that Anstas is now a boys name. Apparently it means resurrection! Was someone having a joke? Or was Anstas as fortunate as her surname suggests and got two cracks at the one life?
Well locally it was held that the solution to this mystery was a dispute between two calendars.
The first calendar to mention is the Julian Calendar, which dated to 46 BC and commissioned by emperor Julius Caesar, who at the time wanted to amalgamate all the regions of his empire under the one system. All went well initially, and we still hold on to much of that system including the days of the week and months of the year. However an issue arose for the christian church in the middle ages.The calendar did not accurately calculate the exact time of each year – 365.24 days and as a consequence by the time of Pope Gregory, Church holidays were way out of whack with what the Christian church had traditionally adhered too.
To alleviate the situation Gregory XIII initiated a review of the system and in 1582 a new calendar was initiated known as the Gregorian Calendar. This allowed for a more accurate holding ofchurch holidays and dealt with the vexed issue of the date of Easter. But to align with the church festivals the new calendar required a reboot of the system. Thus in 1582 10 days were dropped from the year.

Not everyone was enamored with the Churches approach however. Much of protestant Europe protested and refused to embrace the change. Ireland was in a bit of a dilemma, ruled from protestant England yet in matters of faith leaning more towards Rome, many in the Irish church seem to have employed the Gregorian calendar years before it was finally embraced by England, (and thus politically, Ireland) in September 1752.
Now that still doesn’t explain to me why a lady who died on 22nd Jan 1745, also listed 1746. As said the difference between the calendars was originally 10 days but as the years progressed it slowly widened – today it stands at 13 apparently, which you might need to know if you happen to visit with the nomadic Berber of North Africa, who till hold to Cesar’s calendar. But at least we can relax about the chance of meeting the un-dead on a visit to Faithlegg