Jack Meades heritage ramble

Jack Meades pub and restaurant has got to be one of the more remarkable and intriguing 18th Century agricultural sites in the country.  As a young man I hadn’t much time for the older men who drank there, preferring to spend my time having the craic and the beer with my own generation. But at my present age, and with my interest in our local heritage, I often rue the opportunities I would have had to ask the older people about the buildings that litter the area, all within a stones throw of the pub.
  
The pub itself is fascinating, dating as it has since 1705. I’ve written about its landlords and the lineage of the present owners before. You’ve got to have respect for those who have managed to sustain and transform a business in the countryside when so much has changed in our attitudes as a country to drinking and driving. Part of that business is to protect and allow access to a varied amount of heritage related buildings which we went along to see on our most recent free bank holiday Monday rambles.
Standing outside the main door to the pub
Photo Michael Farrell
The pub of course is synonymous with its location beside the old Railway bridge of the Malcomsons, in their attempt to run a rail line between the city and Passage East.  It earns the pub the distinction of Ireland’s only fly over bridge.  But of course it has a number of bridges on the site, as at least one, and perhaps two others allow the Ballycanvan stream to flow under the Cheekpoint Road that itself passes under the main structure.
The Bridge and pub looking towards Cheekpoint
Photo Michael Farrell
Across the road we stood beside the old Delehunty corn mill and discussed its amazing design features including an overshot wheel within the building and the man made leat that runs from Brook Lodge, from where the water to run the mill was released via a man made pond.  It was wonderful to have a relation of the Delehuntys that ran the mill all those years ago present, but sad too as he reminded us of the tragedy at the pond when his relation and two young companions drowned while swimming there.
I need to tie my hands to my body I’m afraid!
At least I wasn’t waving a stick this time.
Delehuntys Mill Photo by John O’ Sullivan

The Ice House of course is an impressive structure, which I have also discussed before.  We looked at its design, the supply of ice and the likely purpose it was put to. Then it was along to the Lime Kilns down the Pill, and a discussion about the process of lime burning, how the lime stone was brought and the likely uses of the finished product.  I got a surprised reaction from many when I related how the lime was used to treat the waste from a dry toilet, something I had seen myself at my grans in the 1980’s. Just as well Carmel, a relation from England, didn’t mention to all but myself and a few within earshot of how it was used over corpses, particularly in times of plague.

The Ice House above and one of the double Lime Kilns on the site
Photo Michael Farrell
We then discussed the old salt water mill that resides on private lands down towards the mouth of the Pill, and how in the past, in a way similar to the monks at Dunbrody, the incoming tide was retained behind sluice gates only to be released when the tide below the mill was lower and gravity allowed the mill wheel to be turned by the water returning to its source.
We rambled up to look back on Ballymaclode Castle and discuss her twin tower at Ballycanvan that later became a fine Georgian mansion of the same name.  And returning to the pub we passed off Redmonds forge where in the past not along horses were shod, but implements of farm works and fishermen were repaired or made.
The walk was recorded for posterity by Paul from Waterford in your Pocket, and it gives a real sense of the day and the walk.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rGIQ1KYaKI
Our next event will be the June Bank Holiday Monday, commencing at 11am at Faithlegg House Hotel and will look at the history surrounding the Faithlegg estate. I’m only hoping the spirit and enthusiasm of those who came yesterday is repeated. Delighted to see familiar faces, and great to meet many new ones too. Young and old seemed to enjoy it, and the questions and the comments were all helpful in my own learning. A young lad from sixth class in Faithlegg was at my side through the walk, and he has an obvious eye for his local heritage. For Facebook users we have an event page here which we will use to keep people updated on the Faithlegg heritage ramble .
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

Waterford- November 1784; a Frenchmans view

The Marquis de Bombells visited Waterford in November 1784, and over a week, made some observations on the area which he probably would not have had the time for, except that he was waiting on a ship to take him away.  Similar indeed, to another foreign visitor we have met previously, Arthur Young. Marc de Bombells was a young French aristocrat who entered the diplomatic corp and would later become an emissary on behalf of his country’s king, Louis XVI

accessed 24.11.16 via
http://clif.over-blog.com/article-marquis-de-bombelles-65267768.html

He arrived in Waterford on the 14th November taking, it is believed, the ferry at Grannagh. Here he tells us it was his good fortune to take a small rowboat across, the main ferry being full of pigs. The weather was atrocious and they had to nearly use violence, to prevent others from boarding the ferry and I presume risk it being overloaded.

Due to the weather, no ships can sail and he becomes the guest of Lord Waterford for the next week, visiting the city and environs.  On the 19th of November, he received news of a potential sailing via Passage East to Swansea in the Bristol channel.  He immediately set out for the village to look over the ship.

Passage we are told is a little town covering a small beach between the river and the steep rocks which threaten the roofs of many of the houses.  It affords an excellent anchorage, and the place is populated almost entirely with customs officers.  At anchor is a kings man-o-war, and two naval cutters who he is told are constantly on station to combat smugglers.  de Bombells is less than impressed with the character of the ship’s captain offering him a berth to England however, and the ridiculously high price sealed the decision to remain.

On the 20th of November he drove to Ballycanvan to visit with a man we have often referred to here, Cornelius Bolton.  At the time, Bolton is laying the foundations to a fine mansion, (the now Faithlegg House Hotel) which we are told will be a good location for all the enterprises currently taking place at Cheekpoint.  During the day he calls to the village where the harbour is under construction, in anticipation of the basing of the official second mail route between Ireland and England.

The Inn which Bolton has established we are told is already profitable with an abundance of passengers in what he describes as excellent lodgings. Very much at variance to the many reviews that would be published in later years!  Mind you the Marquis didn’t sleep overnight.

Later in the afternoon he visits New Geneva, for which he has as a venture, very little positive to say. I wonder did he share his opinion with Bolton, who was one of the sponsors of the scheme.  From his vantage point overlooking the harbour he espies the incoming Mail Packet, and when he later speaks to the Captain, he’s assured of a next day sailing.

Accessed 25.11.16 via http://500years.royalmailgroup.com/features/
royal-mail-500-special-stamps-to-mark-500-years-of-postal-history/

At Midday on November 21st Mr Bolton drove his guest to Cheekpoint where he boarded the Mail Packet which departed in beautiful weather at 2.30pm.  There’s an interesting aside in that as they approach Passage, another passenger joins the ship. Although he does not say whether the packet calls to the quay or that the lady is rowed out to the ship, I’m assuming the latter.

Further downriver he passes under the cannon of Duncannon Fort, an old castle which, we are told, is kept by invalids.  Then the Duncannon bar, the only obstacle to the harbour; “at low tide, there is only 13ft of water, but at high water, any ship can pass with safety”.  Whilst here another three ships of the king of England pass.

His companions are two ladies and four gentlemen.  None have good sea legs, alas and when the ship gets becalmed in the night in the Irish sea, he is surrounded by groans and vomiting of his companions as the ship wallows. At 6am on the 22nd, the wind gets up and later that morning they put into Milford Haven.

His writing was done as a journal of his travels and was never, apparently intended as a book at all. As such he is less guarded in what he writes and perhaps a little non PC.  If you can read French it’s free via google books, and if you prefer the print version it’s at amazon starting at £38.

Reflecting on de Bombelles work, it’s clear that although he’s opinionated, pompous, and judgemental in parts the writing is very informative and instructive of Waterford at the time.  Another thought is that he seems to have a very specific interest in recording military strengths or points of strategic importance.  I wonder if given the role of emissary included being something of a spy, was his journal as much an aid to memory in reporting the strengths or deficiencies of the forces of the English crown.

This piece is based on an article written by Béatrice Payat and Donnachadh Ó Ceallacháin in the Journal of the Waterford Archaeolgical and Historical Society, Decies #55 entitled “As others saw us: A French visitor’s impression of Waterford 1784 pp17-26.  Back issues of Decies is available on PDF via the Waterford City and County Libraries and also in the Waterford Room of Central Library

TF Meagher; A rebel students return to Waterford 1843

Thomas Francis Meagher was born in 1823 in
the building that is now the Granville Hotel on
Waterford’s busy quays. The family spent some years at Ballycanvan, hence the family tomb at Faithlegg.
Thomas got an expensive education which
culminated with Stoneyhurst College in England. In
Easter week 1843, when he was not yet twenty, he returned home, having been
away for a year.  In his Recollections of Waterford1 he includes a
very interesting account of this return including his journey up the harbour to
his native city.
“A bright sun was lighting up the dingy walls of Duncannon Fort as
we paddled under them.  There was Cheek point on the left, towering
grandly over the woods of Faithlegg.  Further on, at the confluence of the
Barrow and the Suir, were the ruins of Dunbrody  Abbey – an old servant,
with torn livery, at the gateway of the noble avenue.  Further on, the
grounds and stately mansion of Snow Hill, the birth place of Richard
Sheil.  Then the Little Island, with its fragments of Norman Castle and it’s
broad cornfields and kingly trees.  Beyond this, Gauls Rock, closing in
upon and overlooking the old city.  Last of all Reginalds Tower – a
massive hinge of stone connecting the two great outspread wings, the Quay and
the Mall, within which lay the body of the city – Broad Street, the cathedral,
the barracks, the great chapel, the jail, the Ballybricken hill, with its
circular stone steps and bull post.  The William Penn stopped
her paddles, let off her steam, hauled in close to the hulk, and made fast. 
I was home once more….”
PS Toward Castle, an example of an earlier paddle steamer, I’m taken
with the image however, of the person atop the paddle and imagine Meagher
in just such a position on entering the harbour. 2
Apart from the wonderful writing, I found it interesting not just in
what he sees around him, but also what he left out.  I think most accounts
of the harbour now, would start with the Hook light, yet for
Meagher its the “dingy walls of Duncannon Fort“, surely a hint of his
political and revolutionary outlook, and a conscious consideration to its
strategic and sometimes dark history.  Contrast it with his description of
the Cistercian abbey at Dunbrody “an old
servant, with torn livery” in ruins possibly not long after the
dissolution but yet a beacon still to the young Meagher.  Maybe this was
because it brought to mind a time when although ruled by foreigner, the country
had been free to practice the catholic religion. Or perhaps the prosperity
the Cistercians, Templers and Norman merchants brought to the harbour area.
Dunbrody Abbey, Co Wexford from the river
I can’t see why Passage or Ballyhack don’t get a mention, given their
commercial importance, although perhaps waning at the time due to steam power.
 And it would be wonderful to hear of the sailing ships, steamers, work
boats and fishing craft plying the river at the time. Its also interesting to
note what has come since, for example the Spider light at
Passage, Great Island Power Station and
the Barrow Bridge. 
Snow Hill House, Co Kilkenny. 3

Perhaps the most amazing thing I found in Meaghers account was his
confident style. not just the excerpt above, but also his account of walking
through his city streets and calling to the
Waterford Club
. His debates on the need for radical change and his vision of a
different Ireland were, I think, astonishing for someone so young. Its hard to
imagine that a few short months later he would make his first political speech
in Lismore at a rally organised by Daniel O’Connell, that he had yet to raise
the first tricolour, for which we now have an annual commemoration,   to
co-found the Young
Irelanders
, to participate in the failed rising of 1848, be transported to
Tasmania, escape to America where he would eventually found the Irish Brigade
to support the union cause in the American
Civil War
. Yet in his account all these things are suggested, or at least seems
possible, such is his certainty in himself.
TF Meagher in later years
Meagher has his detractors and I have read some harsh criticisms of the
man online.  But Meagher was a man of principal, a man of action and a man
like all humans, of no small measure of complexity. Looking out upon the
harbour as I write, I wish I could see a young idealist entering the harbour
with a vision of change for this blighted republic of 2016.  Yet I have no
doubt the same youthful visionaries are out there.  Working here at
present against a different foe, a bureaucratic monster, all pervasive and
cloying.  Working via peaceful means to create a different republic.
 Less for speeches than blogs perhaps.  Less
for insurrection than consciously and critically living their lives.
 Just as much for direct action but by different means.  Here’s an
example of two young women doing just that, one of whom hails from the
Russianside!, which I came across
recently: https://womenareboring.wordpress.com/
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
1.  I accessed the account of Meaghers in Fewer.T.N. (ed) I was a day
in Waterford. An anthology of writing about Waterford from the 18th to the 20th
Century. 2001.  Ballylough Books.  I fear the book is now out of
print, but is available in the Waterford room of the city’s Central Library.
 Certainly would be good to see it reprinted.
2. Sketch of PS Toward Castle accessed from here.  Despite
numerous searches I could find no further information on the PS William Penn.
 Tommy Deegan and Frank Murphy were both helpful in providing some leads.
 Apart from Meaghers account, two other references to the ship exist.
 Bill Irish recorded that the Waterford Steam Navigation Company were
using the ship from 1837 in Decies #53 and via Frank Murphy she is mentioned in
Bill’s book on Ship Building in Waterford as being owned or part owned by the Malcomson’s of Waterford.
3. photo of Snow Hill copied from Jim Walsh’s  “Sliabh
Rua, A History of its People and Places” again out of print and available
in central library,

Ballycanvan tidal “salt” Mill

Last summer whilst out kayaking on the river I chanced a trip up Ballycanvan stream, which leads up to the ever popular Jack Meads at Halfway House.  I made the trip in an effort to track the route of the Lighters that would have supplied the Kilns at Jack Meades with limestone rock to burn. 

Ballycanavan mill site
Not long into the trip however I came across a curious narrowing of the stream which was obviously man made as it was achieved with cut stone.  On getting out to investigate I realised I was looking at an elaborate structure, with, at its centre, an old watermill.  What I found most intriguing was that it was in design, very similar to the Saltmills at Dunbrody, as described briefly in last weeks introduction to the mills of the area.
The sluice and the mill pond bottom rt

I’ve sketched the scene in an effort to try explain it better, and hopefully the photos, above and below, may assist too.  Essentially at the high water, two sluice gates were closed to effectively dam the stream and hold the water back.

1 the Mill, 2 Kiln, 3 Store/office, 4 store? 5 uncovered storage area
Ballycanavan Stream on old OSI map

close up of a remaining wooden pillar on the sluice
The stream was held back or “impounded” until the tide had ebbed away below the dam, and then the water was released under the vertical mill wheel, which turned the wheels to grind the corn.  The water passed under the wheel (undershot wheel) and would disappear down a “tailrace” to return to the stream.  You might note a smaller sluice or “spillway” about 2 1/2 feet wide on the sketch which was in place to safely release the water if required, for example in times of spate/flooding or when repair works were taking place.
Now visiting the mill is problematic for two reasons.  One its in an extremely bad state of repair, with a lot of fallen stone.  Secondly its currently overgrown and on private property, the site being owned by Dr Robin Kane.  I met Robin recently and he happily showed me round the site.  Not alone was I thankful for access, but I was also thankful for the mine of information he had about the mill.
Arch from kiln area into the mill
Kiln area
The mill itself is a fabulous old building, whatever it’s state of decline.  Some sections were actually built on bedrock which rises to over 6 feet in parts.  We could count three floors and we speculated that a loft space possibly made it four floors.  The floors were traditionally called from the ground; Meal floor, Stone floor, Bin floor & loft.  The windows are falling in so counting the floors required looking at the spaces for rafters in the walls.  Getting the corn into the mill was probably helped by the roadway that ran to the rear of the building, which was effectively two floors at least above the ground floor.
There were several other parts to the mill site, the two sections beside the mill were obviously built at different stages as the stone work is different and none are keyed into the other.  Beside the mill is what looks like a kiln area for drying corn and beside that was another large building perhaps a store and/or office space.  Another two storey two roomed building was built less than 50 yards from the mill further up the stream on the roadway that used in the past stretch to Halfway House.  Another structure apparently hewn from rock was to the rear, now overgrown and which we thought another storage area, perhaps for coal as fuel in the kiln.
Robin showing me round the mill site – Mill wheel was on the outside,
the wheelshaft and gearing , belts would have beenin front of where 
we were standing. The milling stones were on the floor above
Robin understood that the three sections had been built at different times, confirmed really when looking at the construction from the stream side.  His information suggested dating from Cromwellian times.  Although Captain William Bolton took the area from the Aylwards he did not have a reputation for investment in the property, although that certainly changed with his Grandson Cornelius Bolton, the elder, who I would suspect may have been the builder, but perhaps I am wrong.

Three stages of building
Having never actually heard of the mill previously, I speculated that it must have been abandoned many years ago. Again Robin’s information was that due to siltation from the river, note the mud is some photos, that it was abandoned in the mid to late 19th Century as it continually clogged up the wheel.*  Interestingly, there was no sign of a “tailrace” where the used water flowed back to the stream below.  It’s hard to say if there was a pipe now buried with silt or whether it was an open cut which over time was backfilled, but I tend towards the former.
Robin had also heard that when corn was plentiful, or perhaps if the mill wasn’t operational, corn was taken upriver to be milled elsewhere in Waterford and indeed up the Barrow.  I could imagine that at times of neap tides, sufficient water might be hard to store up in the mill pond. Perhaps another reason for it’s early demise.
A final negative factor was that undershot water wheels were notoriously less efficient to run than overshot wheels (where the water was fed over the top of the wheel).  And there was an overshot fed wheel in the area.  It was just upstream from Ballycanavan and we will pay a visit to this next week.
Thanks to Robin Kane for allowing me visit the site and for the information he supplied to me in writing the piece
Information on mills taken from Watts M.  Watermills.  2012.  Shire publications.  Oxford.

* More recently I discovered a new article from the 1850s describing how the former mill was being used to recycle rags.  Apparently the mill wheel was used to crush and rip material, the strands of which was subsequently rolled into  balls and sold on.