The “Divil” and the Captains Coffin

In 1932, a Hungarian sea captain, Rudolph Udvardy, who was master of the MV Honved,was in the port of Waterford with a cargo of Maize. To free up berth space, the Honved dropped down to Cheekpoint, where she anchored while the ship waited for an outgoing cargo.  (Following the Market crash there was a shipping slump, and ships struggled to find cargo)  Captain Udvardy was already ill when entering port.  So he continued to receive medical attention when at anchor off the Russsianside, Cheekpoint. The doctor traveled over from Dunmore East, and was regularly rowed out from Moran’s poles to the ship by my Grandmothers brothers, who also waited to return him to shore.

gathering at Faithlegg church gates 
Alas, the Captain died on Friday 2nd September 1932.  And he was removed next day to Faithlegg on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Later that night the chapel-woman went to lock the church door.  As she was about to close it out she noticed a silhouette near to the altar. Moving slightly closer she could hear a low mumbling sound.  Terrified, she turned on her heals and ran to her home – The lodge at Faithlegg gates.  There she explained what she had witnessed to her husband and another man who was there playing cards.  There was a lot of talk about the devil coming for the captain, there was a lot of winking amongst the men too.
The captain’s body leaving his ship for the last time aboard the
“Point Lass” with Billy & Denny Doherty (The Green)

They agreed to accompany her back to the church.  Strolling in, they had a light step, but this froze at the back of the church when they too heard sounds.  More cautious now, they scooped up some holy water and began to inch forward, splashing it as they went, hoping t’wud be enough to keep any evil away.  In the darkness nothing could be seen, but as they inched forward, the mumbling could be discerned to words, strange and foreign words.  Panic was rising amongst the three and the holy water was being splashed with abandon when one of them stumbled and emitted a cry.  All went silent, no mumbling could be heard, and then a whisper came from the area where the Captains coffin stood. Someone was asking who was there, in broken English and in a strange tongue, but human undoubtedly.

Moving forward the protectors of the Captains coffin were confronted with the Arab crew,  They did not understand the Christian custom of leaving the coffin on its own in the Church overnight.  Their custom, they explained, was to remain. The chapel was left open that night and next morning the Captain’s body was committed to foreign soil.  The grave was surrounded by his officers and crew. And there was a huge turnout from the area, a turnout as befitted a sailor who died so far away from his family, something well known to the village of Cheekpoint.

The graveside, bedecked in local flowers

The ship remained for a few more weeks, and finally with a new Captain sailed out the harbour. His wife would later sent a small plant in a pot, asking that it be planted to mark her husbands grave. She need not have worried however.  His grave was originally marked by a very distinctive metal plaque (John Sullivan could tell me that this was made by Jimmy Shanahan (RIP)) and when this finally disintegrated, a local benefactor provided the headstone that now marks his last resting place.  Flowers still appear on the grave from time to time,  A reflection of how deep the connection to the events that autumn in 1932 went.

Udvardy Rezso: Elt So Evet, Szept 2 1932. Beke Hamvaria.
Sea Captain Honved, Nationality Hungarian. Died aboard Ship Honved at Cheekpoint

Photo credit:  I took copies of the three photos above from an article by John O’Connor in the Munster Express a few years back.  My grandmother had a full set of photos, as did many others in the village, but these are no longer at home.  One of the ships officers had a camera and took several photos in the village at the time.  He made several copies and posted them back, I’m guessing in some token of appreciation for the kindness shown.

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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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Whatever happened the SS Honved?

The SS Honved was a Hungarian registered ship when she called to Waterford in 1932 with a cargo of Maize for Halls in the city.  She dropped down to Cheekpoint to await an outgoing cargo, and whilst there, her Captain died.  Rudolp Udvardy was subsequently removed to Faithlegg Church for his funeral mass and burial. I’ve blogged before about the night of the removal in a story called the night the devil came for the Captains corpse. And the story of his grave is recorded in the account of Why there is a palm tree in Faithlegg graveyard.

SS Honved via www.wrecksite.eu
As a child I had a fascination with the story.  This was probably because my Grandmother was so involved, but in seafaring villages such ships, seamen and events were told and retold regularly and always fired my imagination.  However one question that I had, it seemed no one could answer. And that’s the question I want to answer in this post. Whatever happened to the SS Honved?
The Honved was built in 1928 by the Swan and Hunter Shipyard in Sunderland.  One of the most famous ships to be built there was the SS Carpathia which was the first vessel to arrive after the sinking of the Titanic.
Unloading Ganz motorwaggons at Buenos Aires 1930’s
via http://archive-hu.com/page/1255169/2013-01-29/http://hajoregiszter.hu/tarsasagok/tengeri/levante_magyar_gozhajozasi_rt/49
She was ordered for the Levant Steamship Company which operated from Budapest, Hungary, but the ship itself was registered at the Italian port city of Fuime.  She was 4208 tons and a single screw steam driven vessel.  She plied the European and Atlantic trade routes and as already said was carrying Maize when she called to Waterford in 1932. Her arrival sparked a lot of interest in Waterford apparently, because after the break up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it was the first time the new flag had appeared in the city, and it made the local papers.  Two years later, 1934, the Honved was sold to the Italian company of Martinolich & Figlio and renamed the Carlo Martinolich and was registered at the port of Trieste.

I could only find one mention of her under her new name in Irish records, and that was in August of 1936 arriving into Dublin with a cargo of wheat from Fuime and departing four days later for Avonmouth.  I could find nothing about Waterford, although had she called, even under a new name, I’m confident it would have been noticed.
She continued under her new name up to and including the outbreak of the war, during which she continued to sail under the Italian flag, and thus was a legitimate target for the allied side. On the 9th January 1941 the Carlo Martinolich was torpedoed and sunk while sailing out of the Adriatic about 10 nautical miles east of Punta Stilo, Calabria, Italy at position 38°28’N, 16°44’E.  One crew man died, four were reported as missing and thirty four were later recovered by an Italian torpedo boat. The torpedo was dispatched from HMS Parthian.

HMS Parthian via
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Parthian_(N75)

So that became the fate of the SS Honved.  Had she survived she doubtless would have returned, or a local would have spotted her in some foreign port and an account of her would have come back to Cheekpoint.  There are few memories more enduring in a seafaring town or village than the men who plied the trade or the ships they sailed on.  I for one am delighted to have finally completed the account of the SS Honved, an ordinary cargo vessel that called to port and left an extraordinary mark on the people of Cheekpoint.


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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Faithlegg Graveyard’s Palm Tree -symbol of love

Have you ever wondered why a palm tree stands in Faithlegg graveyard. It marks the grave of Captain Rudolph Udvardy, a Hungarian Sea Captain. He fell ill while aboard his ship the SS Honved at Cheekpoint in 1932 and eventually died.

I blogged an account of it before through a story well known in Cheekpoint following the removal of his coffin to Faithlegg, called the Night the Devil came for the Captains corpse.

The Point Lass bringing the Captain’s body ashore
His wife Rosa was aboard the SS Honved at the time, and she offered a bereft sight to the congregation when the Captain was laid to rest. The ship subsequently departed the harbour, and I believe his widow was aboard.  She was never to return.
She communicated by letter to the village to the family of Paddy Heffernan of Ryan’s Shore.  And I understand that the palm tree arrived as a small plant in a package sometime between 1932-34, with a request that it be placed as a marker on the grave.  Her last letter was worded thus:
(?) Udvardy (?)
Carnaro, Italy

25.10.1935


My Dear Mr Paddy,


All Saints Day will soon be here again & my thoughts, as always are with my (late) husband.  I am deeply grieved to say that this year it is absolutely impossible to send money for the mass & flowers. It is strictly prohibited to send it out of the country.


I will have the Mass (read) here, I beg you to see that the grave is in order, and place a few simple flowers and a candle on it.


Furthermore, (following) your kindness of (heart), I ask you to (place) a flower on the grave on the following dates: Birthday 21st December, Wedding day 28th February, (?) day 17th April, Death 2nd September.  I cannot be there in person, the distance is so great, and I beg you to do it for me.


Dear Mr Paddy when all the (political) trouble is over and everything is normal again, I will send the money to cover all the expenses.


As a mark of my respect for you in have (enclosed) a photograph of my dear husband.  The little picture is the (famous) road Church of (Tersalli) which stands on the hill near here.


We are having dreadful weather (?) now, heavy rainstorms, & (sudden) changes of temperature. There is every sign that winter is approaching.


How are you and your dear family getting on?  I expect you are also having bad weather in your country.


Now dear Mr Paddy I thank you again for your (?) kindness and feel sure you will do what I have asked of you (here)


Wishing to be kindly remembered to your wife and dear children.


I remain
Yours Gratefully,


Rosa Udvardy

This was the last letter that Rosa wrote.  We have put in brackets the words we are unsure of.  The Mr Paddy was Paddy Heffernan of Ryans Shore, known as the Shag because, like the seabird, he was a great swimmer.  His home and family were obviously a great comfort to Rosa at the time of her husband’s illness and subsequent death.
His wife need not have worried however.  The grave was marked by a very distinctive iron fabricated cross which John Sullivan could tell me Jimmy Shanahan had some connection with.  (Coincidentally or perhaps not, the grave is located beside the Shanahan plot too)
Some years back, the rusted grave marker crumbled to dust.  But a simple stone marker sprung up in it’s place.  I only know that the headstone was a donation from an anonymous donor.  As a child I recall that flowers occasionally appeared on the grave.  Perhaps the following letter may explain it more.
The reason this was Rosa’s last letter we can only speculate.  Perhaps the address is the most instructive. The Honved was registered in the port of Fuime  which was in a disputed region called the Regency of Carnaro, the address used by Rosa in the letter.  The area was historically fractious and had seen an ebb and flow of rulers and governments down the years.  The difficulties raised in the letter refer to the political situation caused under the government of Mussolini and his fascist Italian state.  During WWII tensions boiled over with regular attacks by partisans in retaliation for axis attacks, and following the war the area fell under the rule of Yugoslavia. The city of Fuime is now known as Rijeka. and is part of Croatia.
In this context it is no surprise that Rosa’s letters dried up.  One can only speculate, but it would not be hard to imagine that in the context of political unrest and subsequent war that simple everyday activities such as posting a letter might become impossible.  It’s also possible, if not probably, that Rosa herself became a casualty of such strife.  Surely had she survived, even as a refugee in another state, some subsequent letter would have emerged.
The letter itself was painful for us to read.  The love and affection for her departed husband is obvious, and the comfort she would have gained from knowing that the grave was still cared for would, I feel, have been immense.  Sitting on his grave Sunday fortnight, the 28th, the anniversary of their marriage, I couldn’t help wonder about her. Reunited again, no doubt, at this stage, perhaps the upkeep is no longer so important.  And yet maintained it is, and maybe, because of the Palm tree she sent, one of the most notable graves in the graveyard.
The Captain’s grave, and Rosa’s Tree
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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Next weeks blog, a question I have been asking since childhood:  What happened to the MV Honved?


I have to thank the work of Jim Doherty (RIP) and his book, the Next House which he self published in the 1990’s and from which I got a very hazy copy of Rosa’s handwritten letter transcribed above.  I also want to thank my wife Deena and daughter Hannah for helping me to try decipher what the letter said.

The night the “devil” came for the captains corpse

I was raised on the story of Captain Udvardy’s grave in Faithlegg, which is marked with a very distinctive palm tree  My grandmother was a young girl at the time, and was a front-seat witness to the affair, and had played a cameo role in the tale.  Despite all the stories I was told, there was one she omitted but which I was told much later in life.  The story of the “devil” coming for the captain’s corpse.
In 1932, a Hungarian sea captain, Rudolph Udvardy, who was master of the MV Honved, was in the port of Waterford with a cargo of Maize.  To free up berth space, the Honved dropped down to Cheekpoint, where she anchored while the ship waited for an outgoing cargo.  (Following the Market crash there was a shipping slump, and ships struggled to find cargo)  Apparently Captain Udvardy was already ill when entering port.  So he continued to receive medical attention when at anchor off the Russsianside, Cheekpoint. The doctor traveled over from Dunmore East, and was regularly rowed out from Moran’s poles to the ship by my grandmothers brothers, who also waited to return him to shore.
gathering at Faithlegg church gates
As the ship had only limited stores, the crew were forced to forage for food to supplement their diet. The village rallied around.  Fish was dropped alongside, and items such as bread, milk, and other supplies were shared.  My grandmothers’ cameo came one morning when as a young girl she was going around her chores before walking off to school.  Coming out of the house with an ash bucket she walked straight into a man.  But it was no ordinary man. A man with dark skin and dark curly hair.  She dropped her ash bucket in terror and turned to run, the dark man reached out for her and started to speak with a strange accent, she managed to break free, just as her mother came out the door.  She fled into her parent’s bedroom and crawled in under the bed.  She was still there when her brother Christy came in later that evening and he finally managed, what everyone else failed to do, to entice her out from her hiding place.
The captain’s body leaving his ship for the last time aboard the
“Point Lass” with Billy & Denny Doherty (The Green)
She told him all about the “coal man” and how he terrified her,  and Christy, in turn, told her about the Arab sailors that helped make up the crew of the Hónved and how their skin was different from our own. Ali would become a familiar visitor to the house, coming as he did on the instruction of her father to get eggs, vegetables, or spuds.  She was never comfortable around him, but he used to whistle to announce his coming, which gave her time to get to her mother’s side.
Alas, the Captain died on Friday 2nd September 1932.  And he was removed next day to Faithlegg on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Later that night the chapel-woman (I think it was Statia Nugent, an aunt to my grandmother) went to lock the church door.  As she was about to close it out she noticed a silhouette near to the altar. Moving closer she could hear a low mumbling sound.  Terrified, she turned on her heels and ran to her home – The lodge at Faithlegg gates.  There she explained what she had witnessed to her husband and another man who was there playing cards.  There was a lot of talk about the devil coming for the captain, there was a lot of winking amongst the men too.
They agreed to accompany her back to the church.  Strolling in, they had a light step, but this froze at the back of the church when they too heard sounds.  More cautious now, they scooped up some holy water and began to inch forward, splashing it as they went, hoping it would be enough to keep any evil away.  In the darkness nothing could be seen, but as they inched forward, the mumbling could be discerned to words, strange and foreign words.  Panic was rising amongst the three and the holy water was being splashed with abandon when one of them stumbled and emitted a cry.  All went silent, no mumbling could be heard, and then a whisper came from the area where the Captains coffin stood. Someone was asking who was there, in broken English and in a strange tongue, but human undoubtedly.
Moving forward the protectors of the Captains coffin were confronted by the Arab crew,  They did not understand the Christian custom of leaving the coffin on its own in the Church overnight.  Their custom, they explained, was to remain.
The chapel was left open that night and next morning the Captain’s body was committed to foreign soil.  The grave was surrounded by his officers and crew.  And there was a huge turnout from the area, a turnout as befitted a sailor who died so far away from his family, something well known to the village of Cheekpoint.
The graveside, bedecked in local flowers
The ship remained for a few more weeks, and finally with a new Captain sailed out the harbour. His wife would later send a small plant in a pot, asking that it be planted to mark her husband’s grave. She need not have worried, however.  His grave was originally marked by a very distinctive metal plaque (John Sullivan could tell me that this was made by Jimmy Shanahan (RIP)) and when this finally disintegrated, a local benefactor provided the headstone that now marks his last resting place.  Flowers still appear on the grave from time to time,  A reflection of how deep the connection to the events that autumn in 1932 went.
Udvardy Rezso: Elt So Evet, Szept 2 1932. Beke Hamvaria.
Sea Captain Honved, Nationality Hungarian. Died aboard Ship Honved at Cheekpoint

Photo credit:  I took copies of the three photos above from an article by John O’Connor in the Munster Express a few years back.  My grandmother had a full set of photos, as did many others in the village, but these are no longer at home.  One of the ships officers had a camera and took several photos in the village at the time.  He made several copies and posted them back, I’m guessing in some token of appreciation for the kindness shown.

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