Halfway House and Jack Meades Pub

Halfway House

For this year’s Heritage Week event, and specifically Water Heritage Day I wanted to showcase a unique water-related site at the popular bar and restaurant known now as Jack Meades, but previously it was more commonly called Halfway House.  Over the next few Fridays, I will focus on some of the aspects of the site in the context of the historic role of the stream, Ballycanvan Pill, and the River Suir.  In this post I want to look at the location and the pub. 

Introduction

Water plays a crucial role in all our lives.  However, in previous generations, it had an added importance related to transport. Ships plied the ocean waves carrying freight and passengers around the globe, the rivers were a vital infrastructure allowing goods to be carried from and to inland locations that could take many days and significant expense to journey by poor and limited roadway.  I believe it was in this era that the placename “Halfway House” was born and the location originated; a halfway point from Waterford City to the busy shipping stop-off point that was Passage East and later Cheekpoint. 

Geography of the site

Halfway House is situated at a crossing point of Ballycanvan stream and Pill.  A Pill is a common enough word locally, originating in Norman times I understand and generally referring to a tidal stream.  The Pill is tidal (ie the river rises and falls to that point) up to the bridge, a fresh water stream lies above this and it must have been an ancient fording point of the stream. 

A sense of the location – OSI Historic Maps

The main road between Cheekpoint and Waterford comes through the site, but in the past it was also a roadway from Passage and Crooke to the city, joining the main road at Carraiglea and what we locally call Strongbows Bridge.  The current Passage and Crooke Road crosses over the bridge now at the site but that’s a more recent development,

Boundary sign from 1980 on the city side of the bridge. Authors Photo.

The site also marks three distinctive administrative boundaries.    As you cross the stream towards the city you leave the county boundary and enter the city.  It also marks the meeting of three District Electoral Divisions (DED’s) Faithlegg, Ballymaclode and Woodstown.  Within this it is also subdivided into six townlands, all of which converge at the crossing; Ballycanvan, Ballynaboola, Ballyvoreen, Ballymaclode, Ballygunnertemple, and Cross.  It was/is also surrounded by several large houses including Ballycanvan, Woodlands, Brooke Lodge, Mount Druid, and Blenheim.

Interestingly, the area was once commonly referred to as Alwyardstown, Baile an Adhlar Taigh – a historic reference to the first Norman-era landlord who ruled from Faithlegg an area of about 6000 acres that stretched from Cheekpoint and Passage to Ballytruckle in the city. Authors Photo

Irelands only Flyover Pub!

Before we leave the geographic description, it is worth explaining the bridge that currently stands as a means of travelling towards Passage East. You see the bridge is a relatively new construct (circa 1860) and it was built at a time when a local business family, the Malcomsons (of Portlaw milling and Waterford ship owning and shipbuilding fame), were trying to gather investors to build a railway line to Passage East to take time off the journey from the city to Milford Haven. The plan failed, although the bridge was built, although the use of rail was later successfully implemented when in 1906 the SW Wexford rail line was built to connect the city with Rosslare and via ferry to Fishguard.

Passage East – Days of Sail and Cheekpoint and the Mail Packet

The place name of Halfway House is a common enough one.  According to my Oxford Dictionary, the term Halfway House has four meanings in the modern sense but perhaps the oldest and more historical based is a midpoint between two towns.  In this case, it’s a mid-point between Waterford city and initially the busy stop off point for shipping at Passage East and later Cheekpoint. 

A busy scene at Passage East in the late 18th century via BGHS http://gaultierhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2014/

Passage East was historically and administratively part of Waterford city, primarily in my opinion, because it was central to shipping.  Passage was the point where ships could relatively easily sail to; beyond Passage the river narrows, sailing was more difficult and so before the coming of steam power Passage was a much more accessible spot to anchor. 

Ships entering port could anchor relatively safely between Passage and Ballyhack.  There the customs could check on cargo and ensure the appropriate rates were applied.  Ships could be emptied by the Lighters and a myriad number of trades could be employed in looking after the ship’s needs.  Horse-drawn traffic would have abounded including carriages, carts, joulters, jarveys and so many other horse-driven transports. Passengers and goods would have been transported both to and from the area.  At a later point when the official Mail Packet Service was established at Cheekpoint in 1787, trade would have flourished to the village. 

As a consequence, these horse-drawn transports would have required a stop-off point.  The freshwater stream would have looked after the horses needs.  The pub would have catered for the men! On Redmond’s Hill, a forge operated by a family of the same name operated within living memory and it must have had a good market given the level of trade that would have passed the door. The site also had a shop, a post office and there were a great number of homes for those employed either in the big houses, the farms or in the businesses around the area.

Jack Meades Pub/ Halfway House

Over the door, on the way into the old bar at Jack Meades it states that the pub was founded in 1705.  It was recorded in November 1710, that one Jenkin Richards leased the Inn from William Harrison who lived at the time at Ballycanvan House. Richards was said to lease “the house commonly called or known by the name of “Halfway House”

The door to the old pub. Authors Photo.
Jack Meades Pub or Halfway House. Andrew Doherty

James Guest, (how’s that for a landlords name) and his son John were running the pub in 1721 and the family lived on the premises. The last of the family recorded were the brothers Robert and James Guest who dropped their lease in the 1770’s.  In the mid 19th Century,  1857 to be exact, the landlord of the pub was John Curtain.  When Curtain died, his daughter Elizabeth Meade took over.  Her son Thomas Meade was next to inherit, passing it on in turn to his son John, commonly called Jack. Jack ran it up to the 1970s at which point it passed to his own daughter Carmel. Carmel and her husband Willie Hartley run it still, although it has grown in size in the intervening period, and their son Liam runs the busy food part of the business.

It’s had a difficult time over the last two years as they have tried to survive financially during the Covid 19 pandemic, but it’s interesting to think that it survived the earlier Cholera outbreaks, the famine, and the Spanish flu. 

The site of course has many other water related features, and these I will explore over the new few weeks in the run into National Heritage Week 2021 and specifically Water Heritage Day on Sunday 22nd August 2021.  My original plan was to do a booklet of these pieces of information to be available for a guided walk on the site. However, due to my Covid concerns, this is still not a certainty. I might opt for an online presentation instead. This work will be supported by the Local Authority Waters Programme.

Next week – the two agricultural water-powered corn mills on the site, their design, operation, and the relevance of the stream and the tidal Pill in their operation.

Cheekpoint’s Village Green

Deena Bible

The Green in the village of Cheekpoint, Co Waterford is, as its name suggests, a grassy area close to the quays and situated beside the rivers edge. If you stand in the middle of the Green you can see the boats tied up around the quays, people coming and going and large ships passing up to Waterford or New Ross or making their way back to the sea. There’s a cross as a focal point in the middle, looking out on the river, a double lime kiln to the east and the village pump close to the boreen. It’s called the Green because in the 18th Century it was used as a blanching green for a locally based textile industry.

It has a special place in my heart because I lived there for a few years in my grandparents house, having moved from the city. It was the most exciting time of my life up to that point as I could now open the door of the cottage and run freely onto the Green and play whenever I wanted. All those friends that I had previously seen only on weekends or holidays were now a feature of my life on a constant basis, and of course the summers back then were always sunny.

Cheekpoint Green and quay
Cheekpoint Green and quay 1960’s

The games that were most popular were Rounders, Hide & Seek and Football. Crab fishing passed hours for us and of course swimming off the main quay. McAlpins Suir Inn bar and resturaunt would be jampacked with customers. We would love to see the strangers walking down the quay after their meals and we would make an extra effort in leaping off the quay into the tide, competing with each other to do the most adventerous jumps. We loved to see their reactions of surprise and admiration.

We took for granted the coming and going of the ships on the river; tankers, container ships and freighters and the pilots who went aboard. I thought that because it was a daily occurance that everyone would be used to seeing these ships. It was only later I realised how unique it was.

The fishermen used the Green as a place to repair their punts which were hauled out and turned over. These were natural hiding spaces and for hide and seek we would scurry underneath them, hold our breaths and listen to try work out where the seeker was. I remember one rainy summers day we had a picnic under one, and we thought it was the best place in the world.

Fishermen on the Green in the 1990’s . Net mending and yarn telling. L-R Ned Power, Walter Whitty, Jim Doherty, Brian McDermott, Tom Sullivan & Dick Mason. Pat Murphy photo

We took for granted the coming and going of the fishermen and how safe we felt with them around. Ever watchful, they came and went with the tides, hunting the salmon, eel or the herring, mending their nets or repairing their boats. Only as I grew older did I realise how lucky I was to see such sights on a daily basis and how safe I felt playing around the Green.

Rowdyism at the Races -Regattas of 1893

The local regattas of Waterford, New Ross and the harbour have a long tradition, and the season of events in 1893 was as widely attended and as fiercely competed as any other years.  To the victors went the spoils and the bragging rights, to the losers disapointment and a determination to do better at the next event. But tempers sometimes flared, plans went awry and drink added fuel to already tense situations. But it was in the racing competitions that the real drama took place and 1893 would prove to be a lively racing season as any other.

A recent email from Florida of a silver vase/cup which was presented at the Passage East Regatta of 1893 led me on a fascinating trawl for further information.   The mention of regattas evoke a bright and energetic scene in my mind. Reared on stories of the older ones I can picture a flag boat, brightly bedecked from where the races were co-ordinated. The “quality” on their yachts and finer boats, the fishermen in their working craft, looking as clean and well turned out as any other, and their pride in their craft no less than the weathiest owners present. On land a variety of activities well attended by hundreds drawn by boat and foot from many miles. But it was on the water where the drama would be, fiercely contested races, disputes between crews, and bragging rights to the winners which brough huge pride to the boat, the crew and the winning village. As a child these exploits were often relived to me, the boats celebrated and the disputes grew legs in the telling, or so I thought. So although I could very well imagine the story around the photo of the cup I was keen nonetheless to try put weight to my theories.  And so a search of the newspaper archives[i] brought the 1893 season alive to me.  I will start it in chronological order of the events that I managed to discover.

A sense of a regatta scene at Helvic, Co Waterford

At the AGM of the Waterford Boat Club in March some concerns were expressed at the lack of members given that the new club house in Ferrybank – that left the club with a debt of £64.  The membership subscription was considered low, but as it was seen as a recreational pursuit at the time, the chairman was hoping that more numbers would come forward to facilitate a regatta later in the summer[ii]. A follow up meeting saw a committee appointed comprising of organisers, race starters, umpires and judges[iii].  However, in a later report it was “… decided, owing to the non-training of the crews to abandon the annual regatta… This announcement will, we feel sure, be met with regret, as this annual event was one of the most prominent aquatic fixtures in Ireland”[iv]  Possibly an overstatement, but not perhaps, to the readers of the Waterford Chronical.

New Ross had no such issues.  In fact the training was so hot and heavy in the boat club, people were putting their lives in jeopardy.  From one report we learn of three separate incidents in the one week.  Firstly a boat was wrecked when an over enthusiastic oarsman hopped aboard and went through the hull.  The crew were none the worse for the wetting, but the boat necessitated a visit from the builder (Mr Rough) in Oxford, England who made the necessary repairs.  Meanwhile another single rower smacked into a river boat at anchor.  “…The stem of the skiff was considerably damaged, and she filled with water, the trainer having to swim ashore, dragging, as well as he could, the boat after him.”  Finally a very capable oarsman had rowed as far as Annagh Castle but on returing up to Ross his Skiff was upset and sunk.  Swimming to shore he righted and emptied his craft returning to New Ross none the worst for his adventure except for his wet attire.[v]

Ida with a crowd of revellers aboard. With thanks to Andy Kelly

I’ve found a few dates mentioned for the New Ross regatta of that year, and it seems likely the event was rescheduled, but apparently it was run off on Monday June 26th.  Ironically the same date as had earlier been proposed in Waterford.  A report in the Waterford Chronical painted a wonderful picture of a Waterford city crowd arriving by the paddle steamer Vandeluer for a day of revelry and promenading, remarking on the passengers enjoying the views along the “majestic windings of the noble stream” but following arrival at the town of New Ross, the weather takes a turn for the worse, leading the writer to evoke Shakespeare “Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, And make me travel forth without my cloak, To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way, Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?[vi]

The races are run however including an open Cot race, Carvel built Yawl race for boats fishing inside the Tower of Hook, and a sculling Punt race. The race of the day was apparently the New Ross Boat Club Challenge Cup which was staged between the locals and Dublin University Boat Club, victory by a long margin to the locals was triumphantly recorded.  Two other races were recorded; large Gig race and a skiff race.  Numbers of competitors in the report were very small however, and I didn’t notice any boats from the lower harbour – perhaps their knowledge of the weather kept them away.[vii]

There was another side to the popular event however and for many weeks after, the courts dealt with several serious cases of public order.  In one, Joseph Halligan of Ringville (situated downriver on the Kilkenny side) was brought before the Petty Sessions after he wielded a bottle at a brawl during the regatta.  Halligan had arrive in Ross with his neighbours and friends to race in the regatta when some prime boys from the town, described as sailors and porters, had taken the oars to their boats and had refused to hand them back.  Tempers flared and on one of his colleagues being knocked senseless to the ground Halligan went on the attack and broke not one but two bottles off his tormentors.  Constable Kepple had made enquires and found that the defendant had been much provoked and on his evidence the bench decided to fine the defendant 1s with costs.  His willingness to cooperate and the evidence of Constable Kepple were cited as the reasons for the leniency shown.[viii]

Another report under the headline of “Drunkenness and Rowdyism” dealt with several cases of assault while another weeks court report was headlined “The Faction Fight Near New Ross”, and detailed a dispute between rival fishing crews of cot men from Kilbrehon and the neighbouring district arising out of the regatta races.[ix]

Tramore regatta with a wide variety of sailing boats and other craft participating.

The next meet of the summer was on Tuesday 12th September at Tramore.  A report of the day described it “so far as the spectators were concerned… a thorough success” However in racing terms it proved a disappointment at least for sailing purposes.  The course for all sailing races was “…from the flag boat at Cove, round  flag boat at Strand, round flag boat under Brownstown Head, round flag boat a mile south of Mettleman, and home”  There were ten races scheduled including for: Second Class Fishing Yawls, Half-decked Pleasure Boats, Lobster pot boats (oars and sail allowed), Passage and Ballyhack Fishing Yawls, Sailing Punts, First Class Yawls, Pair oared Punts, Swimming race, Coastguard Boats, Four Oared Yawls and a Duck Hunt.  The following account was given of the Coastguard race which although understated I could well imagine was a matter of some pride, not to say hostility between these particular crews: “This proved an excellent race, and we should like see another contest between the same crews. The Blue Jackets strained every nerve in their rivalry, and if the Tramore crew was beaten it was little more than short head. Order finish was—Bonmahon 1st, Tramore 2nd,  Ballymacaw 3rd and Dunmore 4th[x]

Cheekpoint was held two days later, on Thursday 14th September.  The scene was described as “an annual fixture, [which]…took place… under very favourable conditions, and was an unqualified success.  A hazy morning was succeeded by a beautiful autumn day, and the lovely expanse of water which forms the confluence of the Suir and Barrow never looked to greater advantage, gaily-decked fleet of pleasure craft and fishing boats giving an unwonted air of animation to the scene” [xi]

Pat Powers steam yacht Jennie, off the Rookery quay, pre 1903 as Barrow Railway bridge commenced late 1902

Giving a sense of the popularity, the river had many boats on show, where the wealthier or more privileged spectators took advantage of some of the best viewing opportunities, whilst being royally entertained. As befitted the local landlord, Pat Power of Faithlegg House, took centre stage with his steam yacht Jennie[xii] – crewed by local men including members of the Heffernan and Barry families.  The Jennie was “dressed with bunting from deck to trucks, and numerous and fashionable party were entertained on board by her popular owner.”  Amongst other yachts present as spectators on the day were Mr J N White’s Neerid,  Mr Murphy’s Pixie,  Mr Gallwey’s Thyra, Mr J R Colfer’s Dunmore, Messrs Graves and McConkeys  Irex, and many others that were unidentified.[xiii]

But it wasn’t just an event for the well to do.  The article mentions that  “The country folk [of which I would surely be included had I been there] assembled in great numbers along Cheekpoint Strand to watch the various contests, and we are glad to be able record that, although many of the rowing events elicited great enthusiasm and excitement, the day passed off without the least rowdyism or unpleasantness”[xiv]  Perhaps proving the point, I found no mention of the event in court reports afterwards.  Honest, I did look! That said, it was often while fishing or while visiting another village thereafter that sport could kick off. My father often recalled punch ups between competing crews due to a regatta race, where infringements, real or imagined, resurfaced and regularly led to trouble.

“There were numerous other events, including sailing and rowing races for fishing yawls, ships’ gig race, pair-oared and sculling punts, farmers’ race, pram [Prong] race, duck hunt, etc., all of which were well contested.”  But according to the report the principal event of the day was the race for pleasure boats, which resolved itself into duel between Mr R Kelly’s Oceola and Mr J Barry ‘s Ballinagoul, and Mr Allinghams Otis.  A vivid description of this 12 mile race that involved sailing below Duncannon and finishing with two laps around Cheekpoint to finish.  It turned into a two horse race after the Otis lost her topsail, after trading places on several occasions a thrilling finish saw the Oceola beat Ballinagoul into second place by six feet.[xv]

A colourised image of Dunmore East. Following interaction with Eoin Robson who facilitated further assistance with Alison Cable, Boat Register editor of the Old Gaffers Association we speculated on the possibility of the three boats shown as having participated in the Cheekpoint regatta described above. However, this was prior to the other information I have on Passage East. I share it in case it might prompt a memory or extra information (and it may also be spot on). None of the 3 [boats mentioned in the Cheekpoint regatta above] are in the 1895/6 [Lloyds yacht] register, but Oceola, belonging to Mr R A Kelly appears in 1897-90. She drops of the register in 1901. She is listed as a cutter, with sails by Grant. Displacement 5 tons Thames measure. 25′ on the waterline. Designed by E.Murphy and built by E Power in Waterford in 1892. Her home port is listed as Waterford, which certainly goes with racing at Dunmore East.

“Otis, owned by J Allingham also appear in the 1897 register, but her details are very scanty, merely listing her as a cutter of 5 tons Thames measure. Her home port is London. It is possible that the two cutters in this photo are Oceola and Otis, with the yawl being Ballinagoul. I have found no boat of this name in the register, although a J.Barry is listed as a yacht builder in Cork active in 1876 when he built Mystery”

More on Otis. “Her entry was very odd, since her details are so scanty and she also had no obvious connection with the Waterford Harbour area. However I found a boat listed in the 1903, 1910, 1915 registers called Kate, ex Otis. She is a cutter, with sails by Grant, 6 tons TM, 25′ on the waterline, and built by Hicks of Waterford in 1888. Her owner is listed as Patrick Bolger of New Ross. Patrick Bolger owned another very similar yacht called Kate in 1897, this one built by Fitzpatrick of Waterford. It is likely that Patrick Bolger bought Otis from Mr Allingham, and renamed her. There seems to have been a flourishing yacht building culture is Waterford! ” With thanks to Eoin and Alison for their thoughts and expertise.
On a related note – David Carroll has pointed out that the colour image used actually dates to 1925 or after. This still does not take from Alisons information however, these boats were built to last.

The email query that started this quest for details of the Passage regatta was the last to be run of the 1893 season.  Passage East was blighted by glorious sunshine and still breezes, which favoured those viewing and some of the rowing races but made a misery of the sailing.  For the purposes of trying to identify the cup I thought it best to concentrate on the sailing races, of which there were four but only two given any great detail.  “There were numerous entries for all the sailing races, of which two were for pleasure boats and two for yawls ; but these events were greatly marred by the want of wind. The chief race, for first class pleasure boats, brought the following to starting line —Mr Colfer’s Dunmore Allingham’s Otis,  Mr Kelly’s Oceola,  Mr O’Neill’s Naiad, Mr Barry’s Ballinagoul,” and Mr Power’s Mary Joseph.  The course was from Passage Pier. A good start was made at 12.15, and with a light W.N.W. breeze, the run was quickly made; here the wind veered W.S.W., and Mary Joseph and Ballinagoul, in this order drew away from the others; however, the breeze soon got back about W, which just enabled boats lay their course on the return journey to Passage. The second round was very tedious, and running for Dunmore the boats were at times barely aide to stem the strong flood tide. Mary Joseph caught a puff off Glenwater, which enabled her to creep ahead of Oceola, and managed to increase her lead on the reach home. The finish was Mary Joseph first by about three minutes, Ocoola second, the rest a long way behind. In second pleasure boat race Mr H W Goffs Waterway won easily from Mr Paul’s Alarm and Mr Meade’s Seabird.  The rowing were all well contested and in the afternoon donkey races, Greasy Pole and other sports, gave unbounded amusements to the large crowd on shore.”[xvi]

Passage East Regatta cup image courtesy of Paul Fitzgerald. The cup/ vase reads: PASSAGE EAST REGATTA, September 20th 1893, Won by (at this stage there is a distict gap with some soldering marks suggesting a badge or plaque had been in place -my theory s that it was for the winning craft and/or crew)
MIST (an abbreviation for Mr?), H.W.D. Goff

Unfortunately I could find no extra detail of the Passage events. I thought that through them I might get a better insight into the details on the cup and a lead on who may have won it, or the connection of Hubert Goff to the event.  Goff was the son of Sir William Davis Goff the business man and keen sportsman who had a passion for sailing. However Hubert was only a young man at the time, so would he have had the cash or the interest in providing a prize for a sailing meet? My theory is that he did. We do know from the report that his craft the Waterway won the second pleasure boat race. But is this the cup he won. Personally I don’t think so. I’m basing this on a theory that the hallmarked cup/vase which stands 4.5 inches high was engraved before the event and that a later plaque was added with the winning boat and crew.   It’s the only theory that I can imagine that fits with the writing that is there.  Afterall, why would the cup maker go to the bother and expense of adding another piece to the cup if it was all engraved after the event with the winner?  I’m open to correction or any other theories. Following through on this theory it is possible that the winner of this cup was the Mary Joseph, owned by Mr Power. Mere speculation here, as I have no further evidence, but Pat Power of Faithlegg had on son named Hubert who had also a passion for sailing and owned a number of sailing vessels. The only yacht I have a name for however is Star of the Sea, which was a boat he had built himself, apparently in the Rookery, Cheekpoint, which he sailed up until ill health prevented him.

Finally, the Passage regatta also led to court.  In this case two young lads named Connolly and O’Gorman appeared in court at the Callaghane Petty Sessions on charges of having robbed a boat while attending the Passage East Regatta and used it to head back upriver to Waterford.  However while enroute, they were rundown by the New Ross Steamer (The Ida at this time) and narrowly avoided drowning.  Their solicitor could do little but appeal to the mercy of the court.  Judgement was withheld but with a caution that compensation be made to the boat owner, Mr Arthur O’Neill of Glenbower.[xvii]

Despite hours of searching I found no mention of a regatta that year at Dunmore, Ballyhack or Duncannon.  The season was brought to a conclusion with Passage East, and no doubt the long winter would bring retelling of the events, replays of the winning strategies and planning for revenge for those who narrowly lost out.  It would all be replayed in 1894 and the competitions would be as fierce as ever.   But that of course is a whole different story.

If you have any other information, images or memorabilia on the events of 1893 or any regattas in the area I would love to hear them in the comments or to tidesntales@gmail.com  

If you would like a sense of the rowing races I previously wrote a story on the Cheekpoint regatta of 1909.

I have many people to thank for assistance with this piece. Paul Fitzgeral who prompted the search, John Diamond and Myles Courtney from New Ross, Joe Falvey from Waterford, Paul O’Farrell and Eoin Robson and Alison Cable. Each in their own way gave extra insight or their valuable time to help with details. I think the photos help to bring the story alive and I am indebted to Waterford County Museum and thier online catalouge of photograph used throughout the story. The responsibility for what is contained is my own.

My new book is scheduled to be published in September 2020.
Its available for pre-order at https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/waterford-harbour/9780750993685/

Harbour Hobblers

Last Saturday I had the good fortune to
call over to Waterford Airport to see the materials that were uncovered by Noel
McDonagh at Creaden Head, Co Waterford. 
While there we got into a conversation with Michael Farrell of the
Barony of Gaultier Historical Society and Brendan Dunne and his son Ian about
the area around Creaden and one curious place name that jumped out at me was
the Hobblers Rock.  The feature is on the
upper side of the headland, in a sheltered spot, and was a departure point for
the hobblers and their boats in a vital element of our maritime trade, ship
pilotage and docking.
The term Hobbler was first introduced to me
as a boy, listening to the stories of my father and the older men of
Cheekpoint. Their definition has been challenged by others, enhanced or
diminished, depending on who you listen to.  Indeed many look at you, if you mention the word, like you had another head.  Thinking more likely about Hobbits!
Hobbler attending the MV Julia at Waterford circa 1950
Shortall via the Andy Kelly collection
According to my father a hobbler was defined as one of a team of
men who rowed down the harbour in long punts and vied with each other to have
the right to guide a ship into Waterford or New Ross. He admired them as hard working, tough and
resilient men who could row miles off the Hook to engage a craft, and if need be, tow a
ship past Cheekpoint up through the Kings Channel and into the city. (Or via the Barrow to New Ross) Crews were
made up from all the villages and the towns and the competition between crews was fierce. 
The method of securing the right to take charge of a ship has
variations in its telling too. Some said
that it was a straightforward race; first hobbler team to get a rope aboard the
incoming vessel secured the prize. However I have also heard that bidding wars took place with ships
masters, when conditions allowed. Competing hobbler teams would be forced into a bidding war, resulting in bad feeling, scuffles or much worse. My father had one story of a man named Whistler who lost almost all his teeth in a row with another hobbler. As my father had it, thereafter you would hear the Whistler coming because of the wind blowing through his damaged teeth! 
Other accounts say that it was just a
couple of men in a boat, which met incoming boats and won the right to tie them
up. Others talk of winning the right to
discharge or load ships. Whilst others
again talk of them almost in terms of a modern era tug boat, used to move ships
from moorings to berths and vice versa.  Another
curious aspect of the hobbler story is that in Cheekpoint one theory of the
site known locally as “the Lookout” was also linked to them.  I’ve speculated before on a link to this site
and other lookout points as a signaling system employed within the port.
Hobblers mooring a WWI era troop ship. Artist Charles Pears.
First published in the Illustrated London News Jan 1916

With the formation of the Waterford Harbour
Board[1] in
1816 piloting became more organised and pilot boats were employed to put recognised
pilots aboard ships.  This must certainly
have impacted the role of the hobbler, but not completely (I’ve seen accounts of hobblers piloting as late as 1894). I also read
that on the south coast of England “Hovellers” [2]
were a description of the craft or men that sailed as far as Lands End at times
in search of incoming ships in need of a pilot. Indeed the term also existed in Cork and Dublin (I haven’t seen it recorded elsewhere as yet). David Carroll has only recently sent me a book[3]
highlighting their courage and skill, including one poignant story of a
hobblers crew demise.

The Hobbler memorial at Dun Laoighre.  Photo via Derek Carroll and passed along by page regular David Carroll

I’m now convinced that the reason so many
definitions or accounts of hobblers exist, is because the stories I have heard
come from at least two hundred years of maritime trade. Their roles altered as times changed, perhaps initially with the
formation of the Harbour Board and the formalisation of pilotage. Increases in sailing ships with auxiliary engines, and steam boats must
have been the next phase. 

For me, Hobblers Rock in Creaden is a
very important maritime place name connection with the port of Waterford and New Ross’
past.  A point from which I’m sure men
had a lookout post, and where a wary eye was kept on the horizon, and hardened
fishermen waited impatiently for a sail to be sighted and the cry to go up of “sail ahoy”.  Mighty men, deserving
acknowledgement.
I finally got to the monument in Oct 2018
Phioto courtesy of Michael Farrell 

[2] A Dictionary of the Worlds Watercraft.  The Mariners Museum. 2000.  Chatham Publishing
[3] A Maritime History of Ringsend. 
2000.  Sandymount Community
Services
I publish a blog about Waterford Harbours maritime heritage each Friday.  
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Cheekpoint Fairy Tale?

I was often chided for my romantic notions of the Cheekpoint name deriving from the fairy folk, the Sidhe.  However in recent months strong, albeit circumstantial, evidence is coming to the surface that those of us with romantic notions may not be totally without support.
I wrote previously about the place name of Cheekpoint.  To reprise it now, there are those with a geographic bent, who consider it the point of the streaks, referring to the currents and eddies created as the three rivers flow over the rock that is to this day know as the Sheag rock.  Whilst others like myself are inclined towards the Point of the Sidhe or fairies.
Now the evidence for the fairies was always circumstantial.  Stories of fairy folk were legion in the community that I was reared in, fairy rings still exist, and few but the foolish or unwary would interfere with them. When fishing at night I was warned about particular gaps on the Russianside lane, that I was best to hurry past and certainly not stop if any voices tried to engage me. Of course the most magical event I have ever seen is the Sí Gaoith, an occurrence I have witnessed several times, by the most exciting and spectacular with my son Joel while fishing in the late 1990’s.
I had also mentioned the fabled Cesair, and it is to her that I now return.  Now Cesair has as many versions of her life (and spelling of her name) as there are internet links. Many interconnecting points are present however which boil down to a lady of immense courage who before the flood set sail in three ships, with three men and 150 women.  They wandered the oceans until they arrived in Ireland and the three groups broke up and set to populating Ireland. Her band are referred to as the Sidhe, and over the millennia this has become tied into fairy folk and leprechauns.  I’d linked the landing point of the Sidhe to Cheekpoint, although I’m sure many thought me misguided.
Meeting of the Three Sisters, from the Minaun, Drumdowney Kilkenny on the left opposite bank,
Great Island Co Wexford on the left

However last summer an academic gathering at Kilmokea, Great Island  put weight behind this theory, albeit on the opposite bank. As foundation myths go, the location is very plausible, strategically placed with abundant access via the three sister rivers to the hinterland of the SE.


What for me is a related argument in any foundation myth is evidence of early settlement in an area.  Evidence already exists of the oldest known settlement in the South East being at Ballylough beside Belle Lake on the road to Dunmore East.  Destroyed promontory forts such as at Dunmore also confirm early settlement, although of a later era. Again more evidence is emerging, this time due to the efforts of the redoubtable Noel McDonagh at Creaden Head near the mouth of the harbour.  
The linking of an early foundation myth with physical evidence of, potentially, Ireland’s earliest known settlement is still of course speculation.  But as Noel’s evidence builds and academic interest in exploring the foundation story develop, its a case of watch this space.  
I’m conducting a free guided walk this coming Bank Holiday Monday from Cheekpoint quay, departing at 5pm.  Its 2km, over rough ground and will concentrate on the villages maritime heritage. We will arrive back at 6.30pm.  Details on my facebook event page

For a flavour of the walk, here’s a piece from Mark at Waterford Epic Locations depicting our Bank Holiday walk Easter 2017 along the Faithlegg Marsh. If you haven’t seen Marks page already treat yourself, what a stunning area Waterford is! And don’t forget to like and subscribe for more of Marks great video content https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReHpt3u_ZM0&t=9s

I publish a blog about Waterford Harbours maritime heritage each Friday.  
To subscribe to get it to your inbox email russianside@gmail.com 
For daily events/updates https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  https://twitter.com/tidesntales