Launching the punts

As a child in Cheekpoint there were various rhythms to the
year.  One was a boring repetitive one-
school.  There were others however, which were much more pleasant and one of the more interesting
and natural was the fishery.

I mentioned before the way of the tides and the fishing.  But around the fishing there was
also a natural cycle with the boats; from half deckers, prongs and punts.  For now I’d like to concentrate on the punts.

In those days they were made of timber,
generally larch planks over oak frames. 
Following the long spring and summer of the salmon fishing and eel
fishing boats were heavy with absorbed water into the planks and needing some repair. 

Wear and tear on punts could have been simple or more complicated including; damaged keel bands (a band of
metal that protected the keel) could be loose or broken following a
season of beaching on gravel or stone.,
natural wear on timber from weather, damage to gunwales from hauling nets or ropes, faded paint work and repairs such as few gaps in planks where caulking would have fallen out or rotted to having to replace timbers or planks, knees, thwarts etc.

Boats were generally hauled out on some of the high tides
such as the equinox springs in late September. 
These tended to be a community event, groups of men (and boys) gathering
to help to drag up the punts from high water and onto the shoreline.  Once up, they would be turned over,
keel side up and the gunwales raised off the ground with rocks under them to
allow the wind blow under and dry them out.

Turning over a punt at Moran’s poles. Photo: Hannah Doherty

In the village the Green was the favourite spot to
overwinter.  The Rookery quay would also
have a few boats.  Moran’s poles was a
favourite of Paddy & Pat Moran, Paddy, Christy and Johnny Doherty and
Maurice Doherty too.  Further along
towards Whelan’s Road Charlie Duffin kept his boat and in the next spot Jim
Duffin.  Ned “Garragier” Power kept his
punt and prong down under the house on the strand.

Over the winter, the barnacles and green moss that would
have grown on the boats bottom during the heat of the summer would have died
back.  At some stage these would be scrapped off and washed down. 
Some preferred to do it soon after, others not until they were readying
the hull in the spring.  There was always
someone down at the boats tinkering away at something.  As children we loved to come across the men
working on the boats.  There was always a
yarn, maybe a few bob for running an errand or an opportunity to learn some
particular skill. 

work in progress. Photo: Molly Doherty

One Sunday morning I returned home from the poles and asked my
father if I could light his fag.  He
was sitting at the fire and nearly choked on his cup of tea.  Anyway I
persisted and he said “go on so”.  So I
took the fag in my mouth struck the match on the box and cupped me hand around
the flame.  Bending down I puffed hard
and came up with the fag lit to perfection. 
Amazed, he asked me “Where did you learn that” – “Paddy Doherty just
showed me” I said, beaming with pride, “He said any man that fishes needs to
know how to light a fag when out in a gale”. 
“Well, you’re on your way so” said my father as he snatched it out of my fingers


Before the boat was turned it would need to be coated with a
mixture of tar and pitch to seal the hull. 
Any caulking that had come undone would be replaced prior to this.  Manys the time the tar and pitch we used came
from Johnny Hearne’s on the quay, but people had many sources, and I remember it said that the best you could get was from the Harbour Board. 

launching from Moran’s poles 1990’s.  Photo: Deena Bible

This would be melted down in a pot or an old paint can over
an open fire and you had to be careful that the tar didn’t boil too hot or it
could catch fire.  The brush used would
have to be a good one, or it would fall apart in the heat.  The same pot and brush tended to be used from
year to year.  Once the hull was tarred
it would be left to dry and then turned over to expose the inside.

Then this too would be tarred and finally the gunwales and
strikes would be painted inside and out. 
Each boat had her own traditional colours and a lot of care was
generally paid to ensure that the upper paint work looked well. 

Blessing of a punt at the Green Cheekpoint c1964

Once all was in order, it was time to launch.  This tended to be done a few weeks before the
new season started as boats needed time to swell in the water and close up
after the planks had dried out and most probably shrunk.  Again it was a big event and most boats would
go out together to save on time.

modern day launching
Sat 26th July 2014

Repairs these days take place with power tools, hence boats tend to come
out on a trailer and be towed home to a shed and a nearby power source.  It’s also a fact that most boats these days
are fibreglass or are timber boats that have a fiberglass coating.  Hence the traditions described above have either died out or are significantly altered and reduced, which when you think about it, is a big loss to a local tradition.

Thanks to Tomás Sullivan for suggesting the topic of this blog.

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

Old Faithlegg Church

With the
coming of the Normans to Ireland  a man named Aylward was granted the lands of Faithlegg in 1177 and this led to the establishment of a parish.  At the heart of this parish system was an early church close by to which was a Motte and Baily castle.  This would have been the centre of administration and control associated with governing the area. 



Faithlegg Churches 1928

According to Julian Walton there is a written record
of this church in the 12th century, however what we know as Old Faithlegg Church has been dated as 13th or possibly 14th Century.  An older church on the site may have been a timber construction, the remains of which would have
quickly disappeared.  It is also a matter of local speculation that the site of the old church is in fact the ruins of two seperate
churches. 

The older part, it is speculated, is located
furthest from the road.  This measures
6.8m by 5.2m and has been referred to as the “Chancel” or “Sanctuary”.  The entrance to this is via a Romanesque
style arch which dates it earlier than the main church and belfry  gable beside
it.  The other features that would suggest this are; a different roof pitch, a different wall size and when the building became undermined in the 1990’s it was the chancel that was most seriously damaged. (The very obvious difference in roof pitch is still visible in the inside gable to the left of the Romanesque arched doorway)

On the western side, facing the road is the “Church”.  This measures 13m by 6.5m and is in
the Venetian Gothic style which is a later style.  The windows are also of a different design, although some have speculated that these may have been added at a later stage.  The roof would have been of thatch.



Faithlegg 1888 – Lapham Collection
Sourced from Tomás Sullivan

It is probably that the church would have given a couple of hundred years of service to Catholics despite the upheavals in the country with the Reformation in England and the uncertainty this would have brought.  It was most certainly closed when in 1649 the Aylwards were finally removed as landlords of the parish and replaced by Captain WIlliam Bolton.  Bolton was described as a “stern old puritan” and the likelihood of a church surviving under his stewardship would be unthinkable.  Locally there is a story that before the Cromwellian Army marched on Faithlegg the Priest of the Church buried his vestments with the church silver vowing that they would be recovered once the invaders had been vanquished.  Alas, the Cromwellian’s won out, and the Faithlegg treasure remains hidden.

The Down Survey of 1658 stated that the church at Faithlegg
was “out of repair” and down through the years it has remained as such, although this did not prevent the Bolton family of Faithlegg and some of their relations being interred in the chapel of the church.  At one point it also held a bell in the eastern gable, as depicted in a drawing by Charles Newport Bolton in 1843, presumably this was the church bell up until the new Spire and Belfry was added to the New Faithlegg Church in 1873.


Sketch by Charles Newport Bolton 1843
(Who is interred in the church with his Bolton relatives)
Sourced from Tomás Sullivan

As a child I remember the graveyard men – at the time Martin Nugent and my mothers Uncle, Paddy Moran- used to store their tools in the old church behind a padlocked gate.  Once the graveyard committee was established and work proceeded on developing and enhancing the graveyard, the old church became a focus of attention and numerous letters were written to seek state support in  preserving the building.  However, this met with no success and by the mid 1990’s part of the chancel wall collapsed and it
became increasingly hazardous.  There was a genuine fear that the whole building could collapse.



Photo copied from Kevin Ryan original 1999 of collapsed wall
Photo copied from Kevin Ryan original 1999 of the collapse

In 1999 Kevin Ryan began a survey of the
building with a view to determine how best
to structurally secure it. Kevin’s survey work combined with others enthusiasm formed the
basis of a successful application for funding.  £10,000 was granted by the Heritage Council
of Ireland and a further £15,000 raised locally to carry out the necessary
works.   The resulting work has served to protect the building and make it safe and accessible to the present and future generations.
A hope of the scheme at the time was that an archaeological survey might be carried out.  However, the powers that be determined that there was little to be learned from the site and were of the opinion that such a survey would never be warranted.  Such a pity, as the Church silver may have been unearthed, although more likely some evidence of an earlier church might have been proved or disproved. 

Another mystery of course is what happened to the bell that hung in the gable of the old church.  The new belfry got a new bell so where is the old one, and how old was it?…but that’s another story for another time

in 2001 there were some concerns that the sum of €25,000 was a high price to pay to preserve such an ancient piece of our built heritage.  Personally, I’m very glad that the Graveyard committee had the foresight to work so hard to preserve the building, and that we were so lucky to have someone like Kevin Ryan in our midst that gave so freely of his time and expertise.  The building is an historic landmark of Norman times, not just of Faithlegg, but of Gaultier, Waterford and indeed, in my own view, of Ireland. 

Visitors can now access the old church in safety and with ease
Photo credit: Hannah Doherty

 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