Water water everywhere…

Politicians in Ireland are currently at each others throats
on the matter of water
charges
.  Whatever your political
views, which probably lie on or between two polar opposites – that water is a
human right and should be provided free out of existing taxes, to water should be privatised and
turned into a commodity – my philosophical view is that water is a valuable resource
which should be cherished.

My grandmother,
Nanny, thought me a lot about valuing water, or as she put it “sparing”
it.  She would pour water from the tap
into a plastic basin which sat in her Belfast sink in the kitchen every
morning.  Very often the water would
rinse an egg from under a chicken before it was boiled for breakfast, do several rinses of dishes during the day
and her to wash her hands as required.  It might be
topped up with water being drained from steamed spuds or veg.  Usually it was early evening or night time
before the basin water was thrown out, but never discarded.  No, it went on plants in pots, a shrub in the
garden or maybe to wash the steps. 

We often chided her about it, but of course to her it was
just a habit.  Nanny would tell us about
walking as child to the wells to draw water. 
It was the child’s job and was done as soon as they were strong enough.  It was a daily chore, seven days a week
and had to be done even before she would go to school in the morning and on her return.  It was also a
woman’s job, as her brothers would have been fishing as soon as they could pull
an oar.

Spring well at Barn Quay
The
closest well in the Russianside was on the strand between Morans Poles and
Whelans Road.  This was 200 yards away
and was a steep climb up to the house with the filled pails, one in each
hand.  Sometimes this was tainted with
seawater following a flood or a storm. 
She would need to wait then for her father and the neighbours to remove
the seaweed and flotsam, pour lime into it to cleanse it and then give it a few days to
settle.  While waiting she would need to
walk to Ryans Quay a further 300 yards to the nest nearest well.

She was born in 1919 and it was not until the early 1950’s
that the council constructed the new house and provided the luxury of a tap
outside.  In the 1960s, Chris Sullivan
(who did all the odd jobs around when he wasn’t fishing) put a new tap and
Belfast sink into her back kitchen.  But
although the water flowed her old habits remained.

The other water source she valued was the water barrel.  She had one at the front and back, placed
under the down pipe of the gutters and she often used it to wash, saying her
hair was always softer after the rainwater. 
She also vowed that it was much better for watering plants.

One of the wells that still is in use is the well pictured above at the Barn Quay.  We often drink from it and to my mind it tastes delicious.  The Teen’s told me that Jenny O’Brien recently did a science project for school in water analysis and used the water from the well which emerges out of the cliff face where once there was a Slate quarry.  Apparently the water was pure and free of any pollution.

The other wells that I can recall; one in the high street
under Margaret and Des O’Keffee’s , one in the basement of Daisybank House, one in the Rookery, one in the Marsh under
Mahon’s (now Ray McGraths), three in
Coolbunnia; by Ned Powers  as you head up
the Hurthill, below Everetts (where Malachy & Michelle Doherty now live)
and at “Maggie Mooncoins” below my brother Robert’s.  The nicest well water I remember was at Larry
Cassins on the Old Road.  As children we
often stopped with my mother to slake our thirst.  He would come out with some mugs and
distribute them round to us as my mother filled them from an earthenware jug
that was always available. I have no doubt but there were many others.

Water Pump on the Green, Cheekpoint

I’m not sure when the
water pumps were added to the village landscape, but there were two.  The first is still in place on the village
green and was in use into the 1980s. Pat Murphy of the Green told me it was
there before his family arrived in the 1940’s. 
It’s still a beautiful feature but if memory serves it was painted green when I was a child.  The other was at the cross roads, between the
present shop and my Uncle Sonny’s house. 
It was removed by the council in the early 1990’s. 

According to a recent piece I read in the Irish Independent by Damien Corless (09/08/14), wells were built across the country following the discovery by John Snow in London, that Cholera was spread by dirty water.  The discovery in 1854, led to a building boom of parish pumps across the UK including Ireland – which had been ravaged by cholera at the end of the famine period.  Perhaps the Cheekpoint pumps date from that period. 

Some recent maps I’ve seen would tend to support this view.  Looking on the OSI site at their historic maps of Ireland I learned that some of the first maps produced of the area, Historic 6″ map doesn’t show the well on the green, these were drawn between 1829-41.  However, it is shown on the Historic 25″ maps which were dated 1897-1913.  So at least we can see for certain that it dates from 1913, and most probably earlier.

De La Salle scouts having a drink at the well on Green 1969
photo courtesy of Brendan Grogan

Pat Moran remembers walking up the Mount to a
tap on the road by Josephine Elliots, so perhaps the council were supplying water in other
areas using a similar method.  Pat was a child at the time so it would have been in the mid to late 1950’s. His story got me thinking about a tap at Joanie Hanlons (where Charlie and Paul Hanlon now live) which was inside her hedge but away from the house.  I always wondered why it would not have been placed on her house wall.  Maybe it served the Russianside in a similar way.

Nanny’s habit of water conservation was learned at an early age, and her valuing
of water lasted her lifetime.  It was
something to be spared and used with consideration.  There’s a lesson there for us all whatever
our political outlook.  And in the future
it could save us a lot of money.

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:  

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The Irish Folklore commission’s visit to Faithlegg National School 1937

In 1937, the Irish Folklore Commission visited Faithlegg National School, then situated on the Old Road.  They asked pupils in the boys class to go home and interview their relatives or elderly neighbours and to write down the stories about the village or area they came from.  The boys stories, written in their own hand can be viewed online at the following link.  The girls participated also, but separately from the boys, (in those days they were in different rooms)  which can be viewed here.

Faithlegg School House on the Old Road closed 1961

One of the  boys who participated was Martin Mahon.  Martin was a gentle soul who as long as I could remember lived in the Rookery, Cheekpoint.  He wrote about Occupations in the village and stated that he wanted to follow his father into the fishing trade.  This he did as well as going to sea.  Martin liked nothing better than a pint, a smoke and telling a few yarns. 

Martin and Bridgid Power stepping it out at a Dinner Dance 1980’s
Photo courtesy of Bridgid Power

Martin  never married and died on October 8th 1999. He is buried at the top of Faithlegg Graveyard.  The following is what he had to write about the fishing.

“25th Sept 1937

Faithlegg National School (Boys)
Occupations

Pupil: Martin Mahon
Salmon Fishing.

Salmon Fishing is very common here in Cheekpoint.  Most of the men are fishing salmon.  My father is a fisherman, and I hope to be
one also.  The men sometimes make their
own nets but most of them buy them now. 
The salmon season opens in February and ends on the fifteenth of
August. 

The fishermen have to get a license to fish for salmon.  Before the season opens they get their nets
ready.  The first thing they have to do
is to oil the nets and put them out to dry. 
When the nets are dry they get some rope and rope them with twine.  Before they rope the nets to put corks on the
rope about a fathom apart.  When the nets
are roped they put some leads on them and then they are ready for fishing.

The fishermen fish in all weathers and in the night
sometimes.  Every day during the season
Mr Power and Mr Doherty go to town with any fish the fishermen catch.  The fishermen say that when the wind is to
the south is the best time to get fish over on the bank when the tide is coming
in.  When a fish goes into the nets the
fishermen leave go the end of the nets and pull to where the fish is lashing
and getting the gaff ready catch the part of the nets where the fish is and
sticking the gaff in the fish they pull him in and kill him. 

There are four or five places where the fishermen have to
wait for their turn to set their nets. 
One place is “The Rock” and another is Buttermilk Castle.  There are two boundaries and if they go
outside them they will be summoned.  One
is from Duncannon Head to Drumdowney point and if you were seen outside that
boundary you would be summoned. The fishermen also say that when the water is
clear it’s not a good time to get a salmon, because the fish can see the nets
and turn away or swim out around them.”

How much life and the Salmon fishing has changed in that time.  Driftnetting for Salmon was suspended in Ireland in 2006.  It has yet to re-open.

Many thanks to Jim Doherty for passing on this story originally to me, and to Catherine Connolly who posted the links to both accounts on the Cheekpoint Coolbunnia/Faithlegg Facebook page.

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