Enduring “Mal de Mer”

We were based in Dunmore in the winter of
1983 for the Herring fishing but we returned home in the Reaper for Christmas,
and along with all the other half-decker’s, manoeuvred inside Cheekpoint quay,
where they could be moored without any concern for their safety. Once Christmas
came no one wanted to be checking on boats, for the week we’d be off.  It
would be over soon enough. Once there was a buyer we would be away fishing
again, and with empty pockets, glad of it.

Cheekpoint village mid 1980’s.  MV Reaper at the top of the quay,
Boy Alan and St Agnes amongst others.  Photo via Anthony Rogers

That January of 1984 a market came
available on the Sunday after New Year.  The weather had been broken, with
gale after gale blowing in off the Atlantic.  As we walked onto the quay
that afternoon it was enough to just look at the boats in the harbour of Cheekpoint
to know that the evening wasn’t going to be pleasant.  Punts and half deckers
alike were pulling on anchors and ropes, swaying in and out at their moorings,
reflecting the restlessness of the river.

As we set sail there was a low scudding
cloud and a fresh wind from the SW.  We were an hour or two from high
water, which would mean a slower trip than usual down against the incoming
tide.  At Ballyhack the seas were already a choppy, but by Creaden (the
Waterford side of the harbour mouth) we were pitching and heaving heavily, the
seas breaking in on Broom Hill (Wexford side) looking fairly ominous.
Deep down in my stomach I could feel the
rumblings of upset and my head was starting to pound a little.  I had been
there before, and knew that by keeping my head up and staying busy it had
helped. As we kept moving out the harbour I noticed a change for the worst in
the seas.  The wind hadn’t altered any but the seas were running higher
and the trough that the Reaper went into became deeper and slower to climb out
of.  Standing was difficult, and making your way round the deck took planning, attention and luck.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time,
the tide was now running ebb and with it the change for the worse in the
seas.  Try as I might, none of my tried and tested methods of keeping the
sickness at bay would work.  Progressively I worsened, just like the seas and
then I started to yawn, deep yawns which seemed to rise out of my belly. 
Minutes later I was spewing over the side.  Immediately I felt better, and
longed to believe that the worst was over. 
There was a small flicker of
hope, maybe we wouldn’t find any fish and we could go in.  However
this was dashed when we marked a sizable lump of herring and Jim shouted to set. 
I was sick again and then it was time for the nets to go.  When we had the
nets out and the tea brewed, I forced a cup of the hot sweet tea down. 
Jim said it would help, but Denis was just grinning. I took one look at the
sandwiches and cast them into the sea.  Gulls pounced on them immediately,
screeching at each other and tearing away at the bread. How I longed to be like
those birds, with feathered wings to take them above the relentlessly pitching
and heaving seas.  A seal came into view, a giant, interested no doubt in
the actions of the birds, and what they had found to eat.  If I jumped in
and swam with him, would the cold of the seas and the shock of the water be
enough to relieve me of the horrible sensation that seemed to make every fibre
of my being ache.
I wondered how the other boats were
faring, were others feeling as bad. I also realised my father was nearby in the
Boy Alan.  I wondered what he would make of me. I said a quick prayer to our lady, asking for the strength to finish the job, not let myself or my father down. Again the sickness came, but it was a dry wretch, more painful and debilitating.  
Tea over, Denis checked the net. 
Signs were good.  Jim and himself consulted and decided we better start to
haul.  As the nets came in so did the herring, pile and pile of them and
the back breaking work of dragging the fish filled nets across the deck, was
like my own cross on Calvary.  I have no recollection of how long it took,
but I know that I didn’t have anything left to vomit as we proceeded. 
Over and back, stowing them safely, whilst the deck heaved, rolled and pitched
and I staggered like a drunk.  At some stage the winkie came into view and
it was like Christmas morning all over to me, to see it advancing towards the
gunwale of the boat.
Once in I loosened to light to stop the
winkie from flashing and last thing I remember was slumping onto the
nets.  I awoke at the breakwater at Dunmore East, and was surprised that I
no longer felt sick. But I was worn out, grey in the face, a spent force. We
tied up at the quayside and I started to get the ropes ready for the
shaking.  However a wave of relief washed over me when Jim said that we
would go home that night and return in the morning to shake out the nets. 
I didn’t sleep well that night.  The
sense of shame I felt at and the expectation of the slagging I would get next
day stopped my mind from finding rest.  In the morning I strolled over to
the village to get a lift to Dunmore.  Calling in to my parents, I found
my father lying on the couch.  My guard was up immediately, 
“How’re ya today?” he asked.
 
“I’m grand” I said
“Although I’d be better if we had the nets shook from last night”
  
“There was a lot of men glad to get
home from Dunmore last night” he said, continuing “that was one of
the roughest nights we had in many a year”
“No one else was sick” I
said, 
“Oh they were sick alright” he
countered, “You should have seen the speed of some of them going up the
ladder in Dunmore” 
And although I doubted it, I still had a
laugh, and started to feel a little better.
“Did I ever tell ya about the young
scouser that shipped out of Liverpool with us on a trip to Gibraltar” One of my
father’s traditional opening lines to a yarn. 
“No” I said, wondering where
this was going
“Ah he was all mouth” he said,
“There was nothing he couldn’t do, or hadn’t seen. We were in the Irish Sea
when he started to grow green.  By the time we were in the channel he
couldn’t stand and when we reached Biscay he barricaded himself into his cabin and
refused to stand his watch.  The bosun was another scouser and when he
heard of the carry on, he grabbed a fire axe and splintered the cabin door.
 He grabbed the young fella by the throat and dragged him to his watch.
 By the time they got to Gibraltar the young land scurried down the
gangway and as far as we know took a train home”

From outside I heard a car horn blowing,
it was Robert Ferguson, come to collect me father in his white Hiace van.
 I started towards the village via the knock, but as I walked I thought
about my father’s story.  Did he just make that up for my benefit, or was
it actually true and if so how did he recall it so fast.  Down the years
I’ve often wondered about that ability he had.   Maybe now as a father I
can properly understand, we show love in so many different ways, we constantly
worry about and try to protect our children. Just like his ability to soothe
away the blood and pain when we were in a fall, he also done his best to soothe
away the pain of growing into adulthood. Whether the story was true or not, it was a
wonderful ability he had.  And it at least meant I could hold my head up
that morning as we journeyed to Dunmore and I continued my journey towards
adulthood.

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

What Robin Red Breast meant to my Grandmother at Christmas

Christmas time in my Grandmothers was marked by a hunt. It was her search for addresses for friends both at home and abroad, addresses she had scribbled on scraps of paper or cut from an envelope and squirrelled away.  Some were in the glass case, others in her box of writing paper, while others were stuffed into an old tea pot. Matters were made worse because she never threw out an address, even if the person had long vacated and moved to a new address.  Each year was the same vexatious search, so much so, that to us it became part of the tradition of Christmas.  For Nanny however, t’was always a chore, and she would mutter and give out to herself, for not being more organised.

As December moved on more and more cards arrived, and nothing gave her as much pleasure as sitting down to open and read the latest batch.  You couldn’t come into the house without getting an update from her. It was also a talking point for the neighbours, Margaret O’Leary or Bridgid Power would be interested to hear the happenings when they called in.  Nanny would also make it her business to pass on regards if mentioned in a card, and would task us to remind her to tell Martha Fortune (RIP), Maggie Ferguson (RIP) and many others that such and such was asking after them.

Either Robert, Kathleen, Eileen or myself would be asked to tie up a string over her fireplace, upon which she draped the incoming cards, and by Christmas eve there could be two or three lines of cards and more on the fireplace and mantle.

Now Christmas cards are all much of a muchness to me.  Stereotypical images of Santa, decorated trees, fireplaces, loads of snow…and on it goes.  But of all the cards Nanny sent or received, the one card she loved most of all had an image of a Robin on it.
Via Google images
I once asked her what it was about Robins she loved,  She reminded me that they are loyal little fellows, who are always close to the house, grow friendly and accustomed to human care, will feed from the doorstep or the window sill, and indeed she maintained a habit of feeding the Robin, right up until her very last days.  But she also had a story about the origins of Robin red breast which she said made it the bird of choice for Christmas cards.
“On the night of the birth of Jesus, he lay in a crib in the barn at Bethlehem.  As the night grew on, the fire that kept him warm with his father and mother grew lower and lower and was at risk of going out. Both Mary and Joseph were exhausted from the journey and the occasion of the babies birth. The Shepard’s had left and all was quiet. Mary turned to the horse in the manger and asked that he tend to the fire.  But the horse, donkey, cow, and the sheep were all asleep and did not hear her plea. However she realised that something was stirring at the fire, when she heard a whirring sound. Glancing round she spotted a small little bird, beating away with its wings to fan the dying embers. As the fire flamed up, the little bird flitted about the barn, gathering straw, twigs and pieces of timber. The fire grew higher and stronger and the heat grew.
They fell asleep in the comfort that the bird had created and next morning when they woke the fire was still going strong.  Mary called the bird to her and perched on her finger, was surprised and concerned to see that in the work of stoking the fire, the little bird and burned itself and the breast was now red.  In thanks for the deed of the little Robin, she decreed that forever more the Robin would keep the red breast in memory of the selfless deed.”
When Nanny died all those small traditions went too. But the card industry seems to be still going strong, and the image of loyal Robin red breast is still very much in evidence.

Last year I marked Christmas with a story about our local Faithlegg Church Crib

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

Drifting for Herring, Winter 1983

It was about this time of year in 1983 that I got my first taste of fishing in the deeper waters of the harbour around Dunmore East and the Hook.  It was a strange and confusing place that was more dangerous and unpredictable than the fishing I had known heretofore.  Some nights were threatening, with dangerous seas and unpredictable conditions, others were magical, still, calm, star reflected seas and a gentle breeze.  Deep water also meant the dreaded seasickness, something I’d never known up to that point, and something I would never want to meet again.  But it was the fishing itself that was so different, boats, nets, fish, conditions and practices.

I’ve mentioned before how part of our entertainment in Cheekpoint was hanging around the quays helping out the fishermen.  In the autumn of 1983, the first since leaving secondary school, Jim (Dypse) Doherty approached me on the quay and asked would I like to come with him and Denis (Harvey) Doherty to drift for Herring.  I jumped at the chance.

That afternoon I was aboard the Reaper, a fully decked motor boat with an enclosed cabin.  She was the only one of her type in Cheekpoint at the time.  (Most of the boats were half deckers, with open decks and if you were lucky a small weather deck and cuddy)  When waves broke across the Reaper they swished round the deck, prior to escaping via the scuppers.  She still required bailing, but not at regularly.

The Reaper off Cheekpoint
Photo taken by Anthony Rogers

Jim and Denis were as different as chalk and cheese, but the one thing they shared was that you would never see either of them without a fag in their mouths,  Jim smoked away, lighting one after the other.  But occasionally he would remove the fag as he paused to consider a response to a question.  Denis on the other hand, never seemed to be without the fag in his mouth.  It hung from his lip, whatever the job, and I often marveled at his ability to chat away, with the fag hanging off his bottom lip, until it burned right down till there was almost nothing left, and yet he never seemed to notice.

All was different on the Herring boat.  Growing up with Salmon, I knew my way round nets and the boats.  But the Herring nets were deeper and the meshes smaller.  They still had a lead rope and a head rope, but the head rope had much smaller corks.  This was to allow the nets to sink down to the level the Herring were swimming at, and this depth could be moderated via gallon can’s on a few fathom of rope which could be lengthened or shortened as required, stationed at regular intervals along the head rope..

Instead of a bouy, a dan was used on either end of the nets.  A dan was a homemade marker.  It was usually a straight stick of hazel (although broom handles were coming into fashion then).  In the middle of the stick was either a buoy or a slab of builders aeroboard for flotation.  The dan was weighed down with bricks or lead.  At the other end, each boat had a set of colour flags atop made out of fertiliser bags or fabric, each boat had their own colour to distinguish each other.  At the top t
was a flashing winkie (light), so that you could see your nets in the dark.  One of my jobs was to go up to my Aunt Ellen’s shop in the village and get some batteries. The winkie only came on in the dark, to save batteries, so to see if it was working I had to cup my hands over it at see if the light came on.

The nets were ranged over and another difference was that each net was tied at the head and the lead rope, but the actual net meshes were not joined.  The herring drifted in shoals you see, and nets may need to be separated and left to other boats to haul if the catch was too big.

Instead of hauling the nets by hand, the Spenser Carter net and rope hauler was operated via hydraulic pipes and once the net was heaved over it and the motor engaged, you put your energy into hauling the ropes and dragging the catch to the deck to be stowed.  Another difference was that as you hauled the boat was kept on the nets via the engine and the mizen mast astern.  The last most significant difference was that you used a fish finder to identify the swimming shoals.  Of all the equipment aboard the Reaper, this was the one I found the most amazing.  I guess that up to then all the knowledge I had acquired about salmon was handed down and learned the hard way.  It was about the natural elements and a sense of how the salmon thought and swam.  It had been thus with Herring before, watching the surface for oil, looking at the actions of the diving birds, spotting foraging seals and what they emerged on the surface with. 

I felt like a real man, that first evening going down onto the quay with my grub bag, and stowing it on the Reaper.  Jim started the engine and I let go the ropes forward and aft and Denis took them aboard. Jim took her away from the quay while we bustled around with the last minute jobs. It was 3 O’clock in the afternoon and we needed to be on the herring grounds to set as dusk fell.

All around us the other Cheekpoint boats were leaving too.  My father was in the Boy Alan with Robert Ferguson (skipper) and Eamon Power.  The St Agnes was skipperd by Dick Mason and had Edward Ferguson aboard and I think Brendan Foley.  The Collen II was also there, Ned Power, John Joe and Matt (spogey) Doherty and the Maid of the West was also there, a much older and smaller boat, with the brothers; Mickey, Paddy and Jack Duffin.  I think it was the next year that Sean (hops) Doherty joined with a new boat with his father John and Jimmy O’Dea. John Ferguson would join later, I remember Tom Sullivan and Seamus Barry also crewing, when on their month off on the Bell boats.  At some point Michael Elliott joined in with a fine boat, the Glendine.

I was following in the footsteps of generations of Cheekpoint fishermen, who had departed to fish in the lower harbour.  I’d heard many stories, and knew that boats like the Maid of the West had been rowed down, nets set by oar, hauled by sheer strength and then rowed home again.  I knew that men had lost their lives at it, and that even with the modern conveniences it was no cake walk.  I would know the fear of watching a following sea breaking over the stern and washing over the decks, be totally lost in a clinging fog only to narrowly avoid the cliffs at Dunmore, and know how humbling and humiliating seasickness could be.  All that was to come, but that evening, standing on the forward deck of the Reaper I only knew excitement, and that I was starting a new journey on my relentless road towards adulthood.

In the coming weeks, I will try  to give a sense of the actual fishing methods, the clearing and selling of the fish and some of the historical evidence highlighting how ancient a practice it was.  

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

whats a phone box?

As a child the village shop was owned by Molly Doherty, on the spot where Ben Power now trades.  There’s a photo hanging up there of Molly standing in front of it all those years back.  It was a much more modest building, but one feature of it was as you went in the door, there was a chocolate coloured box with a door and windows on the left hand side of the door.  In the box was a telephone.  I never had any call to use it, or can say I ever stepped inside, but I do remember it being used. 

Looking back on it, I guess the box was to afford some sense of privacy when it came to transacting your communication with the outside world of 1960’s Ireland.  However, the reason I can remember it was that very often, and I suppose it was particularly older users, they would shout so hard into the mouthpiece, that you could hear every word.  It sometimes made it hard to put in your order to Molly. 

Apparently the first phone box in the country was installed on Dawson Street in Dublin in 1925 and it proved so popular that they spread nationwide.  Some history here and more here.

It must have been sometime in the early 1970’s that the phone was moved outside the shop to a “modern” call box.  In a way that would make sense, it must have been hard if you needed to make a call when the shop was closed! There again, I’m sure Molly would have had many a call out in an emergency.

The new box was a concrete, wood and glass affair, with the P&T emblem for the Post and Telegraphs, and I can remember using it well.  In those days if you had a call to make you trudged to the cross roads with change in your fist.  There was a receiver and a coin box.  To make a call you lifted the receiver, put in the correct amount, then dialled the required number on a dial that had to be turned for each digit and awaited the response from the other side.  Once received you had to press a button, marked A, which allowed the coins to drop in and thus your were connected.  The call lasted as long as your money did.  If the call didn’t go through, or you wanted to cancel it, you had to press the button B.  failure to do so meant the loss of your cash.

A replica

 Of course that was also the era of ringing the operator if you had difficulties.  To ring the operator cost nothing, so of course as youngsters we often rang just for the craic.  “Hello Operator?”…”Yes, how can I help you”…”get off the line, there’s a train coming”. 

It was a great place to shelter on a wet night, being completely closed in, but terrible if you were waiting to make a call and someone was in there already.  As teenagers, you might have arranged to call someone at a particular time.  Alas on arrival, there was someone in there who you knew would be half the evening.  You would wait discreetly at first, but then trying to make sure you were seen, obviously waiting, and obviously needing the call box in a much more “urgent” way, but you just knew it was pointless.  Meanwhile, someone else, a girl perhaps, oblivious to your dilemma, was thinking you didn’t care, and you could go to hell for yourself. Those with a phone in their home, had no ideas of the tribulations faced by us non phone owning folk.

Another feature of the phone box was that people rang looking for someone in the village.  I was never sure if they thought it was a home number or if it was pre arranged and expected the other person to be there.  In any case, if you answered it, you could be asked to run anywhere.  Maybe it was a measure of our boredom or just some throwback to an earlier and more community like time, but you could never refuse to run a message.  It wasn’t too bad if it was to Veronica Duffin who lived next door but at times it was for the new houses, the back road or worse down the Mount.

I once took a call from a Londoner who asked if Johnny Murphy was around.  I said he lived in the village.  I was asked could I get him.  I ran down the road and into Johnny’s home.  Johnny wanted to know who it was.  I could only tell him he was ringing from London and he’s better run or the fella would be broke.

At some point the old box was removed and a newer fancier phone came in with the Eircom logo splashed across it.  I can’t remember now if it was cash operated or if you needed a phone card – a collectable of the 90’s.  The box was a waste, the ends were open, so if it was raining t’was useless to shelter in, and in a gale of NW wind, a common occurrence at the cross roads, you would be blown out of it. 

Accessed from:
http://www.thejournal.ie/phone-boxes-is-it-time-to-get-rid-2137138-Jun2015/

There were other coin boxes in the village at the time.  Both pubs had them, and Jim Doherty (RIP) and Phil had one just inside their door in the village.  I remember William telling us about a neighbour knocking up the household one night to call an ambulance.  It reminded me of my grandmother running out of the house one night to call a neighbour to go for the phone, after her brother had a heart attack.

I don’t know who had the first domestic line in the village.  But I remember my uncle John (RIP) and Mickey Duffin (RIP) having ones for their jobs as pilot men.  Over the years the domestic phones have become more prevalent and the public phone boxes disappeared.  The one at the Corss roads went in the last ten years.  With the modern communication revolution, such things must seem like a historical throwback.  Indeed I heard a child asking her father “whats a phone box?” when one was exhibited at this years Spraoi weekend in Waterford.  There again, if anyone is thinking I’m one for nostalgia, take a look at this page dedicated to bringing back the old phone box

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

Cheekpoints Industrial Era

Today’s blog is a summary of the recent walk conducted to celebrate Heritage Week 2015 and is a narrative of the afternoon and what we encountered.  

Welcome
to Cheekpoint and to this years heritage week event, which is hosted by the
Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project in conjunction with Deena Bible of
Russianside Tours.  This
year we look at an era of significant activity in the village and primarily
between the years 1787-1813 when the official station for the mail packet, or
mail boat, was based here at Cheekpoint.  The walk will also explore the industries which evolved, largely as a consequence of the mail
boat activities.  We will look at the industries themselves but also
glimpse how village life was perceived through the poetry of a young lady named
Elizabeth Owen, daughter of the mail packet manager, Thomas.


The developments that we cover were largely, if not solely, as a consequence of the efforts of the local landlord; Cornelius Bolton.  Several times Mayor, County Sheriff and MP for Waterford he built on the agricultural improvements of his father to secure investment into what might be seen as a pet project.  

Mail Packet Station

Communication
between Britain and Ireland began in an official way during Tudor times.  The
mails to the Waterford area were however an
ad hoc affair.   Over time the Packet
boats 
 had
evolved to carry the packages
of business/government and domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation
between European countries and their colonies. However the service out of
Waterford, and based at Passage East was a privately run operation, carrying
post, but depending largely on
passengers and freight to generate income.  The official postal route
between London and Ireland was Holyhead to Dublin.  Pressure had been
building on the postal service via business interests in the Bristol and the
Waterford area for some time however.
 Correspondence was highly irregular on the existing private service and
the official channel via Dublin was slow, when road transport between the
capital and the cities and towns of Munster was factored in. Further leverage
in the campaign for a regular service appears to have been the need for up to
date intelligence on the French fleet during the Napoleonic wars.

A Cutter

By 1786 the Post Office began working to make a second route to Ireland a
reality and the Cheekpoint Packet officially commenced on 5th April 1787 with
one ship and one sailing a week.  By
June of that year the packet had extended to five trips a week and by August
five ships were running 6 days per week, every day but Saturday


An amazing record was set during this time.  The distance between
Cheekpoint and Milford Haven was 85 miles.  It was covered on
one occasion in 8 hours, but the average seems to have been something
between 9-15 hours.  The ships being used were cutters of about 80-90
tons and known for their speed.  Some of the ships running on the service
in 1788 were; Carteret, Walsinghm, Ponsonby, Clifden and the Tyrone.


Poem: Reflections on
Bolton and the scenes of my infancy

Dear Bolton, where my gayest hours were spent,

When thoughtless childhood found my heart content,

How often round thy hills at morn I stray’d,

And when fierce Sol withdrew, I still delay’d

How often have I climb’d each flow’ry hedge,

How often have I rov’d the river’s edge,

And seen the stately vessels swiftly glide,

Upon the bosom of the lucent tide,

Or mark’d the busy tars those sails unbend,

Which brought to mem’ry then, some absent friend !

Past joys like these, my fancy loves to trace,

Which time, nor change, can alter or efface.



 The Green – Textile Industry
It’s
long speculated that the Green in Cheekpoint owes it’s name to a bleaching
green. 
 
Bleaching was a process used in the textile industry of whiting material to remove
stains from the manufacturing process.  

Julian Walton quoting Matthew Butler relates that “…A
report of 1788 states that there were thirty stocking frames in operation,
though there were only twenty-two looms in linen and cotton.” (Fewer: p49)

The mention of Stocking Frames gives some sense of the
work happening in the village at the time. The
industrial revolution saw the creation of many mechanical solutions to
what had previously been a skilled, hand crafted work.
 One such invention was the Stocking Frame, which could make socks, albeit
of poorer quality, but much quicker and cheaper.  The invention gave rise
to the term Luddites – those who rose up and fought against the machines and
the displacement of their work and income.  

As a consequence a trade in stocking frame looms emerged,
where they were purchased
by the wealthy and were then leased out to workers to make the socks which were
then sold on by the wealthy merchant.  Looms were installed in the
cottages of the poor and with minimum training they could soon be turning out
socks for export.  In the case of Cheekpoint, it is likely that the poorer
quality material was exported directly to the army, then fighting in the
Napoleonic war.
 

Stocking frame machine
In 1788 Cornelius Bolton
exported “…300 dozen
plain, ribbed and ribbed and figuered cotton stockings at a profit of 25%…
” In November of 1789 Daniel Malone, possibly the manager of the textile
business, reported that the Bleach Green had been robbed of  “…39
pairs of cotton stockings, 28 yards of calico, and 24 yards of linen, and
offered a reward of £10 for information”  In 1792 Malone was
advertising for “..six apprentices for his hosiery business” (Fewer:
p49)

There was also mention of a cotton mill in the village and some have speculated
that it was close to the Green.  However, the remains of any building of
such a size have been found either around the green or elsewhere in the
village.  No signs of same on any old maps either.  Is it possible
that over the years hand looms. were mistaken for a cotton mill?  Possibly.
 However, Anthony Rogers could tell me that his mother remembered as a
child the remains of rusting machinery in a field where Tommy and Maura
Sullivan now live. 

Its likely that the ending of
the Napoleonic war in
1815, would have seen an end for the demand for the local
produce.  Certainly Samuel Lewis
writing in 1837 noted that Cheekpoint was “formerly the Waterford post-office
packet station, and the seat of a cotton and rope manufactory, which since the
removal of the packets to Dunmore have been discontinued.”

Poem:  On Receiving
a View of Dunbrody Abbey

Tho’ we, my friend, have often stray’d

O’er many a hill, thro’ many a glade,

How chanc’d it that we never met,

In this old monastery yet ?

Where still are seen ‘mongst weeds and stones,

The holy Friars mould’ring bones:-

We might have mus’d till busy thought,

In fancy’s glowing colours brought,

The days,- when ‘mid those cloisters dim,

Was heard the solemn choral hymn ;

When still this aisle,- whose canopy,

Is now yon clear unclouded sky,

Returned in echoes deep and strong,

The matin chime,- or vesper song:

Dobbyns
House.

Dobbyns house was once the home of several sea captains including Captain
White.  There is a story locally that one day the wife of the sea captain
was working in the kitchen when she noticed a sailor falling from the rigging
of her husbands ship.  She rushed out of the house and down to the quay.
 On approaching however, she was restrained.  Her young son, who may
have been an apprentice, or just down helping the deck hands was the person she
had seen falling, and he had died on hitting the deck. Such accidents must have
been a regular occurrence in the village.

Poem:  Written while viewing the
Funeral of a young sailor, who was killed by falling from the mast. 

With drooping colours, see, the sailors bear,

Their late gay messmate, to an early tomb ;

For his sad fate, they drop the silent tear :

Poor hapless blossom nipp’d in life’s young bloom.

Ev’n I, a strangrer to his name and birth,

Feel pity’s soft emotion o’er me creep ;

Yes, I – who lately smil’d in buoyant mirth,

For thee, ill-fated youth – can also weep.
The
Bolton Milepost is one of only two remaining mileposts dating from the time of
the mail station.  The milestones
were obviously part of the road
realignment which sought to ease the passage of carriages and
good vehicles.  The milepost marked the
end of the line for a network that covered most of Munster and included 38
towns. 

The cost of post at that
time was:
for
every single letter, sixpence
for
every double letter, one shilling
for
every treble letter, one shilling and six pence
for
every one ounce, two shillings
and
so in proportion for every packet of deeds, writs, and other things
(Antell:
p19) 

Milepost

The mileposts were taken down
in the “Emergency” for fear that in the event of a German invasion; they would
assist the invading army!  The present
milestone was dug up when the Mount Avenue houses were being constructed and
was repositioned.  Many others no doubt
lie in ditches between here and Waterford. 

Poem:  Epistle to A. H.

Cheekpoint is a wilderness cheerless and drear,

No kind-hearted neighbour to knock at our door,

And could you behold your poor friends pining here,

You’d say we were never deserted before.

The storm’s on the hill, and the dark tempest low’rs,

The city has lur’d all my friends from the plain ;

But summer soon comes with her smiles and her flow’rs

And then like the swallows, they’ll flock here again.
The
Owen’s came to Cheekpoint in 1787 to run the Mail Packet Station. Captain
Thomas Owen and his wife Jane arrived from Milford in Wales where they,
apparently, originated.  They raised their family at Fairymount.  The
family were Quakers, and obviously they would have been welcomed by a
strong community already in place in Waterford.  We don’t know very much
about their lives but when Elizabeth published a book of poetry, Poetical
Recollections, in 1826 it gave hints and insights into what it was to live in
this era.

Although Thomas and Jane had ten children in all, only four survived to
adulthood.  Margaret Owen was born
8/7/1783, Elizabeth 26/6/1787, Samuel 17/3/1792 and finally William, the
youngest was born 13/9/1781.  No mention is made of schooling, but as the
Quakers set up Newtown School in 1798 it is possible, if not probably that
Elizabeth and her younger brothers would have attended. Elizabeth had a strong
affinity with nature and it appears that it was a central feature to her
upbringing.

Poem:  Fairy Hill

My Muse can no longer be
still,

On a spot so luxuriant and gay,

I write in thy praise, FAIRY HILL,

And the subject must sweeten my lay.

How beautiful art thou at morn,

Refresh’d by the dews of the night,

When glittering spangles adorn,

Thy blossoms of blue, pink, and white.

When Nature her beauty bestows,

When soothing the hum of thy bees,

When sweet of the breath of the rose,

Young Zephyrus sighs thro’ thy trees.

How pleasant at noon to retire,

From the glare of the mid-day to the shade,

Where envy itself must admire,

The neatness around us displayed.

And lovelier still to survey,

At eve – when the soul is at rest,

The beams of the sun’s setting ray,

Kiss lightly the blue river’s breast.
Daisybank
opened as a Coaching Inn in 1793.  We know the date as the hotelier, J.
Sly advertised his new Inn in the Waterford Herald. The advertisement is dated
as January 21st 1793  By calling it a new Inn, I think it safe to assume
that the old inn is what we now know as McAlpins, Suir Inn.

I have read three accounts or reviews of those who stayed at the Hotel, none of
them were very positive and one is blunt and to the point “It was dark
before we reached Cheek Point – where there is a large dirty inn – for the
reception of Packet Passengers.  piece from Antell book?

I often wondered why they would have located a hotel on this side of the
village and away from the main road and packet.  Well the buildings of
Ireland website consider the building to be much older. Dating it between
1750-1780 and speculate that it may have been built as a harbour masters home
or a constabulary barracks.  

Daisy bank – the coaching Inn

We know that during famine times it was still in use as a hotel but by 1888 it
became a family home and has been used as such since.  So it must have
given employment to the area for over 100 years.

Poem:  Written
after attending the funeral of an old and faithful servant

When living, I promis’d
thee, shouldst thou depart

Before me, – a tribute of praise should be thine,

Tho’ lowly and poor – yet I valued thy heart ;

‘T was faithful and honest -in these didst thou shine.

Thy labours are ended ;- beside the old pile,

O’ergrown with dark ivy, we buried the deep ;

And green is the sod or thy own native isle,

Beneath it, poor MARY, in peace dost thou sleep.
Ropewalk, Brick Kiln,
Mines, Slate Quarries and fishing trade.
Much
of the other industries that evolved in the village during this period are now
largely forgotton, save for a placename or a feature of the landscape.
 There was reputed to have been a brick kiln in the Rookery end of the
village, but anything of this operation seems to have disappeared.
 Perhaps it was a consequence of the building boom that would have
accompanied the packet.  Likewise the Slate quarries, although in this
case the remains of at least two can be seen at the Barn Quay end of the
village in Coolbunnia and it was believed anonther was located at nooke in
Wexford.  Locally it was said that the slate was of too poor a quality and
the importation of welsh slate to easy, to make the quarry worthwhile.

Cobalt mining was another initiative that seems to have been a failure.
 one Colonel Hall was the chief protagonist in this opertation and as children
we were often cautioned about old mine pits in the faithlegg area that we would
be as well to avoid.  

The ropewalk, where we now stand was another operation and was most likely a
going concern for a number of years, given the need for rope and cordage
associated with shippping and the fishing trade in the area.  Ropewalks
existed in several areas of the city and in Portlaw associated with malcomson’s
mill.  As an example of the quantity of rope required at the time, a
sailing ship similar to those larger vessels who visited Waterford in 2011 for
the Tall Ships event would have needed 3 miles of rope.   

Poem:  The
Shipwreck

The bark was toss’d – for the wind was high,

And fearfully flew the spray ;

Twas dismal to hear the seaman’s cry,

Of “lighten by cutting away !”

The masts were gone with a stunning sound,

And the vessel became a wreck ;

The steersman’s voice in all the din was drown’d,

As he summon’d all hands on deck.

The storm increas’d,- twas an awful night,

For the Angel of Death was near,

They pray’d to the king of glory bright,

And he turned not away his ear.

His mighty hand, brought them safe to shore,

It was stretch’d in their hour of grief ;

When feeble man could preform no more,

The arm of the Lord brought relief.



Summer House
I
was always curious about the purpose of the Summerhouse but growing up, there
were no answers just speculations.  My grandmother had it that a woman
used to sit here and write poetry.  I always thought she referred to Kathy
Leech who lived in the
street.  However it came as a surprise to be given a gift of Elizabeth
Owen’s book some years back and to find the following poem;
Poem: Lines Written in a Summer House 1924

1824

Welcome to this calm retreat,

Call’d the little fancy tow’r;

Shelter’d from the summer heat,

Freely pass a social hour.

Eastward turn-and you behold,

The Abbey, graceful in decay,-

Westward-mark the clouds of gold,

Glancing in the setting ray.

Here the hill, – and there the vale,-

Taste delight in such a view;

Now a bark with spreading sail,

Gently skims the river blue.

Kindered love doth here repose,

In each other, all are blest;-

May that peace which virtue knows,

Shed its sunshine o’er each breast.




Cheekpoint Quay

It’s fitting then that we end where we strated from.  The mail packet was
moved in 1813, the same year that Captain Thomas Owen died.  The tides,
currents and contrary winds made the journey from Cheekpoint to the open sea a
challange to steep.  The packet had faced early criticism and the reality
was that whatever about summer sailings along the south east coast, winter
sailings were a precarious venture.

These ships were embarking and disembarking from the village, but not the
present quay, which was extensively refurbished in the 1870’s.  By 1810
plans were announced for a new port at Dunmore East, as the site at Cheekpoint
was considered too far upriver, against strong currents and
wind dependent.  In 1813 it moved back to Passage East and by 1818 to
it’s purpose built home at Dunmore.  In 1834 the service relocated to the
city of Waterford.  

Following it’s relocation ships continued to call to the village, but it’s
clear that the village went into serious economic decline from that point
forward.  In
my youth the only employment in the village was seafaring the fishing with some
jobs in the local pub/resturaunts.  Today we are a
satellite village of the city depending on it for work.  Our only
employment now is the
tourism sector.  Hopefully some element of fishing can be restored.

Poem:  Review of Childhood

Ah ! let me for awhile recal those hours,

When I in chlildhood round the village stray’d,

To gather blackberries or cull sweet flow’rs,

Whose wild profusion deck’d the verdant glade.

Remembrance blest ! for ever, ever dear,

Then, who like me so innocent and gay ;

Fond mem’ry sheds one silent sorrowing tear,

O’er days so bright, forever fown away.

Ye tranquil hours, and blissful scenes, farewell !

The thoughts of BERTHA oft shall turn to you,

While time around ye pours a sacred spell ;

Sweet spots of happy infancy – Adieu !

Many
thanks for joining us on our walk, safe home, and we look forward to seeing you
back again next year for another Heritage Week event.

Sources:

Antell. R.  The mails between South West Wales and Southern Ireland: The Milford-Waterford packet 1600-1850.  2011.  Welsh Philatelic Society.

Copies can be ordered directly by contacting the Welsh Philatelic Society, contact details on their website at http://www.wps.wales.org/

Bill Irish wrote a wonderful piece about the Waterford packet in Decies #60 link to online version here: http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ejournals/100704/100704.pdf
Aalen. F.H.A. et al Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape.  2003. Cork University Press

Fewer T.N. (Ed) I was a day in Waterford.  2001.  Ballylough Books.  Waterford

I’d like to thank Andy Kelly who originally passed me on the book of poetry. Also like to acknowledge Christopher Moriarty of the Irish Quaker Historical Library who provided many of the details of the family which I used.