Jack Meades heritage ramble

Jack Meades pub and restaurant has got to be one of the more remarkable and intriguing 18th Century agricultural sites in the country.  As a young man I hadn’t much time for the older men who drank there, preferring to spend my time having the craic and the beer with my own generation. But at my present age, and with my interest in our local heritage, I often rue the opportunities I would have had to ask the older people about the buildings that litter the area, all within a stones throw of the pub.
  
The pub itself is fascinating, dating as it has since 1705. I’ve written about its landlords and the lineage of the present owners before. You’ve got to have respect for those who have managed to sustain and transform a business in the countryside when so much has changed in our attitudes as a country to drinking and driving. Part of that business is to protect and allow access to a varied amount of heritage related buildings which we went along to see on our most recent free bank holiday Monday rambles.
Standing outside the main door to the pub
Photo Michael Farrell
The pub of course is synonymous with its location beside the old Railway bridge of the Malcomsons, in their attempt to run a rail line between the city and Passage East.  It earns the pub the distinction of Ireland’s only fly over bridge.  But of course it has a number of bridges on the site, as at least one, and perhaps two others allow the Ballycanvan stream to flow under the Cheekpoint Road that itself passes under the main structure.
The Bridge and pub looking towards Cheekpoint
Photo Michael Farrell
Across the road we stood beside the old Delehunty corn mill and discussed its amazing design features including an overshot wheel within the building and the man made leat that runs from Brook Lodge, from where the water to run the mill was released via a man made pond.  It was wonderful to have a relation of the Delehuntys that ran the mill all those years ago present, but sad too as he reminded us of the tragedy at the pond when his relation and two young companions drowned while swimming there.
I need to tie my hands to my body I’m afraid!
At least I wasn’t waving a stick this time.
Delehuntys Mill Photo by John O’ Sullivan

The Ice House of course is an impressive structure, which I have also discussed before.  We looked at its design, the supply of ice and the likely purpose it was put to. Then it was along to the Lime Kilns down the Pill, and a discussion about the process of lime burning, how the lime stone was brought and the likely uses of the finished product.  I got a surprised reaction from many when I related how the lime was used to treat the waste from a dry toilet, something I had seen myself at my grans in the 1980’s. Just as well Carmel, a relation from England, didn’t mention to all but myself and a few within earshot of how it was used over corpses, particularly in times of plague.

The Ice House above and one of the double Lime Kilns on the site
Photo Michael Farrell
We then discussed the old salt water mill that resides on private lands down towards the mouth of the Pill, and how in the past, in a way similar to the monks at Dunbrody, the incoming tide was retained behind sluice gates only to be released when the tide below the mill was lower and gravity allowed the mill wheel to be turned by the water returning to its source.
We rambled up to look back on Ballymaclode Castle and discuss her twin tower at Ballycanvan that later became a fine Georgian mansion of the same name.  And returning to the pub we passed off Redmonds forge where in the past not along horses were shod, but implements of farm works and fishermen were repaired or made.
The walk was recorded for posterity by Paul from Waterford in your Pocket, and it gives a real sense of the day and the walk.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rGIQ1KYaKI
Our next event will be the June Bank Holiday Monday, commencing at 11am at Faithlegg House Hotel and will look at the history surrounding the Faithlegg estate. I’m only hoping the spirit and enthusiasm of those who came yesterday is repeated. Delighted to see familiar faces, and great to meet many new ones too. Young and old seemed to enjoy it, and the questions and the comments were all helpful in my own learning. A young lad from sixth class in Faithlegg was at my side through the walk, and he has an obvious eye for his local heritage. For Facebook users we have an event page here which we will use to keep people updated on the Faithlegg heritage ramble .
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

Ice – Waterford’s forgotten trade

There’s nothing as fickle as a market I guess. Products that go from boom to bust in a few short years, or less today when we think of technology.  In the past Waterford, along with many other ports traded in a commodity that was considered an essential for the food industry, Ice.  It was a market that reigned for less that sixty years but there are echoes of it in the harbour still.
My interest in Ice stemmed from finding the Faithlegg Ice House  as a child. This old structure was probably built at the same time as Faithlegg House, 1783, and used by the Boltons for impressing party guests during the summer with cooled drinks, sorbets and ices at a time when it was impossible for most people except in winter. It could also store meat, poultry and fish. Such Ice House designs dated from the 16th C at least and were based on the reality that Ice, once gathered into a cool, dry spot, compacted together and allowing for the run off to drain away below, would keep for months or even years.
Entrance chamber to Faithlegg Ice house
Ice House on Golf Course of Faithlegg House

The other Ice House in the area, was about a mile away, via an old roadway that ran through Faithlegg to Ballycanvan.  You crossed the now removed bridge at Faithlegg Pill into Ballycanvan and down to Jack Meades via the woodlands road. This is a commercially sized Ice House and even today is an impressive structure.

No one seems to know the date it was built. I find it interesting that when travel writer and social commentator Arthur Young visited in 1796 and again in 1798 that he failed to mention it, suggesting it is a later build. Its location is to protect it from the sun, and it has a double wall to the south west which would have further insulated it,  The original entry point was nearer the roof, the current access point is a more modern feature,  Some have suggested it served a similar function to its smaller neighbour, providing for the several big houses in the locality such as Ballycanvan, Mount Druid, Brook Lodge, Blenheim etc.

A third example is an “Ice Box” which Pat Murphy from Cheekpoint helped me locate recently.  The box is a stone and mortar circular structure about 15ft diameter.  Access was via the roof and it is built into the western bank of the river Barrow on the Wexford side, above Great Island. Pat could remember the name clearly and also stories of the paddle steamer stopping in the river below it, and boxes of iced salmon being removed to the ship for transport to New Ross and, he presumed, export.

Ceiling doorway to the Icebox
Icebox, hidden away in the bank of the River Barrow

The Ice used in such structures was originally gathered from frozen streams, but at the time that Faithlegg was built a new technique had emerged.  Due to the enormous resources, particularly man power, such houses had, it was a practice to flood a flat area of land close to a stream during a cold snap. I’ve found what I imagine to be the Faithlegg ice field below the current Park Rangers ground only recently. Unfortunately none of the older residents can confirm the theory however. Such streams and flat fields are features of the other sites too.

In America a new business emerged in the early 1800’s which became known as the Ice trade and the commodity had extended to Norway by the 1850’s.  American Ice had made its way to Britain but was not considered commercially viable, the merchants preferring the locally sourced material, despite its poorer quality. However a rise in temperatures seems to have impacted the home grown trade, and initially speculator merchants travelled northwards to source ice, but it really picked up once the Norwegians saw the potential. Ice was cut into blocks in Norway and transported to Ireland and throughout Europe. The blocks were put aboard ships, insulated with saw dust, to prevent fusing together, and then transported to ports. Merchants tended to store the ice in purpose built buildings or basements and then disperse it as required.

I had speculated as such some years back at a Barony of Gaultier Historical Society talk that I gave in the fishing industry of the harbour.  It came as a relief to me thereafter when Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group facebook page posted the following:
“In Jan. 1864 Messrs. O’Meara and Brennan owners of a large warehouse in Bridge St. purchased 100 tons of ice from a Scandinavian ship and reloaded the ship with cattle fodder. They covered the ice with a large quantity of sawdust in the warehouse, which preserved the ice until summer when it could be sold at a large profit.”

Subsequently I have discovered that newspapers of the time are full of ads and other coverage of the trade by merchants and fish mongers in cities such as Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Their businesses were forced to close at the start of WWI when the sea trade was curtailed.  After the war the new technology of refrigeration was the issue and soon the trade would be consigned to history.  Only echos now remain in the harbour, but the echoes are significant, especially to the curious.

Postscript:  The Barony Echo, newsletter of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society carries a brief mention of ships arriving to Passage East from Nova Scotia carrying Ice for the cellars of Waterford in their most recent edition.

Since publication a new initiative in Lismore Co Waterford has come to my attention.  I was aware of the big house Ice House at Lismore  but not two commercial sized houses under one roof on the Fermoy road, Two pieces here:  A blog from Waterford in Your Pocket: http://www.waterfordinyourpocket.com/lismore-ice-houses-to-be-preserved/ And a press piece from the Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/19th-century-ice-houses-to-be-preserved-390925.html

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
Thanks to Pat Murphy and Liam Hartley for their help with this piece.  Also Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group.
Ref: Buxham. T.   Icehouses.  2008.  Shire Publications.  Buckinghamshire.