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.
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
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
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.
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.
long speculated that the Green in Cheekpoint owes it’s name to a bleaching
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
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
|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:
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 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.
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
The cost of post at that
every single letter, sixpence
every double letter, one shilling
every treble letter, one shilling and six pence
every one ounce, two shillings
so in proportion for every packet of deeds, writs, and other things
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.
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
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
Poem: Fairy Hill
My Muse can no longer be
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 !
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.
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.