Reimagining Henry II’s route to Waterford Oct 1171

After a busy month of activities, I was relieved when Damien McLellan offered a guest blog arising from last week’s two-day event exploring the arrival of Henry II at Passage East in 1171 – 850 years ago this year. Damien, like so many others who attended, was buzzing with questions and speculation, and his enthusiasm led to today’s blog entry. I think you will enjoy the virtual journey. Over to Damien.

We know for a fact that King Henry 11 of England arrived in Waterford Harbour on October 17th, 1171, and that on the following day, October 18th, 1171, together with a huge army of knights and soldiers, he journeyed to Waterford City to conclude what we now know as the Norman Invasion.

Last week, on Saturday, October 23rd, Barony of Gaultier Historical Society organised a fully booked public event in Passage East to mark this internationally significant event. An absorbed audience (Covid compliant, of course) heard from a distinguished panel of experts fascinating opinions, figures and facts about those two extraordinary days and subsequent events. The next morning, Sunday October 24th, about 30 of us walked from Passage East to Waterford City on the route believed to have been taken by King Henry and his army. We were welcomed at the Bishop’s Palace by Cllr. Joe Kelly current Mayor of the City and County of Waterford.

Michael Farrell, Chair of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society leads off the walk

What struck me was the lack of consensus among experts and locals about exactly where the landing took place and about the route taken to the city. I have for long been nurturing my own theories about both issues and I am grateful to Andrew Doherty for giving me the space here to share them and for his skill in assembling the maps and photographs needed to support them.

If as many as 400 ships were needed to carry the men, horses and considerable supplies, a substantial safe landing area was required. I understand that ships of the time arriving in Waterford Harbour, there being no ports then, would not be able to land on a safe beach until close to Crooke on Passage Strand.

The strand leading downriver from Passage East towards Crooke and Woodstown

It makes sense to assume that the forward party would have signal fires ready to light at the first sight of the fleet to guide them onto the safe landing area. Each ship would have to run up on the strand on the incoming tide until all 400, propped and secured, stretched along the strand from Crooke to Passage East, nearly a mile of ships. So, where did Henry 11 himself land, Crooke or Passage or in-between?  The answer must be where his ship landed in what could have been a melee of ships manoeuvring for position and avoiding collisions.

The landing in 1066 of William the Conqueror’s army at Pevensey in Sussex. Except for the dramatic sea, and if ships had not significantly evolved over the intervening years, this may have been something like the scene on Passage Strand on October 18th, 1171. Painting by Charles Edward Dixon (1910) sourced from https://mercedesrochelle.com/wordpress/?p=390
Although this is an image of preparation for departure to the Battle of Hastings, I find it useful in terms of the organisation, and I think it may help get our minds around the estimated 400 ships at Passage and Crooke and the spectacle it would have made. (Andrew) Accessed from https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Standing and looking round today on the breakwater at Passage East it is obvious that here must have been the mustering area, because of the space available. Here the vast army may have camped for the night, with guards strung all down the strand towards Crooke to watch over the ships. It is fun to speculate that where the present children’s playground is, perhaps the king’s royal tent was pitched and where reputedly the most powerful man in the world at that time had his first night’s sleep in Ireland.

Patrick C Power (1990) also wondered whether “The people of Waterford and especially the merchants may have heard of how a great war-king travelled and equipped his army and retainers and here in front of their very eyes was a great display of power and wealth on the road from Passage to the city of Waterford the like of which they had never seen” (p.20). But which road from Passage?   

Last Sunday we walked up to the church at Crooke to take a right turn at the school and the traditional route to Waterford. My walking companion, Michael Fewer, and I, impatient to be walking, had gone ahead and somehow missed Strongbow’s Bridge (but not Jack Meade’s!). I enjoyed the walk, but all the time sensed (and possibly nagged Michael) that it was not the historic route.

I now believe that it goes up the street known as The Brookside (in the centre of Passage East), becomes the Wet Hill after St Anne’s Well, reaching the present main road opposite Brook Villa, now an abandoned farm. Then into the city via Cowsheen Bridge, Strongbow’s Bridge (avoiding the marshy area) and on to Halfway House.

The Brookside, Passage East. Is this street part of the footprint of the route?
The Wet Hill, and the Well (St Anne’s Well) beyond which the path is overgrown
Brooke Villa (aka Murray’s Farm)

The path today is impenetrable after the Well. But I also started down from the top and found what I fancied was a drove road, very familiar to me from Galicia, and seemingly marked as a wide road on the 1925 OS Edition.

The Drove Road?

Michael Fewer had wondered aloud on the walk how all the produce and livestock that came across the river from Wexford in medieval times got to Waterford. Perhaps up this lost road?

This week I talked to a local man, born in Passage, who remembered from his childhood the farmers who lived in Brook Villa, known as Murray’s Farm, using a horse and cart on this same road to collect coal from the Quay in Passage. Incidentally, he also said it was a family tradition that King Henry 11 had taken this road to Waterford. And I understand that the late Cllr John Carey had a passionate interest in having the Wet Hill reopened and restored to how he remembered it as a boy.

A map of the area from the OSI historic series (Historic 25″) shows a very clear roadway leading up from the village, through the valley between Passage Hill and Carraickcannuigh (large arrow points to this. It turns rights at Murray’s and then veers left towards Knockroe from where there is almost a straight run to Strongbow’s Bridge. For a clearer image and to view the entire roadway click into https://webapps.geohive.ie/mapviewer/index.html

Therefore, it does seem logical to me that as this road was in plain sight of where the army was mustered and if it was as negotiable then as it was in living memory, why would King Henry, and before him Strongbow, not use it?

If I can impose on Andrew’s space a little longer, I would like to address the popular belief that the origin of the phrase ‘By hook or by crooke’ is attributable to Oliver Cromwell (it came up at the panel discussion). According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1990) it comes from the medieval manorial custom “which authorised tenants to take as much firewood as could be reached down by a shepherd’s crook and cut down with a bill-hook”. He offers a line from Edmund Spenser’ s The Fairie Queen, which was published in 1590, 9 years before Cromwell was born: “In hope her to attain by hooke or crooke”.

Finally, I offer these thoughts on the landing and journey to Waterford of Henry 11 in the hope that they might inspire others much more learned than me in these matters to continue this research and perhaps result in informative plaques being erected at some of the key sites mentioned.

Ivor H Evans (Ed) (1990) Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable London: Cassell

Patrick C Power (1990) History of Waterford City and County Cork & Dublin: The Mercier Press

A new book will be launched in the coming weeks celebrating some of the historical aspects of the Barony of Gaultier. For more information and to reserve a copy you can email thegaultierstory@gmail.com

I want to thank Damien for his thoughts on this. I have written my own theory on it previously. What struck me about last weekends successful gathering was the interest, the searching questions and the many remaining areas we have yet to fill in about the arrival of Henry II and the changes it meant for the locality as well as the country. Why Passage? Did any of the vessels sail to Waterford city? Is there any substance to a story I shared before of a chain based defence of the city? What kind of ships were used? (My own reading suggests that the design of horse transport had moved on and the Tarida were being employed carrying up to 30 horses). And so many more. Hopefully last weekend was only the start of what might be a regular event. The Barony of Gaultier Historical Society deserves great recognition for their efforts in these challenging times of Covid and the financial pinch this creates for voluntary committees such as our own.

Johnny’s Lane, Crooke, Co Waterford

Breda Murphy.

Due to Covid 19 I’ve had a couple of new experiences recently, firstly I haven’t used an alarm clock since the middle of March! I thought I would have to wait until I retired to enjoy that treat, but not so, due to working from home.  Secondly, for the first time ever I began to realise that I live a privileged life, appreciating, that few things really matter in life, one being where you live when confined to staying within two kilometres of your home, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere better.  I live in the house where I was born, in Crooke, directly opposite Duncannon Church on the Wexford side.  My daily 40-50 minute walk takes me past Geneva Barrack to the Barrack Strand, down the lane at Newtown and back towards Passage up onto the road again by Johnny’s Lane, between Burke’s shop and Crooke Chapel.  While the Lane has had more footfall in recent months due to the lockdown, it is still rare to meet anyone especially in the early mornings apart from a few locals, who like myself, walk it daily. 

Johnny Hearn, Crooke, Passage East. Breda Murphy collection

I know it as Johnny’s Lane, called after an old man who lived where Burke’s shop is now, called Johnny Hearn.  I have only the vaguest memory of Johnny and am not even sure if it is my memory or someone else’s but I remembered my mother showing me a photo of my cousin Dermot Heffernan with Johnny as she told me where the lane got its name.  With time on my hands, I recently sorted through my mother’s photos and memories.  I was delighted to come across this photo of Johnny and Dermot taken at the top of the lane, both deceased now RIP.  The Lane may have a new name now, as lanes are often called after those who live there, but to me it will always be Johnny’s Lane.     

  

Looking up towards Crooke, the Church on the right

The Lane has an abundance of wild life, with several ancient crab apple trees, ready for making Jelly in the autumn, elders with flowers in the spring and berries in the autumn both good for making wine, meadowsweet with its pungent smell on a damp summer morning, sloes still green but ready soon for Christmas sloe gin, the nettles and docks grow in abundant companionship, one ready to undo the deeds of the other.  A large branch from one of the crab apple trees fell last winter and the path has had to re-route around it while the broken branch is still growing apples. Left there, it provides cover for birds, wild animals, insects and plants.  Us humans giving way to the natural world for a change.    Without human upkeep the lane grows in abundance and reproduces and self-fertilises as it has done for ever.  Its deadwood is providing cover for years before rotting back into the ground.   In the spring the top of the lane is full of wild garlic releasing its strong smell underfoot on a crisp morning.

Nearing the shoreline

The Lane holds an untold history and many secrets. It has been the site of children’s camps and games and other devilment and still is no doubt.  The strand still holds the memory of the cockle women, my grandmother Ellie Murphy and Aunt Molly among them, who picked on a low tide, bent over, heads low, among the rocks on the strand below. They carried and carted sacks of cockle and winkles up this lane. Its stone ditches at either side, still visible in parts, are wide enough for an ass and cart for those lucky enough to have one.  Paddy Ryan recently told me that his mother Statia, daughter of cockle women Janey Organ, as a young girl helping her mother collapsed walking up the lane under the weight of the bag of cockles that she was carrying, damaging her hip.  She spent nine months in bed but her hip never healed and was unable to pick cockles again.  The injury impacted on her for the rest of her life.  Statia was a kind and lovely woman and a regular visitor to our house when I was a child.  I remember her playing ‘this little piggy’ with my toes, I was probably around the age of two.   

The magic of the scene when the tide is in

Some mornings as I head up the lane from the strand, I stop and look back and on a full tide with the sun rising and dancing on the water I feel thankful to the cockle women and others who lived in Crooke and Passage before us who saved this lane for us by walking it.  And though we can travel more freely again I continue to feel privileged to live in such a stunning place with this wonderful river that has provided for many of us who live here, in more ways than one.    

Submitted by Breda for Heritage Week 2020

Memories of Passage East in the 1940s

Author: Fintan Walsh

Passage East in the era described

On the banks of the Suir that flows out to the sea
Lies a quaint little village that’s like heaven to me
Steeped in our history and also Ireland’s folklore
It is called Passage East and it’s a place I adore

In these few verses that follow a little story I’ll tell
Of the people and places I can remember so well
The great days we all had yet little money to spare
Everyone in the same boat yet all happy to share

The streets and the lane ways are a joy to behold
Beresford Row, White Wall,the Men’s Walk so old
Barrack Street ,Parade Street, Post Office Square
Dobbyn Street,The Brookside, they’re all still there

From the Gap of the Wall down to the Blynd Quay
Passing all the streets there’s loads you can see
A loose rock on one hill looking down from above
An old Church on the other the landmarks we love.

Passing by the Park, the Fish House, there no more
The memories flow back of these great days of yore
Arthur Miller he came there with the jobs to provide
Kippers from this old Fish House famed worldwide

Passage East Community hall – the old Fish House

Just behind was the Watch House for pilots to meet
To keep a check on the ships that they were to greet
Card games were played which at times raised hell
They played Thirty’s and Rummy and Pontoon quite well

Patsy Barron around that time was the lone ferryman
For pedestrians and cyclists a small ferryboat he ran
White flags on the quayside in Passage and Ballyhack
Were hoisted high by his clients to come over or back

The cockle women sisters with their donkey and cart
Nan Na, Maggie and Masher these were women apart
To the back strand in Tramore for cockles they went
Selling them inside in the city each Friday they spent

Nan Na, Mrs Robinson on the New Line out of Passage East

Four Gardai in the Barracks with Sgt Eustace the Gaff
Martin Darcy, Paddy Quigley, Tom London were his staff
Four pubs were in the village Lily White’s near the Pier
Kennedy’s, Brennan’s and Miller’s all sold plenty of beer

All the shopkeepers we recall as we roll back the stone
Mrs Carey, Mrs Angie Rogers, Cathy Colfer on her own
Mary Kate Connors, Mollie Cahill, Maggie Carey, Julie Ann
Willie Murray’s coal yard, Donnelly’s the Post Office ran

The Baldwin’s had the garage and a hackney car also
Rich Flynn owned the bus and he lived up in Knockroe
Jimmy Hanrahan was his driver a man never in a rush
Much better known by the nickname of “Jimmy the Bus”

Around Ireland the Emergency was in place at this time
We had the second World War now well in to its prime
Lots of men from the village then joined up the reserve
The LDF, The Maritime Inscription their country to serve

To the old School up in Crooke we all went to school
Frank and Clare Ahearne and Mary Kennedy did rule
They taught us our lessons never spared us the cane
Some loved these schooldays, they put others insane

Crooke Church on Sunday’s serving mass we would go
All the masses were in Latin which we all had to know
Many farmers would come there in their pony and trap
Some more walked miles with their cares to unwrap

A great part of our history the herd of goats on the Hill
For generations we’ve had them and hope always will
Fishermen loved them, weather change they could tell
As they moved into the valley from the front of the hill

Those great days of our youth we remember with pride
The many games that we played down by the seaside
All the fish that we caught with hooks, sinker and line
From the Quays,the Breakwater the memories entwine

Near every street corner we all played pitch and toss
Sometimes it twould be a win more times ’twas a loss
We all went hunting for rabbits with ferrets and dogs
In stubble’s,knocks and meadows,and very wet bogs

We played hurling on the streets and up against walls
The hurley’s we made,we hurled with old raggy balls
On the very top of the hill stood the old Bowling Green
Lots of matches were played many times with a scene

On fine summers days we loved to swim on the strand
For those who were learning we would all give a hand
There were very strict rules applied to both sexes then
The lady’s rock for women,the boy’s rock for the men

When the frost came in the winter we’d all have a ball
Sprinkling water on the streets how we can still recall
We skated and fell then someone would send a report
Then a lady with hot ashes would become a spoilsport

We caught finches and linnets with nets and birdlime
Every house around the village had a bird at the time
We worked with the farmers, picking spuds, saving hay
Thinning turnips, mangolds and also on Threshing Day

For the fishermen of the village we also did many a job
In the salmon and herrings season’s all got a few bob
The blackberries we picked and sold them by the stone
Many orchards we would rob in little groups or all alone

Travelling shows every summer always gave us a call
The shows they presented inside Tom Murphy’s Hall
Amusements by Hudson’s, swinging boats the big draw
An odd circus and pictures were other things we saw

So these are just a few memories of my days long ago
Growing up in Passage,there are many more I know
Some time in the future I’ll get out the paper and pen
With more memories to share of Passage East again

Submitted by Fintan Walsh as part of our Three Sisters Placenames project for Heritage Week 2020

A Crooke childhood

Today is the last Friday of the month and so it’s guest blog day.  I always love to share others thoughts and as the summer holidays officially start in our local national school, this reflection on school holidays from the 1960’s is a real counterpoint to the activities of children today.  I’d like to thank Breda Murphy of Crooke for sharing it with us, and hope you enjoy it as much as I.

Recently I met a local woman on one of my regular walks on the strand below Crooke and we exchanged the usual, ‘isn’t it a lovely day, great spell of weather, it’s lovely down here’. She said ‘it’s a little bit of heaven’ and that’s exactly what it is ‘a little bit of heaven’. I am so grateful for living so close to it all my life. 

I was born and grew up in Crooke Co Waterford, opposite Duncannon Church on the Wexford side of the harbour. Every morning when I opened the curtains there is was, the river. My mother could predict the weather by looking at the river; what colour it was, its texture and how close Duncannon looked, don’t ask me how that worked but I wish I had listened to her more instead of dismissing it as ‘mad stuff’!! 
The rhythm of the river with its constant in and out led to my first realisation of my own insignificance; it went in and out whether or not I showed up. My father made his living from the river as a fisherman and later as a seaman. We waved him good bye as he sailed past the house heading to Liverpool on the mail boat the Great Western. The river and the strand played and still plays a significant role in my life. 
The Great Western in war time colour

Primary school summer holidays were spent on the Barrack Strand between the Carrig Rock, dividing Woodstown and Passage and ‘Johnnies Lane’ or the ‘Chapel Lane’ under Crooke Church. We picked cockles when the tide was out and ate them raw by twisting the back of two cockles together to open them, swallowing from the shells like oysters, although in my mind a sweeter tastier option. Or we lit a fire and cooked them in a discarded bean tin in water from the stream. 

Chapel or Johnnies lane

We had unlimited lands and seascape as our playground to facilitate the unbounded fantasy of a herd of children let lose for the summer. We swam, walked and rolled in the mud, we picked shells to use as money, we spent days picking the best shaped stones for ‘nucks’ or flat stones, a ‘bed bone’, for beds, like hopscotch or the best stones for skimming. I still come home from a walk with a pocket full of ‘best’ stones. We climbed the cliff, made ranches, saloons, houses, castles, forts, villages, cars and buses in the sand. We dammed and redirected streams, made pools and lakes. 

A modern scene from the barrack Strand, still a playful place!

We learned what we didn’t learn in school; how to light fires, how to occupy ourselves, use everything available; nothing was rubbish, tins, glass, old rope, even plastic took on a new dimension after being washed up in the tide and became a blank canvas. We learned to cooperate, be in teams, compete, lose, take care of others, back each other, be taken care of, learned to drink water from a steam by cupping our hands, learned to take risks and be brave, to ‘get in’ and swim in cold water, to undress and dress under a towel and dry ourselves without our mammy’s, with teeth chattering. We learned all this unsupervised by adults. We made mistakes and recovered and mostly adults didn’t know anything about them. 

When we came up off the strand, Mrs Hegarty and Mrs Barry, who lived near the lane down to the Barrack Strand, often had a plate of bread and butter waiting for us hungry children, glorious. We learned gratitude, bravery, the comfort of clothes on your body after being cold and wet. We laughed, at things only children find funny, we cried, we fought, we made up, we got hurt (physically and emotionally) we recovered, we learned resilience and compassion. 
Another familiar sight from Passage Hill, Duncannon on the opposite shore

The older children (12 or 13) learned leadership, being responsible for minding the younger ones. We learned the pecking order, obedience and disobedience, loyalty and friendship, possibility, hunger as a sweet sauce (our tea never tasted so good) generosity, kindness, what peace felt like. 

Later in my teenage years and beyond I spent time alone by the river, time to think and dream and unfortunately it’s where I learned to smoke. I walk by the river now whenever I can. It brings me back to when; my time was unlimited, I was never in a hurry, I lived in the now and laughed a lot. I need a summer on the strand!!

And don’t we all. What lovely memories this brought up for me.  The only addition I could think of was our love of crab fishing here in the village of Cheekpoint, otherwise this account was so familiar and so affirming. Any wonder I love being beside, on and taking photos of the river and all its comings and goings.  Thank you Breda.  


Our next guest blog will be Friday 28th July, and I’m hopeful it will be another memory, this time of a summer holiday in Duncannon from a fellow blogger from Carlow. If you would be interested in submitting a piece I’d be delighted to hear from you at russianside@gmail.com.  The only criteria is that the piece needs to be about our maritime heritage, about 1200 words and I can help in editing if required, source photos and add in links etc.  I’d also welcome any contributions from younger readers including students


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.
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Henry II lands at Crooke

This coming week will see another significant historic anniversary.  For on the 16th October 1171 Henry II launched his fleet which beached on the 17th at Crooke in Waterford Haven as the harbour was then known. As he stepped ashore he became the first foreign king to do so and it represented the loss of our country’s sovereignty which would endure for 750 years.

There are many intriguing political, religious and entrepreneurial reasons for the Norman invasion of Ireland that began in 1169 on the invitation of an Irish chieftain; Dermot McMurrough.  The upshot of it all was the arrival of Henry II, then king of England, Wales and northern France as a means of cementing his authority and control over his new dominion.  We would do well to also remember he had papal authority for his conquest in his back pocket!

Arrival of King Henry II in Waterford James William Edmund Doyle (1864)

It is speculated that 400 ships* were required to carry the kings invaders, estimated at 4000**. Apart from the vista this number of ships must have created in the harbour, it is fascinating to consider the logistics.  500 knights were said to be among them.  That would mean at least 500 horses (although it seems knights took at least two horses along, and then more for carrying, drawing carts etc).  The horses were transported which would have been beached and unloaded via the stern.  Its likely that the capacity of the time was between 12-30 horses per ships called Taride.  There were the much feared archers and foot soldiers also. Along with attendants, cooks, religious, servants and hangers-on.  I found this account to the invasion plan for the battle of Agincourt, which although two centuries later gives some sense of the headaches of organising such a campaign.

Horses and men being transported on the Bayeux Tapestry
via http://cruisereader.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Bayeux-Landing.jpg

The Pipe Rolls help provide an insight into the scale and costs associated with it.  This included the hire of ships; pay of masters, seamen, and artificers; payments for horses and their passage; and other provisions and implements such as; hogs, wheat, oats, beans, cheese, supplies of axes, hand-mills (presumably for milling the wheat) and ovens for baking their bread.  Implements included pre-fabricated wooden towers for assembling atop mottes, bridges for fording streams and spades, pick-axes, nails to do the building work.

A rainy Passage East strand at high tide yesterday

Although the landscape at Passage East / Crooke has changed over the centuries, it’s most likely that a beach similar to what now exists, if less vast, was on hand.  It’s said that the whole landing took the day, and that they camped overnight before departing for the city the following day.  In my own opinion the route they took must have been through Faithlegg, based on the local placename, Strongbows Bridge, which is on the main Cheekpoint Waterford road, just before Jack Meades, at the junction with Carraiglea.  Based on this I’d speculate (see map) Henry and his entourage came via Knockroe (A) or Kill St Nicholas(B) (and possibly both) and via Strongbows Bridge (C) in Carraiglea and on past Jack Meades and into Waterford. The present main road from Passage is marked in red and was a later construction

The possible routes marked in blue.

Henry arrived at the gates of Waterford on the Feast of St Luke, 18th October.  From there he took the subjugation of the Norman mercanaries, who had managed to sweep the Irish from power in the SE, and Irish chiefs led by Dermot McCarthy, prince of Desmond. Before leaving Waterford he dedicated a new church on the western side of the city to Thomas a Becket (on Thomas’ Hill) which will be subject to an article in the forthcoming History Ireland magazine by my good friend Damien McLellan.  Henry left from Wexford on Easter Monday 1172, never to return.  But many followed in his wake.  A topic I’ve covered previously in my piece A harbour fit for a King

* I’ve also seen a smaller figure of 240 mentioned but most sources quote 400.  I’ve read no analysis of the figures.
** Again 4,000 troops is mentioned as a minimum in almost every account. Some add 500 knights to it, others add attendants, squires etc.  It’s possible the 4,000 actually covers the entire entourage including ships captains and crews, which would diminish the actual invasion force considerably.

Byrne. N. The Irish Crusade.  2007.  Linden. Dublin
Power. P.C> History of Waterford. City & County.  1990. Mercier Press. Dublin