Bill and Teresa’s American adventure

This week in a look ahead to the coming St Patrick’s day festival I wanted to share this piece which celebrates the hard work and personal integrity of one of our own. I’ve spoken about emigration to America before from the village. Todays piece featuring Bill Lannen Doherty and his wife Teresa gives an insight into the benefits of emigration.  This this year Bill will be honoured in his local St Patrick’s Day Parade (Glen Cove) where he helped found the first parade 30 years ago and this year he has been chosen as Grand Marshal.
William (Bill) Doherty was born May 1, 1950
in the Russianside, Cheekpoint, Co. Waterford to Andrew, fisherman/seaman
and Nancy Doherty. He was raised in a small cottage with his 4 older sisters
Elizabeth, Agnes, Brigid, and Ann. As a youngster he did what all the young men did, worked the local rivers fishing in the salmon and herring boats that
plied their fishing trade in all the small fishing villages on the estuary.
Bill at the tender age of 17 met his future wife, Teresa while working the
ferryboat at Little Island, Waterford. After years of courting, when it wasn’t
unusual for Bill to walk 5 miles to meet Teresa at the neighboring village of
Ballygunner.  They were married on March 18, 1972 at St John’s Church, Parnell
Street, Waterford City.  
Wedding day 1972
After working the
summer of 1972 in Dingle Co. Kerry, Bill and his new bride made the life
altering decision in October 1972 to emigrate at 22 years of age to Long Island, New York. Bill and Teresa was sponsored by his sister Brigid and lived
initially in Lindenhurst with the Winters Family, before moving to Saint James,
where his son Ryan was born in 1974 then settling in Glen Cove in 1977 to be
closer to his employment at Ever-Ready Sanitation located near City
Stadium.  It was around that time Bill
became a Parishioner of St Patrick’s, Glen Cove and met other Ancient Order of Hibernian members such as
Mike Moran and was initiated into Division 8. Soon after, in 1979, his daughter
Tara Ann was born and he was employed by Daniello and Son in Locust Valley and
lived in Stephen Oval, Glen Mills Apartments in Glen Cove. In 1983, Andrew John
was born and for the next decade he raised his growing family in Glen Cove,
often sending the kids to Ireland for the summers so that he could work hard, sometimes 3 jobs 7 days a week. 

In 1989, Bill along with other AOH Members formed a small committee to start a St Patrick’s Day Parade in Glen Cove. This parade is now celebrating its 30th Anniversary and serves as the only Hibernian Sponsored Parade in Nassau County, growing over the years to become premier celebration of Irish Heritage and Culture on the North Shore. In 1990, Bill and his family, realizing the American Dream bought their own home and moved to Bayville.

Bill, Teresa and the family

After many years of working and living in
on the North Shore, Bill was always willing to lend a hand at AOH events such
as the Project Children Paddleboat Steamer Cruise and the Coney Island Irish Festival. He was always willing to open his home up on holidays or taking a
phone call from a young Irish emigrant looking for work at Piping Rock Club.
Bill served as AOH Division 8 President from 1990 -1992.
Happy times at the Saratoga

In February 2005, Bill and
Teresa made the decision to return “home” to run the world famous Saratoga Bar
on the scenic strand of Woodstown Co. Waterford made famous from its visit by
the Kennedy Family in the 1960’s.  Bill
the Publican worked hard at building up the bar’s local customer base and tourist trade, and was a natural behind the bar. He enjoyed his 11 years managing the bar
alongside his sidekick Teresa. He treated everyone entering
his premises with warm courtesy and respect.

Bill and his sisters lr Bridgid (RIP), Betty, Ann and Agnes

In 2016, after the passing of some family
members, an ever-growing grandchildren count and a major flood that nearly
destroyed the pub (but that they rebuilt better than ever), Bill and Teresa made the choice to return once more to the Gold Coast to semi-retire and enjoy the
fruits of their labor. Life has now come full circle, Bill works part-time with his nephews at
Winter Bros Waste Systems, one of the largest private sanitation companies on
Long Island.

This year Bill is truly honored to be chosen for
Grand Marshal of the 2018 Glen Cove St Patrick’s Day Parade. It is a celebration of what
an immigrant with hard work ethic and love for both Ireland and America can
accomplish over a life well lived. It is a  great tribute and so fitting that such a
milestone anniversary of 30 years recognizes one of its founding members on the
same day as Bill and Teresa’s 46th Wedding Anniversary. His 3 children and
7 grandchildren will be marching with pride.

The march takes place on Sunday the 18th from 1-3pm and the post parade party takes place from 2-6pm.  Their family, relations and friends here in Cheekpoint, Ballygunner, Passage East and Woodstown and throughout Waterford will be also marching at least in spirit, wishing Bill and Teresa many future St Patrick Day festivities together.  

Many thanks to my cousin Ryan for helping me to put this together and sourcing the photos. 

Post script: Some photos of the actual event… Looks fabulous 

My book on growing up in a fishing village is now published.     

Details of online purchases, local stockists or ebook store available here

Feb 1st – traditional start date of the salmon season

The traditional start of the Salmon drift net season in Ireland was, for many generations February 1st , Imboloc or St Brigid’s Day. Once opened it stretched to August 15th.  It closed each week between 6 am on a Saturday morning to 6 am on the Monday.  Once the week opened it operated for 24 hrs a day.  Michie Fortune posted a reminisce on the Cheekpoint Facebook page this week, remembering drifting in the river with Tommy Doherty and having to use the oars.  Some of the members on the page queried how he could remember 50 years back so vividly, but I have to admit, the first winter I spent was just as memorable.

Paddy Moran RIP and Michael Ferguson RIP
Ranging nets on Ryans Shore 1950’s
When I started fishing of course outboard engines, more manageable nets and relatively comfortable oilskins were a predominant feature.  My grandmother often told me of the conditions her father and brothers faced while drifting for fish.    In the first instance, she remembered the smell of drying clothes at the open fire day and night.  All the outer garments and even the socks steaming away on the fire, and her mother, often up through the night, keeping the fire in and turning the clothing, so that the men would be some way comfortable going out.  That might be the following morning, or in a short few hours depending on the tides.

Walter Whitty told me that as a child he remembered seeing “oilskins” hanging to dry in the high street.  These were not the comfortable oilskins of today.  These were homemade, by the women generally and cut from calico purchased in town.  The calico would be measured, sown and then soaked in linseed oil to keep the water out (or at least some of the water).  They would then be dried in the sun until fit to wear.  My grandmother said that as often as not an oilskin might return from sea journeys and were much sought after, but in general the men wore thick overcoats to keep the weather out and always two pairs of socks.

Blessing the boats, Nets and men prior to the opening 1930’s

Terry Murphy once told me a yarn.  He was only a boy and was fishing with Billy the Green, grandfather of Elsie Murphy.  He called down this cold frosty morning and Billy came out with his socks in his hands.  He plunged the socks into the water barrel and squeezed them out.  He then put them on his feet and put his boots on. Terry paused for dramatic effect and looked at my puzzled expression.  “Well,” he said, “when you are on the oars all day the water in your socks heats you up better than any hot water bottle”.  I saw the proof of those words many the times I have to admit.

The oars were the only way to get around and it meant that fishing was a slower, more rhythmical affair in the past.  I’ve written before about how hard it was for us as children even with outboard motors to use the oars.

The men in the past had to use the tides and had to make the best out of each drift.  Once set the aim was to get the maximum out of each drift, prior to hauling and setting again.  It meant that on ebb tide when they set from “Binglidies” or “the rock” that they drifted as far as they could, then reset the nets from where they stopped, rather than returning (as we did with the aid of an outboard).

They would drift to the end of the ebb tide, take the low water where they found it and return village-wards with the incoming tides.  My grandmother said the men were starving on their return.  They might put in to warm some tea in a billy can but often wouldn’t eat from when they left the house to when they returned. (Low water to high water is a total of 6 hours)

Returning home was also work of course.  The hemp nets that my grandmothers father and brothers used had to be ranged out of the boat and “spreeted” – hauled up and dried in the wind.  Not doing so would shorten the life of the nets which was a cost they could not afford.  So on returning to go fish, the nets had to be lowered and then ranged back into the boat.

Any wonder the majority of my gran-uncles took the boat to America or England as soon as they could.  Any wonder also that it was the older men and young boys that did the fishing in all the other families around, those old enough to choose the sea, at least until the summer peal run.

Poles along the quay for “spreeting” or drying the nets  circa 1950’s

In my own time, the start of the season had been shifted to St Patrick’s Day and in the 1990s (1996 I think) the season was destroyed from the perspective of commercial fishing in Cheekpoint in that it was reduced to a June 1st – Aug 15th season and operated from 6am – 9 pm.  It was a slow strangulation of the fishery which eventually closed in 2006.  Funnily enough in those times there was hardly a week went by without some media outlet decrying the state of the Salmon fishery and trying to close down the drift netting.  Now those media outlets have moved to other fish species, although the problems of salmon stocks still persist.

If the wind will not serve, take to the oars

As a young boy fishing in the river, the one thing I hated more than anything, was keeping up to the nets with an oar.  Pity the boy that let his mind wander and the boat blow off the nets, or worse, onto the mud on the flood tide on the coolagh (cool ya) mud.

I first began regular fishing in 1979, finishing first year in secondary school.  The holidays coincided with the Peal run, when the salmon men reduced the driftnet net mesh size to catch the smaller, younger salmon entering the rivers.  I’d fished before this, but only occasionally.  Maybe a drift of a summer evening, or a few tides, doing little more than watching from the bow twart. 

To be asked to fish was a big thrill.  It meant long hours, hard work, plenty of wettings and plenty of excitement.  It also meant some cash in your pocket, and my father always said unless you could jingle a few coins in your pocket that you had earned for yourself, we weren’t yet a man.  But it was also an education…a real education after the excuse of a one I had suffered over the winter.  We learned the nets, tides, weather, river, fish and hard work.  But of all of it, it was the oars that caused me the most hardship.  It wasn’t so bad if you were part of a younger man’s boat like Pat Moran or Anthony Fortune.  He wasn’t wedded to the oul ways…but if you happened to be fishing with his fathers generation, or my fathers, the best ways were the old ways which included many hours at the oars. The week started at 6am on the Monday morning and ran for the week, 24hrs up to the 6am on the Saturday.

In the past the oars had been the only method of propulsion for the punts in the area, apart from the use of sail, which was not a common method and something I never saw used.  It would remain so until the introduction of outboard motors after the second world war. 

A modern styled rowlock

The oars used were of red deal and generally fitted into the punt to allow for secure stowage.  The oar was made from 6″x’6″ red deal timber plank.  It was made from one piece for strength.  It had a carved handle, which allowed for the palm of the hand to cover it, a counterbalance, which meant that the oar was easier to manage when being used singlehanded.  A collar of leather was fitted where the oar fitted into the rowlocks.  This meant that the rubbing of timber on timber didn’t happen as it would quickly wear away.  When using the oars in dry weather you’d have to use the bailer to throw water over the collar or the sqweeking of it would drive you mad.  The shaft of the oar tapered off to the blade which was again the width of the plank and allowed the rower to catch a good piece of water to drive the boat forward.

The rowlocks on the punt were carved from oak and shaped to allow the oar fit nicely in place.  The Rowlocks were bolted to the gunwhale and two Thole Pins (pronounced Towel here) were hammer into 1″ drilled holes on either side of the oar.  Ash was commonly used as it was a durable timber.  I once used Hazel as it was nice and straight and I thought it looked smart.  But when rowing hard on the mud the thole pin snapped and I went head and arse into the bow, so never again.

An old oar in a sunken punt

There were particular points to be learned about rowing.  One was when you were told to row, you rowed, if you were told to “row hard” you really put your back into it.  “Back” was another command, and if your mind had wandered, or you weren’t paying attention you could be in real trouble.  “Pulling” when you were supposed to be “backing” could mean loosing a fish – a cardinal sin, and one to be reminded of time and again.

After leaving the shoreline or the quay we would “steam” (use an outboard) to the start of the particular drift.  This could mean a wait or perhaps we could set straight away, determined by the time of tide and the particular drift.  Waiting  with other punts was usually fun, as you would hear all manner of yarn.  The nets would be set with the engine and once set we would “out oars” and for the remainder to the drift would row to “keep up with the nets”.  The skipper would be on the aft oar the boy on the bow or for’ad oar.

Row hard(ish) Chris Doherty Bow oar & Mick Murphy

On some drifts only part of the nets were set, like flood tide on the Coolagh mud or ebb tide on the point.  You would keep up to the nets for a particular place and then would set the rest.  The older men preferred setting the remainder with the oars, meaning you had to keep on rowing on the bow oar while the skipper rowed with one hand and set the nets with the other.

After a winter sitting at a school desk your hands would be soft.  As a consequence those first few days at the oars would be hell.  The welts would rise within a few minutes.  By the half hour mark they would be black and blue and swollen.  You might think putting them in the water would ease the pain, but it was of no benefit.  There was a partial ease when the welts burst but then the when the salt water leaked in it stung like hell.  There was also the muscles in your arms that would be aching and the back to which you could find little ease.  Of course by the end of the summer these would be only memories, but to be relived the following summer.  

Tom Fergison (bow oar) Michael Ferguson, “keeping up to the nets”
Photo credit: Tomas Sullivan

Hauling the nets also required the skipper using the oars to keep the punt “on the nets”  As you hauled the skipper stayed midships and the boy went astern and each took a rope.  As you hauled the punt would either drift across or off the nets and with the momentum of the haul the skipper could put out either the aft or for’ad oar to bring the boat back in or out off the nets.

Once aboard it was time to set again and if you were lucky, the boy got to lower the outboard and steam back to the start of the next drift.  If you were really lucky you might get to set the nets with the engine…a real step up.

Over time the use of the oars diminished and in recent times, up to the closure of the Salmon driftnet fishery in 2006, many punts would not have even carried an oar.  The outboard which had become more dependable and men more skilled in their use, took over in many aspects of the fishery practice.  Today if you look around the quays you will see few enough timber punts and fewer oars.  Something that diminishes the village in my opinion. 

In case anyone thinks I’m complaining about the work we had to do let me offer you this quote by the American comedian George Carlin on a definition of hard work; “hard work is a misleading term. physical effort & long hours do not constitute hard work. hard work is when someone pays you to do something you’d rather not be doing. anytime you’d rather be doing something other than the thing you’re doing…you’re doing hard work.”  

Closure of the Barrow Railway Bridge

As a child growing up in Cheekpoint the two most obvious built landmarks, in terms of scale and impact were the Great Island Power Station and the Barrow Bridge.  The power station was a noisy, dirty and rambling edifice that we knew we had to endure.  The bridge however was something different.  It was what the station wasn’t; stylish, attractive to the eye and something to boast about.
Built between 1902-06 and first opened in July 1906 it served the railway faithfully, fulfilling its designers vision and only closing when outside forces were brought to bare.

Growing up it was a wish of mine to take the train either to Wexford or Rosslare.  My mother often got nostalgic when she spoke about it.  As a young emigrant to the bright lights of London she remembered passing onto the bridge on the way to the boat train in Rosslare.  Her last outbound trip was in the winter of 1964.  Having come home for the few days of Christmas she returned with her uncle, Christy Moran, and several others from the village including (she thought) Pat Murphy and Charlie Hanlon and recalled a bonfire lighting in the village, a farewell signal, a reminder of where the homefire burned.  Of course she had the option of New York too, but the distance seemed to vast, the gap between mother and daughter too wide.  So when in the fifties her uncles Willie and Johnny headed to the States she opted for service in a home and later factory work.  She retuned to Cheekpoint in late 1964 to be married.

I recall a chap who was in school with me in De La Salle who came up from Wexford.  I asked him once was there nare a school in his home county.  He mentioned that he came on the train to school each day, that he lived beside the train, but would have to get a lift to a bus.  So, rather than the hassle of it, came to Waterford and crossed the Barrow Bridge twice a day.  I thought he was so lucky, he grumbled that the seats were hard!

Years later I worked with a man originally from Thurles.  We got talking about the beet trains and the autumn beet campaign that saw trains arriving daily into the town and the entire area a mass of diesel fumes as anything with a trailer was used to ferry beet from the train to the sugar factory.  I related how the same trains passed through our lives.  Wexford being the centre of the countries sugar beet growing and the beet trains which loaded at Wellingtonbridge had to cross the Barrow to get on to Carlow, Midelton and Thurles.  I recalled one day sitting on the back step and a beet train engine almost to the swing section of the bridge before the last beet truck clattered onto the bridge.  I lost count of the trucks but it was almost 2000 feet long in my estimation.

In it’s later years the mainstay of the line was the demands of the Sugar Beet factories that the Wexford farmers supplied so capably.  However change in agricultural and food industry practices was in the wind and the last of the factories closed in 2006 and with it the main business of the line.  The question remains though, did the beet factories ever need to close?

With the end of the beet industry and the decline in passenger numbers many fears were expressed for the viability of the line.   Trends in sea travel had changed with travellers now encouraged to take a “carcation”  Commuter passenger numbers were dwindling too.  The car was king.  The Passage East Car Ferry which started in 1982 may have been a factor?

Finally on Saturday 18th September 2010 the last train crossed over the Barrow Bridge ending the historic link created with the bridges opening in 1906.  Another special event train was laid on for the occasion, proving, at least that CIE had some sense of the importance of such a decision.  Our neighbour here in the Russianside, Bridgid Power was one of those who made the trip, as this piece from the Irish Times testifies.  Curiously, her mother in law, Aggie Power of Daisybank House in Cheekpoint was either on the special event train in 1906 when the bridge was opened, or another not long after.

Another family who made the effort to take the trip was Alice Duffin in the Mount Ave, her Daughter Una Sharpe and her Grand Daughters Emma and Fiona.  Emma remembered the trip and took some footage.  They got off in Wexford and her Dad Brian drove down to bring them home.  He drew the short straw!  So did my brother in law Maurice, he collected my sister Eileen, his Mother Florence RIP and his young family after taking the trip too

Although ships still pass through and many is the time we walk it, I never did manage to cross it in a rail car. For now, all I can manage is this virtual roll of the wheels.

Thanks to Susan Jacob for passing on some information via her cousin Deaglan de Paor who also has an interesting blog an example of which;

Thanks also to Emma Sharpe who shared her memories of the last trip

Postscript; I know we prefer to live with our heads in the sand.  But the world is running headlong towards environmental disaster and our reliance of trucks and cars is placing greater stress on the earths capacity to deal with the pollution our generation is causing.  Global warming is a fact, uncomfortable, threatening and, apparently, final.  A fact we might do well to heed.  Perhaps as a consequence the powers that be may have no choice but to reconsider “money saving” decisions of the past and reconsider more of the mass transport options in the future.  The railway line between Waterford and Rosslare still exists and will hopefully be used again, if not for mass transport, at least for tourism.

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“Taking the boat”

I’ve spoken before about my maternal grandmothers feelings about emigration which put simply was a matter of great pain and loss.  Last week got me to thinking about it more, as I met with cousin Ed and his family at a gathering in Crooke.  Ed had travelled from southern Florida to connect with members of his extended family following the emigration of his grandfather in the early 20th century.  His grandfathers sister, Margaret Hanlon of Coolbunnia was my fathers mother, someone I never knew as she died a young woman.

Meeting with Ed and his family and of course our own extended family was one of those rare happy occasions, as it seems we mostly gather at funerals these days.  I’ve met the returning emigrants and their descendants before, but at an age where it had little meaning to me.  However time moves on and with it your perception of the world and yourself.

On Sunday last there was plenty of music and song and at one stage I was called on for a story, and to be honest, nothing would come to mind.  Fear does that of course.  I’m much more relaxed hidden behind a computer screen.

Once I had thought on it though, the story I could have told was a story of emigration that my grandmother passed on to me about her brother “taking the boat” to America.  She was born in Feb 1919.  She was the youngest and had six brothers.  Ritchie was the eldest and I’m not 100% sure of the correct running order of the other lads but they included Mikey, Christy, Paddy, Johnny and Willie. 

the Moran siblings less eldest brother

They were born in the Russianside in a small three roomed house.  It was a fisherman’s cottage, close to the river, where as soon as the boys could pull an oar or haul a net they would have been out fishing.  But times were tough, fishing was a poor livelihood and one of the realities of most families at the time was emigration.

Nanny was never sure how the money was raised to send Ritchie to America but she suspected that some of her uncles on the Moran side were already living in New York and that they organised the fare and a job at the other side.  Whatever the arrangements, she was unaware of it all until the night of the American Wake which probably took place in the mid 1920’s.

She related how different the house was leading up to the event, the extra scrubbing and cleaning, the setting of the table back and the extra food that was prepared or dropped into the house.  She didn’t remember drink but she did recall music, singing and dancing which started in the evening and which to her young eyes must have been magical.  At some point she remembered being carried into a bedroom by a brother, which she thought was Christy, having fallen asleep where she sat.  Next morning she woke early to find the music and dancing over, but many of the neighbours still around.

Her parents didn’t seem to have gone to bed and her mother looked drained and tired.  Very soon after rising a pony and trap came down the road.  It was driven by Paud and John Burkes father if I remember correctly, who Nanny said was a relation of ours.  Into this was put a case belonging to Ritchie and after he lifted her up and gave her a hug he hopped aboard and went off up the Russianside Road, his brothers strolling beside the trap until it reached the top of the hill..  Her father turned away to walk towards the strand and her mother turned towards the house and she remembered her wailing behind the closed door.

Even as a child there was work to be done, but sometime later in the afternoon, Ritchie strolled down the Russianside Road.  Nanny who was throwing the remains of a teapot over the ditch ran to him and he lifted her up again and she innocently asked him “how was America?”  She remembered being confused, after all he was often away longer when he was at the fishing, and there was never a party then, and her mother and father never acted as they had done that day.

It transpired that having travelled to Waterford to catch the train to Cork and ultimately Cobh, the station master had turned him back as the ship wasn’t yet ready to sail.  He took Ritchie’s case for safe keeping, told him to return on the morro and Ritchie turned on his heels and strolled home. The next day Ritchie was gone again but this time Nanny didn’t see her big brother again for over thirty years.

gathering to celebrate the emigrants return,
Ryan’s Quay July 1956

Ritchie eventually died in America as did Johnny.  Mikey died on the buildings in England.  Willie who spent half his life in New York, retired home to the Russianside only to die not long after.  As I said the relations did visit, but I was of an age where it meant little to me.  But I guess now that Nanny is dead (the last of her family to go to her rest) and my father too, I have a greater sense of my own mortality and an enhanced interest in those belonging to me. 

A few years back we were on a short holiday in Cork and took a trip down to Cobh.  Visiting the heritage centre there, I became overwhelmed as I walked through what would have been the departures gate for emigrants.  Reflecting back, I realised it was probably because I had seen emigration from my grandmothers perspective; a sundering of the family.  However, maybe Ritchie saw it as an adventure, an escape or a great opportunity. 

Talking to Ed last Sunday evening made me wonder about it some more.  Although I will never know, I suppose emigration like anything in life is a personal journey.  But it also impacts on all those it touches, and in Nanny’s case that was very negatively.  Maybe if she had been older when Ritchie left, she would have seen it with different eyes.   

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