Power family era of Faithlegg House

In 1819, newlyweds Nicholas Power and Margaret nee Mahon moved into their new home, Faithlegg House.  It was bought from a financially insolvent Cornelius Bolton. They were the first Catholic landlords of the area since the Norman era Aylward family, who were dispossessed following the Cromwellian siege of Faithlegg castle in October 1649. 

Nicholas adopted his wife’s surname and they became more commonly known as the Mahon Power’s, a useful distinction with such a common name in Waterford at the time, as now!.  Margaret was a wealthy heiress, her father made money from textiles but while she settled into a life of raising a family, her husband developed his land and farming interests, took an active role in politics and was a contributor to many good causes.

Faithlegg House.
Faithlegg House, Co Waterford. circa 1969. Photo by Brendan Grogan

Politically he organised support for catholic political interests throwing his weight behind the campaigns of the “great liberator” Daniel O’Connell and the campaign for Catholic emancipation and repeal.  O’Connell is known to have visited the house on at least two occasions and once described Power as “the right kind of agitator” He took on a variety of political and administration roles including Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff, chair of many organising committees and a Catholic MP for Waterford between 1847 – 1859. 

One of his first actions on the estate was to build a chapel of ease for the catholic community beside the old Norman churches in 1824 at Coolbunnia.  Prior to this Catholics had to walk to Passage East for mass.  There was also a tradition of mass rocks on the Minaun area during penal times.  He was a benefactor to Edmund Rice and apparently bore the major cost of establishing the first of his schools, Mount Sion, in Waterford. 

The first official boys school was established in Faithlegg in the 1830’s, free as it was organised by the government, girls parents had to pay privately for their education.  This however changed in the 1870’s when the new Faithlegg School was established again with the support of the Power family, catering for boys and girls.  Little is known of the famine era in the area, but locally it was considered to be less of an issue, perhaps because of a catholic landlord, the richness of the land and the use of fish in the local diet. 

Faithlegg Churches
Faithlegg Churches

Margaret and Nicholas were divorced in 1860 and she died not long after in Dublin.  Before his death Nicholas Mahon Power paid for the construction of the spire, belfry and organ loft to be seen at the front of Faithlegg Church.  This was completed in 1873 the year he died.  He is buried inside the church.

His son Patrick Joseph Mahon Power inherited the property on his father’s death.  His wife was Lady Olivia Jane Nugent, daughter of the Earl of Westmeath.  From 1873-5 he and his wife were responsible for the alterations and extensions to Faithlegg House, changing it from a Georgian building to a Victorian mansion.  The changes included 2 storey, 2 bay wings on either side of the existing building, on to which a single storey extension was added to both sides.  The single storey on the left was an oratory whilst the right was a school room.  The front of the building was refaced, with segmented hoods over the ground floor windows.  A portico with square piers was also added and St Hubert’s Deer was added to the front of the house.  Internally the plastered ceilings were the work of Italian craftsmen.

Externally there were modifications too; including planting, laying out of terraces at the rear and the building of pleasure grounds.  A shell house was constructed to the left of the main house.  This was replaced with a grotto in the 1940’s when it was destroyed by a fallen tree.

Faithlegg Harriers at Faithlegg House
The Faithlegg Harriers outside the main door of the house. AH Poole photo

Pat Power was an active landlord never employing a steward in the running of the estate.  He was a huntsman and was master of the hounds for Gaultier and later for east Waterford; apparently because Lord Waterford had been banned by the Land League for hunting on its members land.  The Faithlegg Hunt was known as the Harriers and Pat prided himself on providing good sport to any visiting hunts, preserving the Minaun as a fox covert. 

Leisure seems to have been a regular feature of their era.  A cricket team met in the grounds and played into the 1950’s.  A Hurling team also featured made up of many who worked in the house or on the farm. 

He was also an avid yachtsman, and the family regularly sailed European waters from the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.  The Power family yacht was regularly on hand for local regattas and Pat was listed as a committee member in organising same.

Pat died in 1913, predeceased by his wife in 1903.  The estate past to his eldest son Hubert, who died in 1920.  Following this the house was unoccupied save for a maintenance team of servants. It was finally sold to the De La Salle Order as a junior novitiate in 1936.

For more blogs on Faithlegg:

Next week we go all Christmassy.  Did you know too much turkey can be a bad thing?  It certainly got me and my brother Robert in trouble in 1985!

Faithlegg Spire – a spire that spiralled out of control

Over the past month I have commenced a new part time role with Faithlegg House Hotel.  Under the direction of the hotels senior management team we have initiated a process including amongst other elements, gathering the stories of the residents/employees of the estate. This will assist in the current heritage re-brand of the hotel which seeks to showcase the amazing history of the area. To whet appetites here is just one story that has emerged giving a greater insight into the building that is Faithlegg Church.

Early 20th Century postcard of the two churches via Tomás Sullivan

We have spoken before about Faithlegg Church, built in 1824 under the direction of the new landlord to Faithlegg, Nicholas Mahon Power. Nicholas died 1873, which corresponded to completion of a refurbishment, similar in most respects to the church that we see today including its impressive spire and belfry. But the work was not without it’s problems and thanks to a legal squabble afterwards(1), we can now look more closely into the project.

Faithlegg church was originally a much smaller, more modest building which was intended as a chapel of ease for the workers and tenants of the Faithlegg estate. However on the 27th June 1871 the local Landlord contracted a builder from Portlaw Co Waterford, Michael Broderick, to make some additions to the building at an agreed tender of £1,170
A modern view of the spire.  Photo credit Hannah Doherty

As often occurs, not long into the building project new ideas surfaced. It was claimed the Power sisters, Nicholas’ daughters, cajoled their father into extending the build. The plan for an 80 foot spire was increased to 120 foot. It was claimed in court that this was to compete with a neighbouring church and to ensure Faithlegg would be more beautiful, more imposing and to ensure it would outshine it. Nicholas it was said was not known for “being liberal when it came to improvements” but the ladies got around him to “flatter their tastes”.

According to an additional tender of January 1872 the costs then rose to £1,620.  In June the Power ladies were at it again apparently. At this stage a request was made to add a private seating area or chapel as it was referred to in the spire, and a gallery, new altar and a sacristy to boot!  A sum of £165 was requested, but after the intervention of the families head gardener and land steward, Thomas Power, a lesser sum of £145 was agreed.(2)
The gallery and behind the doors the private seating area of the Power family.
Photo credit Hannah Doherty

But the demands were not yet finished.  Apparently a belfry was an after thought. As it was at this point a new bell was requested costing £75 and an extra £10 to hang it.  And still more adornments to to the spire costing £44 12s, which one imagines must have been the alteration and louvered timbers to emit the sound. The work was completed by a new mausoleum to the family and a walled in space to set it apart from the rest. This was said to cost £30. Still to be seen on the right as you walk in the main gates. 

It would appear that Nicholas never lived to see the entire project completed, he died in February 1873.  But in 1876 Broderick took a case against the estate to secure monies owed from the drawn out and every changing refurbishment.  His day in court saw him demand a sum of  £207 10s 1d as a balance of his account.  A decision was returned in his favour, but for a sum of £160.

Although some of his workmanship was called into question in court the Buildings of Ireland has stated in their appraisal “…The construction of the tower attests to high quality local stone masonry and craftsmanship, which is especially evident in the fine carved detailing throughout…” And whatever the claims in court in relation to the wants and desires of Nicholas’ daughters, and the spire that spiralled out of control, their vision and resolve to cajole their aging father has left us a building that is a gem and has become one of the countries wedding venues of choice.

If you have a story, an insight or a family connection to Faithlegg or the house you can contact me by emailing russianside@gmail.com 

(1) Waterford Standard 19th July 1876. P.2.
(2) For the work described this seems a small sum.

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

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

A Waterford Boy Sailor

I read recently that some children do not leave home until 27 years of age.  Although this has less to do with protection and more to do with finances, spare a thought for the child sailors of the 18th & 19th C. It will comes as no surprise of course to anyone who read the stories of Horatio Hornblower or watched that fine movie Master and Commander.

Boys as young as 12 were recruited, often as a means of escaping poverty, others as a means of punishment/reform, to fill various positions aboard ship. These roles included servant boys, cabin boys, carpenters mates, and, what I have read was the worst job in the navy, a Loblolly boy – surgeons mate. The navy was also a career of course and the families of the middle classes also sent their boys to become midshipmen who through study, experience and not to mention luck, might enhance their opportunities.  A phrase used to capture the lot was Younkers.

Philip Richard Morris – Two Young Midshipmen in Sight of Home
http://19thcenturybritpaint.blogspot.ie/2013/02/

The life of the younkers was a mixed one no doubt, and probably very much depended on their posting and those given charge of them. But there were opportunities for advancement and the greatest Master and Commander of the era, Admiral Nelson started life as a twelve year old midshipman. We also had midshipman from the Waterford area including Faithlegg’s Henry Bolton. I’m not sure if we can say his career was typical, but it is certainly interesting.

Henry was the youngest son of Cornelius Bolton. The Boltons were the owners of Faithlegg House, now hotel of the same name, and Henry was born there in July 1796. Unfortunately not being first born put the young lad at a disadvantage and on the 19th March 1809 he joined the Royal Navy, signing on as a First Class Volunteer aboard the 74 gun ship of the line HMS Victorius.  He was a few months short of his 13th Birthday

He first saw action during the Napoleonic wars, when the Royal Navy in alliance with the Austrians tried to cut off the French fleet at Flushing and invade the low countries. The so called Walcheren Campaign was a disaster from start to finish and saw the deaths of 4000+ British troops, the vast majority from illness.  Henry survived however.
example of a fifth rate frigate such as HMS Thetis
He next saw action in the Mediterranean, and finished off his stint with the ship when during the war of 1812 declared by America against the British. His ship limped back to home following a grounding incident while trying to blockade American ships in the Elisabeth River and he was transferred to the HMS Tiber.  He served on the Tiber from 1814-1815.
He joined the HMS Opossum in April 1815, a Cherokee class Brig which saw service in the Channel and the North America Station.  He served under Commander John Hay, a man who would later to rise to a position of Rear Admiral.
His next ship was the Sloop, HMS Blossom, on which he served between 1818 -1827. The Blossom was involved in extensive surveying of the pacific Islands and extending the British dominion wherever she sailed.  Bolton would have had a front row seat to the colonial exploits, and he must have had many adventures and stories to tell.
“HMS Blossom (1806)” by William Smyth (1800-1877) – Transferred from en.wikipedia
to Commons. (15 August 2009 (original upload date)) Original uploader was Shem1805
at en.wikipedia(Original text: National Maritime Museum online collections). Licensed under
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Blossom_
(1806).jpg#/media/File:HMS_Blossom_(1806).jpg
His last ship was the HMS Thetis, a 46 gun 5th rate Frigate. He joined the ship in 1827 in a senior position and served aboard her until August 1830 at which point he got an appointment ashore at Waterford.  He was fortunate. 4 months later on the 4th of December the Thetis was wrecked at Cape Frio on the South American Coast. The wreck was a major embarrassment to the Navy and both the captain and master faced a naval tribunal due to miscalculating the ships position. The ship was only a day out of Rio when she drifted ashore. She was later lost with 25 souls, (although 275 men and boys survived) but it was the cargo that was the biggest talking point. She was carrying gold bullion and coinage estimated at the then value of $810,000, collected from taxes and trade.
Meanwhile Captain Bolton was most probably looking forward to a Christmas ashore, in his new position of Inspecting Commander of the Coastguard at Waterford. He served two terms and following his marriage in 1839 to Ann, only child of William Kearney of Waterford they settled into civilian life, and the couple moved to what to this day is called Bolton Cottage, at Ballinlaw Co Kilkenny, on the River Barrow.
He died on May 30th 1852, having seen most of the world, despite the fact that he didn’t have a TV or the Internet. He was buried in old Faithlegg Church with his father.

I took all of the information about his Naval career from the following naval biography and a further piece here. For more on Henry Bolton see Julian Walton’s On This Day, Vol II.  published in 2014 pp152-53.

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and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
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St Patrick’s day in the 1970’s

Happy La le fhéile Padraig, an occasion for the “wearing of the Green”.  During my childhood I really looked forward to it and particularly the nine am mass at Faithlegg Church. I guess the mass stands out, as in those days before it became a “festival” the day was a much simpler affair. As we didn’t have a car, we went to no parade. But it was a welcome day off from the dread of school, which like so many others we spent out rambling.  If unlucky and it rained we hadn’t much option but to sit inside at the black and white telly and watch Darby O Gill and the little people or the Quiet Man re-run.    
My earliest memory is coming home from school with a hand made badge, a pin stuck on the back with sellotape and a drawing of a harp or St Patrick and plenty of green white and gold. It was always gold, never orange in our home. Apparently the badge originated with Irish soldiers that fought in the trenches of World War I.  We could look forward to a break from school, and also a break from lent.  Lent in those days to me meant no chocolate, or sweets, or one of my favourites; Tayto crisps.  On Patrick’s day, you were given a reprieve. I remember calling to a friends house one day with a bag of crisps and being challenged about my Lenten vow. “The Lord didn’t get a day off when he wandered in the desert for forty days!” When I said it at home later I picked up a new saying; “If you want to be criticised, marry” I later realised she was probably more upset that her husband was slaking his thirst in the West End, with a want spanning from Ash Wednesday. 
via www.voskrese.info/spl/Xpatric-ire.html
I’ve mentioned before how important church was in our home, and Patrick’s morning was no less an occasion.  The main difference of course was the obligatory bit of shamrock, splashed across the left lapel of the coat, and the attachment of it, which had to happen just as we were about to go out the door, in case it would wilt. There were years of course when the shamrock had not been sourced.  On those occasions we were dispatched across the strand and up to Nanny’s in the Russianside. Nanny, like many of the older citizens, took a marked pride in the display of the trinity leaf and crucially she had the time to ramble in search of the plant.
Nanny would have a bowl, fully laden, and as we crashed in atop of her, she would call us in one at a time to her tiny kitchen and fuss and bother (in a way my mother didn’t have the time to with five to divide her time) by picking a nice piece and pinning it on our lapel with an eye to detail.  Her own attire on the day always had a lot of green, including blouse, cardigan, head scarf and coat.  The coat would have a spread of Shamrock that would have fed a sheep.  On then we went, up to the cross roads with her, to board the Suirway mass bus for the trip around the village.
accessed from www.millstreet.ie
The bus of course was a trial.  The oul lads black-guarding, accusing your shamrock of all manner of insult, from wilting, to scrawny or worse; “a bit of oul clover” At the church the unspoken competition would be in full swing for the most impressive display, but I can never remember anyone besting Matt “Mucha” Doherty.  The spray of shamrock would be emblazoned across the left side of his chest, like the mane of a lion.  I always wondered how he kept it so fresh looking, to this day I wonder did he have the sod with it, tucked away in his coat.   
The ceremony on that day always appealed to me.  I enjoyed the stories associated with Patrick, they were more real to me, I could identify with them. But most of all I loved the singing, and in particular the singing of Hail, Glorious St Patrick.  Songs in the church were generally the preserve of Jim “Lofty” Duffin.  Jim would stand up in the centre of the congregation and from his hymnbook, sing solo.  It didn’t feel right to accompany him, and generally people stayed quite.  But there were days during the church year that the congregation shook itself free and one of them was St Patrick’s morning.

It’s as if we dropped our reserve on those days, and led off by Jim who was quickly joined by the women, and eventually it seemed by us all.  For me, I think the day meant a lot to us as a community in a nationalistic kind of way, a day that celebrated something that made us proud to be Irish in a country that at the time, probably didn’t have a lot to be proud of.  And in standing to sing, it was almost like singing the national anthem. For a few short years it was the central meaning of the day for me.  
After more than forty years, I can hear the singing yet.  Here’s the words if you want to sing along. To assist, here’s a beautiful organ accompaniment.

Hail, Glorious St Patrick
Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, dear saint of our Isle,

On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
And now thou art high in the mansions above,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan’s wiles and an infidel throng;
Not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
In the war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear saint, may thy children resist unto death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, their prayer,
Their banner the cross which they glory to bear.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
Shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
And the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
Its warmth undiminished, undying its light.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth,
Where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
And our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam,
For God and Saint Patrick, and our native home.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

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

Imagine arts festival walk 2016 – A big River

As part of this years Imagine Arts Festival, Deena and I were asked to lead a walk in our local community on a theme reflecting our heritage and arts.  To do this we thought about the many songs, stories, poetry and prose that surround our area and reflect our rich maritime heritage. So the walk that departs this morning from Faithlegg Church at 11am is a walk that celebrates the big river, or more accurately rivers ( Barrow, Nore and Suir), that inspire and continually enrich our lives.

Our history stretches long back into antiquity.  Gael, Viking, Norman and English have entered the harbour here and used it as a route to open up the entire country.  When Ptolmy drew a map of the known world in 2 AD he included Ireland, and a River Birgos, long considered the Barrow.  The parish of Faithlegg itself was gifted to a Bristol merchant named Aylward following the entry of King Henry II through Waterford this past week in 1171.  Those Bristol men played a significant role in the development of the port, as did the Norman knights and religious orders that followed.
The Aylwards managed to weather many political storms until the arrival of Cromwell put and end to their reign of the area, when it passed to the Bolton family.  The last Bolton, Cornelius left us Faithlegg House which he sold to the catholic Powers in 1816.  We have the powers to thank for the modern church.  Throughout these times Waterford continued to trade and prosper.
Accessed from;
http://www.libraryireland.com/articles/WaterfordQuayDPJ1-23/index.php
A sense of where the area was at is reflected in this piece from a man we have heard from before on the blog. Arthur Young, and his Tour in Ireland 1776-79 from which we take the following:
“The number of people who go as passengers in the Newfoundland ships is amazing; from 60-80 ships and from 3000 to 5000 persons annually.  They come from most parts of Ireland; from Cork Kerry etc.  Experienced men will get £18 to £25 for the season, from March to November; a man who never went will have £5 to £7 and his passage, and others rise to £20, the passage out they get but pay home £2.  An industrious man in a year will will bring home £12 to £16 with him, and some more.  A great point for them is to be able to carry all their slops (work clothes)for everything there is extremely dear, 100 or 200% dearer than they can get them at home.  They are not allowed to take out any woollen goods but for their own use.  The ships go loaded with porrk, beef, butter, and some salt, and bring home passengers, or get freights when they can; sometimes rum.

The Waterford pork comes principally from the barony of Iverk in Kilkenny, where they fatten great numbers of hogs; for many weeks together they kill here 3000 to 4000 a week, the price 50s. to £4 each; goers chiefly to Newfoundland.  There is a foundry at Waterford for pots, kettles, weights and all common utensils; and a manufactory of anvils to anchors etc., which employs 40 hands.  There are two sugar houses, and many salt-houses…
There is a fishery upon the coast for a great variety of fish, herrings, particularly at the mouth of Waterford Harbour…There are some premium boats here…
The butter trade of Waterford has increased greatly for seven years past; it comes from Waterford principally , but much from Carlow…the slaughter trade has increased…Eighty ships of sail now belonging to the port, twenty years ago not thirty…
The finest object is the quay, which is unrivaled by any I have seen…”

So Waterford as a city and the rivers that formed her harbour were a busy and prosperous place at this point, and it would continue to flourish long into the following century. But a variety of circumstances began to undermine that prosperity and I’m probably guilty of a lot of nostalgia in what I write when I reflect weekly on where we are now, not just as a city, or a port but also our once rich fisheries.  When ever I hear the Jimmy Nail song Big River, it stops me in my tracks as I listen to his elegy for the hard work and vitality that was the River Tyne and its heavy industry.  I don’t get any sense of what the future of the Tyne is in it however (lyrics here).  But I do get a sense of a future in our rivers.
Faithlegg Churches 13th & 19th C
Our walk this morning is not meant to be nostalgic.  It’s meant to communicate the rich history and heritage imbued in the buildings, pathways and vistas that surround us.  Its meant to explore what they once meant and what the yet might become.  It is story, song, poetry and prose of a past, a present and hopefully a future.

The walk is free and booking is via the Imagine Arts Festival Office at 083 313 3273 or email imaginefest@gmail.com

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