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

The “Divil” and the Captains Coffin

In 1932, a Hungarian sea captain, Rudolph Udvardy, who was master of the MV Honved,was in the port of Waterford with a cargo of Maize. To free up berth space, the Honved dropped down to Cheekpoint, where she anchored while the ship waited for an outgoing cargo.  (Following the Market crash there was a shipping slump, and ships struggled to find cargo)  Captain Udvardy was already ill when entering port.  So he continued to receive medical attention when at anchor off the Russsianside, Cheekpoint. The doctor traveled over from Dunmore East, and was regularly rowed out from Moran’s poles to the ship by my Grandmothers brothers, who also waited to return him to shore.

gathering at Faithlegg church gates
Alas, the Captain died on Friday 2nd September 1932.  And he was removed next day to Faithlegg on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Later that night the chapel-woman went to lock the church door.  As she was about to close it out she noticed a silhouette near to the altar. Moving slightly closer she could hear a low mumbling sound.  Terrified, she turned on her heals and ran to her home – The lodge at Faithlegg gates.  There she explained what she had witnessed to her husband and another man who was there playing cards.  There was a lot of talk about the devil coming for the captain, there was a lot of winking amongst the men too.
The captain’s body leaving his ship for the last time aboard the
“Point Lass” with Billy & Denny Doherty (The Green)

They agreed to accompany her back to the church.  Strolling in, they had a light step, but this froze at the back of the church when they too heard sounds.  More cautious now, they scooped up some holy water and began to inch forward, splashing it as they went, hoping t’wud be enough to keep any evil away.  In the darkness nothing could be seen, but as they inched forward, the mumbling could be discerned to words, strange and foreign words.  Panic was rising amongst the three and the holy water was being splashed with abandon when one of them stumbled and emitted a cry.  All went silent, no mumbling could be heard, and then a whisper came from the area where the Captains coffin stood. Someone was asking who was there, in broken English and in a strange tongue, but human undoubtedly.

Moving forward the protectors of the Captains coffin were confronted with the Arab crew,  They did not understand the Christian custom of leaving the coffin on its own in the Church overnight.  Their custom, they explained, was to remain. The chapel was left open that night and next morning the Captain’s body was committed to foreign soil.  The grave was surrounded by his officers and crew. And there was a huge turnout from the area, a turnout as befitted a sailor who died so far away from his family, something well known to the village of Cheekpoint.

The graveside, bedecked in local flowers

The ship remained for a few more weeks, and finally with a new Captain sailed out the harbour. His wife would later sent a small plant in a pot, asking that it be planted to mark her husbands grave. She need not have worried however.  His grave was originally marked by a very distinctive metal plaque (John Sullivan could tell me that this was made by Jimmy Shanahan (RIP)) and when this finally disintegrated, a local benefactor provided the headstone that now marks his last resting place.  Flowers still appear on the grave from time to time,  A reflection of how deep the connection to the events that autumn in 1932 went.

Udvardy Rezso: Elt So Evet, Szept 2 1932. Beke Hamvaria.
Sea Captain Honved, Nationality Hungarian. Died aboard Ship Honved at Cheekpoint

Photo credit:  I took copies of the three photos above from an article by John O’Connor in the Munster Express a few years back.  My grandmother had a full set of photos, as did many others in the village, but these are no longer at home.  One of the ships officers had a camera and took several photos in the village at the time.  He made several copies and posted them back, I’m guessing in some token of appreciation for the kindness shown.

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

A brief history of Faithlegg

This Sunday 21st August my wife Deena and I will conduct a heritage walk through Faithlegg commencing at 12noon at the Church.  Its the 11th year that we’ve organised something for Heritage Week . Faithlegg is probably best known now as a location for weddings, its hotel or to golfers who want 18 rounds in a stunning location.  But to others, its a significant historic location.  So what might you see in Faithlegg.

Well to start with the Churches themselves make a beautiful starting point.  The newer church dates from 1826 and is still in use today.  I served as an altar boy here in my youth, and I mentioned before how we traveled on the mass bus every Sunday morning, something that usually leaves younger readers agape.  There’s an interesting love story attached to the stain glass windows concerning a young heiress of the Power family and an ex Mayor of Waterford, John A Blake. Blake was the man responsible for the Peoples Park in Waterford city.

The church beside it of course is ancient, and many hold the view that it is the site of two churches, and probably stands on the remains of something earlier.  Of course the townland next door is called Kilcullen, or the Church of Cullen, and another church site is located there. If that’s not enough, there was a chapel in Faithlegg House, and mass was conducted on the Minaun in penal times! Surely to be interred here means automatic entry through the pearly gates.

Last resting place of the Bolton family

We have graves historic, such as the tomb of Thomas Francis Meagher, we have graves for sea captains, sailors and the lady who died twice! But most of all we have, in the Council award winning graveyard, the graves of men and women who worked their fingers to the bone to raise a family and try and live a good life.  I put a few of them into the ground, as I worked as a gravedigger in the 1980’s when work was scarce and any job was welcome.

Faithlegg itself has a long history.  It was granted by Henry II to a Bristol Merchant named Aylward after the Norman landings in 1171/2.  Aylward initially built a Motte and Baily to protect himself, but as tensions eased a fine stone castle was built on the lands above the church.  The last of the Aylwards were hung from the trees around abouts after the siege during the Cromwellian invasion, and to this day, there is the mystery of the abandoned Faithlegg village around the castle site.

Motte & Baily with Keep atop – via Google images

Entering Faithlegg we come across the emblem of the area, St Huberts Deer, probably reflecting the Power family’s love of hunting, St Hubert being the patron saint of Hunters and their dogs.  Hubert, the legend goes, was an avid hunter who went out one Good
Friday morning into the Ardennes in search of a stag. As he was pursuing his
quarry the animal turned with apparently, a crucifix standing between its
antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to
the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into
hell”.  He quickly converted! 

Faithlegg House was designed and built in 1783 for Cornelius Bolton, who would later go on to create an industrial village at Cheekpoint, we covered that at last years Heritage Week event. Bolton was the last in the line of the family who gained the estate after the Cromwellian invasion. Following bankruptcy it was bought by the Power family in 1816, and the Hotel as it stands today is largely the extension and ornate refit of the house undertaken by the newly wedded Pat Power and Olivia Nugent (daughter of the Earl of Westmeath) in the 1870’s

Faithlegg Harries at the “Big House” AH Poole photo 1890’s

Returning to Faithlegg we can’t but stop to consider the early christian site, dedicated to St Ita.  Her holy well has long been a feature in the parish, but it was once known as Tobar Sionnach. or the Well of the Fox.

These and much more will feature on our walk this coming Sunday 21st August, at 12 noon.  But if you want to walk it yourself here’s a self guided walk to follow.  And if you are coming, your own stories of the area would be welcome too.

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

The night the “devil” came for the captains corpse

I was raised on the story of Captain Udvardy’s grave in Faithlegg, which is marked with a very distinctive palm tree  My grandmother was a young girl at the time, and was a front-seat witness to the affair, and had played a cameo role in the tale.  Despite all the stories I was told, there was one she omitted but which I was told much later in life.  The story of the “devil” coming for the captain’s corpse.
In 1932, a Hungarian sea captain, Rudolph Udvardy, who was master of the MV Honved, was in the port of Waterford with a cargo of Maize.  To free up berth space, the Honved dropped down to Cheekpoint, where she anchored while the ship waited for an outgoing cargo.  (Following the Market crash there was a shipping slump, and ships struggled to find cargo)  Apparently Captain Udvardy was already ill when entering port.  So he continued to receive medical attention when at anchor off the Russsianside, Cheekpoint. The doctor traveled over from Dunmore East, and was regularly rowed out from Moran’s poles to the ship by my grandmothers brothers, who also waited to return him to shore.
gathering at Faithlegg church gates
As the ship had only limited stores, the crew were forced to forage for food to supplement their diet. The village rallied around.  Fish was dropped alongside, and items such as bread, milk, and other supplies were shared.  My grandmothers’ cameo came one morning when as a young girl she was going around her chores before walking off to school.  Coming out of the house with an ash bucket she walked straight into a man.  But it was no ordinary man. A man with dark skin and dark curly hair.  She dropped her ash bucket in terror and turned to run, the dark man reached out for her and started to speak with a strange accent, she managed to break free, just as her mother came out the door.  She fled into her parent’s bedroom and crawled in under the bed.  She was still there when her brother Christy came in later that evening and he finally managed, what everyone else failed to do, to entice her out from her hiding place.
The captain’s body leaving his ship for the last time aboard the
“Point Lass” with Billy & Denny Doherty (The Green)
She told him all about the “coal man” and how he terrified her,  and Christy, in turn, told her about the Arab sailors that helped make up the crew of the Hónved and how their skin was different from our own. Ali would become a familiar visitor to the house, coming as he did on the instruction of her father to get eggs, vegetables, or spuds.  She was never comfortable around him, but he used to whistle to announce his coming, which gave her time to get to her mother’s side.
Alas, the Captain died on Friday 2nd September 1932.  And he was removed next day to Faithlegg on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Later that night the chapel-woman (I think it was Statia Nugent, an aunt to my grandmother) went to lock the church door.  As she was about to close it out she noticed a silhouette near to the altar. Moving closer she could hear a low mumbling sound.  Terrified, she turned on her heels and ran to her home – The lodge at Faithlegg gates.  There she explained what she had witnessed to her husband and another man who was there playing cards.  There was a lot of talk about the devil coming for the captain, there was a lot of winking amongst the men too.
They agreed to accompany her back to the church.  Strolling in, they had a light step, but this froze at the back of the church when they too heard sounds.  More cautious now, they scooped up some holy water and began to inch forward, splashing it as they went, hoping it would be enough to keep any evil away.  In the darkness nothing could be seen, but as they inched forward, the mumbling could be discerned to words, strange and foreign words.  Panic was rising amongst the three and the holy water was being splashed with abandon when one of them stumbled and emitted a cry.  All went silent, no mumbling could be heard, and then a whisper came from the area where the Captains coffin stood. Someone was asking who was there, in broken English and in a strange tongue, but human undoubtedly.
Moving forward the protectors of the Captains coffin were confronted by the Arab crew,  They did not understand the Christian custom of leaving the coffin on its own in the Church overnight.  Their custom, they explained, was to remain.
The chapel was left open that night and next morning the Captain’s body was committed to foreign soil.  The grave was surrounded by his officers and crew.  And there was a huge turnout from the area, a turnout as befitted a sailor who died so far away from his family, something well known to the village of Cheekpoint.
The graveside, bedecked in local flowers
The ship remained for a few more weeks, and finally with a new Captain sailed out the harbour. His wife would later send a small plant in a pot, asking that it be planted to mark her husband’s grave. She need not have worried, however.  His grave was originally marked by a very distinctive metal plaque (John Sullivan could tell me that this was made by Jimmy Shanahan (RIP)) and when this finally disintegrated, a local benefactor provided the headstone that now marks his last resting place.  Flowers still appear on the grave from time to time,  A reflection of how deep the connection to the events that autumn in 1932 went.
Udvardy Rezso: Elt So Evet, Szept 2 1932. Beke Hamvaria.
Sea Captain Honved, Nationality Hungarian. Died aboard Ship Honved at Cheekpoint

Photo credit:  I took copies of the three photos above from an article by John O’Connor in the Munster Express a few years back.  My grandmother had a full set of photos, as did many others in the village, but these are no longer at home.  One of the ships officers had a camera and took several photos in the village at the time.  He made several copies and posted them back, I’m guessing in some token of appreciation for the kindness shown.

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

the Faithlegg woman who died twice?

One of the oldest grave stones in Faithlegg belongs to a family named Fortune.  But the headstone creates a bit of a stir…it gives two dates of death for the lady…1745 & 1746

The headstone reads;

Here lyeth ye body of ANSTAS 
FORTUNE alias QUINLAN (daughter 
to QUNER FOURE) who departed 
this life Wensday (sic) Janry ye 22d
1745-6 aged 21 years.





So who was the lady and did she arise from her grave like some halloween yarn or is there an explanation Despite searching I have not as yet found any further information relating to Anstas or her Father.  Present day searches suggest however that Anstas is now a boys name. Apparently it means resurrection! Was someone having a joke? Or was Anstas as fortunate as her surname suggests and got two cracks at the one life?
Well locally it was held that the solution to this mystery was a dispute between two calendars.
The first calendar to mention is the Julian Calendar, which dated to 46 BC and commissioned by emperor Julius Caesar, who at the time wanted to amalgamate all the regions of his empire under the one system. All went well initially, and we still hold on to much of that system including the days of the week and months of the year. However an issue arose for the christian church in the middle ages.The calendar did not accurately calculate the exact time of each year – 365.24 days and as a consequence by the time of Pope Gregory, Church holidays were way out of whack with what the Christian church had traditionally adhered too.
To alleviate the situation Gregory XIII initiated a review of the system and in 1582 a new calendar was initiated known as the Gregorian Calendar. This allowed for a more accurate holding ofchurch holidays and dealt with the vexed issue of the date of Easter. But to align with the church festivals the new calendar required a reboot of the system. Thus in 1582 10 days were dropped from the year.

Not everyone was enamored with the Churches approach however. Much of protestant Europe protested and refused to embrace the change. Ireland was in a bit of a dilemma, ruled from protestant England yet in matters of faith leaning more towards Rome, many in the Irish church seem to have employed the Gregorian calendar years before it was finally embraced by England, (and thus politically, Ireland) in September 1752.
Now that still doesn’t explain to me why a lady who died on 22nd Jan 1745, also listed 1746. As said the difference between the calendars was originally 10 days but as the years progressed it slowly widened – today it stands at 13 apparently, which you might need to know if you happen to visit with the nomadic Berber of North Africa, who till hold to Cesar’s calendar. But at least we can relax about the chance of meeting the un-dead on a visit to Faithlegg