St Itas Walk Faithlegg

Distance 2km

Difficulty:  This is an easy going looped walk on grass and public roadway (predominantly bitumen and level but broken ground)

Start: Commencing from Faithlegg Church car park notice board

Welcome to Faithlegg. Nicholas Mahon Power, then landlord of the area, built the current church in 1824.  In 1873 the Spire and Belfry were added.  When repairs were carried out in recent years the following inscription was found on the Bell:  “The gift of Nicholas Power ESQ.  At whose expense the tower was built.  J Murphy Founder Dublin.  Michael Broderick Builder Portlaw. Was built Aug 1872”

The Graveyard has won several awards over the years and is lovingly cared for by a voluntary committee.  It’s so well known that one local wag quipped “people are dying to visit!”

Well, a visit is worthwhile as there are several unique gravestones and wonderful designs.  There are 2 bullaun stones within and has the family plots of the Val Doonican family and Thomas Francis Meagher.  It also contains the remains of a man named Dinn who sailed round the world with Captain Cooke.  The oldest headstone is for a lady named Fortune nee Foure who has the distinction of two dates of death 1745/6 reflecting the two calendars in use at the time; church and civic.   

Another feature is the ruined 13th Century Church.   The site contains ruins of two separate churches.  The older part is located furthest from the road.  This measures 6.8m by 5.2m and has been referred to as the Chancel or Sanctuary.  The entrance to this is via a Romanesque style arch which dates it earlier than the main church and belfry beside it.  This measures 13m by 6.5m and is in the Venetian Gothic style. Feel free to walk inside and explore.

As you exit the main entrance to the church turn right and on your left come to St Its Well.  St Ita, who founded a monastery in Limerick was actually born in Waterford, gave her name to this well as a mark for the Deise tribe, signifing the extent of their domain.  Many years back a pattern was held here on Jan 15th.  There was reputed to be a rock beside the well which bore the imprint of the baby Jesus’ foot.

If you walk down the chapel road towards Cheekpoint you will come to a T junction, where you turn left and proceed down into the glen. At the bottom of the road you meet another t junction, so turn left.

On your right is an area known in the past as Mount Roberts.  It contained the country mansion of the famous Waterford architect John Roberts, designer of such buildings as the Bishops Palace and uniquely, both the catholic and protestant cathedrals in the city.

As you continue along Waterford Port is visable through the trees on the right. The next landmark is Park Rangers Football club.  If you keep left at the gates you will enter the old drive to Faithlegg House. The remains of a wrought iron fence can still be partially seen between the trees…this was once know as Lady Olivia’s walk.

Faithlegg House was built in 1783 for Cornelius Bolton, then landlord of the area. A progressive businessman he created several enterprises in the area but profits were slow to emerge and by 1818 he was forced to put Faithlegg House and lands up for sale to repay his debts.  Nicholas Mahon Power purchased the house and land in 1819, and at the time was reputed to be the richest commoner in the land.  The Power family sold Faithlegg House to the De La Salle Brothers in 1936 and they in turn sold it on to developers in 1985.  Eventually, the house was refurbished as a hotel and the lands were converted into a golf course.   Nice place for refreshment at this stage should you require it.

Brendan Grogan image of the estate circa 1969
Local hurlers who played on the estate

If you continue passed the House, you will be walking up the driveway through part of the old demesne of the House where cattle roamed and where the Christian Brothers played hurling and Gaelic football.  The grounds were also used for the annual Faithlegg sports day. It’s now part of the golf club.

The hills to your left are the Deerpark and Minaun, but as you walk up you will notice the main gates to the old estate.  The Stags head with the cross in its centre is a reference to St Hubert, patron saint of hunters, (and also mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers).  One of the four “Holy Marshals” he was considered to protect animals, particularly dogs (the Power family were keen huntsmen).  Hubert an avid hunter 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 a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”.  He converted on the spot!

Brendan Grogan image of the gates circa 1969

Turn left at the gates and you are now back at your start.  We hope you enjoyed the walk.  Thanks for coming along.  If you want to know any more info about anything we said, just search the blog using a keyword. 

Andrew Doherty; Tides and Tales Maritime Community Project. 2024

Remembering Catherine Meagher

I was so looking forward to an event scheduled to happen in Faithlegg graveyard this morning. However, like so many other plans across the nation it has fallen victim to the weather. The weather I’m referring to, for anyone living abroad, is a snowstorm which struck on Tuesday and has persisted all week. The event was the blessing of the bonnets at the Meagher family tomb.
The bonnets project is the brainchild of Dr. Christina Henri an Australian artist who has worked to raise awareness about the 25,000+ women who were transported to Australia, sometimes for offences as minor as stealing bread to feed their children. I blogged about her project last year, to help promote the exhibition created by local crafts women as part of International Women’s Day and hosted by the Waterford Women’s Centre. Its happening again this year in Central Library, Waterford.
Accessed from http://waterfordireland.tripod.com/catherine_’bennie’_bennett.htm
I was excited at the prospect of this mornings event of course because it would have brought more national and international attention the tomb of the Thomas Francis Meagher family here in Faithlegg and provide a higher profile for his first wife, Catherine.
Catherine Meagher was the daughter of an Irish free settler to Tasmania, Australia named Bennett. She was only 19 when she met and fell in love with the Irish freedom fighter.#  Thomas was originally sentenced to death following the failed Young Irelander rebellion of 1848, but his sentence was reduced to transportation to Australia by Queen Victoria. 
Catherine was a governess when they met and Meagher later wrote that her influence was his salvation. They married on February 22nd 1851 and a year later her first son was born, Henry Emmett Fitzgerald Meagher.## However by this stage her husband had staged a dramatic escape from his sentence, firstly with the help of local fishermen to the island of Waterhouse Island, where ten days later he was picked up by the ship Elizabeth Thompson which dropped him to Pernambuco and eventually via the American brig Acorn to New York arriving Nay 26th 1852*. The plan was that his wife and new child would join him there, but their son died and following his funeral and a period of mourning she commenced the journey alone.
Catherines last resting place at Faithlegg
Catherine arrived in Ireland in early 1853 where she was astonished by the greeting she received in Waterford. Thousands turned out to welcome her and she was feted wherever she went. Before she continued on to America, a special meeting of the city fathers took place at City Hall including businessmen, dignitaries and invited guests.  Speaker after speaker bested themselves in praise of the lady and her husband and this was followed by a delegation walking down the Mall to present a scroll and gifts as a prelude to her journey to meet her husband.(1) 
She journeyed to America with her father in law, but the reunion with her husband was an unhappy one. He was seen as a hero in America and his energy and time was devoted to his adopted homeland and he was constantly in demand. When Meagher decided to journey to the west coast, Catherine, who was pregnant at the time opted to return to Waterford but following the birth of another son, she fell ill. She died in the Meagher home at midnight on Monday 9th May 1854 aged 22. She had been sick for a fortnight with Typhus.  Her hope was that she would return to America to be with her husband. However she was buried in the family tomb at Faithlegg. I have written before how that was a right denied her husband.
The Meagher statue on Waterford’s Mall
So unfortunately today instead of a blessing and some welcome attention on this forgotten lady, we are ensconced in our homes awaiting a thaw.  The events of this years 1848 committee are in tatters despite all the committees hard work.  As a member of many groups I realise that perhaps 90% of the work was already done. So as disappointed as I feel over the loss of this event they must feel so much more frustrated.  But there is always next year for the committee, and don’t forget the bonnets and the other events coming up soon for the local International women’s day.  
Some details on Catherine accessed from https://tasmaniangeographic.com/iris-exiles-thomas-o-meagher/
(1)Waterford News 8th July 1935 p2.  The gifts (which were described as “having the advantage of being useful as well as beautiful”) were of silver and gold and included a brooch, a bracelet and a card case.  The presentation was made in the drawing room of Meaghers home on the Mall and was made by the Mayor, Thomas Fitzgerald Strange.

# Forney. G. Thomas Francis Meagher. 2003. Xlibris corporation
##ibid

*Cavanagh. M. Memories of General Thomas Francis Meagher. 1892. The Messenger Press. Worcester. Mass.

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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.

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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

TF Meagher; A rebel students return to Waterford 1843

Thomas Francis Meagher was born in 1823 in
the building that is now the Granville Hotel on
Waterford’s busy quays. The family spent some years at Ballycanvan, hence the family tomb at Faithlegg.
Thomas got an expensive education which
culminated with Stoneyhurst College in England. In
Easter week 1843, when he was not yet twenty, he returned home, having been
away for a year.  In his Recollections of Waterford1 he includes a
very interesting account of this return including his journey up the harbour to
his native city.
“A bright sun was lighting up the dingy walls of Duncannon Fort as
we paddled under them.  There was Cheek point on the left, towering
grandly over the woods of Faithlegg.  Further on, at the confluence of the
Barrow and the Suir, were the ruins of Dunbrody  Abbey – an old servant,
with torn livery, at the gateway of the noble avenue.  Further on, the
grounds and stately mansion of Snow Hill, the birth place of Richard
Sheil.  Then the Little Island, with its fragments of Norman Castle and it’s
broad cornfields and kingly trees.  Beyond this, Gauls Rock, closing in
upon and overlooking the old city.  Last of all Reginalds Tower – a
massive hinge of stone connecting the two great outspread wings, the Quay and
the Mall, within which lay the body of the city – Broad Street, the cathedral,
the barracks, the great chapel, the jail, the Ballybricken hill, with its
circular stone steps and bull post.  The William Penn stopped
her paddles, let off her steam, hauled in close to the hulk, and made fast. 
I was home once more….”
PS Toward Castle, an example of an earlier paddle steamer, I’m taken
with the image however, of the person atop the paddle and imagine Meagher
in just such a position on entering the harbour. 2
Apart from the wonderful writing, I found it interesting not just in
what he sees around him, but also what he left out.  I think most accounts
of the harbour now, would start with the Hook light, yet for
Meagher its the “dingy walls of Duncannon Fort“, surely a hint of his
political and revolutionary outlook, and a conscious consideration to its
strategic and sometimes dark history.  Contrast it with his description of
the Cistercian abbey at Dunbrody “an old
servant, with torn livery” in ruins possibly not long after the
dissolution but yet a beacon still to the young Meagher.  Maybe this was
because it brought to mind a time when although ruled by foreigner, the country
had been free to practice the catholic religion. Or perhaps the prosperity
the Cistercians, Templers and Norman merchants brought to the harbour area.
Dunbrody Abbey, Co Wexford from the river
I can’t see why Passage or Ballyhack don’t get a mention, given their
commercial importance, although perhaps waning at the time due to steam power.
 And it would be wonderful to hear of the sailing ships, steamers, work
boats and fishing craft plying the river at the time. Its also interesting to
note what has come since, for example the Spider light at
Passage, Great Island Power Station and
the Barrow Bridge. 
Snow Hill House, Co Kilkenny. 3

Perhaps the most amazing thing I found in Meaghers account was his
confident style. not just the excerpt above, but also his account of walking
through his city streets and calling to the
Waterford Club
. His debates on the need for radical change and his vision of a
different Ireland were, I think, astonishing for someone so young. Its hard to
imagine that a few short months later he would make his first political speech
in Lismore at a rally organised by Daniel O’Connell, that he had yet to raise
the first tricolour, for which we now have an annual commemoration,   to
co-found the Young
Irelanders
, to participate in the failed rising of 1848, be transported to
Tasmania, escape to America where he would eventually found the Irish Brigade
to support the union cause in the American
Civil War
. Yet in his account all these things are suggested, or at least seems
possible, such is his certainty in himself.
TF Meagher in later years
Meagher has his detractors and I have read some harsh criticisms of the
man online.  But Meagher was a man of principal, a man of action and a man
like all humans, of no small measure of complexity. Looking out upon the
harbour as I write, I wish I could see a young idealist entering the harbour
with a vision of change for this blighted republic of 2016.  Yet I have no
doubt the same youthful visionaries are out there.  Working here at
present against a different foe, a bureaucratic monster, all pervasive and
cloying.  Working via peaceful means to create a different republic.
 Less for speeches than blogs perhaps.  Less
for insurrection than consciously and critically living their lives.
 Just as much for direct action but by different means.  Here’s an
example of two young women doing just that, one of whom hails from the
Russianside!, which I came across
recently: https://womenareboring.wordpress.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
1.  I accessed the account of Meaghers in Fewer.T.N. (ed) I was a day
in Waterford. An anthology of writing about Waterford from the 18th to the 20th
Century. 2001.  Ballylough Books.  I fear the book is now out of
print, but is available in the Waterford room of the city’s Central Library.
 Certainly would be good to see it reprinted.
2. Sketch of PS Toward Castle accessed from here.  Despite
numerous searches I could find no further information on the PS William Penn.
 Tommy Deegan and Frank Murphy were both helpful in providing some leads.
 Apart from Meaghers account, two other references to the ship exist.
 Bill Irish recorded that the Waterford Steam Navigation Company were
using the ship from 1837 in Decies #53 and via Frank Murphy she is mentioned in
Bill’s book on Ship Building in Waterford as being owned or part owned by the Malcomson’s of Waterford.
3. photo of Snow Hill copied from Jim Walsh’s  “Sliabh
Rua, A History of its People and Places” again out of print and available
in central library,