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.
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.
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.
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.