We often fear what we don’t know, have never experienced or what is new and different. As free ranging children of the 1970’s one of the more mysterious and fear inducing encounters must have been in what was then called the “Oak Woods” but what is now part of Faithlegg Golf Club.
The Oak Wood was part of the Cornelius Bolton’s Faithlegg estate planted in the late 18th C. It was partially felled when the estate was sold to the De La Salle brothers in 1936 and they in turn cleared the last of it during the Emergency. A plantation of pine trees had grown thick and dense over the area by the time I was a youngster.
Part of the old roadway network in the community took you through the woods, which traversed the Marsh and the Glen. It continued via a laneway, skirting the boundary on the right of the present Park Rangers football club, into the woods. The road twisted and turned through a canopy of densely planted pine, that allowed precious little light in and the broken dagger like lower branches tended to keep you on the main tracks. As you emerged out, you came to the pill that separated Faithlegg from Ballycanvan which was crossed by a flat, functional and nondescript bridge and we could walk to Woodlands avenue and on as we pleased.
|The Ice House as it is today, Blenheim (L) and the Island is the background
On one such venture we came across a strange squat building that was off the path, but was situated in a clearance that allowed the sun to shine down and ferns, briars, moss and furze to grow. Such discoveries generally filled me with a sense of excitement and curiosity. But this building was something beyond my normal experience, beyond my comprehension and it made me cautious. As we walked around the structure we came to a dark and foreboding doorway, into which you could peer, but no light penetrated. Stealing close there was pushing and shoving, jerring and jostling, dares and nervous laughter.
|Faithlegg Ice House looking east
At the doorway a dank smell filled our nostrils. Ivy clad and with cobwebs abounding we tried to clear these to allow more light to penetrate. What we could now faintly make out was an arched tunnel which led to a square hole in a back wall. Discussions were had, dares were made, until eventually one by one we stepped inside. Within the edges of red brick were smoothed with age and they curved in an arch. Stealing forward towards the end wall we were grough to a halt by the chill and darkness. Should we enter this? Feeling inside we touched nothing but cool air, a void, a black hole if ever there was one.
|the passage way and the chamber door at the rear
“What the hell is it lads?” And from there our imaginations ran riot and with it the fears again. Was there something or someone lurking within?. How deep was it?, how far did it go on? and then a shout and a mad scramble with hearts thumping and our heads filled with irrational fears we barged towards the safety of the daylight.
Once calmed by the freedom of the fresh air we began speculating again and of course our imaginations ran riot. The very familiar topic of the Faithlegg tunnels came to the fore, surely it was a secret tunnel connecting to the old church, the castle or the big house. Maybe it even ran the whole way to the Hurthill or the Wexford side of the harbour.
My father of course had another twist on it, a dungeon where the bold children of Faithlegg were kept or servants that were found to be not doing their job right at the big house. The story when related to the lads got serious consideration and it had great appeal. Eventually when we got back there, it was with matches and newspaper and more familiar now, we marched up to the building and entered without hesitation. However we were struck dumb by the pit that was exposed when the paper was lit, and the depth and extent of a pit was exposed. If any of us had been foolhardy to go through the hole previously we might have easily broke a limb in the fall, and we certainly would not have made it back out without a ladder. I often shuddered at the thought of being stuck in that pit.
I’m not certain when I first learned that it was an Ice house used by Faithlegg House. The purpose of the Ice House was to store perishable food and to have ice available in the presentation of food and chilled wines. In effect if the larder was the fridge of the time, the ice house was the freezer. Items such as fish, poultry and game could be suspended from the ceiling. These would not freeze as such, but be chilled to prolong their freshness. They are uncommon, an intriguing design and the Faithlegg structure is beautifully preserved and an excellent example. I’ve written about the workings of it before
Today the Ice House is a feature on Faithlegg golf course. And most recently it has been added to the story of the hotel as it is used as a brand for their in-house larger brewed by Metalman Brewery
. When asked recently in an interview for a corporate video, shot by Hi-Lite TV,
which will be used to showcase the Faithlegg Hotel
internationally what my favorite feature of Faithlegg was, I had no hesitation. Still a boy, filled with a wild imagination and curiosity, even the reality of it does not detract. The Ice House is and will always be my own personal favourite part of Faithlegg.
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