Shanoon, Dunmore East

David Carroll

Shanoon, Sean Uaimh – “Old Cave” Canon Patrick Power, Place names of the Decies

Pedantic people might tell you that Shanoon, the rugged stretch of high cliff that overlooks the harbour at Dunmore East is strictly not within the ‘Three Sisters Family’ of Rivers, Suir, Barrow, and Nore. I would beg to differ. One Royal Charter afforded to the merchants of Waterford enhanced the role of the Mayor, by adding the title Admiral of the Port of Waterford, whose outer limits were specified as a line linking Hook Head in County Wexford with Red Head, just west of what is now Dunmore East. So ‘Shanoon’ gets in by the skin of its teeth as it is close to Red Head[1]

A chart from 1787 (Before the harbour at Dunmore East was built) showing Shanoon Point in relation to Red Point (Red Head) and Hook Point..[2]

But Shanoon was famous an exceptionally long time before 1356. Long before recorded history, people lived close to the area. Prehistoric artefacts collected over a forty-year period by the late Noel McDonagh, a former Dunmore East fisherman in the area close to Creadan Head, having been examined by eminent archaeologists, concluded that some of these finds were over 10,000 years old. This indicates that the area would have been one of the oldest settlements in Ireland.[3]

For protection from enemies or wild animals, small communities would erect their huts on narrow strips of cliff-top which projected out into the sea. On the inland side of this projection an embankment would be erected as a defensive measure. These habitations were known as promontory forts and Iron Age people established a promontory fort overlooking the sea at Shanoon. [4]

The name Dunmore derives from Dún Mór – the Great Fort [5], which was a promontory fort built close to Black Knob on Shanoon near the old Pilot Station. This should not be confused with a large castle, believed by Julian Walton to have been built by Lord Power of Curraghmore around the late 15th century, probably in the 1470s, of which only one tower remains today, close to Ladies’ Cove.[6]

Nowadays, a well-appointed car park has been constructed on Shanoon, which gives motorists a splendid view of the entrance to Waterford Harbour, and the Hook Peninsula. It also the starting point for a delightful walk along the cliffs-tops out and back to Portally of four kilometers. Learn more about this walk from Ray McGrath’s Gaultier Heritage Rambles:

When I was growing up in the 1950’s, the Shanoon played a big part in my life. It was a larger area then, before the 1960’s when part of it was blasted away to provide the material to construct the new fishing harbour.

This aerial photograph taken before WW2 shows Shanoon very much like it was during the 1950s. Anecdotally, the photo was taken by the RAF who were carrying out reconnaissance of the Irish coastline.

The three abiding memories that I had of Shanoon, growing up were: Pilots, cows, and ‘Black Knob’.

When I was a boy, the Waterford Harbour Pilots were based in the look-out station perched strategically on top of Shanoon. From here, in a time before modern navigational aids, they were able to observe all shipping arriving at the entrance to Waterford Harbour bound for the ports of Waterford and New Ross. As Ray McGrath has written “Waterford Harbour Pilots have come from a small number of Dunmore and Passage families, including the Glodys, the Fitzgeralds, the Walshs, the Bastons, Whittys, and Dohertys. Mariners owe much to their knowledge, skill and dedication”. [7]

At the time, a myth abounded that the pilots had been based on Shanoon for more than a century but in recent years, I have learned that this was not true. What happened was that when a new pilot cutter Betty Breen arrived in 1951 to replace the Lily Doreen, the pilots found the accommodation onboard to be very cramped and decided to move to the station on Shanoon, which was lying vacant at the time.[8]

To get from the station to the pilot boat, the pilots took a short cut down a steep path in the cliff closest to the harbour. This was not a path for the faint-hearted as a slip could end in tragedy. Needless, to say, I was under strict instructions from my parents never to attempt to take that path to gain access to Shanoon.

Also, during the 1950s, William Power of Powers Bar, who has had a butcher’s shop beside the pub, rented the Shanoon from the Office of Public Works (OPW) for the purpose of grazing some of his cattle. The nuns teaching in the nearby Convent School often became alarmed when they looked out and saw cows dangerously grazing right at the very edge of the cliff on the harbour side of Shanoon. As a pupil in school, until I was aged eight years old, I can still recall the nuns despatching a senior girl up the village to raise the alarm and witness Andy Taylor, the butcher, still in his butchers apron, and a young Billy Power running down the road with sticks to hunt the cows back from the edge of the cliff.

A more recent aerial photo of Shanoon, reduced in size. The arch that joined Black Knob with Shanoon is now missing. It was a victim of a severe 1960s gale. The remains of a gun-post used during the ‘Emergency’ are still visible. Photo: Neville Murphy

‘Black Knob’ was the rock at the end of Shanoon, where the cliff took a 90˚ turn towards the start of the pier at Dunmore East. It was probably during a severe gale in the 1960s that the arch that joined it to Shanoon collapsed into the sea. The landmark had great significance for me as I was strictly forbidden from going past it alone in a boat as at that point you would be away from sight in the harbour, where my father kept a vigilant watch.
For a brief period, I used to set a lobster pot close to Black Knob behind the pier but fishing for shellfish was not my strongest forte.

One thing that I still regret is that I never had to explore or even view from close-up the cave that runs under Shanoon. It is called ‘Merlin’s Cave or Cove’ on charts. Access from the cliff is impossible and even trying to get close in a small rowing boat would be dangerous and probably not recommended.

Shanoon has witnessed and withstood a lot of bad weather over the years. It is particularly vulnerable to severe weather coming from a south-easterly direction. A poet, who only described him or herself as ‘MH’ submitted a seventeen-verse poem to the Munster Express in 1895. It tells of the dreadful storm took place in 1888 when the Alfred D Snow was lost on the County Wexford side of Waterford Harbour. The ‘cone’ raised on Shanoon would have been a signal hoisted by the Coastguards to warn of an impending storm. Here are the first three verses:

A GALE AS ONCE WITNESSNED IN DUNMORE EAST
All early in the bleak forenoon
The cone is raised on the Shanoon;
And every sign on sea and land
Denotes a gale is at hand.

The sky is of a sable hue,
Which almost hides the Hook from view,
And from the strands and coves below
White bubbles around the village blow.

As if disporting in the sky,
In all directions, seagulls fly.
While by the cliffs and darksome caves,
Black divers stem the curling waves.

Submitted as a contribution to Heritage Week 2020

  • [1] Brophy, Anthony Port of Waterford: Extracts from the Records of the Waterford Harbour Commissioners from their Establishment in 1816 to the Report of the Ports and Harbours Tribunal, 1930. Decies No 60, 2004.
  • [2] https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53011020p/f1.item.r=tramore
  • [3] Carroll, David Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the history of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews, and the Maritime Heritage of Dunmore East, 2020
  • [4] Fewer, TN, A Brief History of Dunmore East, discoverdunmore.com
  • [5] Power, Canon Patrick, Place names of the Decies, (Cork, 1952).
  • [6]Carroll
  • [7]Gaultier Heritage Rambles: The Dunmore to Portally Cliff Walk, Waterford News and Star, Sept. 03, 2019
  • [8] 2020 Interview with former Harbour Pilot and Lifeboat Coxswain, John Walsh

Connors Bay, Ballystraw, Co Wexford

Maria White Doyle contributes this article as a contribution to Heritage Week

November 2015, the weather had been typically miserable. Heavy rains had eroded the cliffs along the coast, washing the clay and grass from above down to the rocks below but this particular day the tides had been rough and high and the rocky shoreline had been stripped of debris leaving what appeared to be a track visible winding along to the path leading up to the road. It was the width of a cart pulled by horse, ass, or donkey. According to local folklore, this path had been cut in order to draw gravel and sand from the bays by cart, to be used in building and to develop the roads in the locality.

The actual track was photographed on a walk on the shoreline between Booley Bay and Duncannon on the Hook peninsula. Although I had walked there before I had never seen it, and taking the photo was a wise decision because not long after the track was covered again. It obviously had been cleaned off by a particular type of tide. (I wonder which kind)
It has made me look a lot closer at where I’m walking in case I ever happen upon another treasure !!! I can always hope !

Perhaps deep in The Wexford council archives there may be details of road building, another days work however.

Submitted by Maria to Placenames of the Three Sisters for Heritage Week 2020

Salmon Ponds of New Ross

Heritage Week continues with Myles Courtney, and the Salmon Ponds of New Ross

The ebb and flow of a river, its rising and falling tides can instill a sense of ease and relaxation in an observer. Since my retirement, I have had time to be more observant and appreciative of the majestic Barrow as it passes through the town of New Ross. It brought back happy memories of my youth in Enniscorthy and fishing at my father’s side on the Slaney and Boro rivers. He passed on to me an appreciation of the lore and traditions of the angler and the “net men”.

New Ross 1832

Research for my local history hobby lead me, as it often does, off on various tangents. One tangent that immediately grabbed my attention was the salmon fishing on the Barrow . I discovered numerous sources online and reference sources in New Ross Library which painted a picture of what at one stage was a significant local industry but is alas no more.
The great 16th century poet Edmund Spenser mentioned the Barrow salmon in his epic The Faerie Queen when referring to The Three Sister Rivers.

The first, the gentle Shure that making way
By sweet Clonmell, adorns rich Waterford;
The next, the stubborne Newre, whose waters gray,
By faire Kilkenny and Rosseponte boord,
The third, the goodly Barow, which doth hoorde
Great heaps of Salmons in his deepe bosome:
All which long sundred, doe at last accord
To ioyne in one, ere to the sea they come,
So flowing all from one, all one at last become.

I went from keyboard to book to the horse’s mouth and was regaled with stories of fishing families of the fifties in New Ross. I met two local gents with first-hand experience and a treasure trove of knowledge of the skills and lore of the cot men.

Four men in 2 cots formed a crew. They fished every falling tide with snap nets, day and night, except for Saturdays & Sundays during the season. For reference and location purposes the river was divided into sections referred to as “ponds” by the cot men between the Pink Rock and Poulmounty.

My two friends recited the names of the ponds like memorised poetry to me and I was immediately struck by those whose origin went back to our Gaelic past. Names such as Conway’s Wood, Woodville Drift, and The Quay Pond offered no mystery but then I heard Tubbernacally, Cool na Stor, Leanacurragh, Lean Bheag, Touskeen, Cruptaun, and off I went on another tangent.

A lighter in operation in New Ross
A lighter in operation in New Ross with various small boats including cots

I wondered if these two repositories of local lore realised the value of their hereditary knowledge. It spurred me to convince them that it was indeed worthy of preservation. Much to my delight their experiences and knowledge can now be found in the County Wexford Oral History Project recordings of Wexford County Library.

This story is contributed as part of Heritage Week 2020

Cheekpoint’s Village Green

Deena Bible

The Green in the village of Cheekpoint, Co Waterford is, as its name suggests, a grassy area close to the quays and situated beside the rivers edge. If you stand in the middle of the Green you can see the boats tied up around the quays, people coming and going and large ships passing up to Waterford or New Ross or making their way back to the sea. There’s a cross as a focal point in the middle, looking out on the river, a double lime kiln to the east and the village pump close to the boreen. It’s called the Green because in the 18th Century it was used as a blanching green for a locally based textile industry.

It has a special place in my heart because I lived there for a few years in my grandparents house, having moved from the city. It was the most exciting time of my life up to that point as I could now open the door of the cottage and run freely onto the Green and play whenever I wanted. All those friends that I had previously seen only on weekends or holidays were now a feature of my life on a constant basis, and of course the summers back then were always sunny.

Cheekpoint Green and quay
Cheekpoint Green and quay 1960’s

The games that were most popular were Rounders, Hide & Seek and Football. Crab fishing passed hours for us and of course swimming off the main quay. McAlpins Suir Inn bar and resturaunt would be jampacked with customers. We would love to see the strangers walking down the quay after their meals and we would make an extra effort in leaping off the quay into the tide, competing with each other to do the most adventerous jumps. We loved to see their reactions of surprise and admiration.

We took for granted the coming and going of the ships on the river; tankers, container ships and freighters and the pilots who went aboard. I thought that because it was a daily occurance that everyone would be used to seeing these ships. It was only later I realised how unique it was.

The fishermen used the Green as a place to repair their punts which were hauled out and turned over. These were natural hiding spaces and for hide and seek we would scurry underneath them, hold our breaths and listen to try work out where the seeker was. I remember one rainy summers day we had a picnic under one, and we thought it was the best place in the world.

Fishermen on the Green in the 1990’s . Net mending and yarn telling. L-R Ned Power, Walter Whitty, Jim Doherty, Brian McDermott, Tom Sullivan & Dick Mason. Pat Murphy photo

We took for granted the coming and going of the fishermen and how safe we felt with them around. Ever watchful, they came and went with the tides, hunting the salmon, eel or the herring, mending their nets or repairing their boats. Only as I grew older did I realise how lucky I was to see such sights on a daily basis and how safe I felt playing around the Green.

Memories of Passage East in the 1940s

Author: Fintan Walsh

Passage East in the era described

On the banks of the Suir that flows out to the sea
Lies a quaint little village that’s like heaven to me
Steeped in our history and also Ireland’s folklore
It is called Passage East and it’s a place I adore

In these few verses that follow a little story I’ll tell
Of the people and places I can remember so well
The great days we all had yet little money to spare
Everyone in the same boat yet all happy to share

The streets and the lane ways are a joy to behold
Beresford Row, White Wall,the Men’s Walk so old
Barrack Street ,Parade Street, Post Office Square
Dobbyn Street,The Brookside, they’re all still there

From the Gap of the Wall down to the Blynd Quay
Passing all the streets there’s loads you can see
A loose rock on one hill looking down from above
An old Church on the other the landmarks we love.

Passing by the Park, the Fish House, there no more
The memories flow back of these great days of yore
Arthur Miller he came there with the jobs to provide
Kippers from this old Fish House famed worldwide

Passage East Community hall – the old Fish House

Just behind was the Watch House for pilots to meet
To keep a check on the ships that they were to greet
Card games were played which at times raised hell
They played Thirty’s and Rummy and Pontoon quite well

Patsy Barron around that time was the lone ferryman
For pedestrians and cyclists a small ferryboat he ran
White flags on the quayside in Passage and Ballyhack
Were hoisted high by his clients to come over or back

The cockle women sisters with their donkey and cart
Nan Na, Maggie and Masher these were women apart
To the back strand in Tramore for cockles they went
Selling them inside in the city each Friday they spent

Nan Na, Mrs Robinson on the New Line out of Passage East

Four Gardai in the Barracks with Sgt Eustace the Gaff
Martin Darcy, Paddy Quigley, Tom London were his staff
Four pubs were in the village Lily White’s near the Pier
Kennedy’s, Brennan’s and Miller’s all sold plenty of beer

All the shopkeepers we recall as we roll back the stone
Mrs Carey, Mrs Angie Rogers, Cathy Colfer on her own
Mary Kate Connors, Mollie Cahill, Maggie Carey, Julie Ann
Willie Murray’s coal yard, Donnelly’s the Post Office ran

The Baldwin’s had the garage and a hackney car also
Rich Flynn owned the bus and he lived up in Knockroe
Jimmy Hanrahan was his driver a man never in a rush
Much better known by the nickname of “Jimmy the Bus”

Around Ireland the Emergency was in place at this time
We had the second World War now well in to its prime
Lots of men from the village then joined up the reserve
The LDF, The Maritime Inscription their country to serve

To the old School up in Crooke we all went to school
Frank and Clare Ahearne and Mary Kennedy did rule
They taught us our lessons never spared us the cane
Some loved these schooldays, they put others insane

Crooke Church on Sunday’s serving mass we would go
All the masses were in Latin which we all had to know
Many farmers would come there in their pony and trap
Some more walked miles with their cares to unwrap

A great part of our history the herd of goats on the Hill
For generations we’ve had them and hope always will
Fishermen loved them, weather change they could tell
As they moved into the valley from the front of the hill

Those great days of our youth we remember with pride
The many games that we played down by the seaside
All the fish that we caught with hooks, sinker and line
From the Quays,the Breakwater the memories entwine

Near every street corner we all played pitch and toss
Sometimes it twould be a win more times ’twas a loss
We all went hunting for rabbits with ferrets and dogs
In stubble’s,knocks and meadows,and very wet bogs

We played hurling on the streets and up against walls
The hurley’s we made,we hurled with old raggy balls
On the very top of the hill stood the old Bowling Green
Lots of matches were played many times with a scene

On fine summers days we loved to swim on the strand
For those who were learning we would all give a hand
There were very strict rules applied to both sexes then
The lady’s rock for women,the boy’s rock for the men

When the frost came in the winter we’d all have a ball
Sprinkling water on the streets how we can still recall
We skated and fell then someone would send a report
Then a lady with hot ashes would become a spoilsport

We caught finches and linnets with nets and birdlime
Every house around the village had a bird at the time
We worked with the farmers, picking spuds, saving hay
Thinning turnips, mangolds and also on Threshing Day

For the fishermen of the village we also did many a job
In the salmon and herrings season’s all got a few bob
The blackberries we picked and sold them by the stone
Many orchards we would rob in little groups or all alone

Travelling shows every summer always gave us a call
The shows they presented inside Tom Murphy’s Hall
Amusements by Hudson’s, swinging boats the big draw
An odd circus and pictures were other things we saw

So these are just a few memories of my days long ago
Growing up in Passage,there are many more I know
Some time in the future I’ll get out the paper and pen
With more memories to share of Passage East again

Submitted by Fintan Walsh as part of our Three Sisters Placenames project for Heritage Week 2020