Overcoming Ophelia and Brian

As my regulars now know, I launched my first book last Friday 20th October.  Called Before the Tide Went Out it tells my own story from my earliest memories into my childhood recollections of the village of Cheekpoint and the fisherfolk that made up my world.  I bring you fishing in my teens and early adult years and share the magic and misery as I went from salmon driftnetting to eel fishing and herring driftnetting. As tough as I thought the life was, it was nothing compared to writing it all down, and that in turn was painless compared to getting it ready for publication.  But of course in the run up to actually launching it, we had the most powerful storm to ever hit the country followed up by our first winter storm.  Ophelia and Brian nearly up-scuppered the lot.
Damien McLellan, myself and Tomás Sullivan, who both were crucial in the project
Photo via Eoin Nevins

At this point I imagine the ex hurricane Ophelia is known worldwide. The run up was alarming with weather warnings, ships and fishing boats running for cover and a national emergency being declared.  Monday 16th October started bright and fine, and initially the hopes was that the storm would skirt the west coast and leave us alone, if with a lot of egg on face. But alas by 11am we were feeling its first effects here, which was about low water in the harbour…always a change with the tides!  We were delighted when Joel, our son, returned from fishing just about the same time. They had gone to Woodstown to try protect the Oyster crop, but the wind had prevented the tide from dropping to its normal level…another bad sign.

My new Book “Before the Tide Went Out” 
International orders can be made here.
Find out where you can buy off the shelf or order from Ireland here
By 12 noon the trees were bending over dramatically and the river was as wild and frenzied as I can ever recall…and then it just got worse. Yet we escaped the worst of the damage as roofs blew off, tress came down and electricity and telephones went dead.  The government were vindicated in their advice of shutting all schools, restricting transport and advising workplaces to close early…that of course also included my printer, Lettertec in Cork.
On the Tuesday, the clean up started and the extent of the damage was realised. Schools remained closed and many businesses were unable to re-open, being cut off by trees or starved of the essentials such as water or power to run, Lettertec being one of them!  We received an email from my namesake Andrew Haworth telling us he would be in contact as soon as he knew anything.
By Wednesday we were panicking.  Cheking the ESB faults map gave no reassurance.  It estimated it could be Saturday 21st before the power was restored to the printers.  Family friends in the Cork area were without power too…life was tough. We tried ringing but to no avail, a follow up email went unanswered.  Should we cancel?  Two days to go, how long does it take to print 500 books?  How likely is it that the power will be restored.  Wednesday night an email arrived at 8pm.  Power was restored at the factory, a personal guarantee that the books would be done and ready for collection on the following afternoon, Thursday 19th.
My daughter#1 holding the first copy

The trip to Lettertec was a trial with driving rain and flooded roads.  But the feeling of holding your first book was some thrill.  Of course the problem then was trying to ensure you sold them, or at least enough to cover the costs and pay back the credit union loan.  The launch was the essential part we were told, and at least now we could look forward.

Liam Hartley at Jack Meades had offered the use of the pub free of charge as a way of saying thanks for the many blogs I had written previously highlighting the heritage value of the place. Dylan Bible and Amanda Farady had offered their services freely too. So we had a venue and entertainment. Damien Tiernan of RTE had agreed to make the keynote, a man who knows a lot about the water and the communities that depend on it.  We had our posters out, it was covered in that weeks Munster Express thanks to journalist Kieran Foley and Fintan Walsh. Jean and Paul at Waterford in your Pocket added it to the weekends event guide. And the reaction of facebook and twitter was amazing.  It seemed nothing could stop us now.

Buy the book online if you live outside of Ireland.

Irish orders or clarifications via russianside@gmail.com

The Book is now available to buy off the shelf in the following shops

Ardkeen Quality Food Store Waterford

Book Centre – Waterford

Book Centre – Wexford

Irish National Heritage Park, Ferrycarraig, Co Wexford

Nolans Bookshop, New Ross, Co Wexford

Powers shop Cheekpoint

Readers Choice, Dungarvan

                                              More outlets coming soon

But the forecast on Thursday evening has a weather warning, storm Brian.  Friday 20th was a busy day, I was up at 5am as there was a blog to get out and then of course the last minute jobs.  By 3pm I was starting to flag, unfortunately the storm was doing the opposite.  Outside the wind started to howl and the rain started to come down hard.  And then the messages started to arrive, messages of apology! The weather was too bad to travel. People were really disappointed, and it was totally understandable if not the safe thing to do.  I even wondered was it fair to go ahead. By 6pm my mood and energy was on the floor, but Deena dragged me out the door.  “The show”, she said, “must go on”.

At about 7pm what felt like the final nail in my coffin, was a text from Damien Tiernan. A flood was expected in Clonmel and Damien was going live to report for the 9 o’Clock RTE News.  He had to cancel, sorry about that etc. He had warned me it was possible before he ever took it on.  Deep down I was gutted, but I had to be fair, he has a job to do.  So I dug deep and sent him an understanding text.  Seconds later he replied with a “got ya!”  I could have killed him, but was too relieved.
Me with Michael Farrell Barony of Gaultier Historical Society wishing me well

And then the door started to open and people flooded in.  So many I became over-whelmed…not then, but now as I am writing this.  People I knew all my life, people like my neighbour Bridgid Power, 92 our eldest resident in the village now. My old schoolmates from Faithlegg Brendan Foley and Michael Duffin, William and Ger Doherty.  People like Michael Farrell of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society who would walk through a block wall for you.  And people who I don’t even know except from the blog, people such as John Myler who came along with his family and who up to then I only knew through the social media world.  To be honest the time was brief with little opportunity to properly speak with people and soon it was time for our very capable, and village elder in his own right to call the evening to order, Tommy Sullivan.  

Tommy Sullivan MC on the night
A very dapper Damien Tiernan entertains the crowd

Damien brought the house down with his talk.  It was everything I had imagined it would be.  He spoke of our traditions, the characters, the nicknames, the inter-village rivalry and the desolation that not being able to fish creates.  But he also spoke of the importance of working together, of digging deep, and of trying to rise above the naysayers, individuals who go out of their way to undermine and destroy those who try their best to achieve something positive.

my God Mother, Elsie, my cousin Michael ‘Spud’ Murphy and my Mother Mary

Ray McGrath stood in for Noel McDonagh and spoke on behalf of the SE FLAG who had agreed to provide a percentage of funds towards the printing costs, and my dear friend Damien McLellan said a few words on the editing process, underlining the fact that we all need support in realising our dreams.

Deena and daughter #2 doing the hard work behind the scenes
I’m not sure if Ophelia or Brian were sent to test my resolve or just to underline the struggles I had to overcome in being a young fisherman.  Nature is something I admire, respect and am humbled by.  But fishermen can’t allow weather to dictate their lives.  Except maybe a hurricane!
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

Jack Meades heritage ramble

Jack Meades pub and restaurant has got to be one of the more remarkable and intriguing 18th Century agricultural sites in the country.  As a young man I hadn’t much time for the older men who drank there, preferring to spend my time having the craic and the beer with my own generation. But at my present age, and with my interest in our local heritage, I often rue the opportunities I would have had to ask the older people about the buildings that litter the area, all within a stones throw of the pub.
The pub itself is fascinating, dating as it has since 1705. I’ve written about its landlords and the lineage of the present owners before. You’ve got to have respect for those who have managed to sustain and transform a business in the countryside when so much has changed in our attitudes as a country to drinking and driving. Part of that business is to protect and allow access to a varied amount of heritage related buildings which we went along to see on our most recent free bank holiday Monday rambles.
Standing outside the main door to the pub
Photo Michael Farrell
The pub of course is synonymous with its location beside the old Railway bridge of the Malcomsons, in their attempt to run a rail line between the city and Passage East.  It earns the pub the distinction of Ireland’s only fly over bridge.  But of course it has a number of bridges on the site, as at least one, and perhaps two others allow the Ballycanvan stream to flow under the Cheekpoint Road that itself passes under the main structure.
The Bridge and pub looking towards Cheekpoint
Photo Michael Farrell
Across the road we stood beside the old Delehunty corn mill and discussed its amazing design features including an overshot wheel within the building and the man made leat that runs from Brook Lodge, from where the water to run the mill was released via a man made pond.  It was wonderful to have a relation of the Delehuntys that ran the mill all those years ago present, but sad too as he reminded us of the tragedy at the pond when his relation and two young companions drowned while swimming there.
I need to tie my hands to my body I’m afraid!
At least I wasn’t waving a stick this time.
Delehuntys Mill Photo by John O’ Sullivan

The Ice House of course is an impressive structure, which I have also discussed before.  We looked at its design, the supply of ice and the likely purpose it was put to. Then it was along to the Lime Kilns down the Pill, and a discussion about the process of lime burning, how the lime stone was brought and the likely uses of the finished product.  I got a surprised reaction from many when I related how the lime was used to treat the waste from a dry toilet, something I had seen myself at my grans in the 1980’s. Just as well Carmel, a relation from England, didn’t mention to all but myself and a few within earshot of how it was used over corpses, particularly in times of plague.

The Ice House above and one of the double Lime Kilns on the site
Photo Michael Farrell
We then discussed the old salt water mill that resides on private lands down towards the mouth of the Pill, and how in the past, in a way similar to the monks at Dunbrody, the incoming tide was retained behind sluice gates only to be released when the tide below the mill was lower and gravity allowed the mill wheel to be turned by the water returning to its source.
We rambled up to look back on Ballymaclode Castle and discuss her twin tower at Ballycanvan that later became a fine Georgian mansion of the same name.  And returning to the pub we passed off Redmonds forge where in the past not along horses were shod, but implements of farm works and fishermen were repaired or made.
The walk was recorded for posterity by Paul from Waterford in your Pocket, and it gives a real sense of the day and the walk.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rGIQ1KYaKI
Our next event will be the June Bank Holiday Monday, commencing at 11am at Faithlegg House Hotel and will look at the history surrounding the Faithlegg estate. I’m only hoping the spirit and enthusiasm of those who came yesterday is repeated. Delighted to see familiar faces, and great to meet many new ones too. Young and old seemed to enjoy it, and the questions and the comments were all helpful in my own learning. A young lad from sixth class in Faithlegg was at my side through the walk, and he has an obvious eye for his local heritage. For Facebook users we have an event page here which we will use to keep people updated on the Faithlegg heritage ramble .
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

Lime kilns of the harbour

A lime kiln is a structure used to break-down limestone rock using heat,
into limestone powder. The kilns sites we have remaining in the harbour are based on a similar
design and probably date from the mid 18th century.  Most are double kilns, ie two separate fire
chambers, which assisted the burning process, as the heat from the first burn
was retained by the brick and stone, which aided a more efficient burn in the
next chamber.  We have two examples of the triple that I am aware of.
Double kiln at Jack Meades, 1 of 2 on the property

The kilns are sited close
to water, as the limestone which was burned, was generally ferried by river.  In the Suir and Barrow, the boats used to carry the stone were termed Lighters.  These had a
three man crew; one held the tiller and two pushed the flat bottomed craft
along using poles.  The crew also loaded and unloaded the craft. 

second double at Jack Meades.  Note: appears as if it was initially
constructed as a single, and a second was added.  
An internal view of the firing chamber

A double kiln then, would have two firing chambers.  Chambers were egg shaped, with the top cut off.  The chamber was loaded with a charge initially – something flammable such as furze or very
dry timber which would get the fire going.  Onto this the layers of
limestone were added with an extra layer of firing material to keep the
chamber burning (three to five layers of stone to one layer of firing
material).  The fuel could be more timber but also used was coal
slack or calum.  The fire was lit from the base through a draw hole. 
As the lime was burned down by the heat in the chamber it was drawn off through
these holes. 

A draw hole at the base, for lighting and controlling the fire, and
drawing off the lime powder

Double at Cheekpoint, below the lower quay
photo by Brendan Grogan

could be more than one draw hole, which seems to have been a technique to avoid
ash being mixed with the lime. It also allowed more air into the
chamber.  I imagine these holes could be blocked if required to
adjust the burning. The Lime was drawn off into barrels or carts for delivery to farms or homes.  

Triple at Woodstown

Lime had a variety of uses and
these could include spreading on grass for fertiliser, whitewashing houses,
building material, cleaning wells, used in dry toilets and probably many

A lime kiln at Dunmore harbour early 1900’s
photo courtesy of Tommy Deegan WHG

In recent weeks I’ve tried to catalogue the kilns that are/were in the Gaultier area.  Starting at Jack Meades and working my way around.  This is what I could locate, with the help of the OSI Historic Maps.

Double x 2 Lime Kilns at Jack Meades, both photographed
a triple below Jack Meades pill, on private property
a single at Faithlegg, again on private property
a double at Cheekpoint, photographed
a triple at Woodstown, photographed
a single (based on the OSI maps/open to correction) at Dunmore.  Since demolished.  Photographed

Here’s an interesting account/reenactment of the lime burning in action. No job for the faint hearted

I haven’t sourced any others in the area.  Its surprising to find nothing in or around Passage East,, and again west of Dunmore.  Any corrections or further information gratefully received. Thanks to Brendan Grogan, Tommy Deegan, Waterford History Group and Michael Farrell of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society for assistance.

Previously, I wrote two pieces about the local kilns in the Cheekpoint area
Part I: http://russianside.blogspot.ie/2014/05/limekilns-in-cheekpoint-faithlegg-area.html
Part II: http://russianside.blogspot.ie/2014/05/limekilns-in-cheekpoint-faithlegg-area_23.html

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

Jack Meades or Half Way House

Jack Meade’s is one of Waterford’s, if not the country’s, most popular pubs/restaurants.  Like all businesses it has had to adapt and diversify to remain viable, and given that it’s over 300 years old, its seen more than a bit of change down the years.

The pub itself says over the door that it was founded in 1705.  It was recorded in November 1710, that one Jenkin Richards leased the inn from William Harrison who lived at the time at Ballycanvan House. Richards was said to lease “the house commonly called or known by the name of “Half way house”

James Guest, (how’s that for a landlords name) and his son John were running the pub in 1721 and the family lived on the premises. The last of the family recorded here were the brothers Robert and James Guest who dropped their lease in the 1770’s. Despite searching high and low, I couldn’t find any other references to lessee’s until the mid nineteenth century. At that stage, in 1857 to be exact, the pub was being run by John Curtain.

It was at this point that plans for a new bridge emerged and there was some concern that the pub would need to be relocated. The bridge was constructed circa 1860 but the pub was left in place. It was built as part of a failed enterprise of running a railway line to Passage East, a plan which included the enterprising Malcomson family. The need for speed in the cross channel ferry service was the momentum behind this. The enterprise was made up of visionary and influential businesses, who realised that a ferry terminal at Passage would take an hour off the normal journey time between the city and Bristol. It was also a viable option to the location of the SW Wexford Railway line between Waterford and Rosslare, which I’ve written about previously, 
A map including the Waterford -Passage Railway line
John Curtains daughter, Elizabeth Meade, took over the pub on his death. Her son Thomas Meade was next to inherit passing it on in turn to his son John, commonly called Jack. Jack ran it up to the 1970s at which point it passed to his own daughter Carmel. Carmel and her husband Willie Hartley run it still, although it has grown in size in the intervening period, and their son Liam runs the busy food part of the business.
Much of the history of the pub and site is on display in the old pub
Although it is now more commonly known as Jack Meades, for years the name Half Way House was associated it. When I was growing up the pub could be referred to interchangeably and without confusion as “Jacks”, “Meades” “Mades” or indeed the “Half way house”. The place name of half way house is a common enough one, and designated a stop off point in days of old when carriages, carts, joulters, jarveys and so many other horse driven transports plied the busy road to Passage and Cheekpoint. Until the bridge was built the main road to Passage continued along the Cheekpoint Road to Strongbows Bridge and then diverted up Carriglea.
I’ve written  before about how as a child the lure of the areas was Willie’s agricultural contractor business and all the shiny tractors on show as we passed on the Suir Way Bus service.  Back then the pub was little more than the older building with parking for a few cars.  All that changed however when Carmel and Willie with the help of the ever present Mickey Mac, began to reclaim some of the bog for car parking to accommodate the growth in business.  In my late teens and early twenties it was the only place to be on the weekend and many was the high, and a few lows, I had there.

At this stage it’s the heritage value of the site that draws me back and if and when you call be sure to explore the area for yourself.  Here’s some related pieces found on or close by to whet your appetite;

Thanks to Liam and Carmel Hartley for much of the information I have on the pub in this piece, and for access to take photos of the pub and area.  
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

Ice – Waterford’s forgotten trade

There’s nothing as fickle as a market I guess. Products that go from boom to bust in a few short years, or less today when we think of technology.  In the past Waterford, along with many other ports traded in a commodity that was considered an essential for the food industry, Ice.  It was a market that reigned for less that sixty years but there are echoes of it in the harbour still.
My interest in Ice stemmed from finding the Faithlegg Ice House  as a child. This old structure was probably built at the same time as Faithlegg House, 1783, and used by the Boltons for impressing party guests during the summer with cooled drinks, sorbets and ices at a time when it was impossible for most people except in winter. It could also store meat, poultry and fish. Such Ice House designs dated from the 16th C at least and were based on the reality that Ice, once gathered into a cool, dry spot, compacted together and allowing for the run off to drain away below, would keep for months or even years.
Entrance chamber to Faithlegg Ice house
Ice House on Golf Course of Faithlegg House

The other Ice House in the area, was about a mile away, via an old roadway that ran through Faithlegg to Ballycanvan.  You crossed the now removed bridge at Faithlegg Pill into Ballycanvan and down to Jack Meades via the woodlands road. This is a commercially sized Ice House and even today is an impressive structure.

No one seems to know the date it was built. I find it interesting that when travel writer and social commentator Arthur Young visited in 1796 and again in 1798 that he failed to mention it, suggesting it is a later build. Its location is to protect it from the sun, and it has a double wall to the south west which would have further insulated it,  The original entry point was nearer the roof, the current access point is a more modern feature,  Some have suggested it served a similar function to its smaller neighbour, providing for the several big houses in the locality such as Ballycanvan, Mount Druid, Brook Lodge, Blenheim etc.

A third example is an “Ice Box” which Pat Murphy from Cheekpoint helped me locate recently.  The box is a stone and mortar circular structure about 15ft diameter.  Access was via the roof and it is built into the western bank of the river Barrow on the Wexford side, above Great Island. Pat could remember the name clearly and also stories of the paddle steamer stopping in the river below it, and boxes of iced salmon being removed to the ship for transport to New Ross and, he presumed, export.

Ceiling doorway to the Icebox
Icebox, hidden away in the bank of the River Barrow

The Ice used in such structures was originally gathered from frozen streams, but at the time that Faithlegg was built a new technique had emerged.  Due to the enormous resources, particularly man power, such houses had, it was a practice to flood a flat area of land close to a stream during a cold snap. I’ve found what I imagine to be the Faithlegg ice field below the current Park Rangers ground only recently. Unfortunately none of the older residents can confirm the theory however. Such streams and flat fields are features of the other sites too.

In America a new business emerged in the early 1800’s which became known as the Ice trade and the commodity had extended to Norway by the 1850’s.  American Ice had made its way to Britain but was not considered commercially viable, the merchants preferring the locally sourced material, despite its poorer quality. However a rise in temperatures seems to have impacted the home grown trade, and initially speculator merchants travelled northwards to source ice, but it really picked up once the Norwegians saw the potential. Ice was cut into blocks in Norway and transported to Ireland and throughout Europe. The blocks were put aboard ships, insulated with saw dust, to prevent fusing together, and then transported to ports. Merchants tended to store the ice in purpose built buildings or basements and then disperse it as required.

I had speculated as such some years back at a Barony of Gaultier Historical Society talk that I gave in the fishing industry of the harbour.  It came as a relief to me thereafter when Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group facebook page posted the following:
“In Jan. 1864 Messrs. O’Meara and Brennan owners of a large warehouse in Bridge St. purchased 100 tons of ice from a Scandinavian ship and reloaded the ship with cattle fodder. They covered the ice with a large quantity of sawdust in the warehouse, which preserved the ice until summer when it could be sold at a large profit.”

Subsequently I have discovered that newspapers of the time are full of ads and other coverage of the trade by merchants and fish mongers in cities such as Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Their businesses were forced to close at the start of WWI when the sea trade was curtailed.  After the war the new technology of refrigeration was the issue and soon the trade would be consigned to history.  Only echos now remain in the harbour, but the echoes are significant, especially to the curious.

Postscript:  The Barony Echo, newsletter of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society carries a brief mention of ships arriving to Passage East from Nova Scotia carrying Ice for the cellars of Waterford in their most recent edition.

Since publication a new initiative in Lismore Co Waterford has come to my attention.  I was aware of the big house Ice House at Lismore  but not two commercial sized houses under one roof on the Fermoy road, Two pieces here:  A blog from Waterford in Your Pocket: http://www.waterfordinyourpocket.com/lismore-ice-houses-to-be-preserved/ And a press piece from the Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/19th-century-ice-houses-to-be-preserved-390925.html

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
Thanks to Pat Murphy and Liam Hartley for their help with this piece.  Also Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group.
Ref: Buxham. T.   Icehouses.  2008.  Shire Publications.  Buckinghamshire.