Apprearing on RTE 1 Tracks and Trails

I’m delighted to say that I will be appearing on RTE 1 TV’s very popular walking series Tracks and Trails this coming Friday night, 5th April 2024 at 7.30pm.

I will be guiding Crime journalist, Nicola Tallant who follows the cliff top trail starting out from Dunmore East. She meets with local legend Elaine Power of East Pier and then comes along the path where I meet her at Portally and we walk towards Rathmoylan Cove.

“Out on the cliffs with the coastline spread out before her, Nicola walks with local author Andrew Doherty who shares with her the maritime traditions and old seas legends of this part of Waterford.”  

I had prepared a piece on the importance of local placenames and the origins behind these. I concentrated as much as possible on the fishing traditions, how local fishermen used the placenames as coastal day markers that allowed them to divide up the sea in terms of fishing grounds/locations, as useful and important as any field boundary ashore.

We spoke of shipwrecks, and some interesting events such as the origins of Swede Patch, or the importance of Failskirt Rock. I also covered the rescue of the Naomh Deaglán by the Dunmore East Lifeboat crew.

For all that I said was covered, here’s what was broadcast on the night. I made a mistake with the incident mentioned, calling the ship Chamber of Commerce, it was the Queen of Commerce. Apologies in advance

The topic of smuggling and the coastguard came up naturally as Nicola was interested in the subject from her day job. I covered some historical incidences, much of it based on a guest blog by my cousin James.

Nicola also encountered Deena’s swimming buddies from Dunmore East and the surrounding areas – the Mermaids.

Hopefully, it comes across well, it’s an area and a history we should be proud of.

Sailing directions to Waterford Harbour 1790

Recently I chanced upon the 1790 sailing directions into Waterford and although it’s for a different era, it offers some fascinating insights into the practicalities, the difficulties, and the practices of navigation at a time when all sailors had was their wits and intelligence. Oh, and a fair bit of good luck too.

The new and complete Channel Pilot; or Sailing Directions for navigating the British Channel on the English and French Coasts as well as on the South West and West Coasts of Ireland – Adapted to the Sayers Charts of the Channel – Oh I will stop there – that’s just part of the title of this booklet I chanced upon recently. It dates from 1790 and two details excited me about the find. Firstly I have been doing research into the practicalities of accessing Waterford in this era and the detail contained was so illuminating. Secondly, I have the Sayers chart in my files – and the details below tally perfectly with the information provided in the map.

WATERFORD HARBOUR – is spacious and safe, having a light house on the Point of Hook, on the east side of the entrance; and after dark Two Lights more, which are put up in Duncannon Fort, 6 miles up the harbour; there is a Perch besides on the point of sand near Passage. A ridge of sand stretches quite across the Channel about 1/2 mile above Credenhead [sic], which at low spring tide has 10 feet of water, at high water, spring tide, 20 feet, and at high water, neap tide, 18 feet water. The usual place to anchor is about a quarter mile above Passage nearest the W. side in 5 or 6 fathoms water.

To fall in with Waterford Harbour, coming from the Southward of the Eastward, keep Sleanaman [Slievenamon I think?] Mountain N.E.12 N. or the Great Saltee island S.S.E> till you see Hook Light House, and stand at least a cables length or two, from the E. Point, to avoid the irregular streams of tide there.

Passage Perch – and Ballyhack Church – note Arthurstown was not yet built

To sail to the anchorage at Passage; after you are past the Hook, take flood tide or a brisk leading wind, steering for Creden [sic] Head, and keeping near a cable’s length from it [ a nautical unit of measure equal to one tenth of a nautical mile or approximately 100 fathoms] from thence steer N. by N. for Duncannon Fort, keeping half a cable’s length from it; after which steer N. on the church of Ballihake [sic] which stands on an Eminence, till you see the Perch near Passage bearing on the Town of Passage; then steer past the Town for anchorage.

In steering for Duncannon Fort, avoid the sandbanks that extend from both Shores: that on the starboard side begins at Bluff Head, and extends more than half a mile from the shore, terminating at Duncannon Fort. Between the Fort and Bluff Head is Ballystraw Bay. The opposite Sand is Drumroe Bank, which extends more than a mile from the shore, narrowing the passage abreast Duncannon Fort to about a cable’s length. The thwart mark for knowing when you are in the narrowest part of the channel is when Newtown Trees and Hogan’s House are in one; the Two Lights in a line are the leading mark through it.

Here’s the thwart mark line from Sayers Chart

Three-quarters of a mile Nortward of Creden House is a Bar which runs across E.N.E. and W.S.W. a little more than a ships length over; there are only 13 feet of water on it when Northerly winds prevail, but 26 when Southerly winds. The deepest water is nearly abreast of the lights; on the bar you have from 2 1/2 to 9 fathoms water.

There is a very good anchorage two or three miles above Passage, where the stream is much weaker than at Passage. In sailing to this place, avoid a shallow spit of Sand which extends S.W. from the Point at Buttermilk Castle, about half over to the opposite side, with 9 feet of water on it. Avoid also a small bank, which lies on the S side of Cheek Point [sic] two cables lengths from the shore {Carters Patch} with only 9 feet of water on it, the least water, and half at tide 14 feet. If it is about low water keep the middle between the Points, or rather nearer Buttermilk Point, or keep in the rough stream of tide.

Such vessels as draw not above 10 or 11 feet of water may go up to the town of Waterford, where there are about two fathoms about a ship’s length from the quay. In sailing to or from the town of Waterford the safest channel is on the N. side of the Little Island {the Ford}, the other side {Kings Channel} has the deepest water, but the channel is narrow and winding and subject to eddy winds and tides.

Join me on a guided walk around Dunmore this Sunday. €10 pp pre-booking here!
I’m leading a walk along the Johns River to remember the Lightermen and their struggles on Sat Oct 7th. Cost €10pp pre-booking here!

There it concludes, but there is a few points to make for the modern reader.

One point to make clearly – The details provided are primarily for day time navigation. Day marks are the main navigation prompts for sea captains and the modern era of lighthouses, radar, and sat nav are many years in the future.

The two lights mentioned at Duncannon refer to a system for keeping to the narrow channel leading past it. Pete Goulding – our blogging buddy with a passion for Irish Lighthouses will guest blog on the system in weeks to come. Stay tuned

The thwart mark is an intriguing phrase, something I cannot find in a dictionary or any of my nautical phrasebooks. However, the image from the chart shows it clearly above. Any further clarity on this is appreciated. Update Post publication. Blog regular, D. Peter Boucher, Kt. SMOM, International Master Mariner had this update. Thwart in Old English means “from one side to another” hence our use of it for boat benches and thus I guess “thwart mark”.

The perch at Passage was a day mark, shown clearly in the chart. It did not have a light atop, so when the Spit Light was added in 1867 this radically improved navigation after darkness or in poor visibility.

The Church at Ballyhack was a perfect landmark for sailing vessels, alas, nothing of it now remains except perhaps the altar in the current graveyard on the hill.

Passage was the preferred anchorage, but Buttermilk and Cheekpoint are shown too

No mention of pilots which only became a requirement after 1816. Still disappointed that there was no mention of hobblers.

Finally, very interesting to read that the Ford Channel (sometimes referred to as the Queen’s Channel on charts) was recommended over the Kings Channel at this point. However the depth of water is an issue, as is obvious from the associated chart with a foot of water in places at low water. The need for dredging was essential to the development of the port, something only achieved once the Harbour Commissioners were established in 1816. More to come on that story next month, all going well.

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An American millionaire sails into Waterford Harbour

Although in this day and age, multi millionaires look to the sky for their thrills, there was a time when they looked to the sea. One such example was an American millionaire named Howard Gould, who dropped anchor aboard his magnificent yacht Niagra at Passage East in Waterford Harbour on Sunday July 21st 1901. Here for a tour of Ireland, he was also on the hunt for a castle to create his new home. Cian Manning has the story for us.

  The eccentric American millionaire Howard Gould was described by the Evening Herald (Dublin) as ‘…not born famous. [But] He has [had] fame thrust upon him…’ Howard was the son of American railroad magnate Jay Gould who was described as a ‘Robber baron’, amassing his fortune through unprincipled business practices making him one of the wealthiest individuals in the late-19th century. The controversial New Yorker was unpopular for his unscrupulous ways which led to a famous cartoon depicting Wall Street as his ‘Private Bowling Alley’. Howard (born 8th June 1871) was the fourth child of 6 born to Jay Gould and his wife Helen Day Miller. He attended Columbia College and matriculated with the class of 1894 but records of the undergraduate college of Columbia University show that he did not graduate. Four years later, Howard Gould purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange with his offices located at 195 Broadway. It was a seat he maintained till his death in 1959.

Howard Gould. Unknown photographer – Notable New Yorkers (1899) Public Domain

     TWO YACHTS NAMED NIAGARA

     The younger Gould’s real passion however (aside from money) was competitive yachting. A year after entering the New York Stock Exchange, Howard Gould acquired the 65-foot (20m) sloop yacht named Niagara built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Rhode Island in 1895. It was in this vessel that Gould won Lord Dunraven’s Castle Yacht Club Challenge Cup. Skippered by John Barr, in her first racing season she won 29 first prizes, nine second prizes and one third prize. In the twenty-rating class, Niagara sailed at the Thames Yacht Club Regatta and at the end of the ’95 season was left at Fay’s yards in Southampton for the winter.

Unknown Photographer. The Niagara as found in The Old And The New by Frank L. Blanchard. 1899. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Niagara_(1895_sloop).jpg Public Domain

     In addition to his sloop, Gould owned a large (282 ft) steam yacht also known as the Niagara, which was built in 1898 by Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington, Delaware. Coincidentally the acquiring of both vessels coincided with romantic entanglements. Prior to buying the sloop yacht, Gould was engaged to actress Odette Tyler who performed a number of Shakespearian roles such as Desdemona, Juliet and Portia. However, both families objected to the engagement which was subsequently broken off. One wonders was the purchase of the sloop a way to cheer-up a broken heart and to get away from the United States by competing at regattas in the United Kingdom.

     The same year that the steam yacht was built, Gould married the actress (he certainly had a type) Katherine Clemmons on the 12th October 1898. One review described Clemmons as having ‘a beautiful profile and a lissom figure but was devoid of any acting ability.’ While married to Gould it is believed that Clemmons was having an affair with ‘Buffalo Bill’ aka William F. Cody who subsidized a huge portion of her acting career.

     GOULD & NIAGARA AT WATERFORD HARBOUR

     On Sunday 21st July 1901, Gould put into Waterford Harbour aboard his magnificent yacht for the purpose of visiting various castles and country residences to form an understanding of ‘what a nobleman’s house is like’. As the Nationalist (Tipperary) put it ‘His ostensible object is to see some of our [Ireland’s] famous castles to find a model for the grand new mansion he is about to build in New York suburbs.’ The plan was for Gould to sail from Waterford to Queenstown (Cobh) with a coaching tour through Kerry in mind. Though like all things in Ireland this was subject to change and, with the riches Gould could spend to cover such excursions, why wouldn’t it?

Gould at his desk on the 1898 Niagara. Photo by Frank L. Blanchard, Gill Eng, Co, N.Y. – Niagara; the old and the new (1899), by Frank L. Blanchard The trophy is the Lord Dunraven Castle Yacht Club Challenge Cup, or possibly the Maitland Kersey Cup, both won in 1895 by the Niagara (yacht, 1895) Public Domain

     The Evening Herald surmised:

As Howard Gould’s magnificently appointed yacht, bought out of the millions that he never earned, lay anchored between the Waterford and Wexford shores, he might have visited many a place whose memories would broaden his mind, and give him knowledge which, in the long run, might be of no more use to him than suggestions for building a palatial residence of marble, stucco, and gliding that is to lick creation.

Photo by Frank L. Blanchard, Gill Eng, Co, N.Y. – Niagara; the old and the new (1899), by Frank L. Blanchard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82004045

Anchored at Passage East, the Waterford News noted that the Niagara was ‘much admired by those who had the opportunity of seeing the graceful outlines of this splendid vessel even at a distance, for no visitors were allowed aboard.’ Tuesday 23rd July saw Gould and his party travel to Waterford in one of the steam launches and lunched at the Imperial Hotel on the Mall. The local paper described it as follows:

The luncheon was served in the splendid drawing-room of the Imperial Hotel, the spacious proportions of which were much admired by the visitors, and the beautiful ceiling of the apartment which is an exquisite work of art attracted very special and most appreciative attention

After lunch the party made up of Mr and Mrs Gould, Mr. W.A. Perry, Mrs. Perry and Mr H. Perry Jr of New York and A.H. Lery (London) took the 1.30 train from Waterford to Kilkenny. Before leaving the Imperial Hotel, Gould was presented by William Murray (proprietor of the hotel) with a copy of the Waterford News’ publication Beauty Spots.

     From the Marble County, the American’s party travelled to Limerick and took a coach from the Treaty County to Listowel en-route to Killarney. While travelling Munster, the Niagara was making it’s way for Bantry Bay. Stops in Kerry included Tralee, Dingle, Valentia to visit the Knight of Kerry, Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Waterville, Parknasilla, Kenmare, Glengariff, Bantry and Cork before departing aboard their yacht for Le Havre.

Accessed from http://www.norwayheritage.com/p_ship.asp?sh=maje1

    While at Queenstown, Gould’s yacht was not the only American millionaire’s vessel to arrive that week. The morning after docking there, those aboard the Niagara would have witnessed the White Star steamer Majestic (1899) arrive from New York. Aboard was W.A. Vanderbilt whose fortune was made through steamboats and railroads. A few years previously, Vanderbilt had built the largest privately owned home in the United States in the form of the 250-room mansion named Biltmore Estate. The Staten Island native, with his party, boarded his yacht Valiant and made their way for Southampton.

     Six months after Gould’s visit to the south of Ireland, it was reported by Mr. J.J. Comerford in the Royal Magazine that Gould planned to build a replica of Kilkenny Castle in Long Island. He was able to obtain photographs of the castle while engineers and architects planned to build a larger version of Kilkenny Castle with modern comforts and improvements across the Atlantic. This was known as Castle Gould though it was not to the couples liking, they decided to build another larger house in a Tudor style and called it Hempstead House. After the completion of the estate in 1912, Gould sold it to Daniel Guggenheim.

Hempstead House, Sands Point Preserve, Sands Point, New York September 1995. Photo by Gyrofrog Public Domain

    DEBTS, DIVORCE & THE DEISE 

     Although everything seems to have been cordial between the Goulds and their connections with Ireland it would not always be the case. In 1906, the Cork painter Henry Jones (Thaddeus Walsh) brought an action against Mrs. Gould who would not pay the contracted price on a portrait she was dissatisfied with. The court found in favour of Jones with Katherine Gould having to pay $5,675. A year later saw the beginning of the process of judicial separation between the couple as Katherine accused her husband of bribing detectives in the public service to shadow her movements and gather evidence against her for court proceedings. The matter was finally settled two years later when the Court granted the separation exonerating Clemmons of Howard’s charges of impropriety and habitual intoxication. She was granted an allowance of £7,200 a year.  

     Gould married one final time in 1937 to German actress Grete Mosheim (whose most notable credit was her role in the 1930 film Dreyfus based on the events of the Dreyfus affair). However, the couple divorced ten years later. Howard was the last surviving son of Jay Gould and Helen Day Miller , he died in 1959 aged 88 at Doctors Hospital in Manhattan. Of the two vessels named Niagara that he was most associated with, the sloop was broken up in England in 1960 while the steamer was bought by the US Navy on 10th August 1917. She was converted into an armed patrol yacht and commissioned in Tebo’s Yacht Basin, Brooklyn under the command of Commander E.B. Larimer. After the First World War she cruised off the coast of Mexico and on 17th July 1920 Niagara was reclassified as PY-9 patrolling the Caribbean. Finally the steam yacht was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 21st April 1922. Recommissioned as Niagara, the vessel was used to survey in the Caribbean and from 1924 charted the Gulf of Venezuela and the coast of Central America. She was decommissioned a second time in 1931 and sold for scrapping two years later.

At anchor, circa 1920, probably in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Collection of Gustave Maurer, ex-Chief Photographer, 1921. U.S. Navy photo NH 2232. Accessed from http://www.navsource.org/archives/12/1309.htm

     Howard’s visit to the south-east was not the last connection between the Gould family and Waterford. In 1911, nearly ten years after Howard’s tour of the castles in the south of Ireland, his niece Helen Vivien Gould married John Beresford, 5th Baron Decies. Sadly Helen died tragically of jaundice and a heart attack in London in February 1931.

     One would imagine today that if an American millionaire docked in Passage East there would be a frenzy on Twitter and Instagram as a wealthy celebrity party toured Ireland, a grand tour in search of grand designs. You could say it was by Hook or by Crooke that Gould ended up building Kilkenny Castle on Long Island, New York. An unusual story concerning the auld sod and the New World. Though the tale has largely been forgotten you could say silence was Gould’s end.

Many thanks to Cian for this fascinating account. Cian is the author of Waterford City A History which is available through all good bookshops or online here. Cian also has a passion for sport, check out some of his blog stories at Póg Mo Goal

Dauntless Courage – Book Review

The arrival of Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community was greeted with a wave of conflicting emotions this week.  Joy at seeing the book finally in print, tears of relief after two years of work and pride in the satisfaction of realising a book conceived and raised within a community of volunteers that makes up the RNLI.

Opening the book was a thrill, and the satisfaction of the smell of all those tightly bound hard covered pages only heightened the expectation that comes whenever I open a book.  Sometimes the first impressions are let down however, but not in this instance.  From the wonderful historic painting on the cover by local marine artist Brian Cleare through to the hundreds of photos and images on the inside, the quality of all are amazing and really bring the book to life. 

Running to almost 380 pages author David Carroll takes us on a journey through Dunmore.  Quite rightly in my view, David doesn’t start with the first lifeboat, Henry Dodd, in 1884.  He starts from the outset of the small little fishing hamlet through to the building of the pier and the coming of the mail packet.  Throughout, David continues to ground the lifeboat service in the community of Dunmore and in the life and times of the community which serves to remind the reader that unlike perhaps any other volunteer service, the RNLI relies on the maritime community in which it resides.

David captures some of the more heroic rescues of the past such as the rescue of five fishermen aboard the St Declan in 1952 which saw Paddy Billy Power and Richard Power receive awards for their valour through to the more mundane, but no less important shouts such as the provisioning and repairs to the SS Pauline in Tramore Bay in December 1932.  The book is so up to date, it even includes the Lily B rescue carried out off the Hook in October of this year.

Annie Blanch Smith at Dinmore 1958. John Aylward photo.

There are also the first person accounts from personalities in the area, people that are synonymous with the service such as Joefy Murphy, Frances Glody or John Walsh.  Sadly one of those recorded died before the book came to print, Stephen Whittle.  But this just highlights the importance of the book still further, in capturing and recording the first person accounts of those who have given so much.

It also records the crew, and the photos of those behind the scenes, the station support, the fundraising committee, the less glamorous jobs but without which such a service has no hope of maintaining itself.

The book is a testament to the volunteer committee that established around David to fundraise to bring the book to fruition.  It is also a timely boost to the fundraising fortunes of the station in these covid restrictive times.  But it is also a testament to the abilities of David Carroll, ably supported by his wife Pauline, and his deep regard for Dunmore and the people of the RNLI that the book has come to print. 

David in company with Brendan Dunne; lifeboat volunteer and a driving force behind the project

Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community is David’s first book, but I hope it won’t be his last.  It deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in Dunmore East, anyone who enjoys maritime history, and anyone who supports the work of the RNLI.

The book is currently flying off the shelves. For stockists of the book and online orders check out the project website

Enduring Mystery of Creaden’s Forty Steps

One of the most intriguing and enduring mysteries we have anywhere in Waterford harbour is the Forty Steps at Creaden Head.  Carved into the cliff of this inhospitable headland the purpose and the creators of the stone steps have intrigued and perplexed many. 

Creaden Head is located on the western side of Waterford harbour, 1 ½ mile NW of Dunmore East.  The stone at the tip of the headland is from volcanic Old Red Sandstone, sometimes called puddingstone, a sand and pebble mixture that was forged in the furnace of the earth’s natural heat.  It juts out into the harbour and stands as the most eastern tip of the county of Waterford and the province of Munster.  Canon Power speculated that the name originated from a person, but someone unknown to us.[I] As the land is in private ownership, I have only ever seen the steps by water, the best way to my mind!

Creaden Head is marked by the +

The steps were carved into the cliff face in a very steep area. It would have taken time, determination, and a lot of skill. It would also have had to be financed. Numerous theories have been put forward about the steps and I will share those that are known to me in no specific order.

The steps as seen this summer from our punt. We are looking upriver.

I might start with a piece written by the column “Sean Suir” in the News & Star in 1949.  “While camping in Woodstown my old pal and myself walked down those steps when the tide was very low. I often wondered who made them and why they were cut in such a point almost at, the steepest part of the cliff. If you have not seen them, do go and have a look at them.  Seemingly no one in the locality could tell us anything about them. The first time I saw them was when brought by my parents for a cruise to Dunmore on the old ‘ Vandeleur,’ the once-famous river steamer.[ii]  What I love about this is the notion that even in the era of the Paddle Steamers (1837-1905) the steps evoked speculation and intrigue. 

Book II Waterford Harbour T&T 2020
Templetown, Co Wexford

One theory is that the steps were created when the Knights Templar operated a ferry between Creaden and their church at Templetown in Wexford, just over a mile across the harbour.  The Templars were granted ferry and numerous other rights after the Norman conquest.  According to Byrne[iii], they established a ferry crossing at the narrowest point (Passage East to Ballyhack).  No mention is made of another crossing, and why they would want another crossing point a few miles away and in a wider and more dangerous location is beyond me. 

A more incredible theory is that it was used as a means of taking African slaves ashore to be walked in chains (for exercise apparently) before being reloaded and sent to the America’s.  The origin of this theory is that an old path close to the shore at Fornaght leading inland known as Bothar na mban Gorm , the road of the blue women.  The name has created much speculation and wild theorising, but the notion of diverting northwards from off the customary slave route has no evidence that I am aware of.  More importantly, It ignores the well-known practice of triangular trade that governed shipping at the time, and indeed the fundamentals of the theory are still in use to this day.

The late Noel McDonagh had a very interesting and to my mind plausible theory which linked this roadway with Creaden and the ancient burial site of the Giants Grave at Harristown.  Noel’s research was unfortunately cut short by his untimely death but his theory, in brief, was that ancient people may have used the road and steps as part of a funeral rite as they placed the bones of their dead at the base of Creaden in a sea cave to enable their passage to the other world by water. Noel’s findings of flints and other evidence have turned the heads of everyone with an interest in the early settlement of Ireland.

The steps and the cave beneath to the left

One theory that I occasionally discussed with Noel was smuggling.  Neither of us really thought smuggling at the location made any sense.  Firstly it was within view of Duncannon which had a military presence since the medieval era. But it is also an inhospitable location.  Tides can reach three knots on the Head during spring tides, and it is open to all wind directions except south-westerlies.  To put it mildly, it is far from being an ideal location.    

There is merit to the theory, however.  Firstly smuggling was a well organised and lucrative trade in Ireland up to the mid 19th Century.  My cousin James has guest blogged on it before.  Creaden is out of the way, right beside the channel into the ports of Waterford and New Ross.  More importantly, such steps have an established association with smuggling in other areas including west Cork. 

My view of smuggling was that it would involve a ship coming into the head to unload.  Not feasible on this site in my view.  But what if it anchored above the head, and a number of smaller boats worked to bring the goods ashore, where willing hands passed the goods up onto the headland and distributed them inland.  Not just feasible, but practical.  It may have also served the purpose of offering a diversion to the revenue coastwatchers, another site amongst many to be watched and the spreading of resources. And it’s a theory supported by one of Ireland’s foremost archaeologists Connie Kelleher. Connie specialises in underwater archaeology for the National Monuments Service.  She spoke about it in Waterford some years back in a talk organised by the cousin.  Connie has a new book out called The Alliance of Pirates: Ireland and Atlantic piracy in the early seventeenth century, which I have promised myself for Christmas.  I’m sure Creaden and Waterford will get a substantial mention.

Another theory about the steps was that they were used by pilots for boarding sailing vessels coming into the ports. See for example Michael Fewer’s account from Rambling Down the Suir[iv].  Most likely this was the era of the hobblers, prior to the formation of the harbour commissioners in Waterford (1816) who appointed their own official pilots and a pilot boat.  However, it’s also known that the hobblers operated for many years after this and that they operated from the area.  I would think it would be highly unlikely they went to the bother of cutting steps into the cliff, but very likely they used the steps when tide and weather allowed.

a virtual tour via Mark Power

There is one idea I have myself that I have yet to properly research.  That is the use of stone on Creaden by millstone makers and which has been researched by Niall Colfer (son of the renowned late Billy Colfer) Colfer estimated that almost 300 millstones were quarried from the site and he describes it as “…the most intense example of millstone quarrying located in Ireland as part of…[his]… research.”[v] Is it possible the workmen employed in such an operation used the steps as a point of access at certain times. They would certainly have had the skill. The quarry stands a long way from the steps and there is no evidence that I have seen of any millstone quarrying in their vicinity, but as I say more research is merited.

Drone view of the location

And of course, there’s likely to be other theories that I have not heard, or have yet to unearth.  But that’s the joy of research.  It’s an ever-evolving story. 

A video I shot in Aug 2023 on a fishing trip downriver

Any feedback can be added to the comments on the blog or by email to tidesntales@gmail.com