They welcome a Christmas spent in their homes

On this years Late Late Toy show the television moment of the year was said to have been the unwrapping of Sergeant Graham Burke by his kids. He was, up to hours previously, serving with Irish peacekeepers in Mali, Africa. The host, Ryan Tubridy, became emotional at the scene, a family reunited.  Yet when I heard of it my thoughts turned to my own childhood and how Christmas was marked by an absence; where seafaring men were as likely to eat their turkey dinner in a foreign port or in the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific.
In my father and mothers generation absences at Christmas was just something to be accepted. Emigration was a fact of life and in a seafaring community that absence was probably felt much more as the men were part of a dangerous way of life, and where the monetary return was not very lucrative. Christmas in those days could be marked (if you were lucky) by a package from any part of the world with some hand made gifts and some trinkets with a card of greeting and a bit of news. I suppose that’s why those at home celebrated the holiday so much. In my own generation Christmas morning was as much about the house visits as anything else. One of only two days of the year that the pub closed, there was never as much drink consumed.  And as it flowed so did the yarns.
My father left with Tom Sullivan, they spent Christmas 1958 together in a BP tanker in the Persian Gulf

I recall one of a Christmas in New York and I think it was Charlie Duffin who was met off the ship by his relations and he was entertained all day and then dropped back to his ship the following morning. There were yarns of turkey flying across the table in an Atlantic storm. Of puddings going afire with too much brandy poured over it.  Of the sights, sounds and smells of foreign ports and cities from as diverse as Buenos Aires, Cairo or Tokyo. Tom Sullivan of Coolbunnia told me recently that there was always a special effort made for Christmas on the ships he sailed on. No one was expected to work except on core duties. And there was always plenty to eat and drink with extras for all via the cook and stewards.

But ships could also be docked in foreign ports and of course this created the best tall tales. Walter Whitty told me once of a session he went on in the Philippines. One of the crew was an ex WWII British Commando who described to an incredulous crew how they used to dispatch guard dogs during a commando raid, by wrenching the dogs front paws apart. According to Walter when his word was questioned the commando went out into the street and started chasing dogs around with a wild eyed frenzy. By the time the police had stopped him, several hounds lay dead in the street. When the ship sailed for Australia their crew mate was still in jail.
My father had one of a spree in a Spanish port, although I’m not sure if it was Christmas or not. It started with a session in the harbour area, where you would not be sure of your life and you stuck close to your crew mates.  Next morning he woke in a cell, and was dragged before the courts.
“Will the prisoner state his name?” says the judge.
“Bob Doherty your honour” says me father.
“Anything to the Dohertys of Cheekpoint?”
“One in the same yer honour”
“I had a fine pint of stout in the Suir Inn a few years back Bob, is their Guinness still as cool and creamy”
“Still the same yer honour”
“Well Bob, stand a round on my behalf the next time you’re home – case dismissed”
Being away from family can never be easy however, especially at Christmas, and probably felt all the more when youngsters were involved. The following extract comes from the Irish Times of December 23rd 1955.
“While people all over the world make arrangements to get home for Christmas by air, rail and sea, and worry about the time on Christmas Eve that they will arrive, they may be inclined to forget those whose job it is to get them to their destinations, and in particular the seamen. Few seamen ever count of a Christmas at home, for, as it often happens, they may get a few days with their families before Christmas and then on Christmas Eve they have to leave for Persia, South America or some place even further away.
When the ESSO tanker Avonmouth  leaves Dublin port this morning for the Persian Gulf she will have several Irishmen in her crew. Two of these, who joined the ship for the first time yesterday, were Thomas Murphy, aged 20, of Victoria road, Clontarf, who has been at sea for three years, and Andrew Doherty of Cheekpoint, Co Waterford, who has been at sea for 27 years. Since going to sea, Mr. Murphy has not had a Christmas with his family, to whom he said goodbye once again yesterday. Mr. Doherty has not spent a Christmas with his family in seven years, and most of the other twenty he has spent in all parts of the world, mainly at sea.
Andy’s ship ESSO Avonmouth accessed from

Mr. Doherty arrived in Dublin last Saturday and went to Cheekpoint to spend a few days with his five children.  His wife died 18 months ago and the children are now looked after by their aunt…”  The Andy Doherty mentioned here of course was a neighbour of ours here in the Russianside, and was known to everyone as “Lannen”

Looking through my fathers discharge book  recently I discovered that he first went to sea at 19 years of age in May 1951. His first Christmas was aboard a US tanker the Missionary Ridge. He was at sea or in a foreign port for most Christmases over the next fifteen years. Some of the ships I had not heard of before such as the Andes of London, the Esso Glasgow or the MV Arklow.  One of course which I wrote of before was the MV Ocean Coast, on which he was awarded a scroll for bravery following a Mersey river rescue.

Another he served Christmas aboard was the MV Devon Coast, which Tom Sullivan had the following yarn about.  My father and another chap were aboard over Christmas, all the other crew had gone to their homes. They were tasked with minding the ship but got fed up with their own company and went shoreside on a session. Staggering back to the ship they discovered a dog howling having fallen over the side of the quay by their ship which was stuck on a ledge. The howls were unmerciful and realising they would get no sleep, they grabbed a rope and my father straddled the gunwale and quayside while his mate slide down to grab the dog. Next moment my father gets a tap on the shoulder from the dock police asking what he thought he was up to.  “Mercy Mission Mate” came the reply from Bob. Next day they were on the front cover of the Liverpool Echo, the dog in their arms and they both got a bonus from the company, as no mention was made of their “condition” in the article.

My parents were married on Stephens Day 1964, one Christmas that he was home! I was born the following November and two weeks later he shipped out on the SS British Star not returning home until March. His last Christmas on a ship was aboard the MV Seriality for FT Everard and Sons of London. He signed on in New Ross on December 10th 1968 (my younger brother Roberts 2nd Birthday) and signed off the ship at Ellesmere Port (Liverpool) in January 1969.  He went on to take a shore job with the paper mills in Kilmacow where he stayed until the lockout of 1978.

MV Seriality alongside her sister ship. Accessed from 20/12/2017.
Photo: P Downsby Collection.

So that Tubridy scene some weeks back touched a nerve on so many levels. Because behind all the drink, yarns and laughter at Christmas growing up, there was also a sadness. Young boys left home to join ships where they were thrown together with mixed crews of all nationalities and temperaments and  told to get along. Pay was poor, conditions were relatively harsh (but improved considerably by my fathers era) and drink was the only means of escape. Men could be away for months and sometimes years and the longer that went on, the harder I think it became, to fit back in on their return. And needless to say it was the women who held everything together. Wasn’t it ever thus!

Thanks to Tomás and Tom Sullivan for helping me with this piece.

My book on growing up in a fishing village is now published.
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Saratoga Bar, Woodstown

My first time in the Saratoga Bar in Woodstown was about this time of the year many years back when playing rubbers.  Whats a rubber you may well ask.  A rubber is a card game where two teams of three played thirties against each other. The winners progressed to another round, the ultimate aim to win a turkey or ham for Christmas.  
The pub at the time was run by Mrs Coughlan, but eventually it would be sold and eventually my cousin Bill Doherty ran it with great success until he returned Stateside to be close to his grandchildren. The name however was always a conundrum, and not just to me.  So as part of my guest blog series, this being the last Friday of the month, I asked Joe Falvey for his thoughts, and he kindly included extra information from Hilary Coughlan.
The Saratoga Bar and Post Office 1905.  National Library of Ireland

According to Joe “it’s named after Saratoga Springs in NY.  The building was in the ownership of the Coghlan family from 1825 or 1835 as part of Dromina House estate and was leased to two sisters who ran it as a hotel around 1900. Their brother a priest,( Father Fleming), returned home from Saratoga Springs around that time -hence the name”. 

Now Joe had this account from Hillary Coghlan and it coincides with what Addie Coghlan told him for an article he wrote in 1999 following the death of young John Kennedy in a tragic aircrash. “Strangely ironic that the plane he was flying was a Piper Saratoga II…given the local memories of that Summer 1967, fifty years ago”  Joe here is of course referring to the holiday of Jackie Kennedy with her young family at Woodstown following the tragic assassination of her husband President John F Kennedy four years previously in Dallas Texas (and a story he will share with us in the future). Joe goes on “My understanding is that the priest had leased it to provide a retirement income for himself and his two sisters who ran the business. So the name as opposed to the building itself dates from this time.”
Hillary Coghlan added the following “The Saratoga was owned by my Dads family since 1825 – at one stage it was a hotel until early 1900 when the licence lapsed. My aunt ran a post-office and shop until around 1951 when my parents took over. To make ends meet they grew and sold vegetables, had a shop & petrol pump and post office. They opened the Saratoga as a bar on 4th July 1962. At that time two bar licenses were needed (government policy to reduce the amount of pubs in Ireland) and one was bought from Powers in Dunhill and the other from Dunphys in Carrick. My Mam, Addie Coghlan ran the bar and loved every day until she retired & sold it to Andy & Margaret Torrie in Sept 1996.”

My first book on growing up in a fishing village is now published.  Its called Before the Tide Went Out            

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Michael O’Sullivan from the Waterford History Group had the following to add: “In the 19th century the Saratoga was occupied by the Hurley family (John, Mary, Statia,and William).who also ran a farm”.(1) He also raised the point which I had heard before, that it may have been named after an American sailing ship wrecked in Waterford harbour in the early 19th century.  Hilary had also heard a ship wreck origin, that the timbers were used in the roof of the building and speculated that it may have been one of the ships carrying limestone for the lime kilns.

The foundered ship certainly has appeal, both in terms of my normal blog stories and the fact that the reusing of salvaged timbers occurs in stories around the harbour, indeed in harbours and coastlines across the world.  But evidence of such a ship is scarce.  For example the Irish wrecks data base give no mention of a ship called Saratoga.  Yet there are obvious gaps, for example my recent story story of the schooner Cintra is not listed.  As regards timber to be salvaged from ships, there is any number of likely candidates from the list.  The name Saratoga has featured on several ships.

Again from Joe: “There was a critical Battle of Saratoga in 1777 in the War of Independence. Hence there were several US Naval Ships of that name, including the best known of them, no. 5, an aircraft carrier which was heavily involved in Pearl Harbour and the war in the Pacific during WWII”. 

The Schooner Saratoga via

There was also an American privateer of her name, a schooner that was involved in the 1812 war with the British and an American fishing vessel. How many others must have carried the name. I favour Joe’s theory the most.  And I imagine a shipwreck provided timber for construction, which led to this creating an extra frisson to the account. But even if we never know for certain, there is considerable enjoyment from discussing and sharing these theories and I sincerely thank Joe for arranging this for us, and to Michael and Hillary for their input.

The last Friday of each month is offered as a space for a guest blog. If you would be interested in submitting a piece I’d be delighted to hear from you at The only criteria is that the piece needs to be about our maritime heritage, about 1200 words and I can help in editing if required, source photos and add in links etc. I’d also welcome any contributions from younger readers including students. 

 (1) Information from “Waterford’s yesterdays and tomorrows 1967 by JJ Walsh page 29

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The twice sunk schooner Cintra

Those who have looked on the photos depicting the bustling trade on Waterford and New Ross quays in the 19th Century must wonder at the safety aspect of so many ships in close proximity.  Indeed the risks associated with this golden age of sea travel have made for many epic stories of heroism and tragedy.  A story that perhaps is not so dramatic, but none the less indicative, if not more common, is that of the Clyde Shipping’s SS Pladda and the schooner Cintra.  The Cintra however sank not just once, but twice in the Waterford harbour area.
SS Pladda Image courtesy of Andy Kelly
According to the then Cork Examiner(1) Arklow owned Cintra* was en route to New Ross on Friday 4th October 1901 with a cargo of coal from Cardiff. Her master that evening was Captain John D Kearons, and she was piloted by a Dunmore East man Philip Boucher (or Bouchier) It was 8pm on a foggy night** and under darkness she was heading towards the river Barrow.  The Railway bridge had yet to start construction, which would eventually give us a century of incidents, so one must think the pilot had little to concern him at that point apart from the fishing weirs.
Heading into Waterford at the same time was the SS Pladda en route from Glasgow on her normal weekly run under Captain McLeod. She was a ship of the Clyde Shipping company. Passing Cheekpoint there was an almighty crash and measures were taken to reduce way and come about, the engines were reversed and the ships boat was dropped.

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The schooner had been struck broadside (abaft of the main hold) and she healed over but righted again. Sinking fast the Captain ordered all hands to abandon ship and the four crew and the pilot took to the tender and made it safely away, but with no personal possessions. The Cintra was sunk in minutes and the crew headed under oar power towards the shore.
Schooner B I, to give a sense of the Cintra
Photo from William Doherty courtesy of Pat O’Gorman 
Meanwhile the rescue crew from the Pladda arrived and seeing that that the Cintra crew were safe, hung a light from the mast of the schooner which was still to be seen over the surface.  Returning to their ship, they resumed the journey to the city.  No casualties were reported from either ship.  The Pladda would continue with the company until 1907 when she was resold and eventually she too got  a watery grave in 1942.
At a meeting of the Harbour Commissioners Quay Committee of the 9th October(2) the wreck was discussed as a hazard to navigation. Lying in seven fathom of water near the channel it was considered imperative to have it moved. However the owners of the Cintra, seven brothers and sisters from an Arklow family (presumably all the Kearon family had shares in the craft, and have a proud nautical tradition from information kindly sent by Arklow Maritime Museum) had written to say they could not afford to have the wreck removed and asked that the commissioners salvage what they could and that the owners get whatever was left over after costs were covered.
A further news report 3) stated that Messers Eason of Queenstown (Cobh) had quoted a fee of £340 to lift the wreck or £120 to blow her up leaving nothing 8ft above the river bed.  Both prices were agreed to be far in excess of what the Commissioners were willing to pay. The Harbour Master, Captain Parle, thought that explosives was the most cost effective manner of disposal and that his own staff could successfully carry this out.  It was decided that work would commence immediately.  
Cheekpoint, where the incident occured, note no Barrow Bridge spanning the Barrow
Photo from NLI AH Poole Collection circa 1899

Presumably the work was a success as the the final mention of the incident, perhaps not surprisingly was court! The Board of Trade inquiry found both ships at fault in the case, and further civil actions followed including one on behalf of Philip Boucher, the pilot, who it would appear was badly hurt in jumping aboard the the schooners tender.

The strangest part to the whole story of course is that this was the second time the Cintra had sunk in the harbour!  In 1899 (Thursday morning 16th November to be exact) the schooner departed New Ross without a pilot under Captain Fitzpatrick. She was carrying 1000 barrels of Oats for a Mr Reville of the town.  At the Lucy Rock, about five miles from the port she grounded and keeled over on the ebbing tide.  The flood tide later that day totally sank her.  No mention is made of salvage, but she obviously lived to fight another day.  The age of sail was coming to a close, but it would be several decades yet before their beauty was lost to the harbour.

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 to receive the blog every week.
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Thanks to both James Doherty and Arklow Maritime Museum for extra information

Dear reader, if you have any further information, particularly a photo or image of the Cintra that I could include I would love to hear it via comments or by email to


Arklow owners
1851 by Gowan, Berwick
Lost at Cheek Point, Waterford estuary, 4 October 1901 en route
Swansea-New Ross.
George Kearon
Richard Kearon
78’ x 19.2’ x 10’
62 tons
Produced with thanks from Arklow Maritime Museum

**in two other newspaper accounts the weather is described as crisp and clear with stars shining in the sky, and a blustery dark night!

***sourced from two accounts, Wicklow People 18/11/1899 & Wicklow Newsletter and County Advertiser 25/11/1899

(1) Irish Examiner 7/10/1901 P.5
(2) Munster Express 26/10/1901 P.7
(3) Waterford Standard 13/11/1901 P3.

Growing up amongst the nets

Growing up in a fishing village like Cheekpoint in the early 1970s, nets were part of the everyday scene in the community. They lay around in the same way tractors and machinery hang round a farmyard.  Nets for fishing the weirs, trawl nets including beam and otter, drift nets for Herring and Salmon and Eel pots.  Old fishermen like Andy Joe Doherty come to mind, sitting amongst the maze of meshes of a weir net, a section slung across his knees as he worked to repair some hole by the ‘Red Shed’ on the village ‘Green’.
I suppose because it was summer, and we had more time being on holidays, I remember the salmon nets most of all.  The salmon season stretched in those days from Feb 1st to August 15th.  It opened each Monday morning at 6am and concluded the following Saturday at 6am. Sundays were a day of rest, mass, the Reading Room for cards, a match or the pub.  But Saturday was for boat and net repair, and the quay was generally buzzing with activity.
Buddy McDermott and Tom Sullivan hauling out the nets
Photo courtesy of Tomás Sullivan
The nets in those days were nylon.  They comprised of a head rope which had corks each about a fathom apart keeping the net afloat, and a lead rope which kept the net down in the water. Between both ropes was suspended a curtain of netting which once set in the river drifted on the tides. Because of the position of Cheekpoint and the strong currents in the area, drifts would normally last from between fifteen minutes to an hour.  
Another feature of the drifts was the countless fouls and obstacles to be negotiated. The meshes got ripped due to snagging rocks, weir poles, old fouls, the bottom, getting caught in the jetty, wrapping them up in the outboard engine propeller.  As we were below the ports of New Ross and Waterford we also had the risk of being cut by one of the many ships in and out of the ports.
A mending needle
Although the general perception of drifting was that salmon swam blindly into nets, the local reality was that we predominantly ‘jammed’ fish. Jamming fish was an expression used in trying to outfox the salmon, catching them in ‘the bag of the nets’ or trapping them as nets ‘fell ashore’ when drifts ended with the nets gathering in clumps close to the shoreline. The local practice had actually more in common with draft netting and snap netting, both techniques happened above us in narrower waters, than the common perception of drift netting on the high seas.
drift net
As a consequence the repair of nets was a constant necessity.  Saturdays then, would see fishermen at work, hauling out the nets from the boat and ‘ranging them over’ again on the shore, quayside, or the green. Some fishermen preferred to stay in the boat, a more boring job again as at least if you were on the quay there was more banter. Some skippers could overlook only the largest gap, but for many as much as a damaged “half mesh” was a no no. These were the skippers you didn’t want to get stuck with, as you could spend the day standing in the one spot without a break.
a typical break
The process was always the same. One person on the cork rope the other on the lead. As you ranged them along you looked carefully for a gap or a tear. Once found the skipper would use a penknife to trim off and tidy the hole and with a mending needle, set about re-meshing the hole. In some cases it could take a minute, in others a heck of a lot longer. In all cases our job was to hold the net in a particular way. As a consequence we were often referred to as ‘human nails’ as if we were not around the fisherman would hang the net on a nail or other fixing.  As he worked we got no more than a grunt, when it was time for us to shift, or pull tighter, or move a fraction to enable the skipper to see what he was doing. Once done, he would snip the end of the mending twine, returning the knife and mending needle to his pocket.  Then we would stretch out of the repair job and you would hear either a grunt of satisfaction or disgust, depending on how the job was perceived. Then it was back to the careful ranging and on to the next hole.
repaired and time to range on
Some Saturdays could be spent entirely in this way, and after a while you learned to avoid the quays when such activities were taking place. It would be a few years yet before I had to learn the craft, and many more (if ever) before I could say I could repair a net in any kind of satisfactory way.  Of course in the 1990’s the nylon nets started to change and before it was out, mono-filament netting was legalised. Because these were practically invisible to the fish anyway, repairing holes became virtually a thing of the past.  It was easier to pull sections of a hole together with string, or cut out a section and replace it.  Net repair started to become a thing of the past, and with it, what might have seemed like a chore to a child, but a very difficult skill nonetheless.
For this years Heritage week I am leading a walk highlighting Cheekpoint’s Maritime past including the nets of the village.  It takes place this Saturday evening 19th August at 5.30 pm.  It commences from McAlpins Suir Inn and is free of charge.  
I will also co-host a walk on Sunday 20th August on the Geohistory of the area with local geologist Bill Sheppard.  It commences at 2.30pm and departs from Faithlegg National School. Also free of Charge.
This excerpt this morning is from a forthcoming book I have written on the Cheekpoint fishery which will be published in the autumn entitled “Before the Tide Went Out” 
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 to receive the blog every week.
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Waterford to New Ross by paddle steamer 1842

I recently had some American and English visitors on a tour of the village.  I found it interesting to hear their thoughts on the area and I always get as much from their perspectives and questions as I ever give.  In the same way the perspective of others from years back can be very illustrative and informative about our country or our locality.  I have used the travels of Arthur Young before to illustrate what life was like in Faithlegg and Cheekpoint in the late 18th C. But today we have a German visitor, JG Kohl, who traveled from Waterford to New Ross on a paddle steamer whilst touring Ireland in the autumn of 1842.  

Waterford possesses
two prominent features which are of the greatest advantage to its trade: first,
one of the most wonderful quays in the world; and, secondly, one of the finest
harbours in Ireland. The quay is a mile long, and so broad and convenient
withal, that it must be invaluable to merchants and mariners. It is skirted by
a row of elegant houses; and the scenery on the opposite side of the river,
which is here a mile and a half wide, is extremely picturesque.

Waterford later in the century, but highlighting how busy it was

The embouchure of the
river Suir, which forms the harbour, is wide and deep, without islands or
sandbanks, and affords all possible security and convenience to ships. I have
already said that Waterford harbour has a great similarity to the bay of Cove,
near Cork. Cleaving the land in a similar manner, it runs from the sea, taking
with it the sea water, for ten or fifteen miles into the country. At its upper
end it divides into two branches, one of which runs west, and the other
northwards, while at New Ross it receives the Barrow and the Nore. All this
extent of land and water, as far as Waterford and New Ross, and then somewhat
farther up the Suir, Barrow, and Nore, is one of the most beautiful and
charming districts in Ireland…

By The original uploader was Thyra at German Wikipedia(Original text: unbekannter Künstler) – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons. Transfer was stated to be made by User:CJLippert.(Original text: [1]), Public Domain,

…when I came to the
river, it was exactly low water. Several vessels were lying on their sides in
the mud, as if stranded. Above the beautiful bridge, the Suir seemed almost
entirely drained, and the banks were slimy and muddy. But as the tide rolled
in, the sand-banks were covered, the ships righted themselves and danced upon
the waves, the artery of the river was filled, and the landscape again
reflected in its restored mirror. The sun mounted high in the heavens, and our
steamboat, The Repealer, rushed forth through the waves. What is there to be
found in Ireland that has not some connexion with repeal? I was informed that
the repealers go almost exclusively by this boat, and hence it was also called
the People’s Steamer. On the flag which waved from the quarter-deck were the
words, ‘Hurrah for the Repeal of the Union!’ O’Connell can now, at his
meetings, truly boast that the repeal cause is progressing with the rapidity of
steam. In this corner of the earth, indeed, steam does not go very far—only to
the town of New Ross, fifteen miles distant, whither we were bound. Nor does it
afford any exclusive advantage to the repealers, as the anti-repealers also
employ steam in their cause. Another steamboat, bound to the same place, splashed
alongside of us, in opposition to ours. In England one never gets rid of this
opposition: it follows him every where.

Had I not been in
Scotland, and sailed down the Firth” of Clyde, I would pronounce this trip
on the arms of Waterford Harbour to be the finest in the United Kingdom. Or,
were there not much that is beautiful out of the United Kingdom, I could also
say that it is the most delightful journey I ever made in my life. But it is
sufficient to affirm that the landscape on the shores of these waters is as
picturesque, pleasing, and diversified in its kind as any other in the world.
The waters flow through the deep and convenient bays somewhat more quickly than
through a lake; and as its entrance from the sea is concealed from the
spectator by a very sudden turn, he actually believes he is on an inland-lake,
and is astonished at the large ships which ascend it, seeking harbours hidden
far in the heart of the land. At times the shore is a hill, sloping down to the
water, which, like almost every river-bank in the United Kingdom, is studded
with charming seats and pleasure-grounds; at others, it juts out in steep,
rocky, and wooded headlands, which the Repealer almost grazes as she speeds

An example of the paddle steamer trade, PS IDA
Via Andy Kelly

At no great distance
below United Kingdom are seen, in the background of a bay, the immense ruins of
the far-famed Abbey of Dunbrody, one of the most celebrated and beautiful ruins
of Ireland, which are here held in about the same estimation as the ruins of
Melrose are in Scotland. Alas! they are now, like the times of their grandeur,
in the far distance; and the Repealer has too much to do with the opposition
steamer, which is walking close upon her heels, and forces her to keep her
straightforward way, to turn from her course, and give the traveller a look at
the ruined abbey. In truth, it afforded us no little amusement to see our
rival, as she was about to turn into the mouth of the Barrow, run aground on a
sand-bank, where, as our captain drily observed, she must stick till the tide
would rise somewhat higher, and float her off. As for the Repealer, being
obliged to be at New Ross by a certain time, she soon left Dunbrody far behind,
and splashed away with the flowing tide up the Barrow. The British Islands must
reap important benefits from the double alternating currents, one landwards,
the other seawards, of the navigable rivers. In no other country do the waters
of the sea flow so far inland, bearing ships into the very heart of the

Kohl’s view of the meeting of the three sister rivers,
without the Barrow railway viaduct

On the deck of an
Irish steamer there is seldom a want of entertainment. On the quarter-deck the
company is twice as talkative as on that of an English steamer; and the
forecastle resounds even with music and singing. To the music, which, of
course, was that of the bagpipes, we had dancing. Since Paddy, as I have before
remarked, generally uses only an old door, or a couple of boards laid close
together, for a dancing-floor, he naturally finds it impossible to leave
unoccupied the beautiful space which, on the deck of a steamer, remains vacant,
between butter-firkins, flour-bags, egg-boxes, hen-coops, baskets of turkeys,
tied-up cows, and a confused heap of grunting pigs. He therefore lays aside his
stick, and throws his cares and his sorrows to the winds, with much greater
ease than can be done by the rich man of five thousand a year who is looking at
him; with good-humour in his face, he seizes a struggling maiden, and, in a
merry and lively jig, or Scottish reel, he shakes his rags as if they were the
bell-tipped lappets of a fool’s dress. The splashing paddles of the steamer
beat the time for him, and the lovely banks of the Barrow give to this
spectacle a decoration which the ballet-dancers on the boards of Covent-garden
or Drury-lane cannot boast of.

The evening was
wondrously calm, and even the fishes, though still poorer than Paddy, jumped in
the water for joy. I planted myself beside the captain, on the high platform in
the centre of the vessel, and, while I observed the grave and serious rich on
the quarter-deck, and the merry poor in the forecastle, I could not refrain
from praising the justice of God, who, while he makes man poor, at the same
time renders him more capable of taking delight in the most trifling things.

The beautiful seats of
the Powers, the Asmonds, and other families which lay along the banks, are all
so charming that one would like to take a sketch of each separately. Near
Castle Ennis, in a broad beautiful meadow, stands the largest, most lordly, and
picturesque oak I ever saw. One looks on these mansions with increased
interest, if, as I had, he has an Irish priest as confessant at his side, who,
from being intrusted with the private affairs of the families that reside in
them, can give him a sketch of the history of each. While I listened to my
priestly confessant, I was somewhat amazed at the extra-ordinary things which
happen in the usual every-day life of these families. In one of these mansions
there yet dwells an old lady, the widow of one of the most distinguished of
those rebels who were beheaded by the English during the last rebellion in

As we passed a rock,
our cannon were fired, in memory of a sailor, who, some months previously, had
fallen overboard at this spot, and was drowned. The reports were re-echoed from
the rock, and the manes of the dead were no doubt highly gratified by the
honour thus conferred upon them.
New Ross 1832, a few years before his visit
Public Domain,

We anchored at New
Ross, and as this place is the extreme end of the Barrow navigation, and the
brightest gem in the entire landscape-gallery of the neighbourhood, it would no
doubt have well repaid us to pass this delightful evening here. It is at once
apparent that New Ross is an old town, since it does not present that
picturesque grouping which is peculiar to new regular towns: at the same time it
is also a fallen place, for it is said once to have possessed a great part of
the trade which Waterford has now entirely drawn to itself. It no longer
dispatches a single ship to sea, and merely sends agricultural produce to
Waterford, to be from thence exported. Beyond New Ross the waters, which had
hitherto been broad and deep, seem entirely to lose themselves in a thicket of
woods and rocks. In this thicket there are said to be most beautiful scenery,
splendid landscapes, and waterfalls. Yet it was not granted me to explore these
beauties any further. As I found my travelling companion disposed to avail
himself of the beautiful moonlight night to continue his journey, at eleven
o’clock we troubled an Irish horse and a little jaunting-car to take us over to
Wexford, about twenty miles distant.

Johann Georg Kohl (1808-1878) was a German scholar, cartographer and geographer, who visited Ireland in 1842. His intention was to see it “without any object in view other than to become acquainted with the country, and to see everything that was interesting and remarkable in it” He was a native of Bremen, and he studied and traveled widely and was noted for his unbiased perspective.  As such his views on Waterford and the harbour should be seen and judged in this light. A man after my own heart, you might say!

I’m only speculating that the Repealer was a paddle steamer, but most ships involved in the Waterford New Ross or Waterford Duncannon ferry trade were to my knowledge.  I had not heard of the Repealer before but an online thread suggests she was brought in as a rival to challenge the Waterford New Ross Steam navigation company but only lasted some months.

Extracts taken from J. G. Kohl, Travels in Ireland, translated from the German, (London 1844)
You can read the entire book here

Thanks to Frank Murphy for his kind assistance.

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