Booze Blaa’s n Banter 2020

The highly popular early morning Booze, Blaa’s ‘n’ Banter annual hootananny extravaganza held in Jordan’s American Bar, on Waterford’s Quay’s goes online this year due to the Covid19 pestilence. It’s organised by the Waterford Council of Trade Unions in association with the Imagine Arts Festival and is a homage to the madness and mayhem of the city’s early house dockers taverns of yore. The event involves short labour, maritime and social history talks, intermingled with music, poetry and merry making, where complimentary Waterford blaa’s, supplied by local bakers, along with filings from local butchers and fish mongers are served throughout. And hosted in the friendliest bar in town by Andy, Kathy and Anna Jordan.

This was my second time appearing on the programme, and this year I went for a story about the Schooner BI

Also on this year’s bill, my good pals David Carroll and Brendan Dunne who spoke on the development of the new book which will be published in November on the history of Dunmore East Lifeboat. Dauntless Courage. You can pre-order here

You can check out the full show here

Attack on HMS Brave Borderer

A guest post by Conor Donegan

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Irish Revolutionary period (1912-1923), is the degree to which counties, and often areas within counties, varied from each other in terms of levels of IRA activity. Waterford is perhaps one of the best examples of this trend, with the west of the county seeing intense fighting on par with other Munster counties, while the city and its eastern hinterland was largely quiet, due in no small part to its strong affinity with Redmondism. Consequently, Waterford’s reputation as a republican stronghold is usually regarded as weak when compared to the likes of say Cork or Tipperary. In September 1965, that perception briefly changed when an audacious attack was launched on a British warship in Waterford Harbour by three members of the South Kilkenny IRA; an incident that occurred 55 years ago on this day.

Between the end of the Border Campaign in 1962 and the eruption of the Troubles in 1968/1969, the IRA appeared to disappear off the radar as the republican movement turned towards socialist politics and the infiltration of civic organisations. Anglo-Irish relations appeared to be improving. Taoiseach Seán Lemass and Northern Prime Minister Terence O’Neill exchanged visits, and the British returned the remains of Roger Casement to be interred in Glasnevin.

In March 1963 Waterford Corporation passed a resolution reflecting this thaw in relations, expressing the belief that ‘…never during the past 700 years had the relations between Britain and Ireland been on a more friendly basis, whether taken on a governmental or individual basis’.[1] The four-day courtesy visit of the Royal Navy minesweeper St David to Waterford in 1961, including a civic reception hosted by Mayor John Griffin, was just one of several such visits to the City during the 1960s.[2] Scenes unimaginable just 20 years previously were now taking place on a regular basis, welcomed by Waterford’s civic and business leaders, but drawing the ire of local republicans.

A group of people posing for a photo

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Captain Thomas McKenna, Director of the Irish Naval Service, being piped aboard HMS Rocket during her visit to Waterford in 1962, one of several such visits to the City during the early 1960s (Source: Cork Examiner, 27 January 1962)

Richard Behal of Kilmacow, Co. Kilkenny had been a member of the IRA since the 1950s and had previously been involved in disturbing the visit of Princess Margaret to Abbeyleix Castle in January 1965.[3] Behal deplored the ‘re-familiarisation of the British armed forces in Ireland’, and sought permission from IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Goulding to launch an attack on the next such visit of a British warship to Waterford.[4] Permission was received and an opportunity presented itself when the HMS Brave Borderer arrived in the City on the 6th of September, accompanied by the usual civic reception.[5]

Behal, and his comrades Walter Dunphy of Mooncoin and Edward Kelly of Mullinavat, planned to fire on the motor torpedo boat from the riverside when she was scheduled to leave Waterford on the 10th. The Brave Borderer was one of two Brave-class fast patrol boats commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1960, the other being her sister, Brave Swordsman; with a maximum speed of 50 knots they were among the fastest naval vessels in the world at the time.[6]

A small boat in a body of water

Description automatically generated
HMS BRAVE BORDERER, FIRST OF THE BRAVE CLASS FAST PATROL BOATS ACCEPTED FOR SERVICE BY THE ROYAL NAVY. JANUARY 1960, DURING TRIALS IN THE SOLENT. SHE WAS BUILT BY MESSRS VOSPERS LTD, AND HAS A TOP SPEED OF OVER 50 KNOTS. (A 34261) HMS BRAVE BORDERER, a fast patrol boat, during trials in the Solent, January 1960. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205164370

In a June 2018 interview, Behal stated that the aim of the attack was never to cause harm or worse to British sailors, but rather to make a protest against the increasing presence of the Royal Navy in Waterford, and what Behal and his comrades suspected was a prelude to Ireland’s accession to NATO.[7] The upcoming golden jubilee of the Easter Rising was also a motivating factor. Armed with an anti-tank gun retrieved from an arms dump in the Midlands, the three men set up position at Gyles Quay on the Kilkenny side of the river facing Little Island, early on the morning of the 10th of September.[8] A number of Garda foot patrols passed the men’s position along the railway line separating them from the Suir, indicating some anticipation of an attack on the part of the authorities.[9]

Present day photo showing the approximate location at Gyles Quay on the Kilkenny side of the river where the IRA were postioned
The black x shows the approximate location at Gyles Quay where the attack occurred (Ordnance Survey No. 76)

The quietness of the vessel’s jet propulsion engines caught the men by surprise, and Behal aimed for a position halfway between the deck and the waterline and about a third of the way back from her bow. He managed to fire two shots which pierced the hull, before the Brave Borderer accelerated to full speed in an attempt to escape the gunfire, without firing back.[10] Before she managed to round the bend in the river, Behal’s third shot hit one of her engines which caused the boat to veer erratically from side to side, and disappear down the Harbour in a cloud of smoke; such was the commotion caused by this third shot that Ned Kelly fully believed they had sunk her![11] The Brave Borderer eventually passed the Hook and made it to Torquay the following day; her refit lasted four months and cost several million pounds.[12] No casualties were reported.

Interview with Richard Behal, by Irish Republican Marxist History, 25 June 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGvDZviA0wY

Behal, Kelly and Dunphy were captured by Gardaí on the mudbanks close to the Barrow Bridge, and were remanded in custody in Waterford charged with ‘possessing firearms with intent to endanger life’.[13] Throughout the trial, demonstrations were regularly held at the courthouse in support of the men, and anti-British feelings ran high in the city. The Mayor at the time, and later TD, Patrick ‘Fad’ Browne was obliged to defend himself in front of a hostile crowd which had assembled at his house on Luke Wadding Street and thrown stones at his business a few doors down.[14]

The three men were each sentenced to nine months imprisonment, though Behal would make a daring escape from Limerick Prison in February 1966.[15] After another brief stint in prison in the 1970s, Behal served on the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Féin, addressed the General Assembly of the United States Human Rights Commission on behalf of the 1981 Hunger Strikers, and stood as a candidate in the 1984 European Parliament elections.[16] He currently lives in Killarney, Co. Kerry. Walter Dunphy still resides in his native South Kilkenny. Ned Kelly sadly passed away in 2011.

This fascinating incident, undoubtedly the last naval engagement in the Suir’s long and turbulent history, occurred 55 years ago on this day.

A close up of a newspaper

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Front page of the Munster Express on 1 October 1965 showing the demonstration outside Mayor Fad Browne’s house, in support of Behal, Dunphy and Kelly

Endnotes

  1. Ferriter, Diarmuid, The Transformation of Ireland 1900 – 2000, (Profile Books Ltd, London, 2005)
  2. Irish Independent, 10 August 1961
  3. Bell, J. Bowyer, The Secret Army: The IRA, (Transaction Publishers, New Jersey, 1997)
  4. Limerick Leader, 24 April 2010
  5. Cork Examiner, 7 September 1965
  6. www.iwm.org.uk
  7. Interview with Richard Behal, by Irish Republican Marxist History, 25 June 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGvDZviA0wY
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Evening Echo, 10 September 1965
  13. Ibid
  14. Munster Express, 1 October 1965
  15. Irish Times, 21 March 2016
  16. Nenagh Guardian, 26 May 1984

Johnny’s Lane, Crooke, Co Waterford

Breda Murphy.

Due to Covid 19 I’ve had a couple of new experiences recently, firstly I haven’t used an alarm clock since the middle of March! I thought I would have to wait until I retired to enjoy that treat, but not so, due to working from home.  Secondly, for the first time ever I began to realise that I live a privileged life, appreciating, that few things really matter in life, one being where you live when confined to staying within two kilometres of your home, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere better.  I live in the house where I was born, in Crooke, directly opposite Duncannon Church on the Wexford side.  My daily 40-50 minute walk takes me past Geneva Barrack to the Barrack Strand, down the lane at Newtown and back towards Passage up onto the road again by Johnny’s Lane, between Burke’s shop and Crooke Chapel.  While the Lane has had more footfall in recent months due to the lockdown, it is still rare to meet anyone especially in the early mornings apart from a few locals, who like myself, walk it daily. 

Johnny Hearn, Crooke, Passage East. Breda Murphy collection

I know it as Johnny’s Lane, called after an old man who lived where Burke’s shop is now, called Johnny Hearn.  I have only the vaguest memory of Johnny and am not even sure if it is my memory or someone else’s but I remembered my mother showing me a photo of my cousin Dermot Heffernan with Johnny as she told me where the lane got its name.  With time on my hands, I recently sorted through my mother’s photos and memories.  I was delighted to come across this photo of Johnny and Dermot taken at the top of the lane, both deceased now RIP.  The Lane may have a new name now, as lanes are often called after those who live there, but to me it will always be Johnny’s Lane.     

  

Looking up towards Crooke, the Church on the right

The Lane has an abundance of wild life, with several ancient crab apple trees, ready for making Jelly in the autumn, elders with flowers in the spring and berries in the autumn both good for making wine, meadowsweet with its pungent smell on a damp summer morning, sloes still green but ready soon for Christmas sloe gin, the nettles and docks grow in abundant companionship, one ready to undo the deeds of the other.  A large branch from one of the crab apple trees fell last winter and the path has had to re-route around it while the broken branch is still growing apples. Left there, it provides cover for birds, wild animals, insects and plants.  Us humans giving way to the natural world for a change.    Without human upkeep the lane grows in abundance and reproduces and self-fertilises as it has done for ever.  Its deadwood is providing cover for years before rotting back into the ground.   In the spring the top of the lane is full of wild garlic releasing its strong smell underfoot on a crisp morning.

Nearing the shoreline

The Lane holds an untold history and many secrets. It has been the site of children’s camps and games and other devilment and still is no doubt.  The strand still holds the memory of the cockle women, my grandmother Ellie Murphy and Aunt Molly among them, who picked on a low tide, bent over, heads low, among the rocks on the strand below. They carried and carted sacks of cockle and winkles up this lane. Its stone ditches at either side, still visible in parts, are wide enough for an ass and cart for those lucky enough to have one.  Paddy Ryan recently told me that his mother Statia, daughter of cockle women Janey Organ, as a young girl helping her mother collapsed walking up the lane under the weight of the bag of cockles that she was carrying, damaging her hip.  She spent nine months in bed but her hip never healed and was unable to pick cockles again.  The injury impacted on her for the rest of her life.  Statia was a kind and lovely woman and a regular visitor to our house when I was a child.  I remember her playing ‘this little piggy’ with my toes, I was probably around the age of two.   

The magic of the scene when the tide is in

Some mornings as I head up the lane from the strand, I stop and look back and on a full tide with the sun rising and dancing on the water I feel thankful to the cockle women and others who lived in Crooke and Passage before us who saved this lane for us by walking it.  And though we can travel more freely again I continue to feel privileged to live in such a stunning place with this wonderful river that has provided for many of us who live here, in more ways than one.    

Submitted by Breda for Heritage Week 2020

the Clyde boats – Clyde Shipping company at Waterford

I was raised on stories of the Clyde boats such as the Rockabill or the Tuskar.  It wasn’t just because they passed the house on a regular basis, but they were major employers in the area, and were vital when it came to the export of cattle and other goods. We can’t ignore that there was also the connection to emigration and the loss that was felt when people went away, or the joy they felt on return, whether holiday or for longer. My father tended to take either of these ships as they sailed to Liverpool, where he was based sailing on English ships. My mother of course was more familiar with the Great Western. a rival company, that sailed to Fishguard and hence, for her at least, London.
Rockabill at Waterford circa 1954
Via Andy Kelly (Shortall CQ  47)
The Clyde boats of my parents generation of course represented the last of the ships and a fine coasting tradition that spanned well over 100 years.  The Clyde Shipping company started out life, unsurprisingly I guess given the name, in Glasgow on the banks of the River Clyde in 1815. As the company prospered it entered the Irish market in 1856, initially to Cork but quickly to other ports such as Waterford.  It was the backbone of the Irish goods trade, particularly in the South East, and Waterford as a result of its location was a pivotal hub. In 1912, the company bought the rival Waterford Steamship Company. (1)
Clyde Shipping poster from early 1900’s
featuring the SS Tuskar. Via Paul O’Farrell

To get a sense of the scale of the business here’s an advert from the Cork Examiner in 1878. (2)

CLYDE SHIPPING COMPANY
Regular Weekly Service between Cork, Skibereen, Schull, Bantry, Castletown-Berhaven, Valencia, Cahirciveen, Dingle &c., &c., by the Steamers “Rockabill” and “Fastnet”. For particulars of Sailings see separate Bills.
December, 1878
STEAM COMMUNICATION BETWEEN CORK, WATERFORD, DUBLIN, BELFAST 
AND GLASGOW
The Cheapest Route for Goods to and from the above Ports and Towns adjacent thereto.
The New and Powerful Screw Steamers 
COPELAND, SANDA, ARKLOW, WICKLOW, TOWARD, PORTLAND, 
RATHLIN, DUNMORE, FASTNET, ROCKABILL 
or other First-class Vessels, are intended to sail without Pilots, and with liberty to tow vessels and to call at any Port or Ports in any order in or out of the customary course, to Receive and Discharge Cargo, or for any other purpose whatsoever.
FROM CORK TO WATERFORD
TUESDAYS, 3rd, 10th, 17th and 31st December and on MONDAY 23rd December
FROM CORK TO DUBLIN via WATERFORD
TUESDAYS, 10th and 31st December
Via WATERFORD & GLASGOW,
TUESDAYS, 3rd and 17th, and Monday 23rd December
FROM CORK TO BELFAST, DIRECT
MONDAYS 9th and 16th December, and SATURDAYS 21st and 28th December
FROM CORK TO GLASGOW
Tuesday, 3rd Dec., via Waterford…12 Noon
Friday, 6th (direct) …2pm
Monday, 9th via Belfast…2pm
Tuesday, 10th, via Waterford & Dublin …3pm
Friday, 13th (direct) …5pm
Monday, 16th via Belfast …9pm
Tuesday, 17th, via Waterford …10am
Friday, 20th, (direct) …1pm
Saturday, 21st, via Belfast …2pm
Monday, 23rd, via Waterford …3pm
Saturday, 28th, via Belfast …5pm
Tuesday, 31st, via Waterford and Dublin …9am
Clyde Offices as they look today
Company motif over the upper windows

FROM WATERFORD TO CORK

Wednesdays, 4th 11th, and 18th December …1pm
Thursday, 26th December …1pm
Fridays, 6th, 13th and 20th December …1pm
FROM DUBLIN TO CORK (Direct)
Saturday, 7th December …8pm
Saturday, 14th December …4pm
Saturday 21st December …7pm
Saturday, 28th December …4pm

FROM BELFAST TO CORK, via, GLASGOW
MONDAYS, 2nd, 23rd, and 30th December.
WEDNESDAYS, 11th and 18th December.

FROM GLASGOW TO CORK
Every Monday, via Waterford …1pm
Every Wednesday, via Waterford …1pm
Every Friday, via Dublin …1pm
Except during Christmas and New Year Holidays, when Sailings will be
Tuesday, 24th December, via Waterford …1pm
Friday, 27th December via Dublin …1pm
Tuesday, 31st December via Waterford …1pm
Caledonian Railway to Greenock, 6pm

FARES

                                                                                Cabin.          Return,   Deck
                                                Cork to Waterford …   9s          …    14s   …   5s?*
                                                Cork to Dublin      …   10s        …    15s   …   5s?     
                                                Cork to Belfast      …   17s 6d   …   —     …   ?
                                                Cork to Glasgow   …   17s 6d   …   25s   ….   ?
   Children above (?two) and under twelve years of age half fare
Return Tickets, available for One Month, not Transferable

Note.- The Clyde Shipping Co. insure all goods shipped by this Line of Steamers at 3s 4d per (cont.?) to Traders having yearly agreements, and 5s, per (cont?) to occasional shippers. Values to be declared at time of shipment. Forms and information to be had at the offices.

For Rates of Freight , &c., apply to
Clyde Shipping Co., Queen Street Limerick;
Clyde Shipping Co., Custom House Quay, Waterford;
Clyde Shipping Co., 21, Eden Quay, Dublin;
James Maddock, Newport [Mon.];
J.C. Pinkerton. 10 Victoria Street, Belfast;
Clyde Shipping Co., Custom House Place Greenock;
Clyde Shipping Co., 2, Oswald Street, Glasgow;
CLYDE SHIPPING COMPANY
Patrick’s Quay, Cork
(10588)

The above gives some sense of scale to the operation.  On the list of ships it was noteworthy that the two ships most closely recognised with Waterford, the Coningbeg and Formby did not feature.  Their dual loss in 1917 would  rock the city and harbour. I was interested to note that the company had the right to sail without pilotage into and out of ports, normally a good revenue for the port, and one that would not be lightly waived. Also intrigued to see how prevalent it was for steam ships to offer towing facilities. Obviously the golden age of sail was coming to an end, but the need for becalmed sailing ships to get to port or sea was a lucrative business.  Perhaps the most interesting point I found was the willingness to call to any port to discharge or take cargo. It might explain why a ship of coasting size was at Cheekpoint in the photo below.
Unidentified large ship at Cheekpoint circa 1900
NLI Poole Collection
It was also interesting to see so many familiar ships names in this very old notice. Needless to say, the Rockabill mentioned in the ad was a different vessel. From the 1860s, there was a tradition of naming ships in the company after lighthouses, or lightships. In all 32 names were used, some on up to five different vessels(3). As can be seen the Waterford company offices were located on Customs House Quay.  The offices finally closed in 1967 and I believe the last sailing of a Clyde boat from the city, at least under the company flag was Rockabill in 1968 (but I’m happy to be corrected on this point). Ending a very proud tradition indeed.

* Some parts of the paper were difficult to read, if not illegible. I’ve added a ? where I was unsure of the text, and left it blank where I was totally unsure.

(1) McElwee. R.  The Last Voyage of the Waterford Steamers.
(2) Cork Examiner, 13/12/1878, P.4
(3) Here’s a full list of the company ships 

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.
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Henry II lands at Crooke

This coming week will see another significant historic anniversary.  For on the 16th October 1171 Henry II launched his fleet which beached on the 17th at Crooke in Waterford Haven as the harbour was then known. As he stepped ashore he became the first foreign king to do so and it represented the loss of our country’s sovereignty which would endure for 750 years.

There are many intriguing political, religious and entrepreneurial reasons for the Norman invasion of Ireland that began in 1169 on the invitation of an Irish chieftain; Dermot McMurrough.  The upshot of it all was the arrival of Henry II, then king of England, Wales and northern France as a means of cementing his authority and control over his new dominion.  We would do well to also remember he had papal authority for his conquest in his back pocket!

Arrival of King Henry II in Waterford James William Edmund Doyle (1864)

It is speculated that 400 ships* were required to carry the kings invaders, estimated at 4000**. Apart from the vista this number of ships must have created in the harbour, it is fascinating to consider the logistics.  500 knights were said to be among them.  That would mean at least 500 horses (although it seems knights took at least two horses along, and then more for carrying, drawing carts etc).  The horses were transported which would have been beached and unloaded via the stern.  Its likely that the capacity of the time was between 12-30 horses per ships called Taride.  There were the much feared archers and foot soldiers also. Along with attendants, cooks, religious, servants and hangers-on.  I found this account to the invasion plan for the battle of Agincourt, which although two centuries later gives some sense of the headaches of organising such a campaign.

Horses and men being transported on the Bayeux Tapestry
via http://cruisereader.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Bayeux-Landing.jpg

The Pipe Rolls help provide an insight into the scale and costs associated with it.  This included the hire of ships; pay of masters, seamen, and artificers; payments for horses and their passage; and other provisions and implements such as; hogs, wheat, oats, beans, cheese, supplies of axes, hand-mills (presumably for milling the wheat) and ovens for baking their bread.  Implements included pre-fabricated wooden towers for assembling atop mottes, bridges for fording streams and spades, pick-axes, nails to do the building work.

A rainy Passage East strand at high tide yesterday

Although the landscape at Passage East / Crooke has changed over the centuries, it’s most likely that a beach similar to what now exists, if less vast, was on hand.  It’s said that the whole landing took the day, and that they camped overnight before departing for the city the following day.  In my own opinion the route they took must have been through Faithlegg, based on the local placename, Strongbows Bridge, which is on the main Cheekpoint Waterford road, just before Jack Meades, at the junction with Carraiglea.  Based on this I’d speculate (see map) Henry and his entourage came via Knockroe (A) or Kill St Nicholas(B) (and possibly both) and via Strongbows Bridge (C) in Carraiglea and on past Jack Meades and into Waterford. The present main road from Passage is marked in red and was a later construction

The possible routes marked in blue.

Henry arrived at the gates of Waterford on the Feast of St Luke, 18th October.  From there he took the subjugation of the Norman mercanaries, who had managed to sweep the Irish from power in the SE, and Irish chiefs led by Dermot McCarthy, prince of Desmond. Before leaving Waterford he dedicated a new church on the western side of the city to Thomas a Becket (on Thomas’ Hill) which will be subject to an article in the forthcoming History Ireland magazine by my good friend Damien McLellan.  Henry left from Wexford on Easter Monday 1172, never to return.  But many followed in his wake.  A topic I’ve covered previously in my piece A harbour fit for a King

* I’ve also seen a smaller figure of 240 mentioned but most sources quote 400.  I’ve read no analysis of the figures.
** Again 4,000 troops is mentioned as a minimum in almost every account. Some add 500 knights to it, others add attendants, squires etc.  It’s possible the 4,000 actually covers the entire entourage including ships captains and crews, which would diminish the actual invasion force considerably.

Byrne. N. The Irish Crusade.  2007.  Linden. Dublin
Power. P.C> History of Waterford. City & County.  1990. Mercier Press. Dublin