The night the “devil” came for the captains corpse

I was raised on the story of Captain Udvardy’s grave in Faithlegg, which is marked with a very distinctive palm tree  My grandmother was a young girl at the time, and was a front-seat witness to the affair, and had played a cameo role in the tale.  Despite all the stories I was told, there was one she omitted but which I was told much later in life.  The story of the “devil” coming for the captain’s corpse.
In 1932, a Hungarian sea captain, Rudolph Udvardy, who was master of the MV Honved, was in the port of Waterford with a cargo of Maize.  To free up berth space, the Honved dropped down to Cheekpoint, where she anchored while the ship waited for an outgoing cargo.  (Following the Market crash there was a shipping slump, and ships struggled to find cargo)  Apparently Captain Udvardy was already ill when entering port.  So he continued to receive medical attention when at anchor off the Russsianside, Cheekpoint. The doctor traveled over from Dunmore East, and was regularly rowed out from Moran’s poles to the ship by my grandmothers brothers, who also waited to return him to shore.
gathering at Faithlegg church gates
As the ship had only limited stores, the crew were forced to forage for food to supplement their diet. The village rallied around.  Fish was dropped alongside, and items such as bread, milk, and other supplies were shared.  My grandmothers’ cameo came one morning when as a young girl she was going around her chores before walking off to school.  Coming out of the house with an ash bucket she walked straight into a man.  But it was no ordinary man. A man with dark skin and dark curly hair.  She dropped her ash bucket in terror and turned to run, the dark man reached out for her and started to speak with a strange accent, she managed to break free, just as her mother came out the door.  She fled into her parent’s bedroom and crawled in under the bed.  She was still there when her brother Christy came in later that evening and he finally managed, what everyone else failed to do, to entice her out from her hiding place.
The captain’s body leaving his ship for the last time aboard the
“Point Lass” with Billy & Denny Doherty (The Green)
She told him all about the “coal man” and how he terrified her,  and Christy, in turn, told her about the Arab sailors that helped make up the crew of the Hónved and how their skin was different from our own. Ali would become a familiar visitor to the house, coming as he did on the instruction of her father to get eggs, vegetables, or spuds.  She was never comfortable around him, but he used to whistle to announce his coming, which gave her time to get to her mother’s side.
Alas, the Captain died on Friday 2nd September 1932.  And he was removed next day to Faithlegg on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Later that night the chapel-woman (I think it was Statia Nugent, an aunt to my grandmother) went to lock the church door.  As she was about to close it out she noticed a silhouette near to the altar. Moving closer she could hear a low mumbling sound.  Terrified, she turned on her heels and ran to her home – The lodge at Faithlegg gates.  There she explained what she had witnessed to her husband and another man who was there playing cards.  There was a lot of talk about the devil coming for the captain, there was a lot of winking amongst the men too.
They agreed to accompany her back to the church.  Strolling in, they had a light step, but this froze at the back of the church when they too heard sounds.  More cautious now, they scooped up some holy water and began to inch forward, splashing it as they went, hoping it would be enough to keep any evil away.  In the darkness nothing could be seen, but as they inched forward, the mumbling could be discerned to words, strange and foreign words.  Panic was rising amongst the three and the holy water was being splashed with abandon when one of them stumbled and emitted a cry.  All went silent, no mumbling could be heard, and then a whisper came from the area where the Captains coffin stood. Someone was asking who was there, in broken English and in a strange tongue, but human undoubtedly.
Moving forward the protectors of the Captains coffin were confronted by the Arab crew,  They did not understand the Christian custom of leaving the coffin on its own in the Church overnight.  Their custom, they explained, was to remain.
The chapel was left open that night and next morning the Captain’s body was committed to foreign soil.  The grave was surrounded by his officers and crew.  And there was a huge turnout from the area, a turnout as befitted a sailor who died so far away from his family, something well known to the village of Cheekpoint.
The graveside, bedecked in local flowers
The ship remained for a few more weeks, and finally with a new Captain sailed out the harbour. His wife would later send a small plant in a pot, asking that it be planted to mark her husband’s grave. She need not have worried, however.  His grave was originally marked by a very distinctive metal plaque (John Sullivan could tell me that this was made by Jimmy Shanahan (RIP)) and when this finally disintegrated, a local benefactor provided the headstone that now marks his last resting place.  Flowers still appear on the grave from time to time,  A reflection of how deep the connection to the events that autumn in 1932 went.
Udvardy Rezso: Elt So Evet, Szept 2 1932. Beke Hamvaria.
Sea Captain Honved, Nationality Hungarian. Died aboard Ship Honved at Cheekpoint

Photo credit:  I took copies of the three photos above from an article by John O’Connor in the Munster Express a few years back.  My grandmother had a full set of photos, as did many others in the village, but these are no longer at home.  One of the ships officers had a camera and took several photos in the village at the time.  He made several copies and posted them back, I’m guessing in some token of appreciation for the kindness shown.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
F  T

2 Replies to “The night the “devil” came for the captains corpse”

  1. Very interesting! The link with the sea and the wider world is often taken for granted or forgotten by people in Waterford. Over the years there must have been hundreds of different nationalities in and out of the port and I would imagine most of them have good memories of Waterford hospitality!

  2. thanks for commenting, yes, the harbour and ports of Waterford and New Ross, and the smaller villages like Cheekpoint, Passage, Ballyhack etc were very different places in years gone by, ships passing or calling, fishermen coming and going, and lots of jobs associated with the water. Much has changed but lots of evidence of the past still about

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