Water water everywhere…

Politicians in Ireland are currently at each others throats
on the matter of water
charges
.  Whatever your political
views, which probably lie on or between two polar opposites – that water is a
human right and should be provided free out of existing taxes, to water should be privatised and
turned into a commodity – my philosophical view is that water is a valuable resource
which should be cherished.

My grandmother,
Nanny, thought me a lot about valuing water, or as she put it “sparing”
it.  She would pour water from the tap
into a plastic basin which sat in her Belfast sink in the kitchen every
morning.  Very often the water would
rinse an egg from under a chicken before it was boiled for breakfast, do several rinses of dishes during the day
and her to wash her hands as required.  It might be
topped up with water being drained from steamed spuds or veg.  Usually it was early evening or night time
before the basin water was thrown out, but never discarded.  No, it went on plants in pots, a shrub in the
garden or maybe to wash the steps. 

We often chided her about it, but of course to her it was
just a habit.  Nanny would tell us about
walking as child to the wells to draw water. 
It was the child’s job and was done as soon as they were strong enough.  It was a daily chore, seven days a week
and had to be done even before she would go to school in the morning and on her return.  It was also a
woman’s job, as her brothers would have been fishing as soon as they could pull
an oar.

Spring well at Barn Quay
The
closest well in the Russianside was on the strand between Morans Poles and
Whelans Road.  This was 200 yards away
and was a steep climb up to the house with the filled pails, one in each
hand.  Sometimes this was tainted with
seawater following a flood or a storm. 
She would need to wait then for her father and the neighbours to remove
the seaweed and flotsam, pour lime into it to cleanse it and then give it a few days to
settle.  While waiting she would need to
walk to Ryans Quay a further 300 yards to the nest nearest well.

She was born in 1919 and it was not until the early 1950’s
that the council constructed the new house and provided the luxury of a tap
outside.  In the 1960s, Chris Sullivan
(who did all the odd jobs around when he wasn’t fishing) put a new tap and
Belfast sink into her back kitchen.  But
although the water flowed her old habits remained.

The other water source she valued was the water barrel.  She had one at the front and back, placed
under the down pipe of the gutters and she often used it to wash, saying her
hair was always softer after the rainwater. 
She also vowed that it was much better for watering plants.

One of the wells that still is in use is the well pictured above at the Barn Quay.  We often drink from it and to my mind it tastes delicious.  The Teen’s told me that Jenny O’Brien recently did a science project for school in water analysis and used the water from the well which emerges out of the cliff face where once there was a Slate quarry.  Apparently the water was pure and free of any pollution.

The other wells that I can recall; one in the high street
under Margaret and Des O’Keffee’s , one in the basement of Daisybank House, one in the Rookery, one in the Marsh under
Mahon’s (now Ray McGraths), three in
Coolbunnia; by Ned Powers  as you head up
the Hurthill, below Everetts (where Malachy & Michelle Doherty now live)
and at “Maggie Mooncoins” below my brother Robert’s.  The nicest well water I remember was at Larry
Cassins on the Old Road.  As children we
often stopped with my mother to slake our thirst.  He would come out with some mugs and
distribute them round to us as my mother filled them from an earthenware jug
that was always available. I have no doubt but there were many others.

Water Pump on the Green, Cheekpoint

I’m not sure when the
water pumps were added to the village landscape, but there were two.  The first is still in place on the village
green and was in use into the 1980s. Pat Murphy of the Green told me it was
there before his family arrived in the 1940’s. 
It’s still a beautiful feature but if memory serves it was painted green when I was a child.  The other was at the cross roads, between the
present shop and my Uncle Sonny’s house. 
It was removed by the council in the early 1990’s. 

According to a recent piece I read in the Irish Independent by Damien Corless (09/08/14), wells were built across the country following the discovery by John Snow in London, that Cholera was spread by dirty water.  The discovery in 1854, led to a building boom of parish pumps across the UK including Ireland – which had been ravaged by cholera at the end of the famine period.  Perhaps the Cheekpoint pumps date from that period. 

Some recent maps I’ve seen would tend to support this view.  Looking on the OSI site at their historic maps of Ireland I learned that some of the first maps produced of the area, Historic 6″ map doesn’t show the well on the green, these were drawn between 1829-41.  However, it is shown on the Historic 25″ maps which were dated 1897-1913.  So at least we can see for certain that it dates from 1913, and most probably earlier.

De La Salle scouts having a drink at the well on Green 1969
photo courtesy of Brendan Grogan

Pat Moran remembers walking up the Mount to a
tap on the road by Josephine Elliots, so perhaps the council were supplying water in other
areas using a similar method.  Pat was a child at the time so it would have been in the mid to late 1950’s. His story got me thinking about a tap at Joanie Hanlons (where Charlie and Paul Hanlon now live) which was inside her hedge but away from the house.  I always wondered why it would not have been placed on her house wall.  Maybe it served the Russianside in a similar way.

Nanny’s habit of water conservation was learned at an early age, and her valuing
of water lasted her lifetime.  It was
something to be spared and used with consideration.  There’s a lesson there for us all whatever
our political outlook.  And in the future
it could save us a lot of money.

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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2 Replies to “Water water everywhere…”

  1. i use to put aunt katies bucket at the well were o keffes is now , use to be a few buckets their statia morans, mary hanlons , biddy kirbys , water run down through a harts tongue fern into the bucket clerariest and tastiest water ever , just take your bucket and replace the next one in the que, then lug it back across the road and up on to aunt katies settle. hard times but happy times for me

    1. Paddy, thanks for reminding me – there was a big social element to gathering water as you say. As a child I was more interested in the actual work, and how hard it seemed. much appreciate you taking the time to comment. Andrew

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