Faithlegg Graveyard's Palm Tree -symbol of love

Have you ever wondered why a palm tree stands in Faithlegg graveyard. It marks the grave of Captain Rudolph Udvardy, a Hungarian Sea Captain. He fell ill while aboard his ship the SS Honved at Cheekpoint in 1932 and eventually died.


I blogged an account of it before through a story well known in Cheekpoint following the removal of his coffin to Faithlegg, called the Night the Devil came for the Captains corpse.

The Point Lass bringing the Captain's body ashore
His wife Rosa was aboard the SS Honved at the time, and she offered a bereft sight to the congregation when the Captain was laid to rest. The ship subsequently departed the harbour, and I believe his widow was aboard.  She was never to return.

She communicated by letter to the village to the family of Paddy Heffernan of Ryan's Shore.  And I understand that the palm tree arrived as a small plant in a package sometime between 1932-34, with a request that it be placed as a marker on the grave.  Her last letter was worded thus:

(?) Udvardy (?)
Carnaro, Italy
25.10.1935

My Dear Mr Paddy,

All Saints Day will soon be here again & my thoughts, as always are with my (late) husband.  I am deeply grieved to say that this year it is absolutely impossible to send money for the mass & flowers. It is strictly prohibited to send it out of the country.

I will have the Mass (read) here, I beg you to see that the grave is in order, and place a few simple flowers and a candle on it.

Furthermore, (following) your kindness of (heart), I ask you to (place) a flower on the grave on the following dates: Birthday 21st December, Wedding day 28th February, (?) day 17th April, Death 2nd September.  I cannot be there in person, the distance is so great, and I beg you to do it for me.

Dear Mr Paddy when all the (political) trouble is over and everything is normal again, I will send the money to cover all the expenses.

As a mark of my respect for you in have (enclosed) a photograph of my dear husband.  The little picture is the (famous) road Church of (Tersalli) which stands on the hill near here.

We are having dreadful weather (?) now, heavy rainstorms, & (sudden) changes of temperature. There is every sign that winter is approaching.

How are you and your dear family getting on?  I expect you are also having bad weather in your country.

Now dear Mr Paddy I thank you again for your (?) kindness and feel sure you will do what I have asked of you (here)

Wishing to be kindly remembered to your wife and dear children.

I remain
Yours Gratefully,

Rosa Udvardy

This was the last letter that Rosa wrote.  We have put in brackets the words we are unsure of.  The Mr Paddy was Paddy Heffernan of Ryans Shore, known as the Shag because, like the seabird, he was a great swimmer.  His home and family were obviously a great comfort to Rosa at the time of her husband's illness and subsequent death.

His wife need not have worried however.  The grave was marked by a very distinctive iron fabricated cross which John Sullivan could tell me Jimmy Shanahan had some connection with.  (Coincidentally or perhaps not, the grave is located beside the Shanahan plot too)

Some years back, the rusted grave marker crumbled to dust.  But a simple stone marker sprung up in it's place.  I only know that the headstone was a donation from an anonymous donor.  As a child I recall that flowers occasionally appeared on the grave.  Perhaps the following letter may explain it more.

The reason this was Rosa's last letter we can only speculate.  Perhaps the address is the most instructive. The Honved was registered in the port of Fuime  which was in a disputed region called the Regency of Carnaro, the address used by Rosa in the letter.  The area was historically fractious and had seen an ebb and flow of rulers and governments down the years.  The difficulties raised in the letter refer to the political situation caused under the government of Mussolini and his fascist Italian state.  During WWII tensions boiled over with regular attacks by partisans in retaliation for axis attacks, and following the war the area fell under the rule of Yugoslavia. The city of Fuime is now known as Rijeka. and is part of Croatia.


In this context it is no surprise that Rosa's letters dried up.  One can only speculate, but it would not be hard to imagine that in the context of political unrest and subsequent war that simple everyday activities such as posting a letter might become impossible.  It's also possible, if not probably, that Rosa herself became a casualty of such strife.  Surely had she survived, even as a refugee in another state, some subsequent letter would have emerged.

The letter itself was painful for us to read.  The love and affection for her departed husband is obvious, and the comfort she would have gained from knowing that the grave was still cared for would, I feel, have been immense.  Sitting on his grave Sunday fortnight, the 28th, the anniversary of their marriage, I couldn't help wonder about her. Reunited again, no doubt, at this stage, perhaps the upkeep is no longer so important.  And yet maintained it is, and maybe, because of the Palm tree she sent, one of the most notable graves in the graveyard.

The Captain's grave, and Rosa's Tree
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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and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
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Next weeks blog, a question I have been asking since childhood:  What happened to the MV Honved?

I have to thank the work of Jim Doherty (RIP) and his book, the Next House which he self published in the 1990's and from which I got a very hazy copy of Rosa's handwritten letter transcribed above.  I also want to thank my wife Deena and daughter Hannah for helping me to try decipher what the letter said.

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