Passage East Quarantine Hospital

The quarantine station at Passage East was used in the past as a place where sick sailors could be held under observation, to ensure that the ports of Waterford and New Ross were protected from diseases such as Cholera.  I first heard of it as a child when fishing, as it was often mentioned as a placename, when we drifted downriver for salmon. The site is above the village of Passage on the Waterford side and it was little more than a step on the rivers edge in those days.  But the story had the power to scare, and I never once went near the location for fear of catching the plague!
OSI Historic map excerpt of the hospital
The stories I heard were of ships calling to the harbour being held at Passage and Ballyhack until they were cleared by customs to continue upriver to Waterford and New Ross. Captains were required to report the health of the ships company, and any sick sailors were expected to be declared, either to the custom officials directly or by the hoisting of a flag (the yellow jack) which led to a punt being rowed out to the vessel and the sailor, or sailors being taken ashore to the hospital. The ship was then anchored away from others to await news of the sailor. In some cases it appears that ships coming from ports where illnesses had been reported, could expect to be detained. They would anchor away from others, and I had heard there was an actual spot near Buttermilk for excluding ships.
Passage Hospital via Paul O'Farrell and from an original via NLI
panoramic album photos circa 1907/8.
http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000284024#page/1/mode/1up
Quarantine has a long history, most probably originating with the black death in Europe in the 14th Century where it took millions of lives. The concerns for ship borne diseases grew and from the early 1700's laws were enacted in the UK and Ireland to protect ports and citizenry. In some cases ships were used to guard harbours, here's an example from Liverpool. Evidence about the local hospital however is scarce, and apart from the local folklore (always in my experience containing many grains of truth) little seems to be written about the building or its history. Online sources deal with the issue of quarantine in general, and highlight just how prevalent it was at all the major ports*.

The earliest mention I could find in the newspapers for Passage was from 1884 (1). Under a heading of Waterford Board of Guardians, we are told via a sub heading of a meeting of the board (best known for their overseeing of the workhouses and administering the poor laws). There are efforts afoot to take back control of the Quarantine Hospital, the keys of which were then in the hands of a builder who had refurbished the building at a cost of £200.(2)
Quarantine ship at Standgate Creek (Medway)
By Unknown - UK National Maritime Museum, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47865275
In June 1905 the Waterford Standard (3) covers another meeting of the Board, and the minutes reveal a letter received from the workhouse, seeking permission for sick children to be allowed attend Passage Hospital. The Board however, is no longer in charge. It passed to the control of the Waterford and New Ross Port Sanitary Authority in 1904.
HMS Hazard flying the yellow jack 1841
source: National Maritime Museum, London
In 1910 we learn of a dispute amongst members of the Waterford and New Ross Port Sanitary Authority where the building is referred to as an Intercepting Hospital(4). Following a cholera outbreak in Russia and three cholera incidents; on two separate ships in London (where a quarantine hospital is based close to Gravesend), and an incident in Italy, a circular has issued from the Local Government Board of Ireland urging the need for up to date disinfecting devices to treat the clothing and bedding of quarantined sailors. The article provides lots of heat, by way of argument, but not much light! Readers will be delighted to hear that a sub committee was to be formed, if any cases arose.

The most recent mention comes from 1949 (5), when we are told the Intercepting Hospital which was under the control of the Waterford and New Ross Port Sanitary Authority has passed to the control of the Health Authority.  

To conclude what better than a memory from a member of the fishing community. Eamon Duffin shares this recollection with me from a fishing trip in the 1950's;
I remember calling in there with my grandfather, Jimmy Duffin, on the way back from salmon fishing. There was a concrete landing stage with iron railings. The building was of rusting galvanised sheets. You could see old iron beds with bedclothes and pillows thrown on them and on the floor. There were bottles and jars and dressings strewn about also. That was as far as we got as my grandfather said that, "you wouldn't know what you'd catch if you went in".
The landing stage as it looks now
My thanks to Paul O'Farrell, John O'Sullivan, James Doherty, Bernard Cunningham, Pat Moran and Eamon Duffin for assistance with this piece

Since publication Paul O'Farrell sent on the following list of Irish quarantine stations on the Island of Ireland, from government papers dated 1828  -
  • Poolbeg in the harbour of Dublin
  • Warren point in the harbour of Newry
  • near Garmoyle in the harbour of Belfast
  • Tarbert in the River Shannon, harbour of Limerick,
  • Baltimore,
  • Passage on the River Suir, Harbour of Waterford,
  • White Gate, Cove of Cork
  • Green Castle, Lough Foyle and
  • Black Rock, Galway Bay
Also a link I have since found, dating an order for the establishment at Passage to 1824
http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/9788/page/214351

(1) Waterford Mirror.  Thursday December 18th 1884.
(2)  It struck me that the sum mentioned is a lot of money at the time. The other point it raises is that there must have been a preexisting building to refurbish
(3) Waterford Standard. Saturday June 5th 1905.
(4) Waterford Standard. Friday October 21st. 1910
(5) Waterford Standard. Saturday June 11th 1949


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 connect with me to receive the blog every week.  Simply email me to request to be added to my email list at russianside@gmail.com. 





Comments

  1. Arrr, Jim lad, Yellow Jack is also sailor-slang for Yellow Fever which had a wide impact on things nautical - Suez Canal for starters:
    http://blobthescientist.blogspot.ie/2016/02/yellow-jack.html

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  2. Another great one Andrew. Could not help but think of a time in the future when our knowledge will be shared by thought transference and they quote "Andrew Doherty from way back in 2017"??? Loved the read and thanks for Reg mention.

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  3. Hi Andrew, my great,great grandfather, John "Jack" Donnelly was a River Pilot based in Passage East, county Waterford. He was awarded an engraved silver fog-watch for his part in a heroic sea rescue off the coast in 1910. Any idea of the story behind this event? cathy Donnelly Dye

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    Replies
    1. I meant to say fob-watch, sorry. Cathy Donnelly Dye, Firth, Idaho USA

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    2. Hi Cathy, That's intriguing...I don't know anything about it, but I would be delighted to follow it up. If you want to send me an email to russianside@gmail.com it might be a more effective way of keeping in touch on it.
      Kind Regards, Andrew

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