As part of this years Imagine Arts Festival, Deena and I were asked to lead a walk in our local community on a theme reflecting our heritage and arts. To do this we thought about the many songs, stories, poetry and prose that surround our area and reflect our rich maritime heritage. So the walk that departs this morning from Faithlegg Church at 11am is a walk that celebrates the big river, or more accurately rivers ( Barrow, Nore and Suir), that inspire and continually enrich our lives.
Our history stretches long back into antiquity. Gael, Viking, Norman and English have entered the harbour here and used it as a route to open up the entire country. When Ptolmy drew a map of the known world in 2 AD he included Ireland, and a River Birgos, long considered the Barrow. The parish of Faithlegg itself was gifted to a Bristol merchant named Aylward following the entry of King Henry II through Waterford this past week in 1171. Those Bristol men played a significant role in the development of the port, as did the Norman knights and religious orders that followed.
The Aylwards managed to weather many political storms until the arrival of Cromwell put and end to their reign of the area, when it passed to the Bolton family. The last Bolton, Cornelius left us Faithlegg House which he sold to the catholic Powers in 1816. We have the powers to thank for the modern church. Throughout these times Waterford continued to trade and prosper.
A sense of where the area was at is reflected in this piece from a man we have heard from before on the blog. Arthur Young, and his Tour in Ireland 1776-79 from which we take the following:
"The number of people who go as passengers in the Newfoundland ships is amazing; from 60-80 ships and from 3000 to 5000 persons annually. They come from most parts of Ireland; from Cork Kerry etc. Experienced men will get £18 to £25 for the season, from March to November; a man who never went will have £5 to £7 and his passage, and others rise to £20, the passage out they get but pay home £2. An industrious man in a year will will bring home £12 to £16 with him, and some more. A great point for them is to be able to carry all their slops (work clothes)for everything there is extremely dear, 100 or 200% dearer than they can get them at home. They are not allowed to take out any woollen goods but for their own use. The ships go loaded with porrk, beef, butter, and some salt, and bring home passengers, or get freights when they can; sometimes rum.
The Waterford pork comes principally from the barony of Iverk in Kilkenny, where they fatten great numbers of hogs; for many weeks together they kill here 3000 to 4000 a week, the price 50s. to £4 each; goers chiefly to Newfoundland. There is a foundry at Waterford for pots, kettles, weights and all common utensils; and a manufactory of anvils to anchors etc., which employs 40 hands. There are two sugar houses, and many salt-houses...
There is a fishery upon the coast for a great variety of fish, herrings, particularly at the mouth of Waterford Harbour...There are some premium boats here...
The butter trade of Waterford has increased greatly for seven years past; it comes from Waterford principally , but much from Carlow...the slaughter trade has increased...Eighty ships of sail now belonging to the port, twenty years ago not thirty...
The finest object is the quay, which is unrivaled by any I have seen..."
So Waterford as a city and the rivers that formed her harbour were a busy and prosperous place at this point, and it would continue to flourish long into the following century. But a variety of circumstances began to undermine that prosperity and I'm probably guilty of a lot of nostalgia in what I write when I reflect weekly on where we are now, not just as a city, or a port but also our once rich fisheries. When ever I hear the Jimmy Nail song Big River, it stops me in my tracks as I listen to his elegy for the hard work and vitality that was the River Tyne and its heavy industry. I don't get any sense of what the future of the Tyne is in it however (lyrics here). But I do get a sense of a future in our rivers.
|Faithlegg Churches 13th & 19th C|
Our walk this morning is not meant to be nostalgic. It's meant to communicate the rich history and heritage imbued in the buildings, pathways and vistas that surround us. Its meant to explore what they once meant and what the yet might become. It is story, song, poetry and prose of a past, a present and hopefully a future.
The walk is free and booking is via the Imagine Arts Festival Office at 083 313 3273 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales T https://twitter.com/tidesntales