I recently had some American and English visitors on a tour of the village. I found it interesting to hear their thoughts on the area and I always get as much from their perspectives and questions as I ever give. In the same way the perspective of others from years back can be very illustrative and informative about our country or our locality. I have used the travels of Arthur Young before to illustrate what life was like in Faithlegg and Cheekpoint in the late 18th C. But today we have a German visitor, JG Kohl, who traveled from Waterford to New Ross on a paddle steamer whilst touring Ireland in the autumn of 1842.
Waterford possesses two prominent features which are of the greatest advantage to its trade: first, one of the most wonderful quays in the world; and, secondly, one of the finest harbours in Ireland. The quay is a mile long, and so broad and convenient withal, that it must be invaluable to merchants and mariners. It is skirted by a row of elegant houses; and the scenery on the opposite side of the river, which is here a mile and a half wide, is extremely picturesque.
|Waterford later in the century, but highlighting how busy it was|
Had I not been in Scotland, and sailed down the Firth" of Clyde, I would pronounce this trip on the arms of Waterford Harbour to be the finest in the United Kingdom. Or, were there not much that is beautiful out of the United Kingdom, I could also say that it is the most delightful journey I ever made in my life. But it is sufficient to affirm that the landscape on the shores of these waters is as picturesque, pleasing, and diversified in its kind as any other in the world. The waters flow through the deep and convenient bays somewhat more quickly than through a lake; and as its entrance from the sea is concealed from the spectator by a very sudden turn, he actually believes he is on an inland-lake, and is astonished at the large ships which ascend it, seeking harbours hidden far in the heart of the land. At times the shore is a hill, sloping down to the water, which, like almost every river-bank in the United Kingdom, is studded with charming seats and pleasure-grounds; at others, it juts out in steep, rocky, and wooded headlands, which the Repealer almost grazes as she speeds past.
At no great distance
below United Kingdom are seen, in the background of a bay, the immense ruins of
the far-famed Abbey of Dunbrody, one of the most celebrated and beautiful ruins
of Ireland, which are here held in about the same estimation as the ruins of
Melrose are in Scotland. Alas! they are now, like the times of their grandeur,
in the far distance; and the Repealer has too much to do with the opposition
steamer, which is walking close upon her heels, and forces her to keep her
straightforward way, to turn from her course, and give the traveller a look at
the ruined abbey. In truth, it afforded us no little amusement to see our
rival, as she was about to turn into the mouth of the Barrow, run aground on a
sand-bank, where, as our captain drily observed, she must stick till the tide
would rise somewhat higher, and float her off. As for the Repealer, being
obliged to be at New Ross by a certain time, she soon left Dunbrody far behind,
and splashed away with the flowing tide up the Barrow. The British Islands must
reap important benefits from the double alternating currents, one landwards,
the other seawards, of the navigable rivers. In no other country do the waters
of the sea flow so far inland, bearing ships into the very heart of the
|An example of the paddle steamer trade, PS IDA|
Via Andy Kelly
|Kohl's view of the meeting of the three sister rivers, |
without the Barrow railway viaduct
The evening was wondrously calm, and even the fishes, though still poorer than Paddy, jumped in the water for joy. I planted myself beside the captain, on the high platform in the centre of the vessel, and, while I observed the grave and serious rich on the quarter-deck, and the merry poor in the forecastle, I could not refrain from praising the justice of God, who, while he makes man poor, at the same time renders him more capable of taking delight in the most trifling things.
The beautiful seats of the Powers, the Asmonds, and other families which lay along the banks, are all so charming that one would like to take a sketch of each separately. Near Castle Ennis, in a broad beautiful meadow, stands the largest, most lordly, and picturesque oak I ever saw. One looks on these mansions with increased interest, if, as I had, he has an Irish priest as confessant at his side, who, from being intrusted with the private affairs of the families that reside in them, can give him a sketch of the history of each. While I listened to my priestly confessant, I was somewhat amazed at the extra-ordinary things which happen in the usual every-day life of these families. In one of these mansions there yet dwells an old lady, the widow of one of the most distinguished of those rebels who were beheaded by the English during the last rebellion in Ireland.
As we passed a rock, our cannon were fired, in memory of a sailor, who, some months previously, had fallen overboard at this spot, and was drowned. The reports were re-echoed from the rock, and the manes of the dead were no doubt highly gratified by the honour thus conferred upon them.
|New Ross 1832, a few years before his visit|
Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16131871
Johann Georg Kohl (1808-1878) was a German scholar, cartographer and geographer, who visited Ireland in 1842. His intention was to see it "without any object in view other than to become acquainted with the country, and to see everything that was interesting and remarkable in it" He was a native of Bremen, and he studied and traveled widely and was noted for his unbiased perspective. As such his views on Waterford and the harbour should be seen and judged in this light. A man after my own heart, you might say!
I'm only speculating that the Repealer was a paddle steamer, but most ships involved in the Waterford New Ross or Waterford Duncannon ferry trade were to my knowledge. I had not heard of the Repealer before but an online thread suggests she was brought in as a rival to challenge the Waterford New Ross Steam navigation company but only lasted some months.
Extracts taken from J. G. Kohl, Travels in Ireland, translated from the German, (London 1844)
You can read the entire book here
Thanks to Frank Murphy for his kind assistance.
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