Visiting Minaun Hill

One of the most beautiful views, and quieter walks that you will find in in East Waterford is the Minaun, overlooking the Meeting of the Three Sisters and with panoramas over the counties of the SE, down the harbour and out to the Saltee Islands.  My mother told me that as a child she remembered "townies" walking out to take the view on Sunday afternoons.  And indeed visitors have a long history. The earliest I know of is Arthur Young, who stayed with local landlord, Cornelius Bolton, in the 18th Century.

Young wrote; "...rode with Mr Bolton (jnr) to Faithlegg hill, which commands one of the best views I have seen in Ireland" he then goes on to give a detailed geographical description which you can read online if you wish (page 409 to be specific).  Returning after two years he again "...visited this enchanting hill, and walked to it, day after day, from Ballycanvan, and with increasing pleasure."(1)

In a previous blog I carried an account of victorian era day trippers coming to the village and climbing to the Minaun to take the views. Interesting to note, because it was then used as a fox covert by the Power's of Faithlegg House. A covert was an area of ground set aside that foxes could find shelter and thrive...all the more for the Faithlegg Harriers to chase on their hunts.

As children the Minaun was a regular play space, particularly on Sunday afternoon walks with our mother. There were several spots that we visited and my own favourite was the round piece of stone, where local tradition had it the Knights of the round table met.  We would play at King Arthur, with swords and shields and talk like the actors such as Robert Taylor, familiar to us from the black and white movies on RTE on Sunday afternoons .

Photo via Sean Doherty from the Cheekoint Cooolbunia Facebook page
Another rock feature was shaped like a loaf of bread or other times we called it a grave, holding one of the knights that had fallen in battle. The memory was brought back to me as an adult when I read T.F. O'Sullivans book Goodly Barrow.(2)  In it he relates how according to legend the Fianna used the Minaun in their defence of Leinster and so important was it to their leader Fionn Mac Cumhaill that he deputised a son, Cainche Corcardhearg, to wait in watch as protector of his realm.  Apparently he lives below the ground...lying in wait! He must be sleeping soundly...any number of invaders have swept past him in the intervening years! 

As we headed down from the Minaun we came to the old stump which was all that remained of a cross. My mother knew the story well. Her uncle Christy Moran and his wife (the driving force) Katie Doherty had asked Chris Sullivan to make the cross. I was always told it was done to mark the Marian Year, 1954.  However the cross was erected in 1950 which was a holy year announced by Pope Pius XII (which I know courtesy of Blob the Scientist).  Katie went door to door to pay for the timber and although people had little enough they paid what they could, perhaps because they were a little afraid of her.  Katie had a reputation for religious fervour.

My father told me about the day it was brought up.  The boys of the area had been rounded up by Katie and no excuses would be heard.  She had them hoist the cross onto their backs and then encouraged and cajoled them up the road from Coolbunnia to where the school now is, then up onto the Minaun to the summit.  As they went Katie played her malodian box and sang religious hymns. My father often joked that the only difference between themselves and Jesus was that Katie spared them the crown of thorns. 
Moran family early 1950's with Tramore in the distance (honest!)
From Ann Moran via her son Brian (USA)
One of the big differences now, to when I was a child, is the lack of the clear views. Then you could have a full 360 view from the summit including Waterford, South Tipp, Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow.  But alas the trees that were planted have now obscured much of the view. According to my godmother, Elsie Murphy, the Minaun was sold by the Land Commission to the Forestry Commission as 1958.  The trees were subsequently planted in 1968/9 we think.

The one mystery is where the name Minaun came from.  As you can see Young referred to it as Faithlegg Hill, and the article from 1850 calls it simply the Hill of Cheekpoint or again Faithlegg Hill. However when Canon Power visited we know the name was in use. And locally I've never heard it referred to anything but the Minaun. Sourcing the origins of placenames in the area has long been a source of difficulties however.   I've certainly struggled with the Minaun placename before.

Whatever the name, or the purpose, i think its likely the Minaun will continue to see use by visitors for many years to come. And even if not, I will certainly get enjoy its history and its views. And if you want more encouragement, here's a short video from Mark at Waterford Epic Locations to whet the appetite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frI0FR19qVU


(1) Arthur Young.  "A Tour in Ireland 1776-1779"  reprinted 1970.  Irish University Press Shannon
(2) TF O'Sullivan.  "Goodly Barrow, A Voyage on an Irish River" 2001 Lilliput Press Dublin

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