Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Gold Medal Daffodils of the Richardsons

 Autumn, time to plant some bulbs. Did you know Waterford had its very own Gold Medal daffodils ? 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Back-to-school... over 200 years ago! by Béatrice Payet

Before the establishment of organised schooling as we know it, which in Ireland started to appear in the second half of the 19th century through the religious orders and the National School system, education was a luxury mostly reserved to the children of those who could afford it, by hiring the services of private tutors. I am not going to delve into the politics of it all, I was only interested in finding out how education was organised in Waterford City at the beginning of the 19th century, based on the information on Public Schools in the newspapers of the time. 

Before the formal establishment of schools, various 'Academies' as they called themselves, run privately by a single or several teachers, offered tuition in a variety of subjects for a set fee, paid yearly or quarterly. Some also offered full board. They had to advertise in the local newspapers to get the attention of parents, and sell their skills. 

They were located mostly in the city centre, and it is interesting to follow their re-location as better premises become available. 

We find Miss Daly in Lady Lane, Mrs Monserrat in Cook Lane, Mr Bacon at the Widow's Apartments, Mr Holden in Peter Street, Mr Cole in Beau Street, The Misses Brown in High Street, Mr Maher in George's Street. Mr Willis starts on Hennessy's Road but soon moves to New Street, etc. 

Relocation was sometimes to a more central position, but not always. They have the welfare of their boarders at heart: Mr Frazer having been an assistant at Mr Waters' Grammar school starts his own business and relocates to Stephen Street in January 1792, in a house of 

dry and healthy situation, ‘receiving an addition consisting of a large school-room and dormitories in the rear of which there will be an extensive play-ground’

Miss Terresse Lonergan relocates to Great Bridge Street 

which situation for Health, Air and Beauty cannot be exceeded, added to the beautiful outlets and the new bridge for the young ladies daily to resort.

The young Masters and Ladies were taught a variety of subjects; for 'a crown per quarter, and a crown entrance'  at Mrs Monserrat's 

children of 5 years old and upwards will be taught French and English, correctly

Mr Maher specialises in Classical, Mercantile & Mathematics, to which he adds French by 1810. 

Given the nature of the accommodation, groups were small, between 8 and 14 pupils maximum. 

What about holidays? Mrs Daly leaves it at the discretion of the parents, but most of the others had the vacation time in the month of July or August, again the dates were published by each school in the newspapers. 

However that wasn't all. 

Examinations took place in December and May, and the results, too were published!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Monday, August 17, 2020

How the Cannon Got to Waterford by Pat Deegan

           The Russian Cannons in the People’s Park 

Over the years, many visitors to the People’s Park of Waterford have curiously wandered over to the pair of cannons situated near the bandstand. Generations of Waterford people have had their photo taken sitting on or beside the cannons – but what exactly do we know about these familiar landmarks? The plaque beside them tells us they were ‘captured in Sebastapol in 1856’ and they have certainly come a long way from the Aleksandrovsk Cannon factory in Russia, where they were made 163 years ago. This is their story.

Every year on Good Friday, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, the ancient ritual of Holy Fire takes place. Unlit candles suddenly burst into flame – some call it a miracle caused by a column of fire coming from Jesus’ tomb, others say it is symbolic instead and white phosphorous is used to create the flames. During the ceremony in 1834, a riot broke out between the Latin Christians and the Eastern Orthodox Christians, which ended with the death of a substantial amount of people. This sparked a debate with the Ottoman Turkish sultan on who should have the keys of the Holy Sepulchre church. Russia, which had been active for years in Jerusalem, was annoyed when Sultan Abdulmejid I gave the keys to the French in 1852 (after a 64 gun French man-of-war warship had sailed to the city of Istanbul). Russia gave the sultan an ultimatum: give the Holy Sepulchre to the true Eastern Orthodox Church, or risk being invaded.

There was a lot more to these rising tensions than one sacred building. The once mighty Ottoman Empire, ruled by Turkey, was losing its grip on power, with the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I calling the empire ‘the sick man of Europe’. France and Britain (though sworn enemies at the time) allied with the Ottoman Empire because they were worried that Russian expansion would damage their trade routes. In July 1853, Russia invaded the part of the Ottoman Empire which today is Romania. As Austrian troops advanced, the Russian troops withdrew and so French and British troops were sent to fight the Russians on the Crimean peninsula and take the city of Sevastopol, home of the Tsar’s Black Sea Fleet, which was seen as a threat to the British Navy.  There was some irony in this, since the ship yard and docks there were built by a British company.

British soldiers serving in Crimea 

The allies landed about thirty miles north of Sevastopol and fought the Battle of Alma shortly after arriving. The Russians were routed totally, but the French troops, unwilling to follow through, let the Russian army escape back to Sevastopol. The fall of the city itself would take another long year and many lives before it did capitulate. East Sevastopol would fall in late 1855 but the war would not end until a peace treat was signed in Paris in 1856.

The Crimean War is perhaps best known for the Lady with the Lamp, the nurse Florence Nightingale, who brought order to the deplorable conditions that the British army allowed war wounded soldiers to be hospitalised in. Less well-known until recent years, but just as tireless and heroic was the Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, who nursed the wounded men on the battlefield.  The two women did meet but they never worked together. The war is also famous for the Charge of the Light Brigade. This was made out to be a heroic sacrifice made by the British cavalry in order to hide the incompetence of the officers in charge: Lord Raglan, Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan and the French general Armand de Saint-Arnaud (both Lord Raglan and the French Armand de Saint-Arnaud would die in the Crimean). Their incompetent lack of military strategy was very apparent and it brought an end to the nobility’s practice of buying commissions in the army, especially in cavalry regiments. The writing was on the wall for the gallant cavalry charge. A line of troops, facing a cavalry charge, could fire on them with their new 1853 rifle muskets (which had an improved firing rate), devastating the Calvary ranks. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 the limitations of the cavalry would become very apparent but this lesson was forgotten until WWI, when the great losses were witnessed in cavalry charges against the new modern machine guns in the fields of France in early 1914. 

Artillery at Sevastopol

The British and French captured hundreds of cannons in the the southern part of Sevastopol; the Russian were never in a crisis when it came to the replenishment of cannons. The Allies were not going to leave these cannons behind for the Russians, for the terms of the Paris Treaty stated that French, British and Sardinians troop would leave Sevastopol, and return Crimean lands to the Russians. However, the Treaty did allow the victors to take Russian cannons as war trophies. The cost to both the British and French exchequer was a very hard burden for these countries to carry. As for Russia, the cost of the conflict would in time lead Tsar Alexander II to sell the lands of Alaska in October 1867 to the United States for $7.2 million. The British Army shipped  all the cannons to the Woolwich arsenal in London. Their haul consisted of 10 bells, about 875 iron cannons, and 177 brass or bronze cannons (the British 89 and the French got 88 respectively). The iron cannons were of no monitory value. Now that they had these cannons, what to do with them?

The French were going to make a Boulevard de Sebastopol and line it with their cannons, like the Moscow Boulevard of 1812 that commemorated Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of the Russian Army (Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 overture was also written to celebrate this Russian victory). However, most of the Russian cannons in French hands were instead used to make the 22.7m high statue of the Virgin Mary, known as ‘Notre Dame de France’, at Le Puy‐en‐Velay, Auvergne, completed in 1860. Meanwhile the British used the cannons in various projects, most notably John Bell's London Crimean War Memorial, located on Waterloo Place, near Piccadilly, unveiled in 1861. William Theed's 1858 statue of Isaac Newton in the town of Grantham also used melted-down cannons, as did the bronze bell of St Mary's Church, Catherston Lewiston, Dorset, in 1858. The cannons also provided metal for the new Victoria Cross medals. Now the highest award of the British Army, it was created on the orders of Queen Victoria to commemorate outstanding acts of bravery shown by soldiers in the Crimean War.

The British government came out with another way of disposing of this war trophy: a small number of iron ordnance were granted to cities or towns in Great Britain and Ireland that had proper public places to put them in. Waterford city was quick to take up this offer. In May 1857, the then Mayor of Waterford, John Aloysius Blake, wrote to the War Department, requesting cannons from the Crimean War to decorate the city’s new park. Two cannons were sent over on the steamer ‘Citizen’, but they didn’t have gun carriages, only an accompanying price list for different types of gun carriages. The Mayor, who was also the MP for Waterford and was in England, made a visit to the arsenal at Woolwich, found two he thought suitable, and got permission from the War Office to ship them over to Waterford. 

The Waterford cannons are 24–pound (152 mm) short 1804 cannon. These guns were made in 1828 at the Aleksandrovsk cannon factory (which is now the Russian city of Petrozavodsk). The plant was founded in 1703 at the direction of Emperor Peter I and was engaged in the production of cast-iron naval cannons. On one side of the trunnions of the Waterford cannons is the name of the plant’s director for that period, Alexander Andreevich Fullon (he ran the plant from 1819 to 1833). On the other side of the trunnions, is the serial number (21192), its weight (120 pounds, approximately 1960 kilograms).  The letters ‘MA’ on the Waterford cannons denote the term ‘naval artillery’. Such stamps were placed on the guns that armed the warships. Being naval guns, could these cannons have been on a Russian warship during the Battle of Sinope in 1853? This cannot be confirmed but the cannons would have been removed from their ship to firstly, protect the fortress at Sevastopol and secondly, to stop them from being sunk along with their ship by the powerful British Navy. As for the damage on the trunk of one of the Waterford cannons, without a special analysis, it cannot be said with certainty that this damage is from the splinters of shells or bullets.   


To create these cannons, first a three-dimensional mould of the cannon would be made from wood. This would have been put in a steel clay box and moulding clay would be added to make the shape of the cannon. Molten iron would be poured in to these vertical moulds, to form the solid iron cannon (vertical line of cannon mould would be place below the smelter; when smelter was untapped the molten iron would have flowed directly into the moulds). The mould would be broken open and the casted cannon would be cleaned for the next process: lathing. It would be set up on the lathe, the cannon would be drilled out, then, using a boring bar, it would be bored the right size for the cannon ball, in this case 6 inches. The machine tools used to rifle bores (that is, to create spiral grooves inside the barrel, which spin the bullet or ball, and make the aim accurate for a longer distance) made all front-loaded muzzled smoothbore guns (without spirals) obsolete; this happened around 1860 with the introduction of the breach-loaded gun. Unlike front-loaded guns, breech-loaded guns had their bullets inserted from the back of the gun. Barrel rifling was invented in Augsburg, Germany in 1498. In 1520 August Kotter, an armourer from Nuremberg, improved upon this work. Though true rifling dates from the mid-sixteenth century, it did not become commonplace until the nineteenth century. 


These cannons are not Waterford’s sole connection to the Crimean War: Irish soldiers fought and lost their lives in the war as well. The Irish Garrison Towns blog tells the tale of one Waterford man who survived the war but ended his days in Waterford’s workhouse. When Patrick Hanlon died aged 83 in 1909, his coffin was placed on a gun carriage and buried with military honours in St Mary’s churchyard. Hanlon was a veteran of the Crimean War, so the Veteran’s Relief Fund paid for the funeral after the workhouse master, Mr Cosgrave, notified the War Office of his death. ‘Thus an elderly man who died a pauper was buried as a soldier.’

So, the cannon that we all love and have kind memories of have great memories of their own. These wonderful pieces of war memorabilia will be with us for many years to come and no doubt plenty of pictures will still be taken next to the guns.



Sunday, August 16, 2020

Booby Traps at the Barracks by James Doherty

The entrance to the Artillery Barracks (Poole Collection NLI )

As is often the case when researching history, sometimes you find something of interest rather than what you were actually looking for. On a trip to the National Archives in Dublin I asked to see files relating to the history of the military barracks in Waterford. There were two large barracks in the city: an infantry and a cavalry (later artillery) barracks. The time period I was interested in was the early 19th century, but a helpful archivist mentioned there was a record relating to the artillery barracks in declassified Garda files dating from 1938. 

The archivist had my interest at “declassified”, but the date was also interesting. By 1938 the artillery barracks had lain in ruins for over a decade since the Civil War and I wondered what had attracted the attention of An Garda Síochána. The document was brief (only two pages) and it concerned a query from Messrs Hamilton & Co., builders at Thomas Street, stating that they had been awarded the contract for building public housing there and the builder was concerned about the possibility of munitions left on the site. 

Commandant James McGrath of Portebello barracks, a veteran of the Civil War was interviewed and stated that he had removed land mines left at the barracks by retreating Anti-Treaty forces. Commandant McGrath stated that he couldn’t be sure that all were retrieved and the army arranged an inspection of the site. The all-clear was given and building work commenced. 

Free state forces pose in the bar of the Granville hotel with captured explosives, 1922
(Poole Collection NLI)

Often when you read historical documents you can’t help but put yourself in the shoes, or in this case the work boots, of someone else. Joseph O Shea was a builder’s labourer who, on the morning of 10 November 1938, made an alarming discovery. While digging a drain near the old barracks entrance, O Shea unearthed an artillery shell with a wire running from it. The builders alerted the Garda at the Barrack Street station and the scene was immediately sealed off. 

An ordinance officer from the Curragh was dispatched and in total eleven artillery shells and a landmine were discovered buried near the front gate of the barracks. Not all the shells were live, but there were enough to present a considerable threat to the advancing Free State troops in 1922 and to Joseph O Shea the builder sixteen years later. In modern military parlance these shells wired together with a landmine as detonator would be known as Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs for short. The intention was clear: once the occupying Free State soldiers entered the barracks, quite a substantial explosion would occur. 

Although the Garda document is brief, it shows the extent that Anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War were prepared to use scorched earth tactics and it also shows it pays to keep an open mind when visiting the archives. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 6. ‘We can’t all be kings and queens’

     6. About People 

     I’ve been very fortunate over the course of my studies from secondary school to third level to have met so many great people interested in the subject of history. When sitting my Leaving Cert in Mount Sion, there were only 5 students to take the Higher-Level paper. Two of those are friends of mine to this day. Bogdan Chaus from the Ukraine had a passion for young men in search of power such as Napoleon and Michael Collins.
He always sought to be precise and pursued perfection which has stood him in good stead as he now plays in a band Deep Foxy Glow with Ailise O’Neill. Now known as Dan, it would be fair to say he loves Irish history far more than anyone I’ve ever come across. The other stalwart of Billy Doherty’s class was Michael Murphy, whose love of history led him to pursue criminal justice. He was always interested in the injustices of society and how law worked and was intrigued by cases of the past. Michael is a hard man to defeat in a debate as he is eloquent in making his points and has the facts retained to back it up. I hope one day he becomes a history teacher. 

     My greatest friend through a shared passion for history is a man named David Robson. Members of the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society would know David for his excellent talk on the making of Barry Lyndon a few years ago. The Limerick Junction native is a warm and kind spirit, and there is no friendlier person in the world. David’s passion is Irish history during the years 1912-22 and he consumed it like people watch soccer or the Kardashians. His enthusiasm for the subject is being utilised in Kilmainham Gaol as David enlightens visitors from all over the world and of all ages about one of our country’s most historic and to some scared places. Though we both disagree on a wide array of issues from De Valera to Mel Gibson, I’ve always enjoyed listening to him over a pint. 

      From people we have special moments too. I’ve been fortunate to work with Bartek Gozdur in the King of the Vikings virtual reality experience in the Viking Triangle. Bartek is a heavy metal obsessed Polish marauder who brings the story of these Norsemen to life. He doesn’t "work as a re-enactor"; he is a Viking. Anyone who has talked to Bartek for even 10 minutes would know he loves Norse mythology and scaring people as a Viking.

A couple of years ago we were invited by Dara Cunningham’s teacher to visit St. Mary’s National School where Bartek would tell nearly 60 primary school students the history of Waterford and the Vikings. The kids were engrossed in this living, breathing Viking talking of daily life making combs from cow bone and various battles he survived. 

     The best moment was when a young girl asked him the last question of the day. It was like something from the cornflakes Christmas ad, this little girl asked the Viking did children back then have toys with particular reference to teddy bears. If John Mullane was a wreck after the 2004 Munster final, I wasn’t too far behind him after witnessing a really special moment. The child asked a really pertinent question to her because she was captivated by the subject. If we were able to get one child interested in history, that hour in Ballygunner was more than worth the effort. That moment was priceless to Bartek as he was encouraging the students to see history as it related to them. 

     We’ll all have ups and downs in life. We can’t all be kings and queens. But we have to try and appreciate our experiences and the people we meet. This is where the stories begin and our love for history starts. It has been a subject that has been good to me. I hope more people will fall in love with it. 

The end... or is it?

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 5. Writing History

5. ‘Don’t write what you know, write towards what you want to know’

 Writing can be one of the most solitary pursuits in the world.
If I was to liken it to a sport it probably would be golf. Arnold Palmer said that "Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears." The same can be said of writing regardless of whether you have to write 500 words or 5,000, a lot is based on how your mind works. 

     For writing history, one of the most important exercises is research. Research is the training for writing like you would practice drills for golf. Practice doesn’t always make perfect but it certainly helps. Research skills are something that can be developed over time and this is particularly relevant when the way we can access information is continually changing. Take for example local newspapers, before you would have to go to your local library and go through the arduous task of exploring microfilm. Now with Irish Newspaper Archives with a few search terms we can find something that may have taken months in a lot faster time. However, rather than viewing this as making research simpler we should see it as allowing us more time to look at other resources. The more information we have, allows us to write with more authority while leading us to more material to distil into an interesting story. 

When you feel you have enough information gathered
then is a good time to start writing up your research. Some people like to write as they’re researching so it is whichever suits you best. What works for one person mightn’t work for someone else. A lot of people would say write what you know about but I like to find out things that I don’t know anything at all about. Such an idea is promoted by the Irish novelist Colum McCann who states that ‘Don’t write what you know, write towards what you want to know.’ I think the great historians be it political, social, military, etc spheres are curious individuals. They are people that thrive for knowledge and understanding. They allow their research to dictate rather than manipulate a story. 

      Some of the subjects that have interested me included Nigerian medical students playing soccer for UCD; a Pakistani squash player who wanted to play for Ireland and a prize-winning daffodil grower living in Kilcohan. I can’t say I had any firm footing in knowing anything about UCD, squash or horticulture but my thirst for learning more helped form the pieces I wrote. Let your curiosity guide your writing. Your research will help piece the story together. One’s enthusiasm will put it across. The latter trait is infectious, when you see someone enjoying themselves or displaying their love of something; you’re caught up in their affection for their subject. 

     You’ve probably noticed that this piece on writing history has more to do with research and preparation than the actual act of writing itself. The reason for this is; there is no advice I can give because everyone is different. Practice is very important and is beneficial to learn your likes and dislikes. 

The best thing to do is to start, once you do that you’ll probably never stop. 

To be continued...

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 4. Reading

     4.  Reading: ‘never judge a book by its cover’  


 The Irish wit and playwright Oscar Wilde once said: 

‘It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.’ 
The things we take an interest in during our youth can have a great impact on how we live the rest of our lives. One of the greatest gifts my parents imparted in me was the joy of reading. Our house was always filled with plenty of books as my brother Olin and I grew up with stories by Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling. Adventures and tales capture everyone’s attention at any age, be it murder mysteries to great explorations. Often times the truth is stranger than fiction and that is what makes history so enjoyable, sometimes you just can’t make up what real events occurred in the past. 

Add caption
     One of the various books I read as a child was by the author Michael Smith noted for his various studies of polar exploration. Every year on World Book Day there would be a book sale held in the Mount Sion Hall on Barrack Street. I can remember seeing the blue cover with a sketch of Tom Crean on the front and immediately wanted it. I didn’t know anything else about it. The old adage is ‘never judge a book by its cover’, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Smith’s book for children on the Kerryman was titled Tom Crean – Iceman and would later be included in the national school curriculum. Those of the same vintage as myself have read that book and it is definitely the work which got me interested in history. The beauty of Michael Smith is that he has written for children and adults and my interests were further fertilized the older I got with his Great Endeavour – Ireland’s Antarctic Explorers. Both of these books could be used as signposts in my own learning and the development of my interests. 

     When I was in 6th class it coincided with the  90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and there was no shortage of books to whet my appetite. My uncle Raymond Murphy (who introduced me to the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society) bought me Dan Breen’s My Fight for Irish Freedom which got me obsessed with the tumultuous events of what we now term the Revolutionary Decade. When released in 1924, Breen’s book was advertised for boys as a raucous adventure story through the War of Independence. This would be later reflected by the book being re-published by Kilkenny woman Rena Dardis and Anvil Press. It certainly captured my attention when I was 12 as I wanted to learn more and more about the period. This would shape my interests in secondary school and university. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 3. Mentors


      In all walks of life be it music or sport, the musician or athlete can usually recount the support and guidance of a mentor. We can trace the word ‘mentor’ as we know it today to the mid-18th century, via French and Latin from the Greek Mentór, the name of the adviser to the young Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey. If you’re stuck for reading over the summer Homer’s story should do the trick, it’s divided up into 24 books. Even if you prefer to stick with the Matt Groening Homer Simpson, the Odyssey has inspired countless books and films such as the Coen Brothers O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which has something for everyone, country music, prison breaks and George Clooney. 

     A mentor is a trusted advisor, someone you feel you can learn from and who will impart some of their wisdom and knowledge to you. In your lifetime you will have many people you will seek guidance from be it teachers in school, coaches with teams you’re involved with to college lecturers and supervisors. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was by my MA supervisor Dr. Gabriel Doherty of University College Cork whose mantra was “a little bit of good will goes a long way”. Always try to be kind and patient whether you’re looking for or giving help as it will stand you in good stead down the line. 

     We can’t all be ruthless and (sometimes) mean like Michael Jordan who had the mentality and ability to back it up. We should never set a standard for others which we wouldn’t follow for ourselves. This is very applicable to History where you come into contract with various librarians, archivists, historians, etc who have different personalities and ways of working. The vast majority will always help when asked. 

     The mentor (aside from my parents) that I have known the longest is a man named Donnchadh Ó Ceallachain. Most people with an interest in Waterford History will know Donnchadh really well. He describes himself as a ‘blow-in’ hailing from Cork but we in Waterford can count ourselves very fortunate to have someone like Donnchadh to research and promote the history of our city. I know him since I was a teenager attending lectures held by the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society. He showed confidence in me to become the editor of the group’s journal Decies in 2016 when I was 22-years old (granted he had been editor for 12-years) and was always available for my numerous questions and rather naïve ideas. If I asked his advice on something mad I had planned and he responded with a quick laugh and “Jeesus…” I knew t’was best to pack it away for another time. 

     The greatest things I’ve learned from Donnchadh is patience, kindness and to be generous with one’s time to others. I would say easily that he is one of the most put upon people I know but always is there to help. If I could ever achieve half the things Donnchadh has I would be delighted with my lot. The best way to sum up how important Donnchadh is, it’s probably best to dip into the world of modern celebrity. When someone is at the height of their powers or reached a level of fame we often refer to them only by their first name like Elvis, Meryl or Adele. In Waterford History we have Donnchadh! 

To be continued

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 2. 'It's the Way I Tell 'em...'

2. It’s the way I tell em

     A lot of what makes History come to life is the way the story is told. Like anything in life if you can see someone put across their words with enthusiasm and pure passion it sucks you in. The Belfast-born comedian Frank Carson use to say “it’s the way I tell em” which I often think is an idea that is misinterpreted as having to be incredibly polished with a cigar smokers voice (don’t smoke, kids!). 

     I can remember giving a talk to the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society on the MPs of Waterford city, tracing over a century of history, which to say the least didn’t go well. I was wracked with nerves and couldn’t even eat before the lecture. At this stage I was 21 years of age and had given numerous presentations in college but this was like playing on your own turf, your home crowd, this meant more. Unfortunately even after all the preparation I had made (80 pages of notes no less) the anxiousness got the better of me and I spoke like Roadrunner on Red Bull (now there’s an interesting children’s cartoon). This wasn’t helped when a noted history buff proceeded to talk during my lecture by criticising my delivery. The criticism was valid, however I think a little bit of encouragement never goes astray. Practice makes perfect, and in the subsequent years I’ve improved. Speaking in public is an on-going thing and it's superb to see Primary School kids given a platform to practice. Future 21-year-olds will be far more adept at giving a talk than I was which is a really positive move. 

First lecture 'on home turf', 2015

     One of the great speeches I’ve seen in recent times was at the grounds of Abbeyside at the under-13s Gaelic Football final. Gaultier entered the game as underdogs with my buddy Grace Cunningham lining out in the backs. It was a mighty comeback by the girls of Gaultier to win the cup in an impressive display of determination to never give up. This was exemplified by their captain, Ali Ferguson, who gave one of the most gracious, thankful and positive speeches upon winning the match. She was genuine in the words she spoke; she was being herself. The reason why I failed in my first talk in Waterford was because I was being my unconfident, 21-year old self, but the key is to learn and try to improve the best you can. 

NUI Galway

     My next presentation was a month later at the NUIG staged conference titled A Peculiar Society where I was reading my paper on the environmental movement in the 1970s and protest concerts at Carnsore Point. Needless to say the experience in St. Patrick’s Gateway hadn’t left the confidence in good stead but it was 15 minutes which went by in a flash. A week later I was in touch with Kevin Ryan of the School of Political Science & Sociology at NUI Galway who e-mailed about my paper, ‘As an aside, I also enjoyed your speaking voice – I grew up in Waterford, and my memories of the Carnsore festivals are very much bound up with the cultural “peculiarities” of the city.’ 

       T’was a great boost to my confidence and has always stayed with me. Like anything in life you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but always remember what blend of leaves you are, it’s more important in the long run. 

To be continued

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 1. Why Do You Like History?

Over a few articles, Cian Manning shares with us his thoughts on his love of History,  
and gives some advice to budding historians. 

1. Why Do You Like History?

     Over the course of several years from volunteering with the Deerpark CBS Homework Club in Cork to working on a local history program with Ms. Laura O’Brien in Mount Sion Primary School, the most common question I’m asked is why do you like History? The first time I was asked this was also the first time that I had to give thought to why I loved a subject that a lot of people find dusty, stuffy and boring (and not necessarily in that order). If anything it could say a lot about my personality! 

The Bull Post on the Hill of Ballybricken, Waterford City

     Firstly, I was always encouraged by my parents to learn about the history of Waterford and Ireland. My dad Ollie is the proudest Waterfordian I know and whenever we went away on holidays to sunnier climes he promoted Ireland’s oldest city. If anything the Tourist Board owe my father a fortune in his public relations endeavours. Once in Lisbon we met a Canadian businessman who appeared to be a real highflyer, who travelled to London and Tokyo, but my father simply put it that this man hadn’t experienced anything till he visited Ballybricken. Tis a state of mind you know. My brother Olin and I would joke about it but since we were in college in Cork we’ve morphed into mini versions of our dad. Tipperary and Kerry students had Lar Corbett and Gooch Cooper with oodles of All-Irelands, we had Mount Sion, Edmund Rice’s first school and Paddy Coad, the greatest Irish soccer player to never play for an English team. Ye can keep yer Celtic crosses lads! 

Blue Plaque to Paddy Coad,
Doyle Street, Waterford City

     These interests were nurtured by trips to Wexford to learn about 1798 which led me to telling my senior infant class teacher Sharon O’Connor that I dreamed of becoming a ‘Pikeman’ (everyone else said a footballer or millionaire). She was the first teacher to encourage my interest in history at such a young age printing off reams of papers of Egyptian hieroglyphs and statutes to colour in. There were great visits to the Dunbrody where a re-enactor/guide set us the challenge of each question we asked would get her an item of food to feed her starving family. Safe to say I asked enough questions that it would have fed the whole of the ship for months. But it was the encouragement and cultivating the interest that has always stayed with me.

Statue of a Pikeman, Wexford

     Whenever I’m asked the question now of why do I like History? I simply quote one of my mam Miriam’s favourite wordsmiths, Marti Pellow of Wet, Wet, Wet, “it’s all around me” (okay maybe a slight paraphrasing there). History is there in the stories of our parents; it’s in the names of our streets, our schools and sports clubs. Since the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising there’s an insatiable appetite in young students to learn more and more about the past.

A few years later now I’m  asked how do I learn more? To quote another poet, W.B. Yeats, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’, may students be encouraged to learn more about their history for years to come. 

To be continued

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Life In WW2 by Eve Penkert

We are delighted to share with you this history project written by Eve Penkert, a student of the Presentation Primary School.

Life in WW2

Life for Jews and others in Germany
During the Second World War, a lot of Germans suffered under Hitler's rule. Adolf believed that Germans were the superior race, also known as the Master race, but only pale-skinned and blue-eyed Germans would count.  Adolf considered Jews to be below him. During the years before WW2, many Jews would be doctors or another successful job. For that reason, Adolf wanted anyone who had power in Germany to go. That would include Jews, Romas (gypsies), teachers, politicians, and the list goes on.
Jews had to wear the Star of David and were forced to live in certain areas. A lot of Jews would be beaten in the streets or made to do ridiculous tasks as onlookers harassed them. These acts were known as pogroms. The other people I mentioned would suffer the same. One man Jumped from a burning building shouting he would rather die than be taken by German soldiers. 
Jews had been hated for quite a long time. In the 14th century, a large group of Jews was forced into a wood filled pit and burned alive.
Soon enough concentration camps were introduced; Jews were kicked from the homes and moved to the camps.

The German people who suffered

The regular Germans also suffered in many ways (Apart from rations and attacks). The SA would stand outside Jewish businesses, shops, and cafes. Anyone who tried to enter was stopped. Those who refused were marked with a stamp on their faces that read: We traitors bought at Jewish shops. 
People formed groups to help the Jews but were always outnumbered.
Germans with any of power suffered as much as Jews did, which was covered in the first paragraph.

The people in Ireland and England

Like most of the world, Ireland and England were also on Rations.
England was involved in the war on the Allies side. Ireland was neutral but still suffered, from a few bombings to prisoners of war camps and English children sent over for safety. During the Emergency, Belfast was bombed. 
With the rationing in Ireland, people were encouraged to grow their vegetables. 
In England, the main things rationed were bacon, sugar, tea, butter, and meat. When the men left for war, the women would work their jobs instead. Children would be evacuated to the countryside.
England did try to persuade Ireland to join them but failed. Almost every morning, the streets would be littered with bombshells and rubble.

The rest of the world would've been in the same boat.

Life after the war

After the war, the world didn't go back to normal. It took years to recoup all that was lost, from the people to the cities. Over five million lives were lost to the war. In Germany, a mass funeral was held for all the bodies found at Auschwitz. WW2, The Holocaust, and D-Day are major events held in History. 

 Thanks for Reading

by Eve Penkert

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Oral History Template - Get Writing !

     Now that we’re marking the start of a third month of the ‘new normal’ in relation to Covid-19, the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society has devised an Oral History template that Primary Schools or even families would be interested in using as a guide over the coming weeks and months. During the current crisis we have seen numerous creatives inspired to adapt to the current restrictions be it musicians streaming online concerts to virtual football matches becoming a norm as e-Gamers become more and more popular.

     The subject of History has been no different with the Director of Waterford Treasures Eamonn McEneaney regaling the listeners of WLR with the stories of the objects on display in the city’s fantastic museums to the blogs of Waterford Harbour Tides and Tails by Andrew Doherty, while his cousin Jim’s twitter feed highlights stories of piracy and the macabre with dark tales of Ballybricken. History is for everyone; be it stories of grandparents childhoods, the great hurling matches of days-gone-by to the progress of video games; there’s something for everyone.

     So why not be inspired to explore your own historical curiosities and share them with the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society! We’ve provided a short template below that can be used as a guide to get your creative juices going. There are some helpful links as well.
     The best entry will receive a hamper of books which will include The Towns & Villages of the Waterford Greenway produced by Waterford County Museum; Waterford City: A History by Cian Manning and the 2019 edition of the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society journal Decies edited by Peigí Devlin. Entries can be submitted via the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society Facebook page or e-mailed to

Download details of template:  Oral History Template

Monday, May 11, 2020


A bit of Noughties nostalgia concerning Mount Sion Primary School and the glory days of CLG Port Lairge - Waterford GAA. See if you can spot a young Austin Gleeson.

Poetry Day Waterford
30 April 2020
❤️A short story by Cian Manning ❤️

The ash hurley stands at a length of 32 inches and is around half an inch in thickness. From memory I can’t recall who it was made by or where it was purchased from. No doubt it was bought by my mam to get a few minutes peace from me badgering on about needing a goalie hurley. I played as a corner-back but for some reason I NEEDED this stick with enlarged bas. 
Hurley signed by the Waterford team who defeated Cork in the Munster final in 2004.
It was the first time since 1959 that Na Deise had beaten the Rebels in the provincial decider. 

In 2004 I was around 9 or 10 years of age, the bas seemed enormous in comparison to the crappy spindle of a Lifestyle branded hurley I had in my possession. That latter hurley looked something more of the style used by hurlers of the early 20th century or on the hockey fields of today. It survived though and bears the autograph of the Kilkenny legend Eddie Keher. We happened to be on a Sunday spin with hurleys and tennis balls thrown in the back of our maroon Ford Estate. My brother Olin and myself pitched up to play the All-Ireland final in July in Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny but surprisingly no one turned up. At that young age, this mild-mannered Kilkenny man, then in his early 60s didn’t seem to embody what I considered to be the traits of a hurling great. It wasn’t so much his age or even physical prowess (even in his early 60s Keher was a fit man) but the fact he didn’t wear Puma Kings, he didn’t have a buzzcut hair style nor wore his collar up like John Mullane. I thought hurlers wore their kit ready for a game seven days a week.  Keher’s apparent disappointment in me is consoled by the fact the Rower-Inistioge man holds 6 All-Ireland medals. 

Yet the hurley from 2004 which joined my Eddie Keher-signed stick brings back memories before even being signed by that victorious Waterford team. I can remember playing hurling on Mattie’s Hill with my father. There were two trees at a distance which were the perfect natural posts for Gaelic Games. My new goalie stick (which is really just a normal adult hurley) was put to use. The only problem was I didn’t want to mark it. A slight inconvenience considering the stick was used to save goals. I loved the pure white of the planed ash, the grain appeared to count the many glorious summers where there was never a wet day and the biggest worry was which cartoon to watch first in the morning. That evening in Waterford city with my father I did everything in my power to stop the ball without marking my hurley. I stopped the tennis ball with my head, hands and even dived across the goal and blocked the ball with my ankle. To really illustrate this remarkable (modest I know) athletic feat I resembled Superman flying led by my feet instead of hands outstretched like Christopher Reeves in those movies in the 70s and 80s. If recorded no doubt I would have been the first ten-year old in the history of hurling to be awarded an All-Star in goal without needing a hurley to stop the ball. Mattie’s Hill was and still is quite literally my ‘field of dreams’.
The young hurlers of Cnoc Sion pictured at the Mount Sion Field in the early Noughties. Paraic Fanning (later Waterford senior hurling manager in 2019), John Cleere (who captained the club to Munster Championship glory in 2002) and Eoin Kelly (winner of two All-Star awards for Waterford) are also pictured. 

The former Wexford hurler Diarmuid Lying in his wonderfully evocative TedxWexford talk in 2016 described how in stripping back the hurley in view he saw ‘club and parish…community…our history and heritage…’ My maternal great-grandfather William Murphy was the winner of back-to-back Waterford County titles with the Shamrocks club in 1915-16. His son, my grandfather, Thomas ‘Tunney’ Murphy played for the P.H. Pearse club (which his own father was involved in establishing) winning a number of underage and junior titles. In fact he played alongside Austin Gleeson, the grandfather of the current Waterford star bearing the same name. My cousin Kyle Murphy played with the St. Saviours club and was selected to play for the minor Waterford team which numbered Tony Browne. Kyle was also adept at Gaelic Football winning a county title with his club in 1998. 

Though my father’s side can’t claim as great a success in Gaelic Games as my mother’s, he does however have a very close connection to Croke Park. His father Michael (my grandfather obviously says you) was a successful participant in the All-Army Championships winning the ‘Hop, Step, and Jump’ now known as the ‘Triple Jump’ at Croke Park in 1924. These stories would form my history and heritage associated with the simplistic ash stick. I live near and was educated at Mount Sion schools. A storied hurling nursery and a community which continues to prosper to this day. When I was in primary school there was ‘Yard League Hurling’ the description really explains it all and near the end of the school season, finals were held among each year grouping. I can remember in 4th class winning the final with a number of my classmates. The following year I was on the losing side of a 7-1 score line though I did score our consolation goal. To be frank I was more an adept ‘hurler on the ditch’ than actually good at the game. My brother was always far more talented in sport which seemed to come so naturally to him like rain in the Comeragh Mountains. My ability was more in breaking bones and causing myself numerous injuries. I was the very definition of accident prone.

Those school years were great times for my brother and myself. Between 2002 to 2004 Mount Sion won three county titles in a row. The Monastery Men won a Munster Championship in 2002. It was days of ‘wine and roses’ or to my child-self wine gums and Cadbury’s Roses. The celebration in the school hall of the successes was nearly an annual affair. When Sion were defeated by De La Salle in the 2005 county semi-final I remember the distinct feeling of disbelief that Mount Sion didn’t win. Those years coincided with our communions which in turn were met by Waterford winning Munster titles in 2002 and 2004. Those were joyous summers but were tinged with moments of sadness. I can remember my first time in Semple Stadium Thurles in 2003 seeing Waterford and Limerick playing out an electric 4-13 a piece draw. For some reason I can’t recall why the game wasn’t televised nor was there much of a highlights package ever to be seen. What appeared to be the perfect Sunday for me and my dad was ended with the news my grandmother had broken her hip. Even sadder was that she never returned to her home when she died in early 2007. 

Juvenile Mount Sion players photographed with the Munster Championship trophy.
Waterford captain Ken McGrath and Mount Sion captain Anthony Kirwan are also pictured.
In the back-row are Mount Sion legend Jim Greene and a young Austin Gleeson (third from right). 

Waterford won what is considered the greatest Munster final of all-time against Cork in 2004. It had everything: stunning goals, mammoth points, a red card, David versus Goliath, the history of ‘Blood and Bandages’ versus a tradition of defeat. It was the Empire versus the Jedi, tactics and precision possession versus style and verve. Cork were as clinical and calculated as Waterford were swashbuckling and sparkling. The fourteen men of Waterford won against the 15 men of the Rebel County. Ken McGrath lifted the cup for only the 7th time in our county’s history. And John Mullane cried…we all know the quote at this stage. 

Cnoc Sion Primary School hurling team of 2005. Pictured are Brian Wall, teacher and member of the 2004 Waterford panel; current Mount Sion and Waterford hurler Stephen Roche; former Waterford minor goalkeeper Shane Forristal and Paddy Barrett who currently plays professional soccer in the United States. 

My teacher that September was Brian Wall, who also membered the team, Brian played for the Fourmilewater club and was a brilliant Gaelic footballer too with the Nire and represented his county in that code at senior level. I can recall he bagged a pair of goals against the Kingdom in a challenge match. My mam Miriam was involved with the Parents Council of the school and was able to get Brian to get my hurley signed by the team. My foresight in trying to keep my hurley unblemished would prove to be a masterstroke. The names signed on the hurley of Ken McGrath, Dan Shanahan, Eoin Kelly and Paul Flynn are ones that would still your childish play. Everyone tried to recreate McGrath’s catch or Flynn’s goal. I can remember someone trying to mimic Mullane’s over the shoulder flick in the Mount Sion field only to knock themselves out. Probably best I didn’t remember that person’s name…and no, it wasn’t me! 

The late Sean Dunne described the ‘world of hurling …[as] a seam running through our lives.’ It marks the passing years, connected to momentous occasions in our lives from births to deaths of loved ones, it can create a code of verification in the context of the narrative of one’s life. Waterford won the Munster championship in 2004 when my brother made his communion. The greatest weekend of my life included writing a 4,000-word assignment for my Masters in the space of three days, attending a Hamsandwich concert and staying up to watch Mayweather-Pacquaio and seeing Waterford win the National League the following day. I cried at the end of the match. Was it tears of joy or just delirium from lack of sleep? I don’t know, I just remember it was 2015.

Olin Manning walking in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Olin currently works as a nurse in Cork.

That hurley from 2004 is one of my most cherished possessions more for what it represents than what it is to one’s eye. I’m still a ‘hurler on the ditch.’ My brother Olin is a nurse who runs marathons and 5ks, cycles and plays basketball. Since the start of this Pandemic that has brought about the creation of this Virtual Antiques Roadshow my brother and all medical professions have displayed the qualities that the Waterford men who signed that stick embodied; courage, hard work and coolness under pressure. Their efforts can not even be quantified by All-Ireland medals, it is a specialness that we can all bear in mind with pride and admiration. To paraphrase Leo Varadkar, not all heroes are hurlers!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Book Review : Waterford Port & Harbour 1815-42 by Mary Breen

Mary Breen, Waterford port and harbour, 1815-42, (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2019).
(Reviewed by Cian Manning)

     The hugely popular Maynooth Studies in Local History Series saw five more additions to its extensive list launched in September 2019. One of these slim volumes was by Waterford historian Mary Breen, titled Waterford port and harbour, 1815–42 (recorded as Issue 140 of the aforementioned series). Breen is a retired public servant from Waterford city and holds an MA in Irish History from NUI Maynooth. Many local history enthusiasts will be familiar with her work in the journal of the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society’s journal Decies. Previously she has written on James Fanning and his charitable bequest (Decies No. 72 – 2016) and ‘Whitfield Court, Co. Waterford: Challenges and Threats to an Historic House’ (Decies No. 75 – 2019). This exploration of Waterford port and harbour in the early years of the Waterford Harbour Commissioners is based on research for her Masters degree under the supervision of Professor Raymond Gillespie. 

     The period of the study, 1815 to 1842, begins with the establishment of a statutory body in the form of the Harbour Commissioners under an act of parliament in 1816 and ends in 1842 when Waterford Corporation began to experience the impact of the reforms of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act of 1840. This nicely allows the author to delve in depth into many issues concerning the creation of the Waterford Harbour Commissioners and the developments of its roles and remit, capturing a major change in the workings of local government in 19th century Ireland. Within this, the tension between the political and mercantile elites is explored with the interests of Waterford Corporation and Waterford Chamber of Commerce coming into near-constant conflict. 

     Central to Breen’s study are the Waterford Harbour Commissioners, Waterford Corporation and Waterford Chamber of Commerce. The minute books of each group for the period explored are kept uninterrupted and are central to charting the development of the Harbour Commissioners. Breen is utilising an under-used resource by historians, even noting that much of the archive of Waterford Harbour Commissioners is ‘largely uncatalogued’ (p. 8) in the National Archive of Ireland. Additional context is provided by various Parliamentary papers and local newspapers such as the Waterford Chronicle and the Waterford Mail. The latter sources provide much flavour to these formal documents and Breen’s extensive research is presented in an easy to read and highly engaging manner. This allows this short study to be a very enjoyable read in what could easily have been a very dense subject. 

      A plethora of secondary sources are consulted, ranging from Cormac Ó Gráda, to Joel Mokyr, to L.M. Cullen. It was with great delight that one was able to see the names of the late Bill Irish and Anthony Brophy in relation to their extensive research and writings on shipbuilding and Waterford harbour. It is noted by Breen that Brophy’s published extracts from the records of Waterford Harbour Commissioners in Decies first ‘piqued [her] interest’ (p. 9) in the subject. 

     Broken into three main sections:

1. The mercantile, political and economic arena: Waterford port and harbour in the early 19th century: this section looks at the local and national challenges that faced the harbour prior to the creation of the Harbour Commissioners, as well the relationship between Waterford Corporation and the Waterford Chamber of Commerce. The latter’s actions in seeking to improve the conditions and operation of Waterford harbour and port ‘brought them into conflict with the municipal corporation of Waterford, a body that jealously guarded its powers and functions’ (p. 20). Central to this is the ‘pervasive influence’ of Sir John Newport, MP for Waterford [1].  The role of Newport could nearly be considered worthy of a similar study itself. 

2. The establishment of Waterford Harbour Commissioners in 1816: the two competing forces, Waterford Chamber of Commerce and Waterford Municipal Corporation, sought control over the port and harbour through the legislative process. The act, rather than solving their conflict, caused further contention because when it ‘entrusted the management of the port and harbour to Waterford Harbour Commissioners, the ownership of the quays and areas associated with the port and harbour, including the foreshore, was claimed by Waterford Corporation under the governing charter of 1626’ (p. 27). The role of the merchants of Clonmel in the Waterford Harbour Commission further demonstrated how personal interests were invested in the prosperity of the town, as well as showing the strong representation of the ‘Quaker entrepreneurism and business activism’ (p. 30) in Waterford. 

3. Shaping the port: implementing the act of 1816 explores the improvements made to the harbour and port under the 1816 act until the passing of an act in 1846 which reconstituted the board and gave the commissioners additional powers. This chapter encompasses the first meeting of the Waterford Harbour Commissioners and the make-up of the commissioners, pilotage establishment, tonnage duties, water bailiff’s fees to the income and expenditure of the body. In 1821 it was agreed that the Corporation would contribute towards the cost of works ‘not exceeding £1,500, at the quays.’ Over the period we see new quays built, increased berthage and ‘an agreement with the Waterford Gas Company in 1830 to have 13 gas lights erected at the edge of the quays’ (p. 47). All of this resulted in an increase in the number of ships and tonnage through the port, combined with a similar rise in the number and tonnage of vessels registered with the port. 

     Mary Breen’s much needed academic treatment of the subject of Waterford port and harbour leads her to conclude that: 
Waterford port and harbour between 1815 and 1842 evolved in a milieu where political and civic positions were the preserve of the Protestant elite. However, it was also a society in transition, with Catholics succeeding in mercantile and industrial enterprises, becoming increasingly confident and demanding a right to a role in politics and civic institutions. [2]  
The study is completed with useful Appendices including a detailed membership list of Waterford Chamber of Commerce and a superbly detailed and informative profile of the first Board of the Harbour Commissioners. 

     Noted maritime historian Andrew Doherty of Waterford Harbour – Tides & Tales noted of Breen’s study that ‘it was a very interesting account of the set-up of the Harbour Board… I certainly enjoyed it, I must say.’ This reviewer agrees with Doherty’s sentiments as Breen’s engaging and thorough study of Waterford port and harbour, 1815–42 should sit proudly on the shelf of Waterford history fanatics all over the globe. 

[1] Mary Breen, Waterford port and harbour, 181542 (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2019), pp. 1621.
[2] Ibid., p. 49 
The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, Ireland.
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