Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

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. 

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     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 

Thursday, March 12, 2020


In keeping with the guidelines nationwide regarding public meetings, this month's lecture

Lucky Escapes, rising damp or something else entirely? Why so few County Waterford big houses were burned in the Irish Revolution  by Cian Flaherty

is postponed.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Upcoming Lecture 28 February : Inspired language – cursing, swearing and blessing in early modern Waterford and Kilkenny.

Inspired language – cursing, swearing and blessing in early modern Waterford and Kilkenny.

A lecture by Dr Clodagh Tait

Time: 8 pm 

Venue : St Patrick’s Gateway Centre, Waterford 

Irish cursing traditions are often treated in a lighthearted way. 
One nineteenth-century observer commented that ‘Irish curses are always picturesque’. 
But close examination of accounts of the ritual curse and of other acts of ill-wishing, reveals 
deep fears about their power, danger and potential to cause real harm. Traditions of cursing in
 the Waterford and Kilkenny area are recorded as far back as the medieval period, and 
continue to the present day. In her lecture Dr Tait will give an overview of Irish cursing traditions,
 and will focus in particular on the seventeenth century. 
Strong belief in the power of the parental blessing and the parental curse can be found in the 
surviving wills and letters of this period. Looking at the language of cursing and blessing as used
 in family documents tells us much about understandings about the relationship between parents and 
children in this period, about the cultural resources used by fathers to attempt to guide or control their 
children and wives, and about ideas about love and duty in early modern families.

Clodagh Tait lectures in History at Mary Immaculate College, having previously worked in the 
University of Essex and UCD. She is the author of Death, Burial and Commemoration in Ireland,
 1550-1650, and co-editor of Age of Atrocity, and Religion and Politics in Urban Ireland, and has
 published articles on a variety of early modern topics including women, maternity, infant care, 
death, commemoration, martyrdom, belief and crowd violence. She wrote the chapter on 'Society
 1550-1700' in the second volume of the Cambridge History of Ireland. 
Her current projects include a history of Irish cursing and ill-wishing between 1550 and 1950 and 
a study of the supernatural labours of Irish mothers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Upcoming Lecture : Crisis and Long Term Effects of the Influenza Pandemic in Waterford and Ireland by Dr Ida Milne

The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society 2019 – 2020 lecture season continues on Friday January 31st January 2020 with a lecture at 8 pm in St Patrick’s Gateway Centre, Waterford when Dr Ida Milne will deliver a talk titled “Crisis and long term effects – the 1918 – 1919 influenza pandemic in Waterford and Ireland”.

Dr Milne will take a global, national and regional perspective to examine the 1918-1919 pandemic and its political and social history, and look briefly at the figures.  South-east Ireland was quite the hot spot for flu in the second wave in October through December 1918, and to a lesser extent in the spring of 1919.

What this talk will focus on are the oral histories of the flu that Dr Milne collected during her research. Some oral histories were collected from survivors who caught it as small children and often didn’t realise until she spoke to them that what they had been through was this amazing disease that killed upwards of 50 million globally. When Ida started collecting oral histories about the flu she thought that she would find out about the illness, the treatments given to patients, doctors visiting, and other immediate experiences. What she found was much more fascinating, the flu had wider ramifications than just illness and death. Often if a parent died, it changed the entire economic status of families, they might also lose their home if it went with the parent’s job, or the single remaining parent might decide to emigrate. So the fallout was a lot more that it seemed, and often caused long term emotional crises too.

Dr Ida Milne is a lecturer in European history at Carlow College.  She is a social historian who specialises in using oral history to explore her research interests which include Irish Protestant identity, working lives and broad interests in the history of infectious disease. ‘Stacking the Coffins, Influenza War and Revolution in Ireland’, the book based on her doctoral research on the 1918 flu pandemic, was published in 2018. She is co-editor with Dr Ian d’Alton of the recently published book ‘Protestant and Irish – The Minority’s Search for Place in Independent Ireland’. A native of Wexford, Ida attended Waterford’s Newtown School in the 1970s.
The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, Ireland.
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