Monday, 8 September 2014

Historical Walk around Passage Co Waterford

On Tuesday 26th of August, the Society organised our third summer evening walk of the season. There was a fine attendance of more than 35 interested members and friends. Our Chairperson Ray Mc Grath welcomed everyone and introduced John Burke who would lead the walk and the other Committee members, Bob Desmond and Michael Farrell. Also in attendance was historian Michael Fewer who contributed to the conversation during the event.

The walk began at the Community Centre which includes a preserved portion of the Kippering House. The one acre site known as the Park was acquired in 1900 under lease from Lord Waterford. Arthur C. Miller ,a Billingsgate fish buyer working in Donegal was sent by his company John L Sayers Ltd to look into the viability of starting a  fish smoking/curing business in the south east. He supervised the construction of a Fish House for the purpose of Fish Curing and Storing. It was completed in 1901 and continued to operate  and provide employment until  1964. It had three tall brick Kilns (2 single and 1 Double). It was a great success The fish house could smoke 50 cran of herrings a day..(about 38,000 or 8 tons.) Arthur Miller died in 1953 and the business was continued by his family. The barrelled herring were sent to England and the continent by ship and by the boat/train ferries. Boxes of fresh fish and bloaters and Kippers followed the same routes. Ray, whose family were closely involved in the same industry in Dunmore explained the process of smoking Kippers.

The next stop was the Memorial Garden, constructed by Passage East and Crooke Development Association in memory of all those who have lost their lives at sea. There are very few families in Passage and Crooke whose lives have not been touched by losses at sea.
 Fort including tower in 1784 painting
Present day remnant of tower
Then we arrived at a small tower. This is all that remains of Passage Fort. The Park and the eastern part of the village was the site of the Blockhouse and Fort of Passage.  By 1497, the Mayor and Commons of Waterford had built a blockhouse in Passage. which had some guns mounted on it and from which ships going up and down the river could be controlled. This was for the defence of the city and security of boats and ships and the maintenance of good rule and order amongst the fishermen and  in order to pay for the upkeep of the fort at Passage which defended the river , all fishing boats had to pay a toll with some of their catch....a basket of herrings from the herring boats or the best fish from the other boats.To increase the security of the garrison in 1590, a wall was built around the Block House . It took two years to complete the wall. It was an oblong enclosure At the south east corner was the Blockhouse while small round flankers stood at the other three corners. It is one of those flankers that is still standing.

Passage Strand where Normans Landed with the Hook visible in distance

We then walked by a footpath at the top of the beach. John asked us to look south and observe Hook Lighthouse and the mouth of the Harbour. He explained that it was this ease of access to shelter and a convenient landing spot for shipping that made Passage such an important place in Ireland’s History. This was the scene of the Noman landing by Strongbow . He arrived with a large army (1200). in August 1170.  He landed at Crooke and joined forces with Raymond le Gros and together they captured the city of Waterford with great bloodshed.  
This landing was followed by  King Henry 11 in  1171. He feared opposition and he sailed from Milford Haven with a fleet of 250 ships, 500 Knights and 4000 men including Welsh Archers.  His son Prince John also landed here in 1185 and landed at Crooke with 60 ships , 300 knights and 2000 soldiers. He returned in 1210 as King John and began to impose his authority.
After the Irish rebellion of 1315-1318 with Edward Bruce, English influence in Ireland began to wane. In 1394, King Richard 2nd came to Ireland to try and re-conquer it He arrived in Passage with the largest army ever to disembark in Ireland; a massive force of 30,000 archers and 4000 men at arms. He himself continued to sail up to Waterford where his army awaited him. He was acknowledged by most Irish chieftains as Lord of Ireland and left feeling satisfied although he had not regained one acre of land. Within four years he had to return. Michael Fewer helped us to visualize the logistics of transporting a large army across the sea and the impressive not to say frightening sight they must have presented to the local population.

Beresford Row
As a complete contrast, we were then shown the old road from Passage to Crooke, now no longer in use. There was a part of Passage  which has now gone forever due to the effects of sea erosion. Before it was necessary to abandon the old road there were many acres of fertile land producing crops annually. First the protective storm-wall was undermined and then the fields were washed away. The people of the district had to decide whether to build another storm wall or construct a new road. The new road was decided upon and work began in 1897. Four houses had to be demolished and the owners were compensated to the amount of £100 per house….a good sum in 1897. The children would have used the new road when their new school opened at the top of the road in 1898

Alward’s Castle was next on our walk..  When the Bruys family died out around 1450 their lands (which included Passage) went to the Aylwards of Faithlegg. Peter Aylward succeeded to the property in 1531. Among other improvements, he built a house in Passage which has been called the Castle but was in fact a well constructed house some of which still remains. It’s main feature is the old doorway which is in the backyard of the existing house in the form of a pointed arch above which are the Aylward coat of arms on the right and the Sherlock coat of arms on the left. (Katherine Sherlock). Peter built a quay, diverted the stream from St Anne’s well and made other improvements.

                                                       Aylward's Castle

 This property passed to Peter’s son Sir Richard Aylward. He continued to develop his estates and passed them to his son Peter. This Peter died in 1645 and was succeeded by his cousin John Aylward. His castle in Faithlegg fell to the Cromwellians  and all his lands were confiscated. By the time  of Cromwell, the Aylwards owned almost 11,000 acres including all the land around Passage and the rights to the ferry and all the quayage and dockage of the wharfs and quays.

Site of Market House

Next door are the offices of Passage East Car Ferry. This was once the Market-house. This was used during fair days which were held on May 6th, June 12th, September 8th and November 12th..for the sale of butter, fish and other farm and home produce. It was also a meeting place. In 1746, it was reported that “There is a good Market House in the town and the other houses are in good repair”.
By 1784 another report noted that “. The Market House was now in disrepair. The builders who were working on New Geneva were asked to give an estimate for the repair of the Market house but nothing came of it.” Later in the 1780s a request was made to the Government, via Mr James Cuffe who had been in charge of the New Geneva project, to set up a school in the large room of the Market House, particularly for the purpose of teaching Navigation. It was intended to be non denominational. Methodism began in the early eighteenth century as a religious movement within the Anglican church ,led by John Wesley (1703-1791). He visited Ireland a number of times travelling on horseback and preaching.  In his journal, John Wesley relates an account of a visit to Passage on Wednesday June 14th 1769.. He preached in the Market House. He said “The whole multitude was tolerably quiet and many seemed much affected”, Four years later he was back this way again. He was coming from Wexford and came to the ferry. The sailors tried to put his chaise into the boat but the chaise tumbled off . In less than an hour they had fished the chaise out of the water and back on the boat.  His bags were still on the shore so none of his papers got wet. He went across on the ferry, leaving the horses behind to come after. Finding that there was no other transport available, John Wesley could not wait and walked the seven miles to Waterford and began to preach on the text “My yoke is easy and my burden light”.
Former School House

Our attention was then drawn to a fine two storied house covered in beautiful ivy, the home of the Walsh family. This was used as a school from 1859 until 1898 when a purpose built school opened at the top of the Crooke road. The National system of Education was established in 1832. A commission on the state of education in 1824 found that there were 5 schools in Passage of varying quality . An application in 1846 was accepted and two different rooms were  provided.  James O Neill was the Male teacher and was the first National School teacher in Passage He was 34 and trained at the model school in Dublin. He came from New Ross. The teacher of the girl’s school was Mrs Ellen Delaney , an experienced lady of sixty years and untrained. She retired in 1849 and Bridget Rogers  from Ramsgrange was appointed. The girl’s school house had to close because the Board objected to the fact that it was above a pub. Miss Rogers taught the girls in her own house until 1859 when both schools moved to this house nearby (with the ivy on the walls). When the children moved up to their new school in 1898, the Girls were being taught by Ms Margaret M. Byrne from Co.Galway and Ms Agnes Keane from Co.Mayo. The boys were taught by Mr John Hearne and his assistant Mr Edward Baston from Passage.

We then looked up to the hill over Passage and observed St Annes Church.   West Passage and Knockroe were part of a larger manor called Coolmacsawry. It belonged to the Bruys family. In 1284 they gave a grant of six acres including the Oratory of St Anne to the Master of St Mark’s Hospital in Bristol. Bristol was a stronghold of the Knights Templar.  It is shown in various maps, sometimes in disrepair. It was repaired in 1615 and now served the recently established  Church of Ireland.  A new church was built on the site by 1746. It had a regular service in it.  It was again extensively restored  about 1820. It continued to be used by the Church of Ireland until it was deconsecrated and sold in 1978. The church was also used by the “Mission to Seamen” which was very active in the 19th century and of great comfort to the crews of visiting ships.As the evening began to close in we could see the Car Ferry plying it’s trade. We heard that Passage/ Ballyhack is the narrowest part of the estuary and is a natural crossing point. When the Knights Templar arrived in 1200 they were granted the Ferry rights. The Latin name for a ferry is Passagium hence the name Passage.  In 1635 , Sir William Brerton travelled from Ballyhack to Waterford. He said “I crossed over to Passage.  The boat was rowed by four oars.  Horses were brought over two or three ar a time”.   Various forms of boat were used over the years to transport, Horses, Carriages as well as pedestrians and cyclists before the Car ferry was instituted in 1982. Many people on the walk remembered  when the ferry was run by Patsy Barron. His boat was the Mary. The Car Ferry was begun in 1982 by Edmund Donnelly and his son Derek. Their first boat was the “Dunbrody” which carried 15 cars. This was followed by the Edmund D in 1995, and the present boat is the “Tintern” which carries 28 cars.

As we stood on the quay side we were reminded that among the famous visitors were Perkin Warbeck, the pretender…1493, who left Ireland from Passage. Also, King James 2nd who fled these shores after the Battle of the Boyne and also King William of Orange who came to Passage with the intention of departing but left some days later from Duncannon. Michael Fewer also reminded us of Queen Victoria whose boat anchored outside Passage which at that time was  “famous for it’s Salmon”. Ray spoke of the numbers who left from this village to work on the fishing grounds of Newfoundland. He then rounded off the walk by quoting from a poem by Donnacha Rua Mac Conmara in which he speaks of visiting Passage to get on board a ship as so many hundreds of thousands did before the invention of the steam engine made Waterford City more accessible and led to the demise in the fortunes of this special place.

In thanking the walkers for their attention and participation John reminded them that there is plenty material for a completely different walk which could cover, the Knights Templar, New Geneva and Geneva Barracks, Cromwell’s capture of Passage Fort and the Mass Rock in CarrickSaggart. Hopefully, the society can organize this in the new year.

Parade Square

Post Office Square