Crossing the Blackwater at Rhincrew - i gContae Portlairge By Mike Hackett.
Can you imagine a river so long that it rises in the hills of North-East Kerry and enters the sea between West-Waterford and East-Cork – over a hundred miles away. ‘Broadwater’ was the original name before it became An Abha Mhor (the Big River) and then later – Blackwater. As those names suggest – it is big and broad. Add strong and deep to give an idea of the great challenge that it presented to travellers.
In the lower section - Ardsallagh rises high over the eastern side - and here an earthen Dun or Fort stood in early centuries to protect the native Irish hunters and fishermen. Later the Danes ventured upriver in the 9th century to plunder Molana Abbey at Dair Inis (the Isle of the Oaks) and Lismore - many times. On the more wooded western side of the river – the sizeable ivy-clad relics of the Knights Templar of Rhincrew can still be seen on the hilltop. The pilgrim knights built this fine fortress in the late 12th century to give them a commanding view of the river and estuary – plus a panorama from Ardmore to Youghal Bay.
As late as two centuries ago – there was no bridge crossing this lower section of the river. It was crossed using a rope-drawn barge-like craft from Tinnabinna on the Waterford side to the slob-lands on the Cork side. To give an insight into how poor times were - people were carried over in this craft without charge – but an animal was a penny for a return journey. When the Clashmore people would arrive at the loading stage – they would tie their animal to a tree before crossing free on the barge. This was because they couldn’t spare the penny to pay the animal’s passage.
Landing on the mud-flats at the Cork side – they would then walk the mile to Youghal to do their shopping – and bring out the bags of meal on their backs to the ferry. Then crossing over free again to Tinnabinna – they would put the load on their pony or donkey before heading off over Ardsallagh for Clashmore. Such laborious work – and all because they hadn’t a penny to spare.
In 1833 – after a short causeway had been built from the Cork side - a timber bridge was built to link up the two counties. It was constructed using larch timber – which lasts well underwater – and that bridge served for fifty years until 1883. When the timber was taken from it – the local folk took bits away to use for roof supports and door jams. A door-jam that was made from the bridge larch is still in place not far from the bridge location
Next came the famous metal bridge – and during the construction of it in 1881-3 – a large number of local labourers found employment on the project. The conditions were very harsh for all labourers – generally speaking – towards the end of that century. Times have changed so much since - that it is hard for us – nearly a century and a half later – to imagine life without good working conditions. National Health payments and Widows’ and Orphans’ pensions were unheard of. Couple that with poor safety measures, bad clothing, inadequate diet and rampant T.B. Such was the lot of the locals working on that bridge. It was said that if a man working on the bridge wore even a waistcoat – he would be sent home. It was felt that he should be able to keep himself warm without it – even on the coldest day.
For eighty years – that structure carried the considerable Waterford-Cork traffic – although for its last few years – it was somewhat restricted because of age. Barrels of sand were placed along the length of it in staggered fashion - through which cars had to weave to slow them up. Vibration was the biggest enemy as the rust ate deeper into the metal supports.
Because of those barrels on the bridge – the C.I.E. public buses – coming from Cork and from Waterford - could no longer cross over. The buses would park on their respective sides in special bays – while the passengers walked across. At 10-30 am, 3 pm and 7-30pm every day - the buses would arrive simultaneously and – regardless of weather – the passengers would walk across. The drivers and conductors stayed with their own vehicles. Mick Ahern – who had a hackney car – was engaged to bring the luggage and senior people across – but of course he could only fit a few into his car. Most had to walk across – enduring the wind, rain and cold on that bleak connection. The Cork side especially was very exposed with its mere three-foot high light railing – while the Waterford side had much-higher stronger sides.
A local character named Mick Keogh was a bus conductor and was quick to see entertainment in any situation. On stormy days – Mick would walk back the aisle of the bus warning the passengers to keep low on the impending test-of-nerve. “The last person blown over was never found” he would say as he wound up their fears. “And don’t run back to me – I won’t let you back onto my bus” he would tease. Then if somebody had a bike in the hold – he would encourage them to ride it over across the windswept river. Mick was merely being himself – great fun – but strangers did not always see him like that.
One stormy day – a female traveller refused point-blank to cross the river – not even in the hackney car – such was her great fear of water. Mick tried all kinds of bluff and persuasion to no avail. He even told her bluntly that she could not retrace her journey with him. The bus and crew at the other side of the river were waiting patiently. Mick was at his wits end – but he was a crafty character and had one last trick up his sleeve. Along came Jack Rapley in his little van and Mick waved him down. “Would you bring this lady back to town in your van – out of my sight. She is afraid of water”. Jack agreed and the woman was placed in the back of the van – because Jack’s wife was in the passenger seat in front. Mick whispered something to Jack and the van did a quick U turn and quickly drove across the bridge. The woman - in the darkness of the back of the van – didn’t know where she was. But when the doors were opened on the Waterford side – having crossed the bridge – she gave an almighty roar that Mick could hear on the Cork side. She then boarded the Waterford bus to continue her journey. Good thinking Mick!.
Gates were then erected at both ends to get traffic stopped before driving over. Those gates were manned around the clock – with booths like telephone kiosks beside them to keep the gate-men dry and warm while that rusting metal structure served the its few years.
On 23rd January 1963 – the ‘new’ concrete bridge – a bit further upriver - replaced the metal one. The plaque on this mentions that it was opened by Neil Blaney T.D. from Donegal – but it was not. He took sick the day before and the plaques were already cast and erected at both ends. The ceremony was really performed by Donagh O’Malley T.D. from Limerick – who was the substitute.
This ‘new’ bridge is far higher over the water than its predecessor and has no opening span – as tall ships no longer venture up the river. Happily – despite the dangers – no life was lost in the building of the concrete bridge - but sadly one man was lost during the dismantling of the old metal one.
So the next time that you cross this great river – pause awhile. Notice the shags drying their wings as they stand like statutes - the herons spaced along the water’s edge silently fishing – and the oyster catchers so busy amongst the seaweed. Admire the woodland hills – rising high above the bridge – and think of all the history this place has seen.
Photo of Brickyard: The men from Ballycurrane, Clashmore and Geatha Cross would walk across that bridge in the early morning – to be at work at the Brickyard for 6 am. Again in the evening at 6 pm – they would cross over to go back home. And it was six days every week.
The Clock Gate at night from the east side. Notice the large rectangular blocks of masonry that are built into the corners of the tower. They are used as a load-bearing feature to provide strength and weather protection and also for aesthetic purposes to add detail and accentuate the outside corners of the building.
During the Clock Gate restoration project back in 2014 this side of the building had to be covered with special cladding to prevent water ingress and penetrating damp from seeping into the interior of the building. It is now a wonderful restored museum.
In earlier times slate tile cladding was used on the north and south facing walls as weather protection from the rain. Back then it could have been called the Clock Slate!
Notice to what looks like the Youghal town cannon guns on the right hand corner of the picture. The cannon guns were once perched on the town walls but they were originally located much nearer the quayside by the river to protect the town. Some of the cannons are now located at either side to the entrance of the Town Hall and in the college gardens.
A disappointing part of that 2014 restoration was the really poor workmanship on the rainwater hopper and downpipe system on that wall elevation which is now badly leaking on nearly every joint and must be soaking into the building at this stage, the clearly visible water stains can be seen the entire length of the downpipes.
Going to Primary School in the Presentation Convent Youghal meant having four Rev. Sisters as teachers for the first four years of my school days. Sr. Bridget, Sr. Carmel, Sr. Angela and Sr. Coleman – all were very nice. They never slapped any child – but Sr. Bridget had her own way of dealing with the chatter-box inattentive boys. It was a mixed class – and she would borrow a ribbon from one of the girls in the class – put it on the boy’s hair – then sit him on the ‘gallery’ under the clock – so everybody looking at the clock would laugh. He would be slow to chat during class again. A few years later – it was 1 st . Class with Sr. Coleman – and she kept reminding us that we weren’t babies anymore – now we were boys. She was great at playing the harmonium – and had a percussion band that everybody in the class took part in. Just think of thirty-five boys (it was all boys at that stage) making a terrible racket playing tin drums, flutes, rattlers, tambourines, one-note bugles, castanetes, - and the Sister playing the tune on the harmonium. Was poor Sr. Coleman trying to instil a love for music in us?
The following year – it was across the road to the Christian Brothers School – a different ball-game altogether. We had been forewarned about the big leather straps that the Brothers carried in their large pockets. Those straps were made up of several layers of leather stitched together and were about a foot long. The blows from that were given usually on the hands – but sometimes on the bum – as you were spread over a desk. The system was operating on the ‘fear’ aspect –with everybody shivering when the teacher was in bad form. Sore hands and sore bums were common.
My late uncle – Denis Hackett – told a very amusing story about when he was in school long ago. A pal of his took the leather strap from under the teacher’s desk one day – while the Brother was dealing with a complaint from a parent at the door. He hid it in his school sack and brought it away when going home.
As they passed by the Bridewell Jail at North Abbey – he threw it over the high front wall – into the jungle of nettles and briars as it was at the time. There was consternation the next day when the strap was missed. The disappearance could not be solved! A new strap had to be ordered for that Brother and of course he felt very foolish at having lost it (or so he thought). It was ten years after that – when a man named Young bought the Bridewell Jail to make a garage there – that the strap was found as the nettles and briars were cleared. Gerry Russell (Senior) came from Conna later to take over that garage and it is now to become a community garden at the entrance to Texco.
We can’t get away from Billy Swayne – who was a shoemaker and did leather work at Browne Street. One day we discovered him stitching (repairing) a C.B.S. leather strap. Being in school – and having seen the ‘weapon’ used many times – we exclaimed shock that he was repairing it. His answer was that he was replacing the middle layers with softer leather so that it wouldn’t be too harsh. He didn’t fool us that time!
It was about 1952 – when there was a coalition government in power – that a scheme was introduced to give hot cocoa and an iced bun to the primary school children who did not go home for their lunch. John Hannon’s confectionary shop at Tallow Street got that contract – and every day about noon – his van would arrive with big trays of the lovely iced buns. We looked forward to that treat. There would always be buns extra – and they would be cut in half to give an extra piece to the friends of the seniors (who were the waiters)
Secondary school in the C.B.S. was in the same building – except that it was on the floor above the Primary – and was reached by an outdoor steel stairs like a fire-escape. We found it so very different from what we were used to: instead of the same teacher all day – we now had about six different ones – and some new subjects like Latin and science.
When 1957 came – it was time to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of the Christian Brothers in town. Great plans were made – including the formation of a school band – to which we were all encouraged to join. A few of us were given harmonicas to learn while the majority were on flageolets. Then – a few weeks before the celebration – some musical genius decided that the harmonicas were not in tune with the flageolets. So about a dozen would-be bandsmen were dismissed –and the good side was that we were allowed to keep the harmonicas. Special matches (with suit-lengths for the winners) were played at Copperalley – where Blackrock (Cork) played Mount Sion (Waterford) and Glen Rovers (Cork) played De la Sale (Waterford). The Regal Cinema was changed into a concert hall for the event – and famous artists like Chris Sheehan (singer from Cork) and Eugene Lambert (ventriloquist from Dublin) took part. The Christian Brothers were mainly from Dublin and they loved being here at the seaside. They had an open boat and would go out on the harbour fishing or take a trip upriver. One man named Br. Canden developed severe pains in later life and was confined to a wheelchair. Despite that – he insisted on coming back to Youghal on holiday and went upriver in the boat like old times.
Returning to talk about the actual school days – we attended six days a week – including for a half day every Saturday morning. When one thinks now of the students who achieve so much just attending five days a week. Where did we go wrong? But then only the children of rich people went on to third level. One thing can be said for sure – that but for the Christian Brothers – despite their harshness – we would have had very little education.
See photo of Inter-Cert class of 1954. Front Row – Jacky Lupton, John Leyne, Sean O’Driscoll, Noel Pigott, Tadgh Kelleher, Brian Gaule and Noel Gallagher. Middle Row – Pat Gallagher, Richard O’Connor, Anthony Hannon, Paul Flynn and Oliver Broderick. Back Row – Michael O’Shea, Peter Power, John Riordan, Peadar O’Driscoll, Greg Forrest, Seanie Whelan, Tom Keane, Diarmuid O’Connor, Domi Keane and Michael Kelly. ... See MoreSee Less
Loved this. I was in presentation and Christian Brothers school in the 1950s and I'd forgotten about the buns. Thanks for the reminder. I do recall my mother sewing uniforms for the band. That was a big event in our house.
A lovely post and a great read on this Sunday morning, thank you
Tony Hannon ???
Felicity 'Flip' Hunter - John would enjoy these x
Deirdre Potts a familiar face at the end of the front row!
Brendan O'Connor your Dad would enjoy this his picture here in the post. Kay Twomey Margaret Murphy
OMG, I always thought the "Youghal regatta" of the 1920s referred to English gents like Commander Arbuthnot sailing their yachts up and down the river. Jeepers. I'm surprised. Great photo.
How smartly dressed they were, my mum would have been around there as a 4 year old along with uncle Paddy
Kathleen O'Connor Mary Hickey I could be soooo wrong but the guy in the nearest boat holding the oar and standing has the same stance as uncle Richie and the guy holding the oar on shore nearest him has an uncle Maurice stance ?? Could I be right ?
Beautiful style, colour great 👏
Absolutely Fantastic Photo
Super photograph 💚🎆👏👏
My dad was 5 ..i wonder if he was there with his mother Emily healy
Lol looks like they are trying to stop the imigration
YOUGHAL - LOOKING FORWARD - LOOKING BACK: A short film tribute to the town's rich filmmaking history.
A short documentary about Youghal, its Hollywood links and its future in film. This celebratory film features some of the town's well-loved landmarks, archival footage and photographs.
Films that were made in and around Youghal are Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' (1973) with Ryan O'Neal. John Huston's 'Moby Dick' (1954) with Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart and Orson Welles, and Robert Knight's 'The Dawning' (1988) featuring Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Grant, Trevor Howard, Jean Simmons and Adrian Dunbar.
This was the introductory film at this years First Cut Youth Film Festival 2021. Thanks to Festival Director Mary McGrath – First Cut Youth Film Festival
The late Paddy and Maureen Linehan serving the happy customers in the old Moby Dicks Bar, Market Square, Youghal, County Cork. (circa late 1950s)
Notice the 'New Bedford' sign behind the bar. In the 1950s, most exterior shots of "New Bedford" in John Huston's movie adaptation of Moby Dick were filmed in Youghal, as New Bedford itself had changed too much in the intervening century to be usable for this purpose. ... See MoreSee Less
Ireland’s National Service Day - Sat 4th September 2021 A national thank you to the brave frontline workers who keep us safe every day.
We want to thank each and every service member out there, frontline, voluntary and emergency, for your outstanding efforts in serving the community especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured at Nealon's Quay in Youghal are the people from the various frontline services who gathered to mark Ireland’s National Service Day - Sat 4th September 2021.
Photos include: Blood Bank South volunteer riders Eric McCarthy and James Griffin; Members of the Youghal Coast Guard unit; Member of the Youghal RNLI and members of the Youghal Fire Brigade.
Congratulations and best wishes to Youghal-born author Colm Keane and his wife former RTÉ newsreader Una O’Hagan on their new book called "The Book of St. Brigid" which will be published on the 8th September 2021.
Feminist, farmer, abbess, bishop and miracle worker, St. Brigid has inspired Irish women and men down through the ages. She cared for the poor, healed the sick, and founded monastic settlements. She became patron saint of revolutionaries and women fighting for their rights. She is also credited with inventing the Rosary beads, brewing ale, and inspiring the first tiered wedding cake and Buy Irish campaign. Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, Lady Gregory and Maud Gonne MacBride regarded her as a guiding light. All of them, including Brigitte Bardot, are featured in this book. The book also describes her holy wells, St. Brigid’s Crosses, churches, miracles and cures – providing you with all you will ever need to know about this iconic saint. Colm Keane has published 29 books, including eight No.1 bestsellers, among them The Little Flower: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Padre Pio: Irish Encounters with the Saint. Una O’Hagan is a former newsreader with Radio Telefís Éireann. Co-author of the No.1 bestseller, The Little Flower: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, this is her fourth book.
Price €14.99 Paperback 224 pages Capel Island Press PUBLISHED 8 SEPTEMBER 2021 ISBN 978-1-9995920-3-5
Picture: No.1 bestseller Colm Keane and former RTÉ newsreader Una O’Hagan.
Every good wish and congratulations to Colm and Una - thinking back to all the great book launches that we had with yourselves and Sean. You are certainly keeping religion alive in Ireland. Keep safe and well- Mike H.
Looking forward to it god bless you both Maura ( Perry)