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Friday, December 30, 2011


The former Mercy Convent, Portlaw, vacated by the Sisters of Mercy a short few years ago, and now rapidly deteriorating and being vandalised. Is this to become another complete wreck, like the former Malcomson mansion - Mayfield House?

It was hoped by the Malcomson family, owners of Portlaw’s Cotton-Mill, that the (later to be a Convent) building, from circa 1840, would serve as the local station house for the proposed new Waterford and Limerick Railway line. This rail link would be invaluable to them for their thriving cotton industry.  Building commenced on this new line at Limerick in sometime after 1848, and the entire line to Waterford was completed in 1854. The idea for a Portlaw station never materialised, as Fiddown was chosen instead for the purpose, the railway line having been built on the far (east) side of river instead . . . a decision which the Malcomsons appealed, but failed.   The building, however, remained in Malcomson ownership until 1883.
A former Portlaw Parish Priest, Rev. John McGrath, who died in 1882, left his entire assets to charity, which included the setting up of a convent in the town.  Time was not lost in acquiring the Malcomson  building, and five sisters from the Mercy Convent in Cahir arrived there in June 1883, including Mother M.Bernard Vaughan, who was Mother Superior at that time.  These committed and enthusiastic ladies immediately commenced teaching in the local girls school and provided evening classes for those young females who daily worked long hours at the Mayfield Spinning Company factory (the Cotton-Mill). The nuns also spent time looking after the poor and sick in the area.  A chapel was added to the building in 1934, thanks to the generosity of the people of Portlaw.
First Superior of the convent was Mother M. Peter Clare McCarthy in 1885, who was followed in 1891 by Mother M. McCormack, and many others thereafter until 1999 when the sisters vacated the convent in 1999. One sister, a native of county Tipperary, Sr. Columba – now known as Sr. Margaret – decided to stay on in Portlaw, where she is still a prominent and active member of the local community.
The convent and grounds were sold in 2000, for development as a residential area. Quite a number of houses were built on the grounds and are now lived in, but the future of the main convent building and chapel is uncertain

Sr. Margaret, mentioned in the text above, ringing the Eucharistic Congress Bell at St. Patrick's Church, Portlaw, during yesterday's (6th Jan. 2012) Bell ceremonies.
(see  soon-to-appear adjacent photographs and text re the Bell's visit to Portlaw).

Saturday, December 24, 2011


No Santa Claus!  Now, who said that? You must be joking. He’s been around for centuries, even though he died exactly 1668 years ago! However, he has been appearing every Christmas Eve ever since . . . and never missed a year, it’s said, bringing  gifts to people around the world, mainly GOOD young people.  Some people write to him looking for expensive presents, but I’ve heard that the less you ask for, the more you get. Remember that piece of advice for 2012! I myself gave up writing to him aeons ago, but still he calls every Christmas Eve, with surprises.   . . . and  don’t leave out glasses of whiskey or punch for the man, or he won’t even get as far as Kilmeaden or Kilmacthomas, because he’ll be breathalayzed by officers of the law . . . and right they are!  However, for those poor jaded reindeer, I’d suggest a small amount of hay or some other suitable edible.  Whoever owns that deer farm up near Piquet’s Cross, will be pleased to advise you, I’m sure.  

He’s called by so many different names, it’s sometimes confusing;  for example:  just plain Santa, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kingle, Sinterklaas, Sãn Nicolau, St. Nikolaus, Saint Nikola, and here in Ireland – San Nioclás. We have hundreds of people, male and female, called after him, and dozens of churches . . . one right out the road in our own parish of Ballyduff & Portlaw; yes, St. Nicholas’ Church, Ballyduff!  Agus annsin, cad mar gheall ar Meánscoil San Nioclás, amuigh san Rinn? Mind you, I’ve seen only one statue of him, and that was in St. Nicholas’ Church, Kinsaley, north County Dublin.  However, I saw no sign of a Sleigh or reinder near him. That’s where former Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, attended church.  The curate there, Fr. Matty Farrell,  a South Tipperary man like myself, will be pleased to meet you if he’s not over in Portmarnock,  also the caretaker – a great welcoming conversationalist! The church in question can be found between the Hilton Airport Hotel, at the end of the M50, and Malahide. 

It’s said Saint Nicholas’  remains were removed during the Crusades to Ireland, by Norman knights from Jerpoint, in County Kilkenny, and re-interred close to the ancient abbey there.  All this and very much more on a great website:

. . . a wealth of information and images for both young and old.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Happenings

Switching on the Christmas Lights at Malcomson Square, 10th December 2011.
Am uncertain who was pressing the button. Take your pick!
On the left - Johnny Crotty, Portlaw Heritage Group.
On right - local resident, Maurice Nugent, heading towards becoming a centenarian!

Not having the names of all involved, I can only say that the members of the local Fire Brigade were very much involved on the occasion, also members of Foróige, who usually are responsible for the Christmas tree, which, being erected on the roundabout, makes it impossible to have a connection to the electricity service, and thus can not be lit up!
Those wearing fluorescent jackets are all members of the Fire Brigade, as is the gentleman in photo No. 169.

A double left-click on any image will enlarge the series for easier viewing. .

If anyone cares to supply names of people in these photos, I will be glad to publish them. If submitting names, please mention the relative photo reference number!

It was with deep regret that people heard of the closure of Woodlock Nursing Home just a week before Christmas (2011). The house, which had been run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny  since 1909, was once home of Frederick Malcomson, one of the seven sons of David Malcomson, founder of Portlaw’s famous Cotton-Mill circa 1825.
At one stage, Fred’s brother, George, who had been living in Clodiagh House, exchanged dwellings with his brother, and it remained in his wife’s name – Emilie Maud (née Pim) –  after he died, until she passed away in in the early 1900s. Shortly afterwards, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny acquired the property from Emilie Maud’s son, Keith, who was carrying out his late mother’s wishes.  Both the Malcomson and Pim families were prominent members of the Society of Friends aka Quakers.  
The house, designed by leading Irish architect, J. S. Mulvany, featured architectural details which can be found in other Malcomson houses. The building, erected in 1863,  contained a chapel,  originally  a consevatory, which was used by the public for Mass on weekdays and Sundays. An inscribed plaque over the front door reads:-

To the Glory of God and in memory of George Pim Malcomson and Emilie Maud, his wife.

The twenty-plus patients in the nursing home were moved elsewhere some days before Christmas by the Health Board.  More than thirty full-time and part-time staff, mainly from the Portlaw area, are now without work, at a time when the present recession is worsening.  

The convent and nursing home, with chapel at this end of building.

-   oooOooo   -

Death of Pat Phelan

Pictured (3rd from left)  on the occasion of his visit to Portlaw Heritage Centre on December 9th 2006, is the late Pat Phelan, noted artist, who passed away on December 13th last.
Others in picture, from left:-  the late Brendan Coffey, Paddy Cahill, and on right is Tom Nugent, all friends of Pat from his younger days.

(Further note to follow)

Friday, December 9, 2011


Seasonal Greetings and Many Thanks
to the numerous viewers from over fifty countries
who have visited this Blog
since it first went online on December 27th 2010.


All images can be viewed at a larger size by double left-clicking on them!

(This illustration, depicting the Nativity,  from a stained glass window in Loughmore Church, North Tipperary).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

T H A N K Y O U A L L !

Tonight, November 13th, 2011, at 8.48pm GMT,  the number of page-views on this Blog, by viewers in more than fifty contries,  has exceeded the 10,000 mark.   All this in the space of 10 ½months since the site was launched on December 27th last.
Statistics, behind the scenes, available to the Blog owner at the press of a button, show page-views for the present day, the week, the month and for ‘all time’ i.e. since the Blog was launched. Only the ‘Top Ten’ are shown in each category, viz. the countries from where the highest number of hits originated.  The current Top Ten are as follows:

Ireland – 5679, United Kingdom – 1449, United States – 1350, Canada – 272, Russia – 215, Germany – 135, Ukraine – 117, Latvia – 92, Israel – 74 and Australia 64.

However, page-views have originated from many other countries. From mid-September last (2011) to mid-November (2011) alone, the following  additional  countries have appeared in the statistics:

Azerbaijan, Egypt, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

Page-Views by Browsers and Operating Systems are also provided round-the-clock. Current figures are as follows. Am showing Top Five only in each case:-
Pageviews by Browsers:

Internet Explorer - 6,727 (67%), Firefox - 1,317 (13%), Chrome - 979 (9%), Safari - 808 (8%), Opera - 81 (<1%)

Pageviews by Operating Systems:

Windows - 8,772 (88%), Macintosh - 695 (6%), Linux - 188 (1%), iPad - 104 (1%), iPhone - 69 (<1%)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pride in our Parish 2011

"Pride in our Parish" day was planned for the first time this year specifically to raise funds for improvements in and around our local Church - St. Patrick's (R.C.).
The date chosen - October 23rd - was possibly an unwise choice, due to the possibility of inclement weather, and that's exactly what happened!  At 9.00 a.m., the weather looked reasonably good, but the weather forecast said that extremely bad weather would arrive at mid-day; and arrive it did, resulting in the various fund-raising events being called off, except for the Cake Sale, which went ahead in the church porch.
The entire programme was deferred to the following Sunday, October 30th, but this day's weather was just about as bad. Nevertheless, two events went ahead as planned:- (1) a 50 km Sponsored Cycle Run, and (2) a 5 km Sponsored Walk and Cycle Run.
Only the hardiest turned for each event. As the first event was starting, a continuous mist was falling, but still all the multi-coloured and well-equipped participants headed off in a joyful mood. At the commencement of the second event, 1.5 hours later, the rain was worsening and wind was increasing. However, once more those hardy ones who turned up, including some very young enthusuastic children, all headed off also, again in a great mood.  Photography was difficult due to rain-drops on lenses, but as things worsened I used an umbrella. However, using an umbrella in one hand and a heavy SLR camera in the other doesn't lead to perfect pictures all the time, so I had to discard about 1/3rd of my work.
The day's efforts, including the cake sale and donations from some individuals, realised the fine sum of approx. €4,500; an excellent result, which would have been doubled or trebled if the weather had been better.

The Day we had ‘Pride in our Parish’
(reprinted, with permission, from the Parish Newsletter of November 7th 2011)
October 23rdHaving received the update on weather the decision to postpone to Sunday of last week was made. Cakes had been donated very kindly for our first attempt on the 23rd were set up in the main porch and were joined by the lads selling the burgers we had hoped to barbecue later. The scene was surreal as Fr. Ned came down and stood in the main door after saying Mass, chatting with our mass-goers cum cake and burger buyers and youngsters disappointed that we had to postpone all the fun. Outside in the car park, our small committee was sending home the bouncy castle, the goals and the young people who were going to help us out for the day. After making the cancellation phone-calls to more people we headed home wringing wet, hungry but spirits still raised, and started organising for our evening entertainment which was going ahead. Take away food eaten (no substitute for Sunday roast) the girls sorted out the tickets and the prizes for the raffle. The night goes well and the lads did great selling the tickets and there was great banter with all there. We were ready for Sunday week, after a couple of get-togethers to copper-fasten arrangements, a leaflet drop was organised and the lads were sent out to the doors.    
October 30th:   The Sunday dawned, up got the ladies to make the sandwiches for the second time and the men went off to put up the safety signs along the route, collect tables and chairs from the hall and set up the car park. The weather was fine; we thought it would last the day but sadly no. The church porch had to be the makeshift market for the second Sunday to sell the second lot of donated cakes. The early morning sunshine didn’t last as the time edged toward noon; the cyclists were arriving for the 50K bicycle run and the mist was falling as the registration was taking place.  Bikes were being checked, donations handed over, numbers pinned on backs, helmets tightened, the odd jibe thrown as the men and one lady got ready for the off. All lined up for photographs before the lead van drove down the Chapel Hill followed by the cyclists followed by another van. The men and women of the Red Cross were on hand all day to help out if anybody needed medical assistance and we are grateful for their support as the event could not have gone ahead without them. The bouncy castle arrived in a trailer but had to be sent home, the clown for sponge throwing was sent away sad, the lads with the soccer goal had to undo their work and remove the lot, the sliotar and churn to arrive later had to be cancelled on route. Registration moved to the men’s porch. The cyclists, runners and walkers took off despite the miserable weather but that’s all that was miserable about last Sunday’s events. After a few ‘rules’ laid out by Fr. Ned to everybody setting out on the 5 mile, they were off and after a late call back by someone on the committee Fr. Ned eventually got going and Jimmy Burrows had to run down the hill to catch up with walking partner Cllr. Brendán. A lady from Ballyknock whose husband had went on the 50K arrived for the previously arranged 2pm start and was brought by car to catch up with group. The BBQ equipment arrived first in the car-park and then in to the yard at the men’s door thinking we might get a small break in the weather for when the brave participants got back, alas no. The tea, coffee, squash and hot chocolate were up and running inside the church with the Burco steaming until a fuse went and had to be replaced. Despite the rain pouring down the spirit of the returning hardy participants couldn’t be dampened as the runners started to arrive back, asking Jack “how did it go?” he says “it was only four miles you know”. He looked as if he could have run another ten. Claire and Michael discussed the final climb up the hill as she said “well, it’s done.” Local TD Paudie arrived back, water dripping off him after cycling, crossing the line with the young cyclists that got away from the group. Abbie arrived dry and fresh as a daisy having been pushed along in her buggy. Mary, one of our stewards took off to walk at a dash and told us she would be back to steward for the return of the 50K bikers and she was. The walkers and rest of cyclists also spilled in to the church where there was a real sense of pride and achievement and energy in the air. We all enjoyed the cuppa and the banter was electric, there were great laughs as each one shared their experience. Thank you to everyone who ran walked or cycled and those who helped on the very small committee.  We are grateful to those who typed, copied, delivered publicity leaflets, looked for sponsorship, stewarded the routes, baked not once but twice, bought twice, boiled Burcos and set up car park for events, sponsored burgers and buns, supplied bouncy castle, bought and sold wristbands and tickets, donated vouchers, volunteered to man stalls, made publicity posters, registered the participants, got numbers and pins, drive front and rear vans, set up for refreshment, etc. We also acknowledge the great support we received from those who could not attend but sponsored others.  A big Thank You to all.  We saw pride taken in our parish, in our church, in our community you led the way.
The  50km Cycle Event:
(reprinted also from the Parish Newsletter, with kind permission)
We salute those hardy men and one lady who braved the mist and the miles as they headed for Carrickbeg. We’re conscious of the sprightly septuagenarian who brought his four sons for the spin. Trevor in the leading van left the starting line in pursuit of potassium: a bunch of bananas! The eager bikers couldn’t wait and headed off down the Chapel Hill as he came up against them! A quartet of novices borrowed bikes and cycled off, their GAA togs flapping in the wind and rain. The stewards ushered the cyclists safely through Portlaw and out at Mayfield Cross. The Red Cross kept a keen eye on everyone’s health and safety. There were a few defections at the New Cemetery in Carrick: one van had to divert for diesel; two peddlers turned for home as further duties beckoned – Derek to set up and marshall the sliotar in churn and mini golf stalls (which sadly due to rain had to be called off) and Fr Ned to partake in the shorter cycle, run and walk. The newcomers to the saddle were pushed and cajoled up and around the Hair Pin Bend by the more seasoned campaigners. Coumshingaun was the setting for a road race, with cars and spectators dotted along the roadside. Our lads felt as if they were in the Tour de France and pedalled to the gallery, especially one lad who took off as if he was a pro (more about him later!). There were three barbecues in Kilclooney Woods carpark and the bikers from Portlaw were drooling and dreaming of Liam Fogarty and his promised burgers at the Chapel! Leamybrien was a breather as they dismounted and demolished Flavahan’s gifted Flapjacks and bananas and drinkable (as opposed to drenching) water. Off again on the Main Road, and barely visible in foggy conditions, as they hit for Kilmeaden. The bunch broke up. The hill at Kilmac found out the pro pretender, and the diesel-ed up van driver Pat Walsh wiped the eye of the Red Cross as he massaged the limbs of the ever eager Noel. Sadly they were too wet to savour the completion of the course back at the Church, and most headed for the hot shower and missed the waiting home-made sandwiches, freshly baked scones and plum jam, with choice of hot chocolate, tea or coffee.

Monday, October 10, 2011

141 "Halls' Ireland" & Portlaw

Halls Ireland’, a massive three-volume publication, published in 1840, was the culmination of almost 15 years work  by Samuel Carter Hall and his wife,  Anna,  more than likely the foremost travel- writers of their time.  Samuel , a non-practising lawyer turned-writer,  was from  New Geneva , Passage East, Waterford; his wife Anna a playwright and novelist was from across the estuary in County Wexford.
There seem to have been a number of editions of this work, including a very inexpensive (£8.95 ) boxed set in two volumes, condensed and edited by Michael Scott, and published by Sphere Books Ltd. in 1984.  This latter set has a very limited number of illustrations.  The original volumes were copiously illustrated with engravings by quite a variety of professional and amateur artists.
Originally it was possible to purchase the entire work in monthly parts, as a paragraph from ‘The Authors’ Advertisement’  states:
‘The publishers, on their part, pledge themselves to spare no expense or exertion that may render the publication deserving of extensive patronage.  It will be issued in monthly parts; each part to contain two engravings of scenery, upon steel, an engraved map of a county or district – carefully revised, according to the latest surveys, and, as far as possible,  collated with the maps issued by the Ordnance, with about fifteen engravings on wood. The letter-press will consist of forty-eight large and closely-printed pages in super-royal 8vo.  A number will appear on the 1st day of the month; and it is designed to complete the work in twenty parts.  The price of each part will be half-a-crown.
With the close of each volume, a title-page, etc., will be given, together with “directions to the binder”, and at the conclusion of the work a carefully compiled index.’

The frontispiece

The first edition in three volumes was published by How & Parsons, and printed by Bradbury and Evans of Whitefriars  – printers to the Queen.    The dedication read:
To His Royal Highness
etc., etc.,
this volume,
descriptive of a country with which His Royal Highness is so closely,
and so affectionately connected,
by gracious permission of His Royal Highness

most respectfully dedicated
by his faithful and devoted servants,

Hall’s Ireland contains the following write-up on Portlaw:
"A lofty tower, which attracts notice from all points of the scenery along the river, directs attention to Curraghmore – the mansion of the Marquis of Waterford.  The house is a comparatively plain structure, built in 1700, on the site of an ancient castle, part of which still exists.  The park is extensive, - the most extensive in Ireland, and larger, perhaps, than any in England – comprising nearly 5000 statute acres of land; it has been planted with the rarest trees, and commands magnificent views of the surrounding country *(1).  “The character of Curraghmore” (we copy from the Rev. Mr. Ryland’s excellent History of the county) “is grandeur; not that arising from the costly and laborious exertions of man, but rather the magnificence of nature.  The beauty of the situation consists in the lofty hills, rich vales, and almost impenetrable woods, which deceive the eye and give the idea of boundless forests.  The variety of the scenery is calculated to please in the highest degree, and to gratify every taste; from the lofty mountain to the quiet and sequestered walk on the bank of the river, every gradation of rural beauty may be enjoyed.” 
"Not far from the grounds, and adjoining the Suir towards Clonmel, is the picturesque well of Tubber Grieve** (a), a holy well in high repute with the peasantry.  It formed a striking and interesting subject for the pencil of Mr. Egan."  

The engraving depicting, Tubber Grieve, mentioned by Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall

"In the immediate vicinity of the grounds of Curraghmore is the small town of Portlaw, which, from a poor and insignificant village, has grown into a place of considerable importance, in consequence of having been selected by the Messrs. Malcolmsons** (b) of Clonmel, to determine the question of whether cotton-factories may or may not flourish in Ireland*,  The experiment has been eminently successful; there is now no doubt that energy and industry, applied to the natural resources of Ireland, may enable the Irish manufacturer to enter the market and compete with the manufacturers of England.  The establishment gives employment during the year to about 1200 men, women, and children; the proprietors are enabled to buy the raw material and to vend the raw article on terms as beneficial as those enjoyed by the manufacturer of Manchester; in all respects the spinners of both countries be taken into account.  The difference of wages, however, although a serious item in the aggregate, is small; the Irishman who can do nothing but dig is indeed miserably paid, but the moment he acquires a trade he demands and will receive very nearly as much as an Englishman of the same grade will be able to earn in England.  The Messrs. Malcolmson have made – deservedly and most honourably made – large fortunes by this concern; and they have set an example which we confidently expect to see extensively followed – and that ere long.  But the result, it should be remembered, is not the work of a day; for a considerable period Messrs. Malcolmson had to contend against difficulties under which ordinary minds would have sunk; suspicion and prejudice were both eager to stay their progress; it was found almost impossible to convince the people that the looms were designed to render them comfortable and independent; and even when hostility had comparatively vanished, there was a general dislike to use the article they had manufactured – even the women employed upon the work obtaining their cloths from the English market rather than establishing their own.  But the obstacles against which these enterprising gentlemen had to contend, and which in the end they have completely overcome, do not now stand in the way of other capitalists; the greater number of them at least have disappeared, while the capabilities for producing wealth have in no degree diminished."
"The town and neighborhood of Portlaw have, of course, shared the prosperity of the Malcolmsons.  The houses are cleanly and comfortable; the people are all decently dressed; and there is an air of improvement in everything that appertains to them.  The good that may be done by the establishment of such manufactories in various parts of Ireland is incalculable; the benefits they would confer are sufficiently obvious; and if it can be shown, as it may be by reference to this at Portlaw, that the profit is certain, if the factories be properly conducted, there will be no lack of enterprising individuals ready to embark capital in similar undertakings. It has,  indeed, been for a long time obvious that Ireland, with its immense water power and its superabundant population, living cheaply, and therefore able to work cheaply, was peculiarly  calculated to manufacture articles in cotton; but until within a comparatively brief period, there was so entire a want of confidence in the steadiness and sobriety of the people, that few were found willing to risk a property that might be destroyed by the evil passions or caprice of a single individual, influencing other individuals.  The unsettled political state of the country, too, militated greatly to increase the evil.  It cannot be denied that the difficulty is growing less and less every day; and when the existing agitation for ‘repeal’ has subsided, it will be almost, if not altogether, removed."
Footnotes, relating to areas followed by a single asterisk and number are as follows:

Text and further image to follow.