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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).