A Travel Guide From a Past Era

“Tramore. Oh! Glorious Tramore for its bracing air, its quiet and its grand, grand sea. What more charming music than the murmuring waves, ebbing to and fro or its loud roll with a southerly breeze! Grand! Glorious! Whoever wants quiet or prefer to ‘flee from the madding crowd’ or the overworked brain go to Tramore. Stroll along the Cliff Road and admire the beautiful coast scenery. Rest on the green award at Garrarus Strand and then what peace! Would that I could stay in Tramore and in the Grand Hotel from year’s end to year’s end.” – Vates Sporting Life

To discover Tramore being so adjectively described in 1901 in a manner this newspaper annually avails of each tourist season was just one of a litany of gems a recent and immediately treasured gift revealed to me. ‘Beauty Spots in the South East of Ireland – And How To See Them by Car and Cycle’ was the brainchild of author and publisher CP Redmond, featuring “precise Road Map, and illustrations from Photographs and Drawings, specially executed for this publication”. And to receive it as a recent gift, a year on from my receipt of a century old, framed copy of The Munster Express was an absolute thrill for this bookish history lover.

The book, handsomely supported by advertising (a nod to the advertorial features which would become a lifeblood within regional newspapers), was a “self-imposed task” on the author’s behalf to “awake the great tourist world to the fact that there are many charming places in this corner of our beautiful and hospitable land”.
Redmond adds: “The fulfilment of this hope will be the amplest reward I desire, or perhaps, I may add, could expect.”
The book is laid out in a series of chapters which detail a range of one or two-day tours around the South East, along with lengthier tours across Munster and on to Dublin, using Waterford as a starting point.

To receive a travel book devoted to the South East dating from 1901 was a real treat.

To receive a travel book devoted to the South East dating from 1901 was a real treat.

Redmond sets the ball rolling by providing a potted history of Waterford city, ‘peopled originally’ as he puts it “by the Menapii” and “its supposed formation in A.D. 155, we are safe in affirming that the exiled Desie tribe, who are also styled the Magui Deceda, and whose name survives in the present Barony of Deise, made a settlement in Port Lairge, i.e., the ‘Port of the river folk,’ in the year 270”. Major city sites/sights such as the City Walls, Christ Church, the French Church, Newtown Park, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Reginald’s Tower and the County Courthouse are all profiled.
And it’s interesting to note that the latter, recently re-opened of course, was at the time “under the control of a Joint Committee representative of the Municipal Corporation and the County Council”. How very forward-thinking, some 113 years before the local authorities were merged under Phil Hogan’s ‘Putting People First’ project.
A description of the citizens of Waterford sourced by Redmond and written almost 400 years ago in language befitting the era, is well worth sharing. It reads:

“The aire of Waterford is not verie subtill, natheless the sharpnesse of their wittes seemeth to be nothing rebated or duld by reason of the grossenesse of the aire. For in good sooth the townsmen and namelie students are pregnant in conceiving, quick in taking, and sure in keeping. The citizens are verie heedie and warie in all their publick affaires, slow in the determining of matters of weight, looking to looke yer they leape. In choosing their magistrate they respect not only his riches, but also they weigh his experience. And therefore they elect for their Mayor neither a rich man that is young nor an old man that is poor. They are cheerful in the entertainment of strangers, hartie one to another nothing given to faction. They love no idle bench-whistlers nor lurkish faitors; for young and old are wholly addicted to thrieing, the men commonlie to traffike, the women to spining and carding. And they distill the best aqua vitae, so they spin the choicest rug in Ireland.”

To this, and with utmost sincerity, one suspects, Redmond adds: “Whether the citizens have improved or degenerated since those days, will be ascertained by a close study of Waterford in the twentieth century”.

Just a year into that century when penning his own words, the author clearly realises that that particular task shall fall to scribes not yet born, writing as he does prior to two World Wars, the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. And it’s also worth noting the primacy afforded to the office of Mayor in the aforementioned passage, which represents a touchstone political and social issue in this city’s 21st Century history.

On an altogether differing note, Redmond notes the good snipe, duck and plover shooting which could be enjoyed “within a few miles of the City, in districts where the Preservation Act is not in force” – such as Kilbarry Bog, Knockeen, Carrigavantry, Carroll’s Cross, Ballyduff and Ballygunner. He also references “the Mount Neill direction (where) some excellent bags of game may be taken, provided King Frost has appeared upon the scene”. There’s so much to glean from this wonderful window into our past that a single column simply doesn’t do this charming travel journal justice, so I shall return to the works of CP Redmond in next week’s contribution.

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