A few weeks ago we brought you the story of the first of Waterford’s three principal saints, that of Otteran (not to be confused with Odran we were reminded!) with the promise that we would follow up with the tales of the other two, Declan and Carthage. So here goes.
St. Declan, a prince of the Decies Kingdom in Munster, was born in the 5th century. He was baptised by a priest named Colman, later to become St. Colman. When Declan was seven years old he studied under a sage called Dioma. This training continued for many years until Declan, taking with him some of his disciples, went to Rome for further instruction in Christianity. While in Rome the Pope consecrated Declan.
Declan had a strong desire to return to Ireland and, according to legend, he had in his possession a miraculous black bell with which we summoned an empty vessel to carry him on his journey. The bell was placed in a rock and when Declan prayed the rock floated out to sea. He followed it and eventually, it led him to shore at Ardmore, Co. Waterford. There Declan worked conscientiously among the people and built a Church.
While returning to Ireland it is reported that Declan met St. Patrick. Declan and three other Bishops – Ibar, Cieran and Ailbe were evangelising in Ireland when St. Patrick arrived here. Declan did not confine his work to Ardmore and the Déise region but he also travelled further afield and especially to Cashel.
One of the most remarkable groups of ancient ecclesiastical remains in Ireland can be seen today in Declan’s well-loved Ardmore – a beautiful and perfect Round Tower, a singularly interesting ruined Cathedral, the ruins of a second Church beside a holy well, a primitive oratory and some ogham-inscribed pillar stones.
Declan is an outstanding example of a Saint whose cult has not only survived, but has recently shown a marked revival. This is demonstrated by pilgrims, visitors and local people who are proud of St. Declan and the strong faith that they have inherited.
Cárthach, also known as Mochuda, a native of Kerry, founded a monastery in Lismore in 633 which soon became known for its learning and was visited by many people. Within a few decades it was renowned throughout Britain and Europe, becoming as famous as Bangor and Clonmacnoise.
The main section of Lismore monastery was situated in a dramatic position on a high crag. The students lived in little huts made of mud and wattles, stretching for nine miles along the banks of the Blackwater. As in other famous Celtic monasteries there was a scriptorium, and also a school of metalwork, where artefacts like the famous Lismore Crozier were made. The Crozier and the Book of Lismore were found hidden in the walls of Lismore Castle in the nineteenth century.
Today there is little trace of St. Carthage’s famous monastery. Lismore Castle, part of which dates from the early seventeenth century, was built on the site of the monastery and medieval towers and monastic ruins were incorporated into the general construction. The monastery of Lismore is today remembered in Lismore Heritage Centre, where visitors are treated to an award-winning multimedia presentation, which takes them on a journey through time, beginning with the arrival of St. Carthage in 636 and finishing at the present day. All major works on monasticism published today stress the important role of Lismore in the Irish Church and as a major place of learning. It’s surprising that unlike the popular use of Declan as a Waterford name that we seldom hear of Carthage, the latter being more popular up Monaghan way.
Ss Thomas and Mary’s
Well back to this end of the county from such far flung parts as Lismore and Ardmore and a quick word about our local churches here. Both St Thomas’s and St Mary’s Ballygunner date from around the same time both being built circa 1830. Well, we all know where the latter is but where oh where is St Thomas’s you may ask. It’s none other than that eponymous fellow the Brasscock. It served as the local place of worship of the Church of Ireland community in these parts until the early 70’s of the 20th century. It served as the school church for Bishop Foy’s when it was based in Grantstown.
Some years after its closure as a functioning church it began a new lease of life as the Dunmore Badminton Club, a club which has continued to thrive with a healthy (naturally!) membership. It may be of interest to some locals that the nearby development of Grantstown Park began under the title of Glen St Thomas and this reflected in the logo depicted on the entrance pillars to this estate with a graphic of our dear friend the Brasscock himself.
By the way, is there any news on further developments of the Ballygunner church. Detailed plans were lodged for its redevelopment/enlargement to cater for greatly increased numbers now living in its service area. The initial plans were rejected on a number of grounds and a resubmission sought that would better conserve the architectural essence/character of the original structure while recognising the necessity to increase the capacity of St Mary’s. But that was some time ago now, so I’m wondering if there is any news?
Every so often one is graphically reminded that that one is now living in a global village. One such way is the way we now take for granted the sending or receiving of texts even photo images to or from any where in the world literally in seconds. The other is receiving e-mails in response to one’s column in this or indeed any other paper. They can and do come from near and far and always welcome and appreciated in the realisation how far-flung the readership of our paper really is.
Indeed, I am aware of many who regard the facility to read this paper and thus keep in touch with all things Waterford is a valued link with home. To sum it up, I think there is a sense of mutual appreciation between scribe and that reader who goes on-line, be it in Tokyo, Colorado, Capetown, Ontario, Sydney, Oslo, Cork, Connecticut, to mention just a few. So what has this do with Annie? Well you may recall I did another piece recently on the wonderful work of Waterford’s Annie Brophy as a lead into that fine exhibition (featured on RTE’s Nationwide) in Christchurch by the equally wonderful civic gem, Donal Moore our fine City Archivist. So I was very interested to receive this following e-mail from Margot Wick in Connecticut concerning same:
I enjoy reading your column on line here in Litchfield Connecticut, USA. The article re Anne Brophy intrigues me. I have a beautiful photograph of my mother taken by Anne Brophy in 1927 when my mother graduated from the County & City Infirmary as a Nurse. The late Joe McGrath (whom I knew) had the glass negatives but did not have the resource (or time) to find the negative of my Mother’s picture. He had the entry in his Anne Brophy’s book showing the booking by Josephine Brophy (no relative- of Annies’ that is) in 1927 for the photo.
Many thanks, Margot Wick
She goes on in her e-mail to enquire as to how she might pursue the matter in tracing it today. I’m pleased to record that we were able to supply Margot with contact details as all this material was bestowed to the City Council and is in the loving embrace of the City Archives which has already run a whole series of excellent exhibitions of her work. Thanks Margot for your interest.
Go seachtain eile, slán.