Howdy folks, I first made the acquaintance of Dunmore in 1972 and I’ve had an enduring and fond relationship with the place ever since which is not hard to do as the place is very special and thus it has worked its charms on most who come to visit and especially treasured by those live there. The sea is not just at he the heart of the place, it is its very heart and soul. It’s a mere eight miles in distance from where I live in Brasscockland but each time I go out there it’s akin to stepping into a place apart removed from the grind of urban living. However this weekend the place will reverberate to the rootsie sounds of Bluegrass which has blossomed there over the past 14 years. So as folk gather in their droves once again to celebrate this fine festival I thought I would do a background piece on Dunmore East which should be of interest to visitors and residents alike – I learned a few things myself!
A brief history
Long before recorded history people lived in Dunmore East. For protection from enemies or wild animals small communities would erect their huts on narrow strips of cliff-top which projected out into the sea. On the inland side of this projection an embankment would be erected as a defensive measure. These habitations are known as promontory forts. People from the Iron Age established a promontory fort overlooking the sea at Shanoon (referred to in 1832 as meaning the ‘Old Camp’ but more likely Canon Power’s Sean Uaimh, ‘Old Cave’) at a point known for centuries as Black Nobb, where the old pilot station now stands, and underneath which a cave runs. Henceforth the place was referred to as Dun Mor, the Great Fort.
Fish was an important part of the people’s diet, and for hundreds of years a fishing community lived here. In about 1640, Lord Power of Curraghmore, who owned a large amount of property in the area, built a castle on the cliff overlooking the strand about two hundred metres from St. Andrew’s Church. The castle must have been a beautiful sight, but by the middle of the next century it was falling into ruin and now just one tower remains.
In 1824 R.H. Ryland, in his history of the county and city of Waterford, describes Dunmore East as follows: Nearby at the entrance of (Waterford) Harbour is the village of Dunmore, formally a place of resort for fishermen, but now a delightful and fashionable watering place. The village is situated in a valley, with a gentle slope towards the sea; the houses are built irregularly, without regard to site or uniformity of appearance, except that they all look at the same point – the Hook Lighthouse, on the opposite coast. Most of the cottages are built of clay and are thatched with straw, and generally let during the summer season from one to three guineas a week. On the hill, which forms the background of the picture, are the ruins of a church”
Nearly two hundred years later the thatched cottages are still there, though the rents have increased somewhat! The ruined church refers to the old church of Killea (Cill Aodha – Aodh’s Church) thought to have been built in the twelfth century, one wall of which still stands, opposite the Catholic church of The Holy Cross, at the top of Killea hill.In 1814, however, dramatic changes took place when Alexander Nimmo, the Scottish engineer (builder of Limerick’s Sarsfield Bridge) commenced work on the new Harbour at Dunmore to accommodate the packet station for ships, which carried the Royal Mail between England and Ireland. The work consisted mainly of a massive pier or quay with an elegant lighthouse at the end Nimmo’s original estimate had been £20,000 but at the time of his death in 1832 £93,000 had been spent and the final cost was £108,000. By then (1837) the Harbour had started to silt up, and the arrival of steam meant that the winding river could be negotiated easily, so the packet station was transferred to Waterford. However the existence of what for that time was a great sheltered Harbour meant that Dunmore East was to gradually become an important fishing port. The Harbour is one of the five designated National Fishery Harbours, and has the second highest figure for fish landings after Killybegs. Dunmore has some notable marine firsts to its credit, with the first Irish woman to qualify for a skipper’s ticket in fishing; the first official woman crew member in an RNLI Lifeboat, and the world record holder for the largest tuna caught on a rod.
I bring you the above courtesy of T. N. Fewer (Tom) who has had a life long association with Dunmore. Tom lives in Callaghane and a keen local historian and author-editor of a number of books about Waterford history. I also had another dip into the hugely informative Dunmore website: at www.waterford-dunmore.com. So enjoy the weekend out there.
Have a nice day now!