Well to give it its proper title, the weekly Market at Blackfriars – I noticed this ‘new’ development being advertised in recent times so when in town the other day I decided to have a look. I was impressed and the market there fits well in its historic setting and imbues new life into this ancient and venerable pile. It can be accessed from either High Street or Conduit Lane. Great credit for the wonderful restoration project here as it lay downcast and over-run with weeds and worse for many years. It is worthy of the work done here as it has a proud history in the story of Waterford


Last Saturday following my quick visit to this old Abbey I called in to my local library at Ardkeen to get a book on Madrid which I hope to visit shortly, to read about places worth seeing in that great city. Nearby on the shelf was a guide to Waterford -Discover Waterford by local historian and director of Waterford Treasures at the Granary, Eamonn McEneaney. Well worth buying or borrowing and become like a tourist in your own city, seeking out its historic gems. We do it when we go abroad – the librarians tell me that such books are in huge demand and the Book Centre does a brisk trade.

So that evening I dipped into both and initiated my explorations of things Hibernian and Iberian. Because I had just dropped in there the story of Blackfriars immediately caught my attention – the delights of the Prado and Atocha can await another day.

So let’s discover Blackfriars: On leaving City Square Shopping Centre, take the High Street exit and as you leave the building you will see the tower of Blackfriars. If you walk down Conduit Lane to your right you will have a better view of the mid-13th-century friary known as St Saviour’s or Blackfriars, Blackfriars because the Dominicans order who established and occupied the friary/priory wore black habits as opposed to the Greyfriars elsewhere. In time it became traditional for all academics to wear black, and so the wearing of black gowns by academics generally owes its origin to the black habits of the 13th century.

Ab initio

The Dominicans who built the friary at Blackfriars first settled in Waterford in 1226. The site for their building was a gift from the citizens of the city who had to seek permission from Henry III before they could make the grant. Interestingly, the petitioners described the site as a void within the walls of their city, where in ancient times an old tower had once stood. We know, Eamonn tells us, from a document dated 1311 that one of the leaders of the Ostmen or Vikings, Gerald Macgillemory, lived in this tower at the time of the Norman invasion. The same Gerald, because of assistance he gave the Anglo-Normans at the time of the invasion, was given special privileges by Henry II up on arrival in Waterford in 1171.

A plaque on the wall at Blackfriars records the fact that one of the monks who lived here was Geoffrey of Waterford, a scholar of Greek Arabic and Latin and highly regarded as a wine expert. He died in Paris about 1300. The friary’s bell tower like that of Greyfriars or the French Church was built in the late 15th century. In 1916 the clapper of a bell from this tower was found partially buried here. And as recently as 2000, a short distance away, a large bronze bell, believed to be from this tower, was unearthed. Also like Greyfriars and St John’s Priory, Blackfriars was dissolved in 1540 by order of King Henry VIII. The friary was subsequently used as a courthouse from 1617, and was used as a theatre in 1746.

The Dominicans were an important asset to the city. They were an intellectual order who organised schools and educated the sons of the merchant class. They were also a preaching order (thus the OP used with their names). In Waterford they had a tradition of giving public sermons at a stone canopy-adorned cross that once stood at the bottom of Patrick Street. Though this structure has long since vanished, the area is still known locally as The Cross.

Getting there

So be a tourist in your own city, get the guide books, visit Waterford Treasures, take the tourist walk with Jack Burchaell and re/discover your city. How many for instance have been out to visit the magnificent gardens at Mount Congreve – and it’s free! I paid a hefty fee to visit gardens on the shores of Lake Como last June but while they were pretty (!) they weren’t a patch on the wonders that await you at our own Mount Congreve- Thursdays – season starting soon.

The Crystal is crucial to our city’s tourism but we are far from a one-trick-pony as we have so much more to offer – let’s do even more in putting ourselves on the map as a must-visit destination.

Long shots

Well the Aintree Grand National came and went and once again I shied away from the bookie office. Later on Saturday I heard that a horse named Mon Mome, an unfancied runner at 100-1, had won at a gallop. It hadn’t happened for 42 years, the commentators all bellowed in unison. There had been no reason to remind me of that bit of racing trivia – it’s about the only thing I know about that sport, which holds so many in its thrall. But the National is all about the non-punter, the public’s annual flutter – but not me. Yes, a happy one last Saturday for the very few, for those big numbers do come up!

News of the result reeled back the years for me to April 1967 – my father who was not a betting man yet he joined in the day of National punting, picking out as ever two horses – one at a short price/fancied runner and secondly a long shot chosen at random from the ranks of the unfancied. I, the eldest son, was given the task of going to the bookies at the end of the road with names of both horses carefully inscribed on a piece of paper with the instruction to place the bets of ten shillings on each for a win. Carefully clutching my instructions and the money, I set off for the bookies at about 3 o’clock. When I arrived there a few minutes later I was surprised to find a heaving mass of big burly men (or so they seemed to little me!) striving with each other to get to the counter to lay their wager in time before the off – at 3.20pm or so. I had never been inside a bookie shop before, but nevertheless I decided to give it a go and work my wee way through. But with just a few minutes to go and well squashed by the ‘heavies’ I reluctantly decided to withdraw, reckoning I wouldn’t get to the counter and have my bets taken on time so I reluctantly withdrew – what a waste of time and money anyway on a useless outsider – mother (Mon Mome) was sure to agree with her ‘fair-haired boy’! By the time I reached home the race was well under way, but I was in time to witness the massacre at Valentine’s when most of the field fell and one no-hoper of a horse ‘safe’ at the back of the field, galloped on unimpeded to the finishing line. It was none other than Foinavon – my father’s long shot had come up trumps. He jumped for unbridled joy. But I wished the ground would open up and swallow me! Ten shilling at 100-1, a month’s salary in those days, or the price of a fortnight’s holiday in Crosser for all the family, at least. Hurry and collect my winnings we will have a party to-night and Sunday lunch out tomorrow for starters!

Agh, agh, Dad, I didn’t put the money on, I have it here for you, the place was too crowded, I ….., I didn’t get to say another word, I didn’t realise until that day that my father knew ‘bold’ words/had an alternative vocabulary! So maybe, you might have some inkling as to why I have not been to a bookie office since!!

Go seachtain eile, slan