Believe it or not this bird – The Brasscock – has been crowing away for ten years now, having taken possession of his perch here in February 1998, pontificating since then on a myriad of matters near and far and round about here.
How time flies, or tempus fugit as Cicero would have put it. Ten years represents well over 500 columns on all sort of topics. Many of course would have had a local topicality, be it the travails of our many traffic woes, the creeping, crawling pace in-wards and outwards of mornings and evenings – rendering the term ‘rush-hour’ a howler of a misnomer! How often did we rail against the ‘double whammies’, the double set of traffic lights of Powerscourt and Island Lane. From time to time we have wondered and pondered about all matters roundabout here, there and everywhere, but there has been so much more over those ten years.
The Woodlands Hotel opened in 1998, we got public lighting finally and Knockboy Hill re-aligned. In those ten years the greater Ardkeen area blossomed into a town of itself practically with a huge variety of business and services in that area with Ardkeen Stores being the origin of the species, it being the initial retail focus around which others clustered in time. The second cluster was adjacent, which has grown rapidly in recent years with the Uluru, TSB/IP, Kervicks and so much more there. A third cluster was under my perch here – originally named the Brasscock Centre but re-branded as the Ballinakill Centre. The forth development was the massive Tesco outlet with neighbours Next and Homebase. I’ve heard that the Tesco branch here is among the top three grossing Tesco’s in Ireland, this must also be true of their petrol/diesel sales.
Brasscock Story Board
One of my favourite columns over the years was the story of Snow Cream – its evolution from small in-town (Thomas Hill) creamery to the site here on Maypark Lane on the grounds of the former Glenville House, home of Sir Ernest Geoff. It’s a story to which I must return some day soon. Two connected stories as they relate to the former Glenville lands is that world of the Big House as told to us by Sir Ernest’s daughter, Annabel Davis-Geoff, in her wonderful book The Walled Gardens. It is so insightful into their extraordinary lifestyle of ‘keeping up appearances’ no matter what!
Another Waterford writer from the west of the county gives a similar insight into that world in Good Behaviour. That story got a great many hits on the website at the time. Again a story worth revisiting some time – by the way that book is in your local library which itself is one of the great success stories of the area. Indeed, it has been my pleasure to report on its opening and development ever since. Bravo again, take a bow, take lots of them!
The other Glenville story I was fascinated by was to discover that on the site which became Power Seeds, back in the 30’s/40’s, there was a thriving tobacco industry. I’ve seen old photographs reminiscent of one of Cuba’s cigar rolling factories. The building in that picture still stands – just about – it has served as the premises of WAS (Waterford Architectural Salvage) for a good few years now. But the site here is due for redevelopment and plans for a mixed residential/retail/offices/surgery are before the council as we speak. So the whole Glenville story is a fascinating one.
A Flash from the Past
The big story back in 1998 was the news that the Tour de France would have its initial stages here in the south east, through Wexford, Waterford, Carrick on Suir (being a Sean Kelly highlight) and on to Cork and then ala France. There was great excitement and sense of anticipation Waterford would have its day in the sun, an opportunity to be on the world stage as tv coverage of the Tour would be massive in terms of viewing figures. Wexford roads got a much needed multi-million pounds upgrade. Waterford City too was keen to look its best as its good citizenry would be waving to the watching world. So the Quay got a long overdue paint job as some paint company sponsored the dashes of new paint for all the buildings along its course from Bridge to Tower. Furthermore, another service was rendered by the event in that the remaining unsightly sheds on the Quay were demolished – what would the world think! (Much later the WVW Plaza was established on the site here). Finally the big day came for the Tour to come to town and all aglow in her new multi colour livery, Waterford was ready to face the world. We gathered in our thousands as we lined the city’s main thoroughfare/s – best be in place early to get a good vantage point.
I recall being perched precariously on a plinth by the Tower Hotel. We waited patiently, finally a rippling whisper reached us that oui, oui THEY were on their way. Talk about a flash in the pan as the much heralded peleton was but a fleeting image, you would have missed them if you had winked for a fraction of a second. Anyone who momentarily averted their gaze missed the point. I remember there being a sense of anti-climax. That Tour of ’98 proved controversial due to drugs allegations and elimination of various individuals and one or two teams, so much so that it was quickly dubbed the Tour de Farce or the Tour de Pharmacy. But let’s look on the bright side, we finally got rid of those sheds and the Quay got its paint job. By the way its time now for some of those premises on the Quay to have a fresh look at themselves, hint, hint!
A Tale of Woodstown
Another story I recall was all of 9 years ago during the 2nd year of this column when in July of 1999 an air crash on the east coast of the US prompted memories of a Woodstown holiday in the Summer of 1967. This was the air accident in which John F. Kennedy Jnr died – the boy once known as John John at a time when he and sister Caroline along with mother Jackie spent some of that summer in Woodstown – House to be exact. Naturally it was a huge media story which followed the famous family’s comings and goings. Back in 1967 it was the first time hearing the place name of Woodstown and followed events, now and then, from the distant shores of Cork and Crosser! On hearing of the news of John Jnr in ’99 I decided to take a spin out to Woodstown, by then a most familiar place to me, just a few miles away.
I had already remembered a few bits and pieces such as local lad Philip Russell, becoming his good pal that summer. I learned of other memories from Tony Walsh (of the Tap Room) whose sister had a shop there at the time and how he came to the young lad’s aid one day. That day on my visit to Woodstown to pick up a vibe, so to speak, that may have lingered somewhere there, I decided to call on Rita Coughlan, now retired after 38 years in the Saratoga – which meant she would have been very much at the centre of things at the time.
Indeed, Rita was most hospitable and helpful and told me many a story but the big bonus was that to my grateful delight she produced an old handbag stuffed with newspaper cuttings gleaned from many newspapers, local, national and British. A myriad of articles and many photographs gave me endless sources for copy but also a real feel for the atmosphere of the time. I learned why the place was called the Saratoga – directly inspired by the Saratoga of Up-State New York and so named by a priest who had ministered there before retiring to Woodstown. It was one of those curious little coincidences of life that the type of plane John Jnr had died in was a Piper Saratoga II. I still vividly recall that story and column.
There have been others too, like speed issues, local bus service, Knockboy Wetlands campaign, planning matters, People’s Park, trips to New York, Florence, Rome, Vienna, Paris et al and of course all matters roundabout here. Go mBeirimid Beo ag an Am Seo Aris.