This week as I’m away in the beautiful environs of Lake Como, much beloved of poets of many lands, I thought it apt to reflect on matters poetic. This affords an ideal opportunity to bring you some of the poetry of a young poet back in Waterford – a Leaving Certificate student at Newtown School – Toby Cowper. He is an emerging poet as he hones his craft here and it is my pleasure to facilitate the first publishing of his poetry – undoubtedly we will be hearing of Toby the Poet in the future. Remember where you heard about him first!
In the grounds of Saint Matthew’s.
For Rev. Bob Jennings.
In the grounds of Saint Matthew’s
A choir sings, Jennings reads
A verse from the Bible.
“In the name of the Father, the Son
And the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
Jennings announces the closing hymn.
The boy and his sister were
Christened here by the font, near
The pulpit where the coffin lies.
On top of the coffin flowers are placed.
It’s carried outside, an Ipswich jersey
Spread over the top, out
Into the cold, wet
Weather of December.
When the excitement starts.
Something moves in the rushes.
Disturbing my father casting his line.
With a flick of a wrist his fly
Sails towards its target. The water
Almost untouched as it lands. This
Action is repeated until something takes
The bait. Complete concentration is
The look on his face as he slowly
Makes his way up the riverbank.
At last, as he is nearly finished his
Day’s fishing, he gets a bite.
This is when the excitement starts.
His reel clicks as he plays his catch. Tires it.
Something moves in the rushes.
My father ready to put it in his net.
Waiting to admire his prize for hard work.
Lying with you
Underneath the stars,
The moon we watch,
Lying with you
Kissing you by
The harbour, trawlers
Set sail for
The open ocean, the water
Calm, without a breeze,
Kissing you as
The sun rises.
Turning to you in
“It’s alright, I’m here”,
And it’s fine.
The kitchen table,
Dark turns to light,
The rain fell
Like debris from a mortar.
Annie writes in her diary.
The buildings and people fell
Likes soldiers fighting
A war they can’t win.
La Rochelle. Wednesday night.
We danced in the rain after school.
Your hand on my shoulder,
Mine ‘round your back.
Cold rain running down your face
Like tears from a girl who’s just lost her man.
Sitting together. Thursday morning.
Smoking a cigarette on the sofa.
Looking into my eyes. Holding my hand,
Walking outside. Your red hair
Dances in the wind. Looking out at
Destruction, occupation – war.
Ballinakill and its Story
So now with thought of things closer to home let’s look at the history of a prominent townland and a significant Big House of this area.
Ballinakill was occupied by the Normans and in 1210 King John, on his trip to Ireland is said to have stopped at the “land of the Thomas Fitzanthony” at Ballinakill (or Ballymackylle). After the Norman Invasion the powerful Dobbyn (or Dobbin) family settled in Waterford
Ballinakill House, which overlooks the river Suir and Little Island, became the seat of the Dobbyn family until it was sold in 1788 to Nicholas Power, his son, Nicholas Mahon-Power lived in Ballinakill until he acquired the nearby Faithlegg House in 1819. The house was bought by another branch of the Dobbyns and was inherited by Mrs Patrica Gossip. I was acquainted with 3 of her sons, John, George and Randal and daughter Priscilla (who sadly died as a young mother). George ran a restaurant at the house for a couple of years. The house was eventually sold a few years later and remains a private residence.
Ballinakill is a two-storey late 17th or early 18th century house and incorporated an old tower house not visible from the outside – the house has spectacular views of the Waterford Harbour. It is described in Egan’s 1894 Directory as “close to the Water’s edge rising as if from the rock, its quaint appearance enshrouded in trees denoting a romantic home”
It is said that after his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 James II stayed in Ballinakill house for a night before making his way to France. King’s Channel – the deep water separating Little Island from the mainland of Co. Waterford – is supposed to be named after him. When I first heard of Ballinakill House, years ago, I heard this version of events but subsequently I heard that King James had left via Duncannon. Later I was told by George Gossip as we looked at a great portrait of what he said was William of Orange that in fact he was the king who stayed there following the Battle of the Boyne. Maybe Julian Walton could give us the decision on this one! But the house did have other royal visitors.
In June of 1858 H.R.H. Prince Albert on the last day of his visit to Waterford called in to Ballinakill House on his way back from Duncannon, which was then the residence of Captain Power. The rank of the visitor was unknown to the family although they entertained him and his party well and the Prince thanked them and entered their addresses in his tablet (Waterford News 26 June 1908). In any event, history now records that the Battle of the Boyne finally, finally ended early last May with an historic and cordial encounter between former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and former First Minister Ian Paisley!
See Ye Soon, Ciao for Now!