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 is especially treasured by those who live there.
The sea is not just at the heart of the place, it’s in 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 13/14 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 article 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. These can be purchased on his website – www.ardkeen.ie/ballyloughbooks. Indeed, I am indebted to Dunmore East tourism own wonderful website which is well worth a visit which has a mine of information on all aspects of the delights, facilities and services of Dunmore. It is to be found at www.waterford-dunmore.com.
East Waterford Wildlife
Apart from the musical-fuelled wildlife of next weekend Dunmore /East Waterford does have an interesting array of natural wildlife which represents further attractive features of the area. It has its share of typical Irish wildlife, but as elsewhere, wild animals are usually shy and are not often seen in daylight. One species however that should be spotted without too much difficulty is the Feral Goat; a rare herd of these animals, with their long shaggy coats and long spiralling horns can be seen on the rocky cliffs above the village of Passage East.
Being a maritime county, Waterford is particularly rich in birdlife. Listed below are a few species that you should be able to spot in the area.
Kittiwake: A seacoast bird similar to a small gull, one of the only colonies nesting close to man can be found on the cliffs backing the Harbour of Dunmore East. In season chicks in nests can be studied from a distance of a few metres.
Chough: This rarest member of the crow family, with its unusual red legs and beak, can be seen near the cliffs west of Dunmore East.
Heron: This slender fish eater with a long dagger-like beak can be seen stalking its prey at low tide at Woodstown, Fornaught, and Saleen. One of the largest Heronries in the county is on Little Island.
Oyster Catcher: A colourful shorebird with black and white plumage, pink legs and a bright orange beak, can be seen in flocks at Woodstown and Saleen.
Kingfisher: This most exotic and seldom seen of Ireland’s birds can be spotted at Cloghernagh inlet
Curlew: This large brown speckled bird with a long curved beak and mournful call can be seen at Fornaught and Saleen.
Raven: The largest member of the crow family, this spectacular soarer with the honking call can be seen along the cliffs west of Dunmore East.
Warblers: Sedge, Willow, and Grasshopper Warblers can be seen and heard at Belle Lake.
Well enjoy the wildlife!
To conclude this week, we come back closer to home, in fact to Red Star which as a soccer club has served this area well for over thirty years. When we last reported on them it was to celebrate their great season of league and cup wins of Division 2. They have continued to prosper and ended last season in a very credible mid-table finish. So it’s a pleasure to bring you their end of season report: “We, the committee of Red Star would like to congratulate the players and management on their recent win in the Pierce Kennedy Cup. We would also like to thank the other teams for taking part in the tournament which was originally set up 17 years ago. Also a special thanks to Derek, brother of the late Pierce Kennedy for the presentation of the cup. Red Star has recently re-located to Upper John’s Park, thanks to the aid of Waterford City Council. We wish Red star FC, with the guidance of trainer Clive Keane, and managers David Curtin and Nigel O’Rourke, all the best for the up coming season”. By the way, Pierce Kennedy Snr – a great hurling man – would undoubtedly have been thrilled by last weekend’s victory by his beloved Deise.
Finally a first reminder that a new series of Trad Sessions will be starting in the Woodlands/Brasscock Bar every Wednesday night from the 27th of August. So we hope to see you folk there for some great seisiuns.
Go seachtain eile, slan.