I have always been interested in and intrigued by the origin of place names. In local terms we know that that Knockboy comes from the Irish Cnoc Bui – yellow hill named for the yellow flowering furze/gorse. This is an example of a descriptive or topographical name which means it derives from a feature of the landscape eg river, hill, plain, island, high ground, glen/valley etc. Associated with these would be the likes of Riverview, Island View.
Common as well are directional names like the Dunmore Road, the Passage Road or the Cork Road. Then we have the likes of Collins Avenue, Earlscourt, Powerscourt named after previous landowners. And there are those that take their name from a demesne or Big House situated formerly on the lands there, like Viewmount or Mount Pleasant (formerly Flynnnsville by the way).
Then also you had Glenville House and Ardkeen – main house there was named Elva one time. Others again are named after the townlands they are in, like Grantstown and Williamstown. The folk out in the real townland of Kilcaragh I’m sure would be keen for me to point out that this is not always the case as the fine new estate at the top of the hill at Ballygunner Cross, which was recently conferred with this name, is well removed from their actual townland and they were not at all happy with this mis-appelation!
And so to town where every road, street, avenue, lane, green, close and square all have been named in similar ways over the century. Even as a curious teenager growing up in Cork City I wondered who or what the various streets etc were named after or what was the story behind each name. They were usually, just like Waterford, named after saints/parishes, churches, patriots, statesmen, kings queens, aldermen, even developers.
The where of the Mayor
So did you ever wonder who the Hennessey of Hennessy’s Road was? What about Paddy Browne? Or King’s Tce – was that a royal king or a Mr King. And what about the Cork Road estate names, whose names do they commemorate? Then there’s Catherine Street – who was she when she was at home – saint, sinner, queen? And what about Beau Street – sounds French to me – lovely/beautiful – I discovered probably not! What two Waterford streets are named after former British Prime Ministers? I’ll let you think about that one. And finally for now, who was the mayor of the very many Waterford mayors who bestowed his title on the Mayor’s Walk?
The answer to this as well as hundreds of other historical gems of knowledge about the story of Waterford’s Streets is to be found in Daniel Dowling’s book of that name. Some of the names go back to the earliest times in the life of this city and the telling of their stories over all the centuries since encapsulates the story of the city itself. I have recounted some of these stories in this column over the years and the feedback has always been very positive and as such a popular item with many readers. So with DD in hand let’s walk the Mayor’s Walk!
This fine and wide open thoroughfare is elevated ground on part of the area which is generally designated as the Hill of Ballybricken located in the civil parish of Trinity Without, it extends southwards from the junction of Ballybricken and Patrick’s Street to its termination at he Barrack Street, Newgate Street junction (by the way, who’s the Brick in Ballybricken?). It was one of the earliest streets to be developed outside the city as it then was, it was laid out in 1711 on ground to the west of the Norman wall between St Patrick’s Gate and Newgate – sections of the former are still there and clearly visible upon closer inspection.
The greater portion of the ground area of this street was formerly part of the Common Green whilst the area towards its northern end was part of the Great Green. Those ancient area denominations were surveyed by Francis Cooper in the period 1654-6 and are shown in the Down Survey map of the Liberties.
The construction of this street involved the demolition of the earth works which were part of the ramparts in this area. Those were parts of the city’s defensive fortifications outside the walls at this location. This street more than likely derived its name from David Lewis who was mayor of the city when it was laid out in 1711, partly on ground which he himself held by lease from the Corporation. (Today there would most likely be cries for a tribunal!). Included in that was rampart ground. Mayor Lewis also held office in 1705, 1707-8 and 1710. As a roadway this street was finally completed in 1727 during the mayoralty of Simon Newport. That’s Newport as in Newport Square – a story for another day.
As a market area it dates from 1724, when in that year the Corporation ordered the removal of the sour milk market from Little Patrick Street to a location outside St Patrick’s Gate. In 1727 the Corporation ordered the “market for furze and turf” be kept for the future in the high road called the Mayor’s Walk, between Patrick’s Gate and New Gate. In 1831 the Inspecting Committee of the Provisional Committee for Health in their report on the sanitary state of the city mentioned that a daily vegetable market as then being held there. The great Ballybricken cattle fairs usually overflowed on to the Mayor’s Walk and it was for a long time also the venue for the weekly calf market which was held every Saturday morning. Those calf markets continued until the establishment of the mart system of cattle sales. These traditional cattle fairs at Ballybricken came to an end in 1955 when a cattle mart was erected on the green. That new system brought to an end the traditional Saturday morning calf sales on the Mayor’s Walk. Another great tradition which occupies a pivotal position in this area must be the Tap Room, one of Waterford’s favourite pubs.
There has been a licensed premises here for hundreds of years and thus a favoured ‘watering-hole’ for many generations of cattle and pig buyers – slainte!
One of Waterford’s most prominent personalities of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Thomas Sexton (1848-1932) was born on this street. The house where he was born stood on the corner of the Mayor’s Walk and Newgate Street – though long demolished with the widening of Newgate Street. Sexton Street was officially named in his honour.
He entered the railway service aged 13 and later became involved in the politics of the period. As a member of the Irish Nationalist Party he played a leading role in the Land League and Plan of Campaign as well as being an ardent advocate in the cause of Home Rule. He was imprisoned alongside Parnell in 1881. He was elected MP in turn for Sligo, West Belfast and North Kerry between 1880 and1896. He became Mayor of Dublin 1888-9. He had a reputation as a brilliant orator. He went on to become Chairman of the Freeman’s Journal from 1892 to 1912. Sexton Street is only just around the corner from Griffith Place on which hangs another tale – ach la eile.
Go seachtain eile, slan