In the trenches in Cavan

If you are planning a visit to Cavan, you would do well to pay a visit to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff.  We have visited a few county museums over the last few years but Cavan’s museum stood out.  Museums today should strive to create interactive user experience’s and the museum has embraced this idea.

The Museum is based in a beautiful 19th century building that was previously a convent used by the Poor Clare Order of nuns.

Ballyjamesduff convent
View of Cavan Museum building

The nuns arrived in Ballyjamesduff in 1872 with the convent itself being opened in 1883.

In 1992, with the dwindling convent community, a decision was made to close the convent and move to smaller accommodation within the community.  Cavan County Council purchased the convent to house the new county museum.

The museum is located on the Virginia Road – it’s signposted but easy to miss the turn (it’s a narrow slip road beside the church).

The building itself is substantial as you can imagine but luckily they have a lot of varied exhibitions to make good use of the space.

Exhibitions include Cavan GAA history, the history of the Barons Farnham (owners of the Farnham Estate for over 300 years until it was sold in the mid-2000s), the Great Famine, Percy French, local links to World War 1 and an exhibition on the Poor Clare Order of nuns.

There’s some other interesting pieces scattered around the museum like a gun belonging to Arthur Griffith.

Irish War of Independence
Arthur Griffith gun

Percy French was a famous Irish songwriter in the early 1900’s and he is connected to Ballyjamesduff as he worked in Cavan and wrote a famous Irish emigration song called “Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff” and in his honour a replica statue was erected in the town. I found out recently after posting the photo below on our Facebook page, a descendent of Paddy Reilly told me, he was a jarvey taxi man with a horse and cart who use to drive and collect people from Ballyduff and the Oldcastle train station, he did leave Ballyjamesduff, when he emigrated but he returned a few years later and settled back in Ballyjamesduff.

Ballyjamesduff statue
Percy French statue

By far the most impressive features of the museum are the World War 1 Trench Experience and the Visualising the Rising exhibition.

Cavan Museum have a replica trench onsite that was “built to the specifications and manuals of the Irish Guards and used by the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme 1916, it is over 350 metres long and includes frontline, communication and support trenches. Over 6000 sand bags were used in its construction. ”

World War 1 trench
Replica trenches – front line

The replica trench is the largest outdoor one of it’s kind in Ireland and the UK. This is very well done and you get a better understanding of what life must have been like in the trenches for the soldiers, they slept in something that resembled a shelf, never far from the rats and mud.  With audio posts dotted throughout the trenches, capturing some of the sounds of the WW1 trenches.

World War 1 first aid
Replica trenches – casualty clearing station

Also onsite is “a replica GPO façade and a series of tunnelled-through contemporary building interiors that allow visitors to experience the claustrophobic fighting conditions endured by the rebels.”

You can go inside the GPO during the Rising and experience the tunnelled Moore street houses.  We both read a book called Inside the GPO, it was a memoir by an Irish volunteer called Joe Goode, which recounts his time during the 1916 Rising. Goode paints a vivid picture of the last days of the Rising, volunteers tunnelling through the narrow rows of houses on Moore street and life inside for the inhabitants, with James Connolly stretchered into the house, a defiant Sean MacDiarmada and Patrick Pearse looking out at the civilians killed and writing the surrender letter and about life for the impoverished families who lived there. One story about the young volunteer Michael Collins trying to cook his ration sausages in a bedroom fireplace, on quenched emblems so as not to attract the British army snipers with smoke coming from the chimney stack, in the end ashes covered the sausages with Michael cursing the snipers.

General Post Office Dublin
GPO facade

The museum has a peace & reconciliation garden that remembers those from all sides of Irish society and the different paths they took, that led some to the trenches in World War 1 and others to the Easter Rising.

Industrial heritage along the greenway

Ireland’s industrial heritage along the greenway

We cycled the new Waterford greenway, which runs for 46 kilometres along the Dungarvan to Waterford old train line.  One of the stops on the greenway, is the quaint small town of Kilmacthomas, where this impressive 7 arch stone rubble rail viaduct which spans over the River Mahon, dominates the local landscape.  It opened in 1878 for the Great Southern railway line and was in operation for 100 years before closing in 1982 and today you can take in the views when you cycle or walk across it as part of the greenway.

Waterford viaduct
Kilmacthomas Viaduct over the River Mahon

We stopped for lunch in Kilmacthomas and passed a large building which caught my eye, it is a 3 storey, 19th century warehouse stone building with red brick windows.  According to the local information board, the building which is located along the Mahon river, was a former woollen factory.

During the famine in 1846, Lady Louisa Beresford, the wife of the local landlord, Lord Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford, helped to setup a weaving and clothing industry for the women of the village.  She imported cotton from Lancashire and encouraged her society friends in England to buy the finished products.  Lady Louisa was a Pre-Raphaelite watercolourist and philanthropist, she had married Henry in 1842 and lived in Curraghmore House in county Waterford.

Lady Louisa Stuart
Lady Louisa Beresford

Much of this was a cottage industry, with women using spinning wheels in their home.  It was decided that a woollen industry would be more suitable.

Spinning wheel
Photochrom of old Irish lady using a spinning wheel in the 19th century

Thirty women were employed, who wore a uniform, similar to Lady Louisa’s dress.  They worked the old primitive spinning wheels and hand looms under an old weaver called Anthony Thomas.

Weaving loom
A Lady circa 1864 weaving at a loom

By the 1850’s the enterprise was so successful, a factory was built and was powered by the Mahon river.  Woollen blankets were manufactured and the blankets won a medal in the Great Exhibition in Dublin in 1853.

River Mahon bridge
River Mahon which powered the Woollen Mills

In March 1859, Lord & Lady Waterford visited the woollen factory in Kilmacthomas and promised to up-date all the equipment there.

Lord Henry Beresford stated as he left “We will have it done this day three months”.  The following day, he was killed from a fall from his horse at Dowlan Hill in South Kilkenny.  The factory remained in operation after Lord Beresford’s untimely demise and Lady Louisa returned to England and continued her philanthropy work, helping the tenants on her estate in Northumberland by building a school and she founded a Temperance society.

Henry Beresford
Henry Beresford – 3rd Marquess of Waterford

A newspaper report of 1910 stated, the 6th Marquess of Waterford, another Lord Henry, “is giving the woollen factory a good overhaul and installing new machinery.  The factory produces woollen blankets and cloth.  The weavers are paid 1 shilling per day from 6.30 am to 6.00 pm.”

Woollen Mills Waterford
Kilmacthomas Woollen Mills Waterford

By 1925, the Beresford family sold the property to a Mr Stephenson, who closed the mills and transferred the machinery to the Ardfinnan Woollen Mills.

The factory building was taken over by Flahavans Porridge who operated it as a grain store and drying facility.  They enlarged it in 1959 under Mahon & McPhilips of Kilkenny.  During harvest time it was scene of great excitement with tractors lined up, drawing in corn to the factory.  Flavahan’s ceased using the building in 1999, there new modern factory can be seen from the Kilmacthomas viaduct and the smell of oats lingers in the air.

Flahavans Porridge factory
Flahavans Porridge modern premises

The building and the viaduct is of importance as a reminder of the industrial legacy in Waterford and of Ireland’s industrial revolution past and the memory of the men, women and children who worked on the railway lines, in the factories, mills and copper mines throughout the country.

 

Text source: Local information board in Kilmacthomas

Irish Spinner lady:  Photochrom archives http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002717414/

Lord Waterford the 3rd Portrait - By Robert Thorburn (1818-1885) - [1] The Amica Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=216278

Lady Louisa sketch from the book - The story of two noble lives : being memorials of Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford by the Author, Hare, Augustus J. C. (Augustus John Cuthbert), 1834-1903 - Published 1893 - https://archive.org/stream/storyoftwonoblel01hareuoft#page/362/mode/2up

Background information on Lady Louisa Beresford https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Beresford,_Marchioness_of_Waterford

Lady weaving on loom: British Library Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/i5dXNy

Henry Beresford Portrait: By Robert Thorburn (1818-1885) - [1] The Amica Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=216278

Background Info: Viaduct: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA&regno=22805032

Background Info: Woollen Mills: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA&regno=22805046

Background Info: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/ireland-s-industrial-heritage-the-past-you-might-not-know-we-had-1.2324451

All other images and text: melcoo.com

Deise Greenway

We were both looking forward to the official opening of the Waterford Greenway so once it opened we booked a Friday off work to try it out.

With Richard hailing from Clonmel we stayed the Thursday night in his homeplace and set off early Friday morning for Dungarvan.

Since the Deise greenway opened, a host of bike rental shops have opened, so you will be spoilt for choice, we rented our bikes from Waterford Greenway Bike Hire who are based in Abbeyside, Dungarvan.  There is free parking available in the Eurospar nearby and you can hop on the Greenway close by at Strandside.

It costs €20 per bike to rent for the day and that includes a lift back from one of their depots in Kilmacthomas or Waterford – pretty good bargain. You can also rent an electric bike for €45 per day, ideal if you haven’t cycled in years.

Alternatively, if you have your own bike a good place to start is just outside Dungarvan, the townland of Garrnageragh (click on link to see google maps). There are good parking facilities here and there free!!

As you leave Dungarvan, you have some nice views of Clonea Strand but a little further, you are met with the views of Dungarvan Bay below:

Copper Coast, Waterford
Dungarvan Bay

Next up is the Ballyvoyle Tunnel.  Cyclists are advised to dismount going through this – good advise because it’s pitch black and I nearly collided with another cyclist in there!! Next time I’ll have a front light on as a warning. The approach to the tunnel looks like something from a rain forest as a colleague commented on seeing the picture!!

Waterford train tunnel
Ballyvoyle Tunnel

After 10 km you have the opportunity to stop for a breather at O’Mahony’s Pub and Shop, we were feeling fresh and fit so kept on the move.

You pass over Durrow viaduct soon after and around 12 km later you arrive at Kilmacthomas viaduct.

We decided to hang to the right and head towards the village and were rewarded with a stunning view of the Viaduct:

Waterford viaduct
Kilmacthomas Viaduct

After a quick feed in a cafe in Kilmacthomas we cycled back up onto the Viaduct.

Just outside Kilmacthomas is the bike hire’s depot, a substantial looking coffee shop and a Famine Workhouse museum. We didn’t stop here and continued on our merry way.

As you’re cycling along towards Kilmeaden, there are some nice views of the Comeragh mountains on your left.

Mountain range Waterford
Comeragh Mountains

Next stop was Suir Valley Railway in Kilmeaden.

Waterford train
Kilmeaden Suir Valley Railway Train

This is a voluntary run, family friendly railway that travels along the picturesque banks of the River Suir.  It’s located 1 km outside the village of Kilmeaden and you’ll pass it on the Greenway.  It’s good for a stop as they have an old railway carriage that serves refreshments.

Old Irish train carriage
Kilmeaden Suir Valley Railway

We headed for Waterford which is about 17 km of a cycle from here.

Close to Waterford City the Greenway finishes and we cycled a few kilometres on local roads to get to Rice Bridge in Waterford.

There was some roadworks taking place on these roads so hopefully they’ll have some segregated bike lanes to bring cyclists safely into the city.

We dropped our bikes back to the depot on Hanover Street and waited for our lift back to Dungarvan.

The Greenway is a top class facility and a very enjoyable day out.

There’s some slight inclines and I’d recommend using a hybrid bike for a bit more comfort on parts of the Greenway.

We’ve cycled the Old Rail Trail and the Mayo Western Greenway but the Waterford Greenway leads the way because of the scenery and facilities along the route.

 

Belvedere House

A few photos from our visit to Belvedere House, located outside Mullingar in Westmeath, Ireland.

Belvedere House was a Georgian villa built in 1740 by Robert Rochfort, Lord Belfield from designs by renowned architect Richard Cassells.  It was originally designed to be a hunting lodge or holiday villa but later became the main residence of Robert Rochfort, after he accused his wife Mary Molesworth of having an alleged affair with his brother Arthur Rochfort. Robert was told of the affair by his younger brother George, who disliked Mary.  Mary was said to have confessed but only under force and Arthur fled the country, pursued by his brother who planned to shoot him on sight, he returned a few years later and was sued by Robert for the alleged affair and fined 20,000 pounds, Arthur couldn’t pay and ended up in a debtor’s marshalsea prison.

Belvedere House - Georgian villa
Terraces at Belvedere

 

Rochfort had his wife Mary, imprisoned in their family home at Gaulstown for the next 31 years, with no outside communication allowed with family or friends only some servants.  She once escaped and returned to her father’s house in Dublin but he sent her back.  Mary’s plight only came to an end, when Robert died and her son George had her released. Robert Rochfort became known as the Wicked Earl for his treatment of his wife.

Wicked Earl - Robert Rochfort
Lord Belvedere, the Wicked Earl

 

Belvedere House and gardens is today run by Westmeath county council and you can go inside the house and view some of the rooms and the downstairs kitchen, there is also a cafe, gift shop, Victorian walled garden, a fairy garden, play ground for kids and lakeside walks which run along Lough Ennell and includes three large garden follies or sham ruins that Robert Rochfort, later known as Lord Belvedere had built, one is called the Jealous Wall which resembles the ruins of an abbey, he had it built in the 18th century to obscure his view of his younger brother George’s new larger house called Tudenham Park.

For opening times and directions, check out the Belvedere House website.

 

 

Sacred centre of Ireland

We visited the Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath in the midlands of Ireland.  We got a guided tour at the Hill of Uisneach as it is Heritage week, we also got an archaeological lecture with Dr Roseanne Schot from University College Galway.

 

Dr Schot at Catstone
Dr Schot talking about the significance of the Catstone

 

We first heard of Uisneach, when we attended the Festivals of Fires a few years ago. Uisneach is the original seat of the High Kings of Ireland and there are many stone monuments on the large site, which is 4 kilometres in size.  There have been a few archaeology studies completed and a geophysical survey has taken place, which has identified evidence of different structures and stone monuments on the hill.  The lecture was very interesting, we learned so much about this site, from the mythological stories, ancient Irish history and archaeology.

Wood Sculpture
Wooden Sculpture on Hill of Uisneach

 

Uisneach was the home of the goddess Eriu, after whom Ireland is named. The views from the hill are beautiful and you can view mountains hundreds of miles away in other counties on a clear day, we could see the Slievebloom mountains in Offaly.

 

Catstone on Hill of Uisneach
Catstone on the Hill of Uisneach

 

There is a large stone boulder, which was left over from the Ice Age on the hill, which is called the Catstone, it has also been called  ‘Umbilicus Hiberniae’, ‘Axis Mundi’, and ‘the Naval of Ireland’

Notable visitors to the Hill of Uisneach, include Daniel O’Connell, Padraig Pearse and Eamon De Valera.

James Joyce also regularly visited the Hill of Uisneach while he was working in Mullingar in 1900 – 1901.

Hill of Uisneach Wooden Sculpture
There are several wooden carving sculptures dotted about on the Hill of Uisneach

 

The Hill of Uisneach is now including on Ireland’s Ancient East road map and there are plans to be build a small visitors centre. There are guided tours every week and you can also book a private tour, check out the Uisneach website for details.

All images: melcoo.com