|This article relies on references to primary sources. (December 2007)|
|An tSean Phobail|
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An tSean Phobail, as it is known locally, is a large parish covering about 35 square kilometres with approximately 8 km of coastline along Muggort's Bay. It is the second largest parish in Waterford stretching West to East bordering the village of Ardmore and Grange to the other Gaeltacht na nDéise parish of An Rinn and North to South from slightly beyond the Cork-Waterford 25 to the coast. The closest centres of population to An tSean Phobail are Dungarvan and the County Cork town of Youghal.
There is a Primary school, a Pre-school/Child-Care centre, Pub, Roman Catholic Church, Parish Hall, Lighthouse, a GAA pitch and a Soccer pitch, a Gaeltacht Development office along with other businesses and cottage industries. For people working day to day within the parish Farming and agriculture-related industries are still the largest source of employment. Leisure wise there are two Beaches with numerous coves and angling rocks along the cliffs, a fresh water lake and 2 large manmade lakes. The cliffs, deeply incised stream gullies and small bays of the area attract a wide variety of seabirds and make the area a paradise for bird-watchers.
The Irish language plays an important role in the area. Gaoluinn na nDéise the Waterford variant of the Munster Irish dialect is spoken. The local primary school, S.N Baile Mhic Airt, is a Gaelscoil. Drama Plays in Irish are produced annually by the local drama group, Aisteoirí An Sean Phobal, and the parishes GAA club competes in the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta an annual Gaelic football competition contested by clubs from the Irish language-speaking Gaeltacht areas of Ireland. The official name of the area is An tSean Phobail or An Seanphobal. Both An Seanphobal and Old Parish were on the local road-signs until 2005, when the anglicized form ceased to have any official standing. Today, roadsigns show the Irish name only.
The anglicised place name of the parish, Old Parish, is rare among place-names in Ireland in that it is a fairly direct translation of the original Irish name. The Irish word 'Pobal' is community in English and Sean is "old" in English. According to local lore, it is the oldest parish in Ireland. This myth is probably spurred on by the parish saint, Saint Colman, who had a monastery in Cill Comán in An tSean Phobail, having baptised St. Declan, who went on to Christianise Waterford before the coming of Saint Patrick. But the name of the area is more likely due to the following reasons: It once was part of an older parish pairing that consisted of Ardmore and An tSean Phobail. It is said[by whom?] that people in neighbouring parishes (who at the time would have spoken Irish) referred to the area as An tSean Phobail after it left Ardmore to join in a new parish pairing with An Rinn in the early 1900s. Another theory is that the devastating effect the famine had on the parish population could have led people to call it An tSean Phobail (The Old Community), as it would have been a vibrant populated community beforehand. Either way, the nickname people had for the parish became the adopted place name for the area. Prior to the area being called An tSean Phobail, it was probably known as Baile Mhic Airt, the largest towns-land within An tSean Phobail. S.N Baile Mhic Airt is the name of the local primary school, Baile Mhic Airt and other parish towns-lands appear on O.S maps without An tSean Phobail and Baile Mhic Airt is still recognised within the postal service.
'Caileach Bhearra' megalithic tomb
The late Neolithic or early Bronze Age court cairn at the Ballynamona towns-land of An tSean Phobail is the only example of its kind in the south-east. The site is marked 'dolmen' on the Ordnance Survey map, and is known locally as 'Cailleach Bhearra'. It is located about 1.5 km (1 mile) north of the lighthouse and about 100 m (~100 yards) from the cliff edge. This type of megalithic tomb is usually found north of a line between Clew Bay and Dundalk. The tomb at Ballynamona is a court cairn and is the only example of its kind in the southeast. This type is usually found north of a line between Clew Bay in the west and Dundalk in the east. It would have been constructed by a tribal group and an immense amount of social organisation was required in its building. There would have been many burials in the grave. The bodies were burnt and the cremated bones were placed in the burial chambers sometimes with pottery, beads and stone and bone, and tools for use in the next life. Although the Ballynamona Court Cairn is neither spectacular nor large, its importance cannot be overlooked.[according to whom?] It is known to date from 2000 B.C. during the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. It is clear evidence of the early settlement of Old Parish by a developed, agricultural society. The views of the Waterford and Wexford coastlines along with the vast Celtic Sea southwards from this site answer answer any questions one would have as to why the earliest known settlers of An tSean Phobail chose this location. It was excavated in May 1938 by a team led from the Office of Public Works in collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland.
A castle ruin and a famine mass stone is situated in Baile Mhic Airt lower. There is very little known about the ruins; it is said that the initial owner was French and came to the area and built it according to the style of his native land. It has a courtyard fit for equestrian purposes.
An Sean Phobal had a much greater population before the famine than it does now. In many ways, it has never recovered, Most notably in the seaside glens along the coast where many towns-land villages once existed Tóin Tí Thaidhg, Baile Mhic Airt íoctarach, and Baile na hAirde to name but a few. Immigration and death ridded these glens of a great majority of their human inhabitants. Plenty of ruined Boháns or cottages are still visible to the eye after years of vegetation overgrowth in these glens. Relig An tSleibh Graveyard is Famine time graveyard in An tSean Phobail. This land is situated about 2½ miles south-west of Dungarvan. In July 1847, the Clerk was directed to advertise for contractors to erect a stone wall around the site, four feet high and five feet wide, faced with stones on both sides ’the stones to be laid on edge.’ Two men were employed assisted by the workhouse inmates. On 28 August William Veale’s tender to make an iron gate 5½ feet high by 8 feet wide for 14 shillings was accepted. The graveyard was to be ready in a matter of weeks.In early September the Guardians ordered that any paupers who died were to be buried in the new graveyard for Grange and Ardmore until the site at Slievegrine was opened. n the early 1860s some members of the Board of Guardians felt that a small monument should be erected at Slievegrine to commemorate those buried there, but nothing came of the idea. The subject came up again in August 1866 when it was proposed that a monument should be erected at a cost not exceeding £50. Denis McGrath’s plan for the monument was accepted in August 1866 but the Commissioners objected once again. The plan was eventually dropped, probably because of the opposition from the Commissioners. According to Seamus Clandillon writing in 1925 a wooden cross marked the site. He recalled the story of a woman who was being taken for burial to Reilig An tSléibhe who regained consciousness and lived to a good old age. It was not until 1953 that a monument was finally erected at Slievegrine. The unveiling took place as part of the celebrations of the An Tostal festival in Dungarvan on Sunday 19 April 1953. This monument consists of a large plain limestone cross with inscriptions in Irish and English. However, the main part of the inscription refers to the Marian Year with the reference to the Famine victims given less emphasis. On 20 August 1995 a commemorative mass was celebrated at Reilig An tSléibhe by Dr. William Lee, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. A moving recital of Na Prataí Dubha was given by Peig, Bean Uí Reagáin. The old limestone cross was cleaned and a more fitting memorial to those buried there was unveiled.
War of Independence and Civil War
The men and women of An tSean Phobail played their part in the cause of Irish freedom during this revolutionary period.
A Company of Irish Volunteers was organised in Old Parish, in late 1917. The company was initially 8-9 but this quickly rose to 20 and doubled and tripled as the conflict escalated. On March 1918, men from An Sean Phobal defended Sinn Féin voters in a Waterford by election against Crown sympathisers, Pig traders and ex-British soldiers. The third battalion of The West Waterford IRA brigade, or Déise Brigade as it is also known, was the Ardmore-Old Parish battalion its main personal were: Jim Mansfield, O.C, Willie Doyle, Vice-O.C., Paddy Cashen, Adjutant, Declan Slattery, Q.M., Dick Mooney, Engineer, Jerry Fitzgerald, Dispatch Rider, Tom Mooney, Transport and Declan Troy, Training. The Staff Engineer Mick Mansfield (brother of Jim Mansfield above) of Crú Baile, An tSean Phobail took part in many operations across the county including the Burgery ambush.In the year 1918, Declan Slattery of Scrahan, Old Parish was appointed Battalion Quartermaster. During the period 1918- 1919 activities were mostly confined to training and organisation. By the end of 1919 there were 8 Companies of around 50 men each in the 3rd battalion. Roughly, 40% of the Old Parish company were armed with shot guns this was probably helped by the companies location within a farming community. There were also a few Lee Enfield rifles, about a half dozen revolvers but a poor supply of ammunition. A local blacksmith named Patrick Roche made some bayonets and about four dozen ‘Croppy’ pikes in his forge at An Crú Baile but the pikes never came into any use by the company.
In January 1920, Declan Slattery and other Old Parish men were in a party of thirty who attacked Ardmore R.I.C. police barracks which was about four miles from Youghal. Previous to the attack, twenty men or so were placed on outpost duty on the roads leading to Ardmore. These men were armed with shotguns, their job being to hold up any enemy reinforcements coming to relieve Ardmore. On the night of the attack, Slattery, armed with a shotgun, took up a position (with others) in houses opposite the barracks. The intention was to explode a land mine near the barracks and then rush it. The land-mine tuned out to be a dud one: it never exploded. The party opened fire at the windows which were steel-shuttered with loop-holes for firing. The R.I.C. were called on to surrender. They replied with rifles and machine guns. The gun battle went on for about an hour. It is unknown if any R.I.C men were hit but the IRA suffered no casualties. The day after the Ardmore attack, British Army and police raided the house of Commandant Jim Mansfield at Crú Baile An Sean Phobail. The three Mansfield brothers Jim, Mike and Charlie were all well known I.R.A. men and badly wanted by the British. When the raiders lead by Captain King (chief inspector of Police, Dungarvan) arrived at the house, the Mansfield brothers were gone. They interrogated family members and threatened to shoot Hannah Mansfield unless she informed on her sons. In order to curb Captain King's zeal, a group of Dungarvan Volunteers took the captain's car which was in a garage over half a mile from his house. They then pushed it through the town to his front door where they drenched it with petrol and set it on fire. Shortly afterwards the Captain was transferred to Mallow at his own request
The Active Unit West Waterford Flying Column officers George Lennon, Mick Mansfield and Pat Keating held a conference at the house of Mrs. Pottle, Baile Mhic Airt, Old Parish, as to the best means of bringing the British into a position suitable for ambushing. it was there and then decided to stage another but feint attack on the R.I.C. barracks at Ardmore and ambush any relieving force coming out from Youghal at a place called Piltown Cross about 4 miles north of Youghal on the Yougal-Dungarvan main road. This Ambush was to become known as the Piltown Cross ambush.
Coast of An tSean Phobail
There is 8 km (5 mls) of coastline in the area. This coastline consists of a dramatic seascape of cliffs (approximately 70 m, 230 ft., high) together with a number of deeply incised stream gullies and small bays. The unimproved grassland along the cliffs attracts a wide variety of seabirds. An Sean Phobal is a paradise for bird-watchers, anglers and people interested in nature.
Mine Head Lighthouse
The red sandstone lighthouse at Mine Head, was built in the mid 1800s. George Halpin Senior designed the major light of Mine Head. The red sandstone structure sitting on top of the steep cliffs of Old Parish is higher above sea-level (88 m, 290 ft.) than any other Irish lighthouse.
Local merchants and mariners from Youghal and Cork pressured the Ballast Board to begin a lighthouse tower on Capel Island off Youghal. This building was begun even though George Halpin felt the best place for a light was on Mine Head. The work was well under way when the local people changed their mind and decided that the light should be at Mine Head after all. After much debate, including input from Trinity House and the Admiralty, it was decided to abandon the site on Capel Island and build on Mine Head.
The light was established on 1 June 1851, the same day as Ballycotton lighthouse. Mine Head has a 22 m (72 ft.) white tower with a black band. It was coverted to electricity in Sept. 1964. The beacon flashes white and red every 2.5 sec. and has a nominal range of 52 km (28 nautical miles) since it sits so high above sea-level. Today the Commissioner of Irish Lights operates the lighthouse, which is not open to the public and is not accessible.
The local GAA club, CLG An tSean Phobail, concentrates on Gaelic football. Its finest hour came in 1949 when the Shocks, as the team are known, won the Waterford Junior Football Championship. For hurling purposes, the area is associated with Rinn Ó gCuanach club. The club colours are red and white.
Two long-serving mayors of Chicago, Richard J. Daley and his son, Richard M. Daley have strong connections to the area. Richard J. Daley was the only child of Michael and Lillian (Dunne) Daley, whose families had both arrived from An tSean Phobail area during the Great Famine (Ireland). A plaque dedicated to Richard J. Daley in Móin na Mín in An tSean Phobail. He donated a generous sum of money in aid of Church refurbishment in An Sean Phobal around 1970.
http://18.104.22.168/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1245.pdf http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web/DisplayPrintable/article/22/2/ http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1357.pdf http://oldparish.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/famine-graveyard-relig-tsleibh.html
- "Monument in old parish is rededicated to Richard J Daly". Munster Express. 17 March 2006.
^ a b Cohen, Adam; Taylor, Elizabeth (2001). American pharaoh : Mayor Richard J. Daley ; his battle for Chicago and the nation. New York: Back Bay. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-316-83489-6.