Old Parish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
An Sean Phobal
Old Parish-An Seanphobal Coast.jpg
An Sean Phobal is located in Ireland
An Sean Phobal
An Sean Phobal
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°01′N 7°37′W / 52.02°N 7.62°W / 52.02; -7.62Coordinates: 52°01′N 7°37′W / 52.02°N 7.62°W / 52.02; -7.62
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County Waterford
Population (2006)
 • Urban 110
 • Rural 600
Time zone UTC+0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-1 (IST (WEST))
Irish Grid Reference X259930

An Sean Phobal (anglicised as Old Parish) is a village in west County Waterford, Ireland. It is part of the parish that forms the Irish-speaking area of Gaeltacht na nDéise


An Sean Phobal, 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 villages of Ardmore and Grange to the other Gaeltacht na nDéise parish of An Rinn and north to south from slightly beyond the Cork-Waterford N25 roadway to the coast. The closest centres of population to An Sean Phobal are Dungarvan and the County Cork town of Youghal.


There is a primary school, a pre-school/child-care centre, public house, Roman Catholic church, parish hall, lighthouse, a GAA pitch and an all-weather 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.

Irish language[edit]

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 is Scoil Náisiúnta Baile Mhic Airt. Drama plays in Irish are produced annually by the local drama group, Aisteoirí An tSean Phobail, and the parish's 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 Sean Phobal or An tSean Phobail in the genetaive case. Both An Sean Phobal and Old Parish were on the local road-signs until 2005, when the anglicised form ceased to have any official standing. Today, roadsigns show the Irish name, An Sean Phobal, only.


Place name[edit]

Welcome sign in An Sean Phobal

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 Sean Phobal, having baptised Saint 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 Sean Phobal. It is said[by whom?] that people in neighbouring parishes (who at the time would have spoken Irish) referred to the area as An Sean Phobal 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 Sean Phobal (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 Sean Phobal, it was probably known as Baile Mhic Airt, the largest townland within An Sean Phobal. Scoil Náisiúnta Baile Mhic Airt is the name of the local primary school, Baile Mhic Airt and other parish townlands appear on O.S maps without An Sean Phobal and Baile Mhic Airt is still recognised within the postal service.

'Caileach Bhearra' megalithic tomb[edit]

Plaque at megalithic tomb

The late Neolithic or early Bronze Age court cairn at the Ballynamona townland of An Sean Phobal is the only example of its kind in the south-east of Ireland. 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. The tomb at Ballynamona is a court cairn. This type of megalithic tomb 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 An Sean Phobal by a developed, agricultural society. The views of the Waterford and Wexford coastlines along with the vast Celtic Sea southwards from this site answer any questions one would have as to why the earliest known settlers of An Sean Phobal 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.[citation needed]

War of Independence and Civil War[edit]

The men and women of An Sean Phobal played their part in the cause of Irish freedom during this revolutionary period.

IRA volunteers have brekfast on Baile Mhic Airt beach, An Sean Phobal

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. In 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-An Sean Phobal 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 Cruabhaile, An Sean Phobal took part in many operations across the county including the Burgery ambush. In 1918, Declan Slattery of Scrahan, An Sean Phobal 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 An Sean Phobal 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 Cruabhaile but the pikes never came into any use by the company.

Staff Engineer Mick Mansfield in IRA uniform

In January 1920, Declan Slattery and other men from An Sean Phobal 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 Cruabhaile, An Sean Phobal. 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 led 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 Margaret Portle, Baile Mhic Airt, An Sean Phobal, 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.[citation needed]

Great Famine[edit]

The Glens of An Sean Phobal were once home to hundreds of families. Pictured here is Gleann Anna taken from Baile Mhic Airt Beach

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.[citation needed]

Reilig an tSléibhe[edit]

Signage directing people to Reilig an tSléibhe, the Famine Graveyard in the Waterford Gaeltacht
Statue found at Reilig an tSléibhe

This is the famine graveyard in the Waterford Gaeltacht, it is located in An Sean Phobal, off the N25 from Dungarvan to Cork just before An Seanachaí pub about 4 km south-west of Dungarvan. The field itself was owned by the Villiers-Stuart family. 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, as the area in which Reilig an tSléibhe is located was then recorded, was opened. Henry Villiers-Stuart was chairperson of the Board of Guardians who ran the workhouse at the time. There are possibly 3 mass graves in the field that were used to cope with the large numbers and as the deaths declined, it is believed single graves were dug. The corpses were brought by pony and trap from the town along what would have been the old Cork road. A Mr Fitzgerald made this journey with his cart up to three times a day. A Mr Barron was also in charge of the burials. Currently, it is not known how many were buried there but there are certainly 100's if not up to 1000. Officialdom, at the time, had such disregard for the inmates of the workhouse, they only had a number and no names were recorded. Many literally had to dig their own graves a matter of days before they themselves would be tipped in. They were buried without coffins or even shrouds. There is a local story of a young baby that was about to be buried with a number of other corpses and just before the cart was tipped in, she left out a loud cry. That child emigrated to America and lived into her 90's. An Seanachaí, which is located beside the graveyard obtained its first licence in 1845, issued to John Ketts. The public house was originally established to provide food and drink for the gravediggers and the Kett family were caretakers of the graveyard in the immediate aftermath of the famine. In the early 1860s some members of the Board of Guardians felt that a small monument should be erected at Reilig an tSléibhe 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, this had reportedly crumbled well before 1943. In 1953 a new monument, which still stands on the site, was erected to commemorate the Holy year and a small inscription was included to mention the famine victims. 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. On 20 August 1995, for the 150th commemoration of the famine, a commemorative mass was celebrated at Reilig An tSléibhe by Dr. William Lee, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. A new memorial which was inscribed with part of Máire Ní Dhroma's poem, Na Prátaí Dubha was unveiled and a moving recital of Na Prataí Dubha was given by Peig, Bean Uí Reagáin. Also to be seen at the site is a solitary figure in mourning, at the side of the field. This sculpture was created by Seán Creagh, however, he died before it was complete and so the fiberglass structure that would have been used to create the mold for the final piece was erected instead. As such it is not very weather proof and is showing signs of damage. Within the field if you look at the surface of the grass, there are depressions which are very apparent. These are most likely the burial sites of the mass graves and the single interments. None of the graves are marked in any way. Within the field there is also a headstone where GR Jacobs from the HMT Bradford is buried. He died at sea in 1916.[1]

Castle ruin[edit]

Castle ruin and mass stone

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 Lord Barron who came to the area and built it as a hunting lodge.[citation needed] This site is listed in the Buildings of Ireland Survey as an early 19th-century gate screen incorporating a central gateway with flanking lodges, probably built as part of plans to develop Glenanna Cottage grounds.[2]


All education in An Sean Phobal is delivered through the medium of Irish. There is one pre-school - Lios na Síog and one Primary school - Scoil Náisiúnta Baile Mhic Airt. Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile Mhic Airt is a co-educational Gaeltacht school, under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore.[3]


Agriculture is one of the largest sources of employment in An Sean Phobal.[citation needed] The area is relatively underdeveloped economically, there is some industry in the area however.

Fónta Teo: is a company which specialises in supplying stitcher heads, components and wire for wire stitcher machines. Their factory is located at the Údarás na Gaeltachta Industrial Estate in An Sean Phobal.[4]

Community Development[edit]

Community development in An Sean Phobal is primarily carried out by two bodies that co-operate with each other. Coiste Forbartha an tSean Phobail, which is a community based development committee, which runs the local community hall, Halla Cholmáin which hosts facilities and activities such as Sean Nós dancing classes, as well as organising and hosting a variety of community events such as the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Comhlucht Forbartha na nDéise, which represents Gaeltacht na nDéise also has an office in An Sean Phobal and works to develop various projects. Comhlucht Forbartha na nDéise was established in May 2005.[5] It is a registered company and charity and has representatives from Coiste Forbartha an tSean Phobail, as well as Comhairle Pobail na Rinne, the other community based development committee in the Waterford Gaeltacht, on its board of directors. An Comhlucht Forbartha has developed and implemented several development plans for the Waterford Gaeltacht which have resulted in new facilities for An Rinn, such as An Imearlann, the local playground. Coiste Forbartha an tSean Phobal won recognition for their activities in the 'An Baile Beo' competition in 2006.[6]

Coast of An Sean Phobal[edit]

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[edit]

Minehead 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 An Sean Phobal 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 converted 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.[citation needed]


Crest of C.L.G An tSean Phobail.

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. In 2013, CLG an tSean Phobail helped to host Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta by providing their playing pitch, Páirc Cholmáin.[7] The route of the Seán Kelly Heritage 100K runs through An Sean Phobal.[8]


Richard M. Daley

Two long-serving mayors of Chicago, Richard J. Daley[9] 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 Sean Phobal area during the Great Famine (Ireland). A plaque dedicated to Richard J. Daley in Móin na Mín in An Sean Phobal. He donated a generous sum of money in aid of Church refurbishment in An Sean Phobal around 1970.[10]


  1. ^ Dungarvan Observer - 09-10-2015
  2. ^ "http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA&regno=22903907"
  3. ^ "Whole school report - Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile Mhic Airt" (PDF). Department of Education and Skills. October 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  4. ^ http://www.udaras.ie/en/nuacht/forbairt-fogartha-ag-fonta-teo-i-ngaeltacht-na-ndeise/ 'Wire stitcher company announces expansion in the Waterford Gaeltacht', udaras.ie, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Accessed 15/12/2015
  5. ^ Gaeltacht na nDéise - A Socio-economic and Cultural needs analysis.
  6. ^ http://www.udaras.ie/en/nuacht/an-baile-beo-duaiseanna-reigiun-an-deiscirt-bronnta/ 'An Baile Beo – southern region prizes awarded', udaras.ie, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Accessed: 15/12/2015
  7. ^ http://dungarvanobserver.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Dungarvan-Observer-15-5-2013-Sport.pdf Official Launch of Comórtas Peile 2013, Dungarvan Observer, Waterford, 15 May 2013
  8. ^ http://www.deise.ie/an-rinn-agus-an-sean-phobal/siuloidi-agus-rothaiocht-walking-and-cycling 'Siúlóidí agus Rothaíocht / Walking and Cycling', Deise.ie, Accessed: 15/12/2015
  9. ^ Cohen, Adam; Taylor, Elizabeth (2000). American pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley - His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Little, Brown And Company. ISBN 978-0-316-83489-6.
  10. ^ "Monument in old parish is rededicated to Richard J Daly". Munster Express. 17 March 2006. http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web/DisplayPrintable/article/22/2/ http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1357.pdf http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA&regno=22903907