Sunday, August 14, 2011

Heritage Week Talk
A Heritage Week talk by Garry Miley “Portlaw and Nineteenth Century Urban Planning” will be held at the Heritage Centre on Monday 22nd August at 8pm as part of our Heritage Week activities. The talk will explore the social and urban planning experiment which matches many of the famous industrial Model Villages in England, Scotland and America. All are welcome and entrance is free. The centre will also be open every evening during the week. Details can be found in the library and at the Heritage Centre. We will have more details next week. For details of other events in the county have a look at

Heritage Week 2011 20th – 28th August Opening
Saturday 20th August 2pm to 5pm
Sunday 21st August 3pm to 6pm
Monday 22nd August Talk at 8pm
Tuesday 23rd August 7pm to 9pm
Wednesday 24th August 7pm to 9pm
Thursday 25th August 7pm to 9pm
Friday 26th August 2pm to 5pm
Saturday 27th August 2pm to 5pm
Sunday 28th August 3pm to 6pm

All are welcome. Entrance is free.

Clonegam Cemetery Mass 02nd August 2011
On Tuesday evening people gathered for a special and historic event in the graveyard at Clonegam church. A cemetery mass was celebrated by Fr. Ned Hassett, Rev. George Cliffe also participated along with invited clergy. Many travelled from the village and further afield. The ceremony was also attended by Lord and Lady Waterford and members of their family. The present Church of Ireland building in Clonegam was built in 1741 on the site of an ancient church, constructed at right angles to the present church. At this time Portlaw as a parish was not formed but was across the boundaries of two older parishes, Clonegam and Guilcagh, in the Barony of Upperthird. The parish of Clonegam derives its name from the townland on which the ancient church stood. The Irish Cluain na gCam refers to a meadow of the windings or stream, a fitting description for the view as you look out from the graveyard towards the Comeraghs. The other townslands constituting the parish are located within the demesne of Curraghmore. When one stands within the grounds it is easy to get the feel for the centuries of Christian worship in this special place. One wonders if the peel of the small Portlaw Bell now housed in the Waterford Treasures Museum could be heard across the meadows under the church. This is a small bronze decorated handbell dating to 1549 believed to have been commissioned for the private chapel of the Earl of Tyrone at Curraghmore. There is no trace of the ancient church and historian Canon Power, in an article published in 1894-95, refers to a local story or legend at that time which referred to a vault being dug within the existing church at the beginning of the 19th century which disturbed a large quantity of bones. The story continues that the bones were at a great depth and were reverently re-interred in a deep grave close to the west wall of the building. All the evidence points to a sacred place which met the spiritual needs of the people who lived in the area for many centuries. These centuries were often troubled and divided but the ceremony witnessed last Tuesday celebrated a shared past and honoured all those buried in the adjoining cemetery. Well done to all who made it happen and who participated in a special and memorable evening.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Portlaw and the Great War

A figure of 200,000 Irishmen are thought to have served during the Great War, from north and south, with the majority coming from the 26 counties that would eventually make up the Free State after partition. Recent work by historian Patrick Casey puts the figure of Irish war dead at 35,000. The data available on Portlaw dead is based on research published by the Waterford Archeological and Historical Society. Of the nine Irish infantry regiments Portlaw men are listed in the death rolls of eight of them.
A review of the available records show that the first man killed from the village was James Daniels; killed in action on August 26th 1914, only four days after the war started. Michael Sullivan died of wounds on September 17th, Edward Murray fell on the 10th October and Patrick Maddock on the 19th October. All were members of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment and all were regulars or reservists called up in the first days of the war. Patrick Coady, William Mooney and James Whelan, also serving in the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, died in the desperate attempts to break the stalemate of trench warfare during 1915. Richard Galvin, serving with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Leinster Regiment, also fell during this period. In the stalemate prior to the Battle of the Somme, Maurice Ryan, also of the 2nd Leinsters, died of wounds sustained in battle.
The name Gallipoli has great significance for the Irish who fought in the Great War. During the landings on 25th April 1915 casualties were so great that it was said that the sea on the shoreline was dyed pink with blood while the water around the boats turned red. Amongst the many Irishmen who fell during the bitter fighting of the 1st May was another of our sons; Corporal William Purcell of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Munster Fusiliers. Other Portlaw men served at Gallipoli and survived. One such man was Jack Kelly and his family have donated copies of his documents.
Popular history has identified the 1st July as the day of the Battle of the Somme. However, research has shown that the Somme offensive lasted for months and involved a great deal more military action than just the first day. The 16th Irish Division experienced over 4,000 casualties between the 1st and 10th September 1916. Portlaw lost more men during this period. Patrick Sullivan, serving with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, died of wounds on the 14th of July 1916. Joseph Butler died the next day when he was killed in action serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers. Cornelius O’Neill fell on the 21st July 1916 while serving with the 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. One of the 6th Battalions more famous officers was Willie Redmond, brother of John, who would fall a year later at Messines in early June 1917. As the war progressed more losses were visited upon the village. Michael Hogan was killed in action while serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Irish Guards on the 4th September 1917. Acting Corporal Edward Nolan died of wounds on 30th November 1917 while serving with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The final deaths of 1918 were Daniel Walsh who died of wounds in Egypt on 1st June whilst serving with the The Royal Irish Regiment. Michael Crotty died at home on the 8th August 1918 serving with Royal Defence Corps.
Separate to the infantry line regiments Portlaw gave 3 more of her sons during the course of the Great War. Corporal Llewllyn Malcolmson was killed in action on 5th October 1915 while serving with the Royal Engineers. William Power, a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, died at home from wounds sustained in action and is buried here in Portlaw only feet from Maurice Ryan, Vice Comdt in the Old IRA, who died in 1922. Thomas O’Keeffe, also in the RFA was killed in action on the 29th August 1918, only three months from the end of the war. Two other Malcolmsons died in the Great War; Hubert with the Royal Irish Regiment and Hugh Fraser with the French Red Cross.
We have a record of another of our sons lost, but this time in the Second World War. Private David Walshe was killed in action in Italy while serving with the West Surrey Regiment on the 12th October 1943.
In recent times Irish society began to investigate the complexity of its political and military traditions. These men are now taking their part alongside those who stormed the GPO and fought in the War of Independence. Many soldiers returned from the Great War to poverty and a changed Ireland and would not mention their experience. By providing a safe environment for the telling of these stories here in the Heritage Centre we can add a major chapter to the history of our village.
So let us remember them in the prayer at the opening of the Messine Peace Park: “To the glory of God and in perpetual memory of all those who fought from the Island of Ireland who made the supreme sacrifice in The Great War.”

Mills and Millers of Ireland

On Sunday 26th June the Heritage Centre hosted a group of visitors from the Society of Mills and Millers of Ireland. The society was formed in 2001 with the intention of encouraging and assisting in the preservation and appreciation of mills as part of the industrial, architectural and landscape heritage of this island. The significance of Portlaw and the Malcomsons, as displayed in the historical material at our Heritage Centre, attracted the group and motivated them to visit our village. The visitors arrived at 11am and were greeted by Chairman of the Heritage Centre, Ger Crotty, and committee members Willie Power and Owen Coffey. Following a brief introduction the group left for the old industrial complex and were escorted through the site by Willie Power and owner Michael O’Shea. They were fascinated with the remains of the old cotton mill, the location of the mill wheels and the layout of the mill. Coming from many diverse backgrounds and traditions they were equally impressed with the social structure created by the Malcomsons around the industrial complex. Following the tour the visitors met at the Heritage Centre and then adjourned to the Cotton Mill for refreshments before moving on to Dunhill Eco-Park. The group had spent Saturday in Kilmacthomas visiting Flahavans Mill and some water mills in the area. Mills and Millers were the third group to visit in as many weeks and the committee are delighted with the response and interest being generated in our heritage.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heritage Trail in Portlaw

A series of information panels celebrating the industrial, built and natural heritage of Portlaw was unveiled to a large attendance in Malcolmson’s Square were unveiled on Saturday 19th March 2011. The information panels were commissioned by Waterford Co. Council in conjunction with the Portlaw Heritage Committee and co-funded by the Heritage Council as part of Co. Waterford’s Heritage Plan work programme. Attending the launch were Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Ger Barron, Deputy Paudie Coffey, Fr. Ned Hassett and Reverend George Cliffe. The heritage information panels will greatly add to the amenity and heritage interest of the town.
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Mayor Cllr. Ger Barron stated “These panels remind us of the wealth of heritage contained in archaeological sites and buildings within Portlaw and in the wider area. When you consider the presence of the 8th century Kilbunny Church, the medieval Rocketts Castle, Currraghmore Demesne and the industrial buildings and large houses associated with the Malcomsons you cannot but be impressed and it is only right that this heritage is publicly celebrated by a project such as this. It reminds of us of why we should have pride in Portlaw and also will serve to make a visitor’s trip to the town more interesting.” He formally unveiled the heritage panel in Malcomson Square with the oldest resident of Portlaw, Mr. Maurice Nugent.
Cllr. Barron thanked all those involved in the production of the signs including the Portlaw Heritage Committee, Heritage and Irish Officers with Waterford County Council, Bernadette Guest and Máire Seo Breathnach, Red Heaven Design, Lismore who designed the artwork, local photographer Sean O’Brien, area engineer Ken Walsh and the Heritage Council for their funding support for the project.
The Mayor went on to say “The panels will complement the ongoing work of the Portlaw Heritage Committee and the Heritage Centre and I encourage you to visit the Centre and spread the word amongst your family and friends on why they should visit the area.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Meaning of Portlaw

There is no problem with the derivation of the first part of the word: Port meaning a river bank. All are in agreement with this. It is the second part (the “-law”) which gives rise to a difference of interpretation. Three possibilities have been put forward over the years: The Anglo Saxon theory. Port = bank and the “law” originating from the Anglo Saxon word lagh meaning a hill. This idea is mentioned in Canon Patrick Power’s Place Names of the Deise and Canon Power’s views carry serious weight. Canon Power, however, does not take direct responsibility for the theory but attributes it to the Slieverue scholar, John O’Donovan of Ordinance Survey fame (1806-1862). The Anglo Saxon (lagh = hill) origin for Portlaw is not mentioned by Dr. Hennebry. When taken objectively on its own merits, the theory would seem to be lacking in substantial back up on the grounds that (a) given the geographical setting of the low lying Clodiagh at Portlaw it would be stretching credibility to associate its river bank with a hill - in any language. (b) Anglo Saxon as a language petered out in England in the 12th century as it gave way to the precursor of the English language as we know it - it was never at any time spoken in the Portlaw area. (c) Having one part of a place name in Gaelic and the second part of the same word in Anglo Saxon would be most unusual and not make linguistic sense. The “LÁCH” (= friendly) theory. This would give us Portlách as coming from the word lách (modern spelling) meaning friendly or simpatico. Lách being a common word which has found its way into the English of the Deise in phrases like “a decent, lách kind of a man.” The particular modern spelling (Portlách) has been accepted by the Place Names Commission, without comment on its derivation. Unfortunately the spelling adopted by the Commission is of little help in determining home exactly the name originated, in the same way that the new spelling of saol (meaning life or lifetime) gives no clue to its real origin. We have to go back to the older spelling saoghal to see the connection with the Latin saeculum (age or lifetime). It is true, however, that the lách = friendly theory has its advocates and has been mentioned by Dr. Hennebry as a possibility. However, as an epithet in Gaelic, the word lách seems to be exclusively applied to humans. Can anyone find another instance where a hill or a wood or a plain or a river bank or any geographic feature is described in place names to be lách (meaning friendly)? Furthermore – and this is important – it is clear that in the older Irish spelling the word lách (= friendly) always had a “g” in the middle – LÁGHACH. In its older form Portlaw never had a “G”-but it did have a “D”-Portcldhach. This is significant. The “Stony River Bank” theory. Portcládhach was the older written form. The cládhach possibly comes from cladach meaning a stony place by a river or the sea. The word is common in Connaught in phrases like “thíos ar an gcladach” meaning “down on the stony shore” (as opposed to the sandy beach – which is trá). The Claddagh fishing village (now part of Galway city) is a case in point. Henebry seems to favour this “stony place” explanation over the “lách” theory (Scribhne Risteird de Hindeberg). And Richard Henebry was a native of the place as well as an able scholar with his doctoral thesis on “The Phonology of County Waterford Irish” But then how can Dr. Henebry or anyone else explain the disappearance of the “d” sound in the middle of the word? Cladach to Cládhach (or clách). Not really a big problem. The middle consonant is often glossed over (with a séimhiú) in the spoken word as the Irish language evolved. Take leabhar, for example, meaning a book. In old Irish this was LEBOR (no séimhiú ) from the latin Liber. Similiarly Dé Domhnaigh (Sunday) comes from Dies Domini (The day of the Lord) but over time we put in a séimhiú and dropped the “m” sound. Máthair (mother) was originally MATIR (no séimhiú ) from the latin Mater. Fabhal (as in fabhalscéal = a fable) pronounced “foul” comes from FABULA etc. etc. To this day Irish speakers of the English language (in Waterford and elsewhere) have no trouble slipping in a “séimhiú” in an English language word resulting in the dropping of a consonant. “Gimme two Fantas, a gin and tomaha juice and a large bohel. In many rural parts, WATER is pronounced waher. MIGHTY becomes moihy etc. So there is no big deal in explaining how “cladach” could come in time to bee pronounced “cládhach (or clach) without the “d” sound. I would therefore respectfully submit – without being dogmatic – that the cladach derivation, is the most plausible of the three propositions put forward. It makes good sense – especially when to this day, you can look over the bridge at low water and by the shimmering stream you can see with your own eyes those myriads of small Clodiagh-washed stones looking up at you. They are that Stony River Bank – the Stony River Bank that tells you its name – PORTCLÁDHACH – PORTLÁCH – PORTLAW.

Brendan Coffey Baile Átha Cliath – 23 Eanair 2007

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Portlaw Heritage Centre

Founded in 2005 the aim of the Portlaw Heritage Committee is to establish an archive of the industrial, social and cultural history of Portlaw. The Heritage Centre, located in the old dispensary building on the Square, now provides a focal point for the preservation of our unique history. Our heritage is rich covering early monastic settlements in Kilbunny, Norman fortifications at Rockett's Castle and the large demesne at Curraghmore. However, the feature which defines our village is our industrial past. We can be contacted on 00353 (0)86 1081790 between 7pm and 9pm.Why not come along and have a look?