The Lower Blackwater Region
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These pages describe a route southwards from Cappoquin on ByRoute 2 down the eastern bank of the River Blackwater and then northwards up the western bank from Youghal Bridge on ByRoute 1.
Cappoquin // Clashmore
Lefanta, just south of Cappoquin, was the location of an archaeolical dig in the 1980s in which 7,000 year old artifacts were discovered, which evidence some of Ireland’s earliest inhabitants.
Affane (Co. Waterford / West)
Affane, the site of an ancient ford over the Finisk River, has an atmospheric old CoI church and graveyard.
The Battle of Affane
Affane was the scene of one of the last private battles fought in the British Isles, a celebrated engagement on the 1st February 1565 between the armies of Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond (with allied O’Kennedys, Gillapatricks and Burkes) and his widowed stepfather, Gerald Fitzgerald, 15th Earl of Desmond (with allied O’Connors, O’Briens, MacCarthys, O’Sullivans, and McSheehys, Lord Power of Curraghmore and Sir Piers Butler of Cahir). As with most such confrontations, the immediate causus belli (the borderlands held by Sir Maurice Fitzgerald) were less relevant than the feud that had simmered between the two families for centuries.
Lord Ormond’s brother, Edmund Butler, hit Lord Desmond in the right hip with a pistol-shot, cracking his thighbone and throwing him from his mount. With their leader fallen, the Geraldine troops were routed and the Butlers pursued them to the riverbank. About 300 Geraldines were killed, with many drowning as they were intercepted by armed boats while crossing the river. As the wounded and captive Desmond was carried shoulder-high from the field, an Ormonde commander rode up and jubilantly inquired, “Where is now the great Lord Desmond?” Whereupon Desmond is said to have retorted, “Where but in his proper place, on the necks of the Butlers“.
Queen Elizabeth I was furious, and both Earls were summoned to London to explain their actions. Ormond, a maternal cousin of the Queen’s and a court favourite, managed to convince her that the Geraldines had been at fault. As a result, Desmond and his brothers, John and James, were arrested and detained in the Tower of London; it was seven years before the earl returned to Munster, contributing significantly to unrest in the province and, ultimately, to the first of the Desmond Rebellions in 1569.
Affane House occupies the site of Affane Castle, birthplace of Valentine Greatrakes (1629~83), aka “The Stroker” who cured Scrofula and other diseases by stroking with his hands and by hypnotism and faith healing; King Charles II was amongst his patients.
Dromana House has for over 500 years been the seat of the Lords of Decies in an unbroken line, albeit occasional changes of surname. It was the home of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, the supposed instigator of the Battle of Affane, and birthplace of Katherine Fitzgerald, “The Old Countess” of Desmond, who according to Sir Walter Raleigh and others died falling out of a cherry or nut tree on the grounds of Inchiquinn Castle in 1604, aged 140.
Dromana had an exciting time during the wars of the 1640s. Its owner, Gerald Fitzgerald, sided with the English, but his wife, Mabel Digby, sympathised with the Kilkenny Confederacy rebels. As a result between 1640 and 1645 their residence was besieged numerous times by both armies, leaving it quite ruinous.
Dromana passed to the Villiers in 1676 when the heiress Katherine Fitzgerald eloped with the Hon. Edward Villiers, future Brigadier-General (d. 1693), eldest son of the 4th Viscount Grandison. Their son John Villiers, 1st Earl of Grandison, did much to transform the estate, and planned extensive additions to the house, some of which were not in place until the mid-C19th.
The exigencies of Irish country house life in the mid C20th took their toll, and in 1964 the large Georgian section was demolished, leaving only the late C17th house on its mediaeval foundations. This is currently / was until recently the residence of Emily and James Villiers Stuart.
Dromana Gate, the only Irish example of the Brighton Pavilion style of architecture, stands at the end of a bridge spanning the Finnisk river. A bizarre mixture of Hindu Gothic with ogee arches, it was originally built in 1826 of wood and papier maché to greet Thersia Pauline Ott of Vienna, on her return from honeymoon with her new husband Henry Villiers-Stuart (1803 – 1874), (who had rocked “society” earlier that year by being elected as an MP in the cause of Catholic Emancipation). The couple were so enchanted with it that they had it reconstructed in more durable materials. (Photo by Hans Peters)
Dromana Woods are all that remain of the former Grandison estate.
Villierstown & Aglish (Co. Waterford / Southwest)
Villierstown, a beautiful village with stone cut houses, was built in the first part of the C18th by John Villiers (1692 – 1766), 1st Earl and 5th Viscount of Grandison, a cousin of King Charles II‘s mistress, in order to service a linen weaving industry on his estate. Anglican weavers were brought from Co. Armagh, but the industry died in the first half of the C19th when pressure groups in England succeeded in stifling the Irish linen trade through a series of protective tariff barriers. The families who stayed survived through work gained on the estate or by fishing for salmon.
The elegant Queen Anne style church has three fine stained glass windows.
The clock was a gift of Mary Villiers Stuart to the people of the village. Two monuments commemorate some C19th Villiers Stuarts.
The Quay, which served commercial traffic on the navigable River Blackwater, is now a peaceful extension into a lovely stretch of the river. Water-skiing facilities are available.
The Kiltera Ogham Stones are signposted. One reads Collabot son of Lugson son of Lobchu; the second has the inscription Mucoi Luga. A third was removed to the NMI.
Aglish (probably a corruption of Eaglais, an Irish Latinate word for church) most likely took its name from the ruined old Transitional church (“pre-invasion” according to some) that may still be seen despite the hideous modern Grotto imposed in front of it. Some interesting headstones can be seen in the graveyard, which discernible inscriptions dating back to the early C18th.
The church of the Assumption (RC) was built in the C19th.
Dungarvan Farmers Hunt at Aglish (Photo by Sharon)
Clashmore (Co. Waterford / Southwest)
Clashmore (“Great Hollow / Trench”) a photogenic village pleasantly situated between the River Blackwater and the Drum Hills on the River Greagagh, is known for its brightly coloured old houses.
The Old Distillery was built by Lord Hastings, 12th Earl of Huntingdon, and was run by the Dennehy family of Laurentum House. At it’s peak this distillery produced approx. 20,000 gallons of whiskey annually and had an adjoining house with a secret cellar where illicit whiskey was stored to avoid excise duty, but was constantly raided by excise officers, which on one occasion led to the workers releasing thousands of gallons of whiskey into the river; rumour has it that the cattle that drank from the river later that day were all drunk! The Old Still ceased production around 1840.
Clashmore Heritage Centre is housed in the former CoI church (1818), built on the site of a monastery founded by a disciple of Saint Carthage of Lismore called Saint Conan / Mochua, to whom a nearby Holy Well is also dedicated; this is a pleasant stroll.
Our Lady of the Wayside Grotto (1971) marks the start of the 8km Kilmaloo Walk, taking in the ruin of O’Heeny / Ballyheeny Castle, a FitzGerald stronghold reputedly incorporating parts a C10th fortification built by Sineach Ruadh, and lovely views of the Rivers Licky and Blackwater. Wild flora en route includes hawthorn, hazel and ash, perfect habitats for the population of hedgehogs, badgers, stoats and rabbits.
The Licky River Valley
The Licky River Valley, a scenic jewel, has been designated a Special Area of Conservation for its varied habitats, and is a great place to spot wildlife. The river, rising in Lagnagoushee, is a tributary of the Blackwater. Seven Lickey Walks have been mapped out and graded to suit all abilities.
Newtown Farm B&B, run by Teresa and Maurice O’Connor, provides comfortable accommodation on a working farm.
A Ráth / Ringfort in the townland of Kilmore, the largest and best preserved of its kind in the County, is one of several in the area; those at Creggs and Ballysallagh are said to have long subterranean passages
Youghal Bridge is on ByRoute 1.
Tony Gallagher operates Blackwater Cruises from Youghal.
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