Norm’s Britain and beyond… 2017 – Episode Four

Tuesday 5th September 2017

In my haste to get Episode Three away before the Hotel Internet crashed again, I omitted to pass on any foodie news. Perhaps the reason I forgot to do so was that it didn’t rate a mention. It was as described, a fish and leek pie – and that’s about all that’s worth saying about it.

The morning dawned also as forecast, heavily overcast and rainy enough for me to move to Plan B – stay home and try and follow-up some of the leads Stephen gave me yesterday. It turned out however to be one of those frustratingly unrewarding days where I would probably have been better being soaked to the skin sight-seeing.

Dinner tonight went part way to lifting my spirits being Tagliatelle with smoked chicken in a mushroom and cheese sauce. Perhaps not as creamy as I’d like but almost up there with the baked salmon earlier in the week.

Then off to finish my packing ready for the move to Waterford tomorrow.

Wednesday 6th September 2017

It will probably come as no surprise that I included black pudding in my last breakfast at the Herbert Park Hotel. From what I’ve read the Waterford hotel, The Fitzwilton, seems unlikely to run to that. But who knows? And you know I’ll let you know anyway.

I was able to get an earlier train from Dublin than I thought I would which I hoped would give me time to get around to the Waterford Heritage Centre this afternoon and get a flying start at my quest for James. It did.

But first I need to tell you about the train journey. The service is very much a commuter one – being one class only and a very busy one.  I gather that at peak times, some passengers have had to stand all the way to Waterford.  As I only got to board 10 minutes before it left I was unable to find a seat with a table or even one facing in the direction of travel, but not looking forward to the prospect of standing, I find one eventually just before we left.
The carriages do not seem that old but have a decidedly well-used look and in need of some deep cleaning and thorough deodorising. But as the trip only took a little over two hours and was a whole lot cheaper than driving down, I shouldn’t complain too much.
Fortunately my room at the Fitzwilton was ready, and being quite a big one I was able to spread myself about a bit. Although said to have been refurbished at the end of last year it shares the train’s well-used look but is clean and odour-free.

The Heritage Centre is about a 15 minute walk from the hotel so, after a couple of hours on the train, it didn’t do me any harm at all to do that. Michael O’Connor, the genealogist who helped me when I was last here in 2006 had aged. I wonder how that happens.
Be that as it may, having shared with him what I had learned at the National Library he agreed that the Counsellor’s Road lead was an important one in narrowing down our search, and he was off, almost in mid-sentence, to get a map to show me where it was.

A copy of the map he gave me, old and battered as it was, is shown below.

Old Ordnance Map showing area around Peafield, Kilmurray, Kilkenny

I had told him that I had hired a car which I was picking up tomorrow with the specific purpose of visiting places which might have traces of James and that this new find would be high on that list. Michael was concerned that the old map might not be too useful as a navigation aid, so offered to drive me out to show me exactly where it was and how to get there. As it happened he was booked in for a game of golf later in the afternoon and where we were going was he said not too far out of his way. Heritage Centre service above and beyond, nonetheless.

So off we went and over the next hour he not only showed me how to get there but as exactly as he could where the family lived. The area is now, as I assume it was back in James’ time, primarily agricultural land but changed to the extent that there are few if any old buildings left and these are interspersed with one or two light industrial businesses, which add nothing to the rural scene. But at least now, thanks to Michael – and it’s a big thanks – I can meander all around there tomorrow and if nothing else soak up a bit of the atmosphere. I also hope to go on to Slieverue and see what I can discover in the graveyard of the church there that was James and Mary’s parish church.

After that I may see if I can find a connection in the Griffiths Valuations that are such an important genealogical resource here, but they may be a little too late of date to be helpful. But even if the timing is not right, I may be able to get hold of a copy of the Griffith Valuations map that shows where they lived.

And as a fitting end to what had turned out to be one of the most rewarding family search days I’ve had was, would you believe, the best seafood chowder I’ve had in many a long year – and at half the price of the one in Dublin!!

Thursday 7th September 2017

Another grey and damp dawn but not sufficiently so to deter me from my sortie into Waterford for some shopping before picking up the car to explore the wilds of Peafield, Kilmurray on my own.

But first things first. The Fitzwilton breakfast does run to black pudding and, only for comparison purposes you understand, I had to sample it. A little more oatmealy and a little less spicy than the Dublin offering but I dare say I can put up with that.

I picked up my car, VW Golf, which though considerably smaller than I’m used to is just what I wanted to navigate the very narrow roads in country County Waterford, one of which is Counsellor’s. The Rental Car people were very keen for me to upgrade to a brand new Skoda – at an increased rental – so I had no trouble declining their kind (?) offer. Before I left their yard I spent a little time loading some of my rural destinations into my phone so that I could concentrate on the business of just driving – and I’m glad I did.

I drove up and down Counsellor’s Road a couple of times but was unable to find a vantage point where I could take any photos. I haven’t even got one of a road sign – mainly because there weren’t any. And I have to admit that with high hedges on either side of the road there was not a lot to be seen or photographed. And I didn’t think that Ellickson Engineering’s plant qualified as photogenic. But I can say I have driven on the same road on which my Butler forbears either walked or rode.

Then off to Slieverue to visit the Church of the Assumption and its graveyard. Although not a big graveyard, it took me all of two hours to work my way up and down the rows of headstones – much of which time was spent trying to decipher the faded and eroded inscriptions. As I had been led to expect I found only two dedicated to Butlers and either the names didn’t match or the dates or both. But photograph them I did on the off chance that those named will pop up in my research sometime in the future.

Photos of both appear below:

Two of the “Butler” Headstones in the Church graveyard, Slieverue, Kilkenny
7 September 2017

I also spent some time in the church because, as I’ve mentioned already, that’s where James married Mary Connery and all their children were baptised.  In the early days it must have been a quite populous parish, as the church is much larger than I thought it would be.  As you will see, however, as a result of what I assume was a budget-bound renovation, it is not particularly attractive from the outside.

Church of the Assumption, Slieverue, Kilkenny
7 September 2017

Internally it was somewhat better though still quite bare and unadorned.  An exception was the altar front – the style of which appealed to me.  And if you look really closely, the wider angled photograph shows, to the right of the Sanctuary, the glitter of a couple of candles that I lit, on behalf of Butlers everywhere, to add to those already there. I have no idea who lit them – because I saw not a soul (pun intended) while I was there.

Altar, Church of the Assumption, Slieverue, Kilkenny
7 September 2017
Interior, Church of the Assumption, Slieverue, Kilkenny
7 September 2017

As the rain that had started to fall as I finished my headstone survey had become quite heavy by the time I left the church, it seemed that the smartest thing I could do would be to head for home – and that’s what I did.

I had not got too far into writing up the day’s events when I received a phone call from Michael O’Connor who was downstairs in reception. He had brought a copy of a book that he had bought for me entitled “Sliabh Rua – A History of its People and Places”. As it is about the very parish in which James and his family lived, namely Slieverue, he felt it would help provide me with some contextual background for my future family history-writing endeavours. I offered to pay him for it, but he declined saying that I had bought it already as part of the small commission I had paid him. What a thoughtful gift?

But there’s more. As it was only about 5:00 pm, he asked if I would be free to join him in a drive to one of his favourite parts of Waterford, Dunmore East, about 20 km away. I accepted gratefully and I hope, gracefully. Anyhow we had a very pleasant hour or so together chatting about all manner of things and not just genealogical.
And having seen Dunmore East, I now understand why this fishing village has become such a tourist attraction. Apart from its cliffside setting, it features quite a number of thatched houses, in some cases built quite recently to match the thatched fishermen’s cottages of times past.

A cliff-side view of part of Dunmore East, Waterford
7 September 2017

One of the prime viewing spots is the Dunmore East Golf Club, where Michael plays on occasion, and where I was able to enjoy the view with him over a cup of coffee.

Declining an offer to join me for dinner, Michael dropped me back home around 7:30 pm whereupon I rounded out another just great day with another bowl of my Fitzwilton favourite, seafood chowder!

And, how good is all of that?