Some years ago, my sister Eileen from the kitchen window in Tigaluinn on Sundays, was always able to calculate how much time there was still to spare before mass, by observing the moving lines of Curragh people on the strand. If the lines had trickled down to a short one on the Ardmore side, it was time to get up and go. Nobody walks across the strand to mass now; people come around the road in their cars.
Below is an account of some of the families in Curragh, at the beginning of the century.
On the left-hand side coming up the boreen from Bun an Bháile was Hannah Monsell, a very pious, always good-humoured woman, in spite of the fact, that her shelter at one time was reduced to the covered car bed, with I think, some corrugated iron overhead. Next came Fletchers and Monsells, one of them called the Cailín as he had long black curly hair down to his shoulders. The Cudahys, on the opposite side of the road lived in a two-roomed thatched home like so many in Lower Curragh. Mary was a tall, rosy-cheeked, slightly-stooped person always dressed as so many other s in black, but Mary’s black was impeccably black from head to foot. Her mother was a Lincoln woman from Grange and Mary remembered such family traditions as the Lincolns coming originally from Waterford and being friends of the Searlógs (Sherlocks) of Butlerstown Castle. How many other snippets of family tradition did she bring to the grave with her? The house is now a two-storeyed one, the property of the owner of Chez Hans Restaurant in Cashel. Other names that I know of were Deugy Connery, Tomnín Harty and his sister; Miles Harty; Peaidín Siobhaínín (Kiely) and his family, Han Kiely, Johnny and Miky. Han lived in a thatched house which now belongs to Dermot O’Leary, leader of the ‘The Bards’ ballad group. Winter and summer Han traversed Ardmore strand daily to go to mass. Deugy Power was another well known person as was Jack the Crachur (creature?) who had a pig and piebald pony in the kitchen, and who was always saying his rosary made of twine with knots of twine for beads, Jimmie Rooney distinctly remembers him praying out loud in church using his home-made rosary beads. The Lynches, who now have two fine houses in the area are of the old stock, as are the O’Briens also strongly based in the district. There were Hurtins too and Keanes at the Cross, Patsy Power and Deugy Power.
According to an account in the 'Times Past' column of the Irish Times of July 9th 1943 there were some 37 houses in the village at Curragh, though by that stage about a third were already derelict. "Fine specimens of early nineteenth-century carved dressers and settles, rich with classical decoration, are mouldering in outhouses in the Ardmore district of Co. Waterford. This was one of the discoveries by three architectural students of U.C.D., who have just come back from a survey of cottages in this district, working on the same lines as the group at Lusk, whose survey was reported in the Irish Times on Tuesday. They selected as a base for survey, the village of Curragh, near Ardmore, a decayed fishing village, with 37 old-type houses, of which about a third are derelict."
The outstanding characteristic of these houses, they found to be the quantity of handsome kitchen furniture, most of it made in the early 19th century. The typical dresser of the district has carved pillars at the side crowned with cornices, and has decorated panelling on the lower portion. The pillars are usually painted white while the rest of the dresser is brown. The settles are similarly ornamented and there is also a peculiar type of canopied bed, called the ‘covered car’ found in many of the cottages.
Within recent years, many families have moved to new houses built with the help of Government grants, and in some cases, despising the furniture of the old home, they have left it behind and used the old cottage as on outhouse.”
There are many new houses now across the bay. Deug Donovan of Curragh said on one occasion “The end of the world must be coming when the gentry are coming to Curragh”. Well, for some years past, gentry alias visitors have been delighted to buy sites and build houses there, in incomparable positions, facing Ardmore and its bay.
Author: Siobhan Lincoln