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Ansons At Ardmore

The Ardmore Journal

8. Ansons At Ardmore

Holidays In Ardmore 
From the time we were very young the one thing my brothers and I looked forward to was our summer holidays at Ardmore. Mother used to rent Ardmore House, (now the convent) overlooking the boat cove, from Miss Walsh, who then lived at Ballyquin House. We used to come down from our home, Ballysaggartmore 27 miles away, in convoy. First the double dog cart with two cobs, the Flipper and the Roan, with mother driving, Nanny beside her with Hugo on her knee and Tony between them, and Woodie the groom in the back with me and the nursery maid. Second by the farm horse, Dolly, with a cart loaded with luggage and finally the donkey cart. Both carts were driven by farm hands. The men stayed the night and drove the horses back next day but the donkey cart remained so that Nanny could drive us for picnics.

There was terrific excitement when we first caught sight of the round tower, and the sound of the gulls the next morning was another thrill. The only worry was, would Nanny say it was warm enough to bathe.

The donkey's name was Torby and he was put out to grass below the house. He was quite expert at opening gates and doors and visitors sleeping in the lower bedrooms quite often found him standing beside their beds. In the end he had to be put in a field with a locked gate and spent most of his time standing beside it, hoping to be fed with bread and jam which he much preferred to grass. In those days there was a little road on top of the clay cliffs behind the beach and there were a number of private bathing boxes beside it. Nanny would drive us along this road to the Curragh for our picnic tea or sometimes we would scramble around the rocks and look for cowrie shells in the gravel. If we got enough we would glue them on little boxes and give them away for Christmas presents.

Father was farming at home, and only came down in the car at weekends with the chauffeur, Evenden. Sometimes we would drive in the donkey cart to the Ferry Point and go over in the ferry, at that time propelled by huge oars with two men on each. The men were very kind to us and let us sit between them and pretend to help them to row.

When we got a bit older and could swim and row, father hired a rowing boat and took us to bathe in the middle of the bay. This was most uncomfortable - very difficult to undress and dress and though quite easy to dive in from the boat, very hard to get back again. He had a little ladder made with 2 hooks but it nearly always fell off before we got in. Also there was often a basking shark cruising round which we didn't like the look of at all - though told that it was harmless - otherwise he used the boat for fishing and Tony and I rowed. Unfortunately we got blisters on our hands which turned septic. Father said to mother "your children seem to be rotten inside!". This hurt our feelings very much — after this he and the governess (Miss Dora) had to row but this was not a great success as he always forgot that he was stronger than her and pulled her round. Than he got blisters which turned septic so he gave up the rowing boat and bought a motor boat, looked after by the chauffeur.

We then took to bathing in the boat cove, at high tide, with our friends, and this didn't go down at all well, as mixed bathing was considered very fast in Ireland at that time. There was an article in the Dungarvan Observer saying "The disgusting British practice of mixed bathing is being carried on in Ardmore, corrupting the morals of the children in the nearby houses".

The next week they wrote again "In spite of our protest of last week, this disgusting practice is still carried on." When we got a bit older we bathed in the swimming pool shaped inlet at Ardmore head which was delightful and sheltered from every wind but the southeast. It always had very deep water even at the lowest spring tide but the climb down to it was rather severe and kept away most grown ups.

Every afternoon we played hockey on the beach with the Daniels the Curreys and the Pollocks but hardly ever could muster more than 6 a side and we longed to play a proper match against a real eleven. Tommy Jameson agreed to fix up a team and challenge us. Tommy's team consisted of Dorothy and Joan Musgrave, 4 Arnots from Castlemartyr and 4 whose names I've forgotten. They were all in their middle twenties and we (apart from Miss Darcy, the current governess) were from 9 to 16 years old. Pop was considered to be too old though he usually played with us. It was an Homeric struggle and at first the grown ups did terribly well — Tommy was an extra good games player and fit. Most of the others began to puff a bit after a time and in the end we utterly defeated them. Our 2 smallest boys were the most brilliant forwards and were so tiny that the big fellows could hardly see them.

Every evening we had a paperchase and mothers complained that we lost their smallest children in bogs. Luckily they always turned up again but of course covered with mud.

We loved to go prawning and had special large strong nets made, scorning the useless little nets used by other children. There seemed to be plenty of prawns but I rather over did it and an old professional prawner said "Miss Anson has killed the fathers and mothers of them all." He turned out to be quite right and after that I had a close season and caught nothing till July and if anyone else tried to, I was furious with them.

Ardmore was the most wonderful place for sea food. There were trawlers coming in all the time and men came to the door selling soles and lobsters for nothing - also salmon was very plentiful but basking sharks used to break up the nets and ruin them. 
The Great War
Mrs. Power and her 2 daughters, Marjorie and Laura, lived at Cliff House at that time and we had an arrangement with them that we could play tennis in the garden beyond the house, if we supplied all the posts, nets and balls.

We were inclined to hit out rather widly and the balls often went over the cliff. One day Tony and the Currey children started to climb down to try and retrieve some of them. Tony was clinging to clumps of scutch grass when one come out by the roots and he fell, hurtling past the Curreys. We were horrified but luckily the tide had come into an inlet below and it was 3 ft deep in water which broke his fall. One of his arms hit a rock but otherwise he was all right. We called the place "Anson's leap".

We always looked forward to Pattern Sunday with the bands and stalls and people crawling under St. Declan's Stone. We watched from our drawing room window thinking someone very fat might try, and get stuck.

Mother was a Beresford and was brought up at her father's (Lord Waterford's) place, Curraghmore, Portlaw. She was called Clodagh after a large and very pretty mountain stream that flows from the Comeragh mountains, through the estate and into the Suir. She called me Clodagh too and hoped, in vain that we'd be the only two.

Her father and mother died before she was quite grown up and she was sent with a governess Miss Gomme on a tour of Italy. There, her maternal grandmother's much younger half sister (The Duchess of Abercorn) was made her guardian and took her, with her own two daughters, to London to be presented to Queen Victoria and go to balls and parties. After this she came back to stay with the Abercorns at their place, Barons Court, in Northern Ireland and there met Claud Anson who was on holiday from his cattle ranch in Texas. They got engaged and were married the following February 1901 and after a honeymoon in America went to the ranch. This was about the size of Co. Waterford as in that climate with constant danger of droughts much more land was needed per beast than here. The nearest town was 23 miles away and there was no road. They had to drive in a buggy straight across the prairie. Their nearest neighbour was the post master who had a very long neck. He had been lynched for horse stealing and only just cut down in time by his friends. Although there were so few people the gossip was terrific. Everything that happened was known in the town and round about. Two elderly men who had a 60 year old housekeeper were told this was improper and one of them must marry her. They drew lots and the loser did it. Mother and an Irish maid who went out with her thought they would try to fill up holes in the ground near the ranch house with stones and the gossips said this was most unladylike.

She came back to London to have me, and Nanny and I were left at Curraghmore with my uncle and his wife while she went back to the ranch for a year. Nanny was very good at talking to babies and I learned to speak very early. When mother arrived back at Curraghmore I was 10 months old. I was in my pram and she came towards me making baby noises. I sat up held out my hand and said "how do you do". She was so astonished that she cried.

After that Pop rented Woodhouse Stradbally and went backwards and forwards from there to the ranch for a few years before he sold it and bought Ballysaggartmore. Here there were plenty of neighbours and lots going on. Pop became Deputy Lieutenant of the County and then High Sheriff. He and Woodie went to the Assizes, in Waterford, in the double dog cart. Woodie's only comment on the affair was "I may say that Mr. Anson and I were the two most handsome men present".

When the 1914 war started, Pop was asked to arrange recruiting meetings. For the first one, he managed to persuade a V.C. called Michael O'Leary, to come. He arrived at Waterford Town Hall all right but when the meeting was about to begin he couldn't be found. Our governess, Miss O'Riordan, was determined to track him down. She saw a highbacked Victorian arm chair turned facing the wall. She stood on a chair and peered over the back and there was the unfortunate young man, nearly mad with shyness. She pointed down at him, shouting at the top of her lungs "There he is, there he is, there's O'Leary, there's O'Leary."

Mother left Ireland at the time of the Troubles and lived in London till 1942. In the big 1930's slump, she looked after down-and-outs. She hired a large basement in the Waterloo road near the Old Vic, and from two to three hundred slept there (on the floor) every winter night. They were given free tea and bread and dripping at 12 o'clock and she stayed there all night and kept order. At lunch time she ran a canteen served by voluntary helpers. Mutton or beef stew with two vegetables was 5d. Milk pudding 1d and thick soup with a doorstep of bread 1d. She worked very hard to try and get jobs for people too.

When we got her back to Ireland in 1942 she rented Mrs Crowley's house Roseville, in Ardmore, and there, from her upstairs sitting room, she could see nearly all that went on in the main street. She had a splendid donkey bath chair and Johnny Mansfield used to come with his donkey and take her for rides. After that she rented O'Brien's bungalow Mount Martin. After the war my brothers and their wives and children used to take houses in Ardmore in the summer so as to see her and also because they loved Ardmore and I stayed either with them or her.

Lady Clodagh Anson (1879 - 1957) was the author of 'Book' (1931) and 'Another Book' (1937). 'Book' was republished in 1957 as 'Victorian Days'.

Lady Clodagh was the 'Welcome Lady' to the down-and-outs of London in the 1930s. Her epitaph at Ardmore reads;

'She never failed to help those in trouble'

(Extract From 'Book')
We used to go every summer to the dearest little seaside village called Ardmore, near Youghal, and as all our friends took houses there too, it was great fun. Sir Richard and Lady Musgrave, of Tourin, Cappoqun, and their two girls, who were a little older than my children, generally came, and when Hugo was six he had a great pash for Lady Musgrave, and they became engaged! He declared that he would poison Sir Richard with rotten mackerel, marry Lady Musgrave, and be an awfully cruel stepfather to Joan and Dorothy!

Poor darling old Sir Richard said it made him feel quite nervous, and that it completely put him off eating mackerel, which was a pity, as that year we had the most marvelous fishing. The sprats came right in up to the very edge of the shore, and when you paddled out they made the water so thick that it was like wading through mud. The mackerel followed on behind the sprats, and all the people were fishing with sticks and bits of string off the rocks, just pulling them in as hard as they could, unhooking them and throwing them into a shallow pool behind. The children paddled in and could actually catch the fish in their hands.

(Extract From 'Another Book')
My children used to find all sorts of marine monsters in the sea at Ardmore. One year they caught an octopus and kept it in a pool among the racks. all the bed-ridden old ladies who lived in the village were thrilled over the reports of their capture, and sent messages asking them to show it to them, so it was perpetually being dug out of its retreat with a spade and put into a bucket for their inspection. Tony went down to fetch it one afternoon but found two strange ladies sitting on the rock above the pool. Being a very polite little boy he did not like to push past them, so he took off his hat saying, "I beg your pardon, ladies, but you are sitting on my cuttlefish!"

Text by: Clogagh Anson

Scanned by: Kathleen Paton

Author: Siobhán Lincoln

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