Day 15: Killarney to Waterford via Cork and the Blarney Stone
Early start. Lots of interesting things to see on our way to Waterford.
The little village of Macroom (once home to Murphys Irish Stout) also has a monument to the IRA.
Remember the crazy Irish guy in Braveheart that sends troops to help William Wallace?
Well, this is his family castle.
The lower walls are fifteen feet, built with an angle tower by the McCarthys of Muskerry. It was subsequently occupied at one time by Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, who is said to have supplied four thousand men from Munster to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Legend has it that the latter king gave half of the Stone of Scone to McCarthy in gratitude. This, now known as the Blarney Stone, was incorporated in the battlements where it can now be kissed.
Climbing to the top freaked me out as you cups just lean over the parapets and fall to your death.
Kissing the Stone
For over 200 years, world leaders, authors and movie stars have joined the millions of pilgrims climbing the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence (the gab).
Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, they are rather more cautious of safety.The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. To kiss it, you have to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. Once kissed the stone you receive the gift of eloquence.
Both Harry and Josh managed to reach far enough but my back had me not wanting to make the stretch.
Behind the Castle battlements is the poison garden. In this garden, the plants are so dangerous and toxic that they are kept in large cage like structures. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Opium and Cannabis. Many of these are labelled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. A large number of plants that we now know to be toxic were once used widely as herbal remedies for all sorts of ailments.
We passed through Cork on our way to Waterford but I wasn’t really listening! There were cathedrals (St Finbars and St Patrick’s) and bells and a brewery. If we stopped I would probably care more!
As I discovered today, Waterford is more than crystal!
First we explored the old are of the city called the Viking triangle.
Monument to John Condon
John Condon (5 October 1896 – 24 May 1915) was an Irish soldier born in Waterford, long believed to have been the youngest Allied soldier killed during the First World War, at the age of 14 years, as shown on his gravestone.
Reginald’s Tower is Waterford’s landmark monument and Ireland’s oldest civic building. It has been in continuous use for over 800 years. The first tower on the site was built by Vikings after 914 and formed the apex of the triangular settlement, an area known to this day as the Viking Triangle. Re-built by the Anglo Normans in the 12th century the top two floors were added in the 15th century. Until about 1700 the tower was the strongpoint of the medieval defensive walls that enclosed the city. The tower now houses an exhibition on Viking Waterford and is managed by the Office of Public Works.
Some of the treasures inside are:
The Waterford Kite Brooch was made in about 1100 and is Ireland’s finest example of fine personal jewellery from this period. It would have been used to tie a cloak or a shawl. It is made of silver and decorated with sumptuous gold foil and amethyst-coloured glass studs.
The weapons of a Viking warrior were found in archaeological excavations in a completely-forgotten about Viking town 5 kilometres upriver from present-day Waterford.
There was also an extremely rare 12th century dog collar which was found by archaeologists in Waterford city. It is made of copper alloy and would have had leather backing, attached to the metal through six small holes.It was probably for a racing or hunting dog such as a greyhound.
There is still a canon ball from the siege of Waterford by the army of Oliver Cromwell in 1650 when ships on the river Suir bombarded the city with cannon fire.
Oliver Cromwell and the siege of Waterford
In the troubled 1640s when England was torn apart by civil war between the army of King Charles I and and that of his parliament led by Oliver Cromwell, Waterford city was under Catholic control. Following the defeat and execution of the king, Cromwell turned his attention to Ireland and landed here in 1649. By November he was outside the walls of Waterford and demanded the surrender of the city. The garrison in Waterford refused and Cromwell laid siege to the city. However he failed to capture Waterford and by December he was forced to break off the siege and move his army to winter quarters. Soon afterwards Cromwell left Ireland and returned to England.
The fall of Waterford
The respite for Waterford was short lived however. The following June his army was back – this time led by his son-in-law General Henry Ireton. By now the city garrison was short of food and munitions. General Ireton commenced an artillery bombardment of the city. His ships sailed up the river and bombarded the walls – including Reginald’s Tower – with cannon. The cannonball lodged in the wall of the tower dates from this siege.
The defending garrison were only able to offer a token resistance and within a short period Waterford fell to his troops. They ransacked the city in search of valuables and paid particular attention to the churches – looking for the gold and silver chalices. However the city’s greatest treasure escaped destruction – the magnificent set of cloth-of-gold medieval vestments which are on display in the Medieval Museum.(see below)
This was a fascinating museum that also had many treasures. Was a good afternoon of trying to teach Harry things he should remember from year 8 history!
The True Cross of Christ
All churches had relics and the most highly-prized were those associated with the life of Jesus. This cedar-wood relic is enclosed in a double-armed silver cross with a Latin inscription identifying it as part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The relic was probably acquired by Pope Paschal II following the capture of Palestine during the First Crusade which began in 1096.
Great Charter Roll
This 4 metre long charter roll was made in Waterford in 1373. It is now regarded as one of the great treasures of medieval Ireland because of the number and quality of the illustrations.
It includes portraits of the kings of England from Henry II (the first English king to come to Ireland) to King Edward III who was on the throne when the roll was made.
This round pilgrim badge was discovered by archaeologists in the garden of a medieval house in Waterford and shows the head of John the Baptist. It came from Amiens in the north of France, a great centre of pilgrimage after 1206 when a relic of the saint was brought to the cathedral there following the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade.
This gold ring brooch was made in Waterford around 1210 and discovered by archaeologists during the city centre excavations in 1986-1992. Ring brooches were medieval love tokens just like modern-day engagement rings.
Dating from the 1460s the Waterford cloth-of-gold vestments are made from Italian silk woven in Florence. The panels were embroidered in Bruges which was the centre of the medieval embroidery industry.
Depicted on the vestments are various scenes from the Bible and from the life of Mary. A computer allows you to scroll through the scenes in close up.
They were hidden away during the times of the destruction of the monasteries and discovered again later. They are truly stunning to look at but make you wonder why the bishop needed such garments when most of his parishioners were poor.
Waterford, my native city, is celebrated for the constancy with which its inhabitants have clung to the Roman Catholic religion. For this reason it is dearer to me and held in greater honour than on account of its having been the place of my birth.
The success of the counter reformation in Ireland owes a lot to this Franciscan friar. He established Irish colleges in Europe to train priests for the Irish mission. He died a few months before Oliver Cromwell broke the power and influence of the Catholic old merchant families in Waterford.
Tonight’s dinner was at Bodéga and was delicious despite the teenager with us listening to unsavory music on his headphones and being unpleasant. I had a smoked haddock and cockle bake with potato. Josh had a steak with little brown onions. Tonight’s gin was a gunpowder strength Irish gin called Drumshambo, with elderflower tonic and grapefruit.
Dessert was creme brûlée (Josh) and raspberry pavlova (Harry)
We need a real one of these sometimes…