The Nire Valley

The Nire Valley
The Heart of the Comeragh Mountains.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Nire Church.

Next time you are going walking in the Nire, even if your late and in a rush you can not fail to notice the pretty Nire Church (St. Helena's Church). Even if you fly past you can't but notice the Church. There was not always have a church here, in fact the Nire was not even a parish until the late 19th century.  Before 1850 the Nire was a place where six parishes came together; Rathgormack , Clonmel's (St. Peter & Paul's, St. Mary's), Seskinane, Fourmilewater and Kilsheelan. There was a small church in Knockaunbrendan which was not a parish church and did not have a cemetery, this meant that when an inhabitant of the Nire died they were buried in a cemetery at one of the six parishes. In 1859 the foundations for the Nire Church were laid and it took three years to complete. The Church was designed by famous Church architect J.J McCarthy. McCarthy designed churches all over Ireland including Tramore, Clonea-Power, Thurles, Monaghan and many more. 
McCarthy's design is subtle, look closer. The church has more roof than wall, in fact if this church was anywhere else it would look ugly as the amount of roof would make the building look oppressive, but here in the Nire location it works because the outside wall, retaining the cemetery, gives the building a sense of proportion, the Church has also a square bell tower, which is not common on a Roman Catholic Church.
An architect I had walking with me pointed out that the slates in the roof were typical of a Welsh layout which he found unusual in a rural Irish location, but there may be an explanation, the slate quarries outside Carrick-on-Suir were worked by Welsh miners and they may have been involved in the roofing of the church. My walking colleague asked had they run out of money building the Church. I asked how he came to that conclusion. He, answered, pointing to the bell tower, that a collar around the tower was too near the cap (roof) on the tower. Local lore does not mention lack of funds instead there is a story of how the weather influenced the capping of the tower. The local story tells us that the builder had fallen behind in his schedule and needed to move to another project, it was decided that, if the following day was good they would cap the tower, otherwise they would go to the other project and return to the Nire at a later date. Well the weather must have been good as it seems the tower should have been a little higher. 
Another beautiful feature of the Church are the bands of various coloured sandstone and the work of the stonemason has to be admired as does the good work of the present day Church committee who keep the building pristine. All the beauty of St. Helena's is not kept to the outside its interior is also beautiful, high barn like with warm wooden beams supporting the high pitched roof.
Listen to local Denis McGrath tell the story of how the bells were sounded twice every Sunday to summon people to mass.
If you would like to follow some of the routes taken by locals in their everyday life why not join us between October 12th and 13th, in the Nire Valley, on our Nire Valley, Comeragh Mountain walking festival.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Boyle's law and the Nire River.

Every journey you take is affected by the location of river crossings, bridges. No matter what your destination you have to find a point that gets you across a stream, river, estuary etc. The town, city, village you work and shop in is probably there because of a bridge. How many Irish place names have "ath" ( river ford) in there name, Athenry, Athy even Dublin in Irish is Baile Áth Cliath "The town of the hurdled ford". 

   The Bridge Bar.
It is because of a bridge that Ballymacarbry does not have a church. The first bridge across the Nire was built near Fourmilewater and thus a small community grew up around the Fourmilewater and in turn a Church was built, only when a mill was put on the Nire River did Ballymacarbry come into existence but by that time the Church was already in place. Before the Bridge1 at Fourmilewater there was a ford in the same location, that is about 200 meters up stream of the present "Bridge". This was an important river crossing as it lay on the main road linking Clonmel with Dungarvan, Lismore and Cork. Its importance was highlighted by the fact that a castle guarded the ford from nearby high ground, Caisleán Cuanach. Caisleán Cuanach was a McGrath castle and they controlled the ford. 
The Nire river is a river with a bad temper, most days it runs swift but shallow then when the rains swell its channel it becomes violent and angry, since 1942 it has claimed three lives. Thus you could arrive at the crossing and be delayed for days as you waited for the river to lower its guard. 
It was following one such flood that the river must have looked  safe, to Lord Cork's driver, to cross.  The carriage entered the river only to succumb to a swift current and a rocky bottom. The carriage flipped and decanted its passengers into the fast Nire. Lord Cork's son, Robert, was swept into the turbulent Nire, but the Nire did not claim a victim as he was pulled alive from the river. Lord Cork paid for a wooden bridge to be built at the ford, but the Nire and its flood took the bridge apart.  Upon Lord Cork's death, in 1642, he appointed Roger McGrath as the person that the Earl wanted to repair the bridge on the Nire River at Fourmilewater, a stone or mason bridge was constructed which still stands to-day. Today the road is no longer a major link on the route between Clonmel and Dungarvan and now only the locals or the guests from Glasha Farmhouse stroll over the bridge to the Bridge bar for a quite evening drink with the sound of the Nire River in the background and the sight of the "Bridge" spanning the river and all the heritage it stands for. 

As for the nine year old son of Lord Cork, Robert went on to become one of the great scientists of all time and is considered the Father of Modern Chemistry. Robert Boyle gave his name to Boyle's Law and thus the connection between Boyle's law and the Nire river. 

Do you know the story about the Bridge bar and the greyhound Master McGrath, well that's for another blog.

1. The oldest bridge on the Nire does not have a name locally it is called the "Bridge".

                                                                         Down stream from the Bridge.