Tommy Barker reports on a cluster of properties on a promontory on the Co Waterford coastline within Ireland’s Ancient East region.
A CENTURY and a half of Irish maritime lore, and hard labours, is attached to this rare, Munster Copper Coast property sale, where a stunningly-set headland look-out mix is about to change hands for the first time, in four generations.
Listed this month with Margaret Fogarty of RE/MAX team Fogarty is this section of cove-fronting headland, complete with old barns, outbuildings and two bungalows, built one after the other in the 1960s.
The vendors’ associations go back a long, long way, and it is only now being sold and leaving third and fourth-generation links and appreciative care as so many of the upcoming, fifth generation are far-flung, living too far away to make practical use of it, or ever further away overseas, away from this exceptionally scenic ‘safe harbour’.
It wasn’t always so safe: back before the 1880s, local fishermen in the tiny hamlet had to make do with pulling their small craft up and down the beach on the tides, but, as part of a movement around the Irish coasts, the authorities stepped up their game in terms of providing safer harbour facilities, as much for locals’ convenience as for security and ease of rule, customs, and a myriad other coalescing justifications.
So, around 1884 the expertise and services of a former Co Tyrone railway engineer and stationmaster called James O’Gorman were drafted in as works supervisor/foreman when it was decided to build a pier and breakwater at prettily-set Boatstrand, with an access road to the pier gouged out around the craggy headland.
The road and pier were created first, and to this day bollards with the date 1884 impressed on them are extant. The breakwater came later, and ever since the two have held small craft in a protective, double-armed embrace.
As supervisor, he was allowed to build a house for himself on an upper part of the promontory, and afterwards Mr O’Gorman set himself up as a coal importer, a business which continued at this location up to the ‘Emergency’ years of the 1940s.
In its heyday, coal was landed from Wales and local fishemen would rush out to greet the imminent arrival of the cargo ships offshore to get the first rights for stevedoring off-loads, with the coal brought by horse drawn carts around up the hill to a barn built on this high, lofty perch. The carts had a special hinge arrangement for loading/offloading, without straining the horse too much, says descendent Padraig O’Byrne, who got much of the local lore almost first hand, from an elderly O’Gorman clan relative, a grandaunt, who died in 2009.
And, while the creation of the harbour undoubtedly made lives easier, and saved lives, naturally the precarious nature of fishing and transport (and the years of two world wars and maurading U-boats) meant tragedies aplenty. Perusing logs of shipping wrecks from this distance in time, it appears that vessel sinkings and loss of life were as common then as fatal motor accidents are today.
One, such was the coal ship the schooner the Morning Star, en route from Cardiff to Cork, which mistook the coastline around Annestown and Boatstrand for Tramore and foundered with tragic circumstances on the reef just off the cliffs.
A Waterford County Museum note (and old pic of the twin-masted Morning Star) says five men, including several from Abbeyside, Dungarvan, and one from Courtmacsherry in Cork died, and one was saved, only to die two months later of pneumonia, and Padraig O’Byrne says the family still recalls that the deceased were laid out in the barn here, while the survivor was taken to the house to aid his recovery.
Years later, in the 1970s, a Pat O’Byrne was involved in the salvage of the old anchor of the Morning Star from the rocks, and for a couple of decades it lay in the gardens of the O’Gorman family home, before being moved down to the pier as a more public tribute to the loss.
And, more recently, the 100th anniversary of the Morning Star’s October 1915 loss was recalled at a public ceremony at which another local family the O’Briens brought a chair made from timbers off the stricken ship.
An older O’Gorman home on this special all-seeing spot was destroyed by fire in August 1968 (all survived the 3am blaze, fortunately, except for one of the pet dogs), and the old dwelling was replaced by a more modern bungalow and, subsequently by a second bungalow alongside, in 1969.
Boatstrand has many other tales to tell, of sinkings, world war torpedoes, and beached mines, but happier times are also of days fishing, hauls of mackerel, diving, kayaking, cave exploring, as well as beach and open sea swimming, with a route from Kilmurrin to Boatstrand popular still.
Also in recent times, an old-fashioned toilet block by the pier was replaced by a new facility with services for coastal rescue, bringing a modern twist to a location which still appreciates the proximity of the 2,000 year old Dunabrattin Fort, a promontory fort, fosse and, later still, a second world war lookout post, on six hectares of land, reached via scenic cliff walks past sea arches and sea stacks..
Now, estate agent Margaret Fogarty brings a key slice of local Co Waterford coastline life, some 23 kms from the city and 65 from Cork, to the open and, indeed, international, market, guiding this Boatstrand property at €495,000.
That’s for two c 1,500/1,600 sq ft bungalows, totaling five bedrooms and on separate land folios and so divisible, plus half an acre of ground, and old outbuildings, including a barn left roofless since the curved corrugated top let loose in a 1948 gale, fetching up in the harbour below like a beached parachute or kite.
Appreciative buyers can do many things, including living in one and renting out the other, and it is, Ms Fogarty says, “a stunning, frontline ocean view property at Boatstrand, an amazing opportunity to acquire a unique property, your own piece of the Irish coastline located on the Copper Coast, within Ireland’s Ancient East.”
Boatstrand, Annestown, Co Waterford
Size: 1,500+1,600 sq ft
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