An illuminating Artwork

 Liam Ó Míodhacháin and Conradh na Gaelige in Dungarvan

By Kyle Beresford

In 2022 an illuminated address was donated to Waterford County Museum. It was created in 1914 and was presented to Liam Ó hÍceadha/William Cornelius Hickey (1885-1935), the secretary of Conradh na Gaelige in Dungarvan to mark his forthcoming marriage. Liam worked as a Customs and Excise officer. His wife was Katherine Power of Corballybeg Co Waterford. She worked as a baker and confectioner in Dungarvan.

The work is over one hundred years old and is a fine example of Celtic Revival artwork. The colours are remarkably well preserved. These illuminated addresses were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries to mark events such as retirement, coming of age, weddings, and so on. One of the finest creators of these addresses were John and Florence Gilbert of Cork. Michael Beary the Borough Surveyor in Dungarvan also painted addresses. A fine example of his work is on display at Waterford County Museum, presented to Captain John Veale.

This address is richly decorated with a border of elaborate Celtic Revival motifs, and vignettes featuring the Dungarvan coat of arms, the old gable wall at St Mary’s Church of Ireland, and the ruins of McGrath’s Castle, Abbeyside. The latter was probably included as that is where Hickey lived. It also features fantastic beasts similar to those seen in early Irish illuminated manuscripts. At the top of the address a real photograph of O’Hickey has been pasted on. The following is the inscription translated to English:

Testimonial to Liam Ó hÍceadha.

We, Cuallacht Chosnamha na Gaeilge (the Irish language defence committee) here in Dungarvan, wish to express our respect and appreciation to you for all you have done amongst us to promote the use of and respect for the Irish language and all that accompanies it; and we consider no more timely opportunity to do so than now on the occasion of your marriage. Our respect and esteem for you should not come as a surprise to anyone, as from the first day we came to know you to the present time, neither your enthusiasm or your dedication could be surpassed; and as well as that you were astute, intelligent and discerning, dispensing advice wisely on many occasions.

            It is not only ourselves who will  forever be obliged and blessed by your support, your efforts will also be appreciated by every other true Irish person whose wish it is to see the ancient and beautiful language of the Gael bloom and thrive again; and if every heart were as favourable towards it as yours is, it would not take long for it to be so.

            You have always scorned the bitter enemies of the Irish language and indeed, have often succeeded in thwarting the efforts of those who would see the language suppressed.

            We wish you and your wife a long and happy life together and may God spare you to assist us for a long time to come in the successful promotion of that work which we all enjoy so much.

We, the undersigned, on behalf of Cuallacht Cosnamha na Gaeilge, Dungarvan.

Domhnall Ó Fearchair (President); Seán Ó Loingsigh (Vice-President); Mícheál Ó Floinn (Treasurer). Date: 15/9/1914.

Dan Fraher was an athlete, Gaelic scholar, and had a drapery business on Grattan Square, known as ‘The Gaelic Outfitting Store’.  The ‘Fraher Field’ in Dungarvan is named after him. At present we don’t have further details about the Vice-President and Treasurer.

The address was created by Liam Ó Míodhacháin/William Meehan who lived at An Rinn in a house which he built. He incorporated a number of Celtic Revival motifs in its exterior and interior. There were wall paintings and furniture made with Celtic designs. He was born on 11 October 1874 to Edmund Meehan and Mary Coffey. He was an amateur artist/craftsman who tried his hand at a number of artistic ventures, such as gravestones, mortuary cards, illuminated addresses, and book illustration.  He designed the Stations of the Cross in St  Nicholas Church, An Rinn, and the obelisk at Helvick commemorating the Fenian ship, the Erin’s Hope. He died on 30 August 1960 aged 86.

Conradh na Gaelige/The Gaelic League was founded on 31 July 1893 by Eoin MacNeill and others to promote Irish language and literature. Its first President was Douglas Hyde. The League produced their own newspaper – An Claidheamh Soluis. According to an article by Séan Ó Cadhlaigh in the 1902 issue of An Sléibhteánach, Dan Fraher (1852-1929) started teaching Irish classes in 1888 in the premises owned by the Dungarvan Literary Society.  They were encouraged by the P.P. Rev. Peter Casey.

On 7 May 1895 a meeting was held in Dungarvan to start a branch of Conradh na Gaelige:

A meeting was held in Dungarvan on the 7th, at which, among others, the following were present: Rev. M.P. Hickey, chairman; Messers Patrick Carmody, Kilmacthomas; M.T. Foley, Ring; Thomas McCarthy, Town Clerk, Dungarvan; Daniel Fraher, Patrick Sweeney, and James Daly, all of them representative of local men, good Irish speakers and noted supporters of the movement.  A branch of the Gaelic League was formed, a number of members were enrolled, and subscriptions were handed in, the chairman subscribing one pound.  The central committee was represented by Mr. J. McNeill, Hon secretary.

Irish classes were held in the Town Hall.  There were separate nights for the men and women. 

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following in the preparation of this article: Liam’s granddaughters: Nóirín Westman, Muireann McGrath and Iosoilde Dromey; Áine Uí Fhoghlú; William Fraher, Curator Waterford Co Museum; Nioclás Ó Gríofáin; Eddie Cantwell; and the Trustees of Waterford County Museum for permission to reproduce images of the address.  

Further reading:,Walsh%20and%20others.

Dhonnachadha, P. Ó. (2003). AN LINN BHUÍ Iris Ghealtacht na nDéise . In p. Ó. Dhonnachadha, AN LINN BHUÍ Iris Ghealtacht na nDéise UIMHIR 7 (pp. 84-86). Ballycleat: leabhair la linne.

An Śleibhteánach. 1902 

Stories from Old Newspapers

 Claude Chavasse (1886-1971) and the Gaelic Revival

Claude Albert Chavasse was born in Oxford where his father, Albert Sydney Chavasse was Professor of Classics and a fellow of University College Oxford. Claude read Celtic studies at Oxford and visited the West of Ireland with some Scottish students to learn the Irish language. His sister Marguerite was already in Achill having set up a lace school. Claude learned to speak Irish well and eventually he only conversed in Irish. He also took to wearing Celtic Revival clothes as seen in his portrait by Pádraic Woods on display in Waterford County Museum.

In 1917 he married Maureen Fox in Dublin, who later wrote a biography of Terence McSwiney. Douglas Hyde, and Joseph Hone supported Claude, and author and poet Ella Young, Neilí Ní Bhriain, artist Cesca Trench (Sadhbh Trinseach) and her sister supported Maureen. Claude met his wife through his involvement with the Irish school, Scoil Acla, which was established in 1911 on Achill Island. A number of the women connected with the school became involved in the newly formed Cumann na mBan.

Claude was imprisoned at Richmond Barracks in May 1916 but was later released without charge. He wrote a letter to the Chief Secretary on 9 May 1916 appealing for the release of the prisoners, who were, in his opinion, held in very poor conditions:

In the name of God, for your own honour, for the good of Ireland and so that England will not get a bad name…pay a visit to the prisons and do not allow anybody to suffer as they are (a great number of the prisoners are innocent of the rising) or as they suffer yesterday in any case.

I fear that when an account of this bad treatment and the hardship which these Gaels were subjected reaches America and the other countries, that the people there will be angry; that it will do much harm to the cause of our allies and that it will be more difficult to make a settlement between Ireland, England, and the Colonies. I am in a position to speak of this for I spent six days in Richmond Barracks – it was awful! I cannot understand how old delicate people survived it all.

I am with much respect

Claude Chavasse

President of Gaelic League, Oxford.

He was a distant cousin of the Chavasse family who lived at Whitfield Court (later of Cappagh House), near Waterford, and in the early 1900s he visited his relations there.

In 1925 Claude and his wife acquired Ross House, Galway, former home of Violet Martin. They had a small farm and the farm manager was Martin Tobin from Ballinacourty, Ring, Co Waterford. In 1949 Claud was elected Sinn Féin representative in Galway, using the Irish version of his name – Cluad de Ceabhasa.

 General Claude Chavasse (1886-1971)

Stories from Old Newspapers

 Saunder’s News- Letter 23 October 1818

Bonmahon Races

On Wednesday last, the second annual meeting of these races commenced, and, on that day, and the following there was excellent running; although the weather was very unfavourable it did not present the occurrence of a very numerous meeting. Friday morning was peculiarly favourable for the most interesting steeplechase that ever took place in this county.

Fifteen of the most celebrated hunters from different counties met, and were entered to contest the prize, which was about 100, and twelve of the best appeared on the ground about two o’clock, mounted by gentlemen selected for superior horsemanship. They started near Newtown, and ended in Bonmahon, and the ground for four miles was so judiciously marked out, that the spectators could witness the entire of this admirable chase. For the first 3 miles it was difficult to discover which horse had the advantage, but on ascending the hill commencing, the fourth mile, after a desperate struggle, Mr Ronayne’s famous horse, rode by Mr Carew, and Mr M Power’s horse rode by Mr Briscoe, took the lead, followed closely by the rest. Mr Ronayne’s horse was the victor, and never was there witnessed so severe and well contested a chase, or so numerous and respectable an assemblage. They ran the four miles, carrying 12 stone, through a very enclose country, in 14 minutes. The joyous scene closed without any accident, and at the hospitable mansion of Gardenmorris [owned by the Power O’Shee family], where festive board invited the passing stranger, bumbers [glasses] were filled by the generous host and amiable hostess, who have spared neither expense nor trouble to make the beautiful village of Bonmahon one of the most eligible bathing-places near our city [Waterford].


Engraving of Bunmahon Village, Circa 1849


Waterford Women of the Revolution 1914-1923

 Congratulations to Eddie Cantwell and Christy Knight – O’ Connor on the official launch of their book Waterford Women of The Revolution. It was launched by historian and author Sinead McCoole.  Amongst the special guests was Judy Condon O’Donovan, daughter of Peg Condon (née English) whose home was wrecked by the Black and Tans in 1921.  The only artefact to survive was a statute of Our Lady which the family has donated to Waterford County Museum.

The book is available from the Museum, Eason’s Dungarvan, The Book Centre, Waterford City, Book Market, Clonmel and David Walsh’s shop Dungarvan.

Stories from Old Newspapers

 The Irish in America by John Francis Maguire

This book which is in our reserve museum collection was published in New York in 1868. He made the journey in 1866.Maguire was a writer and politician, founder and editor of the Cork Examiner. The local connection is that he was MP for Dungarvan from 1852 to 1865. In 1870 he joined the Home Rule Party.

His book The Irish in America covered topics such as the Irish view on slavery, problems encountered by the arrival in America, the perils of living in cities, the journey out, etc. He comments on the positive traits of the Irish – a love for life, a sense of loyalty, a strong work ethic. However, he was concerned at their overindulgence of alcohol.

What is interesting about the book is the inscription written inside which says: ‘James Breen Esq, with the respects and fond regards of his friend, Jas. A. McMaster. New York 1868’.

James Alphonsus McMaster was born in 1820 in Duanesburg New York, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He entered the seminary to study as an Episcopalian minister, however, while there he converted to Catholicism, influenced by the writings of John Henry Newman. He added Alphonsus to his name in honour of Alphonsus Liguori founder of the Redemptorists. He went to a seminary in Belgium but left before taking holy orders.

The New York Freeman’s Journal which was owned by the Catholic diocese had a large Irish-American readership. In 1848 McMaster purchased the paper. He was very opinionated and was obnoxious to work for and expected his staff to share his predjudces. The New York Times said – ‘he had bold things to say and he said them without fear’. However, this outspoken attitude infuriated Archbishop Hughes. This came to a head when McMaster published an editorial on the Bleeding Kansas controversy (A series of violent confrontations in Kansas between 1854 and 1861 over the legality of slavery in the proposed state of Kansas. About 200 people were killed as a result.)

McMaster wrote that if a person shot and killed the abolitionists; Horace Greeley, Theodore Parker and William Lloyd Garrison, it would be a ‘great relief’ to many people throughout America. McMaster supported slavery and the secession. In 1860 he urged Americans ‘not to throw away their future and all bright aspirations of American liberty, for the sake of four million black slaves’.

In 1854 he wrote an attack on Thomas Francis Meagher. The latter assaulted McMaster with a whip in the street one day for refusing to withdraw his remarks on Meagher’s character. McMaster fired his revolver at Meagher but missed. They were both arrested but later freed on bail. Each agreed not to press charges against the other. His editorial assault on President Lincoln in 1861 resulted in his arrest and imprisonment for 11 months. McMaster died in Brooklyn in 1886 aged 66.

John Francis Maguire (1815-1872)

Official Book Launch of Waterford Women of the Revolution 1914-1923

 Congratulations to Eddie Cantwell and Christy Knight – O’ Connor on the official launch of their book Waterford Women of The Revolution. It was launched by historian and author Sinead McCoole.  Amongst the special guests was Judy Condon O’Donovan, daughter of Peg Condon (née English) whose home was wrecked by the Black and Tans in 1921.  The only artefact to survive was a statute of Our Lady which the family has donated to Waterford County Museum.

The book is available from the Museum, Eason’s Dungarvan, The Book Centre, Waterford City, Book Market, Clonmel and David Walsh’s shop Dungarvan.

Judy Condon O’Donovan, daughter of Peg Condon (née English)

New Book Ordering Link for Waterford Women of The Revolution 1914-1923

 If you wish to order a Copy of this book Waterford Women of The Revolution 1914-1923, please do so at this link:


Last Talk in the at 3 Series

A series of free half hour talks exclusively for members and friends, so why not come along and join the museum on the day of the lecture and listen to the talk being presented by Museum Curator William Fraher. The last talk in this series takes place on Wednesday the 15th March at 3pm, and takes place in the Museum premises, with refreshments after.


***This is the last talk in the at 3 series

Wed 15th March - Through the Camera Lens

Dungarvan in the Early 1900’s


For any further information or details please contact the museum on 058 45 960.


Stories from Old Newspapers

Tipperary Free Press 17 March 1827

Outrage and Reward – Ballyin House, Lismore

‘Whereas, the Dwelling House of Mr Patrick Foley, of Ballyin, in the county of Waterford was forcibly entered, between the hours of seven and eight o’clock, on the evening of Sunday the 25th of February last, by an armed banditti, consisting of eighteen or twenty persons, who after securing the male servants, forced one of the women servants to show them the way upstairs, for the purpose, as they avowed, of taking Mr Foley’s arms, but finding a door at the top of the staircase closed against them, one of the said party fired a gun at said door , at the same time demanding arms – Mr Foley then discharged a pistol under the bottom of the door, which shot, from the marks of blood and other circumstances, must have severely wounded or killed one of said party, upon which the banditti immediately departed, carrying their wounded comrade with them.

Now we, the undersigned magistrates, etc., being determined to use the most strenuous and effectual means to bring the perpetrators of said outrage to justice, have resolved that a subscription be immediately entered into, for the purpose of offering an adequate reward for information’.

There follows a long list of subscribers including the Duke of Devonshire who offered £100.  P Foley offered 100, Thomas Foley Senr £50, and Thomas Foley junr, sub-Sheriff, £50. The notice stated that if one of the gang gave evidence against the others he would be pardoned by the Lord Lieutenant.



Mount Congreve Portrait, At Waterford County Museum

Mount Congreve house was designed c. 1760 by noted Waterford architect John Roberts in a Palladian style. The house was commissioned by John Congreve and his wife Mary, daughter of Beverly Ussher of Kilmeadan.

Recently Mount Congreve garden and interpretive centre (now marketed as ‘Ireland’s Global Garden’), was officially opened by ministers Heather Humphreys and Catherine Martin. Sadly, the contents of the house were auctioned by Mealy Auctioneers over two days in 2012. Included in the auction were two portraits of young men, attributed to Joseph Highmore. The paintings can be seen hanging on the first-floor landing in old photographs.

In our section on the Big House in County Waterford we feature one of these attractive portraits from the auction. It depicts a young man wearing a wig, a member of the Congreve family. Its style indicates that it was painted in the mid-18th century. Although unsigned, it has been attributed to the English artist Joseph Highmore (1692-1780). He was a painter of portraits, conversation pieces, and historical subjects, an illustrator and author. In the early 20th century, the painting was ‘restored’ in Waterford, which may have resulted in a loss of the original paint quality in sections of the work.

Why not visit the museum and view this and other paintings of county Waterford interest. Free admission, open Monday to Friday 10-5.

Portrait of member of Congreve Family- painted in mid 18th century

Talks & Walks at 3pm - 2023 Series

A series of free half hour talks exclusively for members, so why not come along and join the museum on the day of the lecture and listen to the talk being presented by Museum Curator William Fraher. 

Talks will take place in the museum at 3pm with refreshments after.


NB- The Walks planned for 8th and 15th of March 2023; have been rescheduled for sometime in the summer of 2023. On these dates a talk will take place



Wed 8th   March - Lady Clodagh Anson

People and Places


Wed 15th March - Through the Camera Lens

Dungarvan in the Early 1900’s


For any further information or details please contact the museum on 058 45 960


 We extend our sympathy to Museum member Rita Curran on the death of her brother Tony Graves in the USA. Rita and Tony donated their Father’s 1916 medal to Waterford County Museum.


Stories from Old Newspapers

In June 1895 the commissioners commissioned a plaque and surround from E.O'Shea of Callan, Co.Kilkenny. In June J.F.Williams, solicitor served notice on the Town Commissioners to attend at the High Court on 2 July 1895 'at the suit of the executors and executrix of the will of the late captain Gibbons, verses the beneficiaries of the will- Mrs Mary Gibbons, Cork; Helena Gibbons, Dungarvan; James Gibbons, Dungarvan, and the Town Commissioners’.

A dispute arose about the names and information which the Commissioners had placed on the plaque. In July 1895 the Rev.Whelan and Mrs Gibbons asked the Commissioners to omit the executor's names. They agreed to this but insisted on retaining their own names explaining that - 'as we believe, in doing so we are only following a custom which as regards historical records are beneficial, advisable and instructive’.

In early September 1895 the Commissioners enquired when the work on the park would be completed. The following month Mrs Mary Gibbons contacted the Commissioners asking them to remove the plaque on the arch into the park or she would take legal action. 'I have been asked to give your Town Commissioners another opportunity of complying with my request regarding that objectionable tablet.' On 14 November the Borough Surveyor reported that he had removed the slab as ordered. Before its removal the plaque had been crossed out in paint and was photographed by Edmond Keohan. He titled the picture ‘The Condemned Slab’. In November the stonemason Mr O'Shea was paid £28-5-1 for the plaque and related work.

A smaller plaque in marble was also erected to commemorate the creation of ‘The Esplanade’ or Lookout in 1896 as it was more commonly called which was also funded by the Gibbons bequest and this was later moved to its present site on the sea wall opposite the park.