Co. Waterford ABC ~ E is for Essence

Co. Waterford ABC is a feature here on Social Bridge where I am identifying my highlights of  this diverse county in Ireland where I was born and which has been ‘home’ for the last 26 years. There will be just 26 posts ~ one for each letter of the alphabet and I hope you will join me in discussing your views about the places, people,  events, things that I select. Would you have chosen differently? In a county with such natural beauty and diversity in terms of history and heritage, one could quite easily identify 26+  highlights for each letter!  (  See All Posts in this Series:

https://socialbridge.wordpress.com/?s=Co.+Waterford+ABC

Map of Co. Waterford(Click on Map to Zoom)
Map of Co. Waterford
(Click on Map to Zoom)

I have been wondering for  a while if I dare write about the ‘Essence’ of  Co. Waterford; what are the fundamental features of this ‘home’ county of  mine?  Yes, I do dare and I truly hope that others will add to this bubbling pot of words that have danced off all my senses. 

On February 1, I took off before sunrise to walk around Tramore Beach and Backstrand to celebrate the move into spring. So much of the essence of my Co. Waterford engulfed me in those three delicious hours. Huge waves crashed onto the shore spraying me with the salty invigorating air that I have so long associated with Co. Waterford. The grasses on the dunes glinted as the breeze combed the flowing locks of  the waking beauty.

As the sun rose, my mind was drawn around Brownstown Head, passed Dunmore East and up the Estuary to Waterford City. I had sat in the Tower Hotel , late the night before, just across from historic Reginald’s Tower.  I had been transfixed with thoughts of the history associated with Waterford City, the oldest city in Ireland, as I watched the traffic coming along the Quay and rounding the corner at Reginald’s Tower.  Thoughts of the centrality of Reginald’s Tower to the defence of Waterford; a fleeting glimpse of my late father running towards his ‘digs’ on the Mall in the  1940s; eyes caught by the imposing statue of Thomas Francis Meagher and fascination with his connections to such places as France, Fredericksburg and Montana which have come to have meaning for me too through life’s weavings.

Reginald's Tower, Waterford
Reginald’s Tower, Waterford

A glance back along Tramore Beach before rounding the bend at the channel and the whole coast presented itself ~ the magic of the Copper Coast, Dungarvan, the Ring Penninsula, Ardmore ~ a wondrous stretch of coastline, each place with its uniqueness, history and colour. I wondered if  Pride and Joy was safely moored at Boatstrand. Its name has long captured my imagination in a beautiful harbour that exudes Co. Waterford for me.

Walking along the Backstrand, the mountains of Co. Waterford come into view. Thoughts of Mahon Falls; the stunning scenery of the Nire Valley; West Waterford and the Blackwater Valley. Anticipation  of this years Immrama Travel Writers’ Festival in Lismore; stolen visits to Lismore Castle, Mount Melleray, the old world beauty of Cappoquin.

As I near Tramore, the town that is ‘home’ is lit by the morning sun. I meet Mark Roper and Paddy Dwan, who have such passion for the Backstrand and Co. Waterford generally.  Tramore continues to look down; the Racecourse stands out with its long history and at the other side of the town, above the Doneraile walk, is Tramore Tennis Club, which has such personal meaning for me and which is now the proud club of so many of Ireland’s young tennis stars.

Back on the Prom, I watch the surfers enjoying the waves and totally immersed in the very essence of this sporting county. Only the day before, I had a chance meeting with Ken McGrath, undoubtedly one of the greatest hurlers Waterford will ever see.  Here’s a man who knows the full meaning of Rudyard Kipling’s words in his great poem  If:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch…

Ken McGrath has no airs and graces and is an essential part of the passion that Waterford hurling engenders.

To those who know me, it will probably come as no surprise that I was drawn out to the lay-by between Boatstrand and Kilmurrin to write this piece. Sea beneath me; mountains behind; gulls overhead; Ardkeen Stores in Waterford, which is my treasure trove for sourcing Co. Waterford produce, calling; and happy thoughts of my beloved Mount Congreve Gardens after recently seeing  Tony Gunning’s Exhibition of colourful paintings at Greyfriar’s Church in Waterford.

As I write, I am surrounded  by immense natural beauty and a silvery sheen on the horizon symbolises the hope, colour and buoyancy that I associate with Co. Waterford ~ past, present and future.

The Races at Tramore on New Year’s Day ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 22

New Year’s Day means horse-racing in Tramore and horse-racing is part of my bloodline! I’m proud to say that Tom Dreaper, who trained the great Arkle, was a beloved cousin of my late mother and that my mother’s sister, Audrey Hutchinson, bred Wayward Lad, who was so successful in the 1980s.

The Parade Ring, Tramore Racecourse
The Parade Ring, Tramore Racecourse

While Tramore may not be Cheltenham, it has huge significance in my calendar and the New Year’s Day Meeting is one which I always love.  This year lived up to all my expectations and there was that great mixture of serious racing and holiday spirit.  How better to spend an afternoon than soaking in the atmosphere at Tramore Racecourse ~ the power and magnificence of galloping horses; colourful silks; the roar of the crowd; views of the sea; fashion to beat fashion mingling with country style; steaming drinks and the scent of hot port wafting as people study race cards; the shouts of the bookies; and ‘Winner All Right’…..

Over the Last!
Over the Last!