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:

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.

Spring in Romantic Tramore


This evening I realised that winter is over and that spring has finally sprung. I felt that tingle of excitement at the prospect of new beginnings when I caught a glimpse of springtime down the Prom  shortly before 6pm.  The beach had its spring glow –  that special sheen that one only seems to catch at this time of year.

Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who felt the change in the air. Out in Garrarus, a man was happily looking for treasures in among the rockpools; families were enjoying the mild air and dogs were bounding along the beach. All the while, there was the sound of birds chirping and the fields around Tramore will soon present us with that most wonderful sight, newborn lambs under their mothers’ watchful eyes.

With the arrival of spring, I can’t but think of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s line: In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.’ It is hard to think of a place that holds more for the romantic, than Tramore itself. I challenge anyone to find a ‘A Lover’s Walk’, which is as beautiful and historic as Lover’s Walk out by Newtown Wood. It’s hardly a coincidence that there is an abundance of wild gorse, which shows yellow all year, growing along ‘Lover’s Walk.’ Whenever I pass it, I think of how my late mother would always say:  ‘When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing’s out of season.’

Lover’s Walk, Tramore, Co. Waterford

Or what about Tramore’s , ‘Love Lane’, with its special proximity to the sea and to that den of romance, Tramore Tennis Club. And, come to think of it, Tramore has its very own historic Gallwey’s heart-shaped chocolates.

While there is a lovely predictability about spring, trees in bud, snowdrops, primroses in the hedgerows, daffodils, lengthening days, the comings and goings of St Patrick’s Day, it can be full of surprises and new beginnings.

Without doubt one of the most unexpected things to happen me in springtime was eleven years ago, when I brought my then five-year-old son down to Tramore GAA Club to see if hurling might appeal to him. I had no background whatever in hurling, having spent my formative years, immersed in tennis, in non-hurling counties like Westmeath, Monaghan and Louth. Little did I realise that day, back in spring 2001, that I would be entering a whole new world.

Tramore GAA Club welcomed us with open arms and there I discovered what can only be described as a dynamic hub of sport, camaraderie and community. Hurling certainly did take the young man’s fancy, and ten years on, I am still stunned by the extent to which hurling and Tramore’s, Michael Mac Craith Club, which has a history stretching way back to 1885, became so fundamental to our lives.

Tramore GAA Club

The stretch in the evenings will soon bring the sight of hard-fought matches down in the grounds at Riverstown, the echo of hurls clashing, team mates calling, coaches encouraging, half-time drinks, supporters cheering, that piercing sound of the referee’s whistle, the clatter of the metal studs as the spent teams – ours in the blue and white of Tramore, make their way to the dressing-rooms to either celebrate or console, but never losing sight of the bonds of friendship that are tightened with every match between both team mates and ‘opponents.’

A tough winter is behind us now. Tramore is already dressing up for spring and presenting us with so much to savour. I’m just wondering what surprises are in store, what new beginnings are ahead in this special town of ours that has such an abundance of human energy and natural beauty.

Galloping on Tramore Beach

Ireland Calling! June’s Haiku-a-Day from my AARP Group: Social Bridge between Ireland and America

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