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Made with Xara
Dunmore East is a small fishing village on
the south-east coast of Ireland, 16kms from
the city of Waterford.
It sits on the western side of the Waterford
Harbour Estuary, 4.8kms from Hook Head in
Dunmore East, Co. Waterford,
As I strolled down the Cookaloo road on that cold clear Christmas Eve morning, trails of
smoke that smelled of ash and sycamore drifted skyward from the few cottage chimneys at
Coxtown, and a blanket of white frost covered the Cricket field.
The year was 1975 and there were no houses on the road, no housing estates, no private
dwellings, or no caravan parks. From the bottom of Sullivan's Hill at Coxtown, to the rear
entrance of the Haven Hotel, not a single dwelling house stood, except for the Shamrock
Factory. It often made the journey from the village a lonely passage on a dark winter's night,
but on the other hand it afforded a beautiful un-interrupted walk to Dunmore on a summers
I have often noticed during such summer evening ramblings, that it is hard
to beat the smell that comes from the countryside as it cools after a long hot
day. Delicate aromas such as the scent of new mown hay, flowers and
trees, and even the smell of the hot tar on the road beneath your feet can
linger in the senses long after the experience has passed.
Today was Christmas Eve however and summer was long gone. A silence had enveloped the
village. The quay was empty for the festive season, the herring boats tied up until early
January, and the crews had all returned home to celebrate Christmas with their families. The
banging and clanging of the quay workers had ceased for a week or two, and that in itself
added to the sense of relaxation, “when the quay stopped, Dunmore stopped”.
I walked on down the road past the wood gates and down Cookaloo hill. The wood looked
bare and the leafless trees stood still in the crispy cold morning. A few Blackbirds and
Thrushes skirted through the naked branches oblivious to the fact that it was Christmas and I
was on my way to The Ship Bar to celebrate. At the bottom of the Hill, across from the
entrance to the Haven Orchard, I stopped to speak to Madge Burke as she tended to her
morning chores. Winter or summer, Madge was always outside her Caravan to say hello and
talk of the weather, or any other local news.
My destination was getting nearer. I passed the rear entrance to the Haven Hotel and then St
Andrews Church . People were standing outside the phone box on the corner waiting for Slim
Cullinane and the Bus to Waterford . At the front of the Supermarket, next to “The Ship Bar”
stood “Billy (The Saint) Hearn” dressed in a long faded white overcoat. “Are ye coming in for
one?” , I asked Billy. He did not need a second invitation and together we both entered the
warm confines of John Molloy's Pub.
I ordered a pint of stout for Billy, a pint of Smithwicks for myself and then I pulled out a box of
cigarettes and we both lit up. We sat on our long stools soaking in the Christmas atmosphere.
The Bar was already half full with all the old familiar faces, Twink Ivory, The Bulgaria, Mattie
Gough, Neddy Farrell, Paddy Kearney, Eddie Don, and Martin Ryan sat in a line along the
counter. Blue McCarthy was perched halfway along the bar talking to himself and a packet of
woodbines. A warm fire burned in the lounge and the smell of smoke and the subdued sound
of early morning pub talk filled the air.
The door opened and Paddy Fitzgerald the Postman entered. He was handed a “Christmas
Drink” and then he joined the rest of us for a chat. Paddy was lamenting the fact that
Christmas was a great time for everyone but Postmen, because of all the extra mail they had
to deliver. A few rums later and he cared little for post or letters.
And so my Christmas Eve morning passed in the company of the old characters who were
once part and parcel of a Dunmore East that we all remember. The Bar Women served them
as they sat along the bar spending their pensions with mischief still flashing in their withered
eyes. Later on that day, I would leave their company and take the Bus to Waterford , but at
that moment, I was happy in the confines of the Pub listening to Billy Hearn as he cranked up
“Devil Woman” , spurred on by words of encouragement from Eddy Don. Don would go on to
recite a poem, others would sing songs, and of course, Mattie Gough would eventually give
us his famous version of “The O. K. Corral”
My wanderings down a lonely and empty Cookaloo road are now but a memory. Houses and
developments have replaced the once tranquil passage to the village. The Ship Bar is now a
restaurant and the old characters are dead and gone.
“Happy Christmas” to all of them, or as Mattie Gough would say when raising his whiskey
glass, “Happy Days''
From the Short Story Writings of Mick D.
The Short Story Writings of Mick D.