Enniscorthy

28 July, 2015.

Today I travel to Enniscorthy and carry with me the message of love and peace from my Father Jim Prendergast, my 5x Grandfather John Prendergast and I represent all the Irish Australian Prendergast family members whose Ancestors built the township and Castle at Enniscorthy.

It is a big responsibilty and an even bigger Honour.

In the republic of Ireland the signs are in both English and Irish languages
In the republic of Ireland the signs are in both English and Irish languages

And so to pack. I will travel to Enniscorthy from Leixlip by Airport hopper to the Dublin Airport and then by Wexford bus to Enniscorthy.

Countryside between Dublin and Enniscorthy, Wexford.
Countryside between Dublin and Enniscorthy, Wexford

My own personal tour guide Cathy of “Heritage tours Wexford” will meet me and drive me to Ballinkeele House which will be my home for the next week.

Ballinkeele House
Ballinkeele House

Reliable as I had expected, when I arrived at Enniscorthy, there was Cathy waiting to greet me. I felt very emotional when the first words she said were “Welcome home!” What a lovely way to start my visit here.

We drove along lots of dear little country roads to arrive at Ballinkeele House.

The lovely home of Laura and Val.

Greek statue at Ballinkeele
Greek statue at Ballinkeele
Ballinkeele House
Ballinkeele House
Ancestral Swords at Ballinkeele House
Ancestral Swords at Ballinkeele House
Beautiful Tapestry at Ballinkeele House
Beautiful Tapestry at Ballinkeele House
Ballinkeele House
Ballinkeele House
The Dining table set for dinner tonight
The Dining table set for dinner tonight
Fireplace in my suite at Ballinkeele House
Fireplace in my suite at Ballinkeele House
View of freshly harvested field from my suite
View of freshly harvested field from my suite
View of Garden from my other window
View of Garden from my other window
Ballinkeele House
Ballinkeele House
My suite at Ballinkeele House
My suite at Ballinkeele House

29 July, 2015.

Laura was taking her children into Wexford for the school holidays programme today so I accepted a lift into town. Laura driving with me in the front and the four children seated in the back of the van.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to spend my day in Wexford so I visited the Tourist Information Centre to find out what there was to see. I had a lovely chat with Margaret and her collegue. I originally planned to take the €5 2 hour walking tour that they suggested to learn all about the points of interest around Wexford town.

Memorial by the river Slaney that runs through the town of Wexford.
Memorial by the river Slaney that runs through the town of Wexford.
Statue of a 1798 Pikeman
Statue of a 1798 Pikeman

To fill in my time before the guided walking tour, I decided to visit the Wexford Library to make an appointment to see Michael Dempsey to thank him for his help with my family history search. As it happened, I was able to see him straight away so instead of the guided walk I spent about an hour discussing all the latest finds with him showing me some of his reference material. It was a very interesting morning.

Around lunchtime I decided to take a stroll around town just as a shower of rain poured down. Following the locals lead, I darted into the nearest shop which just so happened to sell delicious smelling Pasties – so I indulged! Yum.

Original city wall.
Original city wall.
Wexford
Wexford
Wexford
Wexford

Later,  I went exploring and found the Wexford historical city wall and some interesting little side streets.

This afternoon Val collected me from the Library and drove me back to Ballinkeele House. I have just enjoyed a slice of Laura’s delicious Ginger Cake and a well earned cup of Tea.

Balllinkeele House Stables
Balllinkeele House Stables
Ballinkeele House Folly
Ballinkeele House Folly
Ballinkeele House
Ballinkeele House
The Lake at Ballinkeele House
The Lake at Ballinkeele House
One of the many flower gardens at Ballinkeele House
One of the many flower gardens at Ballinkeele House
Walled garden Ballinkeele House
Walled garden Ballinkeele House

And now for a stroll (while the sun is still shining) around the property – not all 350 Acres just to the lake and also to see the Vegetable garden.

30 July, 2015

“Meet you on Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy”were the parting words Cathy my Guide from Heritage Tours Wexford said as she ended our phone call. I sat there contemplating these words and compared them to “Meet me at the Guillotine, meet me at the tower of London” This truly is history in the making. I will walk in the footsteps of my Ancestors.

Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy
Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy

Today I am to visit all the places around Enniscorthy that created the history of this great township and also culminated in the last stronghold of the 1798 Rebellion. Enniscorthy also played a huge role in the 1916 Rising.

Val drove me to Vinegar Hill after we left the children at Summer School where Cathy was showing a couple from England the beautiful views over Enniscorthy.

Cathy from Heritage tours Wexford in front of the Memorial wall at Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy.
Cathy from Heritage tours Wexford in front of the Memorial wall at Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy.
Plaque dedicated to the 1798 Rebellion
Plaque dedicated to the 1798 Rebellion
Scarawalsh Bridge, marched across in the 1798 Rebellion
Scarawalsh Bridge, marched across in the 1798 Rebellion

Cathy also told her guests how Vinegar Hill became the largest camp and headquarters of the rebels of 1798 who controlled County Wexford for thirty days. By the day of the battle June 21st, its numbers had swelled to 18,000 but this included many women and children.

Tower on Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy.
Tower on Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy.

The British plan to encircle the hill and corral the Irish at the top never materialized because of the gap in the lines to this day known as the Needhams Gap. Eluding the Crown forces for 2 weeks.

Monument for Father John Murphy
Monument for Father John Murphy
Memorial stone for Father John Murphy
Memorial stone for Father John Murphy

Fr. Murphy was eventually captured and executed on the 2nd July at Tullow, Co. Carlow. His body lies in an unmarked grave but tradition says his head was buried in Ferns Graveyard. Most historians would agree that almost 37,000 lives were lost in this terrible holocaust of 1798.

Market Square with Father John Murphy and Pikeman Memorial.
Market Square with Father John Murphy and Pikeman Memorial.
The still pond, once part of the original Jameson Distillery.
The still pond, once part of the original Jameson Distillery.
Doyle's across the road from the
Doyle’s across the road from the “Still Pond”

We drove through historical districts and arrived at Ferns. There we visited the historic Village of Ferns- once the Episcopal City and capital of Leinster, home to a king, a Bishop and the Augustinian Friars.

Ferns first came to prominence when the resident king of Leinster “Dermot McMurrough” brought the first Normans to Ireland in 1169 to help him fight his battles.

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At the visitor’s centre at Ferns Castle, we admired the detailed Tapestries that relate to the local history from the period 598AD with the arrival of St. Aidan to preach Christanity up to the coming of the Normans in 1169.

Fern Tapestry
Fern Tapestry
Fern Tapestry
Fern Tapestry
Fern Tapestry
Fern Tapestry

We were then given an entertaining and informative guided tour of Ferns Castle by Sinead.

Fern castle with Sinead the guide giving an informative tour.
Fern castle with Sinead the guide giving an informative tour.

The moat was recently excavated by a team of Archaeologists who made interesting discoveries including weapons and French pottery.

We later Visited Ferns Cemetery where we paid homage to Diarmuid MacMurrough who died in 1171.

Joseph giving a Hurling demonstration
Joseph giving a Hurling demonstration

Joseph, a young man explained how the game of Hurling is played. He was such a delightful young man. He was interested to know where I was from and who I was. When I proudly told him I was a “Prendergast”, he replied that he had heard that name. Cathy reminded him that my family had built Enniscorthy Castle 800 years ago. Joseph’s eyes widened in surprise and he quipped “You don’t look that old!” Cathy and I shook with laughter.

Throughout the day Cathy drove me to many sites and explained the role they played in Enniscorthy’s history. I was able to piece together the events that culminated in the 1798 rebellion.

Back on Vinegar Hill, Cathy and a young visitor broke into a rendition of the 1798 Rebellion ballard. It seemed a fitting end to our day.

To anyone visiting Wexford and desiring a bespoke tour, I would highly recommend taking a tour with Cathy from Heritage Tours Wexford. Her local knowledge and tour guiding skills are unsurpassed.

Cathy from Heritage Tours Wexford with her comfortable Van
Cathy from Heritage Tours Wexford with her comfortable Van

31 July, 2015

There is a buzz of excitement around the township of Enniscorthy as the 1798 Rebellion re-enactment is about to take place this weekend.

St. Aidan's Cathedral Enniscorthy
St. Aidan’s Cathedral Enniscorthy
St. Aidan's cathedral
St. Aidan’s cathedral

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St. Aidan's Font.
St. Aidan’s Font.

I started the  day at the Pugin designed St. aidans Cathedral. Pugin also designed the Houses of Parliament in London.

Then I visited the Enniscorthy castle and got a lovely warm welcome from the friendly staff and was delighted to meet Mary O’Higgins who was so helpful in my quest to find Prendergast family members.

Enniscorthy Castle
Enniscorthy Castle

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Mary who showed me around the castle including revisiting the Dungen with the Grafitio in it.

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Mary O'Higgins at the Enniscorthy Castle Dungen
Mary O’Higgins at the Enniscorthy Castle Dungen
The Grafitio in the Dungen at Enniscorthy Castle.
The Grafitio in the Dungen at Enniscorthy Castle.

We also took a look out across Enniscorthy from the keep.

A view from the keep of Enniscorthy Castle
A view from the keep of Enniscorthy Castle

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I walked down the hill to the National 1798 Centre and discovered more about the 1798 Rebellion with their wonderful interactive displays.

The National 1798 Rebellion Centre
The National 1798 Rebellion Centre

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After a tasty lunch of Hot soup and sandwich, Cathy collected me and drove me back to Ballinkeele House to get ready for tonight’s civic reception at Enniscorthy Castle.

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31 July, 2015. Evening.

I have been told that the Red Coat re-enactors have arrived from England, I have seen Horse trailors being transported around the town, there has been a flurry of activity at both Enniscorthy Castle and the National 1798 Centre and I am feeling both nervous and excited because in just under two hours I will be making a speech at Enniscorthy Castle as an invited guest at the civic reception!

Arrested in Enniscorthy!

Cathy collected me From Ballinkeele House and drove me into Enniscorthy and as we stepped out of her car,  I noticed a number of people dressed in authentic Irish Rebel outfits standing in Market square. Some bradishing Pikes. I had just started complimenting them on their outfits when a voice bellowed”You are under arrest!” “Take her to the Castle for questioning!”

Rebels and Redcoats - And me!
Rebels and Redcoats – And me!

My knees started to buckle as I realized it was Me that they were referring to. But I am innocent!”I screamed back above the shouts of “Treator” but I was ignored.

“Lock her in the Dungeon” He comanded. “I don’t want to be locked in the Dungeon” I feebly whimpered as I was frog marched up to the Castle. Their leader shouted for the insurgents to form a line.

A Piper played an Irish lament accompanied by his drummer boy whose beat kept the Marchers behind me in step. We stopped the traffic all along the route to the Castle.

Redcoats outside Enniscorthy Castle.
Redcoats outside Enniscorthy Castle.
Rifle practise for the Red Coats
Rifle practise for the Red Coats

In my mind I knew that this was play acting but I did wonder what John Prendergast thought when he was arrested. Did his knees go to jelly? Knowing his was a Real arrest, did he beg the authorities not to throw him in a Dungeon? How did he feel? This experience gave me a taste of what it must have felt like in the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion.

By the time we reached the Castle, an earlier chapter in the Enniscorthy Castle history was being played out. This time I was being introduced to King Diarmuid Macmurrough  who asked Strongbow to bring his Knights and fight for him. The Normans came and never left. The Enniscorthy castle was commenced in 1201. That year Phillip De Prendergast, our Ancestor,  commenced the building of the 4 Drum Norman Castle that is Enniscorthy Castle, the longest inhabited Castle in Europe.

Luckily, by the time we entered the castle we were transported to modern day Enniscorthy and the smiling Mayor Paddy Kavanagh was there to greet me. I was surprised and thrilled when I realized that I was the guest of honour.

Mayor Paddy Kavanagh with me at the Civic Reception in Enniscorthy.
Mayor Paddy Kavanagh with me at the Civic Reception in Enniscorthy.

Mayor Kavanagh welcomed me and presented me with the beautiful book, Enniscorthy, A History by Colm Toibin.

I in turn gave a speech about the pride we, the Prendergast family, feel at having built the Enniscorthy Castle. How throughout history our family has always had a strong sense of Community and family. How we are resilliant and have overcome adversity.

Because this weekend is all about the 1798 Rebellion re-enactment, I was able to relate the story of our John Prendergast a United Irishmen member. How he was captured and released several times and finally transported to Australia. I could tell them about his journey on the Rebel Convict ship, the Minerva, to Australia and about his life in the Hawkesbury. How he and his family are credited with being first settlers in the Hawkesbury and the Monaro district of New South Wales and also the Victorian High Plains. How John never returned to his beloved Ireland.

The festivities continued with beautiful medieval music, dancing, locally grown food and wine being served. Oh, and the Redcoats joined in (peacefully)

At 7pm the launch of the Enniscorthy Festival celebrating local food and music was launched with a joint Irish and American partnership.

1 August, 2015

At 11 am a history making event took place in Enniscorthy – and I was there to see it taking place.

Monsieur Jean-Pierre Thebault, the French Ambassador along with Enniscorthy Mayor Paddy Kavanagh, unveiled a plaque on the William Barker Bridge to honour the United Irishmen at the Battle of Vinegar Hill 21 June, 1798.

French Ambassador Thebault with Enniscorthy Mayor Kavanagh
French Ambassador Thebault with Enniscorthy Mayor Kavanagh
The William Barker Bridge unveiling.
The William Barker Bridge unveiling.

At 12.30pm, the Re-enactment of the street battle commemorating the original battle that took place in the main street of Enniscorthy was loud, smoky and very realistic. Today the Rebels were the victors – not so tomorrow.

Irish Rebel Leader
Irish Rebel Leader
Fire!
Fire!
Rebels marching
Rebels marching
Mini Rebels on the attack.
Mini Rebels on the attack.

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Group of Red coats
Group of Red coats
It is over for to-day
It is over for to-day
Saying hello to his little son beside me
Saying hello to his little son beside me

Following the re-enactment, a wreath laying ceremony took place at the Market square beneath the Father John Murphy statue. A wreath was laid by Mayor Paddy Kavanagh in remembrance of all the Enniscorthy soldiers, a Wreath was laid by Ambassador Monsieur Jean-Pierre Thebault, to commemorate the French soldiers and the Rebels were represented with a wreath laid in their honour.

The Irish Rebel Wreath
The Irish Rebel Wreath
Monsieur Jean-Pierre Thebault, French Ambassador with Mayor Paddy Kavanagh
Monsieur Jean-Pierre Thebault, French Ambassador with Mayor Paddy Kavanagh

The farmers markets were open, the music played and the thousands of people who had come out to watch the festivities stayed on to enjoy the afternoon.

2 August, 2015

Father John Murphy who lost his life during the 1798 Rebellion was represented by Father Murphy who rode astride his dappled grey horse in the 1798 Rebellion re-enactment today.

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Father Murphy on the right.
Father Murphy on the right.

As he passed by me tears welled up in my eyes and I was filled with emotion. Seeing the priest going in to battle and knowing the disastrous result of the real 1798 battle hit a nerve. After all, our Father Prendergast met the same fait for his roll in the 1798 Rebellion.

The French Ambassador Thebault along with Mayor Paddy

Mayor kavanagh. French Ambassor Thebault
Mayor kavanagh. French Ambassor Thebault

Kavanagh rode up Vinegar Hill in  horse drawn Carriage.

imageAn Irish Piper led the Rebels down from the top of the hill to the battle grounds and the Redcoats were waiting for them in the field.

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Pikemen
Pikemen

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3 August, 2015

Sad farewells were said as I hugged Laura and Val good-bye this morning. “You’ve become part of the houshold” quipped Laura last night. And funnily enough that is exactly how it felt. Everytime I came down stairs for breakfast I was greeted with a cheery greeting. Every time I returned for the day I was offered a cup of tea and had a beautifully presented tray with afternoon teapot and freshly baked cake or biscuit served to me in the drawing room. Ballinkeele House really is a beautiful old world home with all the charm and graciousness of a bygone era. You couldn’t ask for a better host than Val and Lady of the manor than Laura. I will miss them.

Right on time, Cathy of Heritage Tours Wexford came to collect me to take me to the bus stop in Enniscorthy. Even though Cathy had driven a stranded family to Dublin at 3am and not gone to bed until 6am, here she was bright and cheery on time at 10.10am and ready to collect me.

True to the kind nature of the Irish people, it turned out that an acquaintance of Cathy’s had discovered a family in a broken down car, taken them home for a meal and then phoned Cathy to drive them to Dublin. You couldn’t ask for kinder people.

I have arrived in Dublin now and my room is made up ready for me in the very centrally located Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. This is a very modern hotel very close to St. stephens green and Grafton Street. It is also just 5 minutes walk from the Gaiety Theatre. As a finale to my holiday I have booked for tomorrow night to see “River Dance” at the Gaiety Theatre which I think is a very appropriate conclusion to a trip of a lifetime.

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