Home of the cream cracker, the only European city to have a Roman Catholic and Protestant Cathedral both built by the same man and reputed to be the origin of the phrases ‘by hook and by crook’ and ‘pay through the nose’, Waterford isn’t just a great place to visit in the sunny South East of Ireland, it’s a place with plenty of interesting associations and here are our super six of Waterford facts.
After reading our fascinating insights into Waterford and its inhabitants of yore, if you fancy visiting Ireland’s oldest city, then plonk your belongings down in a cheap and comfortable place like Travelodge Waterford Hotels before exploring the great visitor attractions that the city of Waterford has to offer.
1: A City by Many Names
Waterford is a city of many names, well, it is the oldest city in Ireland so it has been around for a long time! The ancient Celtic name was the delightful ‘Cuan-na-Grian’ meaning ‘Harbour of the Sun’ while the more modern Irish name is Port Láirge or leg-shaped river which describes the River Suir at Waterford perfectly. The Vikings, who actually founded the city in 914 AD, used the name Vadrefjord or Windy Fjord, something you can experience on a daily basis in the city. Other names associated with the city are ‘urbs intacta’ – Latin for untaken city. This refers to Waterford being the only Irish city not to be successfully besieged by Oliver Cromwell. Waterford hurlers are often referred to as the Déise after the medieval kingdom of the Déisi clan and the county is sometimes called the Gentle County after a 1959 book.
2: St. Patrick’s is a Deise Day
Ireland and the wider world owe their annual celebration of all things Irish to a Waterford priest. Luke Wadding, born in Waterford in 1558 was a Franciscan monk sent to Rome in 1618 and quickly put in charge of fund raising to found an Irish College for clerical students in the Eternal City. Having succeeded in first opening the college in 1625 and then running it for many years, Wadding, a fierce Irish nationalist, turned his attention to making St. Patrick’s Day a celebration of the Irish people. In this too, he overcame opposition from the English authorities in first making St. Patrick’s a church feast day and then a holy day of obligation which meant it was embraced by the Catholic Church worldwide. St. Patrick’s Day had been observed since the 10th century but Luke Wadding really put it on the map.
3: Keep the Irish Flag Flying in Waterford
Like St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish tricolour concept had been around for a while before Waterford native, Thomas Francis Meagher, recognised its potential as a unifying symbol for Irish Catholics and Protestants alike. From well-to-do parents, Meagher was educated in Ireland and England and was a noted speechmaker by the time he ran as a candidate for Waterford in the 1848 election, losing narrowly. During that campaign, on 7 March, Meagher first unfurled the Irish tricolour flag from the Wolfe Tone Club on The Mall in Waterford City. The flag quickly caught on and was soon seen all around Ireland in nationalist circles. The tricolour was formally adopted as the Irish national flag in 1937.
Meagher went on to have an eventful career including banishment to Australia for his part in the Young Irelander rebellion, escape from a penal colony in Tasmania, brigadier of the Irish Brigade in the American Civil War and acting governor of Montana but it is for his flag waving exploits that he is perhaps best remembered in Ireland.
4: Waterford Brings Back the Bacon
You might love rashers greasing your pan but you may not know that the modern slice of bacon owes its start to Waterford. The man responsible for this gift to breakfast was Henry Denny who set up a butcher’s business in Waterford in 1820. Waterford was also where he developed and patented the production techniques that gave the world the modern bacon curing process: sandwiching long flat pieces of pork between layers of dry salt to produce the modern rasher. Even now, the Denny brand is one of Ireland’s most famous food brands and a perfect filling for that other Waterford speciality, the blaa.
5: The VC Family
A Waterford family produced the first father and son to win the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for military bravery. Lieutenant (later Field-Marshal) Frederick Roberts of the Bengal Artillery was awarded the distinction for his courage during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and had a subsequently incredible career in the British Army. His only son, Frederick of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, earned his VC for gallantry during the Battle of Colenso in Natal during Boer War in 1899. There have only been three father-son VC combinations in total.
6: Waterford, eh?
If you’ve ever been to Newfoundland in Canada, you might have been struck by the similarity of their accent to a Waterford one and that’s for very good reason. There have been strong trading links between the two areas since the 17th century but also a huge proportion of the emigrants who settled in Newfoundland in the 19th century came from a very specific part of Ireland. Historians estimate that between 1800 and 1830 over thirty-five thousand people came from radius of about fifty miles around Waterford. A British government official in 1842 even called the Canadian island “merely Waterford parted from the sea”. Appropriately Waterford is today twinned with the island’s capital, St. John.
Images credit (under CCL) by order: Epic Fireworks