Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Walks along the beach at Kilmuckridge

Autumn ripples on the shore at Morriscastle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Patrick Comerford

During my few days back in Co Wexford over the bank holiday weekend, I had plenty of opportunities for long walks on the beach at Morriscastle, near the pretty village of Kilmuckridge.

Kilmuckridge, near the Wexford coast, 22 km south of Gorey, is a popular place for weekend visitors and holidaymakers. But this is not the origianl Kilmuckridge: the present village was originally known as The Ford, while the Roman Catholic parish, which dates from 1796, is know as Litter (Leitir, a hillside).

The original village of Kilmuckridge lies a mile or so south, and was clustered around the site of the present Church of Ireland parish church. The Church historian, JB Leslie, suggests that the Irish name, Cill Mhucraise, may mean the “Church of the Pig Ridge.”

Kilmuckridge Parish Church ... on the site on the first Christian settlements in Kilmuckridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

The Church of Ireland church in Kilmuckridge may be on the site of a much earlier Christian settlement, as an early high cross near here was identified in the last century. The church marks the location of the original village of Kilmuckridge, and there has been a church here since at least 1615, when it was reported that the church here was in “good condition.”

The Grogan family – which was so intimately involved in the affairs of the United Irishmen during the events surrounding the 1798 rising in Co Wexford – claimed the patronage of Kilmuckridge.

On the way to Kilmuckridge from Ferns on Sunday morning, I stopped off at Kyle Glebe, on the outskirts of Oulart Village. This once elegant house is now crumbling. It stands in Gertie Rath’s farmyard, and has interesting associations with Kilmuckridge and the Comerford family dating from those events in 1798.

Kyle Glebe ... this once elegant but now crumbling house has interesting associations with the Comerford family and the 1798 Rising (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2009)

James Comerford (?ca 1763-1798) was one of the first people killed during the 1798 Rising. He one of the four Protestants killed in the attack on Kyle Glebe, along with Samuel Judd, Thomas Earl and Joseph Aston after the Rector of Kilmuckridge, the Revd Robert Burrowes, was murdered on the lawn in front of the house prior to the Battle of Oulart Hill on Sunday 27 May 1798.

Musgrave indicates that James Comerford was a parishioner of Burrowes, but the local historian Brian Cleary states he was also a Yeoman

James Comerford was killed that morning in Kyle Glebe, but his widow Elizabeth and their five children who were at Kyle survived. They were probably taken with the Burrowes family to Castle Annesley in Kilmuckridge. Sally Clifford was a niece of Robert Burrowes and Castle Annesley was then the Clifford family home. From Castle Annesley, the Clifford and Comerford families were brought to Wexford Town.

The present Church of Ireland church in Kilmuckridge was built in 1815, probably on the site of early churches. The parish was later amalgamated with neighbouring Kilnamanagh, and is now part of the Ardamine grouping of parishes, with the Revd Canon Bob Gray as Rector.

The name of Kilmuckridge was transferred to neighbouring Ford when the post office was moved many decades ago. And the location of the post office gave the most wonderful name to any chip shop in Ireland – Oifig an Chip. Unfortunately, that name has been lost too, and the chip shop is now called Fusciardi’s.

The Kilmuckridge Memorial Hall (KMH) is host each year to the Kilmuckridge Drama Festival, a celebration of the performing arts, with drama groups from all over Ireland taking part.

The sandy beach at Morriscastle has boosted the appeal of the Kilmuckridge area (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Nearby, the resort of Morriscastle – as its name suggests – was once the site of a mediaeval Norman castle, said to have been built by the O Morchoe or Murphy family. Today, Kilmuckridge and Morriscastle form a rich and exciting area to explore with a wealth of historical and natural interest. The beach at Morriscastle, which has been awarded the Green Coast Beaches award, is host to many rare flora and fauna, and is a national heritage site.

The popularity of Kilmuckridge as a tourist resort and the excellent beach and fishing waters at Morriscastle have brought a growth in tourist facilities, along with new holiday homes and mobile-home parks, and the rate of growth is a divisive issue among local people.

The ruins of Castle Annesley are barely visible in a field behind the buildings of a local farmyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

I was delighted with the hospitality I was offered at Oatfields in Morriscastle, across the road from the ruins of Castle Annesley, which are barely visible in a field behind the buildings of a local farmyard.

There are 20 or more wind mills on the wind farm at Morriscastle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Over the weekend, I took a number of brisk walks along the beach at Morriscastle. On Sunday afternoon, I walked along the beach to the dunes just below the wind farm, with its 20 or more wind mills. Turning back along the sandy stretch and facing into the sun, it was hard to believe that it is late autumn, and not the end of summer.

I had forgotten to take my medication with me, my lungs were finding it tough going, my neck is swollen again and my legs were finding the sand a bit demanding underfoot. But while I have sarcoidosis, sarcoidosis does not have me, and I bathed in the bright blessings of that glorious afternoon sun.

Although it’s late October, there was a few families on the beach, including one playing with a kite, and two brave visitors even ventured into the sea in kayaks.

Later in the evening, I was in Enniscorthy for dinner in Via Veneto in Weafer Street (www.viaveneto.ie), which may be the most authentic Italian restaurant in Ireland.

On Monday morning, I walked back to the beach at Morriscastle for another brisk walk. Sarcoidosis is not going to stop me from enjoying beach walks in the best autumn weather we’ve had in Ireland for years.

A pair of swans flew overhead just as I bumped into my friend and colleague, the Revd Lyn Rogers and her husband Geoff, were walking their dog on the beach. Lyn has moved from Ferns parish to New Ross, and recently invited me to preach in Old Ross.

After scaling the dunes to look at the wind farm, I strolled along the banks of a brook and then walked back to Oatfields. I was surprised along that road how many blackberries in the hedgerows and ditches of Co Wexford are still ripe for picking and are still tasty, yet it’s almost a month since Michaelmas. Autumn had not gone … yet.