The Avondhu - By The Fireside

Of the Galtees

- Joe Boyle

Quite a few Irish placenames end in ‘eac’ – sometimes ‘reac’, which is loosely translated as ‘the place of ’. Examples from the Galtees are Sloigeac – place of the Scree; Cnocrac – place of the hill; Bealac – place of the mountain pass.

In the process of Anglicisat­ion, Bealacrac and Bealac Road have become Black Rock and Black Road respective­ly. Piginreac – the place of the pigin or milk pail – is now called Pigeon Rock. The remains of the summer milking shed or booley is still visible high up on the western slope of Pigeon Rock Glen.


In Black Rock Glen, there is a little dwelling called the Slate House. 50 years ago, it was occupied by a man called Pad King and his wife. On a winter’s night Pad, known as ‘Pad the Rock’, died of a heart attack. His wife had to wait until morning to venture out and report her problem. After Pad was buried in Kilbehenny churchyard, his widow made her way back to the Slate House on her own, in her donkey cart. When she came to the rickety bridge, which she had to cross, the river was in flood and it was pitch dark. She decided to tie the donkey to a bush and hunker down until daylight before crossing the Glen River.

On the anniversar­y of her husband’s death, the brave widow tackled her donkey once more, and made the hour long journey to the parish priest’s house in Kilbehenny. She gave the good man a half crown and asked him to say Mass for ‘Pad the Rock’.

“Yerra woman”, said he, “you’d get no one to say Mass for half a crown nowadays. But I’ll say a prayer for him”.

“Give me back my half crown”, said she, “I can say a prayer for him myself”.


Did the Deise people live around the Black Road before or after they settled in County Waterford? Either way, they left their trademark ‘y’ sound in place names such as ‘Skeheenary­nka’ - the little bush of the dancing.

Kyle church would sound like ‘Keel’ in non Deise Irish. ‘The Fyleen’ - little hole or sluggera, would be called ‘the fweeleen’ in County Cork. ‘Seefine’ – Sui Finn - is one of a dozen such rocky outcrops associated with Finn Mac Cúl to be found all over Ireland, but only in Deise territory is Finn pronounced ‘Fyne’.


In 1963, an elderly American visitor named Pender arrived at Skeheenari­nky to fulfill a promise he had made to his father to visit the spot where two brothers and their mother set out to walk the Cobh to catch a ship to America. The two brothers were 19 and 15 years old, and their mother decided they should emigrate after their father died of tuberculos­is.

The visitor had a piece of brown paper on which was drawn a rough map of the roads around Skeheenari­nky. Nothing was written on the paper, but the bearer had been well briefed about local landmarks. In particular, he knew of the existence of a sawmill. With the assistance of local man Jack O’Brien, whose family now own the sawmill and the land around it, they were able to identify the four acre plot on which the Pender family lived. They even found the remains of the little dwelling, where the old man knelt to say an emotional prayer for his father.

More emotion was to follow as he told Jack O’Brien how his grandmothe­r and her two teenage boys set out on the 40 mile walk to Cobh carrying all their worldly goods on their backs.

As the little party crossed the Blackwater at Fermoy, the weather broke and they took shelter under a wall “at the other side of Fermoy” - probably the then newly built Famine Wall. They stayed there for some time, using up what little food they had, as their mother had grown weak and could not continue. She died beside the wall.

As the two boys sat beside their dead mother wondering what to do next, a group of people came by. They too were walking to Cobh and had come from County Limerick on the north side of the Galtees. They shared their food with the Pender boys and invited them to join them for the rest of the journey.

The body of the widow Pender was left beside the wall where she had died - no doubt she was collected and buried in the Famine plot at Barrack Hill, Fermoy.

Her two boys found work in America with the help of a Catholic priest but they never returned to Skeheenari­nky.

A search of the internet revealed the good ship, Nevada arrived at the Port of New York on the 22nd of June, 1869 having sailed from Liverpool via Queenstown. Aboard the Nevada according to the ship’s manifest number 00031211, were Benjamin Pender age 15, described as a male child and John Pender age 19, male labourer, both from Ireland. No doubt one or other was father of the old man who came to Skeheenari­nky in search of the family homestead in 1963.

John and Benjamin Pender were born in 1850 and 1854 respective­ly, but there is no record of their having attended Skeheenari­nky school, which was built in 1858.

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