Dr. Bill O' Gorman, from WIT, speaking about this site on WLR

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oylegate Glenbrien A Look back in Time

Following extract taken from the Wexford Echo, regarding the book 'Oylegate Glenbrien A Look back in Time'

Oylegate, Wexford, is a parish of outstanding achievement. It has produced All Ireland winning hurlers, Ireland's best ploughmen, a racehorse trainer of international renown, distilling experts, an inventor of agricultural implements, a Circuit Court Judge, and many others whose various talents have gone into shaping the parish.

However, one of the most astonishing stories found in the book, and unique to Oylegate, is the lifestyle consisting of net fishing for salmon on the Slaney during the summer and then working indoors at the whiskey production firm of Powers for the winter months.

Those were the days when large numbers of salmon were caught in the Slaney. Old timers recalled catches of forty or fifty salmon being hauled in at the one time. The Maher brothers, Denis and Paddy, remembered one salmon weighing 42 pounds in 1961.

Estimates put the numbers working at Powers from Oylegate numbered 150, which was about half the total workforce. And while we are certain that the fishermen and their families enjoyed some tasty salmon, we also know that the workers received a generous ration of whiskey every day!

The interchangeable six months in Dublin and six months in Oylegate for the male population lasted for about 150 years before ceasing in 1976. The Power family lived at Edermine House and built a row of houses in Oylegate village in 1878, with an additional group of houses added in 1895.

Tom Miller tells the tale of the whiskey and fishes and he also recalls a terrible tragedy on the River Slaney in 1895. Those were the days when it was common practice to cross the river to visit friends in the Bree-Ballyhogue area, and even more so after a railway station was established at Macmine.

Two people named Mernagh and another named Malone perished when a flat bottomed wooden boat capsized while making the short trip, and the story is told in full, and the first bridge at Edermine was opened a few years later in 1898.

The original concept for the book started as a fundraising idea for the new community centre in Oylegate, following a suggestion that a short history of the national school be compiled.

The idea was discussed at an Oylegate Community Centre Committee meeting in July 2007 and the minutes of the meeting referred to the project as a 'booklet'.

But what started life as a school history booklet has grown into a fully fledged 400page book on the history of the OylegateGlenbrien area, called 'Oylegate-Glenbrien, A Look Back in Time'.

'Whilst initially the main objective was to raise funds for the community centre, it soon became apparent that the project was much bigger and more significant than a simple fundraiser,' explains Mary McCauley, Secretary of the Journal Society.

'So we formed the Oylegate-Glenbrien Journal Society; some members from Oylegate, some from Glenbrien, some native and some new, ranging in age from a mere 24 to a stately 72-years-old!'

Due to the strong connection between the Powers family and the area, Powers Whiskey (Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard) joined the venture as sponsors; along with White's Hotel, Sean Quirke of New Ireland Assurance and Practice PR & Events.

To help the project's endeavours, C&R Print in Enniscorthy kindly agreed to do the layout of the book and its printing for cost price. Renowned Irish author Roddy Doyle, who has family connections to the area, has also contributed to the volume, writing the foreword. 'We all agree that it has been one of the best committees we have worked on and one of the most enjoyable too. Our early meetings consisted of brain-storming sessions, as we sought to identify potential articles. As more and more stories came to light, we came to realise the extent of the noteworthy and remarkable history of the area. To record, as best as possible, the folklore and history of our villages and townlands became our primary objective,' said Mary.

The book committee, comprising Carmel Maher and Tom Miller (Joint Chairpersons), Mary McCauley (Secretary), James Hayden (Treasurer), Padraig McManus, Maureen Somers, Aidan Quirke, Art Bennett, John Roche and Aidan Ryan, have endeavoured to include as many of the interesting stories as possible.

This is a book full of fine stories.

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