What follows are impressions of the town, based on two recent brief visits. These were my first taste of Wexford town. This does not pretend to be a comprehensive review - just things that struck me on my way round the town.
Wexford town has always been conscious of its history. Below is a series of murals at Dunne's stores, depicting the history of the town.
This statue of the pikeman is appropriately located in the "Bull Ring". A plaque records that "this monument commemorates the gallant men of Wexford who fought for Ireland's freedom in 1798, one of the many uprisings against foreign domination during the centuries of subjection 1169-1921. It is the work of Oliver Sheppard, RHA, and was erected in 1904." I was told that there are graves here dating from the 1798 period.
In the very recent past the pikeman has been pressganged into the service of the NO side in the Lisbon referendum campaign. Hover the cursor over the image to see an enlarged version of the poster.
More recently still, the Pikeman was (temporarily) decommissioned. The culprit was caught on CCTV and the missing portion of the pike has been recovered.
The Burg Council has had it repaired and the pike was restored to its rightful resting place on 29/9/2010 (below).
So the Pikeman is once again armed and ready to face the enemy with the same determination as ever before.
The area was also intimately associated with constitutional nationalism through the Redmond family.
The last picture above is of John Redmond's tomb, in the graveyard on John Street, and which is badly in need of renovation and tarting up. Let's hope somone tends to it soon.
The first thing that strikes you in the centre of Wexford, when you hit the Main Street, is the narrowness of the streets and irregularity of the buildings. There is a feeling of a medieval town.
This feeling is enhanced by the narrow side streets off the Main Street.
This lane on the right of the shop entrance dates from Viking times. It led down from the Main Street to the quays.
And approaching from the quays' end.
The grafitti are clearly post-Viking
I always knew the area was closely associated with the 1798 Rebellion. However, I was surprised to see an actual street named after it. As an address, it reads more like a corner of New York!
The vision was romantic but the reality turned out to look a little less than historical. That being said, the street is slap bang in front of the gaol.
While we're on the subject of the flag, I noticed that the Sinn Féin offices were flying the tricolour, as they do.
However, in Wexford town they are also flying the EU flag. I always knew they were really for Europe. I also noticed that the gold had leached from the eurostars. I pondered awhile on the possible meaning of this. Did it signify the making of peace with Europe? Did it evoke the old White Star league, whose members swore never to take the holy name in vain and defuse any such abuse by others (by adding the phrase "have mercy on us")? Might this parallel IRA decommissioning and subsequent opposition to the militarisation of Europe? Did it evoke the White Star line and the approaching iceberg? Or did the party just buy a cheapo version of the flag?
I wrote the stuff above, which I have now coloured in red, way back. Obsessed with the EU flag and not paying attention. Now, Councillor Oisín O'Connell has pointed out that it is not the EU flag at all, leached or otherwise. It is the 1930s Republican Congress version of the Plough and the Stars. Pretty obvious when it's pointed out to you. None of the EU stars are that near the corner of the flag. So all the red stuff above is just plain shite. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, and please don't tell Donal Fallon or he'll never speak to me again.
Postscript: A more recent visit found that Sinn Féin had vacated the building and the tricolour no long flies. Recession or what?
This is Melissa. She writes songs. Her dog Laika "plays the guitar" and this, no doubt is one of the reasons she was auditioned for "Britain's got Talent". However, on the night, poor Laika was overcome with nerves at the pressure of the occasion and did not play up to standard, and that was that. Melissa was devastated. She saw herself as a serious singer-composer and not just a novelty act. You can see and hear her sing a song fresh off the presses, so to speak, at the Bull Ring in Wexford Town where she is currently (22/6/2010) busking. She also has other material on Youtube and Facebook.
Come nightfall, I went for a walk up by the Opera. I was about to turn down Kaiser's Lane when I heard the sound of brass. I traced it to the Friends' Meeting House where it turned out the Loch Garman Band was in the throes of its Tuesday night rehearsal. I stood outside for about three quarters of an hour listening to the conductor, John Clancy, mould the performance. Subtle and enjoyable stuff.
The town also has a seafaring tradition recalled by the memorial to John Barry who founded the USA Navy. I recall seeing this memorial for the first time on black and white TV in June 1963 during JFK's visit to Ireland. On reading the plaque I saw that former USA president, Dwight D Eisenhower had also visited the spot in 1962, beating JFK to the draw by a full 10 months.
The building in the background is the old ballast office and the spire is St. Iberius's church.
This is the old ballast bank, where ships took on and laid off ballast.
And this bridge provides an alternative to the N11 for accessing the coast between Wexford and Gorey.
Finally, the sea provides a background for this innovative wedding photographer.
Trades & Commerce
And not forgetting the Poles who are everywhere.
Perhaps this tip from the residential sector would do the trick. Note the subtle use of texting.
Old & New
In fact you'd be tempted to think it was a conspiracy as they've done the same thing with the Cornmarket sign - omitting to paint in the buailtes over the "d" in margadh and the "b" in arbhair despite their being clearly included in the embossed sign.
I'm not sure how you would describe what these guys are up to? Lifting the lid?
The old market at the Bull Ring has been beautifully renovated but has not been a success. The indoor section is currently occupied by a fish merchant but the outdoor sections are abandoned, due, I'm told, to the absence of parking.
The Malt Store & Foundry
There are two adjacent areas on the map (c 1900) below which have been developed in different ways. The Malt Store (shaded red) has been tastefully adapted into terraced houses facing into a courtyard. Pierce's Iron Foundry (shaded green) has been demolished and replaced by a Tesco store, the largest in that chain outside of Dublin.
The Malt Store development is called "The Pillar" and has one arched entrance into the courtyard, where each house has its own parking space.
All that remains of the Foundry is this "transformer" like figure.
Meanwhile, Tesco is supporting the arts in other ways.
Ads & Logos
Hover the cursor over the image below to see the words.
St. Iberius was one of St. Patrick's predecessors. He had a monastic settlement on Begerin, an island in the estuary which has now become part of the reclaimed land, and an oratory on the site where the Church of Ireland's St. Iberius church stands today. This church has an unusual outside profile and many interesting features inside.
The shape of the church interior, with its courthouse type layout, is unusual in a Church of Ireland building and would be more likely found among the lower Protestant churches. This particular layout in Christian churches is said to have come from the Emperor Constantine who, on his conversion, presented a courthouse to the Christians to serve as their first church.
Colonel Arthur Wellesley and Miss Kitty Packenham, later to become the Duke and Duchess of Wellington, were married at this altar rail on 10 April 1906. The ceremony took place in St. George's Church, Hardwicke Place, Dublin. St. Iberius's church acquired the rail in the course of its 1990 refurbishment.
The pillars are ornamented with some very nice Wedgewood. This is also reflected in the background to the altar.
The lectern is very impressive. The bust above it is of Emily Lady Hughes and it was done by John Henry Foley then the leading sculptor of his day. Foley also did the O'Connell monument in Dublin, while at the same time working on the Albert Memorial in London. Lady Emily was the wife of Captain Sir Frederick Hughes, who lived at Barnstown House, Wexford. She died in childbirth on 13 December 1868, aged 27, after giving birth to a son, who survived her by only 3 months.
The pulpit is unusual as it is also a memorial to those who gave their lives in WWI and WWII.
What the organist saw!
The current rector (below), Revd. Maria Jansson, as well as being female is half Swedish, and her curate, Revd. Gunilla Aquilon-Elmqvist, is also female and wholly Swedish. So the Scandinavian influence persists to this day.
A former rector was Revd. Richard Waddy Elgee (below) a grand-uncle of Oscar Wilde on the mother's side. Which brings me neatly to my next section.
Oscar Wilde's mother, Jane Elgee, was said to have been born in the Wexford rectory in 1821. That rectory was on the north-east corner of the Bull Ring. It no longer exists and has been replaced by a boutique (below). Jane became well known in her own right as a poet and nationalist. She acquired an extra Christian name, Francesca, and frequently wrote under the pen-name Speranza. She also claimed descent from the poet Dante (Alghieri/Elgee, see?). Much to my amazement there is not even a plaque commemorating this lady's birth, although I gather there is one at her London residence.
Postscript: The premises are due to change tenant. Recession or what? Still no plaque.
Church of the Assumption
The Roman Catholic church of the Assumption overlooks the town.
It was consecrated in 1860 and has a fine interior.
A fine view indeed, but the Irish language version of this street sign, leaving the atrocious grammar aside for the moment, gives the impression that it could just be any old church, presumably quite the opposite of what the English language version is intended to convey.
Go to Jail
The history of the town jail is tied in with the various struggles for independence and many executions were carried out on the front lawn. The building is now the offices of the County Council, and displays the county crest with the motto "exemplar hiberniae", an example to Ireland.
The Toll Gate & Abbey
Alongside the Heritage Centre you can see the Westgate (the last existing Toll Gate), a remainder of the Town Wall with Tower, and the remains of Selskar Abbey.
Wayne Whitty at Wexford Hub has an interesting piece on the background to this "Westgate" and also one on the old town wall. As a general aside, if you want to keep up with goings on in the town and county you can follow him on Twitter.
The train from Rosslare approaches the town from the old Wexford South Station (now gone), passing the old Liverpool Steam Wharf on the seaward side (now gone) and the old Gasometer on the landward side (now replaced by an apartment block).
It then begins its slow crawl along Paul Quay, past the Crescent, along Custom House Quay and Commercial Quay to the North (present day) Station.
And just in case you thought I was exaggerating the clear and present danger, here are some very assertive warnings for the unsuspecting. And these are just at the specified level crossing points. Elsewhere, as the pictures show, the line is fully open to dogs, cats, crawling babbies, the old, the infirm and the just plain unheeding.
Slán Abhaile !
Just back from another visit to Wexford. I think this is my seventh. At least I haven't been keeping count but find I now have seven separate folders of photos. I'm hoping to integrate the new material into this file in due course. In fact the file has become so big that I will also have to split it up into themes. So it will be a while, I suppose.
Meanwhile you can have a look at some of the highlights of this trip.
The Sásta Festival was just winding up as I arrived, but there was still a lot to cover. Some of the more general material from the visit is also in here.
The mystery of the failure of the Vallotton monument to attract even a plaque was more or less solved.
A graduating arts exhibition was the result of cooperation between a Wexford campus and the local arts centre.
And a reminder of the 1911 Wexford Lockout.