On Tuesday, August 28, over sixty visiting Newfoundlanders and some Irish friends visited Coolmore Stud and Fethard town. The visit of the Newfoundlanders is part of an on-going arrangement, where Newfoundlanders come here to the South East one year, stay with Irish families, then the next year the Irish go to Newfoundland and do likewise.
Up to half the population of Newfoundland of 600,000 have Irish ancestry and the forbearers of these Irish Canadians nearly came exclusively from counties Waterford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford. They all left in the 1700s and early 1800s (before the Great Famine) to work in the fishing industry. In fact the Irish word for Newfoundland is Talamh an Éisc, which literally means ‘the fishing grounds’.
The visitors first port of call on their visit to Fethard was to Coolmore Stud where they were made very welcome and were hugely impressed by the scale and quality of the Coolmore operation. In the background could be seen the on-going construction work of the new ‘visitor centre’ which, when completed, will be a wonderful addition to the Fethard area.
The Fethard Historical Society then hosted the visitors to the medieval town, starting off with refreshments in the Youth Centre at Madam’s Bridge. They were then taken on a guided tour of the walled town and again marvelled at the age and scale of the medieval heritage laid out before them. Their guide Terry Cunningham brought them to the grave of Vice Admiral Henry Kellett of Clonacody who is buried in old Holy Trinity graveyard. Henry Kellett is very much part of Canadian history, even American history, as the timbers of his ship, The Resolute, abandoned in the frozen Artic in 1854 finally ended up as the wood used to make the desk that President Obama sits at in the Oval Office in the White House.
All the Newfoundlanders and their Irish friends then dined in McCarthy’s Restaurant before they headed back to their host families in Carrick-on-Suir. Next year the Irish from the South East will travel to Newfoundland and hopefully some more Fethard people will be on that plane next September. John Roche, native of Ballinard, now living in Kilsheelan went with the group last year and was amazed by the hospitality shown and the ‘unreal’ Irishness of certain parts of the Island. Further information on www.inp.ie and www.festivalofthesea.ca