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Historical research

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week exploring the south-eastern corner of Ireland, looking at places associated with my more or less illustrious ancestor and namesake, Sir Nicholas White of the sixteenth century.

I had not spent a lot of time in Waterford, but one thing that struck me forcefully is that the county and provincial borders, following the rivers as they do, really don't make a lot of sense now and would have made even less sense in earlier times. The Barrow, the Nore and the Suir were channels of communication, not barriers; the economic hinterland of Waterford in former centuries must have reached at least as far, if not further, into what we now call Counties Kilkenny and Wexford than it did into County Waterford. So any appreciation of the geography has to start from Waterford as a hub for activities to the north, east and west (and south a little bit).

This is Mocollop Castle, way out west on the border between Counties Waterford and Cork; here Nicholas White distinguished himself as part of the Elizabethan forces besieging the castle in 1571. Not clear how long it has been in ruins.

Going north of Waterford across the county line to Kilkenny, this is Knocktopher Abbey, which may actually be rather more recent than its name suggests; however, not the medieval keep onto which the later building was constructed. The name of the keep? White's Castle - apparently a base for Nicholas White (who is recorded as having established himself at "Whites Hall near Knocktopher").

As he worked his way up the greasy pole of Elizabethan politics, White emulated the famous Jack Horner and pulled out a real plum from the aftermath of the dissolution of the monasteries. Crossing the water again to County Wexford, this is Dunbrody Abbey where he established his residence from 1569 for a few years before politics took him to Dublin. (Unfortunately closed until the summer season starts; I believe it is rather impressive to visit.)

Dunbrody Abbey's estates included the peninsula of Duncannon, which guards the estuary leading to Waterford and parts beyond. The site already included a castle and some fortifications, but in 1587 this was actually taken away from White as the Spanish invasion loomed - because, being Irish-born and a native speaker of the language, he was not considered trustworthy enough to be in control of such an important military asset. The outer walls date from about that time (and featured in the new Count of Monte Cristo film which I might actually now go and see).

My final stop was Wexford town. White's first serious government job, in 1568, was as Seneschal of Wexford and from 1569 Governor of Wexford Castle; I spent some time looking for said castle, but there are no remains of it visible (this is the West Gate of the old town). I guess Cromwell erased it a few decades after White's time.

So, time well spent, from my point of view anyway.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 6th, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
Wow, interesting. And Wexford. Wonder if you're related to the Whites there - the family the hotel is named after. (Although the ones I know are actually Smalls, since it was Mrs Small who was a White.)

And yeah, no castle in Wexford. But there's a couple of decent stretches of the walls still around.
May. 6th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
indeed I went to college with Whites from that neck of the woods - But while there might be relationships there I suspect it would be a LONG time ago.
May. 6th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC)
Are you actually named after him?
Jun. 25th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
Is there any chance you are related to Flora Sandes, daughter of an Irish Anglican vicar, who grew up to fight in WWI and who became Serbia's first commissioned female officer? http://www.badassoftheweek.com/sandes.html Quite a story there if you can overlook the spicy language.
Jun. 26th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC)
I had heard of her of course, and my grandfather was active in the same part of the world, but any family relationship would be a distant one - my ancestors were rabidly Catholic from the end of the sixteenth century!
Jun. 26th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
In trying to see a connection, I'd overlooked the religion in favor of the rabidity. ;)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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