"A man among millions": Martin Joseph Murphy and the development of Tramore 1888-1919

For thirty years, Martin Joseph Murphy was a genial driving force behind the development of the seaside resort of Tramore, County Waterford.

He was especially associated with the town's racecourse, and he made the Grand Hotel one of Ireland's leading holiday destinations. In a tailpiece to his career, he would become the last Member of Parliament for East Waterford to serve at Westminster. This essay aims to draw attention to the centenary of his death, on 4 September 1919.

A sketchmap illustrates aspects of his association with the town: http://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/290-tramore-sketch-map

Kilkenny, Waterford, and Tramore Races, 1862-1892

Martin Murphy was born in 1861 or 1862, one of the children of Mr and Mrs Thomas Murphy of New Street, close to the centre of Kilkenny. His father was proprietor of the Kilkenny's Club House Hotel (still a feature of the city), and he seems to have inherited an entrepreneurial streak. One of his brothers took over the hotel, another became the manager of Smithwicks, the local brewery. Martin Murphy attended St Kieran's College, the city's elite Catholic school. In "early manhood" he moved to Waterford City, although he retained "great affection" for his birthplace, which the city's newspaper would repay with a generous obituary.[1] It was presumably in Waterford that he met his wife, Catherine O'Meara (whom he entered on the 1901 census as "Katie"). She was a native of the city, the daughter of Michael O'Meara, a publican of Bridge Street.[2] The couple were evidently married by 1888, and possibly earlier.[3] Both Martin and Katie Murphy had the hotel trade in their blood, and it seems that she was actively involved in running the Grand Hotel. 

When Martin Murphy stood for parliament in 1913, it was claimed that he had long been a Home Ruler – as were most Irish Catholics – and that he had supported the Plan of Campaign, and taken the Parnellite side in the Split of 1891. He seems to have taken part in civic politics, serving for a time on the Corporation and holding office as High Sheriff for the city in 1892.[4] It is perhaps more likely that the need to establish himself in business inhibited outspokenness: Murphy might be sympathetic to advanced elements within the Nationalist movement, but his customers might not share his views. And his commercial plans were ambitious. Early in 1885, he opened an "extensive bottling and mineral water establishment", equipped with modern machinery and aiming to play both sides of the Temperance divide by bottling ale and porter while also producing the popular soft drink. He advertised for skilled employees as far away as Belfast.[5] He was soon able to claim success. "M. J. Murphy's mineral waters are the finest and purest made," he proclaimed in 1888, describing himself as "the largest manufacturer of mineral waters in Waterford."[6] At that time, he was operating a "Steam Works" in The Glen, a busy Waterford street leading from Ballybricken towards the Suir. By 1894, the business was operating from Grattan Quay, near the Bridge.[7] 

Racing at Tramore           

It was horse racing that brought Martin Murphy to Tramore. Strangely enough, a friendly obituary would insist that he was "not what is termed 'a racing man'".[8]  This may have been the impression that he created during the last two decades of his life, as hotel proprietor and politician. But he seems to have had an interest in a training establishment in County Kilkenny in the early 1880s. He and his partner, James Sullivan, employed 21 year-old James Cahill "as an exercise lad and trial rider". In 1884, Cahill "begged hard for a mount" at Tramore races, and was entered for a steeplechase. As a local newspaper lugubriously commented, it proved to be both his first and last competitive race. Badly hurt in a fall, he died from his injuries without recovering consciousness.[9] Murphy briefly owned a few horses himself around 1900, but the cost was probably too great, and there would have been some potential conflict with his role – by then -- as proprietor of the racecourse. Rather, race meetings provided the kind of organisational challenges and entrepreneurial opportunities that he was peculiarly equipped to exploit. He learned the trade at local events around the city, for instance serving as clerk of the scales and the course for hunt races at Pembrokestown in 1886. By 1888, he was secretary to the annual event at Tramore.[10] His primary business interests were still in the city. A Waterford journalist sent to interview Murphy at his bottling works in 1888 "found the genial and kindly Tramore secretary amidst a chaos of acids, powders, chemistry books, mineral water, certificates for excellence, and Tramore racing documents", and was greeted with his "usual honest, hearty laugh".[11] But by 1892, he was living in Tramore: a "sudden illness" that year, from which, happily, he quickly recovered, may have sharpened his concern about local sanitation.[12] Around three years later he sold his mineral water operation, and committed himself to the development of the town.[13]

Horse racing on Tramore's fine strand became an established feature of the local calendar by the late eighteenth century: in 1807, there was a six-day August meeting. In the 1850s, the Malcomsons, factory owners at nearby Portlaw, undertook reclamation work, enabling James Delahunty, later MP for Waterford, to lay out a racecourse "in the vicinity of the Back Strand" around 1855.[14] Facilities were primitive: there was a "stand-house" by 1856, but this probably contained just the weighing room and accommodation for stewards and jockeys.[15]  In 1877, it was reported that racing was "held on part of the back strand, between which and the sea was a large mound of land which served as a stand." The "large mound of land" was in fact the beginning of the sand dunes. Critics alleged that the course lacked the minimum number of hurdles to qualify under National Hunt rules. Local traders had their own complaints. The railway, which had arrived in 1853, brought punters in from Waterford City but, since the station was located between the racecourse and the town, not much of their money found its way to the pockets of Tramore's shopkeepers.[16]

Matters briefly improved when a local man called Alfred Budd took control in 1880, and "set about converting, at enormous expense, the reclaimed lands of the Tramore Back Strand." Within two years, he had created "one of the handsomest" racecourses in Ireland, its stand, and "well railed racing tracks" laid out on "what was a few years ago a barren piece of slob-land". This was a bold venture in Land League days, but his August 1881 meeting was "a gigantic success".[17] A Dublin journalist had become lyrical about the location: "with the sea beating almost against the enclosure, with the trim-kept town crowning an eminence to the left ... it would be difficult to find a more charming spot at which to carry on racing."[18] But Budd's 1882 meeting was less successful. Moved back into July, it was too close to Glorious Goodwood to draw the highest echelon of racegoers. Worse still, the "usually gay and lively summer resort" was hit by bad weather, "as heavy storms blow through the half deserted streets, and wild foam-created waves break upon the desolate shore."[19] Alfred Budd disappears from the story, and for the next few years, the Tramore festival seems to have been a low-key event.[20]

Martin Murphy: racecourse entrepreneur

By 1887, the future of the Tramore race meeting seemed in the balance. Early in June of that year, Major George Maunsell, one of the town's magistrates, led a deputation to a meeting in the Mayor's office in Waterford, where they hoped to negotiate with sporting gentlemen from the city "for the purpose of taking steps towards holding a race meeting at Tramore this session." Since they had late July in mind, preparations were hardly advanced. They met with a tepid response. Some said the meeting had been called at an inconvenient hour for businessmen; others pointed out that the absentees foresaw they would be tapped for subscriptions. In the event, just two Waterford City residents put in an appearance. One of them was Martin Murphy. Within twelve months, he was running Tramore races.[21]

So successful was his 1888 meeting – shifted back to the traditional mid-August slot – that there was talk in the city of establishing its own racecourse in the suburbs. Murphy modestly insisted that he might have drawn a larger field had not the Tramore meeting come so soon before Punchestown. He also genially entered into the spirit of the Waterford movement – perhaps sure in the knowledge that it would come to nothing – offering advice, and suggesting Kilbarry as a suitable location.[22] But in years to come, the seaside festival would be renamed "Waterford and Tramore Races", no doubt in a bid to fend off any such competition.

"All lovers of sport will be glad to hear that our own Martin Murphy has secured the sole right of the Tramore race-course, and that he intends converting it into a second Leopardstown," a Waterford newspaper reported in 1890. He was said to be planning to include facilities for bicycle racing and athletics as well, and his personal popularity was obvious. "Good old M. J.[!] May your shadow never grow less, and may you go on furthering the cause of sport until you are a hundred years of age."[23] Over the next two years, he spent "several thousand pounds" on improvements.[24] By 1891, he had enclosed Tramore racecourse with two miles of corrugated-iron fencing, tied with wire rope and strongly buttressed against the stormy weather, and between ten and fourteen feet high. It was no longer possible to watch the races free of charge from the dunes. Entry to the course was now for paying customers through turnstiles. A deep ditch encircling the fence doubled both as drainage and an obstacle to interlopers securing free access. A new grandstand and horse boxes had been added, facilities that "would do credit to any meeting in the United Kingdom."[25] It was estimated that Martin J. Murphy had invested nearly £3,000 to generate the "phenomenal success" of the 1891 summer meeting.[26] He was coming to personify the seaside town.

The Irish Times noted in 1892 that "not a little part of the growing popularity" of Tramore was "due to the large-hearted liberality of the lessee of the course, Mr Martin J. Murphy".[27] "Mr Murphy has certainly done wonders .... There was one stand in the days of Mr Budd's management. Now there are three fine structures."[28] In 1905, a friendly journalist looked back at his seventeen-year involvement. "In 1888, Mr Martin J. Murphy started, so to speak, Martin Murphy's Margate. He took over the course, enclosed it, fought the elements for years, kept the flag flying, and is to the fore still as fresh as a trout."[29] Murphy certainly had the business vision to see that the economy of the town and the prosperity of the racecourse were two sides of the same coin. In 1896, as  he was committing himself to the seaside town, he sought to establish two successive mechanisms for driving forward an integrated approach to the development of Tramore. Both failed, and a less energetic and optimistic personality might have written off the place altogether. But Martin Murphy would draw a time-honoured lesson: if you want something done, do it yourself. In effect, Tramore refused to recognise that it faced an identity crisis, and only a determined and imaginative personality could steer it forward.

Tramore: a "straggling small town" on the "downline"?

Tramore already had over one hundred years of history as a seaside resort before Martin Murphy arrived on the scene. Yet the town had made remarkably little effort to exploit its advantages or reinforce its popularity. When challenged by its energetic newcomer to take control of its own destiny, its inhabitants refused the challenge, and batted the initiative back to Murphy himself. Tramore had simply grown, although hardly on a massive scale. In 1774, Charles Smith described "the village of Tramore" as "a pleasant retreat for the citizens of Waterford and others, who assemble here for the benefit of the salt water" during the summer months.[30] The town's first developer was a Waterford City banker, Bartholomew Rivers: a terminal date for his activities may be established by his bankruptcy in 1793.[31] A guidebook of 1786 now called Tramore a "town" and stated that it had "formerly consisted chiefly of fishermen's huts ... built in a scattered, irregular manner" but was "daily improving" thanks to investment by Rivers in new buildings, including a market house and assembly rooms. His efforts had "diffused a laudable spirit of enterprise among the inhabitants." He was also said to have built the first hotel, assumed to be the core of the Great Hotel, which Murphy would rename as the Grand Hotel.[32] The social composition of Tramore's clientele gradually widened. In 1786, it was "much frequented in the summer season for the benefit of sea bathing, by the neighbouring gentry." But in 1834, Henry Inglis, a Scottish travel writer, dismissively wrote that "no shopkeeper at Waterford is entitled to hold up his head, who does not spend a few weeks with his family at Tramore." Inglis conceded that Tramore possessed a "remarkably fine" beach, but dismissed the town itself as "merely an assemblage of indifferent houses". A decade later, a guidebook called it a "straggling small town".[33]

Not only had the town centre taken shape, but high status housing was appearing, especially around the western end of Tramore Bay, where the high ground of Great Newtown Head offered some protection from Atlantic gales: Griffith's Valuation in 1853 listed 47 buildings with rateable values over £6 a year in the townland of Tramore West. They may not all have been lived in year-round – the same lessees are named for several – but the inclusion of "Esq." and military rank among the occupiers suggests the emergence of a Tramore community that might not share Martin Murphy's ambitions for an expanded tourist trade.[34] Indeed, there is some slight evidence that Tramore continued to grow even throughout the Famine decade – when Ireland as a whole lost almost one quarter of its population – and this can only point to in-migration of the wealthy.[35]

By contrast, the arrival of the railway in 1853 – a seven-mile link to Waterford City – had only a muted effect on population growth, even though the railway company offered free carriage of building materials to the town for intending residents.[36]  In 1871, the census population, now specifically allocated to the town of Tramore, an entity which in fact had no official existence, was 2,011. It bumped along around or just below the 2,000 mark in succeeding decades.[37] Railways helped to widen the area supplying summer visitors, if hardly dramatically. In his 1863 novel, Knocknagow, Charles Kickham described Tramore as "a household word in very many Tipperary homes."[38] The Irish Times reported in 1893 that Tramore was "patronised by a good class of people[39] from the counties of Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary, and Cork."[40] In 1910, the Independent defined its original catchment areas as "Waterford and adjoining counties of Carlow and Kilkenny", but added "of late years its fame as a health and holiday resort has deservedly extended far and wide."[41]

A major limiting factor was almost certainly the complication that the Waterford and Tramore railway did not connect with any other line: its city terminus, Manor Station, was around a mile from the main line station, Waterford North (now Plunkett). Indeed, it seems to have been unique in Ireland in its isolation from the wider network. On weekdays, there were eight trains in each direction, and they were not timetabled with travellers from Dublin in mind.[42] As a friendly sporting journalist noted in 1891, there was "only one drawback" to the Tramore meeting – it was almost impossible to get back to Dublin after the last race.[43] So far as Dublin-based racegoers were concerned, this problem was eased by running a through service (obviously involving two trains, one on each line). In 1898, a "special" conveyed 260 people to the race meeting, and in 1901 the through train was "fairly patronised, and ran well up to time." No doubt these services returned in the evening.[44]

For ordinary travellers, there was a further complication: the Great Southern and Western Company did not operate through trains between the capital and Waterford. Passengers had to change at Maryborough (now Portlaoise) to what was very definitely a branch line, carrying only four trains a day, one of which reached Waterford too late for any onward connection. Of course, in those days a family with holiday luggage could call upon the help of porters to change trains at Maryborough (for a tip), but if baggage was cumbersome and cabs in short supply, onward travellers would probably miss the next Tramore train (thirty minutes was around the average time between arrival at one station and the next departure from the other) and might face a two-hour delay in Waterford before completing the 15-minute journey to the sea. It is no wonder that Tramore's catchment area was primarily limited to Ireland's south-east.[45]

"Our County wanting Tramore would be like an Indian God without the wonted diamond in his forehead – a rose without colour or perfume".[46] Egan's 1895 History, Guide & Directory of County and City of Waterford was suspiciously over-enthusiastic. More to the point, the encomium did not define what kind of jewel Tramore was supposed to be – a select watering place or a raucous resort for the masses? A local newspaper described it in 1876 as a "fashionable bathing place ... famous as being eminently restorative to worn-out or wearied constitutions."[47] The Irish Times concluded in 1893 that "the society is select, and living can be had there as cheaply as in any other part of Ireland." But the fact that it was "free from the crush and bustle which in many well established watering-places thoroughly destroy enjoyment" indicates that, even in high season, it was hardly overrun by tourists.[48] Tramore, commented a Waterford newspaper in 1896, "has been on the downline for years past". A character in Edmund Downey's 1903 novel, Clashmore, called it "a nice little town, but no trade in it worth talking of."[49]

Throughout its first hundred years as a seaside resort, Tramore had developed without much direction. People who could afford to visit had come to the town, mainly to enjoy its natural amenities. Occasional energetic individuals – such as Rivers, Delahunty and Budd – had created facilities, but the community itself seems never to have set out to define what sort of holiday trade it sought to promote. Indeed, since Tramore lacked any form of local government, there was no machinery through which such discussion might take place. By the late nineteenth century, a directionless approach no longer made sense. Tourism was becoming big business, rival resorts were taking control of their own destinies, and the social range of potential visitors was widening. In 1857, Waterford City had opened its impressive 16-acre People's Park. Its historian argues that the local elite provided the amenity for the working classes precisely because poor people could not afford to take holidays in still-select Tramore.[50] But that restriction would ease in the following decades, with growing prosperity, increased opportunities for paid holidays, and energetic promotion of excursion fares by railway companies.[51] In England, mass tourism drove the rapid growth of Brighton, Blackpool and Margate during the last two decades of the century.

Tramore was often tagged nicknamed the "Irish Margate", but the nickname probably owed more to alliteration with Martin Murphy's name than to any direct comparison: Margate attracted London trippers by train and steamboat, and its permanent population was ten times that of Tramore.[52] With due respect to an enthusiastic local journalist of 1896, "the Brighton of Ireland" it was not.[53] With over 100,000 people, Brighton, with its twin town of Hove – where Parnell died in 1891 – constituted one of the largest urban centres in Britain. An even more local correspondent seriously suggested in 1903 that the town might rival Blackpool, the raucous and fast-growing Lancashire holiday town: "the possibilities of Tramore are unlimited – if it is only properly advertised".[54]  Happily, these nightmare scenarios could never be realised: by 1900, both Greater London and industrial Lancashire contained around four million people; Waterford City was home to 26,000. Even so, downmarket tourism was making its appearance. In 1893, Tramore in summer was described as "a comparatively lively place ... fairly supplied with German bands, merry-go-rounds, barrel organs, piano organs, and peregrinating vocalists".[55]

Even on a small scale, the advent of popular tourism posed two challenges to Tramore's holiday trade. First, as shopkeepers had already complained of the race meetings, day-trippers from Waterford would head for the strand and the dunes, which were in the opposite direction from the town centre. The new breed of visitors probably had little money to spend anyway, but even those small amounts would not find their way into the pockets of the traders. Second, Tramore would need to boost its attractions to the genteel to ensure that they were not driven away by the unwashed: the late Victorian craze for golf offered one  possibility. Total hotel accommodation was a related issue. The 1881 race meeting was so successful that a Tramore correspondent reported "even stretchers are not to be obtained here." That year, Slater's Directory listed six hotels in the town (up from three in 1846, and five of them run by women), but even the Great Hotel, generally recognised as the town's premier establishment, operated with only fifty bedrooms.[56] Overall bed capacity in Tramore was almost certainly small, although some private homes became boarding houses at busy times. If the town was to flourish, more hotel accommodation would be required, but it made no sense to benchmark capacity against the abnormal demands of one week in August when the races were held.

Martin Murphy: community leader

Martin Murphy became a Tramore resident – and ratepayer – probably around 1892. He soon found himself attempting to give his new home the kind of leadership that it had not experienced since the days of Bartholomew Rivers. But he was also keen to involve the community through a reform of its governance. Local government in Ireland had evolved piecemeal, with most responsibilities split almost at random between two bodies, the Grand Juries and the Poor Law Guardians. In Waterford, the Grand Jury was composed of landowners whose primary role was to deliver verdicts in criminal prosecutions at quarter sessions. But the Grand Jury also had power to raise rates, and was responsible for problems such as coastal erosion. More recent concerns, including public health, had been tacked on to the agendas of the Boards of Guardians, elected by and from the ratepayers to manage workhouses and the welfare of the poor. (The system would be rationalised by the creation of elected county and district councils in 1898.)  For urban areas, there was the additional option of creating local Town Commissioners (forerunners of an urban council), with limited powers of local taxation. Tramore had not chosen to administer its affairs through this machinery, although  it is fair to add that Town Commissioners usually operated in larger communities. In 1896, Martin Murphy proposed a Town Commission for Tramore. Despite a promising start, his initiative would fail.

Tramore came within the ambit of the Waterford City Board of Guardians, which had urged its ratepayers "to make arrangements to place themselves under the Towns' Improvement Act" in the late eighteen-eighties, without success. As a result, opinion in the city became understandably impatient with the prosperous residents of its seaside neighbour, and their objections to paying rates for their own improvement. Patience was further strained when the people of Tramore did manage to subscribe for the erection of "an illuminated clock – to be placed nobody knows where, and to show light to people who never visit Tramore except when light is not required." The Board of Guardians had spent the previous five years trying to deal with Tramore's sewage problem – something that a Town Commission would be better placed to tackle. Not only were the town's residents resolutely refusing to face up to their own responsibilities, their whimsical preference for a public clock indicated that their "interests in the welfare of Tramore are all but nil."[57]

The extent of the town's sanitary problem was revealed in 1892, when the Guardians received a letter from Miss McCarthy of Main Street complaining that "some bedrooms in her house were rendered uninhabitable by sewage coming from adjoining premises." This was probably Catherine McCarthy, who kept a boarding house with her mother. In fact, sewerage had been installed in 1888, in a primitive form which discharged effluent out to sea – a device employed in Irish coastal towns until recent times, although hardly one that sat happily with the holiday trade. The problem was that Tramore lacked an adequate water supply to operate even this basic system. One member argued that "unless a proper supply of water was introduced into Tramore it would be impossible for anybody to stay there. It was a disgusting thing that closets could not be flushed owing to the dearth of water." Indeed, the contractor who provided such supply as was available actually insisted that the scarce resource should not be used for that purpose. Another member "mentioned the case of a gentleman who had to leave Tramore on account of the want of water for flushing purposes." This provoked a retort from a third speaker: "If the people of Tramore choose to kill the goose which lays the golden eggs they can do so. If they wish to improve the town they know that it is in their power." The chorus of "hear, hear!" confirmed the general feeling. But, beyond sympathy, there was little they could offer poor Miss McCarthy.[58]

Through the first four years of his association with the town, Martin Murphy's activities were confined to the development of the racecourse. In 1893, he crossed the line into involvement with wider local government. The key to this first move is to be found in the topography of the low-lying ground facing the town towards the Burrow. This area could be divided into two sections. About eighty acres on the east side, the site of the racecourse, lay below sea level, but were protected by the Malcomson embankment. High tides did indeed flow into the Back Strand beyond, but the protection provided by the dunes and the overall relative shallowness of the 2,000 acres of slob land meant that they were rarely whipped up by oceanic storms.[59] Thus the eastern section of the low-lying land was assumed to be secure, at least from the Back Strand, which explains why the unheralded collapse of the Malcomson embankment in 1911 constituted such a crisis for the town. The western section of the low-lying land, sometimes called Riverstown, seemed a more urgent problem. Although it rose a few feet above sea level, its soft ground was exposed on the south side to the full force of the Atlantic gales. Murphy's interest in this area was twofold. In the longer term, if the ocean pushed back the shoreline, it would eventually flood the low-lying racecourse. But there was a more immediate problem. The Strand Road led from the town to the sea, but then turned along the shoreline (hence its name), providing access to the racecourse. Between 1867 and 1879, the Grand Jury had attempted to protect the Strand Road by driving in rows of timber piles, wired together and placed parallel to the beach. This line of defence had not been totally abandoned after 1879, but the cost of its maintenance meant that expenditure had been limited to basic repairs, each year setting to rights the damage inflicted by winter storms.[60] But even that modest target was not always achieved. "The Strand Road is in a disgraceful state, and is likely to remain so unless the ratepayers assert their rights by insisting on something being done," complained an angry commentator in March 1892, who warned that "visitors to Tramore will be much disappointed if they are deprived of the promenade along the beach." To some, the shambles was just a joke. "Oh ! the season's all but ended, and the Strand Road all but mended," sang a versifier in September 1894.[61]

It was Martin Murphy who proposed a long-term solution. In January 1893, he persuaded the local sessions of the barony of Middlethird (which included Tramore) to endorse a scheme for a sea wall, at a maximum cost of £5,000. He was given respectable cover by the backing of F.W. Budd, representative of a prominent Tramore family, who in 1912 came to his rescue by providing a site for a new racecourse. He received effective support from Waterford's county surveyor, William L'Estrange Duffin, an Ulster Protestant, regarded locally as "an efficient gentleman and popular with all."[62] Duffin argued that "as a matter of justice to Tramore there should be some expenditure in works calculated to make the place as attractive as its importance demanded, and in order to make Tramore hold its own, not only as regards the comfort and accommodation for its inhabitants, but also to make it as a watering place a source of attraction for visitors." The town's wealthy ratepayers subsidised the county: he estimated that over the previous thirteen years, Tramore had contributed £9,584 in local taxation, but had received only £4,500 in return. As an example, adroitly chosen to exploit the paranoia of localism, Duffin cited the recent construction of a bridge at remote Ballyduff: "very few people in Tramore ever crossed it, and many more never heard tell of Ballyduff,  in the west of the county, and yet they have contributed £75 towards that work." However, appeals to abstract justice were probably less effective than Duffin's argument for long-term economy. Middlethird spent £200 a year clearing up the Strand Road. As he pointed out, "they would get rid of the annual expenditure ... by the building of a permanent sea wall." When asked if he could guarantee that the proposed expenditure would be "absolutely final", Duffin jokingly replied that he would supply the required assurance if somebody could promise that "there will not in future be any exceptionally high tides or exceptionally heavy storms". But he agreed with a ratepayer who suggested that if the wall were "damaged in a bad night ... the work will be of a nature so permanent that a few pounds will make it all right".  Middlethird duly forwarded the scheme to the county and, in July 1893, the Grand Jury voted the required budget.[63]  A local newspaper welcomed the development as a success for Martin Murphy, calling him "the guiding spirit that has led to the carrying out of an improvement that must greatly benefit Tramore."[64]

Tramore's sea wall proved to be a major construction project. Hopes that it would be completed by the summer of 1894 were soon dashed.[65] Building work was delayed by bad weather, but by July 1894, it was "in course of construction", with around one hundred men employed. There were even hopes that it might be completed that year.  It was close to completion by the end of the 1896 tourist season, when it was severely damaged by a storm, which required additional expenditure. In August 1897, it was "slowly drawing to completion".[66] The Grand Jury Wall did its job, but its efficiency would be reduced by foreshore erosion. Even in 1897 some ratepayers voiced fears that this would undermine the structure,[67] but the problem which emerged in the following years was that the disappearance of the beach gave the stonework no protection from bad weather. The wall itself was able to resist the onslaught, but the receding shoreline made it easier for storms to throw seaweed and shingle over on to the Strand Road, while tides began to creep around the wall's eastern extremity. The Grand Jury Wall was simply not long enough to protect the low isthmus to the east that linked the town to the Burrow – and provided the only barrier between the ocean and the racecourse. This is further discussed in relation to the erosion crisis of 1910-11. In 1915, the Grand Jury Wall would be incorporated into the stronger and wider Promenade. The immediate significance of the prolonged construction period was that it made some Tramore residents wary about establishing their own Town Commission in 1896, in case the ratepayers of County Waterford at large abandoned the new sea defences to their tender pockets.

However, when Martin Murphy took up the question of appointing a Town Commission in January 1896, the prospects seemed promising. "That such action should have been taken years ago is now almost universally admitted," said one local newspaper. Previous attempts to raise the issue had been produced "some little parrot cry by some apprehensive inhabitant or two" raising "the bogus fear of an unbearable taxation on the place." Tramore had suffered as a result. The public meeting to consider the matter was evidently carefully stage-managed. For a winter evening, it was an impressive turn-out of local worthies. It was surely an encouraging sign that both Canon Toppin, the Protestant rector, and his opposite number the parish priest were in attendance. For Father Patrick McCarthy, it would be a farewell contribution to the community he had served for many years: he died suddenly two weeks later.[68] William Gallwey, a Waterford City wine merchant, took the chair, and flatteringly told the meeting that "he was greatly pleased" to see such a large and influential gathering of his neighbours. Perhaps the town's most prominent resident, Gallwey's role was to secure the election of Martin Murphy as secretary to the meeting, the key position as the proceedings had to terminate in a requisition to the Local Government Board. This was carried unanimously. A local journalist thought Tramore owed him its confidence: "but for the enthusiastic and spirited action of Mr Martin J Murphy, J P, it would be in a ten-times worse position than it is to-day."

Murphy explained that Township status would place Tramore on the same footing as Lismore and Fermoy, "places of about the same population". On the crucial issue of cost, he contended that local rates would be "trifling in comparison with the enormous amount of good that would be done Tramore by having the Town Act in force in it." He stressed the need for street lighting: "the state of the place after dark, especially in the winter months ... did not give encouragement to people to go to Tramore to reside." The town also needed to upgrade its sanitation: "people residing at a distance had no heart to send their families to Tramore during the summer months, with the result that the town was gradually drifting downwards in public estimation." He was applauded when he declared that he aimed to make the town "one of the most attractive and most prosperous watering places in Ireland", although subsequently some of those present seem to have asked themselves whether they really wished to dip into their pockets to attract an influx of holiday-makers. Several of those who signed the requisition to establish a Town Commission subsequently led the opposition to its imposition.

"The agitation in favour of trying to make Tramore a township has apparently entirely died out," reported the Munster Express two months later.[69] The report may have been an inspired piece of spin by Murphy's opponents, but it was apparent that he now had a fight on his hands. It was bad luck that the Township issue became entangled with another local dispute. Edward Jacob, a prominent Waterford City hardware merchant and member of the Society of Friends, was honorary secretary of the lifeboat committee. Early in 1896, he carried through the controversial appointment of a new coxswain, an outsider who – it was alleged – did not know the coastal waters. More to the point, the crew had favoured the appointment of one of their own, and Martin Murphy was among residents who expressed concern at the likely absence of mutual trust and confidence needed to enable lifeboatmen to operate in dangerous conditions. Uncharacteristically combative for a Quaker, Jacob coldly told the critics to mind their own business. The upshot was an investigation from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution headquarters, and Jacob's departure from office.[70] It may simply be a coincidence that he repudiated his earlier support for the establishment of a Township Commission – he had signed the January requisition but now claimed he had acted "under a misapprehension" – and campaigned to block the innovation. He was able to force a further public meeting in April. Since William Gallwey had also switched sides, the mayor of Waterford, Alderman William Smith, was imported to act as a neutral chairman. He handled an occasionally fractious gathering with firmness, particularly in dealing with the objectors.[71]

Martin Murphy's position had certainly weakened since January. There had been confusion over the powers of a Town Commission, especially their right to raise rates: Murphy appealed to information supplied by the Local Government Commission to assure doubters that local charges could not rise above one shilling in the pound of rateable value – a mere five percent. Critics argued that, once Tramore acquired its own local institutions, the County Waterford authorities would wash their hands of its problems, perhaps forcing Tramore to shoulder the entire cost of maintaining its new sea wall. If the Grand Jury cut off its financial support, the Town Commission's limited powers to raise money would render it useless for any of its planned purposes.[72] It is also noteworthy that the sanitation argument had virtually dropped out of the debate. A new waterworks had been constructed the previous year, and it seems there was no longer a problem flushing toilets.[73] Indeed, in the winter of 1896-7, Murphy would install bathrooms and lavatories as part of his renovation of the Grand Hotel.

In later years, Martin Murphy would protest that he was no speechmaker. But on that April evening, he made a cogent and courteous appeal to his critics. It was clear that the fate of the Township proposal had come to hinge on the comparatively minor question of street lighting. He offered an outline costing, based on the installation of 25 gas lamps and ten lit by oil in streets where gas mains had not yet penetrated – hardly a scheme for floodlighting the town. However, the basis of the estimate of numbers and costs was not a guaranteed tender, but a stroll around Tramore with the manager of the gas works. Doubters naturally wondered whether this would represent the final scheme – or the cost in future years. In general terms, Murphy appealed to the spirit of progress: "something should be done by the people of the town to keep Tramore up to the march of time." But the weakness in his rhetoric was that it assumed that every resident had an interest in, and a duty to contribute to, the promotion of Tramore as a tourist destination: "they could not expect Tramore to hold its own as a seaside resort unless the inhabitants bestirred themselves and submitted to a trifling additional taxation". Rival holiday towns such as Killarney and Bray were energetically promoting themselves. "We are a long way behind the age down here in trying to encourage tourist traffic to our town." It is likely that Tramore's wealthy residents were unmoved by such appeals. Most of them lived around the Bay to the south-west of the town centre, and were probably indifferent to the sanitary and street-lighting needs of the urban core. Nor would they particularly welcome greater numbers of trippers infesting their cliff tops and coves. By contrast, Edward Jacob lived in a fine Victorian house on Lower Branch Road, just yards from the railway station, and facing across to the beach and the dunes. Murphy's vision of the bandstands and promenades that would flow from a Town Commission can hardly have appealed to him. "Nearly all the large holders of property in the town were active canvassers against the proposed alteration." Whatever the outcome, Martin Murphy had put at risk much of the goodwill he had earned as organiser of the race meetings.

The public meeting, held on a Friday, was followed by a poll of all ratepayers the following Monday, with the mayor of Waterford again taking charge. Relations between the factions were tense, with "a very heated argument" breaking out between Murphy and Jacob. This seems to be the only occasion upon which Murphy's habitually genial personality gave way to anger, and there is little doubt that Jacob – who was ordered out of the polling place by the presiding official – was the aggressor.[74] The result hardly set the matter to rest: the Township proposal was endorsed by 44 votes to 43. To add to the complications, Murphy had successfully objected to one would-be No voter, arguing that he had only recently inherited property from his dead father, and so was not yet technically an accredited ratepayer. It was customary at such events for the combatants to unite in a vote of thanks to the returning officer, but Jacob contemptuously refused to accord Mayor Smith this token courtesy.[75]

Murphy announced that he "had received many congratulatory letters on his endeavour to make Tramore a township", and expressed his confidence that "when a little bitterness of feeling on both sides" had faded away, the proposal would be generally accepted. His sentiments were not reciprocated: "the minority are endeavouring to upset the vote of the majority, and that on a technical point".[76] It could be said that his attempt to endow Tramore with an elected local council came either too late or too early. It was too late in the sense that the most compelling argument for local powers, the sanitary question, was more or less resolved. It was too early because Murphy, although well-known in Tramore, had only relatively recently taken up residence as a householder, and risked provoking resentment in seeming to wish to take command. It seems that he grasped the point himself. In the last resort, he was a businessman, and – as events would soon demonstrate – he planned to enter the high-end hotel trade. No purpose was served by alienating the wealthy inhabitants of the town where he planned to operate. In late July 1896, the Waterford News reported that "it is not probable that the agitation to make Tramore a Township will be further proceeded with." The face-saving explanation was that parliament was considering adding yet again to the powers of boards of guardians, enabling them to install street lighting where required. Two years later, another public meeting was still debating how best to introduce a glimmer into the dark streets, with a cautious minority now arguing that it would be best to await the proposed creation of county councils and see what the new local government regime might do for them.[77] In the event, Tramore had to wait for its own Town Commission until 1948.

It says something for Martin Murphy's resilience that he was ready with a Plan B within a few weeks of abandoning the Township strategy. In mid-August 1896, a fanfare of press announcements heralded the advent of a company which would ensure that "in future seasons Waterford's pet watering place will hold its own for attractiveness against any rival in or out of Ireland."[78] "The new company proposes to take over the famous racecourse, will build a fine hotel, lighted throughout by electricity, and standing in its own grounds, lay out extensive pleasure grounds, construct fishing ponds and stock them with trout." In fact, Murphy was already excavating what would eventually become Lakelands, an open space adjoining the Strand. The project was conceived on an ambitious scale. "The entire frontage of the bay will become the property of the shareholders, as will also the extensive golf links and the shooting rights of the rabbit burrow, which is over twenty acres."  The racecourse was already equipped with "a capital cycling track" which "can ... afford recreation to the visitors staying in the company's hotel." It was a characteristic Martin Murphy project, with even the smallest detail thought out, such as the need to agree "fixed charges for drives in the neighbourhood" with local carmen.[79]

A hint of the ambitious nature of the scheme was provided by the naming of the proposed architect of the hotel, "J.J. Farrell" of Westmoreland Street, Dublin. This was J.J. Farrall, who had practised around Waterford and Clonmel before moving to the capital in 1883. Farrall was in the process of building the magnificent Slieve Donard Hotel at Newcastle in County Down, which was completed in 1898 and also featured electricity among its many modern features. A Slieve Donard in Tramore, even on a reduced scale, would have been an impressive amenity. The linking feature of the various attractions would be the extensive pleasure gardens, which "will afford the passing tourist or the weary townsmen an agreeable evening lounge to the strains of the company's band, and during the season a constant variety of entertainments will be provided." The model for the scheme was neither Margate nor Blackpool, but the genteel North Devon resort of Ilfracombe, which had a similar history and also offered a combination of beaches and cliff walks. It is pleasant to imagine Murphy taking the Waterford steamboat for a tour of inspection – Tenby, Weston-super-Mare, Torquay, Sidmouth before determining that genteel Ilfracombe offered the template that he sought.[80]

Although Martin Murphy thanked the Freeman's Journal for commenting favourably upon "my humble efforts to enhance the attractiveness of Tramore",[81] fundamental to the development company project was his proposed partnership with another dynamic figure, the 41 year-old John Allingham, who was secretary to the Waterford Harbour Board. (He is credited with having coined the nickname, "Old Timbertoes", for the city's eighteenth-century bridge.[82]) Allingham was a Protestant, and their collaboration was an example of the civilized tradition of transcending denominational barriers that marked Waterford City's local elite.[83] There was to be a division of labour between the two managing directors: Murphy "will continue to manage the racecourse for the company" while Allingham "will look after the public grounds". In late August, the two company promoters were planning to issue a prospectus. The scheme then vanished from sight.

John Allingham would never become Martin Murphy's partner. It seems unlikely that the two men had fallen out: they certainly worked together again in 1904 in the campaign to rebuild Tramore's shattered pier.[84] It is possible that the promoters made a tactical mistake in boasting that the entire seafront and dunes would "become the property of the shareholders": nothing was more calculated to spur landlords into raising their prices – or refusing outright their co-operation. Locating a site for the planned luxury hotel "standing in its own grounds" may have been another hurdle. Up-market low-density housing had expanded the urban area of Tramore, and a suitable location, close to the station and the strand, may simply not have  existed. Perhaps the most likely explanation for Allingham's sudden disappearance from the project was opposition to his involvement from his employers in Waterford City. At its regular meeting on 15 August, the Harbour Board acceded to its secretary's request for a fortnight's leave of absence (he explained that he would remain nearby if needed), time that he presumably wished to allocate to the Tramore project. But it may well be that, as members of the Board  became aware of what was planned, their sympathies waned, and they insisted that Allingham should demonstrate the priority of his commitment to the port authority. If he was also by that time an official of the chamber of commerce (as he was by 1901), city traders might well have queried his allocation of time to the promotion of a rival community – all the more so because Edward Jacob, no friend of Murphy, was an active member of the body.[85]

Martin Murphy: hotelier

For Martin Murphy, the evaporation of the development company project was the second setback in a matter of weeks to his attempts to kick-start the seaside town.[86] But for another member of Tramore's business community, his plans prompted a lifestyle review. Julia Kavanagh's Great Hotel was "the recognised headquarters of the racing folk". Murphy's plans for an ultra-modern, architect-designed rival establishment could only threaten its status. On purchasing the Great Hotel in 1875, Mrs Kavanagh had "refitted that Establishment in a manner suitable to the requirements of visitors to this famed Watering Place".[87] Two decades later, it no doubt needed a makeover to meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated holiday trade. At the age of seventy, she probably decided that the effort was not worth her while. Her forty year-old unmarried daughter, who shared the hotel management, presumably agreed. It probably helped that Julia Kavanagh was a Kilkenny woman, and may have had some connection to Martin Murphy.  Sometime during the winter of 1896-7, she sold the business to Murphy, who renamed it the Grand Hotel. Julia and Margaret did not do particularly well out of the deal. The 1902 census shows them living in a small house in unfashionable Priests Road, on the fringe of the town, with not even a live-in housemaid. Margaret had presumably become what we now call a "carer", but at least the two women had been able to retire, a rare enough culmination of any career in that era.

The Irish Times reported early in 1897 that Martin J. Murphy "has purchased the Grand Hotel." Thus almost by accident did he acquire the enterprise with which he would be primarily associated for the rest of his life. "It is being fitted up in the most modernised fashion, and will be out of the contractor's hands before the 1st of May."[88] The efficient and energetic proprietor was as good as his word. On the evening of Tuesday 20 April 1897, hundreds of local residents "assembled from all parts of the town to witness the novel spectacle" of the first building in the town to be lit by electricity. Murphy's eight horse-power generator "discharged its functions most successfully". Electric lighting "gave the large building a splendid appearance, the brilliancy of the light spreading for a long distance down the town." There was a general feeling "that the lighting of Tramore by the electric light would prove of immense advantage to the town. Mr Murphy has pluckily shown the way, and it is to be hoped that something practical in that direction will be done."[89] In mid-May 1897, the local community rallied to support a testimonial dinner in Murphy's honour at his refurbished hotel – a chance to show that the divisions of the previous year had healed, and to enable the proprietor to showcase his new facilities. Murphy was reported to have spent nearly £10,000 on improvements – around £1.2 million in modern values. The Grand Hotel now featured a billiard room, plus indoor plumbing – bathrooms and flush toilets. (This required an internal reconfiguration, which apparently reduced the hotel's bedroom capacity.)[90] Another successful summer race meeting confirmed that Murphy's balance sheet was still well in credit among his neighbours: "the Tramore people can congratulate themselves on having a Martin Murphy in their midst, who has done so much to raise the town from a slough of poverty and decline".[91]

Martin Murphy had given his establishment new investment, a new image and a new name. A Dublin journalist was impressed: "it is now both in name and actuality a really grand hotel."[92] However, it may be that its first holiday season produced a disappointing response, triggering a winter advertising campaign that hints at perceived shortcomings of Julia Kavanagh's era. "Grand Hotel, Tramore Waterford. Opened last May (Under entirely New Management). Refurnished and Decorated. Electric Light. Drainage perfect."[93] By 1901, the Grand felt able to advertise itself as "one of the best seaside hotels in Ireland .... under intelligent management. For cleanliness home comforts, cuisine, and wines it is unrivalled."[94] Key to a successful hotel was the selection of good staff, and Murphy made an imaginative and effective choice to ensure "intelligent management". When fifty hungry members of the Waterford Young Men's Catholic Society arrived at the Grand Hotel one day in 1904 after a walking race from the city, a local newspaper gave "great credit" to Murphy "and his capable manageress, Miss A. Flannery" for handling the catering.[95] There was a local tradition that Agnes Maud Flannery had originally come to Tramore to work as a governess for the Murphy children (plausible enough, since she had been educated at the Ursuline Convent in Thurles), but that he recognised "her eminent business capabilities" and asked her to run the hotel. Agnes Maud Flannery was 36 at the time of the 1911 census, information we can trust since she compiled and signed the return. This means she was still in her late twenties when Murphy appointed her to run his hotel, a responsibility that involved dealing with much older members of staff. She gave her county of birth as Sligo, although an obituary notice in 1928 described her as a native of Churchtown in County Cork. In 1914, several years after the death of his first wife, she would marry her employer.[96]

Neutral observers agreed that the Grand Hotel came to be regarded as "one of the best situated, best managed and best staffed seaside hotels in Ireland or anywhere else". Much of this was directly due to Murphy himself: "his rich, genial Irish humour was as tonic as the ozone-laden breezes of his beloved Tramore." Tourists flocked to his establishment: "it would be difficult to say how many of them came to enjoy the sea bathing and the sea breezes and how many to enjoy Martin Murphy." It seemed that he was never too busy to talk to visitors, and welcome them as individuals. "The most important[,] most trifling matters were referred to him by visitors to the town for decision and arranging." With "a kind word for everybody and anybody", he was a walking train timetable, weather forecaster, adviser on when to bathe and how much to pay the jarveys – this last concern an echo of the failed company project of 1896, which had included controlling fares charged by local carmen.[97]

 Martin Murphy's election to the newly created Waterford County Council in 1899 was further testimony to his local standing: "there are few public men better known or more highly respected than Mr Murphy."[98] But for Murphy himself, the key to the development of Tramore remained the control of the racecourse. In 1900, he became "the owner of the Tramore racecourse". The local community demonstrated their support by subscribing for a "Presentation Meeting", funding prizes that would attract entries and draw spectators – much the same principle as the 1897 testimonial dinner.[99] If, as will be discussed, outright ownership created opportunities, it did not reduce problems. On 10 September 1903, Munster was swept by a violent storm.[100] At Tramore, it "laid waste the race course". The grandstand was a "huge mess of debris ... as flat as a flounder". Murphy's corrugated-iron fencing was "scattered all over the course." There was general sympathy for the indomitable spirit of the owner, who quickly set to work to set matters to rights.[101] Fortunately, the 1903 storm was a north-westerly gale which evidently did not coincide with a high tide. As a result, the racecourse suffered mainly wind damage, with no incursion by the sea.

In 1905, a different form of natural disaster posed an even greater threat to racing at Tramore. The Second Anglo-Boer War, which ranged across South Africa between 1899 and 1902, was one of the last large-scale mobile conflicts fought before the era of mechanised warfare. The British Army "expended" over 400,000 horses, mules and donkeys during the fighting, a slaughter that has been dubbed "equicide".[102] To maintain their military transport, the British imported horses in massive numbers from as far away as New South Wales and New Orleans. With so many animals thrown together in primitive conditions, diseases such as epizootic lymphangitis flourished. Endemic in parts of Africa, it appeared in Britain in 1902, and broke out at the Curragh three years later. Similar to the equine sickness glanders, it could only be controlled by culling and quarantine. There were those who argued that the bureaucrats in the Irish Department of Agriculture over-reacted in banning Tramore races, but Sir Horace Plunkett, one of Ireland's most creative civil servants, could only express "genuine regret" but insist that horses could not be allowed to gather.  The decision was a severe blow to the town's traders, for it was said that they relied upon the August race meeting to pay their rents for the year. There was general sympathy for Martin Murphy, "a whole-hearted sportsman from the top of his genial head to sole of his feet", the more so as the blow came so soon after the 1903 storm. It was estimated that the cancellation would cost him nearly £1,500. "'Martin, be of good cheer'" was the message from one journalist, who promptly added "as if it were possible for him to be anything else". But, once again, Murphy ensured that Tramore races bounced back the following year.[103]

Ownership of the racecourse enabled Martin Murphy to attempt the development of another tourist amenity. The late nineteenth century saw the Scottish game of golf explode massively across England and Ireland.  In 1891, there were 28 Irish clubs, mainly in the North, but a further 97 were formed before 1900. Since the classic Scots golf courses were "links", located on coastal sand dunes (remembered in the bunkers of modern venues), Tramore should have led the way in exploiting the new passion for whacking the little white ball. In fact, as in other areas, the town got off to a sputtering start. A course was laid out near the sea in 1892 by "Herd", probably Alexander (Sandy) Herd, a member of a prominent family of Scots professionals. Unfortunately, this was badly damaged by gales in 1895. The projected Murphy-Allingham company of 1896 aimed to include the golf course in its portfolio. The modern-day Tramore golf club traces its origin to 1894, but its growth was spasmodic. Once he became the owner of the land in 1900, Murphy re-formed the club and, with his "usual generosity" (and business sense), waived any claim to rent. The club, however, had only fifty members, who puzzled over how best to set subscriptions in order to encourage support from golfers who lived further afield. It was not until 1905 that the club held an inaugural dinner, naturally at the Grand Hotel. There were sixty members by December 1906, when it was reported that "neither money nor energy has been spared in making the Golf Links one of the best in Ireland."[104] None the less, despite golf's slow start at Tramore, by 1906 it formed a centrepiece to Murphy's plans for further expansion.

"Material and external alterations are being made in the Grand Hotel," the Irish Times reported in December 1906. The programme of refurbishment and extension was connected with the promotion of the golf course, but it was triggered by the opening of a new cross-Channel route between Wales and the south-east of Ireland. In 1841, Mr and Mrs S.C. Hall had proclaimed that steamboat services between Britain and Ireland had "facilitated intercourse almost as much as a bridge across St George's Channel would have done."[105] Sixty years later, this must have seemed an exaggeration. In 1906, Bradshaw, the famous railway guidebook, warned that the 188-mile crossing from Bristol to Waterford could involve fourteen or fifteen hours at sea. There was a shorter route from Milford Haven, but even this was 96 miles, probably around seven hours' sailing. The ferries had to take a southerly route to keep clear of the Wexford coast and the Saltee Islands, and to secure a clear run into Waterford Harbour (the Suir estuary) at Hook Head. This exposed them to the full Atlantic swell. "What sort of a crossing is it?" enquired a character in Edmund Downey's novel, Clashmore. "Generally pretty rough," was the reply.[106] There was thus little incentive for the English (or Welsh) tourist who might consider popping across to Tramore for a spot of golf. But in 1906, a shorter cross-Channel route opened, from Fishguard to a new harbour at Rosslare: 55 miles in slightly more sheltered waters. Fishguard was no further from Paddington than the existing Milford Haven terminal, while the final gap in the Irish rail network was filled by a 35-mile railway line from Rosslare to Waterford's main line station.[107]

The opening of the Rosslare route had been in prospect since 1903,[108] and Murphy had evidently laid his expansion plans carefully. The extension was not the first improvement he had undertaken. A concert hall – one of the agenda items of the 1896 company scheme – was "being pushed forward to completion" in 1903 and would create "a very pretty place of public resort". By 1905, and probably earlier, the Grand Hotel had a "motor garage", to cater for wealthy patrons using the new form of transport to emancipate themselves from the limitations of the railway network.[109] It is possible that Murphy had planned to extend the hotel anyway: the internal rearrangements of 1897 required to install bathrooms had reduced the bedroom capacity. Although it was claimed in 1911 that visitors from England were "increasing in numbers year after year",[110] no advertising campaign to raise the profile of Tramore has been traced in English or Welsh newspapers.

As in 1897, the construction work was completed in remarkably quick time: in April, a visiting journalist from Clonmel was surprised to find that "the Grand Hotel had practically doubled in size". Murphy had "added a whole new wing of some four storeys on the northern side."[111] The hotel had apparently continued to function during the refurbishment, even though the whole roof was re-leaded, presumably to create an integrated appearance.[112] Unlike Murphy's plans a decade earlier for a mega-hotel on a greenfield site, the 1907 extension involved acquiring and demolishing existing premises on Hotel Square and Little Market Street. The ease with which the project was carried through is all the more remarkable.

The last years of the Edwardian era were something of a golden age for "the premier seaside resort of the south".[113] Early in 1907, the golf club appointed its first professional, the Englishman A.H. Toogood, whose prowess at tournaments soon put Tramore on the map. In 1910, the course hosted the South of Ireland Ladies' Championship, with Agnes Flannery, manageress of the Grand Hotel, reaching the semi-finals.[114]

Environmental Crisis and Community Action

There were still those who felt that the town did not do enough to advance its own interests. "The great want at Tramore is something in the way of attractions and recreations and recreations that will help to make the time pass pleasantly, and not to have dull monotony reign supremely there," commented a visitor, possibly a priest, in 1900. He argued for a "Progressive Committee" (its motto should be "Advance Tramore") which would set out to supply "the few requirements of the place". In fact, he proposed a lengthy list: better street lighting, a cricket ground and tennis courts, "tea gardens, well sheltered, well seated, and where fruit and light refreshments may be had at reasonable cost, and where band music may be heard occasionally", pleasure boat excursions to Dunmore and regulation of fares charged by jarveys for sight-seeing trips.[115]  A visiting journalist in 1910 thought there was still "a greater amount of co-ordination in effort wanted amongst the townspeople", specifying that there was still a need for public lavatories – a complaint that would echo across most of Ireland a century later.[116]  "How is it that the Tramore natives never contribute a penny towards the provisions of attractions for the seaside, but leave it to the Waterford people to do so while the former reap the spoils?" asked a disgruntled visitor in 1912.[117]   Yet other indications suggested that Martin J. Murphy was no longer alone in working for the town. It was the Nationalist MP, P.J. Power, who achieved the reconstruction of the pier in 1907. The following year, Lady Castletown, heiress to the Doneraile estates, organised an extensive sale of Tramore ground rents to finance her own project. "Lord and Lady Castletown have in view an extensive scheme for the development of the place, and as part of the future arrangements they intend building a villa residence on the high ground overlooking the sea. Improved public baths are to be provided, and many other improvements are to be effected which will make it even more attractive to visitors."[118] Advances in legislation gave Tramore a substitute form of local government, a Public Health Committee, which tackled what we would now call infrastructure – pavements in the town, public seating along the strand.[119]

Best of all, it seemed that Tramore had finally broken out of the comparisons from across the water, and acquired an identity of its own. "Tramore scarcely needs the accessories we associate with the Isle of Man or Blackpool, nor do the vast bulk of the visitors seem to care much, their chief object being to get as much bathing as possible. ... May Tramore be long spared from the feverish activity of the resorts of the cheap tripper and preserve its mellow Irish character." The celebratory scribe of 1910 sketched a day in the resort, with cheerful folk adventurously bathing at dawn, devoutly attending pre-breakfast Mass – these were the days when it was necessary to fast before taking communion – boldly exploring, coyly courting and even, an unexpected feature of Waterford's very own Riviera, taking a modest gamble at the roulette table as night descended. "The town, twinkling with numerous lights, stretches terrace on terrace, in the moonlight, and looks almost fairy-like."[120] The language was embarrassing, but it might none the less be taken as evidence of the success of Murphy's vision and hard work. Unfortunately, he was about to face the biggest crisis of his career.

It was also a time of personal tragedy.   In April 1908, his wife Katie died.[121] Seven children had been born to the couple, but two had died young. The family lived in Church Road, Tramore, close to the Grand Hotel. Katie was listed as "Housekeeper" in the 1901 census, which suggests that she helped to run both establishments. In 1911, their two sons, 21 year-old Michael and 20 year-old Thomas, were both still in full-time education, possibly attending one of the colleges of the new National University of Ireland – definitely a sign of an upper middle-class family, since third-level education was confined to a very small segment of society. This privilege was not accorded to their eldest daughter, Annie, who may have been Michael's twin sister, but the reported earlier appointment of Agnes Flannery as a governess suggests that her education was not totally neglected. However, in 1911, there was no resident governess for 16 year-old May or 11 year-old Kitty, probably because it would have seemed inappropriate for a young lady to live under the same roof as a widower.[122]

Martin Murphy's bereavement was followed by an environmental crisis that destroyed much of his investment, forcing him, at the age of fifty, to shoulder vast expense and undertake considerable effort in starting afresh a major part of his business activities. Tramore fought a constant battle with the sea, not always with enthusiasm and certainly not with consistent success. It was indeed the counterpart of the town's advantages of bracing salty air: as the enthusiastic visitor of 1910 noted, even on a summer day, "great waves ... dash over the storm wall and drench some unwary onlooker."[123] Since his appointment in 1877, the fight against coastal erosion had been led by Waterford's county surveyor, William L'Estrange Duffin. In April 1910, he travelled to London to give extensive evidence to a British royal commission on coastal erosion.[124] He outlined the campaign to stop the sea, the attempts between 1867 and 1879 to protect the Strand Road with timber piling, wired together and placed parallel to the beach, followed by the construction of Grand Jury Wall in the mid-1890s. The new district council, which had taken over after 1898, had refused to spend more than small amounts for routine maintenance. Landowners with property adjoining the shore had sometimes failed to co-operate, and means of compulsion were lacking, although the situation had improved since Martin Murphy had taken control of most of the land towards the dunes.

The major threat to Tramore was the continuing retreat of the foreshore. Prevailing winds and currents carried sand and shingle from west to east, exposing the area closest to the town. Despite official prohibition, local people took beach materials for their own use, some of them on a large scale, thus further weakening the defences. One man was fined a token five shillings for the offence, and raised the money from sympathetic subscribers. The local landowner, Lord Doneraile, backed a campaign to impose heavy penalties, but the Board of Trade insisted in pocketing the fines, leaving his lordship considerably out of pocket for his public spirited action. Duffin himself had organised the planting of sea buckthorn, a shrub capable of binding sand dunes together, but they had been uprooted by vandals. Overall, the situation was dire. In places, the sea was advancing at a rate of four feet a year.[125] A storm had ripped off a long section of the outfall sewer which had carried the town's effluent out to sea: sewage was now discharged on to the beach. Murphy had spent £350 on an embankment after one flood, but – perhaps the most alarming development of all – the sea had recently "advanced beyond the end of the wall, and is getting round behind it." "Should the encroachment not be checked at Tramore the results will be very serious," Duffin concluded, "as much valuable property will be lost." That valuable property almost entirely belonged to Martin J. Murphy.[126]

Duffin's evidence was apparently sympathetically received. A few weeks later, Tramore had its chance to make a direct impression on the commissioners, as a sub-committee touring the British and Irish coastline was due to make an inspection visit. Its unlikely chairman would be one of the town's most exotic visitors. H. Rider Haggard was a sensationally popular novelist. He was also an authority on agricultural problems, who was enthusiastic about an experiment in East Anglia in which sand dunes had been stabilised by tree planting.[127] Early in May, the six-strong party arrived by motor car from Wexford, to stay – naturally – at the Grand Hotel. The following morning they were escorted to view the racecourse and the golf links by the local member of parliament, P.J. Power – himself a resident of Tramore – the county surveyor, William L'Estrange Duffin, and the ubiquitous Martin Murphy. The visitors were "much struck" by "the great encroachment of the sea", with Rider Haggard encouragingly commenting that "it was one of the worst cases they had seen." P.J. Power and Martin Murphy were "pleased with the impression made on the Sub-Committee", and there was a general feeling of optimism in the town that the royal commission would somehow lead to action to stem the advance of the sea. As a local correspondent of the Irish Times put it: "The loss of the racecourse and golf links would be a serious matter for this popular seaside resort."[128]

Whether the result of the Royal Commission, which reported in 1911, or thanks to the lobbying of Nationalist MP P.J. Power, government funding did become available for the upgrading of the Grand Jury Wall, which, in 1915, was incorporated into another amenity that Tramore had needed for years, a promenade. This would resolve the hazard of the Strand Road , which in 1910 was said to be "impassable" when spring tides were driven by south or south-easterly winds. It did not help that local people used the Strand Road as a rubbish dump, although it was pointed out that at Clontarf in Dublin, landfill had been used to make a promenade on slob land.[129] It was a sign of an increasingly mature community that Martin J. Murphy was no longer the sole moving force driving the town's advancement.

By curious coincidence, Tramore had recently acquired a near-namesake, Martin P. Murphy, as another hotel keeper.[130] In 1910, he successfully raised subscriptions to pay for public benches at the Strand. He used a public letter of thanks to warn that "a very great deal remains to be done. Nature has been bountiful in her exquisite attractions, and it remains for us to help in providing material comforts in order to make our famed seaside resort unrivalled. ... The ordinary requirements of the seaside resort nowadays include a properly paved or concreted promenade, with shelters thereon at intervals; one or two public lavatories at least; decently kept pathways and streets, a band and bandstand, etc."[131] In 1911, the district council received cogent reports from Captain R.C. Carew, a retired naval officer who lived at Ballindud, a few miles inland. He insisted that the Grand Jury Wall was "seriously undermined", a problem that was all the greater since "the road behind the sea wall, known as the Strand Road affords the only sea promenade at high tide." He did not mince his words about the implications of failing to tackle the issue: "the future existence of Tramore is intimately bound up with the question for checking the erosion referred to."[132]

The amenity and the environmental issues fused together. The obvious solution was to raise the Strand Road to the level of the Grand Jury Wall, joining the two together to form a Promenade, 36 feet wide. In November 1912, it became known that the British Treasury was ready to provide a grant to construct "a wide promenade for the entire length of the Strand Road". Even better news was the Treasury's intimation that, although the money would only be formally voted by the House of Commons for the 1913-14 session, Waterford County Council could regard it as money in the bank, and go ahead right away. One condition was that the removal of the sewage outlet, which – as the Royal Commission had been told – had been smashed by a storm and was pouring filth across the beach. Councillors fell into an unedifying dispute, some wishing to pipe the effluent out to sea, others embracing the gruesome alternative of diverting it on to the Back Strand. This sure-fire device to create a pollution problem had been opposed by local women who made their living from the cockle beds. In the ensuing Council squabble, one member of the deep sea party remarked to a Back Strander, "The cockle women have more intelligence than you have."[133]

The design stage was completed in July 1913. Sloping masonry on the outer side of the wall was intended "to break the force of the waves". It would be topped by a continuous rampart which would form seating, and incorporate a solid railing which would be both ornamental and a safety accessory. The contract was let to Patrick Costen, a master builder in Waterford City, and himself conveniently a Tramore resident.[134] Unfavourable conditions forced the suspension of work for a time early in 1914. "The sea wall will be strengthened with buttresses but work in this direction can only be done between the tides." None the less, Costen hoped to push the work forward "during the next couple of months".[135] "The work at the Tramore sea front is nearing completion," a County Council meeting was assured in December, but there was a setback soon afterwards. With the project "almost completed", a February gale lifted paving slabs from a new slipway and caused "severe damage" to the road surface which was only "partially steam-rolled". In May 1915, the work was "nearing completion", and in August had reached "an advanced stage". Indeed, to all intents and purposes, the Promenade was complete: it seemed "appreciated as an addition to the amenities of Tramore, and is much used by the public".[136]  

"Catastrophe" and Rebound, 1911-1912

In the five years between 1910 and 1915, the stately rituals of national and local government succeeded in dealing with the threat to Tramore from its ocean shore. Unfortunately, during that period, a far greater crisis hit the town, and from an unexpected quarter. Early in the morning of 3 April 1911, a high tide broke floodgates in the embankment facing the Back Strand, ripping out about fifty yards of the Malcomson embankment and flooding several acres of the racecourse. Martin Murphy promptly mobilised workmen to repair the damage. The cause of the breach was something of a mystery: it was not a particularly high tide "and there was no strong wind to give it unusual force."[137] One possibility is that the embankment had been built around timber piling. Tramore's Back Strand was notorious for quicksands, and it would have made sense to drive piles into the mud to trace the outline upon which rubble could subsequently be dumped. Murphy certainly used piling for his repairs, and his work held firm in the crisis that followed eight months later. The explanation for the April 1911 breach may simply have been that, after fifty years, the core timbers had become rotten, thus undermining a stretch of the embankment. The fact that the April breach centred on a sluice, presumably a timber installation, tends to confirm this. What would soon become apparent was that Tramore was on the edge of crisis, with the April 1911 incident a rehearsal for a major disaster. It was not long in coming. In the early hours of 13 December 1911, a "strong southerly gale" forced the sea into the confined space of the normally shallow Back Strand, and pushed it through the embankment on to the racecourse. The section repaired by Murphy after the April storm resisted the onslaught, but a much larger gap had appeared in another section of the wall.[138]

The racecourse was extensively flooded, with only the roof of the grandstand visible above the water. Fortunately, casualties were limited to three puppies belonging to the Hunt lost when the stables were overwhelmed, but a local newspaper offered no apologies for calling the flood a "catastrophe". Previous concern had focused upon the sea wall along Tramore's ocean frontage. Now the tide was flowing with its full force in and out from the Back Strand.[139] In Waterford City, both the chamber of commerce and the corporation held emergency meetings in support of the neighbouring community. Since "people going to the seaside passed through Waterford and spent money there," the city had "a great interest in seeing that Tramore was not wiped out". Martin Murphy's role was recognised: "Mr Murphy no doubt had done all that one man could do."[140] And Martin Murphy could do no more. "The sea too powerful," the Waterford correspondent of the Cork Examiner reported on 30 December. "No more races at Tramore racecourse." To general regret, Murphy had announced that he was surrendering his licence. The sea had won the battle of the Back Strand.[141]

Within forty-eight hours, the story had taken a dramatic twist. On New Year's Eve, rumour swept Tramore that Murphy had arranged to move the racecourse to a new location. As 1912 began, it was confirmed that he was purchasing a farm at Graun Hill, an inland site about fifteen minutes' walk from the station – much the same distance as the old course, and without the hazard of the Strand Road as the route.[142] As the Independent triumphantly observed in August 1912, those who had feared that Tramore's race meetings were finished "reckoned without Mr. Martin Murphy. He couldn't fight the ocean but he could find a safe retreat and pitch his camp there, within view but outside the range of the enemy." Within seven months, Murphy had established a new racecourse, complete with a grandstand that could hold two thousand spectators.[143]  The golf course also relocated to the new venue. Some thought the combination was "not ideal", but it seemed to work.[144] The golf club moved again in 1939, to a location on the west side of the town.

The speed and the timing of Murphy's acquisition of Graun Hill raise obvious questions about the financing of the deal. It is likely that Martin Murphy had funded his earliest investments in the Tramore racecourse from the profits of his mineral water business, while the purchase of the Grand Hotel was probably funded from the sale of that original enterprise. Subsequent investments may well have come from current profits: it seems clear that, once he had enclosed the racecourse after 1900 and patrons had to pay for admission, the returns from a successful meeting were high. But the "catastrophe" of December 1911 wiped out a large part of his capital assets, and the Christmas-New Year period was hardly ideal for securing a large bank loan. Graun Hill was purchased from Frederick Budd, a Protestant farmer, justice of the peace, a prominent figure in the local hunting scene, and apparently the nephew of one-time racecourse promoter Alfred Budd.[145] Murphy and Budd had worked together as far back as 1893, when they campaigned for the Grand Jury Wall. As mutually trusting fellow members of the local elite, they could no doubt shake hands on a deal, relying upon the sordid financial details to sort themselves out later. However, the establishment of an entirely new course, and in such a short time, probably required loan finance. Some construction materials may have been salvaged from the abandoned location, but, even so, the new grandstand seems to have been much larger than its predecessor. On earlier occasions, Martin Murphy had briefed journalists about the costs he had incurred, no doubt to impress readers with the sums of money he was handling. This time round, it is noteworthy that those details were not revealed. An obituary in 1919 hinted that it had taken several years "to repay him for all he had lost".[146] The crisis of December 1911 can only have placed him under financial pressure. This makes it all the more remarkable that he would soon engage in a final phase of activity by entering politics.

Member of Parliament for East Waterford, 1913-1918

Ownership of the racecourse gave Martin Murphy opportunities for patronage, which could accumulate into a fund of local goodwill. For instance, in 1901 the city's Catholic cathedral undertook an expensive restoration of the giant organ that had been installed in 1858: the same expert firm, Hill and Son, took charge of the work. The fund-raising campaign included a planned show-jumping event: Murphy "gratuitously" lent "his beautiful course" and "agreed to do everything to arrange the jumps".[147] For a time, he applied his considerable administrative talents to the post of manager of the Waterford Agricultural Society – a remarkable involvement for somebody who was so relentlessly a townsman. When the grateful farmers voted him an honorarium, he returned the cheque as a donation to the Society's funds, another admired gesture by "the popular 'M.J.'".[148] In 1911, the local Nationalist MP, P.J. Power, called him "one of the best employers and most useful public men in the South of Ireland."[149] When P.J. Power died just over a year later, it is hardly surprising that Martin Murphy's name was mentioned as his successor.

East Waterford had not been contested since the Parnell Split. Tory Unionists had not ventured to field a candidate since 1886, when they were beaten ten to one. On six of the eight occasions on which P.J. Power had contested the seat, he had been returned unopposed.[150] Whoever won the local Irish Party nomination would walk straight into the Westminster parliament. However, it was not the case that Martin Murphy was unanimously drafted to fill the vacancy. Indeed, there was an initial groundswell of support for Edmond Nugent of Ballymacarbry, "an old Nationalist, who has taken an active part in every movement which has been started for the betterment of Ireland during the last half century."[151] That was a slight exaggeration, but the 64 year-old farmer was proud that he had campaigned for John Blake Dillon in Tipperary forty years earlier. Nugent undoubtedly wanted the nomination, but he wanted it to be delivered to him in recognition of his years of service to the national cause: Murphy would say, in a gesture of polite humility, that if Nugent had made more effort, he "would have wiped the floor, so to speak, with himself". It was unlikely that he would be a dynamic member of parliament. In itself, that did not greatly matter. The role of Irish Nationalist MPs at Westminster was to support the minority Liberal government until Prime Minister Asquith delivered Home Rule. Backbenchers were certainly not required to be pro-active policy wonks. It is likely that reluctance to accept Nugent's nomination had more to do with geography. County Waterford politics can be very local (in this they are not unique within Ireland). Ballymacarbry was an inland and upland community in one corner of the constituency. Its external links were mainly to Clonmel – which probably explains Nugent's early campaigning in Tipperary – and to Dungarvan, a town in the West Waterford constituency. At all events, pressure began to mount for Martin Murphy to come forward, and he duly visited Nugent to inform him, honourably and courteously, that he intended to seek the nomination. But "the well-known and popular proprietor of the Tramore racecourse" who had already demonstrated "a record for good, effective work" probably himself faced an unreported geographical handicap: P.J. Power had been a Tramore resident, and there would have been localities within the sprawling constituency where activists felt that the seaside town should not claim the honour again.

At the nominating convention in Kilmacthomas, Martin Murphy drew attention to the deficiency that would lead to his becoming an underperforming parliamentary representative. Invited to address the delegates, he announced that "making a speech was entirely against his line. He was not a speaker, but he was a worker, and promised to be a worker." Waterford Nationalists can hardly have foreseen just how taciturn their new MP would prove to be. Four candidates were nominated, but two won little support and were eliminated after a first-round of voting. On the second ballot, Murphy was endorsed by 82 votes to 63. In a show of unity, Nugent praised the victor as "a good, open-hearted, generous gentleman", but there was a sharp edge to his good wishes. "Perhaps the only fault he had to find with Mr Murphy was that his national politics were not energetic enough in the past". Murphy's supporters hailed him as "a sterling Nationalist", but there were obvious limitations on the political activities of a man who ran an upmarket hotel (it flew the British Union Flag) and whose prosperity depended upon the success of a fashionable race meeting.[152] Martin Murphy countered the ideological criticism by stressing his practical skills. "As member for East Waterford he would look after the interests of Ireland, as he had always done in the past, and one thing he could say was that anyone, whether friend or enemy, who ever came to him for help in any way in his power he helped them." In fact, circumstances – notably war and national upheaval – ensured that he delivered almost nothing to the constituency.

Tramore celebrated Murphy's nomination, with tar barrels blazing in the streets, and three bands – two of them from the city – marching through the town to play outside his house.[153] Murphy was duly returned unopposed on 15 February 1913. He did not seize the opportunity to make a rousing victory speech, confining his comments to regret that the vacancy had been caused by the death of his friend, P. J. Power, and calling for a memorial in his honour.[154] It was later recalled that soon after his election, he issued a letter to constituents, admitting that "I am built of a retiring disposition, and at speech-making I am about as bad as there is made."[155] Remarkably, he never spoke in the House of Commons: in modern times there can have been few politicians who sat in parliament for five years without delivering a maiden speech. No doubt legislatures depend upon taciturn members to function efficiently: there were 670 MPs, and they could not all be orators. However, Martin Murphy not only failed to catch the Speaker's eye, he also made almost no use of the right to question ministers. P.J. Power had put down a steady stream of questions, seeking government action on local issues, such as Tramore's shattered pier and its need for a boatslip. By contrast, Martin Murphy asked just one question, about railway freight rates charged on maize under wartime controls.[156] Local people assumed that the interests of Tramore were "well and closely looked after by Mr Martin J. Murphy M.P. ... genial, generous soul, and a first-class man of affairs."[157] However, since Tramore was in the process of receiving a large Treasury grant for its new promenade, there was little scope for him to seek further largesse for his adopted town. But Tramore was not the whole constituency of East Waterford, and Murphy's apparent inactivity seems surprising.

It is possible – although it can only be a speculation – that Martin Murphy took the Westminster seat in order to book himself a place in a devolved legislature in Dublin. In 1913, Home Rule seemed attainable. The 1911 Parliament Act had abolished the veto of the House of Lords: the upper house could now only delay legislation for two years, which meant that the 1912 Home Rule Bill would become law in 1914. Ulster Unionists were passionately opposed, but the full extent of their intransigence would only become clear in the final stages of the controversy. Away from the intimidating atmosphere of Westminster, as an Irishman talking to fellow Irishmen about practical improvements, Martin Murphy might have become an effective constituency representative. Unluckily, it was not to be.

A hotel proprietor who had committed himself to spending a large part of the year in London was obviously all the more dependent upon his staff.  Perhaps his new regime contributed to a change in his personal status. In May 1914, Irish newspapers briefly reported from London that Martin Murphy had married again. No journalist seems to have pointed out that the bride, "Miss Flannery, of Tramore", was his manageress. The wedding was said to be "very quiet", although it must be difficult to pledge one's troth inconspicuously in Westminster Cathedral.[158] No doubt with the groom in his early fifties and the bride in her late thirties, a low-key event seemed appropriate. Whether Murphy's children by his first marriage were happy about the elevation of their ex-governess is not recorded. They do not seem to have attended the ceremony. In later years, his two sons both left Ireland, one to live in New York and the other to work in Malaya. This might suggest that they did not get on with their stepmother. However, the Irish Free State offered only limited opportunities for educated young men, and having grown up in the hothouse 24/7 world of hotel-keeping, they may well have preferred other ways of making a living. There were no children born to this second marriage.

Martin Murphy took his seat at Westminster on 6 March 1913.[159] He had, of course, signed the Party Pledge at the Kilmacthomas convention, binding himself to sit and vote with his fellow Home Rule MPs, and he would prove to be "a loyal member of the Irish Parliamentary Party":[160] his name appears in the division lists voting for the third incarnation of the Third Home Rule Bill early in 1914. He had an equally low profile within Ireland. It was primarily the fault of the arthritic nature of the United Kingdom politics that Nationalist rhetoric had become stuck in a groove: year after year, its leaders advanced the same arguments, rehearsed the same grievances, and unavailingly preached the same solutions. A new voice in the Home Rule ranks might have added some spice to public meetings. However much his "rich, genial Irish humour", already referred to, made him an asset in small groups, it did not translate to the public platform. It is possible to imagine a popular racecourse owner arousing crowds with his own line of patter, picturing the Home Rulers successfully jumping the Westminster fences and cantering into the home strait, with an Irish Parliament on College Green as the winner's enclosure. Unfortunately, Murphy's aversion to speech-making ensured that he made almost no impact on the wider scene. In September 1913, he accompanied the Belfast MP Joseph Devlin, himself a formidable orator, on a tour of Munster. At a meeting in the Square in Dungarvan, Murphy "said a few words".  At a mass rally in Midleton, County Cork, crowds packed the long Main Street. Martin Murphy was a supporting speaker. His remarks were not even reported.[161]

In August 1914, European war seemed to come out of nowhere. Two priests from the Waterford diocese, on holiday in Germany, were caught up in the crisis and briefly interned, before diplomats from the still-neutral United States negotiated their release. The two  reached London by the end of August, and Murphy welcomed them at the House of Commons.[162] But thereafter, except for his written question on freight rates, he became invisible at Westminster. Like his hero, Irish Party leader John Redmond, he supported the war, even to the point of forcing himself to address a meeting in the city to urge men to join the Army in May 1915. He spoke of a visit to the Waterford recruiting office, and his pleasure that "they seemed to be very busy there". He denied reports "that recruiting was not going on so well in the country districts", which came from people who "knew as much about the country as the man in the moon." He was particularly critical of "a young fellow that pulled down some recruiting posters", condemning the authorities for failing to crack down on such anti-war behaviour.[163]

The decision of the British political parties to form a wartime coalition in 1915 meant that ministers were no longer dependent upon Irish MPs to keep them in office. The Nationalists needed an issue to demonstrate that they could still defend their country's interests. Pressure was growing in Britain for conscription to provide men for the Army. Like his leader, John Redmond, Martin Murphy combined support for the war effort with unyielding opposition to compulsory military service. At a parliamentary party meeting in June, he seconded a strongly worded resolution against conscription, which was (of course) carried unanimously.[164] In fact, there was little immediate likelihood of its imposition upon Ireland: two weeks later, Martin Murphy told a meeting of the East Waterford branch of the United Ireland League that "the proportion of men from Ireland [volunteering for the Army] was greater than England or Scotland". Redmondite claims that they had blocked compulsion were something of a political stunt, and one that would become a hostage when the issue arose in its full horror in 1918.

In his address to the local United Ireland Leaguers – a rare enough public utterance – Martin Murphy defined his overall political policy in rare and trusting terms. It was "to follow Mr Redmond and his Party as to whatever attitude they took up. ... these men at the head of the Party knew what they were doing, they have inside information, and these were the men to follow." Almost a year before the polarising event of the Easter Rising, he was aware of an undercurrent of discontent from critics who lacked confidence in the Irish Party and its dogged attachment to parliamentary tactics – "croakers", Murphy called them. He appealed to his supporters "to stick out strongly and not to mind these croakers at all -- there would always be croakers, no matter what happens".[165]

One challenge facing the Party was the decline of its media mouthpiece, the Freeman's Journal, which was not helped by severe damage to its premises during the Rising. Its challenger, the Independent, was the property and the voice of an aggressive businessman and near namesake, William Martin Murphy. Under cover of advancing his interests, the Independent became the increasingly effective voice of the "croakers". At a parliamentary party meeting in June 1916, the member for East Waterford insisted it was time the Freeman's Journal "looked up." The Independent was making its way "into every village and hamlet in the country, and was being constantly flaunted in his face. Its opinions were being freely discussed everywhere." Somebody leaked his remarks to the Independent, which gleefully published the unsolicited tribute.[166]

The core problem for the parliamentary strategy was that it continued to fail in the delivery of its central objective. Home Rule "would be certain", Martin Murphy had told the East Waterford United Ireland Leaguers in June 1915.[167] But the mirage kept receding, and its elusive appearances were accompanied by ever-increasing demands for concessions by the Irish Party. In response to the Easter Rising, the new British prime minister, Lloyd George, offered immediate Home Rule for the 26 counties, with north-east Ulster to be exempted. It was carefully left undefined whether this partition was to be temporary or permanent. Joseph Devlin called a delegate convention of Nationalists from the six counties, and steered them into endorsing the plan. Martin Murphy was among those who sent him congratulatory telegrams. It was almost his last political gesture. He remained faithful to the interest that had brought him into  public life, horse racing. In 1916, the government banned race meetings throughout Great Britain. Murphy told a London journalist that the English were "doormats": "You think you are doing a patriotic thing to allow people to scrape their boots on you." He mocked the country's racing fraternity: "you went with your hat in your hand and said 'Oh please Mr. Government kindly permit this huge industry of horse breeding and horse racing to continue,' and the Government said 'Sycophants are not wanted here. Clear out.'"   Faced with the news that the authorities might have the "audacity" to extend the ban cross-channel, Irish MPs had made their resistance clear. "We told them we intended carrying on racing in Ireland, and dared them to stop us. The Government cringed as they always do when they are opposed by men who mean what they say and racing in Ireland was not interfered with."  It is hard not to conclude that Murphy was impaled by his own invective. No doubt it was ringing stuff to proclaim that "we would have turned out the English Government if they had stopped us." But, in the heightened tensions of 1916, many would have queried Murphy's priorities, and asked whether the inflexibility that preserved race meetings at Tramore might have been mobilised to force the concession of Home Rule.[168]

The parliamentary party was bypassed for much of 1917-18 by a device called the Irish Convention, which sought to bring together all strands of opinion across the island, although its defined aim of securing a system of government within the British empire naturally ruled out Sinn Féin. In April 1918, the Convention recommended Home Rule by a majority vote, having failed to secure the hoped-for consensus with Unionists. A month earlier, exhausted and baffled, John Redmond had died. For Martin Murphy, who counted the party leader as a friend, this would have been far more than just a personal blow. Being a Redmondite was not just a party tag, but the expression of his whole political being. In the happier times of May 1914, he had told a torchlight parade in the city that John Redmond "was one of the finest leaders that ever came on the earth, and he had done more to further the Home Rule cause than any other man had done, or could do."[169] Not only was his hero dead, but his constituency was about to be eliminated: in January 1918, a scheme for the redistribution of parliamentary constituencies proposed the merger of the two County Waterford seats.[170]

In the immediate aftermath of the leader's death, the Belfast Newsletter reported a rumour that Martin Murphy would contest the by-election for Redmond's Waterford City seat, but the Newsletter was neither geographically nor ideologically well placed to penetrate Nationalist intentions in deepest Munster.[171]  In any case, there were practical difficulties in moving to a new parliamentary seat between general elections: voters would have been put to the inconvenience of selecting a new MP for East Waterford who might sit for only a few months. In the event, the dead leader's son, Captain William Redmond, fought the seat, and was elected. It was a welcome boost to traditional Nationalism – perhaps the muted success of the Irish Convention indicated that there was a better way forward than Sinn Féin's inflexible demand for a republic. Within weeks, all such hopes were dashed. Heavy German attacks on the Western Front had created a manpower crisis for the British Army. However divisive it would prove to be, Lloyd George's government now announced that conscription – already in force in Great Britain for two years – would be extended to Ireland. In May 1918, the Irish Party withdrew from Westminster. It was not the principled stance of abstentionism followed by Sinn Féin, but a gesture of impotent protest. Martin Murphy's parliamentary career ended with a whimper. It is sad to reflect that it had never come close to detonating a bang.

Martin Murphy's  last year, 1918-1919

When the war ended in November 1918, Lloyd George promptly called a general election. Sinn Féin swept the 26 counties, with only Captain Redmond in Waterford City resisting the tide. At one of his public meetings, a supporter denied that voters were simply endorsing an honoured name, insisting that they would still vote for the Irish Party if "Mr. Murphy, Tramore, contested the seat in the city in place of Captain Redmond."[172] But this was a rhetorical allusion to a purely hypothetical alternative. No evidence can be traced that Martin Murphy took any part in the December election campaign. His health had been giving concern for some time, probably as far back as 1917.[173] Coded allusions in standard formulae, "a lingering illness", "borne with characteristic courage",[174] suggest that he had contracted some form of cancer. By January 1919, he was confined to bed at home. Naturally, his absence was noted at Tramore's Easter race meeting, but it seems that the seriousness of his illness had not been made widely known: "all hoped he would soon be out and about again." By the time of the August meeting, reports were more sombre. "Mr Martin Murphy who has done so much for the town and the recourse is, I regret to say, still lying very critically ill," wrote one journalist. Perhaps it was still possible to let him know that the "brilliant" weather had drawn a "huge attendance", making this first August post-war meeting "successful beyond expectation".[175] That would have offered some consolation to crown thirty years of effort for his adopted town.

Martin Murphy died on the morning of 4 September 1919. He was, at most, 58 years of age. The tributes went beyond the conventionally polite principle of speaking well of the dead, "a unique personality", "a man among millions". "A generous, kindly-hearted Irishman, his demise will occasion general sorrow."[176] An "immense concourse" of people from the town, the city and adjoining countryside turned out for the removal of his remains on 5 September. Next day, not even the massive parish church could contain "the crowds of people who came from all parts of Ireland to pay tribute to an Irishman and sportsman who had endeared himself to all classes and creeds."[177] The intensely devout P.J. Power had once mildly grumbled that Tramore race meetings always seemed to straddle some Catholic fast day, but Martin Murphy seems to have been a loyal son of the Church, and Tramore was a popular holiday destination for the priesthood. Over forty of them attended the funeral.

The presence among the prominent mourners of Captain William Redmond, the last old-style Nationalist MP from the 26 counties, underlined the symbolism of Martin Murphy's death. Officially, in textbook terms, Ireland's war of independence had begun in January 1919 with the ambush at Soloheadbeg. But until late summer violence was mainly localised: it was not until August that Cathal Brugha succeeded in persuading the Volunteers (increasingly known as the Irish Republican Army) to take an oath of allegiance to the Dáil. The pace of events would pick up in September and October, as unco-ordinated disturbances began to merge into a nationwide guerrilla war, fuelled by counter-productive British measures of repression.[178] The War of Independence would sweep away the Ireland of Martin Murphy, where luxury accommodation at a racecourse was called the Viceregal Stand, where a select hotel could proclaim its genteel status by flying the Union Flag.[179]

It might be thought that the magical world of Tramore was somehow insulated from these darkening events. The August race meeting had been as successful as ever, however much Ireland might be falling apart. But, beneath the surface, there were dangerous local passions, divisions that did not entirely mirror the sectarian and national chasm that was opening up across the country, and which might be harbingers of the civil war of 1922-3 that would mar Ireland's achievement of independence. In March 1919, the East Waterford Hunt was attacked at Tramore by Sinn Féiners, in retaliation for the refusal of huntsmen to sign a petition in favour of the release of political prisoners. Unusually, they met considerable resistance, spearheaded by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the conservative Catholic fraternity order led by Joseph Devlin. The Hibernians and the huntsmen charged the Sinn Féiners, "and a regular melee ensued." The home of the Master of the Hounds, Joseph Widger, Murphy's neighbour in Church Street, was then raided, and windows were broken. In May 1919, father and son painters and decorators Patrick and Joseph Torpey hired the Assembly Rooms for a Sinn Féin club. Early in June, its tricolour was stolen. A few days later, in the early hours of 13 June, fire swept the premises. Sergeant Bollard of the RIC was sure that the cause was arson, and the Hibernians were suspected. This was treatment that Sinn Féiners did not expect outside Unionist enclaves.[180] Had Martin Murphy been in good health, he would have found himself attempting to provide leadership to a viciously divided community.


Agnes Murphy promptly arranged for the transfer of the Grand Hotel licence.[181] Her husband had died during the tourist season, but the business had to continue. As "a very capable and astute" manageress, she had, in reality, been running the hotel during the years in which Martin Murphy had spent some of time in London. Her "charm of manner" and "exquisite gracefulness" combined with a no-doubt formidable interest in the details of hospitality management kept the Grand Hotel in the forefront of the Irish tourist industry.  Following the 1928 season, she visited the Motor Show in London, evidently with the additional purpose of studying the latest novelties in the hotel business. She became unwell in London, but did not seek medical help: "as was her wont, instead of looking after her personal interests, [she] continued to complete her business on behalf of the hotel." By the time she returned to Ireland, by way of Dublin, she was suffering from bronchial pneumonia. She died at the Gresham Hotel on 31 October 1928. "Possibly had she sought expert aid earlier she might still be alive," commented the Cork Examiner in an admiring obituary.[182] She was 52.

 The Grand Hotel now passed to Annie Murphy, Martin Murphy's eldest daughter by his first marriage, and the only one of his five surviving children who did not marry. At the age of 64, the "popular proprietress" died suddenly in March 1954, ending the dynasty.[183] Later that year, the business was acquired by a consortium associated with the Talbot Hotel in Wexford, who vested it in a company, Grand Hotel (Tramore) Limited.[184] The new owners took over on the eve of a revolution in popular tourism. By 1967, thousands were taking cheap flights from Dublin to Spanish holiday resorts. A British holiday company began operating flights from Cork in 1971, carrying 1,200 passengers in its first year. By 1976, there were regular summer charter services to Benidorm and Majorca. Malaga was added in 1977. "Sunny Spain now direct from Cork," proclaimed a headline in 1980, as Cork Airport geared up for its "biggest ever holiday programme".[185] Mass access to continental destinations from the south of Ireland ate directly into Tramore's customer base, and all the more so as the exotic Costas and balmy Rivieras raised expectations about the holiday experience. After thirty years, the Grand Hotel went into liquidation in 1984, "victim to the Waterford resort's waning image."[186]  After a brief period of uncertainty, it was purchased by Tom and Anne Treacy, who not only ran the business successfully, but also added an extension, increasing its capacity to 81 rooms. However, by the time they decided to retire, in 2014, it was acknowledged that the Grand Hotel needed a makeover, of course not for the first time in its history. It was advertised as the oldest hotel in the country and vaunted for its "quaintness": as late as 1915, so auctioneers related, house rules had required gentlemen to wear white tie and tails when dining.[187] In the event, the Grand Hotel closed. At first, it was hoped that renovation would soon follow, and the landmark once again take an active role at the heart of Tramore. However, four years later, concerns were expressed at its deteriorating condition, and local councillors pressed for compulsory purchase to save the building. "Everybody met there on a Saturday night," one local representative nostalgically recalled.[188] In September 2018, Waterford County Council took formal steps to declare the Grand Hotel a derelict site.[189]

 Tramore's golf club continued to share the racecourse until 1939, when it moved to a new course west of the town. A new clubhouse, erected in 1970, expanded its social activities. An additional nine-hole course was added in 2005.[190]

There was an element of historical irony about plans in 2006 to relocate Tramore's racecourse. The racecourse company acquired 183 acres at Lisselan Intake, the nineteenth-century reclamation from the Back Strand that had survived the disaster of 1911. The new site was double the area of Graun Hill, which was rezoned to meet the housing needs of the growing town, while the planned track would have been a considerable improvement on the narrow and undulating hillside course. Preliminary work began after planning permission was granted in 2007, but the crisis in the Irish economy put paid to the scheme. Lisselan Intake was put up for auction as farmland in 2013. Following its sale in 2015, investment at Graun Hill resumed.[191]

As the problems of the Grand Hotel indicated, Tramore in the early 1980s was "stuck with the image of being poor value for money.... holidaymakers consider the resort too pricey."[192] In fact, the town rode out the crisis in traditional domestic tourism more successfully than rivals, such as Youghal in County Cork. The combination of the boisterous Atlantic waves of Tramore Bay and the town's open strand, free of rock outcrops, pointed to a new recreational activity. A surf club was founded in 1968. In 1983, it hosted the Irish national championships, despite two postponements because the sea was unnaturally calm. Ireland's first purpose-built surf centre opened in 1998.[193] A century earlier, Martin Murphy and John Allingham had hoped to add public gardens to the resort's amenities. In 2015, their idea finally took shape in the unexpected form of Japanese gardens, in honour of Lafcadio Hearn, one of the first Europeans to live in Japan, who had childhood connections with mid-nineteenth century Tramore. However, the town was no longer so dependent upon the holiday trade. In Egan's guidebook of 1894, about a dozen local residents may be tentatively identified as commuters (a term they would not have understood), merchants or officials who travelled to work in Waterford.[194] The railway was closed in 1960 but, paradoxically, Tramore soon took on a new identity, as a detached dormitory for the city. Population passed 6,000 by the early 1990s; in 2018, it is over 10,000. Essentially, as throughout the past two centuries, Tramore's prosperity still depends upon its satellite relationship with Waterford City. The difference is that, in recent decades, that relationship has taken a residential rather than a vacation form.

Martin Murphy's hotel faces an uncertain future, but Tramore's continued involvement in horse racing and golf owe much to his energy and initiative. The centenary of his death will occur in September 2019, and perhaps this reconnaissance into his life and work will contribute to the ongoing process of renewal in his adopted community. His contribution to Tramore deserves to be remembered. His role as a member of the community should be valued in an era when leadership is too often synonymous with bullying. His charm and his energy deserve to be honoured. "Genial, warm-hearted and ever ready to do a friendly turn,"[195] Martin Joseph Murphy should not be forgotten.


Endnotes identify references, and contain supplementary information.

All websites were consulted in September and October 2018.


[1] He gave his age as 40 for the census of 1901, and 49 in 1911. (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/).  As the census dates were 31 March 1901 and 2 April 1911, he was either vague about his exact date of birth, or in denial at reaching 50. The age of death given on his memorial in the graveyard of the Church of the Holy Cross at Tramore, 54, is puzzling, especially given the efficiency of his second wife, Agnes. This would have put him in business in Waterford City at the age of 19 or 20 which seems unlikely. Much information not specifically noted comes from an extensive obituary in Kilkenny People, 13 September 1919. Lower and Upper New Street today is neither a particularly elegant nor a notably historic section of Kilkenny. See also Evening Herald (Dublin), 4 September 1919.

[2] Independent, 15 April 1908. Egan (1894, cited below) described Michael O'Meara as a publican. In the 1902 census, Mary O'Meara, a widow, running what seems to have been the same establishment, described herself as "Hotel Keeper", as was her bachelor son and business partner Edward, Katie Murphy's brother. Another brother, James, ran a pub nearby on the Quay. Mary O'Meara had been born in Kilkenny, and it might be that Martin Murphy lodged with the family.

[3] The 1901 census reports two children, probably twins, aged 11, and Katie Murphy was 35.

[4] The duties of a High Sheriff were mainly ceremonial, and the office was often conferred upon a young man as first step in public life, as was the case with Parnell, High Sheriff of Wicklow in 1874.

[5]  Munster Express, 7 March; Belfast Newsletter,18 June 1885.

[6] Belfast Newsletter, 5 May 1888.

[7] P.M. Egan, History, Guide & Directory of County and City of Waterford (Kilkenny, 1895), 749, 757. Referred to as "Egan's directory".

[8] Freeman's Journal, 5 September 1919.

[9] Munster Express, 2 August 1884.

[10] Irish Times, 27 April 1886, 23 August 1888, 15 August 1889.

[11] Munster Express, 8 September 1888.

[12] Munster Express, 25 June 1892. Egan's directory gives his address in 1894 as "Rockfield", which may be the house built by architect and Waterford City bacon merchant Abraham Denny for himself about 1863. There were two families with the Rockfield address in 1894, the other being Gallweys, the Waterford wine and spirit merchants. The same family operated a business from that address in 2014. The house was in Church Road (conveniently close to the Grand Hotel, which Murphy purchased soon after).

[13]  Irish Times, 25 October 1895; Munster Express, 15 August, quoting Freeman's Journal, 10 August 1896;   Munster Express, 28 August 1897 ("These extensive concerns, established originally by Mr M. J. Murphy, J.P., whose successor was Mr T. P. O'Meara, have within the past few weeks passed into the hands of Messrs Hayden & Co.") T.P. O'Meara was his brother-in-law. Murphy's initial Tramore address was "Westcliff" in Church Road, a fine house of c. 1860, described in http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/Surveys/Buildings/.

[14] Private acts of parliament for the embanking and reclamation of the Tramore Back Strand were passed in 1852, 1858 and 1863. A visitor in October 1862 noted "a large number of labourers" engaged in reclamation work. T. Lacey, Sights and Scenes ... (London, 1863), 538. A Guide to Tramore Bay, Dunes & Backstrand, published locally by Declan McGrath in 2002, examines the ecology. Dungarvan businessman Edmond Keohan, who was born about 1852 and spent his childhood in Tramore, recalled that the reclaimed land grew beans and potatoes, the latter "of a pinkish description." These could not have been Kerr's Pinks, a 20th-century cultivar. Cork Examiner, 2 April 1930.

James Delahunty was MP for Waterford City 1868-74, and for County Waterford 1877-80. A late and probably nominal convert to Home Rule, he supported Isaac Butt. He was an enthusiast for currency reform, but his plan to ban £1 banknotes in Ireland was widely regarded as eccentric, and was regularly rejected by the House of Commons. The London correspondent of an Australian newspaper called him "a genial, warm-hearted Irish man who is generally liked in the House". The annual ritual of his doomed bill was supported by "a few friends who fully appreciate the absurdity of the thing, and know the Bill can have no possible chance of passing", who voted with him "just out of good fellowship for its promoter." Adelaide Observer, 9 August 1879. The English magazine Vanity Fair accorded him the doubtful honour of a top-hatted but leprechaun-like caricature in 1872, which is easily traceable on the Internet. He died in 1885. 

[15] The Nenagh Guardian, 20 June 1857, announced a forthcoming Tramore race meeting "over the New Course."

[16] Andy Byrne, "Horse racing at Tramore in the 19th century", Decies, 27 (1984), 39-42; Irish Times, 11, 16 January 1877. The town's steep urban core was not for the faint-hearted. "Except you confine your ramblings to the strand at Tramore, you are always either climbing up a hill or going down one, and it is very hard to say which is the worse of the two." Cheshire Observer, 30 January 1873.

[17] Irish Times, 10 August 1881; Munster Express, 8 July, 21 October 1882; Freeman's Journal, 24July 1882.

[18] Irish Times, 10 August 1881.

[19] Freeman's Journal, 24 July 1882.

[20] In August 1883, the meeting had to be postponed for 24 hours after heavy rain flooded the course.  Freeman's Journal, 14 August 1883.

[21] Waterford News, 10 June 1887.

[22] Munster Express, 8 September 1888.

[23] Munster Express, 11 October 1890.

[24] Irish Times, 27 July 1892.

[25] Munster Express, 15 August 1891, quoting Freeman's Journal. Egan, History ... Waterford in 1894 (607) stated that there was stabling for 33 horses. The "well-ventilated" boxes were separated by sand-filled partitions "to shut off noises from the animals". There were 3 stands, symbolising (it would seem) the orders of society. One was "a new and elegant structure" catering for the County elite. It had plate-glass panels, giving a view of the course and protection against rain. A grand stand, enclosed at both ends, offered some weather protection, while an "open stand" (probably like a football ground terrace) could accommodate 1,000 people.

[26] Irish Times, 17 August 1891. By 2018 values, this would be the equivalent of around £350,000. The estimate that cancellation of a 1905 race meeting would cost him almost £1,500 indicates that there could be considerable (and quick) returns on his investment.

[27] Irish Times, 27 July 1892.

[28] Irish Times, 15 June 1892. The most comfortable of the three was styled the "Viceregal Stand". It does not appear that any Lord-Lieutenant ever took the hint and patronised Tramore races. However, Richard ("Boss") Croker, New York's notorious Tammany Hall political operator, enjoyed the races and a golfing holiday in 1908. Independent, 13, 16 August 1908.

[29] Waterford News, 28 July 1905.

[30] C. Smith (ed. D. Brady), The Ancient and Present State of ... Waterford (Waterford, 2008  ed. of 1774), 64.

[31] M. Clarke et al, "The emergence of Tramore", Decies, 12, 1979, 25-30. This impressive study was undertaken by five students at Christian Brothers School, Tramore. See H. Gallwey, "Bartholomew Rivers of Waterford, Banker...", Decies, 12, 1979, 53-61. Two locally published works by Andy Taylor are useful: Tramore of Long Ago (1996) and Tramore: a Glimpse of Other Days. A.F. Kelly and F.O'Donoghue, Tramore (Dublin, 2017) features old  photographs.

[32] [W. Wilson], The Post-Chaise Companion  ... through Ireland (Dublin, 1786, revised ed.), cols 339-40. The Buildings of Ireland survey (www.buildingsofireland.ie) dates the oldest part of the Grand Hotel to c.1850, but its classical style could be earlier. The Assembly Rooms in Pond Road had become two business premises by 2009. The building was not large. Tramore seems never to have developed as a market centre for the surrounding area, but see Taylor, Tramore of Long Ago, 157.

[33] H.D. Inglis, Ireland in 1834: A Journey ... (2 vols, London, 1834), i, 68; J. Fraser, A Hand Book for Travellers ... (Dublin, 1844), 199. The 1875 statement that Tramore had been "a wretched and deserted village" in 1828 was perhaps an exaggeration appropriate to the obituary of the parish priest, Fr Nicholas Cantwell, who had been appointed that year. Freeman's Journal, 4 December 1875.  Dorothea Herbert, from Carrick-on-Suir, described a summer visit to Tramore in 1802: T. Coady, ed., Retrospections of Dorothea Herbert... (Dublin, 1988), 400-2.  Thomas Hussey, controversial Catholic bishop of Waterford, died at Tramore in 1803, apparently having suffered a stroke after bathing. Travel writer Thomas Lacey noted in 1863 that "in former years [before the arrival of the railway], hundreds of cars were engaged in running between the city of Waterford and this healthful place". In 1845, it was reported that 150 public vehicles carrying 4 to 6 passengers ran between Waterford and Tramore. Lacey, Sights and Scenes, 536; Cork Examiner, 8 August 1845.

[34] Sketch maps in "The emergence of Tramore" illustrate the growth of the urban core to the 1840s. Griffith's Valuation was consulted  via http://griffiths.askaboutireland.ie. The Buildings of Ireland survey tentatively identifies 9 houses built between c. 1780 and 1845.  Other buildings seem to date from this period, but lack identifiable architectural features.

[35] Population figures are difficult to disentangle, because the census tended to use figures for both townlands and district electoral divisions. The Tramore district electoral division remained demographically stable:  there were 2,836 people in 1841 and 2,837 in 1851. But the electoral division covered over six square miles (4,020 acres) – slightly larger than the 21st-century built-up area. Slater's Commercial Directory reported the "village" population in 1841 as 1,120.  In the nearby district electoral divisions of Drumcannon and Islandikane, population dropped during the Famine decade by 15.5 percent and 20.7 percent. Had these figures applied to the Tramore division as a whole, the 1851 population would have fallen to somewhere between 2250 and 2400. The presence of a cohort of wealthy residents, capable of providing employment and charity, may have saved some of their poorer neighbours from emigration and the workhouse, but it is none the less clear that several hundred new residents appeared, cancelling out a hypothetical but likely population loss caused by mortality and outflow of people from the district's rural fringe. The local press did not report distress at Tramore until January 1847, when public works programmes were terminated. This may suggest that employment opportunities provided by the influx of wealthy summer residents had mitigated suffering in 1846. E. Broderick, "The famine in Waterford...", in D. Cowman and D. Brady, eds, The Famine in Waterford... (Dublin, 1995), 175-6. (The British government had landed one and a half tons of Indian meal at Tramore the previous year "to keep the poor people from hunger". With some exaggeration, a sarcastic journalist estimated that this "would furnish a limited breakfast" for the available claimants, and wondered whether English officialdom thought Tramore "a mere pigmy village." Waterford Chronicle, quoted Tuam Herald, 30 May 1846.) In fact, the raw figures may hide an even larger increase in prosperous residents. Most British and Irish censuses have been taken in late March or early April – before the holiday season – so that statistics for Tramore can be assumed to refer to the permanent population: in 1911, Martin Murphy's Grand Hotel had just two guests. But census day in 1841 was 6 June, making it likely that the 2,836 people recorded for Tramore included some tourists, unlike the 1851 count, taken on 30 March. Further confirmation may be found in the census housing statistics. In most rural districts, houses – cottages and cabins – were not merely abandoned during the Famine decade, they simply disappeared: Islandikane lost 63 of its 355 homes, almost one sixth of the 1841 housing stock. By contrast, the Tramore district increased from 552 to 659. Through some of the most terrible years in Ireland's history, the town was growing, and the incomers may be assumed to have been at least prosperous, and probably wealthy. Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland (1846), 324; census figures taken from British Parliamentary Papers. It should be stressed that the apparent growth of the town in the Famine decade was due to the building of retirement residences and what we would now call second homes, and not of increased tourism. Traffic censuses were carried out in 1845 and 1850 in preparation for the railway. These reported a fall in daily passenger numbers travelling by car from Waterford during the summer from 1,150 to 950. "That falling off they all knew was occasioned by the famine with which the country had been afflicted." Freeman's Journal, 30 March 1853. In 1814, it was said that nothing happened in Tramore between the end of October and the following June: "The emergence of Tramore". "Tramore is deserted by every class, scarcely an inhabitant remaining there," remarked the Leinster Express on 13 October 1832.

[36] Jack O'Neill, "The railways of Waterford", Decies, 21, 1982, 4-17.

[37] The Buildings of Ireland survey tentatively identifies 29 houses built between c. 1850 and 1914. A meeting of shareholders in the railway company was told in that "new houses of a superior class" were "now in course of erection at Tramore." Morning Post (London), 30 September 1861. Thomas Lacey described and identified recent  building in 1862: Lacey, Sights and Scenes, 536. In 1911, Tramore was said to have had "a winter population about 1,700, rising during the summer season to about 4,000". Munster Express, 9 September 1911.

[38] C. Kickham, Knocknagow (1863, various eds), ch. 51. Kickham's brief description of Tramore hinted at the use of the dunes for courtship.

[39] A correspondent ("Tramore") of the (Dublin) Freeman's Journal, 14 August 1885, provided an oblique insight into the "good class" of visitor to the town. Bathing places for men and women were segregated, not least because men did not wear costumes. Winter storms had deposited several feet of gravel along a road alongside the strand, raising the level so that passers-by could see over the wall that had previously screened a male bathing place, thereby permitting "a clear view of the naked bathers as they return from the water to the boxes." It was "the most flagrant, wilful scandal" that women gathered there to observe. An equally scandalised visitor in 1900 (context suggests the writer was a priest) was shocked that "folk seated only a short distance away unblushingly use fieldglasses" to observe nude bathers. Waterford News, 27 July 1900.  By 1894, it seems men could hire bathing costumes from the proprietors of the bathing huts. Poem in Munster Express, 29 September 1894. A secluded bathing place for women, the Ladies Cove, was described (with some Victorian irony) in 1863 as "a sacred retreat, where the proverbially pure and beautiful daughters of this portion of the island lave their snowy limbs." Lacey, Sights and Scenes, 535-6. By 1929 mores had changed but facilities had not advanced. "Mixed bathing of all classes, ages and sexes, is the order of the day,"  complained an anonymous Catholic priest: "the scenes at Tramore would disgrace Somaliland or the Fiji Islands!" (The pejorative comparison was not explained.) Because there were "no shelters used of any description ... both sexes dress and undress together", with young men closely observing the women. "We pride ourselves on being the most God-fearing people in Christendom - at least in theory." But the practice fell short: "talk about the scantiness of female attire in Catholic Ireland; talk about the abuses of modern dancing ... but what are they compared with the shameless 'Living Pictures' of Tramore."  The denunciations of the parish priest were powerless against the weekend influx of 2,500 summer visitors. Government action was called for: Mussolini did not allow that sort of thing in Italy. Munster Express, 16 August 1929.

[40] Irish Times, 29 August 1893.

[41] Independent, 21 July 1910.

[42] In 1897, through tickets could be booked to Tramore from Maryborough, Abbeyleix and Kilkenny, but customers were explicitly advised that fares "do not include conveyance" between the two Waterford stations. Munster Express, 21 August 1897.

[43] Irish Times, 17 August 1891.

[44] Munster Express, 25 June 1898, 5 October 1901.

[45] The longest wait at Maryborough for a Waterford train was 42 minutes. The 6.40 a.m. service from Kingsbridge (now Dublin Heuston) would deliver travellers to Waterford North at 10.12: it might just be possible to rush across the city to Manor Station and board the 10.45 to Tramore, but the next train was not until 12.30. Catch the 8.20 or the 9.15 from Kingsbridge, and you would reach Waterford at 1.30 – with hardly enough time to make the 2 o'clock to Tramore, and a two and quarter hour wait for the next connection. In the afternoon, you could take either the 3 o'clock and the 3.55 from Dublin and reach Waterford at 7.10, but your chances of making the connection to Tramore at 7.30 were slight. The last train to the seaside left at 9 o'clock. If you aimed to reach Tramore on the evening trains leaving Kingsbridge at 6 o'clock and 6.15, your arrival time in Waterford of 9.50 meant you must stay in the city overnight. I take these times from Bradshaw's Railway and Steamship Timetables ... (1906). Victorian (and Edwardian) train times tended to remain the same from decade to decade, as changes would upset a delicate balance of through services. Perhaps some consolation may be drawn from the fact that it was only possible to travel from Dublin to the rival seaside town of Kilkee in County Clare on one through set of connections each day, with changes at Limerick and Ennis. The expedition took 12 hours, 3 of them on the notorious West Clare Railway. But there was no station gap on that route.

[46] P.M. Egan, History, Guide & Directory of County and City of Waterford (Kilkenny, 1895), 605.

[47] Munster Express, 2 September 1876.

[48] Irish Times, 29 August 1893.

[49] Munster Express, 25 January 1896; Edmund Downey, Clashmore (Glasgow, 1920 ed.), 26. An additional problem was the decline in the local fishing trade. In 1866, John Blake, MP for Waterford, had described Tramore as "a considerable fishing station". But in February 1880, "recent severe weather" was reported to have caused a "very serious breach" in the pier protecting the fishing harbour.  "Ever since the pier was washed away the poor fishermen have experienced considerable difficulties in the care of their boats, which have decreased in number owing to want of shelter accommodation," a local newspaper reported in 1892. "Fishing operations are almost nil, unless in exceptionally fine weather during summer it months." This was all the more regrettable since Tramore Bay was "particularly rich in fish of almost every kind". "The take of fish in Tramore Bay this year has been the smallest on record," a local newspaper reported in 1900. "Indeed during the year the fresh fish supply in the town came from Waterford and Dunmore chiefly." A supply of fresh fish would also have enhanced the tourist trade. Irish MPs, especially P.J. Power, who represented East Waterford, pressed the British government for action, without success.  Gerald Balfour, Unionist (Conservative) Chief Secretary for Ireland, rebuffed one approach in 1897, saying that the Inspectors of Fisheries "do not consider Tramore as of sufficient importance, from a fishery point of view, to justify the expenditure of any sum of money, even if such were available for the construction of fishery piers." This was a circular argument. In 1904, P.J. Power managed to cobble together funds for the project, with the help of Waterford County Council: Martin J. Murphy was involved in the campaign. Work began in 1905, and the nearly-complete pier was inaugurated – appropriately by P.J. Power – in 1907. But, by then, it was probably too late to recover Tramore's fishing trade. At a county council sub-committee meeting earlier in 1907, the piers at Ardmore and Tramore were both condemned as "absolutely useless" for commercial fishing and "only used for yachts and visitors which came to these places in the summer time". (It should be made clear that the term "pier" in Ireland generally referred to a stone and concrete breakwater, not – as in England – to a cast-iron and timber pleasure facility.) There are several photographs of the pier from the Edwardian period in the on-line digital collection of the National Library of Ireland.  Hansard, 23 February 1866, vol. 181, columns 970-9;    Waterford News, 20 February 1880; Munster Express, 26 March 1892; Munster Express, 1 December 1900; Hansard, 01 March 1897, vol. 46, column 1325; Cork Examiner, 9 September 1904; Irish Independent, 25 September 1907; Cork Examiner, 30 January 1907. In 1910, stonework at the base of the pier was discovered to be eroding, and cement was poured in to strengthen it. Waterford News, 15 April 1910.

[50] D. Power, "A history of the People's Park", Decies, 52, 1996, 113–44.

[51] Tramore was so close to Waterford City that excursion fares may not have been important by the twentieth century. In 1917, the government banned them as a wartime measure, but there was "little, if any, diminution" in numbers of visitors to Tramore. The additional employment opportunities for women created by the War may explain household prosperity. Waterford News, 4 August 1917.

[52] Irish Times, 27 July 1892; Munster Express, 27 August 1898. An undated versifier (who rhymed "Murphy" with "turfy") celebrated the town: "Bright, breezy and bracing, fresh, fragrant and free, / The Margate of Ireland, Tramore by the Sea." Taylor, Tramore: a Glimpse, 46.

[53] Munster Express, 18 April 1896.

[54] Waterford News, 18 September 1903.

[55] Irish Times, 29 August 1893. During a race meeting the previous year, "the merry-go-round and switchback railway promoters drove a roaring trade." Irish Times, 15 June 1892.

[56] Irish Times, 9 August 1881; Slater's Directory, 1881, 276, and compare 1846 ed., 324; Irish Times, 27 May 1875.

[57] Munster Express, 26 July 1892. A major issue in 1889 had been "the horrible smell from decomposed seaweed" below the Doneraile Way cliff walk. This was caused by the discharge of sewage from houses in the residential area and, some alleged, from the Coastguard Station. The Dispensary Committee called meetings of ratepayers, at which arguments to be heard in 1896 were advanced for and against the establishment of a Town Commission. Some said that "the unsanitary [sic] state of the town" was driving away holidaymakers, others that local farmers should come and collect the seaweed for fertiliser. "Every other watering place in Ireland was improving while they were standing still," claimed one speaker. Another retorted that "Tramore is well enough. It has done without Town Commissioners until now." "If you were a lodging-house keeper," another replied, "you would say different." Munster Express, 21 September, 14 December 1889.

[58] Munster Express, 6 August 1892; 20 October 1888.

[59] The term "slob land" is not widely used outside Ireland. It refers to low-lying alluvial land at the coast, occasionally covered by high tides. By extension, it may also refer to agricultural land enclosed from the sea. The term is particularly associated with estuarine land at Wexford Town, but was also applied at Tramore.

[60] Evidence given by W. L'Estrange Duffin, county surveyor, British Parliamentary Papers, 1911, [Cd. 5709] Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation. Volume III. (Part II.) 203-10 (oral evidence) and 46-7 (written submission). A stone wall, about 3 feet high, skirted the Strand Road, partly to provide privacy for bathers. It was a sea defence only in the most limited sense. Kelly and O'Donoghue, Tramore, 10.

[61] Munster Express, 5 March 1892, 29 September 1894. The verse is given in full in http://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/291-holidays-at-tramore-in-verse-1894-and-prose-1910

[62] Munster Express, 12 December 1896.

[63] Munster Express, 21 January; Irish Times, 13 July 1893. A letter in Freeman's Journal, 14 August 1885 referred to a pre-existing wall about 3 feet high alongside the Strand Road. This was almost certainly more a boundary marker than a full-scale sea defence, like the wall that adjoins Lower Strand Street today.

[64] Munster Express, 9 December 1893.

[65] Munster Express, 12 August 1893.

[66] Munster Express, 14 July 1894; 10 October 1896; 13 March, 21 August 1897; Waterford News, 30 June 1894. Locals called it "Harney's Wall", after the contractor, Patrick Harney, from Dunmore East. Kelly and O'Donoghue, Tramore, 18, with photograph of 1896 storm damage. Munster Express, 9 December 1893.

[67] In 1897, two members of the Grand Jury were pessimistic. One said: "where the sea was gaining on the land sooner or later the foundation of the wall would give way." The other supplied more detail: "the protecting portion of the wall in the front was being gradually cut away. Every inch of material being taken away gave the waves more strength when they struck the wall." Munster Express, 13 March 1897.

[68] The meeting, on Friday 17 January was reported in Munster Express, 25 January 1896. Fr McCarthy died on 30 January.

[69] Munster Express, 21 March 1896.

[70] Waterford News, 15 February, 7 March 1896.

[71] My account of the April public meeting is conflated from reports in Munster Express and Waterford News, both 18 April 1896.

[72] They may have had some reason for their fears. When the new sea wall was damaged by a storm the following winter, one Grand Juryman argued that "the owners of property in Tramore should put their hands into their pockets and pay for the services of an expert." Munster Express, 13 March 1897.   

[73] Munster Express, 4 May 1895; Egan, History ... Waterford, 609.

[74] Waterford News, 18 April 1896. Although the census only required a statement of the county of birth, in 1911 Jacob made a point of squeezing in "Tramore" above "Co Waterford". As a lifelong resident, he no doubt resented the pretensions of such a recent arrival. For his role in the Tramore Quaker community, Taylor, Tramore: a Glimpse, 48.

[75] Edward Jacob retired from business in 1922, and died in 1924. An obituary stated that he "never took the least interest in politics". Waterford News, 25 July 1924.

[76] Munster Express, 2 May, 25 April 1896.

[77] Waterford News, 25 July 1896; Munster Express, 5 March 1898. In 1910, Tramore at night was "twinkling with lights". Nationalist and Leinster Times, 17 September 1910.

[78] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 15 August 1896, quoting Waterford News.

[79] Evening Herald (Dublin), 26 August 1896; see also Munster Express, 8 August 1896. The boating lakes on open ground behind the Promenade were only completed in the 1970s.

[80]  Ilfracombe faced similar challenges to Tramore. As early as 1869, a visitor complained that "vulgar people" from Bristol were turning the place into "a Margate". The notorious 1881 decision to appease Welsh Nonconformity by closing the Principality's pubs on Sundays brought boatloads of intending drunks across the Bristol Channel. Like Tramore, Ilfracombe was too small to segregate the genteel from the raucous. Wealthier patrons took to visiting the town outside the peak months of July and August. Murphy may have seen this as a model for extending the effective tourist season at Tramore.   J.F. Travis, The Rise of the Devon Seaside Resorts... (Exeter, 1993), 146-53.

[81] Freeman's Journal, 15 August 1896.

[82] The Munster Express, 2 November 1912, credited Allingham with having "revived" the bridge's nickname. A lattice-work structure, it was also known as the Bundle of Sticks. "Old Timbertoes" was replaced in 1913.

[83] By 1901, Allingham was also secretary to the city's chamber of commerce, but I am unable to identify when he added this responsibility. The 1901 census also records a mixed marriage, his wife Laura being 20 years younger. There is a 1906 photograph of Laura Allingham, by then with 2 children, in the online digital photograph collection of the National Library of Ireland. It is a reflection of changing times that the Allinghams' 2 year-old son was being reared as a Catholic. When Anthony Trollope had published Phineas Finn in 1867-8,  the accepted practice in mixed marriages was that boys took their father's religion, girls their mother's. One of Tramore's leading residents, Edmond Power, of Tramore House in Green's Lane (later Pond Road) , exemplified the older practice. He was a Catholic, his wife Edith a member of the Church of Ireland. In 1901, their 2 daughters (aged 28 and 19), had been reared as Protestants, their four sons, aged 23, 22, 14 and 13, were Catholics. The 1911 census indicates that the Powers had married about 1872. (It also reports that there had been 12 children, of whom only 5 were still alive.) Edmond Power, who entered himself as "Gentleman" in the census, was one of the town's most prestigious citizens, a magistrate and patron of local events, and thus well able to resist any clerical pressure. His elder daughter married into the Ascendancy Vesey family. Leinster Express, 26 April 1902.

In a 1913 address, the Waterford branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians issued an address noting that the city contained 26,000 Catholics and 2,000 people of other denominations. "The friendly relations existing between them are in marked contrast with the feeling of a section of the people of the North, who not only refuse to work, and live in harmony with their Catholic neighbours, but who, if it were possible, would deny to our Catholic people in Belfast the very right of existence, and who lose no opportunity of misrepresenting and maligning them." They were making a political point, but the tribute to Waterford toleration bears underlining. Freeman's Journal, 11 February 1913.

[84] Cork Examiner, 9 September 1904.

[85] Munster Express, 12 December 1896.

[86] However, he would have drawn encouragement from Tramore's August 1896 race meeting, "by far the most successful yet held". Munster Express, 15 August 1896.

[87] Irish Times, 17 August 1891; 27 May 1875.

[88] Irish Times, 16 February 1897.

[89] Munster Express, 24 April 1897. A public electricity supply reached Tramore 32 years later. Waterford News, 15 November 1929.

[90] The 1906-7 extension added bedrooms, but in 1954 the Grand Hotel had offered only 50 rooms – the same capacity as in Miss Kavanagh's day. Munster Express, 23 November 1954.

[91] Munster Express, 26 June 1897.

[92] Freeman's Journal, 24 May 1897.

[93] Cork Examiner, 13 November 1897, and passim.

[94] Irish Independent, 14 August 1901. An excruciating poem, published in 1918, but apparently written before 1911, advised visitors to Tramore: "If inclined to dine, you would do well / To pay a visit to the Grand Hotel. / This is the seat of the great M.J. / The noblest sportsman of the present day." Munster Express, 24 August 1918.

[95] Munster Express, 5 March 1904.

[96] Cork Examiner, 1 November 1928.  There were 2 families called Flannery in the Churchtown area in 1901, but their ages do not seem to indicate that Agnes could have been a member of either. Two of her sisters became nuns, and a brother joined a religious order. Agnes Flannery cannot be traced in the 1901 Ireland census, and a search for her in the British census has also been without result (information from Gail Wood). She was buried, presumably in accord with her dying wishes, at St Finbarr's Cemetery in Cork City. Portrait photographs of her appeared in Cork Examiner and Independent, 4 May 1914. Her standing as manageress is attested by her inclusion in a posed photograph on the occasion of John Redmond's visit to the Grand Hotel in 1913, the only woman in a small group. Cork Examiner, 7 October 1913.

[97] A conflation from obituaries of Martin J. Murphy  in Freeman's Journal, 5 September and  Kilkenny People, 13 September 1919.

[98] Munster Express, 11 February 1899.

[99] Irish Times, 16 June 1900. With some ingenuity, Murphy apparently arranged his purchase through the Land Acts, which (of course) had not been intended to cover racecourses.

[100] Cork Examiner, 11 September 1903, quoted on the website 'Midleton-with-1-d'.

[101] Waterford News, 18 September 1903.

[102] T. Pakenham, The Boer War (London, 1979), 572.

[103] Waterford News, 28 July 1905, 10 August 1906. Martin Murphy was very open about his expenditure, no doubt assuming that allusions to large sums of money would increase his standing. The Waterford and Tramore railway was reported to have carried 14,000 passengers to the August 1904 race meeting. Murphy's estimate that he would lose close to £1,500 suggests that he aimed for profit of two shillings (10p) per customer. For grandstand charges, Taylor, Tramore: a Glimpse, 42-8.

[104] Munster Express, 4 January 1902; Irish Times, 24 January 1905; Waterford News, 7 December 1906.

[105] M. Scott, ed., Hall's Ireland ... (2 vols, London,  1984), i, xvii.

[106] Bradshaw's Railway and Steamship Timetables ... (1906),  864; Downey, Clashmore, 24.

[107] Some marketing was exaggerated. "So rapid indeed is the journey that the traveller can breakfast in a luxurious corridor express leaving Paddington at a quarter to nine in the morning, dine at Waterford or Tramore and take supper in his hotel at the side of the famous Lakes of Killarney." The Times (London), 9 October 1909. The overall timetable is unlikely, the detour to Tramore absurd. In 1928, the Sultan of Muscat did visit both Tramore and Killarney, but that was a tour by motor car. A small crowd gathered to watch his arrival at the Grand Hotel. The Sultan was apparently more impressed by Killarney: Muscat had sand dunes but no lakes. Cork Examiner, 5 October 1928

The new line included the Barrow Bridge, third longest rail viaduct in Ireland and Britain, an indication of the seriousness of the project. It was closed in 2010, the victim of moronic timetabling.

[108] Waterford News, 18 September 1903.

[109] Waterford News, 3 April 1903; Irish Times, 19 July 1905. This does not mean that Tramore was car-friendly. The chauffeur of the Marquess of Waterford was fined for dangerous driving in the town, despite his protest that he was only travelling at 10 m.p.h. Irish Times, 14 October 1905. William Gallwey is said to have acquired the town's first automobile, in 1903.  Kelly and O'Donoghue, Tramore, 111. Bus and coach travel also increased access to Tramore: a "motor excursion to Tramore" was planned from Carrick-on-Suir in 1915. Munster Express, 7 August 1915.

[110] Independent, 25 August 1911, an obviously promotional report.

[111] Waterford News, 26 April 1907, quoting Nationalist (Clonmel).

[112] The lifeboat committee met at the Grand Hotel on 14 January. On 11 April, a labourer stole the lead stripped from the existing roof. Munster Express, 19 January; 18 May, 15 June 1907.

[113] I backdate a comment from Waterford News, 4 August 1917.

[114] The Times (London), 27 February 1907, 26 May 1911. "Miss Flannery" had played for Tramore Ladies against New Ross Ladies in 1908. Irish Times, 19 March 1908.

[115] Waterford News, 27 July 1900. The moralistic tone of thewriter, who signed "Maori", suggests a priest on leave from New Zealand.

[116] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 17 September 1910, quoting Dublin Evening Telegraph. This pen portrait, of a summer day in Tramore, is given in full in http://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/291-holidays-at-tramore-in-verse-1894-and-prose-1910

[117] Munster Express, 3 August 1912.

[118] Independent, 24 June 1908. In 1897, "a new range of baths, constructed on the modern and improved system" was planned for the town. Munster Express, 21 August 1897. The experience is described in Edmund Downey's Clashmore, ch. 27. No progress had been made on the project for new public baths had been made by 1912, and there was some resentment that the Castletowns had exploited local goodwill in selling off their ground rents. The Castletowns made their offer contingent upon the town investing a similar amount, something perhaps not made clear in 1908. Munster Express, 3 August 1912; Independent, 21 July 1910.

[119] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 17 September 1910, quoting Dublin Evening Telegraph.

[120] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 17 September 1910, quoting Dublin Evening Telegraph.

[121] Waterford News, Independent, 17 April 1908. Katie Murphy was 35 at the time of the 1901 census. Her age at death is difficult to decipher on the headstone in the graveyard of the Church of the Holy Cross. In 1901, their oldest children, probably twins, were 11, pointing to birth in 1889 or 1890. However, an earlier child may have died. Martin Murphy entered himself as a widower in 1911, and recorded that he had been married for 25 years. Possibly he misunderstood the question, and returned not the duration the marriage, but the length of time since their wedding. Length of marriage had not been demanded in 1901. Katie evidently married young, and would have been 20 in 1886.

[122] The National Library of Ireland digital photograph collection contains a portrait of Mrs M.J. Murphy and three small children in a pony trap at Tramore. The age of the children suggests a date in the 1890s, and the location may be outside the Grand Hotel. All four are wearing black, and were presumably in mourning. An obituary stated that Agnes Flannery was appointed manageress of the Grand Hotel on the death of Murphy's first wife. This was chronologically inaccurate, but suggests that Katie Murphy was involved in the running of the hotel. Cork Examiner, 1 November 1928.

[123] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 17 September 1910, quoting Dublin Evening Telegraph.

[124] Duffin's evidence is in British Parliamentary Papers, 1911, [Cd. 5709] Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation. Volume III. (Part II.) 203-10 (oral evidence) and 46-7 (written submission). The Report was in Part I, where Tramore is mentioned at 76. Duffin retired to Rathfarnham (Dublin) in 1914. Shortly before his death in 1925, he urged the Irish Free State to "adopt Brian Boru's flag – a gold harp, with silver strings, on a blue ground." His Waterford years had evidently not reconciled him to T.F. Meagher's revolutionary tricolour. Munster Express, 12 December 1896; Irish Times, 25 May 1925.

[125] It is noteworthy that when the Promenade was extended eastward in 1932, it was built about 20 yards back from the line of the 1913-15 construction. McGrath, Tramore Bay, 35. Not mentioned in contemporary discussions was the fact that the Waterford to Tramore railway excavated beach materials to be used as ballast for the permanent way. In 1930, it was claimed that the practice had continued "up to a few years ago", and that "[t]ens of thousands of tons of gravel" had been removed over the decades. Waterford News, 7 November 1930.

[126] The evidence tactfully avoided referring to the racecourse, which might not have been a popular candidate for public funds among the Liberal government's British Nonconformist supporters. In 1901, 150 yards of the sewerage outlet beyond the Strand had been destroyed. Worse still, high tides had washed stones into the outlet, completely closing it and forcing sewage inland. Waterford News, 12 April 1901.

[127] Now largely forgotten, Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines was a popular adventure story set in a lost world in the middle of Africa. Another novel, She, sold millions of copies, but survives mainly in a single phrase used with defensive irony by male chauvinists, "She who must be obeyed". Haggard's conventionally racist views of Africans were voiced through character of Allan Quatermain, the lone hunter who, in film and television, has taken on an autonomous identity. Quatermain  has been suggested as the inspiration for the Indiana Jones. For Haggard's role in the Royal Commission, J. Winter, Secure from Rash Assault... (Berkeley, CA, 1999), ch. 12.

[128] Irish Times, 5 May 1910.

[129] Waterford News, 15 April 1910.

[130] Martin P. Murphy energetically promoted the Ossory Hotel, with advertising slogans such as "Insure against unhappy holidays".  The claim that the Ossory was one minute's walk from the station, baths and beach was a massive exaggeration. "Central, Comfortable, and Up-to-Date", was probably fair enough, but "Dissatisfied Clients are as rare as Halley's Comet" was surely reckless. (Halley's Comet, which appeared every 75 years, had been dramatically visible in the night sky earlier in 1910.)  The Ossory Hotel stood at the corner of Strand Street and Queen Street: the most likely building is now (2018) a bistro. Visitor lists in the local press indicate that it contained only a handful of rooms. Targeted at cyclists, it probably operated as what would now be called a budget hotel. The 1911 census records the 39 year-old Martin P. Murphy was a Kilkenny man, like his namesake. While it is possible that he was a relative working in loose association  with Martin J. Murphy, he was not named among family mourners in reports of the latter's funeral. Independent (Dublin), 31 August 1910, 6 July 1911; Kilkenny People, 15 July 1911. Ill health forced him to give up the Ossory Hotel in 1945. Independent, 16 June 1945.

[131] Waterford News, 2 September 1910: "we cannot eternally rely on the Metal Man or the Doneraile Walk or the Rabbit Burrow as our sole attractions to encourage visitors to come year after year."

[132] Cork Examiner, 9 September, 10 October 1911. Captain Carew had questioned Duffin about the capacity of the wall back in 1893. Ballindud gives its name to one of the roundabouts on Waterford's interminable ring road.

[133] Waterford News, 1 November 1912.The Waterford News had reported two years earlier that "the intolerable smell from the sewer still continues", and criticised the people of Tramore for failing to tackle the nuisance. Waterford News, 15 April 1910. The cockle women were clever enough to produce and sell artistic necklaces made from sea shells. B. Irish and A. Kelly, A Century of Trade & Enterprise in Waterford ... [Waterford], 2009, 76.

[134] Freeman's Journal, 23 July; Independent, 20 August 1913.  Costen's tender was £4,414.

[135] Waterford News, 13 March 1914.

[136] Munster Express, 5 December 1915, 27 February; Waterford News, 21 May; Munster Express, 7 August 1915. There was a dispute between the County Council and the contractor, because Costen had departed from the exact specifications, leading to fears that the Treasury grant might be withheld. Waterford County Council also voted £850 to build "a new road beside the sea promenade". Kilkenny People, 28 August 1915.

[137] Cork Examiner, 4 April 1911. According to Taylor, Tramore: a Glimpse, 47, Murphy was able to call upon engineers working on Waterford City's new bridge across the Suir, which suggests political influence.

[138] Freeman's Journal, 14 December; Waterford News, 15 December 1911. The theory that timber piling from the 1850s had given way can only be a guess. After 160 years, most of the Malcomson embankment remains intact, suggesting that its core is secure, although the gap that opened in 1911 will have reduced the pressure from high tides. The embankment enclosing the Lisselan Intake on the north side of the Back Strand has also stood the test of time.

[139] Freeman's Journal, 14 December; Waterford News, 15 December 1911.

[140] Freeman's Journal, 18, 19 December 1911.

[141] Cork Examiner, 1 January 1912. By July 1913, the entire old racecourse area, around 300 acres, was "now nearly all submerged." Freeman's Journal, 23 July 1913.

[142] Cork Examiner, 2 January 1912. An incidental and probably unforeseen advantage of its location, on the northern fringe of Tramore, was that it would later provide convenient car access to the course without causing traffic congestion in the town.

[143] Independent, 13 August 1912.

[144] Freeman's Journal, 5 September 1919.

[145] Waterford News, 30 October 1914 for Budd's hunting connection. In 1899, he had put land up for auction, stating that he was "retiring from farming". However, he described himself as a farmer in the 1911 census. Irish Times, 25 February 1899.

[146] Cork Examiner, 5 September 1919. Having purchased the racecourse through the provisions of the Land Acts, Murphy now in effect held a mortgage on a property that had very spectacularly passed into negative equity. The Land Commission continued to demand the annuity payments. Southern Cross (Adelaide), 20 March 1913, quoting Waterford News, undated.

[147] Munster Express, 20 April 1901, and see also Cork Examiner, 5 May 1901. The cathedral organ was formally re-inaugurated a month later: Waterford News, 7 June 1901.

[148] Munster Express, 16 May 1907.

[149] Cork Examiner, 10 October 1911.

[150] In 1892, P.J. Power had defeated the Parnellite Edmund Leamy by 2,562 votes to 1,043. He had first been elected in 1884, at a by-election and also unopposed, for the undivided County Waterford constituency, which was split into two from 1885 to 1918.

[151] Cork Examiner, 5 February 1913. The account of the nomination which follows is taken from this source. Nugent died in 1924. Freeman's Journal, 17 October 1924.

[152] An undated photograph on the Historical Picture Archive website shows the Union Flag ("Union Jack") hanging listlessly over the Grand Hotel's main entrance.

[153] Irish Examiner, 5 February 1913.

[154] Independent, 13 February 1913. The website of Waterford County Museum has a group photograph of Murphy's formal election. Martin Murphy stands immediately behind the two seated officials.

[155] Kilkenny People, 13 September 1919.

[156] Hansard, vol. 82  cols 2305-6 (25 May 1916). P.J. Power had even raised the appointment of the postmaster at Stradbally, County Waterford, in the House of Commons. 

[157] Freeman's Journal, 23 July 1913.

[158] Freeman's JournalIndependent, 1 May 1914.

[159] Freeman's Journal, 7 March 1913.

[160] Cork Examiner, 5 September 1919.

[161] Independent, 10 September ; Cork Examiner, 8 September 1913. Joseph Devlin was a guest at Grand Hotel earlier that summer. Munster Express, 24 May 1913.

[162] Independent, 27 August 1914.

[163] Cork Examiner, Freeman's Journal, 24 March 1915.

[164] Munster Express, 12 June 1915.

[165] Munster Express, 26 June 1915.

[166] Independent, 13 June 1916. For the Irish Party's problems with the Freeman's Journal, F.S.L. Lyons, John Dillon... (London, 1968), 389-90; F. Callanan, T.M. Healy (Cork, 1996), 530-1.

[167] Munster Express, 26 June 1915.

[168] Freeman's Journal, 24 June 1916. Murphy's defence of Irish racing was picked up by a Queensland newspaper, Charters Towers Evening Telegraph, 12 December 1916, traced through the National Library of Australia's Trove website.  He attended a dance at Waterford's cartridge factory in 1917, a gesture of support for war workers. Munster Express, 13 October 1917.

[169] Independent, 28 May 1914. Martin Murphy is not mentioned in D. Meleady, John Redmond: the National Leader (2013), nor in S. Gwynn, John Redmond's Last Years (London, 1919) , nor in Gwynn's 1932 full-length biography. There is a brief allusion to Murphy in P. McCarthy, The Redmonds and Waterford... (Dublin, 2018). There is something poignant about the peroration to Redmond's speech at Waterford in October 1916, in which he denounced "the treacherous enemies of Ireland", assuring them that "their personal attacks on me have as much or as little effect as the waves which spend themselves and break themselves on the rocks at Tramore." Record (Perth, Western Australia), 2 December 1916. 

[170] Munster Express, 26 January 1918.

[171] Belfast Newsletter, 8 March 1918.

[172] Munster Express, 14 December 1918.

[173] Evening Herald, 4 September 1919. ("He had been ailing for two years".)

[174] Kilkenny People, 13 September; Cork Examiner, 5 September 1919.

[175] Evening Herald, 4 September; Cork Examiner, 22 April; Independent , 14 August1919.

[176] Cork Examiner, 5 September 1919; Waterford News, 12 September 1919, quoting tributes from the Board of Guardians. There is a brief modern tribute to Murphy in Taylor, Tramore: a Glimpse, 47. Canon Pierce Coffey, parish priest since 1896, had also died, a month earlier. Munster Express, 11 August 1919.  As noted above, the age of 54 given on his tombstone is unlikely to be correct.

[177] Freeman's Journal, 8 September 1919.

[178] C. Townshend, The British Campaign in Ireland, 1919-1921... (Oxford, 1975), chs 1-2.

[179] It may be noted that in census returns, he did not indicate any ability to speak Irish. He is not listed as having attended a 1910 Gaelic League concert in Tramore. Munster Express, 12 February 1910.

[180] The Times (London), 7 March; Waterford News, 26 September 1919. Widger described himself in the 1911 census as "Retired Trainer". He was prosperous enough to employ a coachman, housemaid and cook. A detailed local study would be required to establish whether the Hibernian-Sinn Féin tensions of 1919 were a precursor of Civil War divisions in Tramore.  In 1934, 204 Blueshirts mobilised at Tramore (150 men and 54 women), outnumbering the visiting contingent of 182 (150 men and 32 women) from Waterford City. One speaker delighted the rally by pointing out that the Metal Man was (and is) a blue-jacketed sailor. E. Broderick, "The Blueshirts in Waterford 1932-1934", Decies, 48, 1993, 60.

[181] The licence was initially transferred, on a temporary basis, on 14 October 1919. Agnes Murphy applied for its permanent transfer in January 1920.  Munster Express, 3January 1920. 

[182] Cork Examiner, 1 November 1928.

[183] Cork Examiner, 5 March 1954.

[184] Independent, 1 November 1954.

[185] Cork Examiner, 4 August 1967, 8 January 1972, 14 December 1976, 20 November 1980.

[186] Irish Press, 2 November 1984.

[187] Cork Examiner, 20 March 1914.

[188] Munster Express, 25 July 2018. One elected representative regaled fellow councillors with the legend of the Trojan Horse. Tramore has (in 2018) both a 4-star and 3-star hotel, plus guest houses and holiday apartments.

[189] Notice affixed to Grand Hotel, personal observation 10 October 2018.

[190] Information from the Tramore Golf Club website.

[191] Munster Express, 20 April 2007; Cork Examiner, 12 September 2013; Independent, 13 January 2016.

[192] Irish Press, 2 November 1984.

[193] Munster Express, 20 May 1983, 10 July 1998.

[194] The Tramore entry from Egan's History, Guide & Directory.... is reproduced in Taylor, Tramore of Long Ago, 185-9.

[195] Freeman's Journal, 5 September 1919.