Waterford from 1914 - 1918

The war impacted on the day to day life of Waterford people. The import and export of goods was badly affected by the war and as a result the cost of living rose. The government called for thrift and economy from the populace and many infrastructure works were brought to a halt. The war also brought refugees to Waterford. Concerts were performed to raise money for Belgian Refugees in Dungarvan in 1914 and a small group of Belgian refugees stayed in Dungarvan. On 16th November 1914 Dungarvan Urban District Council refused an application from a young woman to mind children until the end of the war made by P. McCloskey, Cappagh Ward saying that the Council "...did not approve of having the Belgian Refugees let on hire as servants".

As the war contintued the cost of living increased and to attempt to counteract the increases in the cost of living war bonuses were introduced. On 2nd March 1915 Waterford City Council resolved, after much discussion:

“...that the wages of all corporation labourers be increased to £1 a week, in consequence of the increased cost of living, owing to the War, prices having gone up in many cases 20 per cent; and that it be referred to the Finance and Law Committee to consider by what means the necessary amount for the proposed amount be raised”.

‌On 16th March 1915 a further resolution was passed asking the Finance and Law Committee “to review the rate of wages at present paid to their workmen with a view to see if it be practicable to make some extra allowance to them during the War period owing to the present high prices of provisions.” The wages of Miss O’Mahony in Reginald’s Tower were increased from 7 shillings 1 penny to 10 shillings for the duration of the war.

On 23rd May 1916 Waterford County Council’s Finance Committee recommended:

“To fix 16 shillings per week as the minimum wage to be paid to men employed on maintenance work during the period of the war”. Again, after some discussion this was agreed and maintenance overseers wages were also increased by 1 shilling a week. It was also agreed that the sum of £250 per annum be granted to the County Surveyor for travelling expenses “pending the termination of the war”. Petrol was very expensive during the war and the travel expenses of JJ Donnelly, Tuberculosis Officer were also increased by £100 per annum for the duration of the war.

On 27th November 1917, Waterford County Council adopted the recommendations of the Finance Committee to increase the wages of a number of staff:

  • Quarter Overseers - 35 shillings per week
  • Engine Drivers - 30 shillings per week
  • Rolling Overseers - 32 shillings per week
  • Steam Drill Men - 28 shillings per week
  • Quarrymen - 25 shillings per week
  • Feeders - 24 shillings per week
  • Wagonmen - 25 shillings per week
  • Wheeling to Breakers and Attending on Rollers - 24 shillings per week

  • The Rural District Council also sought to increase wages of labourers and Waterford No.1 Rural District Council was unsuccessful in gaining authorisation to grant a war bonus of 25% to road contractors.

    Infrastructure projects, such as housing schemes, were halted during the war and the Board of Trade required detailed information on whether any works were required or could be postponed. On 10th August 1915 Waterford County Council “...assents to the opinion of the Board of Trade, that in view of the present situation and the urgent need for national economy, the question of the construction of the Cunnigar Bridge should be postponed until after the war.”

    As part of the drive for thrift and economy allotments were advocated and on 1st February 1916 Waterford City Council resolved “That we approve of the action of the Technical Instruction Committee in carrying out the recommendations of the Department of Agriculture re: “Productive Thrift” and that we grant temporary use of any plots in our possession for the purpose that we may be in a position to do so.”

    Food supply became a matter of increasing concern as the war continued. A Waterford Food Control Committee was established as a sub-committee of the Food Control Committee for Ireland in 1917. The Food Control Committee for Ireland conferred local committees with the authority to fix retail prices of food supplies on 13th December 1917. The Waterford Food Control Committee fixed the highest price for milk at 1s8d per imperial gallon from 1st January 1918. Discusions were held about the shortage of butter and the fact that English buyers were offering increased prices to local suppliers and thus causing a shortage of butter locally.

    On 23rd April 1918 Waterford County Council resolved:

    "That we beg to warn the Irish People of the great necessity that exists for conserving the food supplies of the Country and that we take this opportunity of advising farmers to keep every particle of food which can be kept in the country and thus help to feed the people in their resistance to the enforcement of conscription".
    ‌‌ In addition to focusing on thrift and economy the local authorities also looked to improve employment in Waterford. Waterford City Council actively pursued the goal of establishing a munitions factory in the City. On 6th June 1915 it was agreed to contact John E. Redmond MP as the local representative and inform him that there were two military barracks lying idle in the hope that they would be utilised for troop training, "And also to ask him to use his influence with the proper authorities in regard to the manufacture of war munitions here which would be a great benefit to the working classes". The proper authorties themselves were contacted directly by the Council when on 3rd August 1915 it was to dispatch a telegram to Captain Kelly of the Ministry of Munitions Department. On 3rd March 1916 a deputation of the Mayor and High Sheriff were appointed to go to London at once and interview John Redmond MP and ask him to support and advocate the claim for the establishment of a National Munitions Factory by government in Waterford.

    All of this lobbying proved successful and on 19th May 1916 the Waterford News newspaper reported that a cartridge factory was definitely about to be established and that officials had been to view the proposed factory at Bilberry, the site of the Waterford South Railway Terminus which had closed in January 1908 to traffic and was being used as a store. The decision was made to go ahead and on 29th September 1916 the Waterford News reported that the following ladies left for London to receive training in munitions work:

    Mrs. Hodkinson; Miss A. Murphy; Mrs. Lewis; Miss Curtis; Miss Smith; Mis MacDonald; Mrs. Nolan; Miss Stephenson; Mrs. B. Quinlan; Miss N. Grant and Miss C. Veale. They were in the charge of Miss Mary O' Reilly of Bridge Street.

    On 22nd December 1916 the Waterford News reported that the ladies were at work greasing the machinery and carrying out light work but had not yet commenced making munitions. In 1917 they commenced making cartridges and continue to do so until after the war. The factory closed in the Summer of 1919.

    Related images

    Food Supply
    National Munition Factory