The following is a transcript taken from the LIVE Community Chat chat hosted here at TheWildGeese.com on Monday, December 9, 2013. The focus for the discussion was the fascinating discovery of Newtown Jerpoint in County Kilkenny, where St. Nicholas' remains (as in Santa Claus) are purported to be buried. The owner of Jerpoint Park, Maeve O'Connell, joined us as our special guest for the discussion. You can find more information on Jerpoint Park at www.JerpointPark.com. Some editing has been applied for clarity.
The Wild Geese: Céad míle fáilte, a chairde! So glad to see each one of you who have stopped by for this evening’s LIVE Community Chat here in TheWildGeese.com.
Our focus this evening is on the intriguing connection between St. Nicholas (a.k.a. “St. Nick”) and Jerpoint Park in County Kilkenny, Ireland.
We’re joined by Maeve O’Connell this evening. Maeve is with Jerpoint Park, a historic gem which preserves the the “Lost Town” of Newtown Jerpoint. It was founded by either Earl Marshall or Griffin Fitzwilliam in 12th century.
As a special treat, a beautiful piece from Sarah Nagle of the Nagle Forge and Foundry goes to one lucky participant of tonight's chat.
My name is Ryan O’Rourke, and I’ll be the moderator for this evening’s chat.
We’ll now turn it over for the next 45 minutes to Maeve. Welcome, Maeve!
Jerpoint Park: Good evening everyone .... Maeve from Jerpoint Park here, and delighted to be asked to participate in the conservation. I hope to enlighten you into the hidden gem of heritage we have at Jerpoint Park.
Belinda Evangelista: Welcome, Maeve. :-)
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Cheers, Maeve.
Gerry Regan: Maeve, delighted to have the opportunity to learn more about Jerpoint and medieval Ireland.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: I remember touring Jerpoint Abbey a number of years ago and St. Nicholas wasn't mentioned. Is this a new discovery?
Jerpoint Park: I am the owner of Jerpoint Park and not Jerpoint Abbey. Jerpoint Abbey is owned by the State and it is unusual to have a property with such important history in private ownership, but we were lucky to buy the property eight years ago to farm it.
The Wild Geese: Thanks for that clarification, Maeve.
Gerry Regan: Curious then, Maeve, about the difference between the two sites, and what they share.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: Please explain the location of the two different sites!
Jerpoint Park: Both Joe and myself are primarily farmers, but since buying the property discovered the footprints of a deserted 12th Century Medieval Town on our farm with the Tomb Effigy of St. Nicholas.
Ryan O'Rourke: How cool is that?!
Fran Reddy: Wow.
Julianne Ní Chonchobhair: Wow!
The Wild Geese: Maeve, please tell us just a bit about Jerpoint Park.
Jerpoint Park: Jerpoint Abbey was a Cistercian Abbey built in the 11th Century. It was dissolved in the 15th Century by Henry V, and is now owned by the government in Ireland. Jerpoint Park has the town that served that Abbey.
Jerpoint Park is approx 500 yards from the Abbey on the Mount Juliet Road.
The property was being sold due to a divorce case, and at the day of the auction not much interest was being shown ... so we bought it as a family home and farm. Wow, what a surprise we got when we realised the importance of the site.
Gerry Regan: What was the town named, Maeve? And when was it abandoned?
Jerpoint Park: The town was called Newtown Jerpoint and The Heritage council of Ireland published a Conservation Plan in 2007 solely about the site, and it can be downloaded from our website, www.JerpointPark.com.
Fran Reddy: Looking at the site ... it looks fabulous!
Lisa Fortin Jackson: How did you realize the site was there on your property?
Jerpoint Park: It was when the Conservation Plan was published, and as the current owners we were invited to the launch - the penny dropped.
Jim Curley: "The penny dropped" - you lost me there.
Jerpoint Park: The penny dropped, meaning it was then that we realised what we had bought.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: So the whole thing was in the works when you bought the property, and you weren't aware of it until the planning meeting?
Fran Reddy: So you were in the right place at the right time. :-)
Jim Curley: Are you still able to farm the property or have the archeologists overrun it?
Jerpoint Park: We are still able to farm with both tillage and sheep. We will be lambing 150 ewes in mid-February and still have archaeologists working on site as well.
Mark Wayne Harrell, Sr.: Do people visit now?
Jerpoint Park: We had thousands of people visit in 2013 -- and increasing strongly as word of mouth is a great thing -- but we have a lot of designed tour buses coming for a two hour package where the are served homemade scones, guided heritage tour, plus a sheep dog demonstration.
Belinda Evangelista: Maeve is a great hand at baking, I hear.
Fran Reddy: Nice.
Gerry Regan: Maeve, when you can, please explain the connection to St. Nicholas, for example, what is a "tomb effigy" as distinct from a tomb? And where does history lose track of the burial place of St. Nick, to justify even the possibility of his remains lying in Newtown Jerpoint?
The Wild Geese: Yes, Maeve, let's turn our attention to the "St. Nick" aspect of Jerpoint, seeing as how we're quickly approaching Christmas.
Jerpoint Park: Right ... In 1839 the first ordnance survey map of Ireland was published and it has St. Nicholas’ Tomb on our site. The site has apparently always been associated with St. Nicholas (as we are not locals we never heard of this till we bought the property).
(Right: St. Nicholas' Tomb)
Mark Wayne Harrell, Sr.: Does it say a date of burial?
Belinda Evangelista: Where were the remains before Jerpoint?
Jerpoint Park: St. Nicholas was a turkish Bishop and was a very kind and giving person. He died in A.D. 343 and was buried in Myra (Turkey), and the moved to Bari in Italy for safe keeping. The Crusades were rampant at the Medieval time, and relics were very important items.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Are there additional historical records which corroborate the location of the burial site?
Jerpoint Park: There has never been an archaeological dig at Jerpoint to establish what is here, and I don't know if there will be one as it is a very costly.
Fran Reddy: I thought that was something that would be funded by outside interested parties?
Jerpoint Park: If you know of any funding for us to develop this remarkable site - I would be delighted. We get funding from The Heritage Council of Ireland to conserve the Church of St. Nicholas and the last wall of the Tower House, but more funding would be very welcome.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Will be happy to do some research for you Maeve, as would several others here, I'm sure.
Mark Wayne Harrell, Sr.: Even if they dug up the site, how would they know have the right St. Nicholas?
Ryan O'Rourke: Quite a nice entry about Newtown Jerpoint on Wikipedia!
Gerry Regan: I'm fascinated at even the suggestion that St. Nick's remains are in Ireland. Definitely something I would love to learn more about.
Jerpoint Park: On site at Jerpoint Park, there is St. Nicholas' Church where the Tomb of St. Nicholas is laid outside of the church, plus St. Nicholas' well, which is supposed to be a healing well.
Gerry Regan: Perhaps, Maeve, you might recommend someone who has researched this story and who can weave its details together in our pages. Perhaps even you and / or your husband.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Can you tell us more about the tomb effigy, Maeve, and what exactly that is?
Jerpoint Park: A Tomb Effigy is a full body size about 8ft x 2.5ft.
Belinda Evangelista: Chairman of Callan Heritage Society, Philip Lynch, said that the remains were twice transferred across Europe in the 12th century. Mr Lynch claims a French family called the de Frainets moved the saint’s remains from Myra to Italy in 1169. A relative called Nicholas de Frainet then took the remains (from this article).
Jerpoint Park: Yes Belinda the De Frainets and the Denn family were apparently the two crusader knights who brought back the relics to Jerpoint.
Gerry Regan: BTW, another somewhat murky -- and indirect -- connection to epic world history is St. Nicholas Cathedral in Galway City, from which Columbus reputedly sailed on his way to his first trip to the New World. And yet another fascinating connection to St. Nicholas.
This is a truly fascinating window into medieval Irish history.
Jerpoint Park: Yes Gerry, I have heard that too.
Ryan O'Rourke: Columbus is supposed to have visited a few years' prior to his 1492 voyage.
Gerry Regan: Well, of course, that's a story for another day.
Jerpoint Park: Have a look at the Irish TV video on our website and you will see Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, Mark Patrick Hederman, speak about the St. Nicholas side of the story, and Ian Doyle for The Heritage Council of Ireland..
Gerry Regan: Maeve, do you have accommodations, e.g., a B&B, on your grounds?
Belinda Evangelista: Why were there so many Taverns in the town? 27 dwellings and a brewery and up to 14 Taverns. Must have been a very 'merry' town. :-)
Jerpoint Park: The taverns were like B&B's in the town in Medieval times, as they were coming to visit the Tomb of St. Nicholas - it was a pilgrim town.
Gerry Regan: Speaking about brew, is Smithwick's brewed in Kilkenny? BTW, what's the best way in your view for a visitor to acquaint himself with Jerpoint Park?
Jerpoint Park: Smithwick's was brewed in Kilkenny until last month when it was closed down, unfortunately.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: There's no more Smithwicks?????
Jerpoint Park: I used abhor the smell of the hops being brewed - very distinctive smell.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: I don't blame you, Maeve. That wouldn't appeal to me either.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: I spent ten days in Kilkenny this past August. Unfortunately, never made it to Jerpoint, but certainly will when I'm back next summer.
Jerpoint Park: Visit our website, www.JerpointPark.com, and read the TripAdvisor reviews, too. A lot of people are simply stunned with the St. Nicholas story and the town, and we welcome people from April to September 2014, or by coach tours all year round.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: I have quite a few friends in Kilkenny who are photographers. I will pass along your information to my friends. I'm sure they would be happy to contribute photos to your website if you are interested. Do you have many out there taking photographs?
Jerpoint Park: Absolutely, Lisa. it is a very photogenic place ... very unspoiled. We open our house to the coach tours and we love sharing our stories about the history, farming, everyday life etc.
Ryan O'Rourke: We live in Galway, Maeve. We'll be sure to make a point of scheduling a trip down to see you and the Park.
Gerry Regan: Maeve, what's your favorite story about visitors to Jerpoint? Do you a colorful story to share?
Belinda Evangelista: Any famous visitors?
Jerpoint Park: We had Broadway actor who brought his friends with him., and sang Percy French songs in the red dining room, which has a barre vaulted ceiling. Amazing.
Belinda Evangelista: Did they have a scone? :-)
Lisa Fortin Jackson: I'd like a scone right now.
Jerpoint Park: With raspberry jam and cream. Yum.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Yum. My tea is lonely at the moment.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: And Barry's Tea and no Smithwick's.
Julianne Ní Chonchobhair: The pictures of Jerpoint look stunning.
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Can't wait to visit next summer.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: Jerpoint Park sounds a lot more interesting than the Abbey itself. Regular people lived there.
Gerry Regan: OK, so Maeve, no overnight guests there, unless they can sing? ;-)
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Guess that rules me out. :-)
Belinda Evangelista: Me too Lisa.
Jerpoint Park: Roll on 2014 ... The coach business starts in March ‘til December, and the individual traveller from April to September.
The Wild Geese: Okay, folks ... we'll draw the "official" chat this evening to a close ... but you're welcome to stick around as long as you wish afterward and visit with one another. :-)
We thank Maeve from Jerpoint Park for joining us this evening.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: Thanks, Maeve. You've shown us a new and stunning place to visit.
The Wild Geese: And we thank everyone who joined in on the discussion!
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Has been lovely, Maeve, thank you. Looking forward to meeting you next summer.
Belinda Evangelista: Lovely chat Maeve :-)
Julianne Ní Chonchobhair: Thanks, Maeve!
Gerry Regan: Go raibh maith agat, Maeve!
The Wild Geese: Thanks also to Nagle Forge and Foundry for sponsoring this evening's chat. We'll be announcing the winner of the lovely piece they're generously gifting to one of this evening's chat participants soon. Visit them at www.NagleForge.com.
(Right: Handmade piece by Nagle Forge and Foundry)
Patricia A. McAuliffe: Yes, thanks Nagle Forge and Foundry!
The Wild Geese: Here's Jerpoint Park's profile page here at The Wild Geese community.
Gerry Regan: We're all about making connections here, gang, so let's welcome Jerpoint as only we Geese can.
Jerpoint Park: Thank you so much for the experience of communication with so many of you on the other side of the world. I look forward to welcoming you to Jerpoint Park in the future, and I would like to wish you all the a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2014. :-)
Belinda Evangelista: Same to you and yours, Maeve. :-)
Lisa Fortin Jackson: Happy Christmas, Maeve! :-)
Gerry Regan: Nollaig shona, Maeve!
The Wild Geese: Oiche mhaith, gach duine, agus Nollaig shona!