THE petite front room in Eddie Sauvage’s Rathfadden Villas home is littered with Waterford’s history in different forms. He has photographs of various Dolphin FC football sides from across the years. Local newspapers sit on a small squared table beneath beautifully carved pieces of Waterford Crystal, where the 81-year-old worked for much of his life. Dozens of A4 sheets carry poems written by Eddie and each one is authentically Waterford – with the subjects being different natives, traits and topics stemming from the city.
“Jim Maloney, a lovely man who was high up in the glass factory, died and so I wrote a poem for him. Then I wrote on my father. People told me that they liked them so then I started writing them about a bird in the garden or someone I worked with for years.”
Eddie, who explains that the u in his surname originates from France, with his ancestors hailing from the island of Guernsey, grew up on 59 Morrisons Avenue and he proudly states he has always been a Top of the Town man.
As a child he was always active and the boys in the area would get up to “harmless devilment” when they weren’t racing their bikes on the Cork Road pretending they were horse riders Lester Piggott, Charlie Smirke and Billy Nevett.
Speaking of the local characters he remembers, he states: “We used to be playing soccer out on the street every day – morning, noon and night. We had street leagues and I remember funny fellas like Dodie Murray who was cracked out.
“Ma O’Neill would be on the end – we’d shout in to her house ‘MA NAIL’ and then have to run seven miles because she’d follow us all! We were innocent fools. Other days we’d race around Ard na Greine and Sexton Street with our hoops or bicycle wheels. It was wonderful.”
“Ms. Martin would be out at her gate, the postman’s mother. She’d come out at tea time when we’d be playing out on the road and say to her son Gabriel ‘Gede, come in for your tea, toast and gooey egg’. She was from Kerry. It became a famous saying between all of us in the 40s.”
The third oldest of 11 children, he loved being part of a large family in an era where there might be six in a bed. In recent years he has lost his sister Maura and brother Anthony and is thankful that he only has good memories of them, although he acknowledges he will never get over their death.
His father was a bookmaker and Eddie remembers how he would hang his coat up on the door with the pocket facing outwards, something which was too tempting to resist for the kids as they often nipped in for a few bob.
“I’m probably the only one who didn’t go into the business and there’s a reason for that. My father would be at the racing in the day time and the dogs in the night time – how he had 11 children is beyond me! He was a marvellous man but I remember when he got home my mother would say to him ‘well Davy, how did you do?’ ‘Ah sure, I got skint’. If he had a winning night he’d say ‘ah sure I won a few coppers’.”
As a result of his father’s work, his mother would take it upon herself to patrol the kids – taking them everywhere from Tramore to the outskirts of London to visit Eddie’s eldest sister after she had moved over.
“My mother used to bring us all off together, she’d push us all on the Tramore train. She knew Matty Dunphy doing the tickets. About five of us would run on and tell him ‘me mother’s coming’, she’d probably only end up paying for half of us!
“I thought England was magic. The first time I saw orange street lights was in Chelmsford and I couldn’t believe it. I remember they came to Waterford a few years afterwards.
“People in Waterford at the time would say the saying ‘have you been over’, which meant England. If you had a coloured jersey or pullover people would know you had been in England. I suppose we had nothing in Waterford at the time. People were in their bare feet here.”
While there were challenges, he says he enjoyed a “fantastic” childhood during and after the war years and laments that while there are advantages for the youngsters of today, they are in a sense “victims of peace”. Smiling, he also recalls how he had to battle through spells of imprisonment in Mount Sion and De La Salle.
“I hated school. I had a fella Nicky Chapman alongside me in the college and he had wonderful writing. I had hopeless writing because when I was in Mount Sion I was left handed and you weren’t supposed to be left handed. I used to get him to write letters to the Master on behalf of my mother ‘Edward is very sick and will not be in’ – I’d be out in Tramore on the strand worshipping the sun! A fella told on me and I was told if I did it once more I’d be expelled.”
Sanctuary arrived in the form of a job in Waterford Crystal and his time in Kilbarry and Johnstown never felt like work. He dedicated his life to the glass and loved those who were salt of earth – if he was walking down the street he would greet the ordinary worker before somebody like his great friend Noel Griffin. He is also in possession of the last ever piece of Crystal sold in Kilbarry – a feather with the date January 22, 2010 carved into its base by Nicky Coady.
Some of his finest achievements are the books of poetry he has penned. Always a people’s person, one book – titled People Poetry – features verses dedicated to everyone from his colleague Noel to his son Warren who had been sent off for mouthing in a Cup Final after scoring a goal.
“I loved putting the books together. People are my subject. I interviewed a lot of people for Chernobyl’s Tales in Rhyme and if you you’re taken on the journey of someone travelling from Waterford to Chernobyl in that book.
“If I didn’t enjoy it you wouldn’t enjoy it and I have to thank Paddy Gallagher for the support. I can’t do the same poem twice. If I do a poem about Ronan Morrissey and I misplace it I can’t re-write it the same again. I do it because of the people. They say to me that they like it, including Bishop Cullinan. He only said to the wife out in Ballinaneesagh last week ‘is he still writing’.”
Having retired, he relishes each day, whether it entails bringing his wife down to Penneys or writing a political ode. He has lived a happy life and will continue to cherish it.
“I set a target for myself – if I have one faith, one wife and one job I’d be happy. And I achieved all that.”
In conversation with Ronan Morrissey