Daytripper: - Clare Museum

Sunday Tribune, November 23, 2003
by Maxine Jones

Where is it exactly?
Ennis town centre, Arthur’s Row, off O’Connell Square

How do I get there?
On N18 from Galway or Limerick, via N29 from Cork, N24 from Waterford and M7/N7 from Dublin. Parking nearby, access from Clonroad. Also carpark in Friary off Francis Street.

What is there to do?
Wander through imaginative displays of artefacts and memorabilia relating to Co Clare through the ages. The exhibits include 400 pieces on loan from the National Museum of Ireland, as well as other collections gathered locally, original works of art and audio-visual and interactive experiences.

The items on show are grouped around five themes. “Earth” explores the close links between the seasons and agriculture, with their influence on the development of the landscape over the centuries. Geology and early farming are examined, with excavated material from Roughan Hill.

Another section deals with the symbols of “Power” to be found in the county, ranging from the dramatic Mooghaun hillfort to the numerous castles and towerhouses in the county.

Reminders of the strong “Faith” held by generations of Clare people abound in the county. This section take the visitor from the early Christian period with the excavations at Inis Cealtra through to the Sisters of Mercy congregation who occupied the museum building until recently.

The “Water” exhibits explore the impact of the River Shannon and the Atlantic Ocean, which combine to turn Clare almost into an island.

The “Energy” section looks at musical and sporting achievements. The famous West Clare Railway is remembered, while the energy of modern Ennis is captured with the Ennis Information Age Town interactive.

Anything else worth knowing?
Opening times: October to May, Tuesday to Saturday 9.30 am to 5.30 pm (closed 1pm to 2pm); June to September Monday to Saturday 9.30 am to Saturday 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, Sunday 2pm to 5 pm. Adults 3.50 Euro, children 1.50 Euro, family10 Euro,

Monetary and moving donations

Sile de Valera, Minister for Arts, officially opened the Clare Museum in October 2000. The overall cost of the project was 4.2 million Euro. The Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands contributed 1 million Euro, with Eircom Ennis Information Age Town, Clare County Council and Ennis Urban District Council also helping with the funding.

A sliothar owned by Michéal O’ Hehir’s father, a 1798 pike owned by RTE music presenter P J Curtis and a concertina owned by musician Willie Clancy were among the first exhibits.

Entitled Riches of Clare, the permanent exhibition has a large collection borrowed from the National Museum’s stores in Kildare Street and Collins Barracks. One of the most important exhibits is the Cahercommaun Collection, artefacts excavated in 1934 by a Harvard-based team giving insight into a medieval economy.

But attracting more interest at the opening was a hurley which belonged to one of the GAA founders, Michael Cusack and footage from 1923 of Mike Mc Tigue winning his light heavyweight world title against “Battling” Siki.

Since its opening other interesting offerings have been acquired. A series of 19th century bank notes with Ennis connections were presented by the pharmaceutical company Roche Ireland. Second World War Service medals were donated by Teresa Carter, whose aunt, Josephine Canny from Mountshannon, Co Clare, was a nurse in the Red Cross.

An Armada Treasure Chest made it into the collection in July 2001. Pre-decimal Irish Coins, a 1914 driving licence, revolvers from the Mid-Clare IRA and War of Independence Medals dated 1919-1921 all inspire reflection.

Probably the most moving of all is a goodbye letter to his childhood friends written by Patrick Hennessy in 1923, the night before he was executed.

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