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Inhabitants of Scattery Island, Shannon Estuary, Co. Clare by Senan Scanlan

2 Early Inhabitants to 1840AD

Looking east from graveyard church
Looking east from
graveyard church

Scattery is an island of about one hundred and seventy acres situated in the Shannon Estuary about two miles south from Kilrush town in County Clare. The anglicised name “Scattery Island” is a corruption of the Irish name “Inis Cathaigh” beginning with the final s of Inis[2]. In addition Joyce in Irish Names of Places [3] supports this explanation stating that “Scattery Island” is a half-translation with “r” corruptly inserted, it should be anglicised “Scatthy” or “Inish-Scatthy”. The earliest recorded history of the island inhabitants begins with Saint Senan who was born in Mollougha near Kilrush. The following is a brief summary of these early inhabitants taken primarily from the references in the Annals of the four Masters[4].

About the year 540 AD Saint Senan had established a religious house on Scattery and he died in 544 and is buried on the island, his feast day is usually observed on the 8th March. Senan's successor was Saint Odran who was well established by 580 AD. Saint Aedhan was also a Bishop and he died in 651. Olchabhar, Head of the Abbey of Iniscathy, died in 792 AD.

The Danes raided the island in 816 and again in 835 AD and destroyed the monastery and killed the monks. In 861 the abbot Aidan died and in 950 the Danes made the island a stronghold. In 974 the island was plundered by Maghnus and in 977 Brian Ború arrived and slew about 800 of the foreigners. In 994 Abbot Colla died, in 1050 Úi Schula Head of the Abbey died and in 1119 Dermot O'Leanain Coarb of St Senan died.

In 1176 the Danes of Limerick plundered the Abbey and in 1179 William Hoel an English knight wasted the island. In 1188 Aodh O’Beachain, last Bishop of Iniscathy, died and Richard de Loudon was guardian of the abbey after this time and in 1290 and 1295 Thomas de Chapelin was guardian after Richard. In 1445 Conor, the son of O’Conor Kerry was slain by his kinsman Mahone O’Connor, as both were travelling by boat to the island of Iniscathy. After the death of the last Bishop the See was divided between Killaloe, Limerick and Ardfert dioceses the actual island being assigned to Limerick[5]. After this it would appear that the castle noted in Queen Elizabeth's grant of 1578 AD outlined below was built probably with stones from the ruins of some of the now disused churches. It should be remembered however that accounts of events and people especially before AD 800 cannot be considered to be accurate and are probably only about 50% accurate between from AD 800 to AD 1100[6].

It is evident from this summary the island's first and early inhabitants were monks who were first plundered by the Danes, then by Irish and finally by the English. While there are no accurate statistics for the number of monks that lived on the island which contained seven main churches and some four minor oratories, we can assume that at least two hundred frugal monks could have easily been supported from the island’s own cultivated resources. It is however difficult to envisage how the island could support, except for a short period, the 800 foreigners that were killed by Brian Ború in 977 AD.

After 1445 AD there is a gap in references to Scattery of over one hundred years until we find the next reference in 1578 contained in Queen Elizabeth grant[7].

“This abbey, with the church yard, 24 acres of land, a house, a castle built of stone, and three cottages on the island, and the several customs following: from every boat of oysters coming to the city of Limerick once a year, 1,000 oysters; and from every herring-boat 500 herrings once a year. Also 10 cottages, one church in ruins, 20 acres of wood and stony ground in the said island called Beechwood, with all the tithes, etc., were granted to the Mayor and citizens of Limerick and their successors for ever, in free soccage, not in capita, at the annual rent of £3 12s. 8d.”

At this time the island contained a house, a castle and thirteen cottages and a number of churches, however we do not have any names or numbers of inhabitants who were levied annually 1,000 oysters and 500 herrings for each boat. The total area covered by this grant appears to be only 44 acres out of an island total in excess of 100 old Irish acres. Assuming that each cottage had on average six people and allowing ten for the house and say twenty for the castle this would equate to a total of one hundred and eight inhabitants. Scattery remained attached to Limerick for a period of two hundred and seventy six years until 1854 when the island was annexed, by order of Privy Council, to the barony of Moyarta, in the county Clare[8].

A further reference to an inhabitant again from Fiants: Elizabeth is made in 1584 (No.4482 p 634) where a Mitchell Rostarde of Iniskattie is pardoned.

In September 1588, seven ships of the Spanish Armada arrived at Scattery Roads[9]. Nicholas Cahane (Keane) who owned the castle on the island refused to negotiate with them and they left after burning and scuttling one ship.

The next reference to Scattery Island is contained in the Book of Survey and Distribution 1641[10] as having 110 acres of arable pasture and 4 acres of lough but no mention of inhabitants however it clearly confirms that the island was owned by the Corporation of Limerick during this period 1636 to 1703 AD. Interestingly in this book Scattery is referred to as “Inniskattie” and “Inniskatteragh” and these names especially the latter could easily be shortened and anglicised to Scattery. After this we have another significant gap in references of over 100 years until 1769 when Ferrar’s Directory of Limerick lists officers of his Majesty's revenue based at Scattery as follows:

1769 Officers of his Majesty’s revenue

Title Name
Surveyor at Scattery Moore Harrison
Deputy Tide
Weaver Best
Pilot James Honan
Tide-Waiters at Scattery Dennis Callaghan; John Meade; William MacCartney; Versey MacCarroll; John Birch; Roger Wigmore; Samuel Pally; William Smith; Theophilus Eaton; Charles Holland; Pierce O'Loghlin; John Arthur,
Carpenter Thomas Enright.
Table 1: Revenue Collectors on Scattery Island, 1769

This indicates that at this time there were at least sixteen males living on the island involved in collecting duties on behalf of Limerick. Almost twenty years later in 1788 Richard Lucas Directory of Ireland details a Thomas Rumly as Surveyor at Scattery. It can be assumed that as in 1769 there would be other revenue officials based on the island at this time that would not be listed in an all Ireland Directory as the following reference to a boatman fifty years later indicates.

Limerick Chronicle April 14th, 1819
On Sunday night Mr James Kelly, one of the Scattery Revenue Boatmen, was seized with a fit on board the Brig Britannia, lying at one of our quays, and died in a few hours. An inquest was held next morning by the Right Worshipful Mayor and the jury returned a verdict, “Died by the visitation of God”.

The next reference
[11] contains the names of two families living on the island and these are seeking permission from the Bishop of Limerick to be allowed to attend the Catholic Church in Kilrush rather than in Ballylongford, County Kerry. The names mentioned are Patrick Kearney and Thomas Moran and the year was 1802. It would appear from the correspondence below and other earlier references that these were the only families living on the island at this time.

To the Right Rev. Dr. Young, Bishop of Limerick,
The humble Petition of the undersigned inhabitants of Scattery Island most humbly showeth that your Lordship's petitioners feel themselves in the most distressing and dangerous condition with respect to their eternal salvation owing to your Lordship's orders preventing them from any recourse to the chapel or clergy of Kilrush to fulfil the Christian duties required of them by our holy church and by which they are debarred by the positive orders of Rev Mr. Considen, P.P. of Kilrush.

Your Lordship's petitioners, with humility and confidence, beg leave to remonstrate to your Lordship that it is more than probable that they would not have in their power to attend divine service every eighteenth Sunday throughout the year if obliged to attend in Kerry, and that the petitioners dread and shudder at the painful thought and mortifying reflection that they or theirs may die without the benefits of rites of that Church they were born in and hope to die.

Petitioners humbly beg leave to refer your Lordship to the most skilful pilots in the river Shannon whose testimony before a magistrate (if required). Petitioners will obtain that it is their belief to the best of their knowledge, when no sailing boat could cross the channel from Ballylongford, a row boat with ease and safety could row back and forward from Scattery to Kilrush. Petitioners, from your Lordship’s well known paternal care of our holy Church, submit their pitiful case to your humane and charitable consideration, and hope for relief at your Lordship's hands for which they will as duty bound for ever pray.
Signed: Patrick Kearney (Carthy?) and Thomas Moran”

This is a very well written letter and no doubt was probably composed by the Priests in Kilrush and shortly after this the islanders were allowed to worship in Kilrush.

Two further references for 1820 and 1823 are detailed below:

1820 Quarantine Ireland: Customs Year[12]

Mate at Scattery and acting Pratique Master: usual allowance of 2s -8½d per day and six boatmen at 1s -1d per day, for the 7 days they were guarding the ship Eliza Ann from New York, under quarantine in Scattery Roads. Total £3 – 4s – 5½d.

1823 Collection of Customs[13]

Kilrush: Officers Annual Salaries.
1 Collector 200
1 Clerk 80
1 Port surveyor and landwaiter 150
1 Surveyor at Scattery 150
1 Mate 100
4 Tidewaiters @80 320
7 Supernumerary @60 420
2 Cockswains @40 80
1 Carpenter 40
1 Pilot 40
11 Boatmen @35 385

The 1824 returns list Scattery separately as above but include the following two additional entries:

14 Houses at £5 £70
Boat and Watch-house £10
Table 2: Revenue Collectors on Scattery Island, 1823/4

The census of 1821 only counted 11 houses with a population of 85 which if it included the 28 revenue officials above and approximately 25 soldiers would indicate that the other native inhabitants would number only about 32. It is important to remember that the 1821 census may not be accurate as the enumerators were paid on the basis of the number of people they counted. However it seems likely that the house and thirteen cottages mentioned in Queen Elizabeth's grant of 1578 AD above formed the basis for accommodating the revenue/custom officials during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However 14 houses in 1824 seem a bit high as the enthusiastic enumerators of 1821 only counted 11.

Tithe Applotment Books for Scattery
The next obvious place to look for references for the years 1823 to 1837 should be the Tithe Applotment Books for the Barony of Moyarta in West Clare. Despite extensive searches in the indexes of all West Clare parishes however no TAB's could be found for Scattery Island. In addition searches of the indexes for Limerick city parishes and actual searches in the most likely city parishes did not show any entries for Scattery Island.

Census Statistics for Scattery Island 1821 to 1911
A reference in 1825[14] states that the Corporation of Limerick made a lease of Scattery Island to Sir Christopher Marrett at the rent of £34 -2s -6d and the lease noted that the island contained 103 acres of which 4 were in the possession of the Ordinance Service. The Ordinance Service maintained a defensive Battery on the island from 1814 to 1891, which was garrisoned at times by up to twenty soldiers of the Royal Artillery commanded by a resident Master Gunner. After 1850 the number of soldiers on the island reduced to fifteen. Accordingly, the following summary censuses are adjusted to establish the number of native inhabitants during the years 1821 to 1881. The table below also allows for an estimated 28 revenue officials in 1821 and perhaps twenty in 1841.

Year Number of Houses Total Population Soldiers(S) and Revenue(R). Native Population
1821 11 85 25S+28R 32
1841 9 65 25S+20R 20
1851 15 99 20S 79
1861 24 139 20S 119
1871 21 140 20S 120
1881 23 141 20S 121
1891 20 123 None 123
1901 18 96 None 96
1911 18 99 None 99
Table 3: Census of Population for Scattery Island, 1821-1911

However the Master Gunner had a separate house and was usually accompanied by his wife and children giving a total number of 25 approx for the soldiers the Master Gunner and his family up to 1850 and twenty after this date.

The population declined steadily after the First World War and to 42 by the 1950s until the island was finally evacuated by the last two inhabitants in 1978.The number of houses at 23 in 1881 would have included the lightkeeper's house and probably the fisherman's house at the west of the island.

It is not possible to have an exact division between pre and post 1840 inhabitants so there is some degree of overlap between the two sections. The main focus of this book is to provide detailed information on the inhabitants specifically the main families that occupied the island during the one hundred years from 1840 to 1940 and also on the other inhabitants that lived there for shorter periods during these years. However research has been concentrated on the sixty year period in the nineteenth century and less time has been spent on detailing the final forty year period in the twentieth century.

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1 Introduction and Acknowledgements
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3.1 Inhabitants to 1850