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|Inhabitants of Scattery Island, Shannon Estuary, Co. Clare by Senan Scanlan|
2 Early Inhabitants to 1840AD
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. 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.
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.
“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.
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. 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 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:
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,
To the Right Rev. Dr. Young, Bishop of
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.
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
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
The 1824 returns list Scattery separately as above but include the following two additional entries:
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
Census Statistics for Scattery
Island 1821 to 1911
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.