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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part III. History of the County of Clare
Chapter 21. Catholic Confederation

Ireton crosses the Shannon at O’Briensbridge and Castleconnell, and marches to Limerick

Few materials relating to the history of Clare are found to exist from the year 1646 to 1651. A Diary has been discovered relating to occurrences that took place in the latter year, and in the following pages we shall give an abstract of what it states relative to our county.

Previous to, and during the progress of the siege of Limerick, in the Summer and Autumn of 1651, Ireton sent detachments of his troops from that city into the county of Clare to reduce its inhabitants into submission. On the 29th of May, he received letters from Captain Branly, commanding a Parliamentarian ship in the Shannon, certifying that he had taken Sir Teige M‘Mahon’s castle of Clonderalaw, that he had fortified the place, and had repulsed the previous owners in their attempt to repossess themselves of it. In the same month, Ireton effected a passage across the Shannon at Killaloe, and at O’Brien’s bridge, in the face of the Irish Confederates under Lord Castlehaven. A minute account of the efforts made by the English to force their way over the river is given by an eyewitness in Ireton’s army, and we here give an abstract of it as well as of the other proceedings described by the same writer. On Friday, the 23rd of May, Ireton approached Killaloe from the Tipperary side. He found Castlehaven strongly posted on the opposite bank. By some mistake, that commander had demolished the Bishop’s house then situated close to and partly in the water, and, from its situation, calculated to furnish a useful means of defence. Ireton seized the small island below the town of Killaloe, and there concentrated some boats and other appliances for crossing the river. That, however, was but a feint, his real intentions being to get over at O’Brien’s bridge, at which place no bridge then existed, the old one made of wood having long since disappeared. Various unforeseen difficulties presented themselves during the progress of his preparations, and “a day was set apart for seeking God that He would be pleased gratiously to afford us His presence and direct us in our way, walking hitherto in darknesse and professing to each other that we knew not what to do.” At last, all obstacles being overcome, at break of day on the 2nd of June, Capt. Draper, of Col. Sadler’s regiment, was ordered to fall down the stream with three files of firelocks and to pass to the Clare side at O’Brien’s bridge. That task he performed with the utmost success in spite of every opposition, and having attached ropes to his boats, in the space of one hour, no less than five hundred men were ferried over from the Tipperary shore. The soldiers whom the Irish general had appointed to guard the river, fled from their post at O’Brien’s bridge, and Ingoldsby who had been detached with three hundred horse, made good a passage at the rapids of Castleconnell.

At the Doonass side he encountered certain detachments of the Irish on their way to Limerick, and after killing some of their number, took possession of a small cannon which they had with them. Ireton and Ludlow, with the forces under their command, were equally fortunate, for on the same day, they were ferried across the Shannon at Killaloe, and thence proceeded to join their comrades at O’Brien’s bridge. Early on the following morning, the united army marched towards Limerick, on their way attacking and putting to flight, at a place called Forboe, somewhere about Parteen, a party sent out of the city to oppose their progress.