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in County Clare 1534 - 1911
Charles Bowden, A Tour of West Clare, 1791
County Clare tended to be outside the compass of professional travel writers in the eighteenth century. The first writer to include the county in a contemporarily published account was Charles Topham Bowden. Little, unfortunately, is known about him. He resided in London and had visited many of the capitals of Europe. Bowden disembarked at Dublin, August 1790 and, travelling on horseback, completed a circuit of the whole island in two months. Having taken the ferry at Tarbert he crossed the Shannon estuary to Kilrush. He is unusual in that he avoided the main centres of population. Travelling along the west coast of Clare he passed through Kilmurry Ibrickan and Ennistymon and on to Galway. Bowden was a well informed observer, and being aware of Ireland’s historical experience, he was sympathetic towards the people and praised their civility and resilience.
At Ballylongford there is a large and convenient ferry on the Shannon, which we crossed over to Kilrush. Near this ferry in the Shannon, is Inniscathy, formerly an episcopal see, founded by St Senan, in the fifth century. I was told this island had its name from Cathy, a sea monster, that ravaged the country for a long time. The monks of Inniscathy abbey, from its foundation to its demolition, are said never to have permitted a woman to enter the island. There is a passage in the life of one of those monks, relative to a lady who having requested to speak to him, he replied, ‘What have women to do with monks? We will neither admit you nor any other woman into the island.’ She said, ‘If you believe Christ may receive my soul, why do you turn away my body.’ ‘That (he answered) I verily believe, but we never permit any woman to enter this place. So God preserve you. Return to the world, lest you be a scandal to us; for however chaste you may be, you are a woman.’. . .
Mr Vandeleur has a most delightful seat at Kilrush, where I dined in company with two very convivial gentlemen, Mr Hackman and Mr Studdart. Hence I went to Innistymond by Kilmurry. The castle of Innistymond was the residence of the earls of Thomond, the last of whom was attainted, and though the immediate descendant of that nobleman possesses the property, he does not enjoy the title. The roads in this country are extremely bad, and the accommodations they afford are worse.
Taken from Charles Topham Bowden, A Tour Through
Ireland (London 1791), pp 210-12.