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County Clare: A History and Topography 1837 by Samuel Lewis

 
Clare (Castle)

A town, in the parish of Clare-Abbey, barony of Islands, county of Clare, and province of Munster, 2 miles (S.) from Ennis ; containing 1021 inhabitants. It is situated on the river Fergus, about 12 miles from its confluence with the Shannon, is of great antiquity, and was formerly the capital of the county. In 1278 a great battle was fought here between Donell O‘Brien and Mahon O’Brien, in which the latter was defeated. According to the annals of the Mac Brodies, the castle was built by Donogh O’Brien, surnamed Cairbreach, King of Thomond, and in 1641 was surprised and burnt by Murrough O’Brien, who took possession of the lands. Although the town contains some good slated houses, the greater number are thatched, and on the commons to the west, poor cottiers from various parts have located themselves and erected wretched cabins, which gives to this suburb an air of extreme poverty. On the site of the castle are cavalry barracks, affording accommodation for 17 officers and 234 men ; and, from its central situation, the town is well adapted for a military depot. Fairs are held on May 21st, Aug. 17th, and Nov. 11th. A great quantity of salmon is taken in the Fergus, and occasionally sold at the low price of 3d. per lb. The parochial church, a Roman Catholic chapel, the parochial school, and a dispensary, are in the town. This is one of the principal ports of the county for the export of grain, by means of the Fergus. The entrance to the river lies between Rinana Point, on the east, and Innismurry on the west, and is about 5 miles wide, but the ship channel does not exceed three-fourths of a mile in width, and is not adapted for vessels drawing more than 16 feet of water. The quay, although only 80 feet long, and therefore accommodating but one vessel at a time, is yet of considerable service, as before its erection in 1815 there were no means of shipping or discharging a cargo, and vessels of any kind very rarely visited the town. At present, one or two come every month, bringing coal and taking back grain to Liverpool, where, in 1831, it was sold at a higher rate than any other grain in the market. About 600 feet above the quay there is a bridge, the abutments of which rest on a solid bed of rock, forming an obstruction that separates the Upper from the Lower Fergus ; this bridge leads to an island, on which stand the remains of the castle. A second and smaller bridge, leading to the mail coach road to Limerick, crosses the arm of the river that runs round Castle Island. The main branch of the river, from the bridge to the quay, is about 250 feet wide. From Clare to Ennis by the Upper Fergus is three miles : this is a fine piece of water, about 150 feet wide, wearing much the appearance of a large canal. It sometimes overflows its banks, and greatly fertilises the adjacent country. To form a communication between the Upper and Lower Fergus, it is proposed to place a dam and lock at the falls, about a furlong above the bridge, and to deepen the bed of the river between those places from three to six feet, and between the quay and the bridge about four feet.

County Clare A History and Topography by Samuel Lewis
Courtesy of Clare Local Studies Project

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