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Clare Places: Towns & Villages
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Kilrush
Historical Background

Kilrush Parish
Local History
Kilrush
Journal of Thomas Dineley, 1681
Lloyd's Tour of Clare 1780
Mason's Parochial Survey 1814-19

Kilrush Town - Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland 1845
Kilrush Union Minute Books 1849
Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions in the Kilrush Union (1847-1849)
The Famine in Clare from The Illustrated London News, 1849-1850
Report on Kilrush Workhouse, 1851
Deaths in Kilrush Workhouse, 1850-51
Photographing the Evictions on the Vandeleur Estate, 1888
Holiday Haunts on the West Coast of Clare 1891 by H B H
The Timeless Prestige of Kilrush Lace
ITA Survey 1942/3

Slater's Directory 1846
Pigot's Directory 1824
Bassett's Directory 1875-6
Bassett's Directory 1880-1
Guy's Directory 1893

Kilrush, CILL ROIS, meaning the church of the promontory or woods is a busy market town with access to the River Shannon at Cappa Pier. It has recently been designated as a Heritage Town by Bord Fáilte.

There are some references to Kilrush during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but it does not seem to have developed much until the end of the eighteenth century. The Moland Survey of 1703 describes Kilrush as "distant from Limerick 32 miles by land and 36 miles by water.... there is a bridge of stone over ye river, a very commodious haven for barks or small ships, a good conveniency of fishing which may be improved here considerably, the land is good for corn and the situation of this town makes it capable of improvement".

In 1795 the town consisted of what is now Lower Moore Street, Chapel Street, High Street, Grace Street, Russell Lane and the Glen. John Ormsby Vandeleur succeeded his father as the wealthiest landlord in the district. He virtually owned Kilrush; and with other wealth achieved from a financially beneficial marriage and some political skullduggery with a pocket borough vote in favour of the Act of Union (1801) he decided to develop the town. He was assisted in this project by a Scots businessman, James Paterson, who had been a gunboat lieutenant until 1802. Paterson decided to enter the oats trade in West Clare. In 1802 he got a site on the square from Vandeleur and erected a six-storey building. Soon he dealt directly with the ships going up river and acquired goods and provisions more cheaply than if he had purchased in Limerick.

The Napoleonic Wars led to an improvement in agricultural prices. As Kilrush and the neighbouring countryside began to prosper, Hely Dutton reported in 1808 that the town was "rising fast into some consequence". He also acknowledged Paterson's role as a "very active and intelligent inhabitant, who has been of the utmost benefit to Kilrush, and the adjoining counties". In 1812 Paterson went into the shipping business and by 1817 he had a steamboat, Lady of the Shannon, operating regularly between Limerick and Kilrush. The increasing popularity of Kilkee as a bathing resort brought many transit travellers to Kilrush. Most people arrived from Limerick by boat although some came by road from Ennis and other places.

In 1837 Samuel Lewis described Kilrush as a seaport, market and post town. He mentioned how it was pleasantly situated, convenient for the export trade because of its population on the Shannon and neatly built. The main industries, chiefly for home consumption, were friezes, flannels, stockings, strong sheetings and bandle cloth (a serviceable kind of narrow linen). There were works for refining rock salt for domestic use, a tanyard, a soap factory and a nail factory. The chief trade was corn, butter, cattle, pigs, agricultural products and hides. The market house was erected in the centre of the market square. Branches of the National and Agricultural Banks had been opened in the town and a constabulary police force was also stationed there. A small bridewell was built in 1825 and a court-house in 1831. There were also some meat shambles and a public slaughter house.

 

 



Old Shanakyle Graveyard in Kilrush with historian Ciarán Ó Murchadha



Kilrush