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Guy's Directory, 1893

Part 1: Introduction to County Clare

County Clare is divided into 11 baronies, and again into 80 civil parishes, sub-divided into 2,169 townlands. Greatest length N.E. and S.W., 67½ m.; greatest breadth N.W. and S.E., 38m. Bounded north by Galway Bay and Galway; east and south by the Shannon, which separates it from Tipperary, Limerick, and Kerry; west by the Atlantic. The country possesses every diversity of surface, and great natural advantages which require only the hand of improvement to heighten into beauty. The most important river is the Shannon, which first touches the county on the eastern confines as part of Lough Derg, and thence sweeps round by Killaloe (where it forms the celebrated falls) to Limerick, from which city to the sea, a distance of 60 miles, it forms a magnificent estuary nine miles wide at its mouth where it opens into the Atlantic, and is diversified by many picturesque islands, bays and promontories. This river affords a navigable access to all the central parts of the kingdom, and to Dublin. The Fergus, a river of this county exclusively, has its source in the barony of Corcomroe, and running through the lake of Inchiquin and several others, pursues a southern course to the town of Ennis, whence flowing by Clare it spreads below the latter place into a wide and beautiful estuary, studded with picturesque islands, and opening into that of the Shannon. From the Shannon it is navigable up to Clare, a distance of eight miles, and up to Ennis for small craft. The county is all well watered, except the barony of Burren.

The coast is in general rocky, and in some parts bold precipitous cliffs; it is indented with several bays. The salmon fishing is extensively carried on in the rivers Shannon and Fergus, at Clonderalaw bay, and at Doonbeg; oyster beds near Ballyvaughan, along the shores of Burren, and near Clonderalaw bay. The coast at Moher presents a magnificent range of precipitous cliffs, the highest elevation being nearly 700 feet in height above the sea. The lakes are numerous, upwards of 100 having names. The climate is cool, humid, and occasionally subject to powerful gales from the Atlantic, but remarkably conducive to health; frost and snow are seldom of long continuance. The surface is diversified, mountainous in the N.E. and E., and in the N.W. and W.; the centre an undulating plain.

The soil of the mountainous district is generally composed of moor or bogs of different depths, over a ferruginous or aluminous clay or sandstone rock. A large portion of the level districts is occupied by bog, particularly in the baronies of Moyarta and Ibrickan. The best soil is that of the rich low grounds called corcasses, which extend along the Shannon for more than twenty miles. Some of the best sheep and cattle are reared on the excellent pasturage of this county, which is of sufficient variety for raising and fattening stock of every kind; the greater part is occupied by graziers, dairy farms are rather the exception. The principal minerals are lead, iron, manganese, coal, slate, flags, limestone, marble, and various kinds of building stone; copper pyrites, antimony, valuable ochres, and clays for pottery are met with. Limestone occupies all the central and northern part of the county; lead has been profitably worked in several places; valuable slate quarries at Broadford and Killaloe; a fine black marble is procured near Ennis. There are some thin seams of coal and culm in the south-west, near the Atlantic; glance coal of indifferent quality is found near Labasheeda. The county is very deficient of wood. The most valuable timber is that found in bogs, consisting of fir, oak and yew; in red bogs fir is generally found, in black bogs oak. The fir is frequently of large dimensions, and most of the farmers' houses near places where it can be procured are roofed with it. Along the coast of Malbay, where not even a furze bush will now grow, large bog trees are frequently found.

This county formed from a very early period a native principality, called Thomond, ruled over by the O'Briens, who maintained their ascendancy here from the date of the earliest record to a late period. The present county of Limerick and part of Tipperary were subsequently added to the principality of Thomond. Few have more honourably distinguished themselves in the annals of the country than the O'Briens and their brave Dalcassian followers, especially in the wars against the Danes, who long oppressed this district with their devastations, and who were finally expelled from the entire country early in the 11th century by the well-directed efforts of the great Brian Boroihme, the head of the sept and monarch of all Ireland, whose palace, and that of his immediate succesors, was at Kinkora, near Killaloe. About the year 1190 the Anglo-Norman invaders penetrated into the very heart of Thomond, and in their progress inflicted the most barbarous cruelties, especially upon the family of O'Briens. In 1275 Edw. I. granted the whole land of Thomond to Thomas de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester. Of the settlements made by the Anglo-Normans the principal were Bunratty and Clare, long the chief towns of the district. The O'Briens maintained a fierce struggle against the invaders, when in 1445 they were eventually put to the sword, driven out, or compelled to adopt the manners of the country, the entire authority reverting to the ancient septs, among whom the McMahons rose into consideration. In 1565 Thomond was made into shireland and called Clare, after its chief town and its ancient Anglo-Norman possessors.

Inland the scenery of Clare is rather tame, but the antiquities are most interesting. The coast scenery is the most magnificent in the kingdom. Along the sea road, on the heights over Blackhead and in the Ballyvaughan valley, some of the most rare plants in the British flora grow in abundance, chiefly in the limestone, among the chinks and crevices. The following, condensed from Guy's South of Ireland Pictorial Guide, are the chief points of interest to tourists:

The steamer from Limerick to Kilrush calls at Cahircon pier daily for Killadysert and Labasheeda (opposite Foynes), on the Clare Coast. Its delightful situation at the confluence of the Fergus, and walks and drives along the shores of the Shannon, and general salubrity of the climate, should make this district a place of considerable summer resort. Killadysert once had a considerable provision trade, chiefly pork. At the estuary of the Shannon with the Fergus are several islands. Cannon Island, anciently called Elanogannonoch, contains remains of a priory founded and built between the years 1166 and 1169 by Donald O'Brien, king of Limerick; Inishdadroum ('the island of the two backs'), of two ancient churches, in one of which St. Brendan of Kerry ministered; Deer island, or Inishmore ('the great island'), of an abbey said to have been presided over by St. Liberius, a disciple of St. Senan of Inniscattery; and on Low Island is one of those cairns called 'Dhiarmuid and Graunia's bed,' remarkable in bardic tradition and folk-lore. The Celtic legend is, that Dhiarmunid, a young chieftain, fled with Graunia, the affianced wife of the aged Finn Mac Cumhal, who were pursued by Finn and his warriors, sleeping each night in a different place under a stone structure hastily erected by Dhiarmuid. By far the most picturesque demesne in this district is Paradise Hill, long celebrated for its scenic attractions.

Save for its vastness and magnificent solitude, the Shannon estuary presents no special elements of grandeur. Before reaching Kilrush it attains a distance of three or more miles from shore to shore, and from Tarbert on the southern shore to Kilrush on the northern shore the distance is ten miles. On the river-trip down is passed Lord Emly's country seat, at Tervoe, and some miles further Lord Limerick's castle of Dromore both but rarely visited by their owners. Bunratty Castle, erected in 1277 by the De Clares, and subsequently the residence of the Earls of Thomond, is now a police barrack. Cahircon, 'princely Cahircon,' one of the most finely-situated mansions in Ireland, is on the Clare side, opposite Foynes, and is also deserted by its proprieter. On a steep portion of the Clare shore is pointed out where the body of the Colleen Bawn (known throughout the world where English novels are read or English plays put on the stage) was stranded, and the spot higher up where she was buried; though fiction writers have put the scene elsewhere.

Kilrush possesses a fair share of trade, which in summer time is considerably increased by the number of tourists and families to and from Kilkee. Scattery Island (anciently called Inis-Cathay), passed before reaching Kilrush, is situated about two miles from the mainland. A monastery was founded here in the sixth century by St. Senan, who erected seven churches for the community, which lived in such seclusion and austerity that no female was permitted to land on the island. Among the numerous relics of antiquity is an ancient round tower, the remains of seven churches, and of several cells of the ancient monastery, all towards the north-east side of the island, and presenting a remarkably interesting and highly picturesque apperance. The island may be visited from Cappa, the seaport of Kilrush, in a coracle or a fishing lugger.

The fashionable watering-place of Kilkee is delightfully situated at the head of Moore bay, with the wide expanse of the ocean before it. Built close to the sea, it assumes a semicircular form from the shape of the strand, which presents a fine, smooth, level esplanade of sand, about a mile in length. The neighbouring coast presents on a magnificent scale numerous and endlessly-varied caverns, chasms, bays, and island-rocks, all of which add considerably to the wild grandeur of the surrounding scenery. Many places containing old castles and other ruins of historic interest are in the immediate vicinity, and the surrounding hills command splendid views. The hotels and a number of neatly built cottages and commodious lodgings afford every accommodation to the visitor. The peninsula, bounded on one side by the estuary of the Shannon, and on the other by the Atlantic, and terminating in the promontory of Loop Head, is denominated 'The West.' It is exposed to the whole ocean swell, which here sets in with great violence in west or southerly winds. The puffing holes of Cloghaunscavaun and the natural bridges at Ross are great curiosities. Proceeding along the coast road from Kilkee to Miltownmalbay, at five miles are the stupendous cliffs of Baltard; at eight miles the village of Doonbeg and the sandhills of Doughmore. These hills are about two miles long, and at the highest point 100 feet above the level of the sea. Near the village is Doonbeg castle, about seventy feet high, one of the ancient strongholds of the O'Briens, from which is a good view of the cliffs of Moher, and on a clear day of the islands Arran; at thirteen miles is Kilmurray, and one mile from the shore Mutton island, containing about 160 acres of excellent land for feeding sheep, hence the name. On its shores are some curious natural caves formerly used by smugglers, and it contains remains of an ancient monastery.

At twenty miles is Miltownmalbay, the terminus of the West Clare Railway, situated contiguous to the great recess on the western coast, which, from its dangerous shore, is called 'the Malbay.' The boats or canoes used by the fishermen on this coast are chiefly such as have been used in the remotest ages. They are constructed of canvas over a frame-work of wood, which renders them very buoyant on the heavy seas of this coast. They are generally thirty feet long by three broad, and well adapted to encounter the surf, above which they rise on every wave. The district is not altogether without its romantic associations, stories of shipwrecks, apparitions of seamen, speaking mermaids, the church of St. Scioth beneath the waves, and the like. Near Spanishpoint a number of the ships of the Spanish Armada were wrecked, and the bodies flung on shore by the tempest were buried in this spot. Adjoining the bathing strand at Spanishpoint is the Atlantic hotel, considered one of the best in the county. There is an uninterrupted drive along the coast from Miltownmalbay to the Cliffs of Moher, viâ Lehinch, a station on the West Clare Railway. Proceeding round Liscannor bay, is reached the lofty promontory called Hag's head (407 feet); from here the cliffs gradually ascend to Moher, where they have a sheer precipice wall of 668 feet. The rollers of the Atlantic break on it with the most tremendous force. On the most elevated part is O'Brien's tower, erected for the accommodation of visitors to this wild and iron-bound coast, from which is obtained a magnificent view from Loop Head to the Bay of Galway, together with the Arran Isles and a vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean.

Lisdoonvarna Spa, also a convenient quarter for visiting the Cliffs, may fairly be called the 'Cheltenham of Ireland.' It is environed with perhaps the most singular rock and cliff scenery, and a treeless waste possessing a flora and entomological rarities the most remarkable, for the extent of the district, to be met with in Europe. Its sulphur and iron springs have proved singularly efficacious in gout, rheumatism, hepatitis, consumption, dyspepsia, and scorbutic affections; and its invigorating and balmy air cannot be breathed without the most exquisite gratification. It is situated in a valley, high among the hills of black shale. The great limestone field which spreads across the whole of North Clare, or Burren-styled the Arabia Petrae of Ireland-is met at Lisdoonvarna by the superincumbent shales, and in no other part of Ireland is the juncture between the two formations so beautifully exhibited, and on such a large scale, as in the numerous ravines in this neighbourhood. It is along this juncture that the mineral springs occur. In one of these ravines there used to be strewed about in wild confusion several fine fossils of the class reptilia and order chelonia or tortoise. The accommodation for visitors consists of hotels and numerous lodging-houses. What is important in the Lisdoonvarna Spa is the presence of lithium in the sulphur spring, and manganese in the chalybeate spring. No spa in the United Kingdom is reported to contain either of these combinations. Lithium, but not manganese, is valuable in quantities not weighable. The only sulphur spring on the continent of Europe with lithium present is Weilbach, in Nassau. To this probable constituent is attributed the striking effects of the water in cases of gout, rheumatism, affections of the liver, etc. Manganese is a constituent in the chalybeates of Vichy, Ems, Wiesbaden, Spa, Pyrmont, and Carlsbad, and other improved iron wells of the Continent. The smaller amount of sodic chloride (common salt), in the Lisdoonvarna sulphur spring to that of Harrowgate is said to be to the advantage of the former, as the excess of salt is apt to have an irritating effect on the system.

Following the coast road, at thirteen miles is Blackhead (647 ft.), and at eighteen the village of Ballyvaughan, situate on a small bay opening into Galway bay, whence the traveller can proceed to Galway (12m.) by steamer.

The Arran Islands can be visited by hooker from Ballyvaughan bay. These island are composed of bare limestone. On the big island of Innishmore the people made their own fields by walling in a space and bringing up sand from the sea-shore and spreading it on the limestone, and on the top of the sand placing sea-weed, in which they set their potatoes. If the season is wet they reap a good crop, but should the season be dry it becomes burnt up. If no other person made land where there was never land before it is done in the Arran Islands. The inhabitants are physically a fine class of people, wearing moccasins made out of the hide of the cow, and called 'pompouses.' On these islands ruins of great antiquity abound, consisting of beehive-shaped stone houses, duns or stone fortresses, etc.-an extraordinary one in particular being called Dun-Ængus-being all pre-historic, and supposed to have been built about the first year in the Christian era, and long before Christianity was introduced into Ireland. Dun-Ængus is a huge fort, surrounded by tiers of walls of enormous thickness, and of considerable height, with a cheveaux-de-frise formed on the top by pinnacles of sharp limestone, which rendered the fort incapable of being captured by a rush. It is the greatest ruin of the Pagan time in Ireland, and there is no place in Ireland which contained such a number of pre-historic remains as the Arran Islands.

A short distance from Ballyvaughan are the extensive remains of Corcomroe Abbey, founded for Cistercians by Donald O'Brien, king of Thomond, in 1194. At Kilfenora, the seat of an episcopal see, the smallest in Ireland, is an ancient cathedral, with two stone crosses. The small town of Corrofin is picturesquely situated midway between the lakes of Inchiquin and Atedaun. Inchiquin lake is remarkable for the beauty of its scenery, and a legendary ancient city is supposed to be buried beneath its waters. The river Fergus runs through this lake and several others to the town of Ennis; below Clare it spreads into a wide and beautiful estuary opening into that of the Shannon.

Ennis can be reached by the West Clare Railway, viâ Ennistymon, seven miles from Lisdoonvarna, or from Corrofin. Ennis is a quaint little town. Under the name of Innis cluan-ruadha it was famous for its seat of learning and Franciscan monastery, founded by the O'Briens, kings of Thomond. After the arrival of the English, O'Brien, king of Thomond, supported upwards of 600 scholars and 350 monks at this place; and in 1240 Donagh Carbrac O'Brien erected a noble monastery for Franciscan Friars, which was subsequently rebuilt, repaired, and much adorned by another branch of that family. On railway route from Ennis to Limerick, at two miles is Clare Castle, a town of great antiquity, and formerly the capital of the county. On an island in the bed of the river, connected by a bridge with either side of the bank, is Clare Castle, built by the O'Briens, kings of Thomond. An abbey for Augustinian Friars was founded here in 1195, by Donald O'Brien, king of Thomond. The remains are in a tolerable state of preservation. At Quin, about the commencement of the fifteenth century, a monastery for Franciscan Friars of the Strict Observance was founded by the MacNamaras. Quin Abbey is considered one of the best preserved old monasteries in Ireland. Passing through Six-mile-bridge and Cratloe, and crossing the Shannon, the traveller arrives again at Limerick, 25 miles from Ennis.

A short line of rail from Limerick takes the traveller to Castleconnell, a celebrated salmon-fishing station. The Falls of Doonas, on the Shannon, have been favourably compared to the rapids of the St Lawrence. On an isolated rock overhanging the river are remains of a castle of the O'Briens, kings of Thomond, and an ancient bridge of fourteen arches connects this with county Clare. Killaloe is situated at the base of the Slieve-Bernagh mountains, on the western bank of the Shannon, amidst charming and picturesque scenery. This is also a splendid station for anglers. Many ancient traditions hallow Killaloe. A venerable cathedral of the twelfth century, dedicated to St. Flannan, occupies the site of a church founded here in the sixth century. Near the town stood Kinkora, the palace of Ireland's celebrated king, Brian Boroimhe, who was treacherously slain at the battle of Clontarf. Very little of this celebrated palace remains to reward the curious.

Lough Derg, between the counties of Clare and Galway, is about twenty-three miles long, and varies in breadth from two to six miles. Several islands dot its surface, and green hills bound the prospect on either side. Iniscaltra contains a round tower, remains of several churches, and some curious sepulchral remains; it is said to have been the site of the celebrated 'St. Patrick's Purgatory,' which obtained such world-wide notoriety about the twelfth century. Killaloe is the headquarters of the Shannon Steam Navigation Company, who have regular communication by steam packets through Lough Derg to Portumna, Williamstown, Athlone and Banagher, and from Banagher by canal boats to Dublin. The trip to Portumna and Williamstown is beautifully picturesque. There is an excellent road along the shores of Lough Derg from Killaloe to Scarriff; and the more elevated parts, and in particular the Gap of Ogonnelloe, command fine views.



Part 2: Population of Towns and Villages