Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy
Home | Library Catalogue | Foto | Maps | Places | Archaeology | History | Search this Website | Copyright Notice | Visitors' Book | Contact Us | What's New

Inhabitants of Scattery Island, Shannon Estuary, Co. Clare by Senan Scanlan

5.2 Life on the Island: Buildings

The Island School
The table below was compiled from references to Scattery School in Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland 1801–1922[81].
As can be seen while the number of pupils declined significantly from the nineteenth to the twentieth century the percentage attendance improved.

Year Total number of pupils Average daily attendance Percentage attendance
1873 50 28 56%
1877 57 32 56%
1909 23 20 87%
1912 28 20 71%
1913 26 18 70%
Table 12: Attendance at Scattery Island N.S., 1873-1913

The first available records for the school are from 1869[82] which shows that the teacher was Peter Boyle with fifty pupils. Accommodation consisted of a rented thatched building measuring twenty feet by fourteen feet. (It was probably attached to the northern end of Hanrahan's - Griffith's). However oral family information states that before this around 1860 a school was located in the basement of the Elizabethan Castle. Peter Boyle’s annual salary as an untrained teacher was eighteen pounds and he resigned in January 1872[83]. The next teacher also untrained was Sinon Mescall in 1872 with an initial salary of twenty four pounds[84]. He resigned in July 1876 after four years. Michael Madigan was the next teacher, again untrained, reflecting the difficulty of getting and keeping a teacher on the island where they would have to lodge with a family and return to the mainland at weekends if weather conditions were favourable. John Brennan a native islander was a qualified teacher appointed in 1892 on an annual salary of £35 but this had risen to £89 in 1905 when he resigned. He was replaced by Elizabeth Kelly appointed in 1906 and she remained until 1910 on a salary of £44 per annum, Michael Cunningham was next for twelve years and he lodged in the Master Gunner's house. He was followed by Eddie Naughton who stayed for two years to be succeeded by William Hayes who also only remained a few years both lodging on the island. Nelly O'Connor was appointed in 1929 and she stayed for three years to be succeeded by Mrs Connolly and in 1931 she was succeeded by Peadar O'Loughlin. Finally in 1935 Nora Culligan was appointed lodging with the Melican family and acclimatised well to life on the island remaining until the school closed in 1948.

The original schoolhouse was attached to the derelict house on the right
The original schoolhouse was attached to the derelict house on the right

Sometimes the teachers were in trouble at inspection time as the following examples shows,[85] Sinon Mescall was reprimanded during March 1872 for using improper punishment on his pupils the report stated that “if such conduct be repeated he will be declared unfit to conduct a National School”. In September 1899 the teacher (John Brennan) was severally reprimanded on very unsatisfactory performance exhibited at last exam especially in senior classes “unless next exam shows improvement serious action must be taken”. (This is a change from the excellent newspaper report on results below of the 27th May 1897).

1892 Saturday 3rd December (Kilrush Herald)
Tenders are invited for the Building of a School House on Scattery Island. Plans and specifications to be seen with the Very Rev S Malone, Kilrush. The lower of any tender not necessarily accepted. Tenders will be received up to the 21st of December.

1895 Saturday 18th May (Kilrush Herald)
-------------Arrivals: 200 tons by the Lilla of the celebrated “Nine Elms” brand cement – we may mention that contractors will have only this particular cement and consider it the best and finest article for the construction of their works. It is used exclusively in the new National School buildings in Scattery-----.

1897 Tuesday 27th May (Clare Journal)
Mr J F Hogan the District Inspector of National Schools has held the annual examination for results in the Scattery National School. There was a very good number presented for examination in the junior and senior classes and the answering was highly satisfactory as stated by the inspector in his report on the school. The answering showed the highest possible percentage of passes in all the classes based on a most difficult programme. Mr Hogan reported most favourably on the order, discipline and cleanliness of the school, coupled with the sprightliness and general demeanour of the pupils while under examination. We congratulate Mr J Brennan, the worthy teacher of the school on the gratifying results of his labours.

1898 Report on the State of Education:[86]
Old unsuitable house has been replaced by new vested building at Scattery Island.

Scattery Lighthouse
1831/32 Report on Navigation of River Shannon
When the Lighthouse on the point of Tarbert is completed, I think it will be found a fine safety harbour, where vessels may run for at any time of the night from the outward anchorages of Carrigaholt or Scattery.

The Scattery lighthouse was built on the island alongside the coastal battery and the light was first established on the 1st December 1872. It purpose is to lead vessels to the safe anchorage of Scattery Island and also to guide them up-river because of the narrows between the island and Rinanna Shoal[88]. A house was also built, beyond the boundary of the firing range, for the lighthouse keeper who was usually accompanied by his wife and family.
Before the lighthouse was built the pilots would light fires, on the highest point of the island on the raised mound in the field directly west of and adjoining the ruined church at Ard-na-nAingeal, to guide ships up to Scattery Roads.

Scattery Lighthouse and Battery
Scattery Lighthouse and Battery

The Coastal Battery
The Scattery Battery, one of six for the defence of the Shannon Estuary, was completed in 1814 and was occupied by soldiers of the Royal Artillery up to 1860 and by the Coast Brigade Royal Artillery up to its de-manning in 1891. The battery is a “D” shaped fortification surrounded by a dry moat with six 24 pounder guns arranged around the curved perimeter, firing out over a broad parapet, across the estuar
y[89]. The rear of the battery was protected by a rectangular blockhouse or bomb proof barrack built in the centre of the landward side. The roof of the blockhouse was defended by two 5.5-inch howitzer guns for short range shelling. During their stay on the island the soldiers integrated well with the inhabitants and assisted them at farming duties in the spring and summertime. The soldiers had a bar at the battery which was visited frequently by the pilots seeking “water” for the pilot boat. They also maintained gardens on the land surrounding the battery, which also contained the Master Gunner's house. At least five of the soldiers married island girls George Bloomfield married Bridget Ann McMahon on 17/01/1850,Stephen Trowell married Catherine McMahon c 1855 (sister of Bridget), James Nolan married Ellen Scanlan on 09/08/1853 , Thomas McGowan married Bridget McCarthy c 1880 and William Pennington married Mary Hehir c 1889.

1810 30th March
Office of Ordnance: (Freeman's Journal)
The Respective Officers of his Majesty's Ordinance do hereby give Notice that they will on Monday, the 14th day of May next, receive sealed Proposals, (In Writing) from Persons as may be willing to contract for erecting several Works at Tarbert Point: Kilkeran Point, Scattery Island, Carrick Island, Dunaha, and Kilkradan Point, on the lower Shannon.

Plans and Specifications may be seen and further information had, by applying at the Commanding Royal Engineer's Officer, in Ship-street, in the City of Dublin, from 10 o'clock in the morning until 3 in the afternoon: or to Captain John Ross Wright, Royal Engineer, at Limerick.

Security will be required for the performance of the Contract and no Tender will be received after twelve o'clock on the above day, nor any attended to, unless the Proposer, or some person properly authorised on his behalf, be present at the time to name his Securities, whose assent to become his Securities must be produced in writing under their own hands.

1831 Monday 9th May (Clare Journal)
Thirty of the Royal Artillery left Limerick on Thursday, for protection of the forts at Tarbert, Scattery, Doonaha and Kilcredane on the Lower Shannon.

1840 Saturday 11th April (Limerick Chronicle)
The Artillery in charge of the forts on the Lower Shannon, Tarbert, Scattery &c, were this week relieved by a detachment of the force from Dublin.

1849 Friday 28th September (Limerick Reporter)
The Foot Artillery that were stationed in the following batteries on the lower Shannon under the command of Captain Hill have been replaced on Tuesday evening by a division under Lieut Holder and arrived here on Wednesday, and left this morning for Athlone: Tarbert 6 men, Scattery 8, Carrick 6, Kilkerin 6, Dunahae 5, Kilcredane 6.

1873 Friday 30th May (Freeman's Journal)
Military Intelligence: Detachments of the 2nd Battalion 20th (East Devonshire) Regiments will relieve the detachments of the Royal Artillery, this day, stationed at Tarbert Fort, Kilkerrin, Carrig Island and Scattery Island.

1889 Saturday 20th July (Kilrush Herald)         Military Inspection.
The Major General commanding the Munster forces made his annual inspection of the detachment of the Berkshire Regiment at Cappa yesterday and was favourably struck with the efficiency and discipline of the men and the order and cleanliness of their quarters and complemented Captain Deare the officer commanding: Lieutenant Quin and also Colour Sergeant Summers. The Forts and Batteries of the Shannon were also inspected.

1889 Saturday 31st August (Kilrush Herald)    The Shannon Forts Hoaxed
On Tuesday night a schooner passing up the Shannon displayed the pilot signals whereupon forts at Scattery and Carrig Islands opened rapid fire on her and were answered by the Tarbert and Kilkerrin batteries nine miles ahead. A great panic prevailed on board the vessel. The cruisers engaged in the naval manoeuvres were expected to invade the Shannon and it is stated that the enemy appeared at Loop Head on Tuesday but immediately fled.

(Oral family information stated that the Master Gunner on Scattery had suffered from sunstroke as a result of serving abroad possibly in India and that he imagined that an invasion had begun and opened up on what he thought was a flotilla of enemy ships .The frail houses in Scattery suffered from the vibrations of the firing guns and mortar fell off the walls.)

The Post Office

Senan Scanlan outside the Post Office
Senan Scanlan outside the Post Office

1894 Saturday 16th June (Kilrush Herald)
Want of a Post Office in the Island of Scattery. (To the editor of the Kilrush Herald)

Dear Sir,
It is hard to realise the many inconveniences to which the people of Scattery Island are exposed owing to the want of some form of direct, postal communication with the mainland. On many occasions letters of the greatest importance and demanding immediate attention have lain for several days in the Post Office in Kilrush-through no fault of the postmaster-and delays thus caused in the delivery of such have often got the Island people into difficulties which affect them very seriously . Perhaps it is difficult to perceive how through delays to their letters these people could be involved in difficulties, but any person acquainted with their various occupations can easily understand why such is often the case, for instance Pilots to whom the news is conveyed of expected arrivals in the Shannon of vessels from foreign ports, by not receiving in due time the communication containing this information at times when their boat is undergoing repairs, very frequently miss boarding those vessels at Loop Head. Thus they lose a considerable amount of money and become liable to censure by their Harbour Commissioners into the bargain------.
---------    I remain Sir Faithfully Yours 18th June 1894.      “ALTANGI”.

(The soldiers [Coast Brigade Royal Artillery] from the Battery went to Kilrush every day and would have collected the mail for the islanders but when the Battery was de-manned in 1891 the letters could remain uncollected for days. In addition the soldiers who had a saying that “Hail rain or snow the boat must go” would also bring back messages from Kilrush for the islanders and the soldier's boat often competed in boat races at the Kilrush Regatta)

1894 Saturday 21st July (Kilrush Herald)
A Postal Service for Scattery Island
We are glad to learn that through the powerful influence of Mr Thomas Sexton M.P, it is possible that the inhabitants of Scattery Island will obtain the long-needed postal service. An able letter on the claims of the Islanders to the postal service was published in these columns recently.
(The Post Office was operated by the McMahon Family)

The Round Tower
The round tower is reputed to be 120 feet high and is unusual as it has a door at ground level. This is not the original position for the door. The ancient doorway was about twenty-six feet from the ground and the place it occupied was built up with good masonry about 1855
[90]. A large breech in the north side apparently made by lightning and a split extending from top to bottom were evident in 1839[91].
1917/18 Commissioners of Public Works:

The principal work at Scattery Island was the securing of the fine Round Tower, the upper part of which had become rather dangerous, having been fractured for many years, and the top in danger of falling.

Sea Walls

1895 Saturday 16th November (Kilrush Herald)
Baronial Sessions
-----------A sum of £44 was awarded for the erection of a sea wall at Scattery Island, from the Quay to the new School House.

1924 Tuesday 9th December (Freeman's Journal)
Grant for Scattery Island
Kilrush RDC. Have applied to the Government for a loan of £3,000 to which the Council will add £500 for the building of a protection wall in Scattery Island. The inhabitants have to leave their homes owing to the encroachment of the sea.

In the 1950s a sluice was also constructed to allow drainage from the corcas.

Fishing -Weirs
1858 June 18th.
Colonel Commanding Royal Engineers in Ireland, to Clerk of Conservators of Dublin Fishery District

With reference to the several communications in which you have taken part in my office, respecting the War Department Fisheries, I herewith transmit you a list of the stations in Ireland proposed to be advertised in time to admit of the tenants commencing next season:and I will thank you for any suggestions you may be disposed to offer, either on the proposed terms and conditions of letting,or on any objections that may occur to you as of sufficient importance to prevent the right of fishing being exercised by the War Department.
Please to return the enclosed papers.
Signed: Cowper Rose, Colonel Commanding Royal Engineers.
List of Stations in Ireland at which the War Department appear to have Rights of Fishery (not already let)
Lower Shannon: Limerick Castle Barracks, Kings Island (Limerick), Tarbert, Doonaha
Scattery Island, Kilcredane.

1864 Tuesday 5th January (Limerick Reporter)[94] and Clare Journal (4/01/1864 to 7/01/1864)
Fishery Commissioners Investigation at Kilrush -Scattery Island Weirs:
“All the weirs at Scattery have been declared illegal and ordered to be removed.”
Mr McAuliffe: I occupy weirs and I pay rent to one Felix Brennan and one Kane who are tenants and Mr Kane told me he was the landlord. I took the shore from Brennan and Pat Griffin and I pay £3 to each of them and I have leases from them executed in 1861, there is another man between Brennan and Griffin. I fished this net in '62 on Hanrahan's land; Michael Hanrahan occupied the land next to my net in 1862.
Felix Brennan: The net was put down in 1861 by McAuliffe and in '62 part of it was on Hanrahan's land and part on my land but the weir was subsequently moved a mile from that. I hold my land under lease from Mr Kane by lease of 31 years and 3 lives.
Michael Griffin: I made a lease to Brennan my son-in-law. I pay to Mr Kane we never got consent from anyone on the face of the earth to put down a weir.
Francis Connell: Weir owner said he had consent from Mr Kane.
John Milliken: Mr Connell has a weir outside my place- the land between the weir and my place is a waste piece belonging to Mr Keane.
Francis Nathanial Kane: I hold Scattery under lease for 31 years. I know this weir, I remember the years 1833 and 1834, I was living in Kilrush and this was one of the fishing weirs erected there, it was I that erected it then and it has continued to fish for salmon ever since. ---- The lease was produced and examined; this lease was granted by Mr Marrett the son of Christopher Marrett who took his demise from the Corporation of Limerick. ----------.
(This seems to indicate that Francis Keane started leasing Scattery in 1833)

1879 Certificate for Fixed Engines[95] No 124
Scattery Island Weirs:
Whereas at enquiries held by the inspectors of Irish Fisheries at Kilrush in the County of Clare on the twenty fifth & twenty sixth days of April 1877 and at the Office of Irish Fisheries Dublin on the ninth day of August 1878 ordain Fixed Engines other than Bay Nets prohibited by the provisions of the Salmon Fishery (Ireland) Act 1863 were claimed by Marcus Keane of Beechpark Ennis in the County of Clare, Esquire, so have been in use at the time of the passing of said Act and that same were erected in pursuance of the Act of the Session of the Fifth and Sixth years of the Reign of the present Majesty Chapter One Hundred and Six and Whereas the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland by order dated the Seventh day of December 1878, decided that said Fixed Engines were legal. Now that the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries acting under the Powers and Authorities given to us by the Fisheries(Ireland)Act 1869 being satisfied that such Fixed Engines were erected in pursuance of the provisions of said Act of the Fifth and Sixth years of the Reign of the present Majesty do hereby certify that said Fixed Engines are Legal that they are situated in the River Shannon off the shores adjacent to the Townland of Scattery Island in the Parish of Kilrush Barony of Moyarta and County of Clare as more particularly shown on the Map or Plan annexed hereto that their sizes are as follows; C Net 300 yards in length, D Net 138 yards in Length and E Net 525 yards in length such measurements being understood to be such as not to extend said Fixed Engines beyond the low water mark of ordinary Spring tides that their descriptions are Stake Nets and that Marcus Keane aforesaid has the right to erect same in pursuance of such last mentioned provisions. Given under our hands and seal this 31st day of January 1879.Signed: Thos F Brady, Jos Hayes and Wm Johnston.

(Attached map referred to above shows a plan of the three weirs situated at the west of the island Net C the most westerly near Crusheen Point close to the Fish House Net D in middle and Net E more easterly near the Sea Wall) Marcus Keane was deemed to be the legal owner of all three weirs.)
The weirs were operated by the Robert and Margaret McAllen in 1901 and they lived in the Fish House on the west of the island, an ice house was also located near the fish house. In 1911 they were operated by Margaret and her brother John Simpson as Robert died on the 4th June 1911.

Fishermen’s Ice House
Fishermen’s Ice House

The Pier
The 1842 Ordnance Survey map shows a pier opposite the castle and proposals were made to upgrade it as the following reference indicates:

1881 Commissioners of Public Works, Ireland Fishery Piers and Harbours. Scattery Island, Lower Shannon, Clare. To enlarge and improve the present Pier[96].
The soldiers also had a pier, a pitch pine slipway, together with a winch and a boathouse for operating their boat at the Battery.

Island Shop
A shop was established on the island by Catherine Melican (Kitsy Scanlan) and operated from her house (the summerhouse) at the northern end of the island during the 1930s and 1940s.

Back Arrow
5.1 Occupations
Up Arrow
Forward Arrow
5.3 Emigration, Tragedy and Intermarriage