Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter I - Section 4

Soil and Surface

THAT part of Tullagh, which joins the county of Galway, is mountainous and moory, in its present state of very little value, but might at a moderate expence be made very valuable by enclosing, draining, burning, and by lime, or marl, but chiefly by irrigation, which is, as far as I could learn, almost unknown in the barony.

Bunratty, formerly belonging to the family of Macnamara, and called Dangin-I-vigin, touches the county of Galway at Tubber, and running through the centre of the county, sweeps, round the city of Limerick, and joins the river Shannon near the canal; a large proportion is rocky, but not unproductive, for it grazes large flocks of sheep, producing very luxuriant herbage amongst the rocks.

Inchiquin was formerly called Tullogh I’Dea, but in 1585 was granted by Queen Elizabeth to the Baron of Inchiquin, since which period it has been called Inchiquin. Tradition, which is often a lyar, says the barony takes its title from a small island in the lake of Inchiquin, that it anciently belonged to a family of the Quins or Cuinns, and was called Innish O Quin or Quin’s island, and that O Quin was starved to death in it.

The eastern part is chiefly a flat, calcareous, rocky, and light soil; the west is generally moory hills, with some vallies of great fertility; the part, that joins the barony of Corcomroe, is highly improvable, as limestone is very convenient, but at present under a most wretched system of mismanagment. About Tully O’Dea there is some excellent tillage ground, and one little farmer sows velvet wheat. In this barony are situated the beautiful lakes of Inchiquin, and Tedano, and a chain of those of inferior note, that take a direction, some towards Kilmacduagh in the county of Galway, and others to Ennis; they have all subterraneous communications.

Clounderalaw joins the Shannon on the south, and the river Fergus on the east, and is very much encumbered with bog and moory mountain; but, as lime could be easily brought in, it is highly inprovable.

Ibrickan streches along the western coast, and includes Mutton-island. The southern part is almost all bog, and the northern a mixture of very improbable moory hills, and clay soil, but under a most miserable system of deterioration.

Moyferta (after refined to Moyerta) runs in a very acute angle to Loop-head, on which the light-house is situated, and is supplied with an ample share of bog and moory hills very improvable.

The western part of the barony of Islands is chiefly composed of low moory mountain, but towards the east, as it approaches the town of Ennis and the river Fergus, it improves greatly, and contains a share of those rich grazing grounds, called Corcass, and partakes of the same soil as the adjoining barony of Bunratty, which it embraces near Ennis.

Corcomroe, bounded on the west by the Atlantic ocean, is very much of the same quality as the adjoining baronies; it consists of a fertile clay on whinstone rock, called here cold stone, to distinguish it from lime-stone, which is called hot soil; it wants only draining, liming, and a proper course of cropping to make those lands, that now pay only a few shillings per acre, worth from two to three guineas; it is painful to see this so highly improvable barony under a system, that is neither profitable to landlord nor tenant, but alas! the greater part belongs to absentees.

Burrin signifies a distant part of a country; it was also formerly called Hy Loch Lean, or the district on the waters of the sea; it likewise received from Ptolomy the appellation of Gangannii, a corruption of the word Cean-gan, Cean a head or promontory, and gan external, the people of the external promontory, and of the same signification as Burrin. This barony is extremely rocky, but produces a short sweet herbage fit for sheep of middling size and short clothing wool, of which immense numbers are annually reared, and usually sold at the fair of Ballinasloe in October, and from thence drove into Leinster to be fattened at three years old; a small part feeds store bullocks, and a much smaller fattens them for Limerick or Cork market.

A person unacquainted with the nature of the soil, and judging hastily from appearances, would think the rocky parts of this county worth very little, and could scarcely be persuaded, that many acres are let so high as 3l.—sometimes more; but still the greater part is let for low rents, often by the bulk, and not by the acre. The herbage, produced in those of the best quality, is of the most nutritive kind, and plentifully intermixed with yarrow, white clover, trefoil, birds’-foot trefoil, and fattens a few black cattle and immense flocks of sheep, the mutton of which is amongst the best in Ireland, and of which the citizens of Dublin can have little idea, especially since the introduction of Leicester sheep. 

Those parts, that are cultivated, produce abundant crops of potatoes, oats, wheat, barley, flax, &c. The cultivation of wheat, since the establishment of Messrs. Burton and Fitzgerald’s flour-mill at Clifden, has encreased considerably, and begins to improve greatly in the quality, as they very laudably take every pains to disseminate a superior kind to that usually cultivated.

The soil of the mountainous part, comprehending all that, which, beginning at Doolan, takes a southern direction towards Loophead, and from thence along the Shannon to Kilrush, and still further in the same direction, and that of the mountains of Slieuboghta, which divide this county from Galway, is generally composed of moor or bog of different depths, from two inches to many feet, over a ferruginous or aluminous clay, or sandstone rock. In many situations lime could be procured on moderate terms, either by land, or by the Shannon; yet the farmers are either insensible of its value, or grudge the expence of carrying it, if the distance was only a mile. In some parts of the county of Wexford the farmers are so sensible of the improvements to be made by lime, that they frequently pay 3s. 6d. per ton, and draw it often twelve miles, sometimes much farther, and where turf to burn it is by no means in that plenty, or so convenient as here.

A considerable part of the surface is occupied by bogs, particularly in the baronies of Moyferta and Ibrickan, beginning near Kilrush, and running towards Dunbeg, a distance of nearly five miles, and almost as many broad; and a great part of the mountains, except the limestone ones of Burrin, are covered with the same valuable substance. It is a very peculiar circumstance, that those large tracts of rocky country, which must be always under sheep or cattle, and require but a very limited population, have but a scanty supply of this fuel. In many parts of the barony, especially on the coast, the inhabitants are obliged to procure it from the opposite shore of Cunnamara by boats.

For a considerable breadth on either side of the point of partition between the calcareous and schistose regions, the soils gradually melt into each other, and form some of the best ground in the county, for instance, Lemenagh, Shally, Applevale, Riverston, &c. &c. 

A fine vein of ground runs from Killnoney to Tomgraney, about a mile in breadth; it lets for 3l. to three guineas per acre.

But the pride of the county are those rich low grounds running along the rivers Fergus and Shannon, called Corcass; they are of various breadths, indenting the land in a great variety of shapes. That part called Tradree, or Tradruihe, (Terre de roi,) the land of the king, (tradition says it was the private patrimony of Brian Boromhe), is proverbially rich; there are black and blue corcasses*, so called from the nature of the substratum; the black is most esteemed for tillage, not retaining the wet so long as the blue, which consists of a tenacious clay, and retains water; this is reckoned best for meadow. Some of the corcasses do not retain the grass well in winter. These lands might be flooded from the Shannon and Fergus with great advantage; but, as the consent of so many would be necessary, those only, whose lands are contiguous to the rivers, could avail themselves of a practice, that has been followed with great success in England, and is called silting or warping. Many think the corcasses are of immense depth, but, in digging for the foundation of Bunratty bridge, limestone-gravel was found at about ten feet below the surface. The upland about Bunratty is of excellent quality, and beautifully shaped, of which Mr. Studdert has taken advantage, and is building a handsome house in a charming situation.

Mr. James Lysaght has favoured me with a statement of extraordinary fertility. In a turlough near Kilfenora (I forget the name,) he fattened, in one year, on 48 acres, 42 large oxen, 44 sheep, and fed also 17 horses, and a great number of pigs; the following year he sold off it in fine condition (as his cattle always are) one hundred two-years old bullocks, and sixteen or seventeen horses.

The soil in the neighbourhood of Quin abbey is a light limestone, and lets at from 30s to two guineas per acre.

There is a large tract of fine tillage ground, and a charming country, where the parishes of Quin, Clonlea, and Kilmurry unite, and for many miles on every side.

* Mr. D'Esterre possesses 500 acres of blue corcass near Bunratty castle; it in general lets for seven guineas and a half per acre: six tons of hay per acre not reckoned extraordinary, but sometimes eight tons are produced, though mowed usually in the middle of July.

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