Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter I - Section 6


The river Shannon, after almost dividing Ireland from North to South, and dispensing its bounties to the adjoining counties of Roscommon, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath, Galway, King’s County, Kerry, Tipperary, and Limerick, enters the Atlantic ocean between this county and Kerry, where it is about five miles broad, and seems intended by Providence to carry the produce of Ireland, to supply the wants of our neighbours, through this channel. Of this the merchants of Limerick have availed themselves, and annually export immense quantities of corn and many other articles, besides the vast droves of fat cattle, with which they have long continued to feed the English navy. 

If capital was not wanting, Kilrush would long since have had a very large share of these advantages; and, as Mr. Vandeleur must be sensible of the great benefit of a flourishing town to his adjoining estate, no doubt can be entertained, that liberal encouragement will be held out to improving tenants. When the time lost in working up and down the Shannon, (a distance of 120 miles,) and the expence of shipping and reshipping, (for it will scarcely be believed, that many articles are sent up the Shannon from Kilrush to Limerick, and there shipped,) are considered, it must point out Kilrush as a most favourable situation for trade, and must eventually contribute to the benefit of a part of the county, that is the least improved, and the most improvable in the county.

The numerous bays and creeks on both sides of this noble river render it perfectly safe in every wind; but, when the wind blows from certain points, the passage to and from Limerick is frequently tedious, and occupies more time than might be employed in loading a vessel at Kilrush, in so much that I have been informed instances have occurred, when a vessel loading at Kilrush, whilst another was passing by for Limerick, has delivered her cargo in England, and returned, before the other vessel had cleared out of the Shannon.

From Blackhead to Loophead, including the whole western boundary of the county, and measuring upwards of forty miles, there is no safe harbour for a vessel, except Liscanor bay, and this, for want of a pier extending to deep water, is useless for those of any burthen. A pier has been built, or rather jobbed, some years since; but, for the reason I have just mentioned, it is of use only to fishing vessels and smugglers. From want of a sufficient alt="" of water to clear the harbour of the gravel thrown in by the tide, it is rendered still more useless. For preventing this accumulation of gravel, some progress was made in augmenting a small stream of water, which runs into the harbour, but, after jobbing a considerable sum of money to no purpose, it has been abandoned. Some gentlemen of spirit have now taken up the business; and, as there can be little doubt of the liberal contribution of the proprietor, Colonel Fitzgerald, in aid of a sum, which Parliament, when informed of the number of lives it will save, will certainly grant, this port may be made highly useful. 

Dunbeg bay, on account of rocks in the entrance, is unsafe for vessels of any size.

A pier at Glanina, in the barony of Burrin, would be of infinite use, as vessels, that cannot make the harbour of Galway, would here find safety, if they had a pier, and are at present in a most dangerous situation.

The river Fergus, the most considerable next to the Shannon, takes its rise in the barony of Corcomroe; and, after running through the lakes of Inchiquin, (containing three hundred acres,) Tedane, Dromore, Ballyally, and several others, and receiving the waters of several smaller streams, pursues its course through the town of Ennis, where it is augmented by the river Clareen, and, after forming a considerable and beautiful estuary, full of picturesque islands, unites with the Shannon at about ten miles distance. It is navigable for vessels of two hundred tons burden to Clare, a distance of about eight miles, and for small craft to Ennis. In spring tides the depth is about sixteen feet, and in neap tides about nine feet; at ebb a considerable rich muddy strand is left bare, many parts of which might be added to those rich meadows and grazing grounds called corcasses. It receives many mountain streams, and after heavy rain rises so considerably and rapidly, that large tracts of low meadows are frequently overflowed, and immense quantities of hay destroyed, belonging to those indolent farmers, who though they have been annually punished for this neglect, still persist, and who, I am confident, if a proposal was made to carry off the water, would grudge a small sum to effect it, and shift it on the shoulders of their neighbours.

Those pests of the country, eel-weirs, also contribute to throw back water on the land; an eel-weir at the bridge of Ardruan, near the old church of Kiltullogh, throws back water on many acres; the river Fergus, though here upwards of sixty feet broad, is narrowed by this petty weir to eight feet. It is extraordinary, that some of our enlightened legislators do not bring in a bill to abate this very great nuisance; except grist and tuck mills, there cannot be a greater; and I am perfectly convinced that, taken in the aggregate of Ireland, the proprietors of land, especially on rivers of moderate descent, are injured in their property to the annual amount of many millions of money. It is certainly in the power of grand juries to remove those, that have been lately erected. A very moderate sum would lower the obstructions on the river Fergus; but, however willing some individuals may be, it is almost impossible to procure a general consent of the proprietors, and it would be too expensive to obtain an act of Parliament for this purpose; the expence would be more than would remove all the obstructions. The grand jury, if they have the power, ought to interfere, and present money for it; and, though their funds probably would not be able to meet the expenditure at once, it might be gradually effected: the salaries, that are now paid to conservators, who are worse than useless, would soon accomplish this and many other useful plans. It probably may be thought, that the individuals, who are injured, should expend the money for this purpose; so they certainly ought, and it is a strange neglect in our legislators, that there is not a bill brought in for the purpose of compelling a general drainage, without the expence of a separate act for every thing however trifling; yet, as the community are always benefited by the prosperity of individuals, it would be wise to effect this improvement and many others from the public purse, and would be infinitely more useful than many mountain jobs of roads, that end perhaps in the undertaker’s bog.

Lough Terroig is situated on the top of the mountain of Slieuboghta, in the barony of Tullagh, and divides the county of Galway from this. A stream from it runs into the beautiful Lough Graney, or Lake of the Sun, and, after a serpentine course of four miles, collects the waters, that several rivulets throw into Annalow, Lough, and Lough O’Grady, and at about two miles distance falls into the Shannon in the picturesque Skarriff bay.

The river Ougarnee, beginning near Lough Breedy, communicates its waters with Lough Doon, in the barony of Tullagh, after a short run meets that from Lough Cloonlea to the north of Woodfield, and, continuing its course for about three miles, forms a small lake near Mountcashel; from thence, after watering Six-mile-bridge, and turning several miles, it falls into the Shannon near Bunratty-castle, and opposite to the river Maige, in the county of Limerick, about seven miles from that city. The tide flows up to the old oil-mill at Six-mile-bridge.

Ardsallas river rises in the barony of Bunratty; in its course it receives a considerable addition from a river rising in the barony of Tullagh, and unites with the Fergus about six miles from the Shannon*.

The source of the Blackwater is likewise in the barony of Tullagh; it runs but a short distance, before it falls into the Shannon near Limerick.

Clareen river rises in the barony of Islands, and, after a very devious course of six or seven miles, joins the Fergus a little to the north of Ennis. Many hundred acres could be irrigated by this stream; it is abundant, and falls rapidly.

A considerable stream rises in Mount Callan; its course is, upwards of sixteen miles, nearly parallel to the coast; it forms Lough Dulogh, receives several other smaller streams, and disembogues itself into the Atlantic at Dunbeg.

Several streams from the barony of Islands contribute to form a river, that falls into the Shannon at Clounderlaw bay.

Innistymon river forms for about two miles a boundary between the baronies of Ibrickan and Islands, and, running across the barony of Inchiquin, constitutes the division between that barony and Corcomroe, running for nearly sixteen miles, and, receiving the addition of several smaller streams, falls in its passage over a very large ledge of rocks at Innistymon, and thence into Liscanor bay, forming at high water a very dangerous passage for horses and carriages between Lehinch and Liscanor.

There are numberless small streams in almost every part of this county, except in the barony of Burrin, which is but scantily supplied. It is no easy matter to ascertain the names of many rivers, as they generally take their names from those of any town or remarkable place they pass through.

The river Boagh or Bow rises in the mountains, that divide Galway from this county, and also forms the division of these counties in its course to the Shannon, almost opposite to Holy-island.

The lakes are very numerous, amounting to upwards of one hundred with names; many are small, but some are large, as Lough Graney, Lough O’Grady, Lough Tedane, and Inchiquin.

Mineral waters are found in many places, they are chiefly chalybeate; that at Lisdounvarna has been long celebrated for its virtues, particularly in obstructions, and some find it beneficial after a winter’s drinking of bad whiskey from private stills; it is strongly ferruginous, and of an astringent taste, and strong smell, but not fetid. This water would be much resorted to, if accommodations for drinkers could be had; but the health of those, who go there, is probably more injured by damp dirty lodgings in cabbins, than benefited by the use of the water**. This spa possesses an advantage not often met with at such places; it is contiguous to the sea, and gives an option of sea-bathing, as health or pleasure dictate, and the roads are in very tolerable repair.

At Scool, in the barony of Inchiquin, another chalybeate has been drank with great success by several afflicted with obstructions. Another chalybeate breaks up in the road near Cloneen, about a mile north-west of the castle of Lemenagh.

Kilkisshen spa has been handsomely enclosed, and has effected many cures. There is another chalybeate spa at Cassino, near Miltown Malbay.

Many holy wells are to be seen in different parts of the county***. That near Toomgraney, in the barony of Tullagh, called St. Coolen’s is remarkable for the purity of its waters, and for the remains of an oak tree, that measures upwards of sixteen feet in circumference four feet from the ground. At St. Giaaran’s well, near Ennis, there are the remains of a very large ash tree. I do not recollect any thing remarkable of the other wells but the goodness of the water; the saints of ancient days were certainly good judges of water and land; indeed the county abounds with good springs, surely a much wholesomer beverage than the vile malt liquor usually brewed at the present day, even in London; the name should be changed, for it is a compound of every thing but malt and hops.

Turloghs, called in other places Loghans, are frequent in this county; they are accumulations of water, either forced under ground from a higher level, or surface-water from higher grounds, that have no outlet, and must remain until evaporated in summer. There is a very large one at Turloughmore, two near Kilfenora, and more in other places. Although the water remains on them usually for several months, yet, on the subsiding of it, fine grass springs up, and supports large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. These turloughs abound also in the county of Galway, and could be drained in general with great ease, and at a moderate expence. I have offered to contract for the drainage of several; but there were such various interests to reconcile, and such an unaccountable indolence in the gentlemen concerned, that I have always retired with disgust.

* Sir Edward O'Brien is irrigating a considerable tract of ground from this abundant stream.

** Leases of sufficient length for building, owing to a minority, cannot at present be obtained.

*** These wells are little regarded, but by the most ignorant people, and this Scythian custom will soon vanish.

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