Kilrush, Knock, River Shannon (1891)

Having devoted as much time and space as suited our purpose in exploring the coast, we now seek for more variety inland, and owing to its picturesqueness select the neighbourhood of Kilrush. The run by road or rail presents nothing unusual till approaching the town. Scattery Island is observed about midway in the Shannon, opposite Kilrush, in which island are objects of great historical, as well as local interest, such as one of the round towers that have puzzled the wise in such matters for ages, and still the question is not yet solved, namely, whether of Christian or Pagan origin. There are also on the island extensive and interesting ecclesiastical ruins, in which, in remote ages St. Sennan officiated, and whose memory is still revered in having so many of the people bearing the christian name of "Sinon," living in the neighbourhood.

In Kilrush, and for miles inland, is the Vandeleur property, which, no doubt, will occupy a foremost place when the Land League operations have to be recorded in history, it being the scene of one of the greatest efforts made by the government with a view to sustain the rights of the owner of the soil. However, after evicting a certain number of tenants, and demolishing their homesteads, arbitration was proposed by men of influence unconnected, we believe, with the Land League, and was accepted by the landlord, and now peace reigns where the most intense excitement and agitation at one time prevailed. The mansion and demesne of the Vandeleurs are adjoining the town of Kilrush, and were always occupied by former owners 'til the present member of the family succeeded his father, and now the house is not inhabited by him, or any member of the family. The town of Kilrush is not so prosperous as it should be judging from its position in occupying the best site in the river Shannon for commercial purposes.

At Cappa is a substantial pier where steamers trading with Limerick load and discharge, and at present is the principal place for visitors to Kilkee to land and embark. A steamer plys between Limerick and Kilrush all the year round, taking goods and passengers, and in the summer season a passenger boat runs in connection with the railway to and from Foynes harbour, and the West Clare Railway extension is opening up the coast line from Miltown Malbay to Kilkee and Kilrush. On the shore, nearly opposite Kilrush, in County Kerry, is Tarbert, with lighthouse, and a few miles higher up the river, on the same side, but in County Limerick, Glin Castle, the residence of the Knight of Glin, a descendent of the Geraldines of old, are picturesque places and worth visiting, particularly as one is brought into a region which fiction and fact have made interesting all the world over, owing to its being the scene of that tragedy which gave Gerald Griffin such an incentive to employ his great genius in deliniating a heroine like "Eily O'Connor," and creating such characters as "Hardress Cregan" and "Danny Man."

In the Clare side of the river, a few miles east of Kilrush, is Knock, at both sides of which are the seats of a number of the county families, whose demesnes are planted, almost to the water's edge, making the landscape look beautiful as seen from the river when passing in a boat or steamer. And in a graveyard near this interesting hamlet rest the remains of Ellen Hanley, the "Eily O'Connor" of Gerald Griffin's "Collegians," already referred to, whose body was washed ashore in the neighbourhood, and over whose remains a local gentleman had a headstone erected some years ago, which has been disfigured by relic-hunters taking away portions of it. We should like to see another effort made to erect a more substantial monument over the "Eily O'Connor" whom our distinguished countryman has immortalised and was himself born not many miles distant from the scene of the tragedy; we think also some memorial of Gerald Griffin should be erected in the City of Limerick, or on the shore near Foynes harbour. And notwithstanding that his name will live in "song and story" the public should mark their appreciation of his genius by erecting something in public on which to engrave his name, as a further means of keeping "his memory green" in the hearts of the people.

Charles Lever, one of our great novel-writers, spent some years of his life in Kilrush, and enjoyed among others the friendship of a well-known County Clare gentleman, who was himself an inimitable story-teller, and it is said many of the humourous scenes in Lever's works were inspired by that gentleman, as well as by a Catholic clergyman who lived in the neighbourhood, and now both lay and cleric, including the distinguished author himself, have "gone hence to be no more seen, for ever." It is not pleasant to have to record the fact that, like Gerald Griffin, Lever has no public monument in his native land erected to his memory; and what is still more, his ashes mingle with that of strangers in a foreign country.

There also lived at Kilrush, a Mr. Jackson, who as "Terry O'Driscoll," in his humorous sketches from week to week, in some of the Dublin newspapers, delighted the public of the past generation, and, no doubt many, like ourselves, remember them also.

Limerick, which is 60 miles from Loophead, is a port of some importance, where the water rises at spring tides 23 feet, is a fine old historical city, and having burst the bonds in which the old fortified walls held it for centuries, its enterprising citizens carved out a new city, and now the modern portion is far more extensive than the old, and excels it in beauty; it is well built, and contains warehouses not surpassed by any other town of its population in the kingdom, and its fine range of streets excite admiration. A visit to Limerick, by river, would not be the least interesting of the many excursions one may take during one's holiday-life in Kilkee, and at the same time enjoy the beautiful scenery on the banks of the Shannon. Indeed it is unaccountable to us that no special service of excursion steamers has ever been established on the Shannon, like that between Queenstown and Cross Haven and also Galway Bay. Sheltered as Carrigaholt is, and so near Kilkee, we do not see why a service of cars should be established between Kilkee and Carrigaholt, and a steamer run from thence, calling at Kilrush, Scattery Island, Ballylingford, Tarbet and Glin, going and returning,-with trips to Tralee, the Islands of Arran, and along the coast to Galway, calling at Liscannor, for the cliffs of Moher.

A river with such an expanse of water extending so far inland as does the Shannon, having a landscape so charming on both sides, with the tidal portion of it washing the shores of three counties in its progress to the sea, should have a boat specially employed for pleasure in connection with Kilkee; or with the Railway open to Kilkee, instead of Carrigaholt, make Cappa the starting point. We see nothing to prevent it except want of energy, or the absence of enterprise. No doubt it might be said, a boat already is plying between Kilrush and Limerick, and another to Foynes in the season; but this is not sufficient for those who come to Kilkee, nor for the tourists. The fact is, the estuary of the Shannon, including Scattery Island, Tralee Bay, and the several interesting places along its shores, are unknown parts to the great majority of those who stay at the coast, and as there is no safe anchorage in Kilkee Bay for vessels to lie in, or other suitable accommodation to land or embark, why should not the next best be done, namely, employ a steamer on the Shannon exclusively for excursions, using one of the several harbours on its shores for her despatch and arrival.

It is all very well to have caves to visit and rocks to lounge on, but it was never intended that pleasure-seekers who can afford to pay for enjoyment should be for ever burrowing in caves, or like barnacles, stuck to the rocks, when they come to Kilkee for a holiday. Nature has done everything for Kilkee, and art, too, has contributed much towards making it the Queen of watering places in Ireland; all now wanted is to make a better use of the sea, and the river Shannon, which is so conveniently situated for pleasure in connection with the other sea-side attractions. A great deal of the success of those first-class watering places and health resorts in England is due to the facilities afforded for amusement and recreation of every kind. We have also wondered why it is that none of our steam-ship owners will not do for Ireland, and the British public generally, what is being accomplished for Norway and other foreign places, namely, to employ one or more steamers to take passengers to see the bold headlands, steep cliffs, and the groups of islands all around the Irish coast, with the beautiful bays and harbours, which, we think, are not surpassed in any other part of the world, and with a landscape also the most attractive that one could desire to see; and select, say the Shannon, Galway Bay, Waterford, Queenstown, Belfast and Dublin, as centres for such vessels to anchor in, while the passengers are enjoying a few days at the several health-resorts, on travelling more inland to see objects and places of interest which everywhere abound. We venture to assert that thousands seek in foreign countries, enjoyment, which could be obtained nearer home, at far less cost, who have never been in Ireland; and all this want of knowledge of home life and scenery, is chiefly due to the steam-ship owners, who entice the people away to foreign coasts, by offering trips at very reduced rates to the public.

One thing is certain, the brigand is unknown in Ireland, so far as an attack on tourist or excursionist is concerned, and if there is any sort of violence, bordering on disorder, it does not affect the pleasure-seeker, but is confined to a to sort of "land brigandage," which, however unfortunate for those directly interested, is in no sense an obstacle to the free movements of tourists and others, who need never be afraid of having to pay a ransom while travelling in Ireland, like many who are obliged to submit to such an exaction when on the continent, where they are often seized and carried away captives; yet after all this the infatuation for foreign novelties is so great that people venture among a lawless race in the pursuit of pleasure, instead of coming to Ireland of which it might be said now as of old,
"Blessed for ever is she who relied
On Erin's honour and Erin's pride"
To all we have written much more might be added relating to Kilkee and its beautiful region; we have touched the outlines only, and it is for those who have leisure and greater ability, to fill up the details.

Holiday Haunts on the West Coast of Clare by H.B.H
Courtesy of Clare Local Studies Project

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