Mason's Parochial Survey, 1814-19

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Union of Kilrush, Killard, Kilfieragh, Moyferta, and Kilballyhone

The Name of the Parish, Situation, Extent, &c.

The present are the ancient names of these parishes, but at a very remote period this whole barony was denominated Corkabhaiscin East and West. The union is situated between 52° 30’, and 52° 37’ north latitude, and between 9° 20’ and 9° 45’ west longitude; being bounded on the east by the parishes which compose the union of Kilmurry Mac Mahon; on the south and southwest by the river Shannon; and on the west, north-west and the north by the Atlantic Ocean. It extends about 25 miles, viz. from Knockerry to Loopshead lighthouse. It is of unequal breadth, being a triangle, one side formed by the shore of the Atlantic Ocean; another by the north-west bank of the river Shannon; the base being a line drawn from the Shannon to the ocean, and extending from Ballymacrennan towards Dunbeg: the lighthouse on the cliffs of Loops Head forms the vertex of this triangle. According to an old, and now erroneous survey, by which the parish cesses are regulated, it contains 17.866 profitable, and 21.293 unprofitable acres—total 39.159 acres Irish plantation measure; a great proportion of the unprofitable land have been reclaimed since this survey was made.

This tract of country is deeply indented by inlets of the sea; by which the water carriage of turf from almost every part of it to the markets in the city and county of Limerick is facilitated; an abundant supply of limestone may, by the same means, be conveyed back for the purpose of reclaiming the tracts of bog.

There are three rivers in this district, one of which, (Sragh river) is larger than the rest; it rises in the neighbouring parish of Kilmichael, and empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean, at the Bay of Dunbeg. This river produces very fine salmon. The other two take their rise in the parish of Kilrush; one of them runs from the loughs of Knockerry, and taking a western direction, empties itself into the creek at Kilrush; the other, (the Bockough,) which is also a small river, rises in the lands of Tullagower, and running west about three miles, falls into the large creek of Poulanishery, or Oyster Cove, which divides the parish of Kilrush from those of Kilfieragh and Moyarta. Exclusively of the two loughs at Knockerry, (one of which might easily be drained) there is another in the townland of Tullabrack, and a fourth near the church and birth-place of the celebrated Saint Senanus, at Mologha.

Mountains, Bog
There are no mountains in Killard or Kilfieragh, but very high cliffs, hanging over the ocean in both. In Moyarta and Carheenaveilane, and in the parish of Kilballyhone, are several tracts of a mountainous nature. Very fine crops of potatoes and corn have however been of late years produced from these grounds. There is scarcely a townland in the parish of Kilrush without convenient turbary: it contains a great proportion of the Bog of Monmore, which is said to rank, as to extent, in the third or fourth place among those of Ireland. Great quantities of turf are annually sent hence by boats, to the city and county of Limerick. This trade employs numbers of people at a season when little else can be done by them; while it contributes essentially to the comforts of the peasant employed in it. Turf cutting is the first step towards the recovery of tracts of ground from an unprofitable state, after which the land is generally planted with rape and potatoes, and eventually sown with oats and grass seed. For these reasons this trade is encouraged by one of the principal proprietors, who permits his tenants to cut and dispose of as much turf as they choose, without any pecuniary remuneration. It is thought that the value of the turf sent off annually from this and the neighbouring bogs, amounts to upwards of £10,000 a year. A boat manned by two persons, generally a man and a boy, earns about £200 a year at this trade; and would produce considerably more, if freighted with limestone in return. The Monmore bog also branches into the parish of Killard, where there are likewise several other small bogs: there are considerable tracts also in the parish of Kilfieragh. The great creek of Poulanishery, or Oyster Cove, running, by what is called here a Crumpane, a considerable way through this parish, facilitates the loading of turf boats, and at a future day may afford an ingress to lime and other materials, for improving the land. A very large bog runs nearly through the centre of the parish of Kilfieragh, from east to west, on which a great quantity of turf is cut for the Limerick market, and sent off from Querin, Dunaha and Carrigaholt. There is also a bog at Kilbaha, in the parish of Kilballyhone, where it is said, that a guinea is a price of that portion of surface on which every boat load of turf is cut and saved for sale. It is certainly fair, that where the bogs are small, and likely to be cut out, in consequence of the facility of transporting the fuel by water carriage to a dear market, the tenant should consider it a sufficient indulgence to be permitted to cut enough of turf for his own consumption, and pay for any other privilege which trade may induce him to solicit.

It is a general rule here, not to cut turf till the main crop of potatoes has been planted, which is seldom accomplished until the middle of the month of May; whereas, if the turf were cut in March, (and no frost prevents its being saved at that time of the year in this part of Ireland,) the potatoes might be set in the month of April, which is allowed to be the best month for planting them; and the turf could be got out of the bogs in the beginning of June, when the days are nearly at their greatest length, and horses and cars can generally pass over the worst roads without much inconvenience. On the present plan, there is no calculating the quantum labour thrown away. Men, women and children are laboriously occupied during almost the whole of the months of September, October, and November, in preparing their turf, and carrying it home from the bogs.

Considerable tracts of exhausted bog are burned every year, and they produce excellent crops of potatoes and oats. But here improvement too often terminates; although the convenience of water carriage, and the vicinity of the sea afford various means for enriching the soil, which are not enjoyed in other places. Lime, sand, earth, marl, shells, and sea weed may be readily brought to every acre in this district. One of the most effectual methods of improving a bog is, to intersect it with roads. The dykes on each side of these roads having at least one settled bank, will conduct the water away more effectually than the widest drains, which, from a want of permanent sides or banks, are apt to be closed up, and hence become useless. Most of the bogs in this union have gravely hillocks in or near them, which might probably be used with advantage in reclaiming them. The luxuriant verdure on the sides of the bog roads seems to invite the experiment.

There are no woods here, but some handsome young plantations are to be seen in Mr. Vandeleur’s demesne, near Kilrush. It is said, that the vicinity of the ocean is unfavourable to the growth of trees; and such as are now growing here are bent in the direction of the prevailing wind: but many trees thrive well in this neighbourhood, such as ash, oak, birch, elm, alder, and Scotch fir. It is certain, from the number of trees found in the bogs, that this neighbourhood formerly produced plenty of timber, notwithstanding its contiguity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Bog Timber
The bog timber consists of fir, oak, and yew, but chiefly of the two former kinds, which are often found of large dimensions, and serve to roof houses, and supply the simple furniture of the peasantry. Some years ago, Mr. Anthony Nolan, of Ballykett, found on his farm a bog fir tree, which was purchased from him by Mr. Paterson of Kilrush, for £14.19s.6d. It measured at the thickest end 38 inches in diameter, and, at upwards of 68 feet from that part, 31 inches. It was very fine sound timber, and produced, or rather saved him in the expense of building his house, upwards of thirty-six pounds. By age, and the action of the water, this tree had lost so much of its original bulk, that the part preserved was merely the heart, and not nearly half its original size.

The manner of finding these trees in the bogs of this neighbourhood is remarkably curious. Early in the morning, before the dew evaporates, a man with a long small sharp spear, (called in Irish Tharagher, or Bog Auger) goes into the bog; and as the dew never lies on the part over the trees, he can ascertain their position and length; and easily find whether they are sound or rotten: if sound, he marks with a spade the spot where they lie, and at his leisure proceeds to extricate them from their bed, which is undoubtedly a laborious, and oftentimes a very difficult process. The roots of the fir trees afford a convenience to the inhabitants of this district, (as in many other parts of the coast) rivalling the properties of Kendal coal, by giving them light and heat in the long winter nights. It is sold at a very low rate in back loads, brought by asses into the town of Kilrush.

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