Mason's Parochial Survey, 1814-19

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Clare County Library


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

X. Trade, Manufactures, Commerce, Navigation, &c.

In the memory of some persons now living, the inhabitants of Kilrush were under the necessity of resorting to the market of Couraclare, a small decayed village at the distance of a few miles from it, for oatmeal, and the other necessaries of life, which, from the low state of agriculture, were not easily procured in any part of the country. In the year 1797 it was little better, there being but two small shops in it, badly assorted, and the articles sold in them one hundred per cent. dearer than in Limerick. It continued much in this state, till the year 1802, when Mr. James Paterson, a Scotch gentleman of respectable family and connexions, who had been lieutenant of one of the gun-boats, then paid off and discharged here, happily for himself and the neighbourhood, turned his attention to trade, and met with the attention and encouragement from Mr. Vandeleur, which he merited. Mr. Paterson commenced by purchasing oats, and the farmers liking his mode of dealing, flocked into Kilrush with their produce. He likewise stopped the shipping that came into the river, for supplies of provisions, &c. which produced a new circulation of money in the place, and this, combined with the regular market, and improving state of agriculture, soon enabled the shop keepers who had hitherto dealt in Limerick, to look elsewhere for their goods; and they now purchase in Dublin on an extensive scale.

There are in Kilrush ten cloth shops, some of which remit three thousand pounds a year to the manufacturers and importers of cloth to Dublin; this fact has been ascertained by Mr. Paterson, from whom they procure bills for the remittances. Thirty persons hold spirit or grocery licenses, besides huxters and sellers of earthen wares, with tradesmen of every description; and there is very little difference between the retail terms here and in Limerick.

In the year 1806, Mr. Vandeleur had Kilrush made a port for export, under the direction of the collector of Limerick, for whose accommodation, or that of his pro-collector, a custom-house and dwelling house have been since built near the quay. In 1807, near Mr. Paterson shipped the first oats ever sent from this place to a foreign market, in the sloop Flora of Greenock. An idea of the progress of agriculture, since that time, may be readily formed from the following statement, extracted from Mr. Paterson’s books.

In 1802, when he commenced, the quantity of oats sold in Kilrush market amounted to 12,000 barrels, and cost £6,666. averaging at 11s. 1d3/25. per barrel. In 1807, five years afterwards, it amounted to 26,000 barrels, and cost £18,795. 16s. 8d., averaging at 14s. 5½d. per barrel. In 1812, after a lapse of five years more, it amounted to 34,000 barrels, and cost £33,681. 5s., averaging at 19s. 3¾d. per barrel.

About 1,200 firkins of butter are shipped annually from Kilrush. In 1810, Mr. Paterson shipped the first butter; and in 1812, he began the making up of provisions, chiefly pork, of which, (as has been already stated), there is an abundant supply. In the same year, he fitted out the first packet between Kilrush and Limerick; in 1813 he had a second plying. And such is the increased resort of strangers to this part of the country, for the benefit of sea bathing and other purposes, that the same enterprising person is now engaged in the erection of hot baths, and an extensive hotel, near the creek of Kilrush; and expects, in the course of a year, to have a steam boat plying between this and Limerick. The trade of this place has also been essentially benefitted by the exertions of Mr. Studdert, who removed here from Limerick some years ago, and has built an house and extensive stores near the new quay, opposite the custom house.

The manufactures are chiefly for home consumption, and consist of frize, flannel, stockings, shoes, brogues, nails, strong sheeting, with a narrow and serviceable kind of linen called bandle cloth. It has been already observed, that several northern sojourners have settled here, and are improving the linen manufacture.

The navigation on the north side of this union is difficult and unsafe, from which circumstance, foreign mariners have given the whole line of coast between Galway harbour and Loops Head, the denomination of Malbay. The mouth of the Shannon, however, affords a safe and commodious harbour, as a refuge from these tumultuous seas. This noble river being navigable to Limerick and Clare, and by the exertions of inland navigation, being likely to have its communication with the Grand and Royal Canals completed in a very short time, promises, at no distant period, to prove a source of incalculable prosperity to all the tracts of fertile and improvable land, through which it flows, in a course of one hundred and eighty miles form Lough Allen to Loops Head. The navigation of this river, from Limerick to the sea, is tolerably safe; and vessels of four hundred tons burthen can come up to the quay of that city. But the harbour of Kilrush, from its contiguity to the mouth of the river, as well as from the ready approach of trading vessels to it, has decidedly an advantage not only over the port of Clare, but even over that of Limerick; for the channel of the river Shannon, communicating with each of these two last mentioned places, is so very narrow for many miles, and so much obstructed by different impediments, that the trading vessels employed in the navigation meet with such frequent and unavoidable delays and difficulties as greatly to enhance the amount of freight and premium of insurance.

There are many instances of shipping having cleared out at Limerick, and been ready to sail, and of having been upwards of two months detained in the narrows by the western wind, which prevails so much here, while those freighted at Kilrush, have within the some period of time, made their passage to ports in England and Scotland, and returning for fresh cargoes, have met the Limerick vessels so detained still lying in the river Shannon.

A proposal was made some years ago to insulate that part of this union which was anciently called Western Corkavaskin, and is still called “The West,” by cutting a canal from the head of the great strand of Poulanishery, to the bay of Dunbeg. This might save the tedious passage from Limerick or Kilrush, to Galway, Killala, or Sligo, by Loops-Head and round Malbay. The intervening ground is level, and scarcely five miles across; so that this might be easily done, if it were advisable to do it. But the Atlantic ocean manifestly requires the strong barriers of cliffs and sand banks by which it is repelled here; and therefore, in the conjunction of an equinoctial tide, with a storm from the north-west, an opening at Dunbeg large enough to admit vessels of three or four hundreds tuns burden, might prove the means of inundating a great part of the barony of Moyarta.

We are told by O’Halloran, on the authority of the more ancient Irish historians, that in the month of March, 816, during a dreadful storm, attended by thunder and lightning, the Atlantic ocean swelled to a tremendous height, and breaking in upon the north shore of Corkavaskin, laid a considerable part of it under water. The historians add, that a thousand persons perished by the inundation and lightning.

Over the creek of Poulanishery, which runs about three miles into the country, in two different directions, is a patent ferry, communicating between Kilrush and “The West.” The receipts at this ferry on public days are very considerable, though somewhat diminished of late by the erection of a bridge over the salt ford, higher up in the creek. Early in the last century, a proposal was made by a Dutch company, through Mr. Vanhoogort of Querin, to recover a great proportion of land from the slob in this creek. The project is certainly practicable; a similar one was lately accomplished near Belfast; and it would probably be attended with much advantage to the proprietors of the surrounding estates, if it were carried into execution without injury to the navigation of the creek. From this, and other inlets of the sea in this union and its immediate neighbourhood, an immense quantity of turf is sent annually to the city and county of Limerick. In the harbour of Kilrush alone, upwards of a hundred boats (from five to twenty tuns burden each) are employed in this trade, and in the herring fishery. In the bay of Carrigaholt, vessels lie in great safety from westerly and north-westerly winds; but being much exposed to south-east winds, and a heavy swell from the mouth of the river, a pier has been lately erected there for their protection.

There is also a refuge for small craft in the wild bays of Kilclogher, or Kilbaha, and one more secure and commodious in the creek of Querin. Higher up than the Revenue Quay, at Kilrush, is a quay built by presentment some years ago, at the shore of Moyne, or Kockanes, opposite to Hog Island, on Mr. Comyn’s property.

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