09 September 2017

The hidden delights on
the streets of Glin

O’Shaghnessy’s pub gives Glin its picture postcard image and has been run by the one family for six generations (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Glin Castle is the main tourist attraction in Glin, but the Co Limerick village has its own charms. The town was planned in the late 18th century by Colonel John Bateman FitzGerald (1755-1803), the 23rd Knight of Glin, as Glin Catsle was being rebuilt on a new site, and he laid out the spacious Market Square and planned the terraces of Georgian town houses.

The two parish churches, Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic, form a pair of Gothic Revival churches at the west end of Church Street, enclosing the entrance to Glin Castle at the Village Lodge. But other buildings of architectural interest in Glin include a fine Georgian pub, a terrace of elegant Georgian townhouses facing the Shannon Estuary and the coastline, and a 200-year-old Bridewell that has also served as a courthouse and is now a library.

Glin is typical of the places that inspired John Betjeman’s poem, The Small Towns of Ireland.

O’Shaughnessy’s bar encloses the south side of the Market Square at the top of the Main Street and frames the vista from the Shannon Estuary into the town, giving Glin a picture-postcard streetscape. This end-of-terrace, nine-bay, two-storey house and shop was built ca 1790, and the later 19th century additions include a timber shopfront and porch at the front. This shopfront has pilasters supporting the fascia and a carved cornice.

O’Shaughnessy’s is an imposing building in the heart of Glin. Its height, leangth and windows are well balanced and in keeping with the rest of the street line. It retains its historic form and composition, along with much of its fabric, including the slate roof, sash windows and carriage arch.

The O’Shaughnessy family who give their name to this pub claim descent from Sir Dermot O’Shaughnessy, from Gort, Co Galway, who was knighted in the reign of Henry VIII. After the Treaty of Limerick was signed, Thomas O’Shaughnessy, a great-grandson of Sir Dermot, moved to Glin and this branch of this family has lived in Glin since 1692.

In the late 19th century, Pat O’Shaughnessy acquired the long building on the Market Square in Glin and ran his business as a grocery, hardware shop and builders’ suppliers, as well as a public house.

The business was inherited by his cousin, Mossy O’Shaughnessy, who also inherited the pub and the family debts. In his time, the pub was also known as the Ivy House.

When another Mossy O’Shaughnessy died in 1952, and the pub passed to Captain John O’Shaughnessy, who returned from London in 1952 and his Hungarian-born wife Dorrit (‘Dody’) Meer. While they ran the pub, it was also known locally as ‘The Captain’s,’ and his regular visitors include John B Keane.

When Captain John died at the age of 82 in 2002, the pub was inherited by their son Thomas and his wife Val. The pub is now being run by a sixth generation of the O’Shaughnessy family, but is only open on Friday evenings, at weekends and on some mornings in the week.

I have yet to visit the pub, but I understand that inside this Georgian inn still retains its original panelling, flooring and shelving, as well as furnishing and artefacts acquired by generations of the O’Shaughnessy family, and extensive courtyards and gardens designed by Dody O’Shaughnessy.

Glin Library has served in the past as the Bridwell, a prison and a courthouse (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Leading up the Main Street, on the right-hand (west) side, Glin Library was built as the Bridewell in 1829. It has a main three-bay, two-storey centre bay that is flanked on each side by recessed, two-bay, single-storey wings.

As the Bridewell, it played an important role in the story of Glin, and was used to detain prisoners and hold trials. After the new garda station was built on Church Street, prisoners were no longer kept in the Bridewell. But court cases continued to be held there, and it became known as the courthouse.

The building has retained its original stripped down austere form and many of its original salient features. It is set within its own boundary walls, complete with a well-rafted limestone pedestrian entrance, and the building forms an interesting part of the architectural heritage of Glin.

Hamilton Villa was built around 1820 by John Hamilton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Hamilton Villa is a detached three-bay two-storey L-plan house, built ca 1820 by John Hamilton, who strongly influenced the shape and layout of Victorian Glin.

This attractive, well-proportioned house, facing the Shannon Estuary, still has distinctive features that are characteristic of domestic architecture in mid-19th century. However, its Georgian features are masked in part by the timber glazed porch at the front, hiding the elliptical opening and spoked fanlight over the timber-panelled door.

Immediately east of Hamilton Villa, Hamilton Terrace is a pleasant terrace of well-proportioned Georgian houses built by John Hamilton at the same time, around 1820.

One of the houses on Hamilton Terrace served as the Vicarage of Kilfergus or Glin Parish. The Revd Edward Ashe, one of my predecessors in this group of parishes, was Vicar of Kilfergus and Vicar of the neighbouring parish of Aghavillin (Ballylongford) and Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), for 43 years. He died on 1 April 1861 at Hamilton Terrace, Glin, at the age of 71. He had succeeded his father, Canon William Ashe (1747-1836), as Vicar of Kilfergus.

Hamilton Terrace … a house here once served as the Vicarage for Kilfergus Parish (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

In the heart of Glin, a sculpture by local artist Pat O’Loughlin celebrates the life of Margaret Moloney (1868-1952), who was the world’s only known female harbour master. She died in 1952 just under the age 84, making her also the world’s oldest harbour master.

Maggie Moloney took over the position of harbour master in Glin from her brother in 1919. She was known as the ‘First Lady of the Estuary’ and when she died, the position of harbour master discontinued and in turn Glin ceased to function as a commercial port.

Margaret Moloney was once the world’s oldest and only female harbour master (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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