28 July 2020

Reminders of words and
dictionaries while waiting
for the ferry at Killimer

Two Ogham sculptures with the names of Clare and Kerry at the ferry point in Killimer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

On the way back from Doonbeg to Askeaton on Saturday, two of us stopped for about half an hour at Killimer, Co Clare, enjoying the sculptures overlooking the Shannon Estuary and enjoying ice creams as we waited to cross on the ferry to Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Killimer, on the north bank of the Shannon Estuary, is known for the car ferry service, operated by Shannon Ferries, and for the Moneypoint coal-fired electricity station west of the village, beside the road to Kilrush.

According to the geographer Samuel Lewis, the parish had over 3,000 residents in 1837. Today, about 500 people live in Killimer.

Killimer is one of the smallest parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe, and is part of the Killimer and Knockerra parish, with two parish churches: Saint Imy in Killimer and Saint Senan in Knockerra. These two saints are said to have been born in the townland of Molougha in the parish.

The Ogham scultptures at the ferry point are reminder of Killimer’s past. Lisroor (Lios Ramhar), a double ringfort in Killimer, is the second largest in Ireland, and another unique fort is at Cathair na gCat.

Peter O’Connell, who was born in Carne or Carradotia near Killimer in 1755, was a schoolteacher and lexicographer and a near contemporary of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) from Lichfield, who published the first standard English dictionary in 1755, the year O’Connell was born.

O’Connell travelled throughout Ireland, Wales, the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides tracing rare and unusual words as he compiled his dictionary. He completed his epic work in 1819, but failed in his attempts to get his dictionary published. His manuscript was pawned in Tralee, and Peter’s nephew, Anthony O’Connell, later sold the unpublished work to James Hardiman, who hired John O’Donovan to copy the manuscript.

Peter O’Connell’s original manuscript was sold to the British Museum by Hardiman and there is a copy in the library of Trinity College Dublin. He died on 24 February 1826 and is buried in the old churchyard at Burrane, near Killimer.

Ellen Hanly, the ‘Colleeen Bawn,’ who was washed ashore at Moneypoint, was buried in the same grave in July 1819.

In the mid-19th century, ferries sailed up and down the Shannon, rather than across the estuary. The writer William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) described his fellow passengers in 1842: ‘There was a piper and a bugler, a hundred of genteel persons coming back from donkey-riding and bathing at Kilkee … a score of women nursing children, and a lobster vendor.’

Moneypoint, with an output of 915 MW, is Ireland’s largest electricity generation station and only coal-fired power station. It was commissioned in 1985-1987, and was built at a cost of more than £700 million, making it one of the largest capital projects in the history of the state.

The station operates largely on coal, making it Ireland’s single largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is capable of meeting around 25% of customer demand across the country. The power station chimneys, at 218 metres, are the tallest free-standing structures in Ireland.

The Shannon Ferries crossing – on the Shannon Breeze and the Shannon Dolphin – from Killimer, Co Clare, to Tarbert, Co Kerry, has been operating since 1969. It takes 20 minutes, leaving Killimer every hour on the hour and Tarbert every hour on the half hour, between 7 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. It saves people 137 km and 1½ hours as they drive from Tralee, Dingle or Killarney to Loop Head, the Burren or the Cliffs of Moher along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The Shannon Estuary at Killimer, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

1 comment:

bjg said...

Thank you for another illuminating post. I share your enthusiasm for the Killimer ferry crossing, which I have written about here https://irishwaterwayshistory.com/abandoned-or-little-used-irish-waterways/the-lower-shannon/the-piers-quays-and-harbours-of-the-shannon-estuary/the-killimer-to-tarbert-ferry/ with my own tribute to the Colleen Bawn here https://irishwaterwayshistory.com/abandoned-or-little-used-irish-waterways/the-lower-shannon/the-piers-quays-and-harbours-of-the-shannon-estuary/the-colleen-bawn-at-killimer/. I don't quite agree that

In the mid-19th century, ferries sailed up and down the Shannon, rather than across the estuary.

The up-and-down traffic was more formalised, especially once the steamers replaced the sailing packets on the Limerick-Kilrush route, but there were several across routes too, as well as boats at various places taking passengers to and from the up-and-down steamers: they couldn't stop at all the smaller places, but could get passengers on board (the steamer Garryowen had steps on the paddle-boxes).

One interesting aspect is that it involved both Thomas Spring Rice and Daniel O'Connell: Rice, A determined magistrate and grand juror, [...] arrested Scanlan, the killer of the Colleen Bawn, in November 1819, whereas O'Connell defended him. Later, Rice and O'Connell were perhaps the leading spokesmen for two competing visions of Ireland. On 22 April 1834 O'Connell spoke in the House of Commons, in favour of repeal of the Act of Union, for five hours. On the following day, Rice responded, speaking for six hours. Perhaps there is something to be said for Twitter. https://irishwaterwayshistory.com/2012/09/21/wordling-repeal/

Yet they were both honest men, near neighbours and, in their different ways and according to their own lights, active in promoting the economic and social welfare of their counties and of the whole country.