Under the house of the dead

Kildysart, or Kildysert, or Killadysert, might be described as the capital of the lower Fergus estuary, close to the bottom on the west side.

But despite that status, it is still somewhat surprising to find a large mausoleum on the right as you drive down to the harbour.

The mausoleum to the right of the church

The church itself was in ruins even by the time of the ~1840 Ordnance Survey map; the mausoleum is probably what is marked as a vault.

Church and mausoleum

Compare the sizes

According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, the mausoleum was built in 1837 and bears this inscription:

A.D. 1837 erected by John Bindon Scott of Cahercon and John Scott of Crevagh to the memory of their fathers also for themselves and posterity

Lewis and the Parliamentary Gazetteer

Lewis mentions the Scott family in 1837. You can read the full entry on Clare County Library’s website; here are some extracts.

KILDYSART, or KILLADYSERT, a post-town and parish, in the barony of CLONDERLAW, county of CLARE and province of MUNSTER, 12 miles (S. S. W.) from Ennis, and 122 miles (S. W.) from Dublin, at the confluence of the rivers Shannon and Fergus, and on the old mail road from Ennis to Kilrush; containing 4501 inhabitants, and comprising 9485 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, which are chiefly in tillage.

Sea-weed and sand are in general use for manure, and the state of agriculture is gradually improving: there is a considerable portion of bog. Culm exists in some places and is partially worked; and good building stone
which is also used for flagging, is procured. […]

The town, which contains about 60 houses, is irregularly built, but has latterly been much improved: a steam-boat passes daily either to or from Limerick. […] Application has been made to the Board of Public Works for aid in the erection of a pier at Carriginriree, and to improve the quay near Kildysart: from the latter, pigs, corn, butter, and other agricultural produce are sent to Limerick in boats; and building materials, grocery, &c, are brought in return: vessels of 105 tons have been freighted at this quay. […]

Part of the beautifully situated demesne of Cahircon, the seat of Bindon Scott, Esq., also extends into this parish, from the more elevated parts of which extensive views are obtained of the rivers Fergus and Shannon, and of the numerous islands by which the former is studded at its confluence with the latter.

I cannot make out what Lewis means by Carriginriree: the only references Google finds are to Lewis. I presume it’s one of the quays around the area, but I would welcome information on the subject (please leave a Comment below).

Sheds, now containing horses, on the road to the quay; their original use is not shown on the old maps

Apart from some comments on the scenery, the Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1846 does not add much to Lewis’s description, save that the Shannon Commissioners had completed the Kildysart quay.

KILDYSERT, or KILLADYSERT […] The surface [of the parish] consists partly of islands in the estuaries of the Fergus and the Shannon, partly of a portion of the rich and beautiful western sea-board of the Fergus’ estuary, and partly of a portion of the moorish frontier heights of the western uplands of the county. The land may, in an aggregate view, be pronounced partly good and partly middle-rate. The chief islands are Inishmacowney, Canon, Inishloe, Coney, and Inishtubrid; and both these islands and the sea-board at once form and command beautiful objects for the poet, and fine subjects for the painter. […]

The inhabitants of the parish enjoy the facilities of water-communication with Limerick and the ocean, and will reap some advantages from the improvements effected by the Shannon Navigation Commissioners.

Aughinish Alumina, on the south side of the Shannon estuary, from Kildysart

The quay

The quay with the modern slip to the right

The Clare Coastal Architectural Heritage Survey (Sarah Halpin and Gráinne O’Connor, Clare County Council 2008) says:

Killadysert Pier is situated within the Shannon Estuary and is referred to in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837 as in the process of an application to the Board for improvement. The pier is constructed of dressed cut ashlar limestone blocks in regular fashion. New concrete steps have been constructed extending down from quay to slipway. Quay has been subject to modernisation in recent years and has been resurfaced on top. Two mooring posts and seven mooring rings are also in situ. Two metal ladders also exist. Modernised boathouse also in situ. […] Lewis’  Topographical Dictionary was originally published in 1837 and the above highlights the existence of the pier at Killadysert well before this date.

The quay

Of the large slipway, it says:

Modern mass concrete slipway possibly encasing older limestone slipway. Adjacent steps to  Killadysert Quay. Circa 4 metres high at highest point. Rubble stonewall exists to left with two cast iron mooring rings in situ also. Circa 6 metres wide and 19 metres long.

According to the Second Report of the Commissioners for Improving the Navigation of the Shannon (Ordered, by the House of Commons, to be Printed, 26 February 1841, the proprietor of Kildysart was one of the first four landlords (the other three were of Querrin, Kilrush and Kilteery) to notify a “desire to co-operate”, and so …

… plans have been prepared for the several improvements, and tenders for contracts to execute the same have been called for by public advertisement.

However, expenditure for 1840 was attributed to “Cahircon (Kildysart)”: Cahircon is a little further downstream but in the parish of Kildysart.

I do not have the third report, but the fourth (1843, covering 1842) has a section on Kildysart, where work had been completed. However, the description — with a causeway, a 250-foot frontage and “a lay-bye in its rear” — seems more appropriate to Cahircon than to Kildysart. Again, the expenditure was attributed to “Cahircon (Kildysart)”.

The approach

One further consideration may be advanced. The Parliamentary Gazetteer says of Cahircon, beginning by quoting the Commissioners:

“This may be considered a very eligible situation for a pier, being in the fair way up and down the river, at a reasonable distance from Kilrush, and at the mouth of the Fergus, thus affording great accommodation to the farmers in this district for shipping off their produce.” Vessels will be able to approach the pier with a good depth of water; steamers plying up and down the Shannon may touch without making any material deviation from their direct course; and a road was proposed to be constructed by the proprietor of the ground to connect the works with Kildysart.

While all of that is true of Cahircon, it is certainly not true of Kildysart. Have a look at the OSI map. Not only is there a whacking great island, Inishcorker, immediately outside Kildysart, but there is a causeway or ford, clearly marked on the map, blocking the southern channel.

Quad bike crossing the ford from Inishcorker

There is a narrow passage from the quay to the channel behind Inishcorker (Killadysert Creek).

The channel from the quay: inside looking out

The channel from the quay: outside looking in

And even when you get out that far, there is a winding passage.

The channel heading north inside Inishcorker

You can see the northern end of the creek on the Lackannashinnagh page. Not perhaps the easiest route for a steamer.

The quay front with steps

The steps

According to Guy’s Directory of 1893, boats from Limerick did run from Kildysart itself in the 1890s:

Conveyances: Communication daily in the summer months, and on alternate days in winter, by steamer from Limerick and Kilrush viâ Cahercon Pier, one mile from Killadysert 12m. from Ennis (Ennis & Limerick ry); 6m. from Foynes (Limerick, Foynes and Newcastle ry), on the opposite side of the Shannon; and 14m. from Kilrush.

Two packet boats ply weekly between here and Limerick for conveyance of goods. Patrick Lillis and Patrick McInerney, owners.

But it is hard to imagine the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company allowing its Shannon steamers in to Kildysart in the 1830s.

Who built it and when?

It seems clear, then, that the Shannon Commissioners did not build the quay at Kildysart. But the OSI maps show much change between ~1840 (Historic 6″) and ~1900 (Historic 25″). Then the large slipway was added: the slipway shown on the ~1900 map is in a different place.

The old slipway

There are some gandalows moored nearby.

Gandalows at Kildysart

Close-up of the grey gandalow

Then, more recently, a pontoon with gated access was installed.

Pontoon at Kildysart

Darina Tully points out, in Clare Traditional Boat and Currach Project 2008 (Clare County Council 2008), that when folk lived on the islands, cattle-carriers worked out of Kildysart, close to shops and services; now that they live on the mainland, the cattle are carried from mainland locations closer to the islands (notably Crovraghan). However, for their purposes a stone quay was unlikely to be of very much use: a slipway would be more useful.

So who built the stone quay, and when? There are hints in an Irish Times article that improvements were contemplated in the late 1870s, but nothing definitive. It’s not high up on my research agenda: if I come across any information, I’ll add it here, but if you know the answer I’d be grateful if you’d leave a Comment below.

4 responses to “Under the house of the dead

  1. Thanbk You.
    very informative & most enjoyable
    William Ryan (carwill@eircom.net)

  2. Pingback: Irish waterways history

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