Cahircon: not at all boring

This page is about a place that the Clare County Manager doesn’t think is particularly interesting. It almost had Ireland’s only (official) explosives plant until the economy intervened. And Oileáin, the invaluable guide to Irish islands, doesn’t think much of it, even as an embarkation point for the Fergus Estuary:

To the S, Cahiracon Pier R248-563 may be the more convenient, depending on the excursion plan, especially for the more S islands, or an excursion S across the Shannon Estuary. It is reached from just S of Killadysert. Any excursion in the Fergus Estuary is best carried out around HW, and Cahiracon may be preferred for allowing a more comprehensive exploration in the one go. Cahiracon though is however a dumping ground and a ships’ breakers’ yard. Most unpleasant.

But I like it.


Scotts of Cahircon

On my page about Kildysart, I mentioned the Scott mausoleum

[…] erected by John Bindon Scott of Cahercon and John Scott of Crevagh […].

Lewis (1837) said that

Part of the beautifully situated demesne of Cahircon, the seat of Bindon Scott, Esq., also extends into this parish […].

Here’s the Google map:

Provided you don’t zoom in too far, the satellite view is pretty good. You can see the road leading south-eastward from the R473 to Cappanavarnoge, with the quay and Inishmurray island providing some shelter. This signpost marks the turn from the R473.

The signpost at the R473

Here’s a link to the OSI map.

Inishmurray from Cahircon

Cahircon and Inishmurray

The Parliamentary Gazetteer wrote of Kildysart in 1846:

The seats are Rosshill, Crovraghan, Lanesborough, Ballyvoghane, and Ballylean; and part also of the demesne of Cahiracon, the property of John Scott, Esq., and one of the most beautiful and romantic demesnes on either the Fergus or the Shannon, lies within the southern boundary. 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.

And of Cahircon itself it wrote:

CAHIRCON, a landing-place in the parish of Kildysart, barony of Clonderalaw. co. Clare, Munster. It is situated on the Shannon, on the west side of the mouth of the Fergus, opposite the island of Innismurry, and at a brief distance from the village of Kildysart. The Commissioners for the Improvement of the Shannon Navigation planned the construction of a causeway to a projecting rock at this place, the cutting down of the face of the rock, and the erection upon it of a pier at the estimated cost of £1,986; and they say, “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.”

The causeway

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. Cahircon demesne, in the vicinity, the property of John Scott, Esq., is one of the most character, and beautiful in situation, on the Shannon.

The quay

According to the Second Report of the Commissioners for Improving the Navigation of the Shannon (1841), the proprietor of Kildysart was one of four on the Lower Shannon who “notified their desire to co-operate with the public as prescribed by the Act of Parliament”, so plans were prepared and tenders were called for; £32/6/7 was spent on works and 5/- in payment of awards.

It should be noted that the Commissioners referred sometimes to Kildysart and sometimes to Kildysart (Cahircon), but it is clear that they were talking about Cahircon, not about the quay in Kildysart itself. For clarity, I’ll stick to Cahircon. By the time of the Fourth Report (1843), the Commissioners were able to report that:

At the termination of 1841, the only portion of this work executed was part of the causeway, and preparation of stone at the quarry. As soon as the weather permitted to cut down the rock which was to serve as a foundation on which the quay was to be built, the contractors commenced their operations with spirit, and having continued throughout the summer to work with great energy, they completed their contract in December last, in a very satisfactory manner.

The quay presents a front to the river of 250 feet, having 21 feet depth of water at high spring-tides, and having a lay-bye in its rear, affording excellent shelter for small craft.

The outer edge of the quay

The average number of persons employed daily at Kildysart, from the 1st of January to the 11th December, was 11, being equivalent to 3,256 days’ work. This work is now complete, and open to the public.

It being necessary to employ persons to take charge of this pier, as well as those of Kilteery and Querrin, the rates of wharfage, etc as sanctioned by your Lordships, have been fixed at the lowest possible scale, all that is required being sufficient to pay the expenses of the individuals at each station, and a small sum to cover trifling repairs, which are not likely to be required for a long period, the work being built of ashlar of large dimensions, and well executed.

The rates of tolls as at present fixed will hereafter be reduced, should the amount collected prove greater than the necessary outlay requires.

Expenditure at Cahircon during 1842 was £1,413/15/8¾. The works had required 7,739 cube feet of ashlar, 9,342 cube feet of rough stone and 6,842 cube yards of filling and excavation, but no gunpowder or patent fuse.

A corner of the quay


The Fifth Report (1844) showed expenditure of £134/5/1 at Cahircon during 1843. However, only 64 tons of cargo (manure: perhaps sea-manure, ie seaweed to be used as fertiliser) were landed during the year and only 30½ tons were loaded: 5½ of hay or straw, 6½ of grain, 6½ of black cattle or horses, 7¾ of sheep, 3¾ of pigs and ¾ of “Bale-goods, hardware, and general merchandise”. This put Cahircon at the bottom of the list: Kilteery landed 255 tons and loaded 54½, Querrin landed 416 and loaded 2,870 (2,780 of it turf) and Kilrush landed 3,941½ and loaded 7,520 (6,045¼ of it grain).

The Sixth Report (1845) showed no expenditure at Cahircon during 1844, but traffic had fallen even lower: 9 tons of manure and ¼ ton of sheep landed, only 17¾ tons loaded: 1 ton of grain, ¼ of butter, 7½ of black cattle or horses, 3 tons of sheep and 6 of pigs. Two new stations had been opened on the Shannon estuary, at Saleen and Clare (Clarecastle); the total landed at all stations was down slightly, from 4,676½ tons to 4,477¾, while the total loaded was up slightly, from 10,475 tons to 10,892¼.

The Seventh Report (1846) showed a major increase in the amount landed during 1845: it was up to 191¾ tons (191 manure, ¾ “Iron, not made into articles of merchandise”. Total estuary landings were up to 11,619½ tons. The amount loaded was back up to 30 tons, more or less where it had been in 1843, with 1 ton of grain, 6½ of black cattle or horses, 5½ of sheep and 17 of pigs. The total loaded on the estuary was up to 26,127 tons, of which 11,004½ came from Clare and 7,480¾ from Kilrush.

The Eighth Report (1847) showed that John Bindon Scott had paid £129/2/1 in interest (at 5% a year) on the amount lent to him by the Commissioners so that he could pay his contribution to the cost of the quay at Cahircon. The amount landed in 1846 was down slightly, to 154¾ tons: 151 of manure, 3 of “Bale-goods, Hardware, and general merchandise”, ½ of iron and ¼ of groceries; total estuary landings were up to 18,289 tons. The amount loaded was up to 47¼ tons: 10¾ of grain, ½ of butter, 17½ of black cattle or horses, 13¼ of sheep and 5¼ of pigs. The total loaded on the estuary was down slightly to 23,152½ tons.

The Ninth Report (1848) showed the amount landed down again, to 94¾ tons: 81 manure, 10 grain, 2 “Timber of all kinds”, 1 machinery and ¾ “Bale-goods, Hardware, and General Merchandise”. Total estuary landings in 1847 were up to 28,320¾ tons, of which over half was “Flour, Meal, Malt, and Starch”: this was during the Great Famine. The total loaded on the estuary was down significantly, to 17,002¾ tons, of which 52½ came from Cahircon: 6¾ grain, 2 butter, 20¾ black cattle or horses, 18½ sheep, 4 pigs, ½ Bale-goods.

I haven’t got the third, tenth and eleventh reports. But from those I do have, it doesn’t seem that Cahircon was a successful port: it loaded and landed less than the other estuary quays.

Cahircon today

Along with several other Shannon Estuary piers, Cahircon was transferred by the Commissioners of Public Works to the local authority in the 1880s. Whelans have been using the site for some time: the proposed explosives plant was not their first connection to the area.

C W Shipping sign

The former Manchester Ship Canal dredger Ince is kept there (or was until recently).

Ex MSC dredger Ince at Cahircon

Then there are the barges.

Two barges

One of them has a container as a wheelhouse or deckhouse.

The large barge

The full length of the large barge

It won’t be nicked



Provision for a spud leg, I think

Looking down


The small barge

Deck and hold

It has a Harbormaster drive unit.

The Harbormaster unit


I understand that the barges were sold to Harringtons of Cork, which may be one of these firms. [If it’s not, please let me know and I’ll change this.]



Then there’s the shipbuilding. There is lots of material and kit waiting to be installed.

Big bollards

Mysterious ball

More steel

The work area blocked off

Work in progress

Almost finished

Port side




What an interesting place Cahircon really is.


Cahircon cleared: an update end-May 2011

Cahircon is a changed place. The ship has been cut down to the mud. The barges and the dredger have gone, I know not where, and even the interesting steel artefacts (and the scrap) have largely disappeared.

What remains of the ship

No dredger, no barges

The scrap, scrapped

The edge of the quay

And apart from all that, Cahircon is quite a romantic place.

7 responses to “Cahircon: not at all boring

  1. That page was posted on 1 April 2011. The Matrisha was actually being cut up, not built, at Cahircon. It had been there for some years, used at one stage for storage.

  2. Pingback: Ballylongford (and Inishmurray/Cahircon) | Irish waterways history

  3. Pingback: Foynes | Irish waterways history

  4. Very interesting article, I remember the ship and some of the scrap, it’s a great place to fish now, I often wondered what went on here now I now. Thanks.

  5. Thank you. bjg

  6. Pingback: Staffing the Shannon | Irish waterways history

  7. Pingback: Irish waterways history

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