Monday, 1 September 2014


Monday 26th May
Today I had tentatively booked a tour with Dolphin Watch Carrigaholt.  Waiting for a call from them to confirm whether the trip would go ahead.  The weather was fine, so I was optimistic, but unfortunately received a text in the morning saying they were not going out that day.  On the off-chance, I rang Dolphin Discovery, Kilrush, to see if they may be going out.  The lady I spoke to said they hadn't been out in 3 weeks, due to unsuitable weather, but that today may be ok - she would check and confirm.  A little later, and I was booked for an afternoon trip.

I went for a walk around town to orientate myself, and to check out the location of the Teach Ceoil, the former St. Senan's Church of Ireland which has now been restored for use as a community centre.  It is located in the Kilrush Old Church of Ireland Cemetery, and is the venue for my talk to Kilrush & District Historical Society the next evening.

Site of soup kitchen from Famine times, in the churchyard.
The plaque on the left is a memorial to the soup kitchen
The stone monument is to all those, named & un-named, buried within the grounds.

The Old Cemetery is located in the old Church of Ireland churchyard, but burials there are not confined to those of the Protestant faith. It is currently undergoing a restoration project by a dedicated group of volunteers, and as I wandered down the path I saw a group hard at work with line-trimmers and mowers.  Among them were my "Facebook friends" Kay Clancy & Paul O'Brien, and Michael O'Connell who I had met when I did the walk at Carrigaholt on the first day of my trip.

Kay showed me around the Cemetery, including a Pilkington headstone connected with my family.

Erected by Francis Pelkington, Gower,
in memory of his beloved wife
Elizabeth Pelkington alias Walshe
who died Jan 5th 1893 aged 55 years
Francis Pilkington (1823-1896) was a son of Richard Pilkington & Maria Blood, and a nephew of Thomas Pilkington of Cragleigh.  Francis (Frank) and Elizabeth married quite late in true Pilkington form, and didn't have any children.  It is very likely that Frank is also buried in this plot, but no-one ever arranged the addition of an inscription.

Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the enormity of the task in front of them, I left the workers hard at it.  They have been trying for some time now to obtain funding and support for an ongoing program of maintenance to minimise further degradation of this important historical location.  Just after my visit, some funding became available from the late Kilrush Town Council, which was put to good use clearing blocked drains which had caused the graveyard to flood.

So, off to the Kilrush Marina for my dolphin-watching expedition.  While dolphins are always fabulous to watch, my main interest in doing this was to see the coastline from the water.  Just lucky for me, then, that the skipper announced he was taking the boat in a westerly direction rather than their more usual easterly one.  This took us out of the harbour, past Scattery Island then down-river to the level of Carrigaholt, where the castle was easily visible on the shore. 

Kilrush Harbour is of interest - the lock gates operating to keep the harbour full of water, and provide safe anchorage at the marina.  Prior to the construction of the lock in about 1990, the Kilrush Creek area would have consisted of extensive mud flats and only been navigable at high tide.

Kilrush Creek Lock

Once through the lock, we passed container ships and storage tankers moored, waiting for clearance to go up-river.  After a little time, we did come across some dolphins, and enjoyed their antics.  Trying to photograph them was a challenge which I gave up on very soon, and settled for watching them as they frolicked around the boat. 

The return trip took us closer to Scattery Island, (Inis Cathaigh in Gaelic), providing a tantalising glimpse of the history contained there.

Scattery Island

Scattery was originally settled as a monastic colony in the 6th century, and in the last few centuries has played a role in the navigation of the Shannon, being home to generations of river pilots.  At one time it formed part of the Keane estate, and features in Charlotte Keane's 19th century diary, where she writes fondly about boat trips to the island and its inhabitants.

Returned to Kilrush with time for a coffee and then a quick change before the drive to Ennis to catch up with Larry Brennan for my next adventure!

The waterfront at Cappagh, on the way back into Kilrush

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