KILLALOE is a post town and parish, and the seat of a diocese, in the barony of Tulla, county of Clare, and province of Munster, 20 miles (E. by S.) from Ennis, and 87 (S.W. by W.) from Dublin, on the road from Scariff to Nenage; containing 8587 inhabitants, of which number 1411 are in the town. This place, anciently called Laonia, derived its present name, supposed to be a corruption of Kill-da-Lua, from the foundation of an abbey, in the 6th century, by St. Lua or Molua, grandson of Eocha Baildearg, King of Munster, and which became the head of diocese. Turlogh O'Brien, in 1054 built a bridge across the Shannon at this place, which had grown into some importance, though little of its previous history is related; and, in 1061, Hugh O'Connor destroyed the castle which had been erected here, and burned the town, which was again reduced to ashes in 1080, and 1084, by the people of Conmacne. In 1177, Raymond LeGros, after his triumphant entry into Limerick, came to this place, where he received the hostages of Roderic, King of Connaught, and O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, who took the oath of fealty to the King of England. On Richard de Clare's obtaining a grant of certain lands in the county of Clare, this town, as contining the only ford over the Shannon, obtained for some time the appellation of Claresford. In 1367, after the recall of "Lionel", Duke of Clarence, from the government of Ireland, who had acquired considerable tracts of territory around the town, Murrogh-na-Ranagh, one of the O'Briens, made himself master of all the country beyond the Shannon, and destroyed this town and several others belonging to the English. Gen. Sarsfield, in 1681, posted a strong party at this place, to defend the passage of the river; but having abandoned their post, the English advanced into the western provinces; and in 1691 the same general, at the head of a select body of cavalry, passed the river and destroyed a convoy of ammunition on its way to Wm. III, then at Limerick.
The town is plesantly situated on a rising ground on the western bank of the Shannon, near the noted falls of Killaloe, and about a mile from Lough Derg, and is connected with the county of Tipperary by a ancient bridge of nineteen arches. It consists of one square, and a principal and several smaller streets, and contains about 300 houses. There is a small infantry barrack. A flourishing trade in stuffs, camlets, and serges was formerly carried on, and two well-supplied markets were held weekly; but both the manufacture and the markets have been discontinued. Above and below the bridge there are numerous eel weirs, which produce a stong current in the river, and there is also a salmon fishery. In the vicinity are some very extensive slate quarries, from which, on an average, about 100,000 tons are annually raised for the supply of the surrounding country to a great distance. A mill, with machinery driven by water, has been erected at an expense of £6000, for cutting and polishing stone and marble, and working them into mantel pieces, flags, slabs, and other articles, in which about 100 men are employed, and for whose residence near the works are some handsome slated cottages. A spirit of cheerful industry and enterprise seems to promise much for the increasing prosperity of the town. Close to these mills is a yard for boat building, belonging to the Shannon Steam Navigation Company, whose headquarters are at this place, and who have established a regular communication by steam packets, for goods and passengers, up the Shannon, through Lough Derg to Portumna, Athlone, and Banagher, and from Banagher by canal boats to Dublin. The company afford employment to a great number of persons in the construction and repair of docks and warehouses. About a quarter of a mile from the village of O'Brien's Bridge is the pier-head, where the steamboats transfer their cargoes and passengers to a packet boat which is towed at a rapid rate to Limerick, between which place and Dublin packet boats ply daily; the trip to Portumna and Williamstown is beautifully picturesque. Below the bridge the navigation of the Shannon is interrupted by a ridge of rocks, over which the water rushes with great noise; and the appearance of the town at this place, with the waters of Lough Derg in the distance, and its venerable cathedral rising above the bridge and backed by a fine mountain range, is strikingly romantic. To remedy this obstruction of the navigation, the Board of Inland Navigation constructed a canal through the bishop's demesne, avoiding the rocks, and joining the river beyond the falls; it has also erected an hotel, called Ponsonby Arms, for the accommodation of families visitng Lough Derg and its neighbourhood. This lake is about thirty miles in length, and abounds with beautiful and interesing scenery, more especially in that part which is near the town; the shores are embellished with several handsome mansions, embosomed in luxuriant woods and plantations, and with several ancient and venerable castles. Pike, perch, trout, and various other fish are taken in abundance, among which is found the Gillaroo trout. Fairs are held on April 5th, May 24th, Sept. 3rd and Oct 20th; and petty sessions once a fortnight. A constabulary police force is stationed in town. Samuel Lewis, 1837
INFORMATION RELATED TO KILLALOE
- The Clare Guild. Official Guide of County Clare, by D. Roche
- County Clare, A History and Topography. Reprinted by Clasp Press, 1995, from A History and Topography of County Clare which was originally published in 1837 as part of A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.