"COUNTY CLARE, a sea-side county in the province of Munster, Ireland, is situated between 52° 30' and 53° N. lat., and between 8° 15' and 9° 30' W. long. It is bounded on the N. by Galway, on the E. by Tipperary, on the S. by Limerick, on the S.W. by Kerry, and on the W. by the Atlantic. In form it resembles a triangle, of which the Galway and Tipperary frontier may be considered the base, Galway Bay and the estuary of the Shannon the other two sides, and Loop-Head the apex. Its greatest length, from Loop-Head to Lough Derg, is about 80 miles, and its greatest breadth, from the Shannon to Galway, about 35 miles. Its circuit is about 205 miles, of which more than 140 are coast-line. Its area is about 1,294 square miles, or 827,994 acres, of which only about one half is cultivated. The population in 1861 was 166,275, showing a decrease since 1851 of 46,165, or 21.73 per cent.; while the decrease in 1851 compared with 1841 was 73,954, or 2582 per cent, There has been a corresponding decrease in the number of inhabited houses to the extent of 13,458, or 29.99 per cent., between 1841 and 1851, and of 3,300, or 10.51 per cent., between 1851 and 1861. The number of houses at present inhabited is 23,112. The O'Briens were from the earliest date the most powerful family in this part of the island, in which they exercised a kind of sovereignty. It was Brien Boroihme, the head of this family, who succeeded in expelling the Danes from the country in the early part of the 11th century.

The Normans obtained a footing in this part of Ireland in the 12th and 13th centuries, but were in their turn expelled by the O'Briens, who ruled over Thomond, or North Munster, of which Clare formed a portion, until 1543. In the reign of Elizabeth Clare became shire ground, and was included in the province of Connaught, but in 1601 it was restored to Munster on the petition of the Earl of Thomond. From that time until the present its history presents no features of great interest. The extraordinary decrease in the population since 1841 may be attributed to the potato famine of 1846, and to the stream of emigration which at that time began to flow from all parts of Ireland. The county is not poor in antiquities. There are cromlechs at Kilnabry, Ballysheen, and Ballygannor; round towers at Drumcliff, Kilnabry, Inniscailtre, and Inniscattery. On the two last-named islands are also ruins of abbeys; and at Quin is the abbey of Quin, built of black marble, and founded in the 13th century. The county is very hilly. The most remarkable elevations are the limestone mountains of the barony of Burren in the N. The white rocks, bare and rugged, are scattered far and wide over the district, and give it a most desolate appearance. The supply of water is very deficient, and vegetation consequently languishes. In the N.E. are the mountains of Inchiquin and Slieve-Beughta. They consist of clay-slate, cropping up from the Old Red sandstone, which in its turn seems to have broken through a stratum of limestone. In the E. is the Slieve Bernagh range, of which the highest point, Craig, rises 1,758 feet above the sea-level. In these hills there are slate quarries, which yield the "Broadford slates," having a high reputation. In the W. is Mount Callane, in which is a thin seam of coal, extending some distance northwards. The soil of Clare is generally poor and sterile, but there are patches of remarkable fertility. They seem to owe their richness, like the soil of Egypt, to periodical inundations. They lie along the banks of the principal rivers, and are called "corcasses," or "corcaghs." There are other tracts, called "turloughs," which, though not situated on the banks of any river, enjoy a similar fertility and from a similar cause. They form temporary lakes during a considerable portion of the year; and when the water dries off them a rich herbage springs up which is of almost unequalled value to the grazier. As before remarked, Clare is, especially in the N., deficient in streams. The Shannon, which forms the southern boundary of the county, expands soon after passing Limerick into a noble estuary, at which point it receives the Fergus, the second river in Clare, The Fergus has its sources in a number of small loughs, of which the chief are Lough Inchiquin and Lough Dromore; the Claren, a smaller stream, falls into it at Ennis. The Fergus runs southwards from the centre of the county, and is navigable for some distance upwards from its junction with the Shannon. The Dunbeg waters the south-western portion of the county, and flows from E. to W. into Dunbeg Bay. The Ennistymond also flows from E. to W. into the Atlantic, and waters the N.W. In addition to the "turleughs," or "loghans," there are more than a hundred small loughs, of which the principal are Inchiquin, Dromore, Tedane, Inchicronane, and Ballyally. The coast of Clare possesses great attractions for the lovers of the picturesque. The rocks rise in many places vertically from the sea, and to a considerable height. The Atlantic beats upon them with fury, for its force is broken only by a few isolated fragments which it has itself torn from the mainland. Clare has, owing to its proximity to the Atlantic, a humid climate, which in a great measure compensates for the deficiency of streams. The temperature is mild, and myrtles grow luxuriantly in the open air; but in the extreme W., where it is not sheltered by hills, the county suffers from the violent gales of the Atlantic. Clare is, from the nature of its soil, rather a grazing than a corn-growing county. The land is generally too light to yield abundant crops; and though some barley, oats, and wheat are grown, the land they occupy is not equal in extent to that which produces grass and potatoes. The latter are grown in great quantities. Clare is also one of the cider-growing counties. The estates are generally large, and the farms small. The fences and the cottages are of stone, which is found in abundance close at hand. There is no great branch of manufacturing industry in Clare. Friezes, woollens, and coarse linen are made in small quantities for home use. Fishing is carried on to a small extent along the coast and in the rivers. The boats used are called " corraghs," and made of skin stretched on a frame. From their extreme lightness and pliancy they can live on the Atlantic better than boats of a stronger build. The quarries of Killaloe and Broadford are regularly worked for slate. Lead is found in small quantities at Glendree and Tulla; manganese at Kilrush, Ennistymon, and other places. There are mineral springs at Cloneen, Kilkishen, and Lisdounvarna. Clare is divided into eleven baronies, viz., Burren in the N., Upper Tulla and Lower Tulla in the E., Upper Bunratty and Lower Bunratty in the S.E., Clonderalaw in the S., Mogarta in the S.W., Corcomroe and Ibrickane in the W., Inehiquin in the N. centre, and Islands in the S. centre. Two members are returned by the county, which is governed by a lieutenant, a custos rotulorum, a high sheriff, 17 deputy-lieutenants, and about 100 magistrates. It has 76 parishes, and lies within the province of Dublin, but is divided among the three dioceses of Limerick, Kilfenora, and Killaloe. There are five market towns in Clare-Ennis, the county and assize town, in the barony of Islands; Kilrush, a quarter-sessions town, in the barony of Mogarta; Ennistymon, a quarter sessions town, in the barony of Corcomroe; Carofin, a quarter-sessions town, in the barony of Inchiquin; and Killaloe, the scat of a bishopric, in the barony of Tulla. Quarter-sessions are held also at Tulla, Milltown-Malbay, and Sixmile-Bridge. Clare is divided into four Poor-law Unions-those of Kilrush, Ennistymon, Carofin, and Scariff. It lies within the military district of Cork; and there are infantry stations at Ennis, Clare Castle, Killaloe, and Kilrush; artillery stations at the forts of Inniscattery, Donnaha, Kilcredane, Blackwater, and Kilkerrin. There are several seats in the county, among which may be mentioned those of the families of O'Brien, Fitzgerald, Massey, Macnamara, Bourton, McMahon, Malong, and Vandeleur. -There are several roads which meet at Ennis, the county town, viz., one to Limerick, 24 miles distant, which passes through Newmarket and Bunratty; one to Galway, 30 miles distant, which passes through Gort; one to Scariff, 21 miles distant, which passes through Quin and Tulla; a road to the coast at Milltown-Malbay, 23 miles distant, which passes through Drumcliff and Ennistymon; and one to Loop-Head, 53 miles distant, through Kilmaley, Kilruh, and Kiltree."


[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018