Elizabeth Anne Donovan,
City of Cork
City of Ennis – The Capital of County Clare
The name Ennis comes from the Irish word “Inis”, which means an island formed between two courses of the River Fergus and on which the Franciscan Abbey was built. The capital city of County Clare, City of Ennis, is one of the fastest growing cities in Ireland with a population of 20,000 people. The City of Ennis is situated in the centre of the county and is the principle place of local government for Clare. The past of Ennis is greatly associated with the O’Brien family, who were descendants of Brian Boru. During the 12th century the O’Brien’s who were Kings of Thomond, left their seat of power in Limerick and built a royal residence at Clonroad on the then island. During 1240 King Donnchadh O’Brien ordered the construction of an extensive church grounds which he later donated to recently formatted followers of St. Francis. The centuries which followed bore great activity. The Friars keep was expanded and students came in great flocks to study at the theological college. The Friars, who were free to move about, met the spiritual needs of the local population. It was a religious centre until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Because it never had city walls it became a location for many Catholic merchants from Limerick when Catholics were forbidden to reside in the walled cities by the Penal Laws, and much of its past prosperity is attributable to this influx.
The city contains several old British military barracks, which were built over the centuries. The Clare Road and Clonroad areas contain terraced cottages, built in the Early 20th century to house soldiers. On Station Road, once stood a prison. Many Ennis men fought for the British Army during The First World War.
The river Fergus flows through the city and there are a number of fine walk ways and paths that follow the meander of the river. It is a compact city with most of the shopping available on the three principle streets: O’Connell Street, Abbey Street and Parnell Street.
Clare became a county under rule of Elizabeth I and the City of Ennis was chosen as its capital because of its central location and it because of its great influence by the Earls of Thomond. The City of Ennis got a grant to hold fairs and markets in 1610 and some years later a Charter for a Corporation with a Provost, Free Burgesses, Commonalty and a Town Clerk.
Ennis Fashion Week Set for October 2010. From the 16th to the 24th of October, the Ennis Fashion Week will be taking place in ‘Boutique Capital’ that is the City of Ennis, County Clare. The Ennis Fashion Week is an unusual and unprecedented event, offering fashion lovers everywhere the shopping experience of a lifetime. There will be special offers on all local hotels and also some excellent deals on Irish rental cars to be had – in addition to the promotions being run throughout the city boutiques. If you can’t wait until October to experience the Ennis Fashion Week, the City of Ennis is open all year round, and the shopping experience is second to none regardless of when you visit.
The layout of the city is Medieval, narrow winding one way streets allowing just about one car to pass through. There is a bustle and local town atmosphere as you walk through the city. The City of Ennis claimed its place as the principal county town in the sixteenth century. The borough of Ennis was created in 1621 which gave the town the right to hold fairs and markets.
The markets in the City of Ennis attracted a lot of people from the hinterland and slowly the commerce of the city built up. The city has an industrial tradition going back two centuries, mainly cottage industry in the provision of clothing, footwear and household goods. There was also an agricultural export business in cattle hides, tallow and butter. Goods were mainly imported and exported through the town of Clarecastle from the quays of the Shannon River.
The Abbey street car park once had a brewery and there was a distillery and malt house near Knox’s Bridge owned by a firm called Harleys. These industries used 30,000 barrels of barley, all of which was grown locally.
In 1780 John Lloyd in a short book called “Short Tour of Clare” recorded that“ This city in general is populous, the inhabitants are liberally humane and laudably accomplished with praiseworthy notions of industry. There are two plentiful markets held on Tuesdays and Saturdays”.
In a statistical study in 1808 on behalf of the Royal Dublin Society, Hely Dutton records a large quantity of flax and some fine orchards to be seen on the approach to the city. Great mills and warehouses, many of which have been converted since into apartments and other use, also in evidence.
The mid nineteenth century saw the building of the Pro Cathedral, a landmark of the city and well worth a visit. Also, the Courthouse, which was constructed in 1850. One of the finer buildings of the city, Our Ladys Hospital, on the Gort road was built with fine rusticated limestone and a central, classical Italian centrepiece tower with supporting volutest. The Church of Ireland in Bindon Street was completed in 1871.
The Centre of the city is marked with a statue to the great Daniel O’Connell, “the Liberator” elected MP for Clare in 1828. O’Connell was the voice for the disenfranchised Catholic Irish and won emancipation. His organisational skills and ability to rally large crowds at “monster meetings” made him a very popular and influential figure in Irish politcs up to famine times. At his earlier political meetings in Clare, supporters made banners proclaiming his ideals and slogans.
This phenomenon later gave rise to the naming of Clare as “the Banner County”, an appellation still carried to this day at sporting events where the cry of “up the Banner” exhorts Clare men and women to victory!
The Abbey in Ennis is situated at Abbey Street just beside the Garda station. It was built circa 1220 for the Franciscian order by Donogh Cairbreach O’Brien. It is regarded as one of the principal convents of the order in Ireland. The O’Brien family, High Kings of Thomond were benefactors over the years as were the Mc Mahon family of Clare. The Abbey ruins are in reasonable repair and are worth a visit.
Arched entrance to the Abbey, Ennis
|Arched windows in front of arched windows of the Abbey|
The Clare Museum situated off O’Connell Square is a repositary of antiquities, ephemera and folklore from the county and beyond.
Ennis is best explored on foot. The narrow streets are packed full of smaller shops and boutiques that are delightful to explore. There is a selection of huxter shops selling fishing gear and outdoor pursuit equipment, antiques, bookshops.
In September 1997, Ennis became Ireland’s first and only Information Age City, which was funded by Eircom (formerly Telecom Éireann. The city was greatly enhanced by the project’s IR£15 million investment, which saw 4200 computers provided to residents, a computer lab for every school and every primary school classroom been provided with a computer. Elderly residents were given the chance to become computer users also as a result. The project also gave Ennis Ireland’s first high speed ISDN line infrastructure, which connected all the city’s businesses together. Ennis was also used as a test site for VISA Cash, which allowed users to top up a chip and pin card with petty cash and purchase goods in local stores. Funding for the project ran out in 2000.
A sister city of the City of Ennis is Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Each summer an average of four 4th/5th year students partake in the Phoenix Youth Ambassador Program, which is facilitated by the city of Phoenix twinning committee and the Ennis Chamber Of Commerce.
County Clare is the home of my Meehan and Ayers ancestors. The Thomas Meehan and Bridget Burke Family home was Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland. They immigrated to the Rock Island, Illinois in the 1840’s. Thomas Meehan is buried in County Clare. Bridget is buried in Rock Island, Illinois USA. The Richard Ayers Family Home was Carrigaholt, County Clare, Ireland. No information is available on Richard Ayers. His daughter, Hannah Ayers married my great grandfather, Michael Meehan. I plan to add blogs on Kilkee and Carrigaholt in the very near future. Many years ago, I was in Ireland for just a few hours. My father, Michael Meehan was stationed with the US Army in Germany and we stopped for fuel and crew rest at the Shannon Airport in Shannon, Ireland. The airport is located 19 km (12 mi) from Ennis. I truly believe he did not know how close he was to his ancestors home.
The information above came from Travelogue Ireland and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Many of the photos were contributed by Gina Deen. Please visit Gina Deen’s Blog at BT – The Crafty Gardener. There are a lot of great pictures of County Clare in her Blog.
Gina Deen is the contributor of most the photos on this blog of Ennis. On the way home from Ennis in March of 2010, Gina took the following photos.
County Clare Library is another excellent source of information on Ireland, County Clare and Ennis.
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The following is an Irish Blessing: