Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland

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JJ Meehan
jjmeehan13@hotmail.com
WEB Site
The Meehan Family

My Meehan Ancestors immigrated from Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland in the 1840’s.  Today I am looking for links to Meehan, Ayer, O’Connor, Doyle and Lynch ancestors in Ireland.  If you have any information or are a descendent of any Meehan, Ayer, O’Connor, Doyle or Lynch please contact me at  mfmeehan@live.com

Kilkee is where the great Irish actor, Richard Harris, played football and his family has erected a statue in his memory there. It is basically a seaside resort town.  This information is from David Merryman.  You can contact David Merryman at davidmerryman@hotmail.com.

The following is from material on the County Clare Ireland WEB Site at http://www.clarelibrary.ie.

Kilkee takes its name from CILL CAOIDHE, Caoidhe’s Church, from the site of a little burial ground. St. Caoidhe himself is commemorated in a well opposite Bishop’s Island. Kilkee is rich in natural amenities such as its horseshoe-shaped bay, Moore Bay, its cliff walks and splendid scenery and the West Clare hinterland steeped in lore and history. The town grew rapidly around the semi-circular beach in the indented West Coast bay. The safety of the beach is assured by the protection of the Duggerna Reef, which is a natural wonder with three large rock pools and a multitude of smaller ones teeming with marine life. It has long been one of County Clare’s main holiday resorts.

By the end of the 18th century sea-bathing was becoming a popular pastime and before long the beautiful bay at Kilkee began to attract visitors. Access was difficult in those days but the Shannon estuary provided a more direct artery to South West Clare. In the early 19th century steam vessels operated regularly between Limerick and Kilrush. During the Kilkee bathing season they operated on a daily basis and so the “Kilkee Season” became an established Limerick rather than Clare custom.

Gradually the town grew as locals moved in to provide services for the wealthy newcomers. In the decade before the famine a “building boom” was reported and the town took on the outline of its present day layout. Its Victorian Past is reflected in many of the buildings erected mainly by Limerick people who wanted villas and lodges by the sea. Demand for hotel accommodation was not great, yet in 1820 Catty Fitzgerald opened the first hotel here, in a low thatched house, and operated it for forty years until her retirement. In the 1830’s three hotels operated in the town. In 1831 a Catholic Church was opened (replaced by the present building in 1963), followed by the Protestant Church in 1843. A Methodist Church was built in 1900.

The sea wall and embankment around the bay was begun on the west side as part of famine relief work in 1846 and completed in the 1860’s. The wall was badly damaged in 1886 and again in 1951.

In the 1850’s the Marquis of Conyngham, the local absentee landlord for the eastern part of the town, (the MacDonnells were landlords of the western half) planned a complete new layout of the town. To this end he leveled a whole area of “hovels” in the centre of the oldest part of town. In their place he constructed the Market Square and many fine new streets. A feature of the architecture of the new buildings was the bay windows, some of which still exist.

During the last part of the 19th century and up to the start of the Great War Kilkee enjoyed an unprecedented boom. An extension to the West Clare Railway was opened to goods traffic in 1892. It was called the South Clare Railway and ran from Miltown to Kilrush and Kilkee. This played an important part in the commercial life of the area and provided a comparatively fast and direct means of travel. In one day alone it was reported that 400 people arrived in Kilkee by train. Many prominent people of the day visited Kilkee – Ryder Haggard (author of King Solomons Mines), Charlotte Bronte, the poet Lord Alfred Tennyson and his friend Sir Aubrey de Vere, the Crown Princess of Austria. Percy French regularly performed during the Summer months and it was an incident on the West Clare Railway which led him to write “Are you right there Michael?” The song became one of the most popular numbers in his repertoire.

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Kilkee was regarded as the safest and most popular bathing place on the West coast. The beach was divided in three parts, the middle part for men and the two outer ones for women. This arose when local magistrates received complaints that men were bathing naked. Women were more modest, they entered the water by means of bathing boxes which were towed out into the sea so that a lady could “dip” in the sea away from prying eyes. These bathing boxes were used for changing up to the 1950’s.

The Cliff scenery is one of Kilkee’s greatest natural attractions – from the Pollock Holes to the amphitheatre, with its tier upon tier of seat-like rocks; the Pink Caves; the nearby Diamond Rocks; Intrinsic Bay; Look Out Hill with its spectacular views; and back into the town by Fooagh Chalybeate spa.

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Intrinsic Bay is called after the “Intrinsic” ship from Liverpool, which was wrecked under the high cliffs with the loss of fourteen lives in January, 1836. In November, 1850 the emigrant ship “Edmond”, bound from Limerick to Quebec, was blown into Kilkee Bay and broke in two on the rocks at the place now called Edmond Point. Nearly one hundred people were drowned on that terrible night.

County Clare, Ireland
 

The Railway closed in 1961. The coming of the motor-car changed the pattern of the holiday season as day trips became popular. Trends towards owning a holiday home for weekend use or a caravan began to replace the traditional letting of houses.

The pilgrimages continue as successive generations of people flock here. The attractions are still the same: good scenery, safe swimming, ocean breezes, dancing, social activities and walking. Today, one can add tennis, squash, golf, pitch and putt, children’s amusements, Kilkee Waterworld, skin-diving and surfing to the list.

The Wreck of the ‘Edmond’  at Kilkee, 1850

By Sean Marrinan

The year 1850 had been a bleak one for Kilkee. Few parts of Ireland had been so severely stricken by the Famine as the area of the Kilrush Union, which included Kilkee, and the worst effects of that calamity were still all around. To add to the terrible misery of the people a storm in February wreaked havoc all along the coast. The Limerick Chronicle of the 9th February noted.

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“There is not a cabin between Kilrush and Kilkee
which is not leveled to the ground or unroofed by
last Wednesday’s tempest and the coast from
Kilkee to Farahey is strewn with portions of wreck”.

Huge rocks were torn from the cliffs and the Puffing Hole was covered over. At the beginning of the holiday season a visitor wrote: “There is in and about that village melancholy trace of wretchedness and starvation“. In May the people were warned at Mass that there was fever in the village. Later notices appeared in the Limerick Newspapers announcing that Kilkee was free of fever and sickness. But in spite of efforts to put on a brave face to assure the citizens of Limerick that Kilkee was flourishing the Limerick Chronicle reported on the 20th July that there were 100 lodges vacant in the resort.

Many Limerick people were little disposed to visiting the seaside that year. For those who did come it must have been difficult to dispel the feeling of gloom which prevailed. Some of the gentry tried to brighten up the season and Mr. Dickson of Vermont, County Limerick, owner of Merton Lodge, brought his yacht into the bay. It was gaily lit up at night and brought an appearance of good cheer to the place. A fire-works display was arranged and Mr. Joseph Fogerty of Limerick cleared the Puffing Hole with blasting powder. But in spite of all this the sense of impending disaster seemed to increase as the holiday season drew to a close. In August a young man was drowned while bathing at the West End. In September it was reported that a sea monster had been sighted near Bishop’s Island, and this was regarded by the superstitious as a certain ill omen. In the following week a Miss Evans, a visitor, disappeared after having been seen walking towards the cliffs.

During all that year the emigrant ships were bringing thousands from Limerick and Clare to America. Week after week pages of advertisements appeared in the Limerick papers offering passage from that port to the United States and Canada. Among the ships which plied to and fro across the Atlantic was the brig, ‘Edmond’, a three-masted sailing vessel, registered in London, but this year chartered by John McDonnell, a Limerick merchant and member of the Corporation who owned a timber yard in Clare Street. As the year wore on and the weather worsened the passage by sea became more dangerous but the ships continued to cross, carrying full lists of passengers to the New World and returning with cargoes of timber for the Limerick timberyards. Already, on the 4th August, the ‘Edmond’ had landed 227 passengers safely at Quebec. On the 8th, 12th and 15th October, 1850, the following advertisement appeared in the Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator:

AMERICA

State, Cabin, Second Cabin and Steerage
Passage to New York, Now in Port, to sail 31st
October for New York, the splendid, first class,
copper bottomed Barque

EDMOND

950 tons Burthen,
R. Bickford, Commander
This remarkably fast-sailing Vessel is now
discharging her Cargo, after making the
passage home from Quebec in 28 days. She will be
dispatched from Limerick by steamer punctually
on the day named, and fitted up to ensure
comfort to the passengers. She has fine space
between decks, and thorough ventilation
affording 8 feet on the passenger deck. Captain
Bickford who has landed his full number of
passengers safe and in good health and is now
after returning, will afford most useful
information to those who may secure berths in
this favourite ship.
The following provisions of the best quality will
be served out during the voyage weekly to each
passenger viz: 2½ lbs. Bread, 1 lb. Flour,
5 lb. Oatmeal, 2lb. Rice, 2 oz. Tea, 1 lb. Sugar besides 5
quarts water daily and 10 lb. of Beef for the
Voyage in accordance with the new Act of
Parliament.
Early application is necessary to:
John McDonnell, Timber Merchant,
Limerick
Charles McDonnell, Timber
Merchant, Kilrush
Thos Mahon, Passage Agent, Ennis,
Daniel Hocter, Nenagh
Thomas Hennessy, & Co., Thurles
James Driscoll, Killadysert
Maurice O’Donnell, Listowel.

In fact the ‘Edmond’ did not leave Limerick Docks until Friday the 15th November. By this time there had been a change of captain, the new commander being John Wilson, an Englishman while the first mate was William Thompson. On board were 195 passengers and a crew of 19 in addition to the two officers already mentioned. After sailing down the Shannon she lay to near Scattery Island and then, on Sunday the 17th she sailed to Carrigaholt where she spent the night. On Monday morning, the 18th of November the weather seemed favourable, and the captain weighed anchor and the ‘Edmond’ passed Loop Head and sailed out into the Atlantic. After sailing all that day and having gone some thirty miles out to sea the storm struck. The ship was blown back towards the Clare coast. The captain tried to direct her towards the Mouth of the Shannon but the gale became so fierce that every bit of canvas was blown away and two of the masts were lost. By Tuesday evening the ‘Edmond’ was being driven helplessly before the wind. At about 11p.m. on Tuesday night, the 19th of November she was blown into Kilkee Bay. At first she came aground on the reef at the mouth of the bay called the Duggerna Rocks, but as the tide rose she loosened and very quickly drifted further into the bay. Eventually she struck the rocks just under Sykes House at that point which is still called Edmond Point, near what was at that time called the “Churn Hole”.

That night, Sykes House was occupied by the family of Richard Russell, a son of John Norris Russell, a prominent Limerick businessman. Richard Russell has left us a vivid account of what happened next. The windows of his bedroom had been rattling, shaken by the storm, and he was trying to fasten them when looking out, he saw, just below him, the stricken ship drifting towards the rocks. Dressing quickly, he called his manservant, Henry Likely, and they both hurried down to the rocks. Before they appeared there had been a frightful silence. As soon as their lights were seen, a despairing cry rose from the helpless emigrants. The anchor had been lowered and the ship was being beaten broadside against the rocks by the huge waves. The plight of those on board was now desperate. The waves were rolling off the spars and rigging and the screams of the women and children could be heard above the noise of the sea and the roaring of the storm. The captain ordered the rigging of the foremast, the only one remaining, to be cut so that it fell across the rock, thus making a kind of gangway for the passengers. Russell had sent word of the ship’s danger to the Coast Guard and soon he and his servant were joined on the rock by three Coast Guard men, James McCarthy, Timothy Hannigan and Patrick Shannon. All accounts agree that but for the efforts and courage of these five, very few would have been saved. At great personal risk they began to assist the passengers to land. The captain began to guide the passengers across the fallen mast-head. The men on the rock had to lead them, one by one, first to the rock itself and from there to the land under Sykes House. All the time the sea drove mercilessly over them so that it was a miracle that anyone was rescued. Several times the rescuers were knocked down by the force of the waves but they continued their efforts until one hundred of the passengers and crew were brought safely to land.

But now the tide was rising swiftly and it became impossible to land more on the rock. The captain hoped that they could wait, either until the tide receded or the storm abated. But this was not to be. As the spring tide rose higher the power of the waves and the force of the storm grew stronger and the ship began to break up and part amidships. It was at this time that the ship’s carpenter, John Finn of Limerick, was drowned. He had been helping the passengers to cross to safety and had been personally responsible for guiding 15 of them to the rock. He had just gone below to secure his working chest when the ship broke up and he was lost. It was now about three o’clock on Wednesday morning. The agony was drawing to a close. Several others tried to land on the rock but were quickly washed into the sea. As the ship broke in two those remaining on board clung to the afterpart of the vessel which was carried by the tide in towards the strand. As it drifted into the beach it was turned over on its side and all those left in it perished. Their bodies were found in the wreck later that morning when the tide went out. The captain and mate were on the poop deck in the stern part when it was driven shore-wards. They had remained with the ship till the end. They were flung into the sea and with two or three others miraculously reached the beach in safety. One of the others was a woman whom the captain lashed to a plank which carried her safely into the strand.

The prow half of the vessel, held by the anchor, continued to be dashed against the rock until it was ground to fragments which the waves and the storm hurled into the air. All was now over and no more could be done for the unfortunates who had failed to reach the shore. Attention had to be given to those rescued. They were in a pitiful state, exhausted by their terrible ordeal and completely destitute. Russell took 40 of them into Sykes House. He gave all the beds to the women and made the men as comfortable as possible by the fire. Dr. Griffin, Richard Studdert, Francis O’Donnell, the coroner for the district, and many others brought some of the rescued into their homes and gave them food and bedding.

With daylight the appalling extent of the tragedy became apparent. The entire beach, from Sykes House in the West End, to Atlantic House in the East End, was stewn with fragments of the wreck, planks, bolts, staves, canvas, boxes and trunks interspersed with the bodies of the victims which were being washed ashore every hour. The sight of the survivors was a harrowing one, going about with glazed eyes, husbands without their wives, children without their parents searching among the bodies for their missing relatives. The melancholy task of collecting the dead was undertaken early in the morning and later that day one woman counted thirty bodies heaped on the grass in front of one of the houses on Marine Parade. By the end of that day 47 bodies had been taken from the sea and Mr. Blair, Lloyd’s agent, arrived from Kilrush with 50 coffins. Mr. Garrett Fitzgerald, an emigration agent had arrived and called the roll at 3 p.m., when it became clear that nearly one hundred people were missing. Most of the victims already found were women and children and many were buried in Kilfiera graveyard. At an inquest held at Kilkee on Thursday 21st it was reported that 54 bodies had then been found.

When news of the disaster reached Limerick, the Corporation, at a meeting on the Wednesday, set up a Subscription, and collectors were appointed. All the businessmen contributed and John McDonnell, who had chartered the ship, contributed £20 and sent a messenger to Kilkee to help the survivors. These were brought to Kilrush by coach and from there to Limerick by steamer on Friday 22nd. McDonnell returned the passage money to the survivors and also paid them subsistence money. The Lord Lieutenant sent £20 to the Subscription list and contributions came from all over Ireland and from England.

On 26th November, Captain Ellis, Emigration Agent at Limerick, issued a complete list of those lost. They included 11 men, 47 women, 30 children and 10 infants, a total of 98. Of the crew only John Finn, the carpenter was lost. For weeks after the tragedy the bodies of victims were being washed ashore at Kilkee. On the 14th December the Limerick and Clare Examiner reported that the police were still busy coffinning and attending to the burial of the dead.

In January 1851, the Royal National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck awarded silver medals and £7 each to the three Coast Guard men who had done so much on that terrible night. A medal was also awarded to Richard Russell and an award of £2 was given to his servant, Henry Likely. The ship was a complete loss and the wreckage was auctioned off for £180. Several unfortunates who were caught taking property belonging to the passengers and ship from the beach were given stiff prison sentences and others received fines of up to £20 for concealing property from the wreckage.

This was in sharp contrast to the result of the case brought by Captain Wilson against one prominent local magistrate accusing him of being party to the robbery of a large amount of material from the wreck. The case was heard at Kilkee in December, 1850 and the court, which was presided over by Colonel Vandeleur of Kilrush, included two relatives of the accused on the bench. In spite of the fact that clear and conclusive evidence was given incriminating the accused magistrate the court acquitted him and Colonel Vandeleur ended the case by congratulating him on this happy vindication of his character.

Corcomroe Abbey

This beautiful abbey was founded in 1194. We had the place to ourselves and we wandered around the grounds for a long time… Then we headed towards the coast driving through Spanish Point and Kilkee before heading down to Killimer to take the ferry over the Shannon on our way to Tralee.”

You can see all of our blogs on our WEB Site for IRELAND at http://themeehanfamily.com/blogs/ireland.htm. 

If you are interested in helping me with blogs on Ireland please contact me at jjmeehan13@hotmail.com.

The following is an Irish Blessing:

IRISH BLESSING

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4 Responses to Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland

  1. Gina says:

    I have really enjoyed reading all about Kilkee and the tragic loss of the Edmond and so many on board. I must go and visit this Summer some time.Ginax

  2. Gina says:

    I have really enjoyed reading all about Kilkee and the tragic loss of the Edmond and so many on board. I must go and visit this Summer some time.Ginax

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