Liscannor Bay is a deep but not very sheltered bay between Cream Point and Hag’s Head.
In 1588 a Spanish Armada ship, the oar-powered galleass Zuñiga (290/Naples) anchored off-shore with a broken rudder When a cock-boat was sent ashore in search of supplies, the Spaniards were attacked by Crown forces and had to withdraw to their ship. One captive was taken and sent for interrogation in Doolin. The Zuñiga escaped the coast with favourable winds, put in at le Havre, and finally made it home the following year.
The River Inagh and the River Derry join to enter the bay together just east of Lahinch Golf Club.
Due to its orientation, Liscannor Bay enjoys particularly dramatic sunsets.
The Liscannor Bay Swim is held anually to raise money for charity.
Lahinch (Co. Clare / West)
Lahinch / Lehinch (An Leacht Ui Chonchubhair – “The O’Connor Memorial Cairn”) (pop. 600), located at the eastern end of Liscannor Bay, on the southwestern edge of the Burren, derives its English name from Leath Inse, meaning “half island”, i.e. peninsula. (Photo by Vanderven)
Lahinch has been a popular seaside resort since the C19th, and its iconic Atlantic promenade, officially inaugurated by the Viceroy’s wife, Lady Aberdeen, in 1893, has attracted strollers for 120 years, but suffered severe storm damage in early January 2014.
The town still retains a vaguely Victorian air. There are plenty of pubs, cafés, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs in the area.
A rock-fringed sandy beach stretching for 1.6km is a great place for a walk at any time of year and offers fine bathing in summer. However, there are some dangerous currents, and weever fish stings can be a problem in warm weather.
The local golf club, founded by officers of the Black Watch regiment in 1892, has long been the town’s principal attraction, and until recently the local “scene” tended to be very staid.
As surfing, winsurfing, kitesurfing etc. have become popular amongst the younger generation, Lahinch has developed something of a “Surf Vibe”, with visitors arriving all year round to don wetsuits and brave the waves.
On 23rd September 1920, at the height of the War of Independence, an IRA ambush at Rineen Bridge killed a British soldier and four policemen. The Black & Tans had their revenge that night, setting fire to entire communities at Miltown Malbay, Lahinch, Ennistymon and Liscannor.
The following is an extract from The War of Independence in West Clare by Rita Marrinan, written for her B.Ed thesis at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick in 1982:
“[—] Lahinch, the nearest village on the other side of the ambush was suffering in much the same way. Parties of uniformed men in lorries arrived at about 2.30 a.m. and went up and down the street, screaming in their distinctive English accent and setting fire to houses and shops. The town hall, the property of Miss Collins, was burned to the ground and many more houses were destroyed, including Miss Flanagan’s Bar and grocery, Vaughan’s grocery, Miss O’Dwyer’s drapery shop and Halpins and Reynolds public houses. Mr. Thomas Blackwell’sj premises were set fire to but he succeeded in extinguishing the flames. However, the hall and front room were damaged and many door jambs were burned. When the men were about to attack the Marine Hotel, Miss Collins (mentioned above) and Mr. Byrant, an excise officer, appealed to have the hotel spared as it was entirely occupied by ladies and they had already suffered enough by the loss of the town hall. The appeal was granted and as the men moved away, they gave permission to Miss Collins to take in a number of terrified women and children who were waiting outside. As a young man named Joe Sammon, a visitor to Lahinch from East Clare, was running from a house he was shot dead. He was in his late twenties, married, and had one child. Fearing a repetition of the outrage the residents spent the two following nights on the sandhills and many visitors left the sea-side resort fearing that their lives would be endangered if they remained.”
After Lahinch, and having already devestated Milltown Malbay and Ennistymon, the men went on to attack Liscannor. These reprisals are remembered as amongst the worst carried out by British forces during the C20th.
Lahinch Seaworld & Leisure Centre has an aquarium well stocked with local and exotic marine exhibits, and also contains a swimming pool and gym facilities.
An Entertainment Centre open during the tourist season offers varied activities from traditional dancing to bingo.
Lahinch is not far from Ennistymon on ByRoute 11.
O’Brien’s Bridge is the location of Dough Castle, built by Donnchadh O’Connor in 1422, and later appropriated by the O’Brien clan. The castle owes it current ruinous condition to erosion rather than the vissicitudes of war. The adjacent sandhills are said to be haunted by fairies.
Kilmacreehy / St Macreehy’s church, built on the site of a school founded in the C6th by Saint MacCreich / McCreehy, is an early C12th edifice with a small porch of C16th origin.
The Clare antiquarian TJ Westropp’s reconstruction of the rather weird south wall monument shows serpents of different styles; one, which looks as if it were holding a bone or bar cross-wise in its jaws, has been associated with the legend of a giant corpse-eating eel from the sea, killed by the demon-slaying Saint MacCreitch, who is also said to have dispatched a “bruckee”, supposedly a dragon but more probably a bear.
An unmarked grave contains the remains of the linguist and author Hugh MacCurtain, who promised in The Elements of the Irish Language (Louvain 1728) ” … to use all my Endeavours and Industry, to publish a more full and correct Grammar of the said language, now in its decay and almost in Darkness, even to the Natives themselves… It is certain, most of our Nobility and Gentry have abandoned it, and disdained to learn or Speake the same these 200 years past.”
Liscannor (Co. Clare / West)
Liscannor (Lios Ceannúir – “Fort of the O’Connors“) (pop. 200) is located on the north shore of Liscannor Bay at the southwestern end of the Burren.
Liscannor and surrounding areas have a good selection of hotel, B&B, and self-catering accomodation facilities. The pubs are friendly, and there are several good eateries.
Liscannor village seems to have begun its existence in the late C18th. By 1810 it had some 200 houses, 10 with flagstone roofs. At that time the surroundings were still heavily wooded.
Liscannor harbour was an important C19th hub for the import of coal and other supplies to North Clare and for exports from the local quarries. In summer there are boat trips to the Cliffs of Moher, and fishing excursions can be arranged from the pier.
Liscannor’s Submarine Genius
Liscannor is one of many places around the world that display a perverse pride in making their dubious claims to be the birthplace of the inventor of the submarine.
John Philip Holland was born locally in 1841 and educated by the Christian Brothers before being forced by economic circumstances to emigrate to New Jersey, where he received funding from other disaffected Irish Americans who fantasized about taking on the might of Britain’s Royal Navy with his prototype vessel, nicknamed “The Fenian Ram“.
In fact the Irishman was merely one in a long line of (Dutch, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, French, American and British) engineers who contributed towards the development of the device, but his patented version was the first used by the US Navy in 1900 (USS Holland) and the UK’s Royal Navy two years later.
Holland went on to design similar vessels for these and other navies, and was decorated with the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan for his contribution to that country’s victory over Russia in 1905.
He died in poverty in Newark in 1914, too soon to be held fully accountable as a war criminal for the horrible suffering and deaths occasioned by his belicose artefact during WWI and WWII.
Holland is commemorated locally by a headstone, presented in 1977 by the US Navy, outside the community centre.
St Brigid’s church (RC), erected in 1858, is unusual in having windows on one side only, for which it is nicknamed “the church that winks at God“.
St Brigid’s Well, traditionally believed to have curative powers, was long the site of two great “pattern days”, one on 1st February, the saint’s feast day, and another in summer, when people from the Aran Islands and locals gathered here to honour her and then continued to celebrate with merriment in Lahinch on Garland Sunday, the last Sabbath in July. The well itself is a repository of petitions, old rosary beads, mementoes and tokens left by the faithful in rememberance of loved ones or seeking special favours in times of hardship. The old customs live on, with messages left in many languages by both locals and visitors from overseas.
Clahane is reputed to be where the enchanted island of Killstephen / Kilstapheen / Kilstuitheen sank beneath the waves; the golden key of the church is reputedly buried with the mythical hero Conan under his (fake) Ogham Stone on Slieve Callan.
Cornelius O’Brien MP (1782 – 1857)
Cornelius O’Brien, a major Clare landlord and Liberal Parliamentarian, was famously described by the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston as “the best Irish MP we ever had. He didn’t open his mouth in twenty years“.
Nevertheless, he made a huge impact on his own region, and was much praised for his activities in combating want and suffering through his membership of Ennistymon Board of Guardians and Liscannor Relief Committee. In the course of a very spirited debate (21st December 1846, at the height of the Great Famine) arising out of accusations by George Westropp, agent for Dean Stackpoole, that O’Brien was favouring his own tenants in allocating relief work, Mr O’Brien said:-“If Mr. Westropp had the slightest compassion in such a year as this, he would not have taken rent from his poor tenantry. He would have told them to take back their money and buy bread with it”.
O’Brien’s work for the poor was praised by Rev J Sheehan, PP Ennistymon, and the Clare Journal paid this tribute to him in his obituary:-“As a landlord, no man was held in greater love and esteem by his tenantry. They clung to him in many a well-fought field of contention and carried him triumphant through every contest.” His funeral procession was famously over a mile long.
Cornelius O’Brien was brought up in Birchfield House (c.1800), the ruins of which can still be seen.
He is commemorated by an impressive granite column erected as a result of a campaign by the Anglican Bishops Fallon of Kilfenora and Vaughan of Nenagh. The oft-repeated libel that the memorial was erected by O’Brien himself during his own lifetime, and was paid for with money wrung from his unfortunate tenants, is completely without foundation. The date on the inscription – 1853 – can only be explained as the stonecutter’s equivalent of a typist’s error.
The Rock Shop is a particularly interesting establishment between Liscannor and the Cliffs of Moher. In addition to the retail space selling a wide range of rock, fossil and mineral specimens, quartz Crystals, birth stones and healing crystals, stone vases and trays, magnificent celtic carvings on slate, jewellery and jewels, there is an interesting and informative audio visual room which illustrates quarrying methods through the ages, and an excellent collection of quarrying tools from days gone by with photographs displaying Liscannor in the 1800s.
Liscannnor stone is used in farm walls, houses, paving, flooring and especially on roofs all over north-west Clare.
The name does not relate to an individual quarry, but is used for a number of fissile sandstones that have been worked in the area around Liscannor Bay, Hag’s Head, and the Cliffs of Moher. More specifically the stone is described as Moher, Luogh and Doonagore slate, flag and flagstone after the quarries from which they are taken. The generic name probably arose because all these sources shipped stone from Liscannor pier.
Today Liscannor stone has come to describe any fissile sandstone that displays the fossilised trails of what I heard a child once graphically call “worms”; in fact, the attractive patterns were indeed made by marine worms, molluscs and arthropods burrowing through soft sand and mud in search of food about 320 million years ago.