Limerick City & Environs

Limerick City (Luimnach) (pop. 80,000), occupying a northeastern protrusion of County Limerick and extending into southwestern County Clare, just above the head of the River Shannon Estuary (Loch Luimneach), has long suffered a terrible reputation, not only due to the pentalinear amphibrachic stanzas that share its name*. (Photo –  www.limerickheritage.com)

However, the city has a colourful history, and there are plenty of interesting landmarks and places to visit, both in the city centre and its outskirts, along with a good range of acommodation options etc.

Ghastly, to be avoided at all costs were the words of one and the sentiments of many of our friends when we mentioned the place. While all agree that County Limerick is attractive, the city is widely regarded as “the armpit of Ireland” (and that’s the polite version!).

The municipal motto “Urbs Antiqua Fuit Studiisque Asperrima Belli” (“an ancient city well versed in the arts of war”, adapted from a reference to Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid ) is pretty ironic. Nowadays Limerick is nicknamed ”Stab City” for the number of murderous assaults carried out in the course of gang warfare between feuding criminal clans and rival drug lords, whose power is such that eye-witnesses to crimes tend to “forget” seeing anything, and local juries never convict.

Limerick has also been notorious over the years for its Roman Catholic zealotry, with numerous prominent churches and announcements of confraternities and novenas at every turn. It comes as little surprise that the city was the scene of the only anti-Semitic pogrom in Irish history.

Frank McCourt’s famous childhood autobiography, Angela’s Ashes, describes the squalor of poverty  in the 1930s and 40s in Limerick, which he called the “city of dark miseries”.

Some view these perceptions as unfair, and insist they should be balanced against the positive factors. We await visitors’ verdicts with interest.

O’Connell St. (Photo – www.ireland-forever.com)

The city centre’s architecture area is mainly Georgian and Victorian, but many of Limerick’s heritage landmarks have been neglected or indeed vandalised (while the Todd’s deparment store fire of 1959 may have been accidental, the demolition of Cruise’s Hotel to make way for a fast food joint was an act of sheer barbarism). In addition to the dilapidated state of many of the older buildings, several out of place modern edifices jar with their surroundings.

The good news is that new planning regulations have resulted in an increasing number of historical buildings being refurbished rather than demolished; examples include the conversion of an historic bank to an up-market pub and the redevelopment of old stone-built warehouses and Georgian townhouses as luxury apartments.

The Clarion, Ireland’s tallest hotel (187ft) and the main tower of the Riverpoint complex (59.2m / 194ft)  are the two most notable of several striking modern edifices in Limerick. (Photo by Veesix) Ironically, however, tougher development requirements have resulted in tracts of wasteland on King’s Island remaining undeveloped due the discovery of historical remains.

A new marina at the eastern end of Limerick’s quays has considerably increased  the city’s tourism potential.

The Park Canal, constructed in 1758 between the River Shannon at Castleroy and the Abbey River channel, and used to transport goods such as turf, potatoes, coal and especially Guinness from Dublin, is currently undergoing restoration.

Prominent Limerick educational establishments  include Villiers School, founded in 1821 for protestant boys boarders and nowadays catering for boys and girls, boarders and day students, many nationalities, cultures and creeds, and the prestigious Jesuit-run Crescent College (graduates include a large number of leading politicians, lawyers and judges, actor Richard Harris and even Sir Terry Wogan). Several provide education through the Irish language, notably Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh and An Mhodh Scoil / The Model School, a 150-year-old primary school.

Limerick University


The University of Limerick (UL), the first University to be established in southern Ireland since 1922, was created in 1989, primarily from  NIHE, Limerick, a science and engineering focused third level college founded in 1972 that did much to further the area’s reputation as Ireland’s Silicon Valley, and also incorporating Thomond College of Education and Mary Immaculate College, which has separate facilities in the southern suburbs of the city.

 

The main riverside campus, ocupying much of the National Technological Park at Castleroy, features some interesting examples of modern architecture, including the University Arena, Ireland’s largest indoor sports complex, with the Republic’s first Olympic standard swimming facilities, the World Music Centre, and one of Europe’s longest footbridges, known as “the Living Bridge”. The student population numbers c.13,500. (Photo – www.irelandinsummer.com)

 

The new University Concert Hall, home to the Irish Chamber Orchestra, provides a large (1000 seat) venue for national and international acts.

Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), with over 6,500 students, has its main suburban campus at Moylish Park, where the Millenium Theatre is a popular live entertainment venue, and also incorporates the Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD), centrally located on Clare  St..

Thomond Park stadium, the principal home of the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Munster branch, was renovated in 2008 and has a capacity of 26,500. Rugby enthusiasts claim it has a special atmosphere. Recent rock concerts here have starred Elton John, Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan. (Photo –www.munsterrugby.ie)

Pairc na nGael, aka the Gaelic Grounds, the main GAA stadium in Limerick for both hurling and Gaelic football, was founded in 1926. A record paid attendance of over 61,000 spectators witnessed the 1961 Munster hurling final between Cork and Tipperary at the stadium, and it is estimated that another 10,000 piled in without paying after the gates were broken down.The official capacity is currently 49,000.

Dolan’s Warehouse is the main traditional music venue in Limerick. Several pubs in and around the city centre  host regular live music and poetry sessions.

Limerick City has three public road bridges across the River Shannon; carefully skirted by  ByRoute 8, ByRoute 9, and ByRoute 10, it lies within easy main road reach of Ennis (Co. Clare).

* The origin of the name “limerick” for such “poems” is not clear, but is thought to have originated with a group of C18th County Limerick poets who met every summer beside the River Maigue to drink and swop verses in both Irish and English, known as the Maigue Poets.

The following example of a limerick is of unknown origin.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.