Clare Island in the 1830s

1837
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CLARE, or CLARA, an island, in the parish of KILGAVOWER, barony of MURRISK, county of MAYO, and province of CONNAUGHT, 15 miles (w.) from Westport ; containing 1616 inhabitants. It is situated in the middle of the entrance of Clew bay, off the western coast, and is the property of Sir Samuel O'Malley, Bart., a descendant of that ancient sept, of which name there were 67 families resident in 1821. A cell of Carmelite friars was founded here in 1224, under the Invocation of the Blessed Virgin, which was afterwards annexed to the abbey of Knoekmoy, in the county of Galway. Grace O'Malley, better known by the name of Graa Uile, and whose exploits in the 16th century are traditionally preserved in the island, made this place her strong hold, built a castle here, and had all her large vessels moored in the bay. This extraordinary woman was the daughter of Owen O'Malley, and widow of O'Flahertie, two chiefs in this part of Connaught. After the death of O'Flahertie, she married Sir Richard Bourke, called Mac William Oughter, who died in 1585. She was high spirited, bold, and adventurous, and at an early age became fond of a maritime life ; she was ever foremost in danger, and her fame for intrepidity was such that Lord-Deputy Sydney, writing to the English council in 1576, observes, " O'Malley is powerful in galleys and Seamen." The island is about four miles in length, and comprises about 3000 acres of cultivable and mountain land, which is undivided and held by the inhabitants in common ; the agriculture is improving, and large quantities of grain are shipped here for Westport ; the soil is fertile, but the crops are sometimes seriously injured by storms, In the R. C. divisions the islands of Clare and Innisturk form a parish, in which are places of worship, but no regular chapel ; the inhabitants are all Roman Catholics. There are some remains of the old castle and of a telegraph ; the highest point of land is 1520 feet above the level of the sea. About 340 persons, who are also farmers, are occasionally employed in the fishery ; and a pier has been construct.ed, which is also used for the landing of sea manure. On the north-east point of the island a lighthouse was erected in 1818, by the corporation for improving the port of Dublin ; it is situated in lat. 530 49' 30" (N.), and lon. 90 55' 30" (W.), and shews a steady bright light from 21 lamps, at an elevation of 487 feet above the level of the sea, which may be seen at a distance of 29 nautical miles in clear weather. Clew bay is from 10 to 12 miles in length and about 6 miles in breadth ; about one-third of the breadth at the entrance is occupied by Clare Island, and in the upper part are numerous small islands, which, with the adjoining creeks and inlets of the mainland, form a variety of safe roadsteads and harbours for vessels of every class. The islands and channels on the Westport side of the bay are protected from the sea by a very singular breakwater of shingle and boulder stones, running with little interruption from the entrance of Newport harbour, at Innishugh island, to the southern shore, under Croaghpatrick mountain. Within this line of beach are six navigable openings, of which the most important is Beulascrona, nearly in the centre, forming the ordinary channel up to Westport, and marked by a small lighthouse on the northern beach.

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