Ireland > Kilrush


Kilrush is a coastal town in County Clare, Ireland. It is also the name of a civil parish and an ecclesiastical parish in Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe. It is located near the mouth of the River Shannon in the south-west of the county. Kilrush is one of the listed Heritage Towns of Ireland. The area was officially classified as part of the West Clare Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking community, until 1956.


Kilrush has existed since the 16th Century. However, it was not until the 18th century that it underwent major development. This development coincided with the succession of John Ormsby Vandeleur as the wealthiest landlord in the district. Of Dutch origin, the Vandeleur family was the most prominent landlord family in West Clare. They designed the layout of the town and many of the present day street names derive from Vandeleur family names.

The Vandeleurs had settled in the area, as tenants to the Earl of Thomond on land at Ballynote, Kilrush, in about 1656. Giles, the first Vandeleur in the area was the father of the Rev. John Vandeleur who was appointed prebend of Iniscathaigh in March 1687. He was buried at Kilrush in 1727. In 1749, John Vandeleur, son of the Rev. John, purchased lands in West Clare to the value of £9,826.0.6, from the fortune that had been acquired as one of the Commissioners for applotting quit rents in Ireland

John Ormsby Vandeleur built the large family home, Kilrush House He owned much of Kilrush. With wealth achieved from a financially beneficial marriage and some political skulduggery, he decided to develop the town. A Scots businessman James Paterson, who had been a gunboat lieutenant until 1802, assisted him in this project. Paterson entered the oats trade in west Clare and in 1802 he was given a site on the square from Vandeleur and erected a six-storey building.

The Napoleonic Wars (1799–1815) led to an improvement in agricultural prices. As Kilrush and the neighbouring countryside began to prosper, Hely Dutton reported in 1808 that the town was 'rising fast into some consequence'. He also acknowledged Paterson's role as a 'very active and intelligent inhabitant, who has been of the utmost benefit to Kilrush, and the adjoining counties'. In 1812 Paterson went into the shipping business and by 1817 he had a steamboat operating regularly between Limerick and Kilrush. The increasing popularity of Kilkee as a bathing resort brought many transit travellers to Kilrush.

In 1837 Samuel Lewis described Kilrush as a seaport, market and post town. The main industries, chiefly for home consumption, were flannels, stockings and bundle cloth. The main trade was corn, butter, pigs, agricultural products and hides. There were works for refining rock salt for domestic use, a tan-yard, a soap factory and a nail factory. Branches of the national and agricultural banks had been opened in the town and a constabulary police force was also stationed there. A small prison was built in 1825 and a court house in 1831.

However the famine years (1845–1849) brought much hardship to Kilrush. Famine, evictions, fever and cholera reduced the population of south-west Clare to such an extent that it never again attained its pre-famine numbers. This was vividly dramatised for radio in 1980. In the post-famine era, the Vandeleur name became synonymous with the worst of landlord evictions, with over 20,000 evicted in the Kilrush Union. The Kilrush workhouse witnessed terrible deprivation and deaths. By that stage Hector Vandeleur had succeeded John Ormsby Vandeleur.

Kilrush commercially survived the setbacks of the Great Famine to a great extent as a result of the arrival of the West Clare Railway towards the end of the 19th century, developed into a bustling market town. There is a 1500-year-old monastic settlement at Scattery Island in the Shannon estuary which is about 15 minutes from Kilrush by boat. The settlement was founded by St. Senan. It features one of the oldest and tallest round towers in Ireland.

Kilrush today

The old port of Kilrush is now home to a 120 berth marina with lock gate access to the Shannon Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. An impressive walled garden on the grounds of the old Vandeleur estate can still be visited today, though Kilrush House was gutted by fire in the late 19th century and finally demolished in the 1970s due to safety hazard. It stood where the main central car park now stands.

Kilrush was the host venue for the 2013 National Famine Commemoration.

Offshore resides a large pod of Bottlenose dolphins who are resident year-round in the estuary. Dolphin-watching tour boats depart daily from the Kilrush marina, and the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation has an information centre nearby.

Kilrush has been twinned with the town of Plouzané in Brittany, France since 1982.

In 2015, Kilrush won an Entente Florale gold medal, a European-wide horticultural and environmental competition. Kilrush represented Ireland in the ‘Village’ category of the competition for population centres of less than 5,000 people.


The town has an 18-hole golf course on the Ennis Road. The Western Yacht Club has in the last decades been rejuvenated, being one of the oldest yacht clubs in the world.

Tennis, football (soccer) and athletics are catered for at the Cooraclare Road complex (under age and junior clubs). The rugby club is based on the Doonbeg Road. Kilrush Shamrocks GAA Club is located on the Killimer Road. The ground, Captain Tubridy Memorial Park is traditionally called "The Cricket Field", since it was used for that sport during the 19th century. The club was founded in 1886 and has recorded 21 county titles. Kilrush is home to the West Clare Triathlon Club, a multi-discipline sports club, which trains and competes in the following sports – swimming, cycling and running.

Kilrush was the birthplace of a number of renowned sportspeople listed in the Notable People section below.


Kilrush has two primary schools and one secondary school. St. Senans NS is an English speaking school, the other is an Irish speaking Gaelscoil, which is called Gaelscoil Uí Choimin. The secondary school is called Kilrush Community School.


Kilrush is on the N67 (Kilcolgan – Tarbert) and N68 (Ennis – Kilrush). Kilrush is about 30 minutes from Ennis. Close by is a ferry between Killimer and Tarbert (County Kerry). The nearest airport is Shannon Airport.

Kilrush was once one of the twin termini of the West Clare Railway from Ennis, the neighbouring town of Kilkee being the other (see Irish railway history). The railway closed in 1961 but a short section of the railway has been re-opened at Moyasta as a tourist attraction. One of the original steam engines on the route, the Slieve Callan has been lovingly restored.

Kilrush Creek Marina is at the Atlantic Ocean end of the Shannon Estuary, with its lock gates providing protection from the tidal estuary.


Catholic parish

The town of Kilrush is in the parish of Kilrush in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe. The parish churches are St Senan's in Kilrush and Little Senan Church in Monmore. The Catholic Emancipation resulted in restoration and construction of churches across Ireland. In Kilrush Colonel Moore Vandeleur donated a site in Toler Street and ₤500 for construction of St. Senan's. The foundation stone was laid in November 1839. The magnificent St. Senan's Church was erected under the stewardship of Fr. John Kenny, whose family lived at Tirmana in Kilmurry Ibrickane and completed under the guidance of Fr Tim Kelly, who is commemorated on the centre aisle[5] The church was sufficiently complete for it to be opened on 29 November 1840. Rev. Theobald Mathews, who had been invited by Fr. Kelly, preached on t7th December 1840 at this, the largest church in the County. Kilrush was filled by an estimated 20,000 people, including many from County Kerry who had crossed on the steamer, the 'Garryowen'.

Funds were raised for improvements over the years that included plastering the walls, improving the ceiling, altars, floors and seats, and building a wall and railing outside the church. In 1861 the 230 feet (70 m) spire was erected, the first in County Clare. The present sanctuary was built in 1881. The church was completely restored in 1906, with the addition of the wooden pulpit. Three stained glass windows on the west wall were commissioned in 1932 from the Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin. This firm also made the window on the left wall, showing Saint Brigit of Kildare and Saint Mél of Ardagh at Saint Patrick's synod.

Civil parish

There are 40 townlands in the parish.

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