Inis Cathaigh

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Scattery Island
Native name: Inis Cathaigh[1]
Scattery Island from the air - - 594050.jpg
Inis Cathaigh is located in Ireland
Inis Cathaigh
Inis Cathaigh (Ireland)
Location Shannon Estuary
Coordinates 52°36.45′N 9°31.9′W / 52.60750°N 9.5317°W / 52.60750; -9.5317Coordinates: 52°36.45′N 9°31.9′W / 52.60750°N 9.5317°W / 52.60750; -9.5317
Area 07 km2 (2.7 sq mi)
Province Munster
County Clare
Population none (permanent)
Density 0 /km2 (0 /sq mi)
Additional information
Reference no. 10

Inis Cathaigh or Scattery Island is an island in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland. It lies off the coast of Kilrush, County Clare. The island is home to a lighthouse, a ruined monastery, an Irish round tower and the remains of an artillery battery.

The Irish name Inis Cathaigh was formerly anglicised Iniscathy, which later became Iniscattery and finally Scattery.[1] Most of the island is now owned by the Office of Public Works who run a small visitor centre and carry out repairs and maintenance on the island. It was bought by Dúchas in 1991[2]

Saint Senan[edit]

Main article: Saint Senan

St. Senan was born at Magh Lacha, Kilrush, County Clare, ca. 488 (died 1 March 560). His parents were named Erean and Comgella. His birth was prophetically announced by St. Patrick on his visit to the Uí Fidgenti (in County Limerick) As a boy Senan was placed under the guidance of an abbot named Cassidan, finishing his studies under St. Naul at Kilmanagh, County Kilkenny.[3]

Senan commenced his missionary career by founding a church near Enniscorthy, in either 510 or 512. The parish is still known as Templeshannon (Teampul Senain). He then visited Cornwall, founding a church at Sennen's Cove, another was founded in Brittany (France) at Plouzane (church of Senan). He is also believed to have visited Menevia, Rome, and Tours. He returned to Ireland around 520.

Having founded churches at Inniscarra (County Cork), at Inisluinghe, at Deer Island, Inismore, and Mutton Island, he finally settled at Iniscathay, or Inis Cathaigh, County Clare. He was visited by Saints Ciarán and Brendan, and other holy men, who had heard of his sanctity and miracles. Inis Cathaigh became not only a famous abbey but the seat of a bishopric with St. Senan as its first bishop. This event may be dated as somewhere between 535 and 540. St. Senan's jurisdiction extended over the existing Baronies of Moyarta and Clonderalaw in Thomond, the Barony of Connelo, Limerick as well as a small portion of Kerry from the Feal to the Atlantic.

The ruins in 2004

The legend of "St. Senanus and the Lady", as told in Tom Moore's lyric, is founded on the fact that no woman was allowed to enter Inis Cathaigh; not even St. Cannera was permitted to land there, yet St. Senan founded two convents for nuns, and was actually on a visit to one of them when he died. He was buried in the abbey church of Iniscathay on 8 March, on which day his feast is observed.

One of the earliest references to the Round Tower of Inniscathay is in the Irish life of St. Senan.

Viking period[edit]

Inis Cathaigh was a part of the Norse Kingdom of Limerick, which included not only Limerick itself but also several other bases in western and even northern Ireland.

Ivar of Limerick, along with two of his sons, was slain on Inis Cathaigh by Brian Boru in 977.

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

The ruins in 1902

Scattery Island Cathedral and monastery is an early Christian place of pilgrimage, where St Senan, Bishop and confessor, founded a monastery, in the Shannon estuary, 5 km southwest of Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland. There are the remains of his oratory and house and of seven rude churches or chapels, together with a round tower and a holy well still in repute. It is fortified and marked by a lighthouse.

At an early period the abbot-bishop of the monastery was considered to exercise authority over what later became the dioceses of Killaloe, Limerick and Ardfert.[4] After the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111 a canonical diocese of Inis Cathaig (the spelling then current) was established. This was absorbed by the Diocese of Killaloe in 1189,[5] but was restored by Pope Innocent VI and continued as a separate see under Bishop Thomas (1358–68). In 1378 its possessions were divided, and the island remained a portion of the Diocese of Killaloe, being subsequently merged into the parish of Kilrush. However, there is mention of an Englishman, John Grene, as Bishop of Inis Cathaig in 1467.[citation needed]

Inis Cathaig is now listed among the titular sees of the Catholic Church.[6]

Titular bishops of Inis Cathaig:[7]

Artillery battery[edit]

The artillery battery, located on the south of Scattery, was built during the Napoleonic Wars and is preserved quite well. The Shannon Estuary was one of 3 invasion places the French had considered along the west of Ireland.[8] As such, different places along the estuary were considered for establishing a defence. Scattery Island is one of 6 batteries in the estuary.[9] Scattery Island was chosen on the proposal of defected French general Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez.[10] The battery forms a semi-circular D shape with a dry moat. There would have been 6 separate guns on the edge of this D shape. These could fire out over the estuary. Even though they by themselves would not have been powerful enough to stop an invasion they would have been able to cause a lot of damage to any enemy fleet.[citation needed]

Former residents[edit]

In the 1840s, after the bounty paid for salving the Windsor Castle, Inis Cathaigh was home to Shannon Estuary Pilots and their families. The primary families of the island were the Brennan's, Melican's,Scanlon's, McMahon's, Hanrahan's, Hehir's, Moran's, Crotty's, and Griffin's. The river pilots were highly skilled seamen.

The inhabitants of Scattery Island appear to have escaped the deaths and emigration, associated with nearby Kilrush, during the famine period. The total population of the island, including the soldiers, actually increased from 65 in 1841 to 99 in 1851 and to 139 in 1861, the numbers of houses in this period increased from 9 in 1841 to 24 in 1861. The memorial inscriptions on the gravestones do not show any deaths of islanders during the period 1845 to 1850. Perhaps a combination of fishing and additional shipping, due to famine imports and emigration, provided good employment for the pilots at this time and helped them to survive.[11]

The last residents left in 1969.

Annalistic references[edit]

See Annals of Inisfallen (AI)

  • AI901.1 Bissextile. Kl. Repose of Mael Brigte son of Brolach, abbot of Inis Cathaig.
  • AI958.3 Repose of Cinaed Ua Con Minn, bishop of Les Mór and Inis Cathaig.
  • AI974.2 The son of Aralt made a circuit of Ireland with a great company, and plundered Inis Cathaig, and brought Ímar from it into captivity.
  • AI974.4 Repose of Scandlán Ua hEirc, learned bishop and abbot of Inis Cathaig.
  • AI992.5 Repose of Cathal son of Ledbán, abbot of Inis Cathaig.
  • AI994.2 Repose of Fínnechta Ua Ciarucáin, vice-abbot of Inis Cathaig.
  • AI1024.7 Senchán, son of Flaithbertach, on his pilgrimage to Inis Cathaig.


See also[edit]


Other projects[edit]

Media related to Scattery Island at Wikimedia Commons