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Cill Rois
Kilrush town centre
Kilrush town centre
Kilrush is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°38′24″N 9°29′10″W / 52.640°N 9.486°W / 52.640; -9.486Coordinates: 52°38′24″N 9°29′10″W / 52.640°N 9.486°W / 52.640; -9.486
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County County Clare
Elevation 17 m (56 ft)
Population (2006)[1]
 • Town 2,694
 • Urban 2,657
 • Environs 37
Irish Grid Reference Q992554

Kilrush (Irish: Cill Rois, meaning "Church of the Woods") is a coastal town in County Clare, Ireland. It is also the name of a civil parish[2] 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.


Kilrush has existed since the 16th century but 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.

John Ormsby Vandeleur built the large family home, Kilrush House in 1808. 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.

Monument to the Manchester Martyrs in the town

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.[3] 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 survived these setbacks and with 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[edit]

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 their home was gutted by fire in the late 19th century.

It was announced in January 2013 that Kilrush is the host venue for the 2013 National Famine Commemoration.[4]

Offshore resides a large pod of Bottlenose dolphins who are resident year-round in the estuary.[5] 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.


The town has an 18 hole golf course on the Ennis Road.[6] The Western Yacht Club has in the last decade been rejuvenated, being one of the oldest yacht clubs in the world.[7]

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.[8] 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 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 Ui Choimin. The secondary school is called Kilrush Community School.


Kilrush is on the N67 (KilcolganTarbert and N68 (Ennis – Kilrush). Kilrush is about 30 minutes from Ennis. Close by is a ferry between Killimer and Tarbert (County Kerry). The town is serviced by buslines run by Bus Éireann. 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.


  • Lawrence 'Larry' Quinlivan Bulger (1870–1928), Irish rugby union player, athlete and doctor, and his older brothers and fellow sportsmen Michael Bulger (1867–1938) and Daniel Delany Bulger (1865–1930) were from Moore Street, Kilrush, where their father, Daniel Scanlan Bulger (1831–1904), was a woollen merchant and draper and ran a loan office.
  • Mrs. Elizabeth Crotty (née Markham) (1885–1960), concertina player, was from Gower near Kilrush, where she and her husband ran Crotty's pub on the Market Square.
  • Thomas A. Cullinan (1838–1904), city marshal of Junction City, Kansas from 1871 to 1904, was born in Kilrush to well-to-do parents.
  • Thomas Cusack (1858–1926), Chicago Democrat US Representative from Illinois 4th District, 1899–1901, was born in Kilrush.
  • Colm de Bhailís (1796–1906), poet, songwriter and stonemason, travelled extensively throughout Ireland and is believed to have lived for some time in Kilrush.
  • Joe Jacob (b. 1939), Fianna Fáil politician, was born in Kilrush.
  • General Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny GCB GCVO (1840–1914) was born in Kilrush, where his father Matthew Kelly was manager of the National Bank.
  • Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy GCMG CB (1809–1883) was Poor Law Inspector in Kilrush Poor Law Union, from November 1847 to September 1850.
  • Charles Lever (1806–1872), novelist, briefly practised medicine in Kilrush as a young doctor, around the time of the 1832 Cholera epidemic.[14] The character of Father Tom Loftus in Lever's novel Jack Hinton was based on Father Michael Comyn, Parish Priest of the nearby Kilkee and Killard parishes.[15]
  • Joe McDermott (b. 1940), professional golfer and winner of the Irish Senior Open in 1998, was born in Kilrush, where his parents Thomas and Annie McDermott ran a pub, shoeshop and Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake agency on the Market Square.
  • Fr. John O'Brien (1931–2008), founder of the St. James's Choir, was born in Kilrush, where his father Michael O'Brien had a pub on the Market Square.
  • Richard Barry O'Brien (1847–1918), historian, journalist, writer and biographer of Parnell, was born in Kilrush.
  • Michael Talty (1857–1957), head porter and guard in Kilrush on the West Clare Railway, has been immortalised by Percy French in the song Are Ye Right There Michael.[16]
  • Michael Tubridy (b. 1935), original member of The Chieftains, was born in Kilrush, where his parents Michael and Mary Tubridy lived on O'Dea's Road.
  • Captain Michael 'Mick' Tubridy (1923–1954), international showjumper and All Ireland winning footballer with Cork, was born in Kilrush, son of Patrick Francis Tubridy, veterinary surgeon.
  • The siblings and Irish Labour Party politicians, Pat Upton (1944–1999) and Mary Upton (b. 1946), were born in Kilrush.
  • John Benjamin Ireland (30 January 1914 – 21 March 1992) was a Canadian actor and film director, born in Kilrush

Catholic parish[edit]

Stained glass windows in Saint Senan's Church Kilrush, created by the Harry Clarke Studios in 1932[17]
St. Senan's Well, Leadmore, Kilrush

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.[18] 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 in a ceremony attended by about 10,000 people. The church was sufficiently complete for it to be opened on 29 November 1840.[19]

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.[19]

Civil parish[edit]

There are 40 townlands in the parish.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Census 2006 – Volume 1 – Population Classified by Area" (PDF). Central Statistics Office Census 2006 Reports. Central Statistics Office Ireland. April 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Kilrush, Placenames Database of Ireland.
  3. ^ Brian Comerford (March 27, 2012). "Famine in Kilrush - An Inquiry (Audio Drama Scripts)". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  4. ^ "Hopes for economic boost from Famine Commemoration". 15 January 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  5. ^ "Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  6. ^ "Kilrush Golf Club". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  7. ^ "Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  8. ^ "Kilrush Rugby Club". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  9. ^ "Home". Central Statistics Office (for post 1821 figures). Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  10. ^ "Histpop - The Online Historical Population Reports Website". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  11. ^ "Welcome". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  12. ^ Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. 
  13. ^ Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850". The Economic History Review. Volume 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. 
  14. ^ Ricorso biography
  15. ^ Clare Journal, 30 June 1892.
  16. ^ Irish Times, 25 February 1957.
  17. ^ Williams, Jeremy (1994). Architecture in Ireland 1837–1921. Irish Academic Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-7165-2513-5. 
  18. ^ "Kilrush Churches". Diocese of Killaloe. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  19. ^ a b "Kilrush St. Senan's". Diocese of Killaloe. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  20. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland - Kilruch civil parish


External links[edit]