Droichead na Sionainne
|Motto: Esto Fideles - The Faithful|
|Elevation||38 m (125 ft)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||IST (WEST) (UTC-1)|
|Irish Grid Reference||M969253|
Shannonbridge (Irish: Droichead na Sionainne) is a village located on the River Shannon, at the junction of the R444 and R357 regional roads in County Offaly, Ireland. It lies within the townland of Raghra (Irish: Reachra), at the borders of counties Offaly, Galway and Roscommon, with the majority of the population living east of the bridge in County Offaly. It has a population of approximately 650, and is predominantly low rise and low-density. It contains a number of different building styles, with two housing estates situated within the village. Its location along Ireland’s largest river and its proximity to Clonmacnoise have contributed to tourism being a key factor in its local economy. It is rich in heritage and the village is flanked by a Special Area of Conservation – the Shannon Callows. The physical environment consists of the River Shannon, callows, boglands and the Esker Riada (a major routeway in the 18th century). The village has one of the oldest bridges still in use over the River Shannon, completed in 1757.
The monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise is some 7 km upriver.
Shannonbridge gets its name from the bridge connecting County Offaly and County Roscommon. Rachra is generally considered the old name for Shannonbridge, but 'Shannonbridge' was adopted after the building of the bridge in 1757. The military may have initially constructed a village, the 'first Shannonbridge', in the vicinity of Temple Duff graveyard just south of the power station.
Shannonbridge was heavily fortified by the British in the Napoleonic era. Some of the fortifications, including a fort that now houses a restaurant, are still visible today on the west bank of the river.
At Curleys Island between Shannonbridge and Clonmacnoise, there is a legendary ford of Snámh Dá Éan ("swim two birds"). It was here that a proselytising Saint Patrick crossed the Shannon into Connacht and much later the Anglo-Normans considered the ford important enough to be guarded by one of their campaign forts. Accordingly, they constructed the great Motte of Clonburren on the Roscommon side of the river, within sight of an even then declining early Christian nunnery.
The main employers in Shannonbridge are the Electricity Supply Board's new generating station, Bord na Mona which harvests the peat used in the station from the surrounding area and Tourism. There is also a large farming community present. The nearby towns of Ballinasloe, county Galway and Athlone, County Westmeath serve as district centres for the village.
An Electricity Supply Board peat-fired power station with a capacity of 150 megawatts is located about a kilometre downriver. The peat is supplied from the Blackwater Bog peatlands, managed by Bord na Móna. The Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway (a narrow gauge railway) is principally used to transport the peat to the power station and also provides passenger tours of the peat lands for visitors.
Shannonbridge Potteries is located just outside the village and is well known locally. Their products have become demanded with sales around the globe. Their factory shop has a very extensive range of pottery and is open to the public. Both visitors and locals often visit the pottery shop and it also is situated close the Bog Rail Tour, the River Shannon and the ancient ruins of Clonmacnoise.
Entertainment and tourism
At night the picturesque village of Shannonbridge turns into a buzzing hive of chat and good humour with the various pubs offering music, mirth, banter and much-loved traditional Irish stout. Many tourists come to Shannonbridge by cruiser on the River Shannon, a mere stonesthrow from the Main Street. A tourist office is located at the west end of the Main Street. The renowned monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise is some 7 km upriver and attracts approximately 100,000 visitors per annum.
Shannonbridge tennis court was built in 1988. The tennis court was built with funds from the national lottery on land leased from the ESB. The court is located at the eastern end of the village adjacent to St. Kierans Park.
Shannonbridge is a particularly popular destination for angling. For many years now, anglers from all over the world have been returning to once again plunder the incredible array of waters that ebb and flow a mere stone's throw from the village's Main Street.
The River Shannon is Ireland's major waterway, and as a fishery, boasts bountiful stocks of bream, rudd, rudd/bream hybrids, tench, perch, pike and also stocks of trout, eel and salmon. In addition, excellent fishing can be enjoyed in the rivers Suck and Brosna and in the Grand Canal. All of which can be found within a ten 15 km radius of Shannonbridge. Lough Ree, internationally know to anglers is 30 km from the town.
The Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway Bog Tour is a 45 minute train journey giving a guided 9-km tour out across a working environment, a cutaway area of preserved peatlands showing 12,000 years of history, heritage and archaeology. About 32,000 visitors go on the tour per annum. The Shannonbridge Pottery is nearby.
In August 2009, Ireland's first ever Climate Camp was held in the village, bringing activists from all over the country to converge in a field next to the West Offaly Power Station. For a week they protested against the extraction and burning of peat in the station, on the grounds that it releases large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. They held workshops on the general themes of sustainability and climate change.
Flora and fauna
The River Shannon (Sionainn or Sionna in Irish) is, at 386 km, Ireland's longest river. The Shannon provides many different habitats for a wide variety of species of flora including some rare and very interesting plants. Some, which can be found in this area, include various types of algae, reeds and grasses. The Shannon offers a good cross-section of the fauna of Ireland. There are brown hares, foxes, mink and frogs etc. There are butterflies, dragonflies, beetles and in the Shannon; mussels, snails and leeches. Many different varieties of birds live on the Shannon such as swans (Bewick's, mute and whooper), moorhens, swallows, terns, ducks and the midlands are especially noted for corncrakes.
The Callows is a stretch of the River Shannon at Shannonbridge that has a very shallow gradient which results in seasonal flooding when heavy rain occurs. The outcome of this has resulted in the formation of the Callows (wet grassland areas) which are rich in flora and fauna and internationally recognised as a nature conservation area, designated as an (NHA) Natural Heritage Area, (SAC) Special Area of Conservation and (SPA) Special Protection Area. The Callows consist of grasses and sedges, meadowsweet, ragged robin and a number of other vegetations which, when dried out in the summer months is utilised for agricultural activity (hay cutting, grazing).
The corn crake which is rare and is protected nationally, is located in the Callows area. Ducks, gulls, swans, and breeding waders including the northern lapwing, common redshank, Eurasian curlew and common sandpiper are also sighted within the area.
Shannonbridge Gaelic Athletic Association club have one Offaly senior football championship title to their name, which they achieved in 1996 by defeating Tullamore on a scoreline of 1-11 to 0-12. The club has provided many players to county teams and players from the club have won numerous medals with county teams. Pride of place must go to John Ryan who won an All - Ireland senior hurling medal and a national football league medal in 1998. Players from the club have won three All - Ireland under 21 football medals, Leinster football and hurling medals and Leinster vocational titles and colleges titles. Two players from the club, Vincent Mooney in 1991 and Anthony Kelly in 1996 have been chosen as Offaly footballer of the year. Shannonbridge G.A.A. Club has come to be established as one of the foremost clubs in the midlands.
Prior to 1929 Clonfanlough had its own team affiliated and Shannonbridge had no team. In 1929 master Lane, principal of Shannonbridge national school, was the prime mover in affiliating a parish club known as St. Ciaran's.
In 1942, St. Ciaran's qualified for the county senior semi - final and defeated Walsh Island by 5 points. Walsh Island objected to father Willie Kinlough who lived just over the bridge and St. Ciaran's counter objected to a similar situation on the Walsh island team. A replay was ordered and this took place in Ballycumber. Bertie Johnston was injured early in the game and St. Ciaran's lost by 5 points. An altercation took place between supporters after the game and following an investigation by the county board St. Ciaran's were suspended for two years. The club disbanded after this suspension and the footballers and hurlers of the parish had no club of their own.
In 1972 a small number of G.A.A. Players decided to try to start a club in the parish again.
1989, proved to be the year of the breakthrough for the club. There were victories for the first time ever with the junior championship, division 4 league and junior cup being won. Declan Mcevoy was captain in 1989 and was the first player to bring a county championship trophy back to the "bridge". The county championship final was won after a replay against Mucklagh on a score line of 1 - 12 to 1 - 6.
In 1996 the Dowling cup, the prize for the winners of the county senior football championship was brought back to Shannonbridge for the first time after a great victory over Tullamore. This was also the Offaly centenary football final. The final score was 1 - 11 to 0 - 12.
- George Brent, actor
- Mike Devine Rugby Player
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- "Bord na Móna". Bnm.ie. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- "Shannonbridge human environment". Homepage.eircom.net. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- "GAA History". Homepage.eircom.net. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- "River Shannon & Lower River Suck - Shannonbridge, A Complete Coarse & Pike Fishing Guide". Shannon-fishery-board.ie. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- "Climate Camp". www.climatecamp.ie. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
- "Natural environment of Shannonbridge". Homepage.eircom.net. Retrieved 2008-10-27.[dead link]
- "GAA History". Homepage.eircom.net. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
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