A Rare Image of Clarecastle Quay in the 1880s
This rare photograph shows a four-masted schooner tied up at the Quay in Clarecastle. The photograph was recently presented to Eric Shaw of Clarecastle & Ballyea Heritage & Wildlife Group by a descendant of Patrick O’Brien of Bridge House, Clarecastle.
Patrick O’Brien, 1831-1900, was the owner of the Clare Sawmills, and was a coal and timber merchant in the Quay Road. He owned property in the Main Street and Quay Road and imported timber and coal in through the Port of Clare. Bridge House was the last house on the right before the Bridge as one left Clarecastle. It was noted for it’s fine orchard and glasshouses. In the years before steam, two and four masted schooners were the work-horses of the seas. O’Brien imported timber from Canada and Scandinavia and coal from England on these ships. The place where he stored the timber is still known as the Deal Yard or Dale Yard. The Clare Journal of 3 February 1879, reported that a Dutch schooner with 200 tons of pit wood chartered by Patrick O’Brien, hit Boland’s Rock in the Fergus on her way to England. The ship was a total wreck and the cargo of timber was washed up on islands in the Fergus.
In those years, William Carroll was also importing timber from Quebec for his sawmills in Ennis on his four-masted schooner, the Alfred.
The photograph was cut from a larger image to fit a small frame. It is fascinating to imagine what the complete photograph might have shown but the image is a fine additional to the archives of the Heritage Group and it is most appreciative of the donation. Fishermen in the past in Clarecastle spoke about seeing an old photograph of four schooners lying abreast at the Quay waiting for their turn to unload. They also mentioned the difficult task that the river pilots had in bringing schooners up to the Quay, having to tack in the narrow stretches of the river. This image is an indication that other old photographs of the Quay may still exist and the Heritage Group would love to know about them.