The Shannon near Tarbert

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume II, Chapter XII

THE Shannon below Limerick is a broad and noble stream, but the nakedness of the shores deprived it of all charm for us. It is besides flat and sterile-looking; and after losing sight of the fine ruins of Carrigogunnel, we found the passage wearisome enough till we reached the domain of the great benefactor of this part of the country, Lord Monteagle, and began to near our destination at Tarbert. The Knight of Kerry has also a fine place in this neighbourhood, on the left bank of the river, and these two form oases in the desert. CARRIGOGUNNEL CASTLE is certainly an object of much antiquarian interest, it is situated on the summit of a lofty rock, rising abruptly from an extensive plain on the banks of the river, about six miles west from Limerick, and presents a noble and striking object to the surrounding country. Archdall's Monasticon Hibernicum informs us that there was here a house for knights templars, which, in the year 1530, was the seat of Donough O'Brien, Lord of Poble O'Brien. In 1691, when the Irish forces, after the disastrous battle of Aughrim, retreated to Limerick, Carrigogunnel Castle was held for King James. General Scravemore marching against it, forced the garrison to surrender, and the following month (August), the castle was dismantled and blown up. It is worthy of notice, that Dr. Story, who was Dean of Limerick at the time, and who afterwards wrote the History of the War in Ireland, received one hundred and sixty pounds to reimburse him for his expenses, buying powder, &c., to blow up Castle Connel and Carrigogunnel Castle, of which nothing now remain but piles of venerable ruins.

The SHANNON NEAR TARBERT assumes the look of an estuary, and the view here is altogether finer than farther up. We confess to great disappointment in the Shannon, however, malgré the occasional beauties at and above Limerick: our expectations were too highly raised. Moore's poem of St. Senanus (whose "Sacred Isle" is just below Tarbert), and Sir Aubrey de Vere's elegant sonnet, give a romance to the Shannon, which paints it, in the fancy, too flatteringly.

"River of billows! to whose mighty heart

The tide-wave rushes of the Atlantic sea—

River of quiet depths! by cultured lea,

Romantic wood, or city's crowded mart—

River of old poetic founts! that start

From their lone mountain-cradles, wild and free,

Nursed with the fawns, lulled by the wood-lark's glee,

And cushat's hymeneal song apart!—

River of chieftains! whose baronial halls

Like veteran warders watch each wave-worn steep,

Portumna's towers, Bunratty's regal walls,

Carrick's stern rock, the Geraldine's grey keep—

River of dark mementoes!—must I close

My lips with Limerick's wrongs—with Aughrim's woes?"