Ennis (Irish: Inis, meaning 'island') is the county town of County Clare, Ireland. The Irish name is short for Inis Cluana Rámhfhada ("island of the long rowing meadow"). The town is on the River Fergus, north of where it enters the Shannon Estuary, 19 km (12 mi) from Shannon Airport. In 2016, Ennis had a population of 25,276, making it the largest town in Clare and the 12th largest in Ireland.
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The name Ennis comes from the Irish word "Inis", meaning "island". This name relates to an island formed between two courses of the River Fergus on which the Franciscan Friary was built. The past of Ennis is closely associated with the O'Brien dynasty, who were descendants of Brian Boru. In the 12th century, the O'Briens, who were Kings of Thomond, left their seat of power in Limerick and built a royal residence at Clonroad on what was then an island. In 1240, King Donnchadh O'Brien ordered the construction of an extensive church which he later donated to the Franciscans. In the centuries that followed there was great activity. The Friary was expanded and students came in great flocks to study at the theological college. The Friars, who were free to move about, met the spiritual needs of the local population. It was a religious centre until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Ennis never had town walls and became a location for merchants from Limerick when Catholics were forbidden to reside in the walled towns by the Penal Laws, and much of its past prosperity is attributable to this influx. It became a thriving market town in the late 18th century and this expansion continued unabated throughout the 19th century, except the period after the Famine c. 1850.
In the colonial period, a number of landmark structures were constructed, including the Mill and Courthouse. The town contains a number of old military barracks, most notably the Old Military Barracks on the Kilrush road. Many locals served in the British Army in the First World War. The Clare Road and Clonroad areas contain terraced cottages built in the early 20th century to house soldiers. On Station Road, then called Jail Road, a gaol once stood.
Ennis was governed by a town council from around the 17th century onwards, before the Local Government Reform Act 2014 effectively dissolved this with the creation of the Ennis Municipal District under the authority of Clare County Council. Politically, Ennis has always been considered a Fianna Fáil stronghold. However, in the 2009 local elections, the party was reduced to just one member out of nine on Ennis Town Council. A monument to Éamon de Valera, founder of the party and former President of Ireland, stands outside Ennis Courthouse.
The River Fergus runs through the middle of Ennis, and is a well-known trout and salmon fishery. At one time, small sailing boats made their way up river from the Shannon and berthed in the centre of the town at Woodquay. This area of the town along with Parnell Street and Mill Road was routinely susceptible to flooding, but the flood defence system put an end to the event in Parnell Street and the Mill Road areas, although in November 2009 other parts of the town experienced severe flooding. A new pedestrian bridge, Harmony Row Bridge, was built over the river Fergus in June 2009.
Heritage and economyEdit
Clare became a county under the rule of Elizabeth I and Ennis was chosen as its capital by the Earls of Thomond because of its central location and great influence. Ennis received a grant to hold fairs and markets in 1610 and some years later a Charter for a Corporation with a Provost, Free Burgesses, Commonalty and a Town Clerk.
Ennis continued to expand in the following centuries, mainly as a market town and later as a manufacturing and distributing centre. Many commodities were conveyed by river to Clarecastle for shipment abroad.
Ennis is a historically important market town. The market square is still home to market stalls on each Saturday through the year, although with the rise in the town's commercial retail sector it has shifted from agricultural produce to mainly textiles and home hardware. The market also has an organic farming element.
The town centre consists of medieval narrow streets and laneways, overshadowed by structures built over the last thousand years. Of the main thoroughfares, Parnell Street has been pedestrianised, while the others, O'Connell Street, Bindon Street and Abbey Street, are one way. The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is on the fringe of the old town centre.
Ennis serves as a major regional hub for County Clare. Among its emergency services, it contains the Ennis Hospital, the HQ of the Clare Divisional Garda, the Clare Fire Brigade and Civil Defence. Ennis also includes many relief organisations, such as The Samaritans, Clare Care and St. Vincent De Paul. Among its civil services, it contains Clare County Council, as well as Social and Family affairs.
Ennis has been a centre for Irish Traditional Music, and since 1974 has hosted the Fleadh Nua in late May each year, the second-largest traditional music festival in Ireland. There are other traditional festivals held in the town as well such as the Ennis Trad Festival held annually in November.
Situated 14 km from Shannon Airport, Ennis is served by both bus and rail links to all major cities and towns in Ireland. The main bus depot is adjacent to the town's train station and both are about one kilometre from the town centre. Ennis railway station is on the Clon Road toward the east of the town, which links to the main N18 in either direction.
Bus services are provided to Shannon Airport, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Dublin and all routes in between and run nearly every hour. Shannon Airport is 15 minutes from Ennis, providing daily flights to European and US destinations.
Twenty rail services per day are now provided to and from Limerick, from where connecting rail services are available to both Dublin Heuston and Cork. The Western Railway Corridor north of Ennis (to Athenry and Galway) reopened on 30 March 2010 with five return services daily. The next phase, to Tuam and Claremorris, originally scheduled to reopen by 2014, is subject to budget review.
Ennis was formerly the starting point of the West Clare Railway, a narrow-gauge railway which ran from Ennis to Ennistymon, Milltown Malbay and onwards to the towns and villages along the West Clare coastline. Trains ran from the same railway station as still used by mainline Irish railway services. The line was CIÉ's last narrow-gauge railway and finally closed in 1961, despite investment in new diesel trains in the early/mid-1950s.
Ennis railway station connects with Galway and with Limerick where onward trains run to Dublin, Cork via Limerick Junction (for connections to Tipperary, Cahir, Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Waterford) and Mallow (for connections to Killarney and Tralee). Ennis is also served by local charity Clare bus who provide a fully wheelchair accessible bus service around the Clare area.
Primary Schools in Ennis include Ennis National School, established in 1897 (formerly Boys National School), Cloughleigh National School, Gaelscoil Mhichíl Cíosóg, Holy Family School, CBS and the multi-denominational Ennis Educate Together National School which opened in 1998. There are several secondary level schools in Ennis, including Rice College, Ennis Community College, Coláiste Muire, St. Flannan's College, and Gaelcholaiste an Chláir. Mid-West Management Training is a FETAC approved provider of further education and training up to Level 6 of the National Framework of Qualifications. The Ennis Business college is one of Ennis's third level facilities. Limerick IT opened its Ennis campus in 2019. The IT will merge with Athlone IT to become Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest, in 2021/22.
Ennis is a stronghold of traditional music with many musicians in residence and regularly playing locally. The Ennis Book Club Festival, in association with Clare County Library, runs annually on the first weekend in March. It attracts readers and authors from all over Ireland and beyond. Glór Theatre is a concert and events venue in the town centre.
In 2016 and 2017 Ennis hosted the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann music competition. It is the first time that the town has hosted the event since 1977.
Sports and leisureEdit
Cusack Park on Francis Street in the town centre is the main county Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) playing grounds and the home of Clare GAA. Ennis has numerous football clubs (soccer, GAA and rugby) that play in various leagues from schoolboys to senior.
The Lees Road Sports and Amenity Park, 1 km from the town centre, is set in 134 acres (54 ha) of wood and parkland. There is ample car parking and the main building includes modern changing rooms, showers and toilets. Among the facilities available are four conventional playing pitches, full size all-weather floodlit playing pitch, floodlit 400 m (1,300 ft) synthetic running track and a purpose-built cross country running track. There is a children's playground and skateboard park and marked walks and trails throughout the woodland area. Ennis Leisure Centre has a fully equipped gym with a 25m pool, saunas etc. There are a number of hotels around Ennis that have their own leisure facilities including gyms and 15m to 20m pools.
Within the town, there are six adult soccer clubs (Avenue United, Lifford FC, Ennis Town, Turnpike Rovers, Hermitage FC and Ennis Dons FC), two adult GAA clubs (Éire Óg and The Banner GAA), and one rugby club (Ennis RFC).
Ennis is twinned with Phoenix, Arizona. Each summer an average of four 4th/5th year students partake in the Phoenix Youth Ambassador Program, which is facilitated by the city of Phoenix twinning committee and the Ennis Chamber of Commerce.
Information Age TownEdit
In September 1997, Ennis became Ireland's first and only Information Age Town. The town was greatly enhanced by the project's IR£15 million investment, which saw 4200 computers provided to residents, a computer lab for every school and every primary school classroom been provided with a computer. Elderly residents were given the chance to become computer users also as a result. The project also gave Ennis Ireland's first high-speed ISDN line infrastructure, which connected all the town's businesses together. Ennis was also used as a test site for VISA Cash, which allowed users to top up a Chip and PIN card with petty cash and purchase goods in local stores. Funding for the project ran out in 2000.
Fish ladder on the River Fergus which flows through Ennis.
- James Bartholomew Blackwell, French Revolutionary soldier
- Tony MacMahon, Irish button accordion player and radio and television broadcaster.
- Thomas Dermody, 18th-century poet
- Michael Enright, Democratic Left politician
- Kieran Hanrahan, radio host and tenor banjo player who won the All-Ireland banjo championship at age 14
- Maeve Kelly, novelist
- Michael Houlihan, former President of the Law Society of Ireland
- Des Lynam, Irish presenter on British television
- Sean Matgamna, Trotskyist theorist
- William Mulready, 19th-century genre painter
- Máiréad Ní Ghráda, Irish playwright and poet
- Matthew O'Brien, 19th-century mathematician
- Daniel O'Connell, MP returned for the Clare electoral area, was known as "The Liberator" for his winning of Catholic Emancipation in 1829
- Maura O'Connell, singer
- Mick O'Dea, artist
- Simone Kirby, actress
- Denise Gough, actress and two time Olivier award recipient (2016 and 2018)
- Kelly Gough, actress
- Tomás O'Maoldomhnaigh, realist painter
- Mark O'Halloran, screenwriter
- Dara O'Kearney, international ultramarathon runner and professional poker player
- the Hon. Mr Justice Daniel O'Keeffe, former Judge of the High Court, currently Chairperson of the Standards in Public Office Commission
- Marcus Paterson, eminent eighteenth-century lawyer and politician who became Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas
- Johnny Patterson, (1840–1889) singer and composer (born in Feakle but raised in Ennis)
- Harriet Smithson, actress and first wife of French composer Hector Berlioz
- Stephen Woulfe, Liberal politician who became Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1836 and as Attorney-General for Ireland in 1838; he became first Catholic to be Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer
- Thomas Flanagan, finder of the first gold in the immensely rich goldfield of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in 1893.
- Matthias Finucane, judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland)
In popular cultureEdit
Townlands and parishesEdit
- Doora: Ballaghboy, Bunnow, Gaurus, and Knockanean
- Drumcliff: Cahircalla Beg, Cahircalla More, Claureen, Cloghleagh, Clonroad Beg, Clonroad More, Drumbiggil, Drumcliff, Lifford, Loughvella, and Shanvogh
- Kilraghtis: Rosslevan
- Templemaley: Ballycorey, Cappahard, Dulick, Knockaderry, and Knockanoura
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