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. There are two housing estates within the village. Its location along Ireland’s largest river and its proximity to Clonmacnoise have contributed to tourism being a key contributor to the local economy. 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.
Droichead na Sionainne
Esto Fideles - The Faithful
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The monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise is approximately 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.
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 ostensibly 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 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. Their factory shop has a range of pottery and is open to the public.
Tourists come to Shannonbridge by cruiser on the River Shannon, a show distance from the main street. A tourist office is located at the west end of the main street. The monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise is 7 km upriver and attracts approximately 100,000 visitors per annum.
Shannonbridge tennis court was built in 1988 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 popular destination for angling. The River Shannon is Ireland's longest waterway, and as a fishery, has stocks of bream, rudd, rudd/bream hybrids, tench, perch, pike and also stocks of trout, eel and salmon. Angling also takes place in the rivers Suck and Brosna and in the Grand Canal. Lough Ree 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 across a working environment, a cutaway area of preserved peatlands. 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 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 themes of sustainability and climate change.
Flora and faunaEdit
The River Shannon is, at 386 km, Ireland's longest river, and provides a habitat for a number of species of flora. Some, which can be found in this area, include types of algae, reeds and grasses. Local fauna include brown hares, foxes, mink and frogs. There are butterflies, dragonflies, beetles and in the Shannon; mussels, snails and leeches. Bird varieties on the Shannon include swans (Bewick's, mute and whooper), moorhens, swallows, terns, ducks and corncrakes.
The Callows is a stretch of the River Shannon at Shannonbridge that has a 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 a nature conservation area which is 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 GAA clubEdit
Shannonbridge Gaelic Athletic Association club have one Offaly senior football championship title to their name, which they achieved in 1996 by defeating Tullamore. The club has provided players to county teams and players from the club have won medals with county teams. For example, John Ryan 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 were chosen as Offaly 'footballer of the year'.
Prior to 1929 Clonfanlough had its own team affiliated and Shannonbridge had no team. In 1929 the then 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. Following objections, a replay was ordered, which took place in Ballycumber. A St. Ciaran's player was injured early in the game and the team 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 number of players decided to start a club in the parish again. There were victories for the first time ever in 1989 with the junior championship, division 4 league and junior cup being won. The county championship final was won after a replay against Mucklagh.
- George Brent, actor
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