The reclamation of the Fergus River inter-tidal mud-flats
In 1843 The O’Gorman Mahon talked about the grand lands to be reclaimed from the Fergus. Various schemes were undertaken to reclaim land from the Fergus Estuary. It was thought that these would yield new lands at a reasonable cost suitable for grazing and tillage. The Clare Slob land Reclamation Company was formed prior to 1873 with an initial share capital of £60,000. Islandavanna was to be incorporated into the reclaimed area, with the work of the Company to include inter-tidal lands between that island and Islandmcgrath. These works were to extend smaller works that had been done in the mid-1800s.
Because of legal and financial difficulties, the work did not commence and Mr. Drinkwater of Manchester bought out the original concessioners. Under his direction, Islandavanna became a peninsula connected to the mainland by a massive stone causeway. This causeway had a light-rail system on which a locomotive hauled a train of wagons laden with stone that was dumped in to the water at the tip-end. A large steam-tug towed rafts laden with stone at the Quay in Clarecastle down the river to the works. This stone was quarried in Lissane and in Ballybeg.
In order to keep the works going day and night, Mr Drinkwater contracted with the British Electric Lighting Company to supply him with the electric light. This appears to be the first mention of electricity being used in such a manner in Clare.
Islandavanna was one of three stations of the reclamation works. In the summer seven hundred men were employed. Mr Drinkwater was determined to feed and lodge his little army of workmen, to establish a club for them, to give them a reading-room and to get porter for them at wholesale price. He did not want them going in to the pubs in the nearby villages. He insisted that every man got his half-pound of meat, either beef, mutton, or bacon, every day but Friday. There was a store-house and a refectory, a cooking department and dormitories, perfectly ventilated and swept and garnished every day. Tea, beer, and other beverages except whiskey could be obtained, and there was an abundant supply of books and newspapers. Every facility and encouragement was given to the priests to visit their people.
In 1892, a Syndicate took over the operation of the reclaimed lands and it ran a large tillage and meadowing scheme. The banks eventually took over the lands and the High Court appointed Louis de Courcy, auctioneer in Limerick as Receiver.
In April 1950, The Irish Land Commission completed the division of close on 2,000 acres of land. This included 580 acres of sloblands outside Clarecastle. The property was acquired by the Fergus Reclamation Syndicate. In the late 1930s, Louis de Courcey, M.I.A.A., was appointed receiver to the Fergus Reclamation Company. He carried out grazing and tillage lettings on the reclaimed slob. During the year of the World War 2, a good deal of tillage was done but the place was chiefly notable for the remarkable crops of hay produced upon it. Mr. de Courcey continued to run tillage and grazing there.
The Land Commission finally bought the lands for £7,300. Five families were relocated from Moohana Lahinch, Inagh, Doolagh Mullagh, Lissycasey and Mount Callan and given houses and land. Sections of an average size of five acres were allotted to 80 farmers residing in adjoining districts.
Clare Champion 8 April 1950
In a book entitled ‘Some Industrial Railways of Ireland’ by Walter McGrath published privately in 1959, there is a chapter on the Fergus Reclamation Scheme and its Railways. This is reproduced in full below.