Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out



                                                                 to arrive, many by train and some by road. Early on the
                       By Molly Ewen                             Race Day we headed for the course and made for the
 IF THERE could be a documentary on television showing           Enclosure, if possible slipping past the men collecting the
Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point as it is today; and if          entrance money. There in the Enclosure was the hectic
another documentary had been made say, in 1925, or even          variety which gave the Races a carnival atmosphere: the
in 1935, and both were shown on the same occasion, I think       swing-boats, the rifle-range, the cock-shot—where you
the young, and indeed the not so young, would be staggered       pelted a kind of scarecrow and got a prize for knocking it
at the changes that have taken place since those days. At        over, and stalls where rings were thrown in an attempt to
this point I want to make it clear that when I say "Miltown" I   lassoo some desirable object which if hooked could be kept.
mean Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point, because my home           These entertainments were the primary source of interest
was in Spanish Point and I knew the whole area quite well.       for us, but as we grew older we turned our attention to the
At the time I am writing about we were children of school        horses and the Bookies and tried to earn a few bob.
age and, apart from getting some learning into our heads,        Gambling instincts will always out. And when Race Day was
what did we do, and how did we occupy our time without the       over there was the lingering tension of a day's excitement,
aid of television or cinema in those days?                       the endless recalling of happenings; memory becoming
                                                                 imagination until the next August came round.
      There were certain highlights in the year that we always
looked forward to with relish. The Races, held in August,             Race Day has long past into history but the Coursing
were always a landmark in the social calendar. No sign is left   Club still holds its annual Coursing Meeting in November.
now of the Standhouse—otherwise the Grandstand—and the           The coursing might not draw as large a crowd as the Races
Enclosure around it which was the scene of most of the day's     but nevertheless it was an important day in our calendar.
action apart from the actual running of the horses. This area    We loved the courses in which the hare reached "the
was situated on the eastern side of the main Miltown             escape", not that we quite liked seeing the hare being killed;
Malbay—Kilrush road, about a quarter mile to the Miltown         but that did not keep us from the meeting. After the day's
side of the Bealaclugga Bridge. The course began and             Coursing was over some kind official always gave my father
finished in the Enclosure and covered part of the sandhills as   a couple of hares for the table and my brother and I used to
well as the land between the sand-hills and the Miltown—         take some morbid—or anatomical—interest in watching
Spanish Point Road. Race Day was an exciting day which           them being skinned. However, this curiosity has had an
drew bigger crowds than any other event of the year. The         obviously bad effect on me because I have never cooked or
evening before the special atmosphere of the Races made          eaten rabbit or hare, and I never intend to do so.
itself felt when the horses began                                     The burning of the kelp took place around May. The
                                                                 seaweed was first gathered and dried by spreading it on the
                                                                 ground, much as hay is dried, and afterwards it was burned in
                                                                 long shallow pits dug in the ground. The burning gave rise to
                                                                 long low columns of smoke and our pastime was to run
                                                                 backwards and forwards through this; obviously we
                                                                 considered it very daring. Looking back, I think we must
                                                                 have been a great nuisance to the men working on the kelp;
                                                                 but they were very patient with us. After a period of time, in
                                                                 which the burning weed was raked and turned, the end
                                                                 product emerged. It was like large lumps of solidified ash in
                                                                 appearance. This was collected and brought to a factory
                                                                 which converted it into a source of iodine for medical
                                                                 purposes, as well as other products.
                                                                      I always think, in spite of what is sometimes said to the
                                                                 contrary, that summers were longer and better, and winters
                                                                 harder, than they are today. Hay-saving was an essential
                                                                 part of the time called summer, and while it meant long days
                                                                 of continuous hot and thirsty work for the men involved, to
                                                                 us children it was part of the magic of what childhood is all
                                                                 about. The neighbours would come and add to my father's
                                                                 work-force when his hay was being saved, and, in his turn,
                                                                 he and his men helped them.
                                                                       There was no electricity then and all lighting was by
                                                                 paraffin lamp and candles. Occasionally people had an
                                                                 Aladdin lamp which was lit by paraffin-oil under pressure.
                                                                 This gave a really bright but very cold light, much like
                                                                 liquid gas lamps do today. Coal was used in some houses,
                                                                 but turf was everyone's fuel. I remember my father com-
                                                                 plaining that coal had gone up to forty-two shillings a ton.
                                                                 In those times five shillings and six pence would have
                                                                 bought a horse-creel of turf with a bit of bog-deal thrown
                                                                 in. Bog deal was the roots of trees long cut down which
                                                                 were dug from the bogs during turf-cutting. It made great
                                                                 kindling and a lovely bright blaze. Talking about turf prices
                                                                 reminds me of some interesting price lists which I found,
                                                                 in old records of the Moroney family. In 1828 the price
                                             The Light of Other Days

of a yearling heifer was between £3/2/6 and £4/10/0 and at             Immediately on arrival in Spanish Point, Mr. Moroney
that time a builder's labourer could expect to be paid a half-     commenced the building of Miltown House, and, when it was
a-crown—2/6—a day, although the daily rates seemed to              complete, took up residence and remained there all his life.
vary a little, probably according to the nature of the work.
                                                                       Now I again quote from the diary:
There is a record of £5/6/0 being paid "to Seafield fishermen          "With the view of benefitting the place, he, Thomas
for two tons of yellow pine". I shall return to these records          Moroney, endeavoured to 'draw the gentry to this, then,
shortly and quote them in greater detail.                              deserted country and for that purpose he gave every
     I began with the sporting life by talking about the Races         encouragement to the, building of houses, etc. He also
and I shall close this sketch of life as it was in those days by       set on foot Annual Races ............................and about
referring to the Spanish Point Golf Club. As long as I can             this time built a market house in Miltown Malbay and
remember there has been a Golf Club in Spanish Point. May              established a Pound, holding fairs and weekly markets
it continue to prosper. As very young children we used to              which soon became well-frequented by buyers".
play there, but we were forbidden to use the greens by Mr.
Frank Healy who was then the Greenkeeper. What happened                  It appears that this Market House (which. I have no
when his back was turned was another matter. The Annual            doubt was the same one we know today) had a Ballroom
Club Dance was then held in the Atlantic Hotel, Spanish            overhead where Quarter Sessions were held; and there was
Point, now no longer in existence, and this was a great            built, also about that time, a Bridewell. About 1804 the now-
occasion in the locality with people arriving in evening dress,    ruined Protestant Church was built following representations
and cars coming and going, and the music going on long into        by Mr. Moroney, who then turned his attentions to doing
the night. I am pleased to be still a member of the club and       something about a postal service, succeeding in 1807 in
now free to use the Greens which are so well kept by the           having a three-days-weekly service established which in a
present Greenkeeper, Mr. Miko Liston.                              few years was to become a daily one. Somehow I can't help
                                                                   feeling that Thomas Moroney was, in himself, an extremely
                                                                   good one-man Residents' Association in the present-day
                                                                   mould, though he must have been afforded considerable
    THE DIARIES OF HENRY WESTROPPE MORONY                          local and governmental help.
     Reference to the Atlantic Hotel reminds me that it might          The next item of interest in the diary is an account of
be interesting if I were to include in this article some account   the establishment and building of the Atlantic Hotel in
of what Miltown was like in the one hundred and fifty or so        Spanish Point and it reads as follows:
years before my time. Some of my predecessors were                     "In the year 1809 and preceding years, the Continent
historically-minded enough to document fairly extensively              being closed against travellers and tourists" (due to the
the happenings that were going on around them at the time,             Napoleonic Wars—M.E.) "and money plentiful, the
and these notes and diaries have, fortunately, been                    country was found not to afford sufficient accom-
preserved in the family. They make interesting reading,                modation for the greater influx of company, and to
though it requires a good deal of time and study to relate all         remedy this, Thomas Moroney united with Henry
the different accounts to each other. I have in my possession          d'Esterre in forming the Bath Company, and, in the
one particular diary which sketches broadly the beginnings of          latter year, the building of the Atlantic Hotel and the
the rise of Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point, from being a             Tepid Baths was commenced. This building, though very
very small settlement of which we know very little, to being           extensive, was every year thronged with the finest
a small town of growing importance and a fashionable and               company. When after the General Peace of 1815, that
popular resort from which the district, as we know it today,           decline in affairs was felt which proved so fatal to many,
has developed; and, at certain points, I will quote the exact          and the nearly equally extensive and splendid
words of this diary, which was written in 1829 by H. W.                establishment of a like kind in Kilrush sank for ever, the
Moroney of Miltown House (now St. Joseph's Convent of the              Atlantic Hotel with its Baths, Billiard Tables, Livery
Sisters of Mercy).                                                     Stables etc. has kept up its head, and is at this year
     It seems that, in the year 1780, a Mr. Thomas Moroney             (1829) in the most perfect order for the reception of
who had resided until then in Limerick, decided to take up             company, and affording every satisfaction to its
residence in the area of Miltown Malbay, where he already              visitants. There was nearly £14,000 spent on its
owned land and so was familiar with the place. I now quote             erection by its company of Seven Gentlemen".
from the diary:                                                         An undated note which I found among the old papers
     "In the summer of that year he determined in coming to        gives some idea of, what went on in the Atlantic Hotel in
    Miltown with his family. So wild and so uncultivated was       those days. It says:
    the country that dykes were to be filled and ditches                "On August 25th, we read that the Tepid Baths of
    levelled to allow his carriage to be dragged rather than           Miltown were in full swing. The greatest gaiety prevails
    driven to Spanish Point".                                          this season, the Bath Rooms are open for tea and cards,
      Here I must mention that Mr. Moroney came to a house             with public breakfasts on Fridays, and a Drum on every
which had been built for two of his uncles and their two               Tuesday evening. The greatest benefit is derived by
friends by a Mr. Comyn, who was related to them all through            those personages who have used the Baths".
his wife, a Miss Moroney. This Mr. Comyn lived in Milford,               This description must sound most extraordinary to
near Miltown, and must therefore, I think, have been a             present-day readers, but times and ideas were different in
relative of Michael Coimin, the Gaelic Poet (1680-1760). The       the 1830's. I presume "a Drum" must have been a Raffle or
house in question seems to have been the one now in                Sweep in modern terms, and if people wanted to go to a
possession of the family of the late Dr. O'Keeffe of Ennis, but    public breakfast on Fridays that was their affair. I haven't
I am not positive of this, as the diary is somewhat confused       found any mention of dancing or drinking etc., but I am sure
on this point. On the other hand it may have been the house        all that went on too, and the whole effect
now occupied by Mr. James Ironside.
                                  The Light of Other Days
of the place seems to have been that of a top -class Spa,      in 1825, previous to the abolition of the Linen Board of
with warm sea-water providing the medicinal factor. I re -     Ireland, he applied for and obtained a grant for the purpose
member being told that all sorts of important and promi -      of purchasing machinery for a Flax Mill. This, presumably,
nent people used to visit the Atlantic Hote l. I cannot find   was an extension of the Flour and Grist Mill previously set
anywhere any account of how long this prosperous era of        up by him on his land at Dough, where there was a plentiful
the Hotel lasted, but a personal diary of my grandmother's     supply of water from the Annagh River. He appears also to
written daily between 1861 and 1866 does not once men -        have been influential in causing roads to be made which
tion a single word about the hotel, which strikes me as        communicated with the larger towns of Ennis, Kilrush and
most extraordinary if the place was still a going concern.     Ennistymon; and the diaries mention the planting of trees,
Its co-founder, Thomas Moroney, died in 1832 so it is          though, understandably, not many of these remain now. At
possible that his death may have brought about the dis -       this time Thomas Moroney would have been over seventy
solution of the Company. The buildings, however, remained      years of age, and there is no record of any further
for the next 80 or 90 years in the possessio n of the Mor-     enterprises. So ends the story of the Atlantic Hotel and
oney family as part of the Miltown House Estate, but I have    Miltown as it was then.
no records to show to what extent they were run as a               Finally, I would like to say that what I have written can
hotel. It is known, however, that the premises were taken      be taken to be accurate insofar as the information at my
over as a temporary W orkhouse for victims of the Great        disposal regarding the years before my birth can be taken
Famine of 1847.                                                as accurate; but I hope many people will get som e
     Thomas Moroney's grandson, who lived in Miltown           enjoyment out of reading the story.
House, married a certain lady, who, particularly after his          The following is a list of members of the Ennis Grand
death, was so anti-social to the people of Miltown and         Jury for 14th March, 1801. Under the Local Government Act
made herself so disliked by them that they found it neces -    of 1898 the Grand Juries were replaced by County and
sary to boycott her to the fullest extent, even refusing to    Urban District Councils, elected on a popular franchi se. Sir
shoe her horses, as a famous poem relates. From what I         Edward O'Brien, Baronet (Foreman); The Rt. Hon. James
have heard I gather that this treatment was well deserved      Fitzgerald,   Francis    MacNamara,     Thomas     Studdert
and o n l y to be expected. In the early 1900's the entire     (Bunratty), William C. Purdon, Francis MacNamara
Estate passed into the hands of a relative who, wishing to     (Doolin), Samuel Spaight, Laurence Comyn, Edmond Brown
reside elsewhere, sold it to a Mr. Reed from whom it           (Newgrove), George Studdert (Kilkishen), Bo yle Vandeleur
passed to Dr. Dan MacClancy and afterwards to Mr. Des          (Rathlahine), Joseph Peacocke, H. Gonne Moloney, James
Hillery. Practically nothing now remains of the Hotel          Creagh, Henry Brady (Raheen), Geo. W illiam Stackpoole,
buildings, and the land is now in the possession of several    John O'Callaghan (Maryfort), Charles Mahon, Thomas
different owners.                                              Moroney (Miltown Malbay), W illiam Dawson, Poole
   To go back to the original Moroney of Miltown House,        Westroppe,     George    Studdert   (Clonderlaw),   Charles

                         Atlantic Hotel, Spanish Point, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare.


To top