This painting took several months to complete as I tried to paint it as accurately as possible, using a magnifying glass for certain areas.
Kilrush is a lovely town, a few miles from where I live – friendly people, home of Mrs Crotty’s (pub well known for Irish traditional music) and the Vandeleur Gardens. (Vandeleur was the infamous landlord who evicted Irish tenants… see history below)
Left: part of the painting - little miniature cars in front of Merchant's Quay.
CILL ROIS, meaning the church of the promontory or woods has existed since the 16th century but it was not until the 18th century that it underwent major development. This development coincided with the succession of John Ormsby Vandeleur as the wealthiest landlord in the district. Of Dutch origin, the Vandeleur Family was the most prominent landlord family in West Clare. They designed the layout of the town and many of the present day street names derive from Vandeleur family names.
John Ormsby Vandeleur built the large family home, Kilrush House in 1808 and by that stage he practically owned Kilrush. With wealth achieved from a financially beneficial marriage and some political skulduggery, he decided to develop the town. A Scots businessman James Patterson, who had been a gunboat lieutenant until 1802, assisted him in this project. Patterson entered the oats trade in West Clare and in 1802 he got a site on the square from Vandeleur and erected a six-storey building.
However the famine years (1845-1849) brought much hardship to Kilrush. Famine, evictions, fever and cholera reduced the population of south-west Clare to such an extent that it never attained its pre famine numbers. In the post famine era, the Vandeleur name became synonymous with the worst of landlord evictions, with over 20,000 evicted in the Kilrush Union. The Kilrush workhouse witnessed terrible deprivation and deaths. By that stage Hector Vandeleur had succeeded John Ormsby Vandeleur.
Kilrush however survived these setbacks and with the arrival of the West Clare railway towards the end of the 19th century, developed into a bustling market town, the spirit of which lasts today. The designation of Kilrush as a Heritage Town recognises its legacy as a landlord estate town with a rich maritime and market tradition.