Traces of Oughterard's Past

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy


Oughterard was originally a garrison town; the British Army built a barracks here about 1755/56 in the semi- circle in Lower Camp Street, now called Owenriff Park, but the original name was the Ordinance Ground. The O’Flahertys originally had a castle in the “Castle Garden” area of Owenriff Park, just beyond the footpath leading to the pedestrian river crossing; the British used the stones from this castle to build their army barracks. The entrance to the barracks was a big old-style archway. The wall on the left extended to the river and over to the right, where part of it was three storeys high and was also used as a handball alley. My family would have played handball there. The part of the wall that is still there has the gun slits still visible. There were up to 150 troops, NCOs and officers there at any given time. The barracks was burned down in the Civil War in July 1922 by the Republican side. There was a camp there too, hence maybe the name Camp Street.

The British had a racecourse and a 9 hole golf course in Waterfield and they changed the golf course to Roscahill later. The British also had a small hospital in Portacarron. The stones from the barracks were used for the present Clifden Road which was constructed in the 1920’s, my father was drawing them with his horse and cart. The town was said to be founded by Black George O’Flaherty, he certainly formalised it anyway. The late Larry O’Connor, father of the late Johnny and Tommy O’Connor, bought the barracks land from the British and also the old RIC barracks on Camp Street, where he started his butcher’s shop and which is currently owned by the McGeough family.

Our Patron saint, Saint Cummin, came here in the 12th Century and built a small chapel in the local cemetery where part of it remains today. The oldest legible headstone in the cemetery dates back to 1747. There was a trace of human habitation found in the Lemonfield area on the shores of Lough Corrib dating back 7,000 years. Some flint tools made in that era were found there.

The most famous connection to Oughterard is the Pearl Mussel, as Owenriff pearls are embossed in the Crown Jewels of the British Monarchy. Bill Daly adds that the original O’Flaherty castle in what is now Owenriff Park was called “Nowghe” in 1586, and “Fough Castle” more recently. This castle stood on a natural bridge.

Photos are on the scanned document
(Thank you to Bill Daly for providing the images)

Top Image: Kilcummin Medieval Church from the 12th century

Middle Image: The Owen River enters Lough Con where settlement began over 7,000 years ago

Botton Image: A Famine Bridge off the Soanaphe Road built during Fame Relef Works in 1852

Bottom Right Image: Empty pearl mussel shell from last November between the hatchery and the bridge, while looking for archeological evidence after a storm.

This page was added on 24/08/2022.

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