Innismurray, Sligo

Historical Description

INNISMURRAY, an island, in the parish of AHAMPLISH, barony of LOWER-CARBERY, county of SLIGO, and province of CONNAUGHT, 15 miles (N.) from Sligo; containing 87 inhabitants. This island is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about five, miles off the western coast, and 2 leagues (N. N. E.) from Ballyconnell point. A religious establishment was founded on it by St. Columb, in conjunction with St. Molasse, to whom he relinquished the whole government, and who consequently became the patron saint of the island. This little monastery, which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and of which St. Dicholla, who died in 747, was abbot, was destroyed by the Danes in 804, In 1666, the island, with all its appurtenances, was granted by Chas. II. to the Earl of Stratford and Thomas Radcliffe, Esq., and is now the property of Viscount Palmerston. It consists of a vast rock rising precipitously towards the ocean and shelving gradually towards the mainland, and comprises about 126 acres of profitable land, chiefly affording pasturage to a few horses, cows, and sheep, with a large tract of turbary, which, though shallow, supplies a good hard turf impregnated with a large portion of bituminous matter. The soil of that portion which is under tillage is light, and though every means have been used to enrich the land with sea manure, the results in general are unfavourable. The inhabitants, consisting of about 18 families, and occupying about the same number of dwellings, form a community, generally intermarrying with each other, and speaking their original language. They are chiefly employed in fishing, and during the winter, when the island is inaccessible, in making whiskey. The sea affords abundance of fish, including bream, pollock, mackerel, lobsters, crabs, and other shell fish, which form their chief subsistence and are their articles of trade with the mainland. There is an abundant supply of fresh water; and on the north side of the island is a quarry of good granite. There are some remains of the old religious buildings, which were of the rudest construction. In one, resembling a fort and built of rude stones, is a figure of St. Molasse, carved in oak, about three feet high: the east end of this chapel, which is not more than 7 feet long and 4 feet wide, is covered with very fine flags, and the whole surrounded with a wall enclosing about half an acre. There are several compartments excavated in the rock, which appear to have been cells for solitary prayer; one of these is covered with a flag of the size and form of a mill-stone; and near it is a large flag stone, supported on 8 upright stones about two feet high, on which are placed about 40 or 50 stories called by the people Clougha bracka, or "the cursing stones," from a belief that by turning them, and at the same time invoking imprecations against those by whom they suspect to have been injured, a curse will fall upon that person if guilty, but if innocent, on themselves. Of another stone it is said, that if the fire of the island be by neglect or accident extinguished, if fuel be laid on it, it will immediately be ignited. The cemeteries connected with the monastic ruins are appropriated to males and females respectively. On the east, west, and north points of the island are three buildings, supposed to have been the cells of anchorites; and there is also a subterraneous cavern. About one mile to the north of the island is a rock, called Bomore, rising from a depth of 80 fathoms, the top of which at high water forms an area about 5 yards square, round which abundance of fish is caught, and a submarine vegetable found in large quantities. The passage between the mainland and the island, called Innismurray sound, is very dangerous to vessels making the passage to windward, with the wind from the west; for there are reefs extending from the mainland to the southward, where even in moderate weather is a heavy short sea. Two miles north of the island is the Boahinsky rock, always above water, at about a cable's length from the east side of which is a rocky ledge, and about a quarter of a mile to the west a dry rock. A school is supported by Owen Wynne, Esq., lessee of the estate, who allows the master £10 per annum.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840