Kilmore Co. Wexford and the Saltee Islands

Details of Kilmore and The Saltee Islands from 2nd Ed. Topographical Directory of Ireland by Samuel Lewis, 2nd Ed., printed 1849.

KILMORE, a parish, in the barony of Bargey union in the county of Wexford, and province of LEINSTER, 9 ½ miles (1) (S. S. W.) from Wexford ; containing 1865 inhabitants. This place is situated on the eastern shore of the Lough formed by the barrow of Ballyteigue, a long a narrow sandbank extending from Ballyteigue for nearly four Irish miles, to the entrance of the lake : the burrow abounds with rabbits, and the lake with a variety of wild fowl. The parish comprises 4233 ¾ statute acres, in partly good grazing-land, but principally under tillage; the soil is fertile, and the system of agriculture has been much improved; with the exception of the burrow, there is neither bog nor waste. Limestone exists on the lands of Ballycross, but has not yet been quarried; an abundance of sea-manure, or tagweed is procured at spring tides and after storms, affording an excellent dressing for the land. Good building stone is found on the townland of Sarcilla. The seats are Ballycros, Ballyharty, Ballyseskin, and Ballyteigue.


Extract from c1838 Map, showing Kilmore area and Saltee Islands (Kilmore Quay is located at Crossfarnogue)

At Crossfarnogue Point is a small pier

(2), where coal is occasionally landed; and more than 100 boats averaging four men each, all of which rendezvous here, are engaged in the herring, lobster, and cod fisheries off this coast. The construction of a good pier at this point, which might be accomplished at an expense of about £1500, would afford suitable protection to the numerous fishing-vessels frequenting the place, and enable the fishermen to render more effectual assistance to vessels in distress. The steam-boat Water Witch was wrecked at this place in 1838, and several lives were lost. The present pier is small and of very rude construction, having been built by the fisherman themselves, about 35 years since. The tide at the point rises from 11 to 12 feet at high water of spring, and six feet at neap, tides. A coast-guard station, one of the six forming the district of Wexford, has been established at the point.

The parish is in the diocese of Ferns; the rectory is impropriate in John Rowe, Esq., of Ballycross, and the vicarage forms part of the union of Tomhaggard. The tithe rent-charge is £339. 17., of which £253. 1. are payable to the impropriator, and the remainder to the vicar. In the Roman Catholic divisions the parish is the head of a district, comprising also the parishes of Mulrankin, Tomhaggard, and Kilturk, in each of which, except the last, there is a chapel; that of Kilmore is a spacious building erected in 1803, adjoining which a house for the priest has been lately built. Near Crossfarnogue Point, where was formerly a telegraph, are the remains of Ballyteigue Castle, once belonging to the Whitty family, and now incorporated with the mansion of Ballyteigue.

SALTEE ISLANDS, in the barony of BARGY, union and county of WEXEFORD, and province of LEINSTER. These islands, consisting of the Great and Little Saltee, are situated in St. George’s Channel, off the coast of the parish of Kilmore, in lat. 52° 8′ 30” (N.), and lon. 6° 41′ (W.) they are extra-parochial, and comprise 309 statute acres. The Great Saltee is four miles from the shore at the village of Crossfarnogue, and three leagues (3) (S.) from the Black Rock; it is of an elliptical form, about one mile in length and half a mile broad ; one-third is under tillage, and the remainder in pasture ; and from the abundance of sea-weed found on its shores, the isle is rendered peculiarly fertile. It is the property of H. K. G. Morgan, Esq., of Johnstown Castle, from whom it is rented by a farmer.


View of the Saltee Islands from Kilmore Quay

The island is amply supplied with water from several springs, and is frequented by a great variety of wild-fowl that breed here during the summer months; it is consequently much visited by shooting-parties. A detachment of two men from the coast-guard station at Crossfarnogue is stationed here. The vestiges of numerous houses indicate that the island was formerly thickly inhabited ; on the eastern extremity, still called the Abbey Point, are the ruins of a building supposed to have been a religious house. Stafford, the governor of Wexford, who is said to have betrayed that town to Cromwell, retreated hither, and built a cottage which still bears his name. Bagnal Harvey, commander-in-chief, and Colclough, a general of the insurgent forces during the disturbances of 1798, who had taken refuge here after their defeat, were discovered in a cave and made prisoners.

The Little Saltee Island is about 2 ½ miles from the shore, with which it is connected by a narrow ridge of shingle, called St. Patrick’s Bridge, about two-thirds of which are dry at low water; it is inhabited by a family consisting of three persons. The channel between the two islands is from four to five fathoms (4) deep. Off the north-west point of the Great Saltee, a vessel may anchor in five or six fathoms.

The Coningmore rock, always above water, lies a mile and a half (S. by W.) from its south-west point; and about a mile (S.W. by W.) from it is the Coningbeg rock, which appears at half ebb. Outside of these rocks is placed a light-ship having two lanterns, at an elevation of 25 feet above the sea at high water mark, displaying a bright light visible at the distance of nine nautical miles in clear weather.

On part of the ridge called St. Patrick’s Bridge, are from seven to ten feet at low water; on the west side of it is situated the small fishing harbour of Crossfarnogue. From these islands to Hook Tower, a distance of five leagues (3), the intermediate space is a large bay with a continual in-draught and heavy sea setting in towards the shore, and dangerous from rocks and shallows, known only to persons well acquainted with the coast.

Numerous vessels have been wrecked here : should a vessel get too far into the bay, it is impossible to beat out, and there is no place of refuge except Fethard, which, though it has a small pier, can afford little shelter, from the shallowness of its water and its exposed situation.

1 – Distances and areas are given in Lewis are Irish measures, i.e. Irish Miles, and Irish Plantation acres, which are larger than English or Imperial measure. One old Irish Mile is about 2 km, vs about 1.6 km for English statute miles, and an Irish acre about 1.6 statute acres.

2 – Now Kilmore Quay

3 – A league at sea is 3 Nautical miles or about 5 ½ kilometers (a separate unit measure to the league on land). The distance to the Hook from the Saltee Islands is actually about 21 km and slightly less than the distance mentioned above.

4 – Fathom is 6 feet or just under 2 metres

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