My next novel, ‘Irish Inheritance’, (to be published shortly) is set mainly in Ireland, as its title suggests, so for the next few weeks, I’ll introduce you to some of the places that feature in the novel.
To start with: Clifden
Clifden is a small town on the coast of County Galway in the west of Ireland. The Irish name, An Clochán, means "stepping stones”, and it’s sometimes called the "the Capital of Connemara", which I’ll tell you more about in a later post. Clifden is situated on the Owenglen River where it flows into Clifden Bay and is a popular tourist destination for those touring Connemara.
The town was founded in the 19th century by John D’Arcy, who lived in Clifden Castle (now a ruin). Until then the area was inhabited mainly by farmers and fishermen. D’Arcy organised the construction of a quay, and also a road to Galway City, and the town began to grow. By 1839, when D’Arcy died, it had become a town of 185 dwellings, two churches, two hotels, three schools, a courthouse and jail, a distillery – and 23 pubs!
Its prosperity ended when the Great Famine started in 1845. By 1848, nearly all the population was on government relief, landlords went bankrupt, and many people emigrated to America. It was another fifty years before Clifden started to grow again, when a railway was built in 1895.
Now it has become a popular tourist destination, offering spectacular scenery on its doorstep, a wide variety of outdoor activities, and 5000 years of history. It is also claiming the title of ‘Gourmet Capital of the West’, with fine-dining restaurants and hotels, and of course many pubs, ranging from traditional to trendy.
Two events brought Clifden into the world spotlights in the early 19th century. In 1909 Marconi set up the first transatlantic wireless telegraphy station about four miles south of the town and eventually over 400 people were employed there.
|The Alcock and Brown Memorial, near Clifden|
In 1919, Derrygimla Bog, near to the wireless station, saw the end of the very first transatlantic flight when Alcock and Brown landed their Vickers Vimy airplane there after their 16 hours flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland. They thought they were landing on a green field, but this turned out to be a bog, and their plane nosedived into the marshy ground. Fortunately neither man was injured.