William R. Wilde's Loch Coirib - Its Shores and Islands

Chapter 2: Description of Loch Coirib

Geography of Loch Coirib

Chapter 2: Description of Loch Coirib

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Loch Corrib, which is the second largest sheet of inland frest water in Ireland, is about thirty-five miles in length from Galway to Mám and varies in breadth from eight miles, as between Oughterard and Cong, to one quater of a mile, as from the Wood of Dún to Corrán Point, where it narrows between the Joyce Country and the Iar-Chonnacht hills. Its general direction is from west-north-west, in a curvature, to south-south-east. In depth it varies considerable. It is in many parts full of rocky shoals, dry in summer; and, even in the navigation course, having but six or seven feet of water in some places. In other parts it descends to one hundred and fifty-two feet, as between the island of Inis mhic a' trír and Cong, and between Dubhros Island and Fornocht Point, which portions are styled by the fishermen "The Old Loch." The accompanying map, to a scale of half an inch to the statute mile, taken from the Admiralty Chart made in 1846, and the Ordnance Survey Maps, shows the principal islands, the navigation course, the rivers, and the chief objects of interest along its shores.

Map of Lough Corrib

At the commencement of its tortuous course among the mountains, Loch Coirib has the county of Galway on both sides, along the baronies of Ross and Moycullen. At the north-east, it divides the counties of Mayo and Galway, along the south margin of the barony of Kilmaine in the former, from the river of Cong to the Black-river of Shrule, about a mile to the north of the ruins of Eanach Caoin Castle, on the east shore. From thence southwards, during the remainder of its course, it has the county of Galway on both sides -- the barony of Clare on the east, and that of Moycullen on the west; but the river between the south end of the lake and the sea passes through the Barony of Galway.

The old Irish name of this sheet of water was Loch Oirbsein or Orib, now corrupted into Coirib, and derived from the ancient Danann navigator, Orbsen Mac Alloid, commonly called Manannán Mac Lir, "The Son of the Sea," from whom the Isle of Man is designated. He was slain in conflict by Uillin, grandson of Nuadu of the Silver Hand, King of Tuatha Dé Danann, in a battle on the western margin of the lake; and from that circumstance this district is called Magh-Uillin, the plain or field of Uillin or Magh Cuilinn [Moycullen], and O'Flaherty says that in his day a great stone thereon, six miles from Galway, marked the scene; it still exists.

The ancient territories along it were Iar-Chonnacht, comprising Gnó Mor and Gnó Beag -- with Conmaicne-Mara, now Conamara, on the west, and Uí Briúin Seóla on the east border, and towards the north-west Dútha Seóigheach, the Joyce Country, between it and Lough Mask; and more to the north-east, Conmaicne Cúile Tola, the barony of Kilmaine, where the first great battle of Moytura was fought.

Loch Coirib covers a space of forty-four thousand acres and its watershed in the counties of Mayo and Galway comprises an area of seven hundred and eighty thousand acres. The summer level of the lake is fourteen feet above the medium data of the sea in Galway Bay, and thirty seven feet below the surface of Lough Mask. This sheet of water formerly extended over a much larger space; but by the drainage operations carried on from 1846 to 1850 it was lowered, much valuable land relieved from flooding, and large tracts rendered capable of cultivation; and I myself remember passing in a boat over places now in good pasturage, and fishing in places at present occupied by flourishing plantations. Its chief western supply is from the great catchment basin of the Valley of Mám [geog1], stretching westwards towards the salt water fiord of the Killeries, and affording the vast supply of water from the sea clouds caught on the Joyce Country and Conamara Mountains, and pouring it down through the River Béalánabreac, 'the mouth of the ford of the trout ' -- (the largest stream in Ireland for its length and its tributary the Faill Mór, into the lake at Bun Bonáin, near Mám, where they coalesce.

Next: Sources, Rivers and Turlochs

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