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Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland - the River Suck in 1846

 Transcribed and submitted by Damian Mac Con Uladh


a river of the province of Connaught. It belongs slightly to the county of Mayo, but chiefly to the counties of Roscommon and Galway. It rises in several head-streams, among; hilly grounds, in the Mayo barony of Costello, and the Roscommon baronies of Frenchpark and Castlerea; yet it is popularly regarded as issuing from Lough O’Flyn, situated several miles south-east and southwest of the sources of these streams, and lying on the western border of the barony of Castlerea. The river flows 4½ miles eastward from Lough O'Flyn to the town of Castlerea, and south-south-eastward from the town of Castlerea to the boundary between the counties of Roscommon and Galway; and thenceforth, excepting over a detour of 5½ miles into the county of Roscommon in the vicinity of Athleague, it flows uniformly upon that boundary, south-south-eastward to Ballinasloe, and south-eastward from Ballinasloe to the Shannon, at a point ½ a mile below Shannon-Bridge. Its length of run, from the point of its first contact with the county boundaries down to its confluence with the Shannon, is 22½ miles measured in straight lines, but at least double that distance measured along the sinuosities of its channel. Some of the river’s windings, particularly one near Castle-Strange, and another round the lands of Curraghmore, are very sweeping and not a little curious. Though the transverse distance between two certain points near Castle-Strange is only 132 perches, the distance along the course of the stream is no less than 936 perches, or upwards of sevenfold; and the sweep round Curraghmore is so great that, but for the antagonist and stronger interests of a mill at Athleague, a new channel would have been cut to direct the waters away from the enormous sinuosity. The surface elevation of the Suck above sea-level is 255 feet at its debouch from Lough O’Flyn, and 115 feet at its embouch into the Shannon; so that the total fall of the river is 140 feet. Mr. Weld, however, represents the elevation above sea-level at the embouch into the Shannon at 104 feet, and the elevation at the town of Castlerea at 198 feet; and he computes as follows the distances and tails of the successive reaches of the river;—from Castlerea to the influx of the Ballyhaigue river, a distance of 7 miles, and a fall of 22 feet; from the influx of the Ballyhaigue river to Donamon. a distance of 7 miles, and a fall of 6 feet; from Donamon to Castle-Coote, a distance of 2 miles, and a fall of 5 feet; from Castle-Coote to Castle-Strange, a distance of 2 miles, and a fall of 10 feet; from Castle-Strange to Athleague, a distance of 1¼ mile, and a fall of 1 foot; from Athleague to Mount-Talbot, a distance of 7 miles, and a fall of 19 feet; from Mount-Talbot to the influx of the rivulet Shivon, a distance 2½ miles, and a fall of 5 feet; from the influx of the Shivon to Ballyforan, a distance of 2 miles, and a fall of 4 feet, from Ballyforan to Ballinasloe, a distance of 10½ miles, and a fall of 17 feet; and from Ballinasloe to the Shannon, a distance of 8½ miles, and a fall of 5 feet.

The principal affluents of the Suck are the Ballyglass rivulet and 5 or 6 other tiny streams from the east, and the Ballyhaigue, the Shivon, the Ahascragh, and various smaller streams from the west. Floods of great extent occur upon several of the reaches of the river, occasioned partly by artificial obstructions and partly by natural sluggishness, and producing a great aggregate of mischief upon meadows and other low lands. The bridges across the river occur at Castlerea, Wellsborough, Ballymoe, Donamon, Castle-Coote, Castle-Strange, Athleague, Rockwood, Mount-Talbot, Ballyforan, Ballygill, and Ballinasloe.

"The Suck," observes Mr. Weld, "has been described as nearly analogous, in its character, to the Shannon; that is, the beds of each river are traversed by ledges, composed sometimes of limestone, but more commonly of compact limestone gravel, which damming up the waters, divide the rivers into long reaches, in many instances nearly on a dead level. But although the Suck expands in several places, more particularly in the broad valleys where the bottoms are boggy and marshy, yet it has no lakes like the Shannon. Over the shallows formed by these bars, and at the falls usually found below them, the waters run with considerable velocity, and in periods of floods with impetuosity; but in many of the reaches, for several miles together, the current is deep and smooth, in some few places almost, imperceptible; in others rolling in circling eddies amongst the islands with which the river Suck abounds. The scenery amongst these islands, tufted with thickets and bordered with reeds and sedge, is occasionally pleasing, and it is still more so where the river winds, as it does in several parts of its course, under high banks covered with dense woods, or at the base of gently swelling grounds clothed with rich verdure, and enlivened by herds of cattle. But where the river pursues its way through the bogs and marshes, nothing can well be imagined more ugly or dreary. Near its junction with the Shannon there are bogs of more than a mile in breadth, extending for a considerable distance along the margin of the river. The most interesting part of the Suck, as it appeared to me, are about Mount-Talbot, Rockwood, Castle-Strange, Curraghmore, where the banks, occasionally high, are diversified by considerable reaches of woods and plantations; the river also makes some very beautiful bends. Immediately above the bridge at Ballinasloe, the scenery is also pleasing, the stream gliding amongst tufted islands, with a brisk current, and keeping the gay painted little boats, riding at anchor before the town, in constant movement, swinging from side to side. About Donamon, the breadth of the valley is considerable, and the bottoms being overspread with marsh and bog, the Suck is nearly lost to view, from the Roscommon side, or is only distinguishable where it dilates into pools, for lakes they do not deserve to be called. Donamon-castle, which stands on the Galway side, appears surrounded with woods, but, the valley beneath is a dreary scene." —The Suck as, at its mouth, the appearance of a very fine navigable river; yet except for row-boats and for flat-bottomed boats of light burden, it is not navigable even to Ballinasloe. A favourite project was long entertained of opening a navigation upon it to Ballinasloe, and it occasioned the making of various surveys at different periods commencing in 1802; but it was, at length, practically terminated by the questionable measure of cutting a canal to Ballinasloe, in extension to the Grand Canal. "If," says Mr. C. W. Williams, the active and enlightened promoter of steam navigation, "the £40,000 granted for the Ballinasloe Canal had been accompanied by an obligation to pay interest, it would not have been asked for probably. The Company might have expended the money so as to produce more immediate profit. The Suck, for example, it is said, might have been made navigable to Ballinasloe for half the sum." "This river from its junction with the Shannon to Ballyforan Bridge," says Mr. Thomas Rhodes, "is for the principal part so fine a river, and of such noble dimensions, and so capable of being made navigable at all seasons, that it would seem almost a perversion of reason to think of making canals in the line of its vicinity, when facilities offer themselves, as they do, of a much less expensive nature and superior description for internal traffic by the river."

[Source: Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, adapted to the new Poor Law, Franchise, Municipal and Ecclesiastical Arrangements, and compiled with a special reference to the lines of Railroad and Canal Communication, as existing in 1844-45, illustrated by a series of maps, and other plates; and presenting the results, in detail, of the census of 1841, compared with that of 1831, Vol. III, Dublin, London, and Edinburgh (A. Fullarton & Co.), 1846, p. 291f.]


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