[Summary: A town "with the air of business and an appearance of prosperous industry which I had not observed since I left Cork" and the "centre of the inland trade and commerce of Ireland" is how two English travellers described Ballinasloe in the early 1840s.]
The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland
illustrated from drawings by W. H. Bartlett;
the literary portion of the work by N. P. Willis and J. Stirling Coyne.
London: George Virtue, .
The country to the eastward of Loughrea assumes a more cheerful appearance than that which lies between it and Galway. Good farms, respectable cultivation, and marks of the distribution of property, begin to exhibit themselves on every side; but still there is a want of wood, which gives a tameness to what would be otherwise a very pleasing prospect. The high-road passes through the little village of Aughrim, within three miles of Ballinasloe, rendered remarkable from the battle which was fought by the armies of James and William on the neighbouring heights of Kilcommadan, in 1691, when the forces of the former were totally defeated, and General St. Ruth, the commander of James's army, was killed by a cannon-shot. The ball by which the gallant St. Ruth received his death is still preserved in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. It is attached to a few links of iron chain, and is suspended in the nave of the cathedral, near the communion-table.
Ballinasloe is a neat and thriving town, watered by the river Suck, one of the tributaries of that monarch of Irish rivers--the Shannon, which it joins about six miles eastward of this place. The plantations of the Earl of Clancarty, adjoining the town, have been laid out with great taste, but the general appearance of the country is bald and uninteresting; the great extent of bog and lowlands which lie on the Galway side of the town, and in the direction of the Shannon, being altogether opposed to the picturesque in landscape scenery. The trade, however, of this town is considerable; in the streets and shops I was struck with the air of business and an appearance of prosperous industry which I had not observed since I left Cork. The extension of the Grand Canal to Ballinasloe has considerably increased its intercourse with the fertile counties through which the Shannon flows, and it may be now considered as the centre of the inland trade and commerce of Ireland.
The road from Ballinasloe to Athlone runs parallel to, but at four miles distance from, the banks of the Shannon, which are here flat and boggy. In the winter season, or after heavy rains, these lowlands are overflowed by the river, and present a most dreary and unpicturesque appearance.