Ennis is the county town of County Clare. Standing on the River Fergus, just north of where it flows into the Shannon Estuary, Ennis lies north-west of Limerick and south of Galway. The town is also 12 miles from Shannon and Shannon Airport.
The name 'Ennis' is a shortening of the original Inis Cluain Ramh Fhada meaning "island of the long rowing meadow". It is now a gateway to the west of Clare by way of the N85 Western relief road for people travelling from the Limerick and eastern Clare regions.
The name Ennis comes from the Irish word "Inis", meaning "island", which here relates to an island formed between two courses of the River Fergus on which the Franciscan Abbey was built. The past of Ennis is greatly associated with the O'Brien family, who were descendants of Brian Boru. During the 12th century the O'Briens who were Kings of Thomond, left their seat of power in Limerick and built a royal residence at Clonroad on the then island. During 1240 King Donnchadh O'Brien ordered the construction of an extensive church grounds which he later donated to recently formatted followers of St Francis. The centuries which followed bore great activity. The Friars keep was expanded and students came in great flocks to study at the theological college. The Friars, who were free to move about, met the spiritual needs of the local population. It was a religious centre until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Because it never had town walls it became a location for many Roman Catholic merchants from Limerick when papists were forbidden to reside in the walled towns by the Penal Laws, and much of its past prosperity is attributable to this influx.
The town contains several old British military barracks, which were built over the centuries. The Clare Road and Clonroad areas contain terraced cottages, built in the early 20th century to house soldiers. On Station Road, once stood a prison.
The River Fergus runs through the middle of Ennis, and is a well-known trout and salmon fishery. At one time small sailing boats made their way up river from the Shannon and berthed in the centre of the town at Woodquay.
This area of the Town along with Parnell Street and Mill Road was routinely susceptible to flooding, but the flood defence system put an end to the event in Parnell Street and the Mill Road areas, although in November 2009 other parts of the town experienced severe flooding. A new pedestrian bridge named "Harmony Row Bridge" was built over the river Fergus in June 2009.
Heritage and economy
Clare became a county under rule of Elizabeth I and Ennis was chosen as its capital because of its central location and because of its great influence by the Earls of Thomond. Ennis got a grant to hold fairs and markets in 1610 and some years later a charter of incorporation, establishing a borough with a Provost, Free Burgesses, Commonalty and a Town Clerk.
Ennis continued to expand in the following centuries in a slow but steady fashion, mainly as a market town and later as a manufacturing and distributing centre. Many commodities were then conveyed by river to Clarecastle for shipment abroad.
Ennis is a historically important market town. The market square today is still home to market stalls on each Saturday through the year and with the rise in the town's commercial retail sector in recent years, the market has shifted its traditional trading from agricultural produce to mainly textiles and home hardware. The market has added a vibrant organic farming element over the previous years.
The Town Centre consists of mediæval narrow streets and laneways, which are overshadowed by simple elegant structures built over the last 1000 years . Of the main thoroughfares, Parnell Street has been pedestrianised, while the others, O'Connell Street, Bindon Street and Abbey Street are one way. The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is on the fringe of the old town centre.
Ennis serves as a major regional hub for County Clare. Among its emergency services, it contains the Ennis Regional Hospital, the HQ of the Clare Divisional Garda, the Clare Fire Brigade and Civil Defence. Ennis also includes many relief organisations, such as The Samaratans, Clare Care and St Vincent De Paul. Among its civil services, it contains Clare County Council, Ennis Town Council, Clare Revenue Commissionairs, as well as Social and Family affairs.
Ennis has been a centre for Irish Traditional Music, and since 1974 has hosted the Fleadh Nua in late May each year, the second largest traditional music festival in Ireland. There are other traditional festivals held in the town as well such as the Ennis Trad Festival held annually in November. Many musicians in residence and regularly playing locally.
The Ennis Book Club Festival, in association with Clare County Library, runs annually on the first weekend in March. It attracts readers and authors from all over Ireland and beyond. Glór Theatre is a concert and events venue and is located in the town centre.
Sports and leisure
Cusack Park is the main county Gaelic Athletic Association playing grounds is situated in the town centre on Francis Street.
Ennis has numerous Football Clubs (Soccer, GAA & Rugby) that play in various Leagues from Schoolboys to Senior, and sports facitities including the Lees Road Sports and Amenity Park.
The Fair Green which has a Children's Playground and numerous football pitches.
- Ennis is referred to in James Joyce's Ulysses
- Ennis is mentioned in the songs "Isobel" by the singer Dido, and "At The Ceili" by Celtic Woman
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