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Ireland Gazeteer

Ballyshannon in 1835

BALLYSHANNON, a town in the county of Donegal, in Ireland, on the north side of the river Erne, over which there is a handsome stone bridge of fourteen arches, connecting Ballyshannon with that part of it called the Purt.

It is the principal town in the county, and had the right, before the Union, of returning two members to the Irish parliament.

It was made a corporation in 1611, and possessed various peculiar privileges.

It has been gradually rising in importance since the beginning of the present century, and would, from the advantages of its situation, and other causes, have done so more rapidly, but for the badness of its harbour. When the wind blows off Teeling Head, which it does a considerable part of the year, it is highly dangerous for vessels to attempt to enter the harbour. The danger chiefly arises from two banks, which are called the Summer and Winter Bars.

A little below the bridge is a beautiful and most picturesque cascade. The fall is down a ridge of rocks, twelve feet high at low water. This is considered one of the principal salmon leaps in Ireland. The great quantity of water adds much to the effect of the fall.

Below the cascade the river is navigable at the flow of the tide by vessels of forty or fifty tons burthen. The number of salmon taken at the fall is so great, that the fishery brings in £1,000 a year. The salmon are exported by the person who rents the fishery to the London and Liverpool markets. There is also an eel fishery at the same place, which lets at from £350 to £400 a year.

There are several good houses in the town, and two comfortable inns.

The parish church, a handsome edifice, which is on the summit of the hill on which the town is built, was erected in 1720.

The market-house is situated in the centre of the town, and above it is the assembly-room, in which the petty sessions are held. Ballyshannon is a military station.

There is an extensive distillery in the place: and several other branches of industry, which were not formerly attempted in it, have of late years been engaged in, and, on the whole, with fair success.

There is a school in the town which is partly supported by Colonel Robinson’s fund. In the Purt there is another, which belongs to the Hibernian Society. There is, besides, a private classical school, a Roman Catholic chapel, and a Presbyterian meeting-house.

About a mile from the town are the ruins of the ancient abbey of Asheroe, which stand on a very curious rock of secondary limestone. The antiquity of the abbey is not known.

The town has four annual fairs which are held on the 4th of April, the Tuesday before the 11th of June, 18th September, and the Tuesday after the 11th November.

The distance from Dublin is 108 miles N.W. in a straight line. By the road the distance is 127 miles.

In 1821 the population was 2,482; in 1831, 3,775.