Ireland – Ennis – Clare Museum

The impressive Clare Museum in Ennis, located in the former Sisters of Mercy convent. I was ultimately quite impressed by this free museum, although disappointed that nothing of the original building appears to have survived internally and there was little information inside the museum about the former convent either.

This is a human pelvis which has an embedded tip from a projectile. Since there is no evidence of healing around the bone, that means that the injury must have caused the death of the individual.

Not a very good photo, but this well was used by the Sisters of Mercy and it was only discovered when the building was being converted into a museum. I hope that it was discovered in a way which didn’t involve someone falling into it.

The panel says that this is a carved panel from a Spanish Armada ship, dating to 1588, but it appears to be in exceptionally good condition for that age.

A large piece of bog butter, which is butter which was buried to try and stop it from going off. Apparently this was a practice which took place in Ireland and the UK, although the last time I saw something like this was in Dublin, so perhaps it was more common in Ireland. There are marks on the exterior which suggests that it was stored in a wickerwork container and it was found at the appropriately named Boghill.

This stone animal head dates to around the twelfth century and comes from St. Brigid’s Church.

This is a Sheela-na-gig and there was an interesting article on BBC News last week about these and it’s something that I’d never previously heard of. This one was found near Ballyportry Castle and dates to the late fifteenth century.

The Bell of the Burren, a thirteenth century bell from the Cistercian Abbey of Corcomroe, which was in use until 1860.

A little bit of political history, this is a letter written in 1828 by Daniel O’Connell to Andrew Stackpoole. O’Connell was asking for Stackpoole’s support in the by-election in the Parliamentary constituency of Clare, which was a contest that he was to win.

And some more political history, which is always a delight. This is the registration form from the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis which was filled in by Constance Markievicz. Markievicz was the first female MP when she was elected to the House of Commons in 1918, but as a Sinn Fein representative she decided not to take her seat. She marked her occupation on this registration form as “a rebel”. I can imagine that she was quite a forthright politician….

I like political history, but railway history also intrigues me, and this is a ceremonial spade and barrow made of Irish oak and silver. It was used by Charles Stewart Parnell in January 1885 to cut the first sod of turf for the West Clare Railway. The railway was in operation between 1887 and 1961, when unfortunately it was closed down. Some of the line has since been re-opened to be used as a heritage rail service.

I don’t pay any attention to football today, but I do remember hearing the score of the 1986 FA Cup final between Everton and Liverpool. This shirt was worn in that match by Kevin Sheedy, the Irish international football player.

A Guinness World Records certificate given to James Devine for the fastest rate of tap dancing, which is apparently 38 taps per second. I have no conception how anyone can tap dance that quickly, although the record has now been beaten and is 1,163 taps during the period of one minute.

Given that there is no admission charge it’s not surprise so see that the reviews of the museum are nearly entirely positive. However, there is one review which is negative about the contents….

“I am truly shocked at the fact that this collection of articles and displays can be classed as a museum – it is an embarrassment – there is no logical order – the displays are inadequate – the information sparce and badly written – a sorry testimont to a county with a wealth of history”.

Hmmmmm.

Overall, I thought that this was a charming museum which had a modern feel to it and a wide range of different exhibits and themes. The museum could easily justify a small admission charge given what there is to see, but it’s always positive to see that a community is able to offer a free museum to local people and visitors.