Lough Sheelin's side
Sheelin is over 7kms long, more than 3kms wide and covers
an area of 1800 hectares and borders three counties, Cavan,
Meath and Westmeath. Lough Sheelin, from the words She Linn,
meaning fairy pool, originates as legend has it from a fairy
well, and was used by a village as its water supply. However,
there was a restriction on the use of the well. The lid
had to be replaced every time water was drawn from it. Nevertheless
one day, a woman neglected to replace the lid and the waters
rushed out, drowned the entire village and thus created
the lake, writes Geraldine Lynch.
Louth Sheelin is placed by ancient Irish sources in Cairbe
Ui Gaibre which was a pre norman principality centred around
Granard in Co. Longford. The largest island in the lake,
Church Island has the remains of an early Christian oratory
dating from the 400s. The island was then called Inis Oughter
(upper island). In the late medieval period the lake was
closely associated with the OReilly family. Crover
Castle, which is built on a small island in the lake was
reputedly erected by Thomas OReilly in the late 14th
century. Thomas OReilly was the grandson of Giolla
Iosa Rua, and pushed OReilly power into modern Co
Meath. The castle is not far from the shore of Lough Sheelin
and in the later Middle Ages the lake was seen as the border
between the Irish and the English, the Anglo-Normans and
the OReilly family. The village of the Mountnugent
originally known as Dalys Bridge in honour of the
local landlord was on the border between the two.
In the late 1300s the OReillys moved the seat
of their power to Tullymongan above Cavan town. As the OReilly
clan were in the fortunate position to occupy the border
between the Gaels and the Normans they were in a unique
position to exploit all the advantages that living on the
border provided. However, by the late 1500s the Tudor state
was extending its power throughout Ireland. The border region
of Breffni was among the first to feel the pressure, with
the Anglo Norman Nugents and Plunketts from Meath beginning
to assert their power in Breffni on behalf of the English
crown, and as the century progressed the pressure became
greater. In 1566 the OReilly family were compelled
to sign the Treaty of Lough Sheelin with the Earl of Sussex.
By 1584 Breffni was shired and became the county of Cavan.
The OReilly power finally collapsed in the wake of
the Nine Year War (1594-1603). In 1601 Edmund OReilly
(of Kilnacrott) was killed in Cavan. He was the last of
the family to hold the title The ORagahallie.
To the south of Louth Sheelin, the lake borders Westmeath
with the River Inny, linking Lough Sheelin to Lough Derravaragh.
Finea, (Fiodh an Atha) is located to the south of the lake,
and its literal translation from Irish means words
of the lord or field surrounded by trees.
Finea was an important tactical point in the the Middle
Ages between Navan, Meath and Longford. Lough Sheelin and
Lough Derravaragh and the boglands that lay between them
formed the ends of an impregnable defence line and were
an impassable wilderness. Any army faced with this had either
to go around on go through Finea and control of Finea was
the key to controlling a good portion of South Cavan.
Ross Castle on the eastern side of the lake, was built in
the sixteenth century. The tower of Ross Castle was used
by Myles OReilly. Myles OReilly also known as
Myles the Slasher was a cavalry officer in the 12 year war
(1641-1653). A plaque in the hall of Ross Castle is inscribed
This ancient castle in which the celebrated Myles
OReilly, known as The Slasher in 1644 past the night
previous to the Battle of Feinna at which he was killed,
haven fallen into ruin was partly restored by his lineal
descendant Anna Marie Maria Dease OReilly in 1864.
Lough Sheelin is a high concentrated limestone lake, which
is rich in minerals. The waterway is well serviced with
public access points and car parks at Kilnahard pier, Crover
Pier and beside the River Inny at Finea.
The fishing season is from March 1st to October 12th with
the size limit of the catch 30cms and the maximum amount
in the daily bag is six trout.
The fishing methods allowed are as follows; March 1st to
April 30th - Artificial fly only. April 1st to June 15th
- Artificial fly, dapping, spinning and trolling (oars only).
June 16th to October 12th - all methods.
However, no live bait fishing is allowed.
Lough Sheelin has extensive shallows, rocky shores, islands
and wooden shores. The lake is classed as a mainly trout
fishery which permits pike angling subject to the regulations
of that fishery. However, all angling on the lake closes
in early October. Lough Sheelin is considered an attractive
lake to visit because of the size and quality of the trout
that are caught there and the range of fly fishing techniques
that may be used. Fishery scientists estimate that Lough
Sheelin has the largest trout carrying capacity to carry
a bigger stock of brown trout of any lake in comparable
size in Ireland - over 100,000 trout with at least 40,000
of them between 2lb and 4lb.
Frequently anglers have reported catching fish in the range
from 4lb to 7lbs. The average weight based on catch statistics
in recent years is about 3lbs.
However, Lough Sheelin has faced numerous pollution problems
over the last number of years. The environmental problems
initially stemmed from the development of an intensive pig
fattening industry in its catchment area. In recent times
the pollution problem has been brought under control but
the lake has demonstrated an amazing ability to recover
from the years of pollution it had to endure.
The fishing season begins in March at which time the trout
are feeding mainly on freshwater shrimp and freshwater louse.
The best fishing in March and early April is mainly along
rocky shores and exposed points and favourite areas among
fishermen are Chambers Bay, Kilnahard Shore, Merry Point,
Arley Point, Curry Point, Ross Bay and the south shore of
Derrysheridan. The high season is the period from about
the 15th May to the middle of June.
Thereafter, the action switches to the south side of the
lake, roughly south of a line from Kilnahard Point to Inchicup
Island. It is then that areas like Chambers Bay, Rusheen
Bay, Gorepoint Bay, Bog Bay and Waffys Rock area start
producing fish. June to mid July sees the advent of perch
fry and roach fry.
A song has been written about Lough Sheelin, called Lough
Sheelin side and recounts the tale of an eviction.
It is not known for certain whether the song is of Cavan,
Meath or Westmeath origin as the lake borders all three
counties, and there were extensive clearances of tenants
in the past famine years in both Cavan and Westmeath. However,
there was a mass eviction one cold February night at a place
called Tonagh in the late 1840s. Then Tonagh was a thriving
village located near Ross on the Meath shores of the lake
and not far from Mountnugent. Some 700 poor souls were thrown
from their homes. The song probably relates to this eviction
scene. In an article in the Heart of Breffni (1984) Seamus
P O Mordha cites the first printed source of the song
from the Anglo Celt. The editorial note that appears under
the title of the song states The Following Song was
popular many years ago. Ed. A.C. The title Lough Sheelins
side has beneath it in brackets Author Unknown.
The first printed version had ten verses. A version of the
song called Lough Sheelin Eviction has also
been arranged by the balled group The Wolfe Tones.
Lough Sheelins Side
Farewell! my country, a long farewell,
My bitter anguish no tongue call tell,
For I must fly oer the ocean wide
From the home I loved by Lough Sheelins side.
Fond memories come till my heart grows sad,
And vengeful thoughts till my brain goes mad,
When I think of Ellen, my gentle bride,
In the churchyard lone by Lough Sheelins side.
When first I wooed her so fair and young,
With her artless air and her guileless tongue,
All other maidens she far outvied
On the lonely banks by Lough Sheelins side.
village dance on the shamrock plain
To blind OLearys enchanting strain
No foot like hers could so nimbly play
None smile so sweetly or laugh so gay.
Ah! proud was I of my girl so tall
And envied most by the young men all
When I brought her blushing a bashful bride
To my cottage home by Lough Sheelins side.
But oh! our joy was too full to last;
The landlord came our young hopes to blast;
In vain we pleaded for mercy - no!
He turned us out in the blinding snow.
And none dare open for us their door
Or else his vengeance would reach them sure;
My Ellen fainted - in my arms died -
While the snow fell fast on the mountain side.
I said one prayer for my lifeless love,
And raised my hands to Heaven above
Oh, God of justice I wildly cried,
Avenge the death of my murdered bride.
We buried her down in the churchyard low,
Where in the springtime the daisies blow,
I shed no tear for the fount had dried
On that woeful night by Lough Sheelins side.
Farewell! my country; farewell for aye!
The ship will soon bear me away,
But, oh, my fond heart will still abide
In my Ellens grave by Lough Sheelins side.
from Breffni Blue