Autumnal Rambles about New Quay, County Clare
Thomas L. Cooke (abridged)
In this sultry weather the wearied tourist can enjoy a grateful cool beneath the cimmerian recesses of the cavern known by the name of Pouloushe, an appellation taken from the Irish word Pollach, which signifies “hollowed” and the Irish word uisce, which signifies “water”. This truly remarkable cavern is a short distance from the road leading to Kilmacduach church, and about two miles from the town of Kinvarra, to which the reader has been led in one of our former rambles. The entrance to it bears due south-west of Northampton, the neat residence of Mr. Mahon, and east of the cottage of a farmer named Killikelly, on the way leading from Kinvarra to Kilmacduach.
The entire of the district surrounding Pouloushe is a lime-stone one, and it consequently abounds in those underground recesses and caves common to such description of country. The river, which flows through the demesne of Lord Gort at Loughcouter, runs there against a very high and nearly perpendicular rock, beneath which it sinks so instantaneously and completely as seemingly to elude all further observation, and baffle geologists in discovering the course it subsequently takes. It is remarkable to find a large river thus suddenly swallowed up, and, therefore Loughcouter demesne demands a visit from the curious, even though it had not presented any other subject to compensate for the journey from New Quay to Gort. The river subsequently shows itself at some distance, at what are denominated the “Punch-Bowl” and the “Churn,” both of which are well deserving of attention. They are situate about half-a-mile beyond Gort. It afterwards breaks forth again into a full river, from beneath a fine natural arch at a considerable distance, from the Churn and Punch-Bowl. Another river (the name of which I do not remember), flows near to Isert-Kelly, from the direction of Loughrea, and also occasionally hides itself from the light of day in dark underground passages. In all probability, the waters of both rivers unite, and pursue jointly their subterranean meandering until they reach Kinvarra, at which place the reader has been already informed that a flood of fresh water shews itself bursting forth when the tide is out.
The observant eye, although it cannot see the water, can distinctly trace the direction of the Gort river from the last-named place towards Kinvarra, by means of the concave and sunken face the limestone country presents along the line of its course. This sunken and collapsed appearance extends to the breath of about two hundreds yards, and is particularly observable in the neighbourhood of Pouloushe cavern. After passing Killikelly’s farm-house, the tourist proceeds about a quarter-of-a-mile over a bed of limestone, scantily clothed here and there with a mixture of grass, and those small herbs and wild flowers, which delight in attaching themselves to limestone. In traversing this locality you must, however, be cautious where you place your foot, for many and deep narrow fissures open, concealed amongst the rocks and tangled herbage.
The mouth of Pouloushe Cavern is a hole nearly perpendicular, and in the centre of a large and level field of limestone. You descend about thirty feet by this yawning entrance, formed apparently by the accidental falling in of part of the roof of the cavern. Having descended thus far, the traveller enters the mouth of the cave beneath a large, flat, and natural arch of limestone rock. This cavern, which runs from south-east towards north-west, differs, as far as my observation goes, from any yet described in print. As far as the eye can penetrate through the surrounding gloom, nothing presents itself to view save scattered rocks, and an inclined rugged surface of slippery clay beneath the feet. Overhead hangs a stupendous flat ceiling of rock, not resting on pillars or any other visible means of support capable of sustaining the weight of such an expanse of massive stone. The ceiling being flat, low, and smooth, appears almost as if it were the work of art. I have not remarked much stalactite or stalagmite matter here. This, probably, is owing to the river washing it away in winter; but, at all events, as I was not prepared with torches for an underground excursion when I visited it, I felt no disposition to pursue too far an unknown journey amidst darkness, rocks and precipices. The danger too was, perhaps, magnified by the awful view of an impending sheet of rock close overhead apparently unsupported, and ready every moment to fall from above, and bury for ever the too daring foot which had imprudently ventured beneath it. Added to this was the noise of waters wending their way in darkness amongst the rocks, and threatening to bear off in their unknown and gloomy course him who should make a single false step. I could dimly see the river, deep and dark, by the fitful glare thrown from burning straw, which served the place of torches. It seemed to be a considerable stream of water, very deep in some places, and revolving round in many eddies.
During 1842-43 Cooke wrote a series of articles for the Galway Vindicator on the area around New Quay in north Clare. A scrapbook of these articles, with notes (given here in itallics) and illustrations by the author, was donated to Clare County Library.