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Lady of Limerick? The River Shannon photographed in 1937 looking upriver towards Wellesley Bridge in Limerick city. AP Photo archive
Oral History

River Shannon gets storytelling project

Arts project wants people to relate their tales of Ireland’s longest river and its effect on their lives.

THE LONGEST RIVER in Ireland has, no doubt, a few stories to tell. A playwright has decided to help those stories emerge with the River Shannon Project.

Helena Enright hopes to encourage people, especially around her native area of Limerick, to contribute to an oral testimony of how the river has shaped their landscape, society and folklore. The Shannon meets with sea water at its estuary mouth in Limerick and is a central feature of the city.

Enright said:

The main focus of the project is oral testimony so I would like people to record themselves talking about their memories of the river… Depending on the material that I gather I am hoping to perform a selection of excerpts from the stories live on Saturday afternoon (15 September) at 4.30pm in The George Hotel. I cannot make this project happen without the people of Limerick both here and abroad. I would love the project to include memories and stories from Limerick people all over the world.

Recordings of stories and reminiscences can be emailed to or CDs of recordings dropped into the Limerick Local Heroes hub upstairs in Arthur’s Quay shopping centre before next Friday, 14 September.

As mentioned above, people can also come in to Enright in person on that Friday or Saturday, 15 September at the hub where she will record their stories. Book a time for an appointment on Facebook, or post a photograph of the Shannon there. Alternatively, if you can describe the river in 140  characters or less, tweet it to @rivershannonpro.

This initial phase of the story-gathering is part of the Elemental Arts and Culture Festival in Limerick next Saturday.

Some things you might not realise about the Shannon:

  • The Ardnacrusha power plant, the ESB’s first power station, began construction on the Shannon in 1929 – when it first opened, it could meet the electricity demands of the entire country. Today, says the ESB, it provides 2 per cent of its total installed capacity.

(Ardnacrusha – image: ESB)

  • The River Shannon has its own version of the Lough Ness Monster… The Cata monster is first described in the Book of Lismore as hanging out somewhere around Iniscatha, now Scattery, in the Shannon estuary. Clare County Library has preserved this description of how Clare’s patron saint Senan took on Cata…
The Cata devoured the saint’s smith, Narach, but Senan brought him forth again alive. The subsequent combat promised great things, but ended tamely. The Cata advanced ‘its eyes flashing flame, with fiery breath, spitting venom and opening its horrible jaws,’ but Senan made the sign of the cross, and the beast collapsed and was chained and thrown into Doolough near Mount Callan (the black lake, ‘Nigricantis aquae juxta montem Callain in Tuamonia’).



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