Steel's Rock & Court House, Ennis, Co. Clare

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Where: Clare, Ireland

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When: Unknown

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Staying in Co. Clare for today we have the enigmatic "Steels Rock" (or more correctly Steele's Rock) and the court house in Ennis. We questioned whether the rock was still there - as the court house undoubtedly is...

...and thanks to Niall McAuley, sharon.corbet, swordscookie and beachcomberaustralia, we have confirmation of the location, history and the man behind the name: "Honest" Tom Steele (1788-1848)


Photographer: Robert French

Collection: Lawrence Photograph Collection

Date: Betweeen 1865 - 1914

NLI Ref: L_ROY_04482

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at catalogue.nli.ie

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Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 21089
robertfrench williamlawrence lawrencecollection lawrencephotographicstudio glassnegative nationallibraryofireland steelesrock ennis courthouse tomsteele honesttom danieloconnell headpacificator countyclare lawrencephotographcollection

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  • profile

    Niall McAuley

    • 30/Nov/2015 08:35:35

    Streetview with the courthouse. Another angle in which we see the rock (now painted) peeping out.

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    Niall McAuley

    • 30/Nov/2015 08:44:20

    On the OSI 25", and also the 6" from 1840.

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    sharon.corbet

    • 30/Nov/2015 09:09:53

    It's properly Steele's Rock, named after Tom Steele: He dreamed of romance and "cherished an ardent sentiment of attraction" for Miss Matilda Crowe of Abbeyfield House, Ennis. He was convinced that she held similar feelings for him, despite the advice he received from his friends. He would stand or sit on a rock, now known as Steele's Rock, on the bank on the river Fergus opposite her house, merely to catch a glimpse of her as she passed by the windows. Sadly for him, she never acknowledged his presence.

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    Niall McAuley

    • 30/Nov/2015 10:34:34

    Interesting that this one sided romance must have been around 1810-1820, and by 1840 the rock was named on the Ordnance Survey. I can see nothing to help with a date here - the NIAH dates only the Courthouse (1852, no help).

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    sharon.corbet

    • 30/Nov/2015 11:03:08

    [https://www.flickr.com/photos/gnmcauley] The Co. Clare Record of Protected Structures gives a date of c. 1870 for Steele's Rock. (The carving and painting, I presume.)

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    Niall McAuley

    • 30/Nov/2015 11:07:28

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] But it is on the 1840 map! Steele wasn't even dead in 1840. So the rock was named during Steele's lifetime, and then in 1870 (Steele having died in 1848), someone carved a memorial?

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    Niall McAuley

    • 30/Nov/2015 11:26:00

    The 25" map linked above shows a Fn for Fountain, which I believe the horse here is drinking from.

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    BeachcomberAustralia

    • 30/Nov/2015 11:35:13

    In 2009 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnyg1955/3598892240/

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    sharon.corbet

    • 30/Nov/2015 12:33:14

    [https://www.flickr.com/photos/gnmcauley] I tried having a look at the Ordnance Survey Letters for Clare, as they sometimes have more info on where names come from. But I couldn't find anything re. Steele's Rock. (A lot of moaning about the weather, yes.)

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    Swordscookie

    • 30/Nov/2015 16:24:41

    I had never heard of him though I had spotted the rock when passing through Ennis on a couple of occasions. I always meant to go back and check it out but now I don't have to! https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] I found the same article as you and was impressed by the final paragraph: By 1847, when his great friend Daniel O' Connell died, Ireland was a country of fever and famine. Tom Steele was broken-hearted and penniless. Under great strain in London in 1848 he threw himself into the Thames off Waterloo Bridge. He was rescued and taken to Peel's Coffee House in Fleet Street. He died a few days later on June 15th, 1848. "Honest Tom Steele" is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, beside his life-long friend, Daniel O'Connell. A tribute to him in the "London Standard" reads- "Fare thee well, noble, honest Tom Steele! A brave spirit in a gentler heart never left earth".

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    sharon.corbet

    • 30/Nov/2015 16:39:40

    [https://www.flickr.com/photos/swordscookie] The more I read about him, the more, um, interesting he seems. (And the more I think that Miss Matilda Crowe had the right idea.) He was appointed by his leader to the position of ‘head pacificator,’ an odd post for a man of his character; and was often instrumental in preventing outrages among his followers. John O'Connell, being asked ‘Why did Dan make a semi-lunatic his head pacificator?’ is said to have replied ‘Why, indeed! Pray, who the devil else would take such a position? Whereas: Women should never underestimate what rejection can do to a man. One of Tom’s first moves was to write a bizarre letter to the elderly Pope Pius VII, urging him to convert to Protestantism without delay. Over the next decade, the friendship blossomed to such an extent that Tom erected a Catholic chapel at Cullane just so O’Connell could practice mass whenever he visited. (The altar was a cap-stone from a dolmen that reputedly stood at the dead-centre of Ireland, near Birr, until ‘Honest Tom’ recruited a team to shift it out west). Both from here.

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    Swordscookie

    • 30/Nov/2015 18:20:48

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] The Crow(e)s were always wily old birds and not easily fooled:-)

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    silverio10

    • 30/Nov/2015 20:08:26

    Muy buenas fotos antiguas .