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When Ennis Became Venice

A flooded river

With high rainfall filling the west coast of Ireland again, I thought it would be a nice idea to look back just over a decade  ago when Ennis became Venice.

Ennis began in the 13thcentury when a family settled a plot of land that was completely surrounded by the River Fergus. As it grew, the town was named ‘Inis’ which is the Irish word for Island. The name was eventually changed to Ennis during the occupation of Britain (but that’s a story for another day). Skip forward a few hundred years, Ennis’ river banks were about to be put to the test! Ennis had always struggled with little floods but in late 2009 and early 2010, it rained like never before. The river began to rise… quickly…very quickly.

A flooded river

Steele’s Rock under water

Overnight the narrow streets of Ennis were transformed to the canals of Venice. Cars were replaced by little boats and shops were forced to close. For shop owners, it was a nightmare. Not only could they not trade but they were faced with paying large sums of money for damages and new stock. It was an utter nightmare. Looking back on this, I truly feel for these traders. It must have been a very tough thing to face after an expensive Christmas period.

a group of people in a pool of water

Photo by the Clare Champion

That being said, it was not just the traders who were affected. I was 13 years old at the time and my school, St. Flannans College, was completely flooded. “YESSSS!” I shouted as the intercom announced to the whole school that we are to evacuate immediately. No school, no homework and all my friends would be in the same situation. It would be like an extra Christmas holiday. We all presumed this would be something very minor and the school would fix the problem quickly resulting in us all being back in the classroom the following day. Luckily for us, it rained and rained and rained. What was supposed to be 1 day off ended up being 2 full weeks off school. My friends and I played PlayStation, and of course, created rafts from scrap wood and made the most of the floods. To us, the town had become a huge playground sent from above for us all to enjoy. What a time to be alive!

a man riding a horse in a body of water

Photo by the Clare Champion

Luckily, Ennis has a good flood prevention plan today and although it is currently being put to the test, I am confident our town will remain dry. I know there are some school kids out there that would prefer a repeat of the 2009 floods but I am sure business owners, locals and visitors are very happy there isn’t. As the summer season approaches, Ennis is busy getting ready for a busy season providing wonderful tourism experiences, delicious food and world-famous traditional Irish music sessions – and that you simply won’t find in Venice!