Sixmilebridge is a small town in County Clare, Ireland. Located midway between Ennis and Limerick city, the town is a short distance away from the main N18 road, being on the old "back road" between the two. The village of Kilmurry is also part of the Sixmilebridge parish.
Sixmilebridge partly serves as a dormitory town for workers in Limerick city, Ennis and Shannon region, with hundreds of modern housing units being built to accommodate demand in recent years. The commercial core of Sixmilebridge has effectively tripled in size in recent years too, with many new retail units and businesses choosing to locate in the village.
From Bunratty, the seat of the Earl of Thomond, into the town of Sixmilebridge, belonging also to that noble family, is 3 miles; from whence to the city of Limerick, to which are two ways, namely by the oil mills and the seat of the Mc Namaras beyond it, or over the high mountain, famous for its admirable prospect, hanging as it were over Sixmilebridge town and commonly known as Gallows Hill; this is the upper, the other the lower way to Limerick and from town to the city six miles either way, whence the town hath its name.
The original village grew up around a crossing place on the O'Garney River. By the end of the 17th century development was tied to the industrialisation of the area as people of Dutch origin found the river very suitable for milling. This ended abruptly with the building of a toll bridge on the river by Henry D'Esterre (Ó Dálaigh 2004). D'Esterre's construction gained a profit from people crossing the river but halted the trading done with Holland.
According to local tradition, the famous duel between Daniel O'Connell and a member of the D'Esterre family in February 1815 arose from O'Connell's refusal to pay the toll. This conflicts with the conventional account of the duel. D'Esterre lost his life, but the toll bridge survived and remains standing to this day.
1852 election affray
On 22 July 1852, a magistrate and eight soldiers of the 31st Regiment escorted 18 tenants of the Marquess of Conyngham to Sixmilebridge to vote for Colonel Vandeleur in the Clare county constituency at the general election. Vandeleur was a Conservative opposed to tenants' rights. A crowd of protesters, including two Catholic priests, was gathered near the ballot office, and an affray began between them and the voters' party. Soldiers opened fire, without the Riot Act having been read. Six people were killed at the scene and eight wounded, one of whom later died. At the coroner's inquest, the jury returned a verdict of murder; this was overturned by the Attorney-General for Ireland. An article in the Anglo-Celt accused the regiment of "willful and deliberate murder", and the editor was jailed for libel. The affair was discussed at Westminster, where Conservative members demanded the priests be prosecuted for incitement. The events generated lingering bitterness and tension.
Parishes and churches
In 1837, the town was split between the Church of Ireland parishes of Kilfentinan and Kilfinaghty while the Roman Catholic parish of Sixmilebridge was a union of the Kilmurry-Negaul, Kilfinaghta and Feenagh parishes.
The church of St. Finnachta was built in 1812 in Sixmilebridge, a thatched building with a mud floor. In 1980 the building was reconstructed and considerably enlarged. This is the only church in the Catholic parish of Sixmilebridge, which is in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe. The Little Church, of Cratloe Parish, on the Limerick Road, is part of the Diocese of Limerick. It less than away from St. Finnachta’s. The former Church of Ireland (Anglican) building on Church Street, Kilfinaghty Church, is now used as the local branch of Clare County Library.