Shots open a window into Kilkee's history

KILKEE, a photographic history of the Clare resort by Debbie Jacobs, takes the reader from the Victorian era up to the present day.

Published by Kilkee Civic Trust, it represented a new challenge for Debbie, who in her day job as a history researcher and author with Limerick Civic Trust has been involved in the Made in Limerick series and James Pain – Architect.

But despite long shifts in the local studies section of Ennis Library, sifting through newspapers from the 1800s on, this beautifully-designed volume is not a history book as such.

"All the captions have their own history but I kept it to a minimum so it wouldn't bore anybody," she says.

"I was very fortunate to have as the man who proof-read my book a Kilkee historian named Tom Byrne. He's living in Dublin now having lived in Kilkee all his life. He checked the facts as I found there was a huge problem with everybody having something different to say. I trust Tom, he has researched Kilkee I believe since the 1950's. He should have a book of his own out. I kept it to a minimum but enough to give people a taste."

Luckily, every photograph in the book provides the reader with more than just a taste of Kilkee. The earliest photos date from the 19th century, when the launch of a paddle steamer service from Limerick to Kilrush in the 1820s meant visitors began to arrive.

They included writers like Charlotte Bronte and Lord Tennyson and it was predominantly the Anglo-Irish aristocracy who made up the tourist population for 100 years. That changed with improved access.

"The rich would come to swim and spend their holidays, the writers, the professionals and so on. Then much later on, it was Limerick people who made Kilkee what it is. That's my personal opinion. Having homes here, when they were able to get there by bus from the 1930s, cars started to be used, the West Clare train was still running until the 1960s, Limerick people frequented Kilkee much more. Unfortunately, the train doesn't run anymore but it would just be marvellous if it did," said Debbie.

A former New York model and fashion buyer, Debbie said design was uppermost in her mind when the book was being researched, written and compiled.

"I was adamant it would have to look right being from a fashion background. I really appreciate layout and design. And John Paul Dowling, who worked with me, is excellent at what he does and we worked very well together. One thing I was delighted with is I got a free rein on what I wanted it to look like. And in the end they were delighted with it too."

Readers can see for themselves by buying the book, which is on sale at the Kilkee Business Centre and Nolan's in the town.


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