The Great Kilkenny Floods

Greens Bridge Kilkenny

By John Fitzgerald

Turning now to the great floods that have struck Kilkenny over the centuries: In part one I reproduce here the text of a captivating letter received by a young woman in Dublin from her merchant father in Kilkenny:

Abbeyvale, Oct 5th 1763

Miss Kitt Coles,


Mr. Christopher James, Merchant

In Earl Street, Dublin

Dear Kitt,

I write to satisfy you and Hannah and all friends in Dublin that I and all my family are alive and safe after the most exorbitant flood that ever was known or heard of in this river, which happened the 2nd inst: You may judge of it when I tell you it was within one inch of the floor of the room I lie in and up to the ceiling of the parlour.

It has swept away entirely John’s Bridge and Green’s Bridge in Kilkenny, Benetts Bridge, Thomastown Bridge and half the town and many of the inhabitants; Durrow Bridge, Callan Bridge, Kellsbridge, Ennisnag Bridge; And Gary Duff Bridge.

One side of Ennisteige Bridge stands yet, so as to be passable for foot people. The only bridges standing on the Nore from Abbeyleix to the sea is Ballyragget, Lord Carrick’s new bridge which he built at his own expense opposite his house.

Dining Bridge stands, but Castlecomer Bridge is down. Most heartily thank God I have suffered less at this place than any other person on the river. How the weir of these mills will stand I know not, nor how the Marble Mills stand I know not as all communication across the river is cut off as yet.

My wife was most luckily in Kilkenny at Smyth’s child’s christening, by which she escaped the fright she must have sustained had she been here; the canal has escaped most wonderfully, with only a few breaches in the banks all which will be easily repaired.

All the locks and gates being safe though the water was over the tops of the swing beams and consequently six feet above the stonework of the locks. Many persons who were on John’s Bridge when it was swept away are drowned and several in other places, the melancholy particulars not yet known.

How Dublin has fared and whether violent rain extended thither I long to know. What will be the effects of this flood on our inland commerce I can form no judgement as yet. Let me hear from you as soon as possible if the flood has been in all parts of the Kingdom equal as here.

It is impossible the bridges can be built by the Counties without the aid of Parliament and in my own mind I much question whether the great sum of money which will be demanded on this occasion will not put a stop to all navigation and other public works and make the Parliament deaf to all applications for private encouragement.

I shall take the sense of my friends both in and out of Parliament on this head and act as I shall be advised.

Let me know your opinion and my brother Barry’s. My flour mills have suffered no damage and I had only five sacks of flour wetted and of these not above the quantity of one sack was wet when unpacked, and that has made good bread…Great number of mills are entirely swept away, and more rendered useless for a considerable time…

Your affectionate and loving father,

William Coles.

(To be continued…)

Thomastown Bridge
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