The Coastguard Station

Historic Background Of the Clifden Coastguard Station

The Clifden Coastguard Station is one of a ring of similar installations built at intervals of about ten to twenty miles around the coast of Ireland in the nineteenth century. From the seventeenth century onwards there had been in existence in Britain a number of different authorities, e.g. the Coast Blockade and the Preventive Water Guard to counteract smuggling and the evasion of revenue duties.

In 1822, in line with the 'administrative revolution' of the 1820s these bodies were united to form HM Coastguard. There followed the expansion of coastguard stations around the coast of Ireland, including one at Clifden which was situated in the townland of Belleek close to the cove known locally as Caladh Beag. Following the Crimean War of 1854-6 -- during which the Coastguard first served as a reserve force for the Royal Navy -- control was transferred to the Admiralty and a new phase of expansion begun. This explains why the original lease for the station in Clifden was taken out in 1859 although the building itself was not completed until 1875.

he new coastguard station was built on land that had been farmed by the Whelan family who were tenants on the D'Arcy estate and resident in the area since before the famine. It was inhabited from 1875 until 1921 when the administration of the country changed hands following the War of Independence. The coastguards and their families were known as good neighbours. They purchased fuel and produce from the local people and their children attended school in Clifden. Many were of English and Welsh origin and they continued to keep in touch with the Whelan family and to return to the area on holiday.

After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1922 the now vacant building was taken over for the billeting of troops by the new Free State. It was burned on the night of October 29th, 1922, when Clifden was attacked by forces on the Republican side of the Civil War.
Most of the building was destroyed by the fire and the remainder gradually became derelict over the years, useful only as a shelter for animals and a home for the rooks and choughs that nested in the chimneys.

In 1959 the lease was repurchased by Joseph Whelan. By the 1960s his family was the only one to have remained in Gortromagh, a townland that had been heavily populated a century before.

In the mid 1990s the building was developed into a vacation-rental Business. Architecturally the reconstructed building was modeled as closely as possible on the original. The design and reconstruction was supervised by Tommy Whelan and completed between 1993 and 1995. In was opened in 1997.

Among the many satisfied visitors over the years have been artists, writers, and historians as well as descendants of people who lived there or had connections with the Church of Ireland community in the Clifden area.


The Coastguard Station
Sky Road
Co. Galway