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MEMORANDUMS MADE IN
As we ap
WE left Castlebar in the afternoon, on our way to Ballina, where we purposed resting for the night. The route presented nothing very worthy of notice until we reached Lough Conn.
The country through which we passed on leaving Castlebar possesses little that calls for notice, being of that common, coarse, semi-cultivated kind which in Ireland is so uninteresting when not relieved by the vicinity of lakes or mountains. proach Lough Conn, however, the tameness of the flat corn-patched moorland disappears, and is succeeded by the sterner and bolder features of a stony desert, the whole surface being almost covered by the huge projecting shoulders of the subjacent rock, or overlaid by vast boulders broken from the same.
Skirting the west shores of the lake for a time, the road at length brought us under the base of one of the roots or rather branches of the great Nephin Mountain, the highest in Mayo. At this point we had reached the extremity of the lake we had been skirting; but we soon found that the road which, turning to the east, led us along its northern shore, merely traversed a narrow neck or tongue of land which separates this from another lake of much greater extent. This strip of land was, in its natural state, cut across by the small stream which unites the two lakes, but is now artificially united to the opposite bank by a bridge. This bridged neck of land is termed the Pontoon.
Both these lakes are usually called Lough Conn, though this name properly belongs to the larger or upper lough only, the lower having the distinctive appellation of Lough Cullen. Together, these lakes are of great extent, the upper, or Lough Conn proper, being eight miles in length, its greatest width three miles and a quarter, and its mean breadth one mile and a half. The lower lake, or Lough Cullen, is about two miles and a half long, and one mile and a half broad.
This last, except at the point which adjoins the upper, has nothing picturesque about it, its shores being flat and marshy. A good deal of the upper lake is bordered in the same manner, but the fine range of mountains that bound it on the west, breaking up its shores with their rugged spurs, and finally terminating in the great Nephin, give at once a grand and picturesque aspect to the vast expanse of water at their feet.
This Nephin is a finely-shaped mountain-mass, quite isolated by its great elevation, and visible at a far distance in all directions. It rises 2646 feet above the sea level.
The flat shores of Lough Conn proper, are, on the east side, if possible, still more rocky than those of Lough Cullen, and the whole tract of country around retains the same character to a considerable distance from the water. The upper lake is fed by the river Deel, which enters its north-western extremity, as well as by other streams from its mountain boundary. The lower lake is partially fed by streams coming from the south, namely the Castlebar river, and another whose name I did not learn. The Castlebar or Clydagh river is the outlet of a series of small lakes near Castlebar, which together occupy a space nearly three miles in length and a quarter of a mile in breadth.
The Clydagh escapes from that portion of the lake called Lough Dan, close to the town of Castlebar, and has a course of nine or ten miles, part of it through a flat marsh, before it ends in Lough Cullen. Both the lakes finally discharge their waters by a channel not more than a quarter of a mile long, running from the lower extremity of Lough Cullen into the river Moy, whose seaward course brings it very close to this lake. The small river forming the outlet of the lakes is very shallow as well as short, being partially dry in the summer. The elevation of these lakes above the sea level is stated to be from thirty-seven to forty
two feet, a difference of five feet having been observed between the winter and summer level.
I am led to give these particulars a little more in detail on account of a very singular anomaly which exists in the currents of these lakes,-nothing less, indeed, than the occasional reverse flow of the lower lake into the upper.
Of the truth of this fact I received, on the spot, the most distinct evidence from persons resident there, and, among others, from a very intelligent member of the constabulary force, Mr. William Browne, at that time, and for many years previously, stationed at the barracks close by. I have since had some further communications with Mr. Browne, which leave no doubt whatever on my mind as to the fact of the backward flow, though I have not yet succeeded to my own perfect satisfaction in accounting for it. As far as I can learn, the reversed flow has no set times of recurrence; at least none of my informants have ascertained this fact, if it exists; but Mr. Browne and some of his local friends think it occurs most frequently in summer and harvest. Neither had any one noted the period of its duration. They had, however, all seen the flow itself, and Mr. Browne states that when it exists, the current is very strong, much stronger than the ordinary current downwards.
It has been stated that this singular change of current is connected with the ebb and flow of the sea; but this is quite untrue in fact, and could not possibly be the case, the only connection of the
lakes with the sea being by the river Moy, in which the tide does not rise higher than the town of Ballina, which is ten miles below Lough Conn.
Several other explanations present themselves.
Knowing, as we do, the power of a long-continued wind blowing in one direction to raise or heap-up water on the opposite shores, as is seen in the Red Sea, and on some parts of the eastern shores of America, we might suppose that such might be the case here; but those who are best acquainted with the phenomenon assert that it is unconnected with any such precursor.
Another, and much more probable explanation, is the sudden elevation of the level of the lower lake by great partial rains, which, while flooding the Clydagh and other small rivers that run into the lower lake, may have missed the vicinity of the upper. Obvious difficulties in this explanation are (1) the immense quantity of water that would be requisite to raise the whole surface of the lower lake (upwards of 2700 acres in extent) only a few inches; and (2) that, in the case of partial falls of rain, the probability is much greater that they should affect the upper lake, owing to its mountainous borders, than the lower lake : still, when it is considered that there are several small rivers draining a wide extent of country, falling into the lower lake, and that it is very much shallower than the upper, the explanation seems far from untenable.
A third explanation occurs to me, founded on the