Insights… Personal letters from Harry Rice to Eyre Chatterton

Below we are privileged to publish for the first time, personal correspondence between two River Shannon stalwarts, Harry Rice and Eyre Chatterton, father of Tony.

The letters were written in 1958 and 1960 and they cover many topics both personal and river related. the tell us how the Shannon flooding is far from a recent issue with some surprising observations, we can read how Dunrovin may not have been Harry’s first choice, and there are some observations on the government of the day, showing us that some things will never change!

One of the letters is in Harry’s own handwriting, and the other is a typed letter, the text of which is reproduced here because the original has become faded. Many thanks to Tony Chatterton for sharing this fascinating material with the branch


12345The following is a transcript of the 1958 letter


Coosan Point, Athlone.

Jan 10th 1958


My Dear Eyre Chatterton

It was most interesting to learn that you were in T.C.D. I qualified there in 1917 and later went back after World War 1 to take out my N.D.  I know Bertie Waller very well, and of course, Guy Landon. Poor Kitty has gone. I went to her funeral in Banagher. Guy was here last week with a lady who had once sailed round the World in the Pamir. She now owns a three ton sloop at Dunmore East. I was over at Walter Levigne’s a few nights ago. He is well, but not able to take as much physical exercise as he used to.

It’s interesting about your thinking of buying that strip of land at Portaneena. (Irish for ‘The landing place of the wine’ and now called Wineport) My son in law and my daughter in law lived until quite recently at Ladywell, so I know the place well.

When I was invalided from the army in 1946, I and my wife (my first wife, whom I lost some seven years ago) had our hearts set on the very place that you now contemplate to purchase. We intended to pull down the old house on the shore, and, as a small stream ran through the grounds, we had ideas of waterfalls, hydraulic rams and all sorts of contrivances. We also meant to excavate the old harbour at Temple Island. (So called after the Harris Temple family who at that time, still had ideas that they owned the place.)

We were dealing with old Willie Moran and eventually got tired of haggling, and so built our small house at Coosan instead. Since then, Moran must have established a title by virtue of the statute of limitations, and so can claim undisputed possession of the land. 

His nephew, Concheen MacCormack, was telling me a few months ago that the place was for sale.  It certainly would be a wonderful site for a house.  You need not worry about the Irish goverment raising the level of Lough Ree.  This would mean building another two feet onto the top of the Weir wall, and we would kick up hell.  It was merely a pipe dream of Louis Rydelle’s.

I’m glad to learn that you have an aluminium hull for your cabin cruiser.  How do you manage about electrolytic action?

I do hope you buy the land, provided the price is reasonable.  I never regretted having settled down to live upon the Lough of Killenure.  I have many friends amongst the islanders and now we have our power from the electricity supply board and a telephone, so that we can get our groceries delivered out here by van.

There is quite a passable pub in Ballykeeran, and two more at Glasson: so you only have a short walk if you ever wish to splice the mainbrace.

If I can be of any assistance to you, or can give you any information, historical or otherwise, please write and let me know.  We can all assure you of a very hearty welcome. 

Very Sincerely Yours,

Harry Rice.

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