The National Enterprise Town Awards: Clifden

We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Clifden in Co Galway. 

Clifden is a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. Clifden is often referred to as the capital of Connemara as it is the biggest town in the region with a population of 1,597people.

The town was founded at the start of the 19th century by John D’Arcy who lived in Clifden Castle, which was built around 1818 (now a ruin) west of Clifden. He was also the proprietor of an estate that covered over 17,000 acres on the west coast of Connemara. The lands had been in the D’Arcy family for over 150 years, but they would be lost within a generation.

Clifden gained prominence after 1905 when Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi decided to build his first high power transatlantic long wave wireless telegraphy station four miles (6 km) south of the town to minimise the distance to its sister station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The first point-to-point fixed wireless service connecting Europe with North America opened for public service with the transmission of 10,000 words on 17 October 1907. At peak times, up to 200 people were employed by the Clifden wireless station, among them Jack Phillips, who later perished as the chief radio operator on the Titanic.

The town has a number of local community groups and bodies including a chamber of commerce, Tidy Towns committee, a heritage group and a community and district council to name just a few.

In 2019, Clifden celebrated the centenary of the first non-stop transatlantic flight in history which brought worldwide attention to Clifden and the west of Ireland.

The town committees are very active at addressing issues facing residents and businesses in the area. They have organised Brexit information evenings to address any concerns with guest speakers from around Ireland.

There are a number of ongoing initiatives in the area with the most notable being the Transatlantic Connections Centre – a multi-million euro centre to maximise the economic value of the Alcock and Brown and Marconi for the Clifden and Connemara region. Another is the project to realise the potential of Clifden Harbour Park – the first phase of this initiative has been completed.

The Transatlantic Connections Festival takes place in Clifden every year to celebrate Clifden’s Transatlantic Connections and its history.

Written by Stephen Larkin

Published: 30 August, 2019