The Mystery of World’s End

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Triathletes take to the Shannon in last year’s event. Pic shamelessly robbed from their site. In fairness, we’re giving it a good plug!

Well S and I have signed up for the World’s End Triathlon in Castleconnell in Limerick on August 18th. S was looking around for a nice triathlon with a shorter swim, and this fit the bill. It will be something to take my mind off marathon training too, and will keep us somewhat focused on getting our stroke back in order for the longer swims in Killary in October.

Of course, many triathlons have interesting names which give you a hint as to what’s to come. The Lost Sheep middle distance tri out of Kenmare that leads you up into the mountains of the Beara Peninsula would be a good example. King of the Hill tri in Kinsale might give you a hint that there’s some climbing to be done. And having done Hardman, I can conclude that it earned its title…

So even though I signed us both up with great gusto this week, I knew there was a little nagging question in the back of my mind. S obviously had it too.

“Why’s it called the World’s End?”, she asked.

Excellent question.

As with many things Irish, there are two answers, and one is rather mundane, but the other is quite interesting. The full story can be found here, though given that most of us modern, online folk have the attention span of a hamster, I will very briefly outline it here for you. You’re welcome.

According to one tale, an English army gent retired to a quiet spot on the Shannon near Castleconnell in the late 18th Century, and there built a weir, quay and inn, and turned the area into a busy trading post. The gent’s name was Mr. Worrall. Here are some excerpts from a book (published in 1991) written about the area in that time:

Village by Shannon says that “In that time” [presumably “the early years of the eighteenth century” when Mr Worrall arrived] the Shannon was “only navigable down as far as Castleconnell”. Accordingly, goods for Limerick, and other points further downstream, were unloaded there; goods from Limerick, destined for places upriver, were shipped from the quay. As a result, Mr Worrall’s inn attracted the custom of the “boatmen, merchants and other river travellers”; the landlord’s ale produced revelry, songs and occasional brawls.

And so Mr. Worrall had an Inn. And that inn was known as Worrall’s Inn. Can you see where this is going? A few years of misheard communications, not to mention several firkins of ale, and bingo… Worrall’s Inn becomes World’s End. And anyone who has over-indulged on the ale (not least the kind brewed in less than hygienic circumstances) can probably claim with some conviction that their world was indeed coming to an end.

It’s a great story, but the above link goes a long way towards dispelling it. The main problem would seem to be that there is very little of any evidence to conclude that there was an inn or any sort of trading facilities there. This is all well-thought out on the excellent site (https://irishwaterwayshistory.com) that I have enjoyed reading over the years. And you can also check out this site too – the official site for Irish place-names.

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There is still a house there (a residence from the Georgian period), and it does seem contemporaneous with the story of Mr. Worrall, though according to some sources, it was built in 1750, so certainly the original house pre-dates the arrival of Worrall to Castleconnell (Assuming there was a Mr. Worrall, of course. Are you still with me?). Though it’s worth noting that many of these houses were continuously renovated and extended over the years. Without doubt, if there was a Mr. Worrall living in that house in the late 1700s, he would probably struggle to recognise the place today. And its worth noting that the house is called ‘World’s End’ (or Worldsend on some maps, and Google Maps has it as Worlds End without the apostrophe, which for an anal retentive like me when it comes to punctuation is a bit of an itch I can’t scratch).

And so that is the rather intriguing (abridged) tale of World’s End. The prosaic version goes that there was once a road that led to a bog, and then it petered out near the river. Hence World’s End. I’m not saying that locals of the area wouldn’t have had a sense of humour when it came to naming their landmarks, but it seems like a stretch.

And in any case, the first story is far more interesting, even if it’s hard to stand up. As Mark Twain may or may not have said: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

And finally, just my own tuppence worth: just thinking about novels such as Howards End, there is the possibility that the name is a blend of the two stories, and words. In other words (!), the house could have been called ‘Worrall’s End’.

And here endeth the lesson. Other than to say that I was rather taken with the triple options of ‘revelry, songs and occasional brawls’ mentioned above. As any triathlete knows, there are three disciplines to the event: swimming, cycling and running. We all know most cyclists (to paraphrase something that Mark Twain definitely didn’t say about golf) reckon that triathlons are just a way of spoiling a good cycle. Yeah, I’m looking at you Jim! 😉 (And speaking of which, another good post to read here).

So I don’t expect that we will be forced to indulge in any of those things… well, certainly not the brawling anyway. We’ll see about getting the swim, bike and run sorted before we break into song as well, I would imagine. Nor do I think we’ll encounter an end of the world waterfall, like you might see in Pirates of the Caribbean, or Thor. Hopefully…

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Just thought we should have a dramatic interlude on this fine, Friday morning.

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This was taken yesterday evening. The old mid-summer sneaks up on me every year. Last night was just perfect. Clear skies, no wind. Dallan (first-born son) and I went for a jog up in the local park (that’s me on the left, him on the right). He’s just taken up jogging lately, fair play to him.
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6 thoughts on “The Mystery of World’s End

  1. Your writing skills are top drawer Dec.
    I once tuned in to hear about the woes of a fellow midlife crisis wanna be triathlete but am increasingly returning for the cultural & educational value!

    We need to get an event in together sometime.

    Liked by 3 people

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