Kesh began as a ford or crossing place on the Glendarragh River. In the past Lough Erne came very much closer to the village than it does today. Before the first great Erne Drainage in the 1880’s the lake was about nine feet higher and especially in time of flood may almost have reached Kesh. The rath on Rosscah Hill overlooking the village indicates original settlement here probably as far back as the Iron Age c 2000 years ago. After a time the ford was augmented with a wicker bridge for which the Gaelic word is ceis and hence the village got its name. The name had been spelt in varying ways but generally as Kish or Cash until relatively modern times. An ancient saying in the locality which may refer to basket making and osier working in the area states that anyone gifted with a large posterior, “had an ass on them like a Kesh creel.” John O’Donovan the famous Irish scholar wrote two letters from Kesh while helping the Ordnance Survey make the first ever modern maps of Ireland. The first one was written in his inn on the 31st of October 1834 and he is obviously having difficulty in writing in Kesh on Halloween night. He ends, “Excuse hurry and Holly-Eve night’s disturbance in a wild country village.”
The Glendarragh River.
Referred to as the Kesh River as it nears Lower Lough Erne, is about 12 miles long and rises at Glenarn Mountain on the borders of Fermanagh and Tyrone. From its origins it flows in succession through the villages of Lack, Ederney and Kesh. It takes its name from Glen Doire meaning the glen of oaks. The greatest impetus ever provided to Kesh was the arrival of the railway in 1866. It provided employment and a focus for traffic to and from the station. Hardware shops and shops providing for the needs of farmers could now carry a greater variety of goods and stock could be replenished more quickly than by horse and cart. Cattle and other livestock could also be transported to distant markets after being bought in local fairs such as Kesh and Ederney. Kesh has a history of producing some fine specimen catches, with trout of over 19lb and pike of almost 40lb being landed here in the past.
Otters and mink occupy stretched of the Glendarragh River and dippers, grey wagtails, sand martins, mallard and heron can be found. It is also home to a very rare crayfish – the White-clawed Crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes (Lereboullet). It is one of only four crayfish species indigenous to Europe. Austropotamobius which often occur in upland brooks and are esteemed as food and have been widely moved around by man. Today only three European countries retain a single indigenous crayfish species; these are Norway and Estonia with Noble Crayfish and Ireland with Whiteclawed Crayfish. The White-clawed Crayfish is the only crayfish species found in Ireland, where it is protected under the Wildlife Act. It is classified as vulnerable and rare in the IUCN Red List of threatened animals and listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive. Ireland is now thought to hold some of the best European stocks of this species, under least threat from external factors. Irish stocks are thus believed to be of substantial conservation importance.