Kilmaine (Co. Mayo / Southeast)
Kilmaine is (Cill Mheáin – “Middle church”) (pop. 1000) is a small village and rural district that shares its name with a medieval Barony containing no less than 41 castles, the highest concentration in Connacht. To the extent that these were designed to keep trade routes open, the number indicates the importance of the Barony at that time in supplying agricultural produce to Galway. (Photo by Ruthann O’Connor)
The old church of Kilmaine, featuring a C16th tracery window, supposedly stands on the site of an early Christian monastery founded by Saint Patrick. It became a prebendary church of Tuam.
The country around Kilmaine is distinguished by important iron age forts, the residences of local chieftains.
Lisnatreanduff in Ballymartin has three deep ditches, whose sides were once faced with stone. It was probably the greatest fort in Mayo of the earth and stone type, and must have been an impressive building in its time.
Rausakeera (Rath Essa Caerach), near Kilmaine, is an earthen fort with a slight ditch and a souterrain inside. This use suggests that it was the inauguration place of former chieftains, adopted by the de Burgos / Bourkes.
Baron Kilmaine & the Browne Baronetcy
The most famous “Baron Kilmaine” was Charles Edward Jennings (1751 – 1799), the Dublin-born son of the physician Dr Theobald Jennings (‘Mac sheoinín’, a subset of the Burke family) of Polaniran near Tuam. Brought up in southern France, he became one of the greatest Irish soldiers of the C18th, remembered for his role in the American War of Independence and more significantly in the French Revolutionary Wars. Never formaly ennobled, but commonly known as Brave Kilmaine, he was a close confidant of Napoleon Bonaparte, and an admirer of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who however referred to him in his private journal as “Jennings, who used to call himself Baron de Kilmaine, God knows why” who was “not a fortunate general but a typical Irish soldier of fortune“. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armée d’Angleterre he was closely involved in the preparations for the naval expeditions sent to assist the 1798 Rebellion, but did not sail with either, finishing his career as Generalissimo of the Army of Switzerland before succumbing to ill health.
The title of Baron Kilmaine was first granted in 1722 to James O’Hara (1682 – 1774), who later succeeded his father as Baron Tyrawley. A British army officer, he was active during the War of Spanish Succession, fought at the Siege of Barcelona in 1706, was wounded at the Battle of Almansa in 1707 and again at the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709. In 1728 he was appointed an envoy to Portugal. He became Ambassador to Russia in 1743, Governor of Minorca in 1747, Governor of Gibraltar in 1756, and was given the rank of Field Marshal in 1763. His illegitimate son Charles O’Hara followed him into the army and also served as Governor of Gibraltar.
In 1789 Sir John Browne, 7th Baronet, of The Neale, was created Baron Kilmaine, of The Neale in the County of Mayo. He had previously represented Newtownards and Carlow Borough in the Irish House of Commons. His grandson, the 3rd Baron, sat in the House of Lords as an Irish Representative Peer from 1849 to 1873. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the fourth Baron. He was an Irish Representative Peer from 1890 to 1907. His son, the fifth Baron, sat as an Irish Representative Peer from 1911 to 1946. As of 2011 the titles are held by the latter’s grandson, the seventh Baron, who succeeded his father in 1978.
The Browne Baronetcy, of The Neale in the County of Mayo, was created in the Baronetage of Nova Scotia in 1636 for John Browne, a grandson of the John Browne who had arrived in Connacht as Sir Richard Bingham‘s cartographer and died at Kilmaine in 1588. However, the baronetcy was actually only assumed for the first time by his great-great-grandson, the 6th Baronet. The latter was succeeded by his younger brother, the 7th Baronet 0f The Neale, who was created Baron Kilmaine in 1789.
John Browne, 1st Earl of Altamont (the grandfather of John Browne, 1st Marquess of Sligo), was the grandson of Colonel John Browne, younger son of Sir John Browne, 1st Baronet Browne ofThe Neale.
Cross & The Neale (Co. Mayo / Southeast)
Cross (An Crois) and The Neale (An Eill) (pop. 970), small villages often named in the same breath, share a district best known for its archaeological and historical remains, ranging from ancient Cairns, Stone Circles, Raths / Ringforts and Crannogs to Norman castles occupied in the late medieval period by the MacDonnell mercenaries from Scotland.
The church of the Sacred Heart (RC) in Cross has an interesting relic in the porch – a stone with the figure of a child carved in relief, found in St Fura’s church.
The Battle(s) of Moytura
The Plain of Moytura/ Mag Tuired / Magh Tuireadh (“the plain of pillars / towers”) is one of two places so named (the other is near Lough Arrow in County Sligo). According to Irish mythology, both plains saw fierce battles in ancient times, 30 years apart; folklore adds that the southern location was the venue for the first ever game of hurling.
The First Battle of Moytura was reportedly fought over four days at the Pass of Balgatan between the established Fir Bolg and the invading Tuatha Dé Danaan, in the course of which the home champion Sreng / Sraing cut off the newcomers’ king Nuadha‘s hand, and ended in a truce whereby the former ceded most of Ireland to the latter and voluntarily confined themselves to Connacht. (Some historians believe the battle was actually fought between warriors of the Eireann (Belgae) and Laighin (Leinster) peoples).
The Lia Lugha (“Stone of Lu”), locally aka the Long Stone, is said to mark the burial place of Nuadha’s son Lugh Lamhfhada (“Lu of the Long Hand”) who was slain in the battle.
Eochaidh’s Cairn is believed to be the burial place of the last Fir Bolg king, also killed during the battle.
The Ballymagibbon / Ballymacgibbon Cairn, a huge, unopened and relatively undisturbed limestone mound, about 50m in diameter, is traditionally held to be a monument commemorating the battle, but is probably a passage grave. There are several other megaliths nearby, including some Stone Circles, in various states of decay.
St Fura’s church is a ruined stone edifice at Ballymagibbon, on a site believed to have been used for Christian worship since the C7th.
The Neale Follies
The Neale estate was founded by Richard Bingham‘s cartographer John Browne, whose descendants built a splendid house in the early C18th. For much of the C19th the house was occupied by their cousin and land agent , the Rev. James Cromie. The main buildings, sold in the 1930s, have been demolished.
The Gods of The Neale is a stepped pyramidical structure about 200 yards east of the village, inside the old demesne wall and close to the ruins of the house. It comprises stone slabs with carvings of a griffin, a unicorn and an angel. The inscription, dated 1745, refers to the sculptured figures as Deithe Feile, Diana Ffeale, and The Gods of The Neale. Among other mythological characters mentioned in the inscription is Loo Lave Adda (Lugh Lamhfhada) who is reputed to be buried under the nearby “Long Stone”.
The Neale Pyramid, believed to stand on the site of the barrow/tumulus where the Fir Bolg champion Slainge was interred after the Battle of Moytura, was erected c. 1760 in memory of Sir George Browne, killed in India, by his brother, Sir John Browne, 7th Baronet and 1st Baron of Kilmaine; the structure, designed by his brother in law, the Earl of Charlemont, was originally crowned by a lead figure of Apollo, and later by a wind vane used to further the landlord’s meteorological passions and the recording of weather systems over a period of 30 years. The Pyramid was refurbished by the OPW in 1990. (Photo by AnnaLuczynska).
The Neale Temple, a folly in the form of an unfinished hexagonal Greek temple, was erected in 1865 by John Cavendish Browne, Baron of Kilmaine. It was used for sewing, knitting and relaxing by the Big House ladies, who also strolled along “The Cavendish Walks”, both inside and outside the estate. The Temple is in poor condition, having long lost its timber roof.
Lough Mask House, a pleasant country house built c.1840 next to Lough Mask Castle, a ruined de Burgo stronghold on the lakeshore, was the residence of successive land agents for the extensive local property of the Earl of Erne, and the focus of intense agitation during the C19th Land War.
Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott (1832 — 1897) was a land agent for John Crichton, 3rd Earl Erne, and lived in Lough Mask House.
In 1880, as part of its campaign for the “Three Fs” (fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale) to protect tenants from exploitation, the Irish Land League under Michael Davitt withdrew the local labour required to save the harvest on Lord Erne’s estate.
When Boycott tried to undermine the strike, the League launched a campaign of isolation and ostracism against him in the local community. Neighbours would not talk to him. Shops would not serve him. Local labourers refused to tend his house, and the postman refused to deliver his mail.
The campaign against Boycott became a cause célèbre in the British press, with newspapers sending correspondents to the West of Ireland to highlight what they viewed as the victimisation of a servant of a peer of the realm by Irish nationalists. 50 Orangemen from County Cavan travelled to Lord Erne’s estate to save the harvest, while a regiment of troops and over 1,000 RIC policemen were deployed to protect the harvesters.
The campaign against the ‘Boycott Relief Expedition’ was orchestrated by Fr John O’Malley, parish priest of Kilmolara (resident in the Neale), and it was he who suggested the term ‘boycotting’ as being easier for his parishioners to pronounce that ‘ostracisation’.
The entire episode was thought to have cost the British government and others over £10,000 to harvest approximately £350 worth of potatoes, according to Captain Boycott’s estimate of the harvest value.
Boycott’s story was portrayed in the 1947 British film Captain Boycott, starring Cecil Parker in the title role, plus Stewart Granger, Kathleen Ryan, Alistair Sim and Robert Donat (as Charles Stuart Parnell).
Kilmolara parish church (CoI), thought to date from the mid-C18th, is an atmospheric ruin surrounded by graves of both major denominations.
The Neale is.
The area east of Cong features several Stone Circles and Standing Stones, two adjacent to ancient tombs, and there are also a number of Ringforts and souterrains.
Inishmaine / Inishmaan, by far the largest insular body on Lough Mask, just off the southeastern shore,is technically no longer an island as it became joined to the mainland when the lake’s waters were lowered on the construction of the Corrib/Mask Canal.
Inishmaine Abbey was founded in the C7th AD by Saint Cormac and enlarged in the C12th by the Augustinians.
Other items of interest on this island include the remnants of an ancient stone fort.
The lough was the scene of the 1882 “Lough Mask murders”, when two bailiffs working for Lord Ardilaun were killed, described as “an old man and a lad”. Tensions had arisen in the area during the Land War and the proximity of land managed by Charles Boycott. The corpses were found in the lough itself. The controversial lack of credible witnesses led to four well-publicised trials of the accused in 1882-83.