Hollymount (Co. Mayo / South)
Hollymount, founded as an estate village, has a notably wide main street, used during the C18th and early C19th as the venue for regular markets and livestock fairs. Later in the C19th the district was stated to have a Market House, a Constabulary Barracks, a Court House and a Dispensary.
Hollymount House, now in ruins, was originally built by Archbishop Vesey of Tuam in the early C18th, and passed by marriage to the Lindsey family. In 1876 Mary Lindsey owned 5194 acres. She married Heremon FitzPatrick, grandson of the 2nd Marquess of Headford, and he assumed the additional surname of Lindsey. They had no children. The estate was sold to the Congested Districts’ Board in 1915.
Mount Jenings was the home of George Jenings (1732-1822) and his successors until the property was sold by the Landed Estates’ Court in 1886. The house is now roofless.
The church of St Charles the Martyr (CoI) was built in 1816 to replace a chapel of ease erected by Archbishop Vesey in 1688, and served the parish of Kilcommon until 1959. Although roofless since 1963, it retains its splendid iron spire. The grounds contain several impressive monuments, including the memorials to the Lindsey, Ruttledgeand Brownefamilies. (See photo)
Kilrush House, now a ruin, was built c.1835 by TS Lindsey as an Agricultural College , which soon closed. The property was later rented by a Scottish farmer called Francis Laurie, followed by another named James Simpson, who died on the premises in 1898, and was briefly home to Charles Bingham Jenings.
Lewis (1837) reported that elk’s horns, Elizebethan coins and weapons had been found locally at various times.
Clooney Castle / Cloonacastle Tower House, built c.1238 by theFitzgeralds, later passed into the possession of the Bourkes. The owner at the time of the Composition of Connaught in September 1585, Richard ÓgBourke,was hanged by Sir Richard Bingham, who also executed the 15 women buried at a nearby site called poll-na-marbh – “hollow of the dead”.
The castle and manor were taken over in 1591 by Sir Richard’s brother John Bingham, whose nephew Sir Henry Bingham, 1st Baronet Bingham of Castlebar, was in possession at the time of Lord Strafford‘s Inquisition of County Mayo in 1637. His descendant Charles Bingham, a great nephew of Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan, was made 1st Earl of Lucan (2ndCreation) in 1795. The Lucan dynasty owned large tracts of land in County Mayo, and were particularly unpopular landlords.
The property was leased for well over a hundred years by the Gildea family, who were probably responsible for the construction of what was later described as a steward’s house. George Gildea planted thousands of trees c.1803, and his nephew James Cuffe Gildea lived in the house until his death in 1842. The next tenant was James Simpson, the Scottish farmer who later died in Kilrush House. One account states that Simpson “brought a new approach to farming in the west of Ireland, going in for tillage on a large scale and keeping cattle in during the winter months” and “provided employment for many people and kept a steam engine at Cloonacastle which was used to drive a saw mill, a bone grinding mill and a threshing and winnowing machine“.
The estate was taken over by the Congested District Board in 1907, then passed through the Walsh and Hoban families before being purchased in 1992 by Ballinrobe Golf Club.
JF Quinn‘s History of Mayo (1996) states that Lord Lucan and other landlords evicted local tenants wholesale “to make bullock runs and tillage farms for Scotchmen” and notes that “This section of the parish of Kilcommon was the home of landlordism. The serfs were tolerated only on the boggy and marshy verges of the demesnes. They were necessary to keep the swamps drained, the cut-a-away bog reclaimed and tilled, to keep down the rushes, and heather.”
Delia Murphy (1902 – 1971), was the daughter of Jack Murphy, an emigrant who had made a fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush and on returning to his native Hollymount in 1901 had purchased the large Mount Jenings estate, where he allowed members of the Irish travellers community to camp; according to her own account, the young Delia learnt her first songs at their cooking fires. Soon noted for her remarkable voice, she went on to become a leading singer and collector of Irish ballads, recording over 400 in her lifetime and earning the nickname “Queen of Connemara“. Her 1939 version of The Spinning Wheel can be heard here.
Ballyglass & Carnacon (Co. Mayo / Central)
Ballyglass (An Baile Glás – “the green settlement”) (pop. 250) is situated in the heart of the Plains of Mayo, an area noted for its Ringforts and other sites of archaeological interest. The village was long noted for its regular fairs, banned after a man was killed in a faction fight, and used to be an important staging post for the Bianconi coaches that traversed Ireland before the railways were introduced. Ballyglass still has facilities for horse-drawn caravans.
Towerhill House was the home of Captain Blake, a sporting member of the family which owned extensive property throughout the west of Ireland. In 1885 he hosted a Gaelic football match for which he chose the team colours that were to become the Mayo flag. The House was abandoned in 1922. Clooneen Mill stands in the former grounds.
Carnacon / Carrownacon (Ceathramhadh na Con – “quarter of the hound”), historically aka Gortmoyle, is a small village near the eastern shores of Lough Carra, and is nowadays probably best known for its Ladies’ GAA team.
Carnacon House, built in 1740, is the only local mansion still in use as a family residence. It was the home of James Joseph McDonnell, a leader of the 1798 Rebellion. A Memorial Stone in the village reads: “To the Memory of General McDonnell leader of the Pike Men of Castlebar and Ballinamuck in 1798, Born in Carnacon. Died in exile USA 1849. Erected by Mr and Mrs M Moore, Santa Barbara, California USA 1974.” The General was lucky to escape with his life from the debacle of the Battle of Ballinamuck, after which 200 rebels were captured and hanged
Clogher (Co. Mayo / South)
Clogher is located in a lowlying wetland area scattered with small lakes, including the appealingly named Lough Joe and Lough Frank.
Clogher House, built in 1770, was known as Clogher Lynch after popular landlords from the C17th to the early C19th. It passed by marriage c.1840 to Major Crean, who remodelled the house but was hated and feared by his tenants, and then to the Fitzgerald Kenny family, of whom many stories are told. James Fitzgerald, elected in 1927 as a Cumann na nGaedheal delegate to Dail Eireann, was soon appointed Minister for Justice to replace the assassinated Kevin O Higgins; he remained a TD until 1943 and died in 1956. The property was sold to a timber merchant in the late 1960s, and the house was burnt down in an accidental fire in 1970. The Land Commission took over the estate and divided it locally.
The Clogher Heritage Complex includes a replica of a C17th labourer’s cottage and a garden containing a rather twee display of artefacts. The centre is the starting point for several pleasant looped walking routes through the surrounding woodland and bog, takes in several interesting sites, including an ancient dolmen used as a Mass Rock during the Penal Law era, an old Forge and the delightful Fortlawn Wood.
Drum church, believed to have been founded c.440 AD by Saint Patrick, whose alleged footprint can be viewed on a nearby stone, was rebuilt sometime during the Middle Ages. Only one wall remains, surrounded by gravestones dating back to the 1700s and including the later Fitzgerald Kenny burial plot. The ruins of a pre-Norman Caiseal once used by pilgrims to rest overnight can still be seen in a field west of the graveyard.
Doonamona / Donamona Castle, said to have been built c.1465 by the O’Kellys of Ui Maine , was listed in 1574 as belonging to Richard MacDavy MacParson of the MacWilliam Bourkes.
The Tower House was confiscated by Sir Richard Bingham in circumstances recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters: “Those Bourkes who were leagued with the Mac Williams aided by all their adherents, took up arms to defend themselves, of which the governor, Sir Richard Bingham, had no sooner heard,than he proceeded into the County of Mayo and took possession of all the towns, whether uninjured or ruined, that were in the country, namely, Dun Na Mona, Cuil Na gCaiseal, Gaoisdeach and Cluainin. The Bourkes however made an attack upon the Governor at Cuil na gCaiseal, but they sustained more injury on this occasion than they were able to inflict upon him.”
One of the last to submit to Bingham was Edmond De Burgo of Castlebar, aka “Eamonn na Feasoige”, who was later made an example of and executed following a farcical “trial” at Donomona.
The large hole at the top of the remaining wall is said to have been caused by a cannon ball fired by General Humbert‘s troops at the garrison during the 1798 French Invasion.
Gwesdian / Gweeshadawn Castle, the penultimate stronghold listed above, is now in ruins.
Belcarra & Ballyheane (Co. Mayo / Central)
Belcarra (Baila na Cora – “town of the confluence”llll) (pop. 150), located at the foot of a wooded drumlin on a tributary of the River Moy, has won the county Tidy Towns award on 14 occasions.
The local Heritage Centre takes the form of a restored “eviction cottage“” marking the scene of the 1886 ejectment by the Landlord’s agents, the infamous Gardiner, Pringle & Cuffe, of nine members of the Walsh family, who were left homeless and destitute. Community spirit prevailed and the small house (“tigin“) built by the neighbours to house them is also on view.
Walshpool Lough and Cloonaugh Lake, set in the surrounding rolling hills, are popular for fishing.
Elm Hall / Elmhall House was built as the home of James Cuffe (1748 – 1821), 1st and last Baron Tyrawley (2nd Creation), who was also responsible for the erection of the nearby “naggin house“, aka “the pleasure house“, plus the local Anglican church. All are now ruins
Ballyheane / Ballyhean (Beal Atha hEin – “the Mouth of the Ford of the Bird”), located amidst a landscape of drumlins, hollows and small lakes, is a popular destination for country walks.
Teampall na gCailleachadh Dubha (“church of the black hags” i.e. nuns!) is a ruined C11th structure in the old graveyard at the centre of the village, where the Peyton vault commemorates one of the local C19th landlord families.
Kinturk Castle dates from the C13th and has close links with the de Staunton / McEvillys. and according to legend it was once held by the “pirate queen” Grainne Mhaol O’Malley. The adjacent Kinturk House was owned by a branch of the Bourke family in the early C19th.
The French Hill Monument, a narrow nine metre stone pyramid topped with a cross, was erected in 1876 to commemorate five French soldiers killed locally during General Humbert‘s invasion in August 1798.
Errew monastery & school (1840 – 1975), founded by popular local landlord James Hardiman / Seamus Ó hArdagáin (1782-1855), the prominent RIA member, QUG librarian, historian and musicologist after whom the NUI Galway library is named, was run by Franciscan brothers, several of whom were buried in a small adjacent graveyard.