Bohola & Meelick (Co. Mayo / Central)
Bohola / Bucholla (Bothóla) (pop. 250) is a rural crossroads community with an attractive village green. (Photo by Dave Mariano)
Barleyhill House was built c.1790 by a Roman Catholic landlord called McManus, who on hearing of the French invasion in 1798 prepared a banquet for General Humbert on the lawn and had a bull roasted on one of the unhinged gates.
Some men from Bohola set off for the disastrous encounter with Lord Cornmallis’ troops at Ballinamuck, where the captured French soldiers were treated as prisoners but the locals were hanged on the battlefield.
The McManus family, whose burial vault is situated on the hillside of the old cemetery, were ruined by the Great Famine, and as a result of a series of loans and mortgages, both they and the neighbouring Deane family were forced to sell their estates and emigrate; the last landlord died in poverty in New York.
Barleyhill House was acquired in 1867 by a Scottish gentleman called Mr Aitken, whose descendants live there to this day.
Bohola’s population five years before the Great Famine was 4,301. By 1851 it had dropped to 2,907. An article about the period can be read here.
The church of the Immaculate Conception & St Joseph (RC) is an imposing mid- C19th edifice. According to local tradition, its thatched predecessor continued in use for meetings and was where Fanny Parnell addressed the local branch of the Land League
Martin Sheridan (1881-1918), commemorated on the village green, was a locally-born Olympic athlete who won 9 medals (5 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze) for the USA in discus-throwing, high and long jumps, shot-putt and pole-vaulting at St Louis (1904), London (1908) and the “unofficial” games held in Athens in 1906. Several sports writers called him the greatest all-round performer of all time, and he was undoubtedly Ireland’s greatest Olympian.
Bohola saw considerable activity during “the Troubles” between 1916 and 1923. A gentle account of Black & Tän raids and Republican enforcement can be read here.
The O’Dywer Cheshire Home, where many of Sheridan’s trophies and medals are on display, stands on a site donated by the locally born O’Dwyer brothers, William (1890-1964), a Tammany Hall Democrat Mayor of New York City (1946-50) and US Ambassador to Mexico, and Paul (1907 – 1998), a successful attorney identified with “progressive” causes. Both were passionate Zionist supporters, and Paul, who gave a very strange speech at a meeting of the College Historical Society in TCD in 1980, prophesying that Ireland’s rivers would one day run green, was a fund raiser for Noraid, widely regarded as a front for the Provisional IRA.
The Village Inn is a landmark pub / B&B, popular with anglers.
Bohola is the name of a highly regarded traditional Irish music duo in Chicago, comprising the accordion virtuoso Jimmy Keane and the remarkable bouzar player and vocalist Pat Broaders.
Meelick (Míleac) is a small village.
Meelick was the location of a monastery founded by Saint Broccaidh, of which little is known and only a Round Tower survives.
Meelick’s Round Tower built sometime between 923 and 1013 AD beside The 22m high tower, restored in 1880, has a base circumference of over 17m, but is missing its conical roof. With the abundant lichen growth, the tower seems to glow in sunlight as well as under floodlight at night (installed to celebrate the millennium). (Photo by JohnArmagh)
A C10th / C11th cross slab at the foot of the tower features a crudely interlaced border and the inscription: OR DO GRICOUR (last two letters not clear) meaning ‘A prayer for Gricour‘.
Lewis (1837) had quite a lot to say about the Civil Parish of Meelick, ‘containing 3493 inhabitants ….. bounded by the river Moy on the north-west, and by the Geesten on the south- west‘, and reported that ‘in the Oldcastle demesne is a well, the water of which is impregnated with sulphur and iron, and is efficacious in scorbutic cases. Numerous gold and silver coins, of the reigns of the Edwards and Henrys, have been discovered here from time to time‘.
St Luke’s parish church (RC) dates from 1839.