Ballaghadereen & Edmonstown (Co. Roscommon / West)
Ballaghaderreen & Edmonstown were transferred from County Mayo to County Roscommon by the Local Government Act 1898.
Ballaghaderreen (Bealach an Doirín – ‘The way of the little oak”) (pop. 2000), historically aka “Balladerrin”, is an attractive little town with old fashioned shop frontages and a number of pleasant pubs. Although the toponym has long seemed comical to urban sophisticates, the town’s situation on the north side of the Lung River valley, ideal for nature walks with lovely views, has in recent years attracted a vibrant colony of artists and artisans.
Charles Dillon Lee (1745–1813), 12th Viscount Dillon, obtained a patent in 1786 to hold eight annual fairs in the rural townland of Ballaghaderreen and developed it as a market hub for the Kilcolman parish end of his family’s vast County Mayo landholding. By 1837 the community had a Petty Sessions House and Market House, a Constabulary Barracks and Revenue Police Barracks, a Dispensary and a Board of Ordinance Military Barracks, a by the end of the C19th, when the Congested Districts Board acquired the 32,000 hectare estate, also had a Cathedral and a Railway Station.
Dillon House , built c.1780, presumably by Viscount Dillon, was long the home of descendants of Luke Dillon, a local tenant farmer who opened a shop that grew into a department store known as Monica Duff and Co., long one of the biggest employers in Ballaghaderreen, which was eventually forced to close in 1986.
John Blake Dillon ( 1814 -1866), a Trinity College graduate and barrister, became well known as one of the founders of The Nation journal, and was one of the Young Irelanders who organised the failed Cabbage Patch Rebellion of 1848, after which he was tried in absentia, convicted of High Treason and sentenced to death. He managed to escape to the USA, dressed as a priest. There he practised law until he returned to Ireland under an 1855 amnesty. He was elected as an MP for Tipperary in 1865, but died of cholera within a year. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
John Dillon ( 1851-1927 ) was elected as an MP for Tipperary in 1880, and later represented East Mayo from 1885 to 1918. He was once suspended from Parliament for using violent language. Active in the Land League, he spent a number of months in jail for various campaigns and was present with William O’Brien at the ‘Mitchelstown Massacre‘. By 1905, he was second in command in the Irish Parliamentary Party and took over as leader in 1918 when John Redmond died. After a very poor result in the elections of that year he retired from politics and took over the family business in Ballaghaderreen.
James Dillon ( 1902-1986 ), another qualified barrister, was deputy leader of Fine Gael from 1938 until 1942, but resigned from the party when it accepted de Valera‘s policy of neutrality in WWII, when he was the only Irish politician to take a stand in favour of joining the Allies. Known as one of the best public speakers in Irish politics, he later re-joined Fine Gael, serving as Minister for Agriculture 1954-57 and as Leader of the Opposition 1959-65.
Standing on on an elevated site on the main axis of the Market Square, Dillon House is the most dominant building visible on the approach into Ballaghaderreen. It is now the town’s public library and also contains the offices of the Western Development Commission. In January 2000, it hosted the first ever full Government Cabinet meeting to be held outside of Dublin. Beside it is the Headquarters of The Border, Midland and Western Regional Authority.
Ballaghaderreen Cathedral (RC), officially the Cathedral Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Nathy, commissioned in 1855 and dedicated in 1860, stands on the former Fair Green as the episcopal seat for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Achonry. The imposing tower and spire were added in 1912.
(Saint Nathy, surnamed Cruimthir (the priest) and aka Crumnathy, was a Sligo-born C6th AD disciple of Saint Finnian of Clonnard, who made him a bishop. On the instructions of his mentor, he founded a monastery in Achad Cain / Conaire – Achonry – in the district of the Luigne, and is the patron saint of the Diocese.)
Ballaghaderreen Convent was opened at Friars’ Hill in 1874 by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who ran an Industrial School for orphans and unwanted children for almost a century. Acquired by the Sisters of Charity, it is now in ruins, while Ballaghadareen Community Park has been developed on a part of the former grounds.
Ballaghaderreen Railway Station, opened in 1874 by the Midland Great Western Railway on the Sligo – Ballaghaderreen Junction Railway line, and later on the Dublin / Sligo line, was closed permanently in 1963. The cut stone building remains as a perfect example of Victorian railway architecture.
Ballaghaderreen Courthouse, built c.1880, is the venue for regular District Court sittings and also contains a Garda station and County Council offices. Positioned to overlook the town from the T-junction at the top of Main Street, this impressive building retains many of its original interior fittings.
St Nathy’s College has been based since 1896 in the former British Army Barracks, constructed c.1830. Co-ed for many years, it is the only post-primary educational establishment in Ballaghaderreen and now one of the largest secondary schools in the West of Ireland.
Ballaghaderreen Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday morning in The Shambles on Charlestown Road, features an extensive array of Home Baking, Jams, Salsas, Chutney & Humous, Home Grown Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables, Fresh Fish from Killala and Fresh Juices. You can even buy a bag of turf. This is a good place to meet craftsfolk.
Durkins Bar & Restaurant ,formerly also a hotel, still has good B&B accommodation facilities.
Edmonstown, close to Lough Gara on the southern border of County Sligo, was long part of the estate of the Costello family that gave its name to the Barony of Costello (originally the Nangle descendants of Jocelyn de Angulo, Anglo Normans who conquered the ancient Sliabh Lugha area and came to be known in Connacht as the MacCostellos), whose main residence by the early C19th was at Edmondstown.
Edmondstown House, referred to in 1786 as as “the fine seat of Mr Costello“, was rebuilt for Sir Robert Art Costello in 1864 in a High Victorian Scottish Baronial Gothick style by John Mc Curdy, who also designed Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. It was sold in 1893 to the the local Roman Catholic Diocesan authorities and initially used to house Edmondstown College, a boarding school for boys, replaced after three years by St Nathy’s College. Having previously lived at Brooklawn (now derelict), the prelate himself took up residence in 1911, thus making the house a Bishop’s Palace until recently, when it was put up for sale. The grounds contain several Bronze Age Fuluacht Fiadh, easily recognised by the mound of burnt stones placed in a horse-shoe shape on which grass grows much greener than on surrounding land.
The Four Altars, built by Myles Costello during the early C18th, when the Penal Laws prohibited Roman Catholics from worship in church, enabled priests to say Mass at the altar offering best protection from wind and rain. A Cillin (ancient church ground formerly used for burials of unbaptised children) is situated directly behind the Four Altars. Nearby are traces of the original village of Edmondstown. An early C19th church was replaced in 1873 by St Aidan’s church (RC) in Monasteraden (Co. Sligo).
The Ballaghaderreen & District Angling Club make good use of the River Lung (Abha na Luinge), a tributary of the River Shannon, to fish for Bream, Roach, Rudd, Hybrids, Perch, Tench, Eel, Pike and Trout.
The Aughurine Stone Circle, comprising 14 upright stones with a cave or pit in the centre near a hill top, is thought to date from the early Bronze Age. Nearby there is a second smaller stone circle. Various circular earthen formations and the remains of two trackways (possibly ceremonial) are clearly visible. Such structures are more common in the South-West and North of Ireland.
Castlemore House was built in the C17th by the Costello family whose ancestors gave their name to the Barony of Costello (originally the Nangle descendants of Jocelyn de Angulo, Anglo Normans who conquered the ancient Sliabh Lugha area and came to be known in Connacht as the MacCostellos), to replace their original 1257 castle on the site of the ancient Aileac Mór, from which they had dominated the area until most had effectively been cheated out of their lands in an abuse of the Surrender & Regrant scheme by Sir Thomas Dillon, 1st Viscount Dillon.
Dudley Costello, aka “the Scourge of Mayo”, was killed returning from a raid on a planted estate in 1667 by Captain Theobald Dillon and a large number of soldiers in an ambush at Tumgesh, a ford on the River Moy. He is recalled in a Lament: “No more will Barnalyra Wood / Hear through it’s dale and glade / The echoes of the Colonel’s voice / Nor his feared Toledo Blade / From Ancient Mask to Regal Erne, / Where with Nangle he ranged wide, / To rob the rich and help the poor/ And stem the crimson tide. So rest in peace bold swordsman / Though no stone marks your grave / For on the gibbet you were hung / Spiked by an Ormond Knave. / But tonight around ruined Castlemore / A Connaught wind will blow / For to praise the name of the one they called / “The Scourge of Old Mayo“.
The house was the main residence of the Costello family until the early C19th, when they transferred their seat to Edmondstown, and was later occupied by the Anglican parish rector Rev Plunket and then by Thomas Strickland, who held the property from Viscount Dillon. Only the farm buildings still remain, set amidst attractive trees.
Kiltobranks Cave, located on high ground in the townland of that name, may well be a pre-historic tomb. The entrance is carefully constructed and a lintel can be clearly seen. It is covered by a low mound of stones. The great surveyor O’Donovan (Letters 1837) recorded that it was called Umhaidh Phadraig.
Feigh Lake is a wildlife sanctuary.