ByRoute 15.2 Co. Longford (W) // Co. Mayo (N)

Brize Castle

Brize Castle is thought to have been founded byGerald, son of the famous Norman invader,Maurice de Prendergast who came to Ireland with Strongbow. (Photo by aidenc)


Prendergast influence spread throughout the district, and the family became known as Clann Muiris na mBri (“Clan Morris of Bree(s)” – the older name of the district, from Bri, meaning “hill” – note the resemblance to the Scottish wordbrae). One branch became known as the Mac Muiris / MacMorris family, with offshoots including the Mac Garailts / MacGarretts.


By the late C16th Brize Castle belonged to Walter Óg MacMorris, who was in effect a Gaelic chieftain. The rebel leader Red Hugh O’Donnell spent Christmas here in 1585.


By 1607 it was owned by John Moore (d. 1635), whose estate became the subject of complicated litigation involving marriages and wills of the Moore, Browne and Lynch families, finally settled by a 1744 House of Lords decision in favour of Sir Henry Lynch, 5th Bart.


A house was later built which was the home of the Coghlan family in the early C19th  and was occupied by John and Mathew Anderson at the time ofGriffith’s Valuation in 1857.

Balla & Athavallie (Co. Mayo / Central)

Balla (pop. 600), formerly known as Ros Dairbhreach (“The Height of the Oak Wood”), claims to be located at the exact centre of County Mayo.

Balla’s  Round Tower, now a 10m stump, was erected in the  C10th next to a monastery established in the C7th AD by Saint Cronan, alias Mochua (d.c. 632 AD). The nearby Holy Well, one of several in the area, is named for Saint Patrick, traditionally said to have rested here on his way to Croagh Patrick, and long a stopping place on the old Tochar Phadraigpilgrimage route.

An elaborate Celtic Cross monument in the village commemorates locally-born Patrick William Nally (1856-1891), who organised two national athletic events in Balla which played a part in the establishment of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884.  A member of the IRB‘s Supreme Council, he was arrested with six others in 1882 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for treason arising from his alleged involvement in the so-called Crossmolina Conspiracy to murder a farmer’s son and a shopkeeper who supported a local land agent, and died in Mountjoy Gaol shortly before he was due to be released. Croke Park, the vast GAA stadium in Dublin, has a stand named after him.

Lagaturn House, now an empty shell, was once the home of Captain William Fitzmaurice, a notoriously trigger-hammm magistrate remembered for his harsh sentences, duelling challenges and cruelty to his servants (he once shot and wounded a gardener). The property later came into the occupancy of the Nally family and was the venue for many sporting events in the early days of the GAA.

Balla was the location of an important confrontation in the early days of the Land Leaguemovement between activists from across the country and RIC men armed with rifles to enforce the eviction of the Dempsey family on 15th November 1879. Violence was averted by the intervention of CS Parnell, and the eviction went ahead a few days later; the League ended up paying Dempsey’s rent arrears to have his family reinstated in their cottage.

St Cronan’s church (RC), a handsome Gothic edifice designed by RM Butler with stained glass windows by Harry Clarke, was completed in 1918 with money raised by the local parish priest on a 1910 tour of the USA to replace the previous structure (reported in the Pittsburgh Chronicle as dating from 1766 but in fact built in 1806). The 2 ton 12 cwt church bell, cast in Norfolk in 1817, was initially installed in Dublin’s GPO, moved in 1884 to the Royal University‘s  Earlsfort Terrace premises, and brought to Balla in 1914.

A modern Community Centre stands on the site of the old church, deconsecrated in 1918 and converted into The Maple Hall, used initially for fashionable Hunt Balls and later for popular dances, ceilis, concerts and amateur drama productions.

Balla’s splendid town park was much enhanced by the Dawn Oak 2000 project, which involved planting 2000 oak trees to mark the new new millennium.

The Balla Hyper Festival, held annually at the end of July, features an NCF International 10k Road Race, an Unusual Fashion show and various competitions (tennis, pool, talent etc.)

This abandoned tower is presumably the remnant of a formerChurch of Irelandedifice – information welcome! (Photo byColwynboy)

Athevallie House


Athavallie House, an C18th mansion, was the residence of descendants of the first Sir Henry Lynch (d. 1635), who was made a Baronet in 1622. The 3rd Baronet (d.1691) was an important judge (Baron of the Exchequer), while several other members of the family practised at the Bar and sat in the Irish House of Commons.


The 6th Baronet (d.c.1775) converted to Protestantism and assumed the second surname Blosse on marrying Elizabeth Barker, niece and heiress of Tobias Blosse. The 7th Baronet lived openly with his mistress Sibella Cottle, who allegedly bound him to her using a “spancel” charm made by a local witch. When Sir Harry died at the age of 38 in 1788 his generous legacies to his seven illegitimate children caused major family ructions (dramatised in The Spancel of Death, a play by TH Nally). The baronetcy passed to his four-year-old nephew Robert (d. 1818).


The family owned 17,600 acres around Balla, with the Big House providing some employment, but tenant farmers were expected to provide free labour and suffered evictions for non-payment of rent during the Great Famine, which nearly bankrupted the family. The 11th Baronet (1857 – 1918) was obliged to sell the estate to the Congested District Board.


The house, used as a military base during WWI and acquired in 1919 by the Sisters of St Louis, who established a convent and  boarding school for girls, has been run since 1978  a community secondary school.

Athavallie, a small rural community, got its name from the local landlords’ estate.

Balla and Athevallie are both

Lough Naminoo is a popular lake for coarse anglers fishing for rudd.

Manulla (Co. Mayo / Central)

Manulla (Máigh Nulla) is a village set in scenic surroundings dotted with lakes, of which the largest is called Carrowmore and others have charming names including Mitten, Bottle andLakeland.

The Well of Findmagh (Adam’s Well), once the centre of Druidic worship in the region, is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to baptise converts to Christianity.

Manulla Castle is believed to have been held by the McEvilly family until 1592.

Manulla Junction Railway Station, built in 1868 on the Athlone / Westport line for a branch line opened with the express intention of enabling rapid transport of the Earl of Lucan‘s cattle to market, was variously operated by the Great Northern & Western Railway Co.,  Midland Great Western Railway Co. and CIE until 1963. Re-opened in 1988, it is reportedly inaccessible to all but passengers transferring from mainline trains to the branch line serving Foxford and Ballina.

The Land League Cottage was built in a single day in the 1880s for newly married Tom Brennan, whose parents had died shortly after being evicted from their home, leading their orphaned son to play an active role in the movement against landlordism. The cottage was constructed on the border of the Dunville and Kilmaine estates in the 24 hour period it took the RIC‘s Inspector Pepper to “consult regulations” by local volunteers, famously including men called EarleyNoone and Knight, assisted by members of Cumann na mBan and the Ladies Land League such as its President Anne Deane fromBallaghaderreen Charles Stuart Parnell‘s sister Fanny, and Beatrice Walsh fromBalla.

Breaffy (Co. Mayo / Central)

Breaffy (Bréachmhaigh –  ”plain of wolves”) (pop. 1700), is a village on the southeastern outskirts of Castlebar.

Breaghwy, the long-established  official spelling of the toponym, looks distinctly odd; possibly inspired by Welsh, it is evidently uninfluenced by the orthographical strictures of George Bernard Shaw, who satirically rendered the word “fish” as “ghoti” (“gh” as in “tough“, “o” as in “women“, “ti” as in “nation“).

Breaffy House


Breaffy House, founded by Dominick Browne (1701 – 1776), was rebuilt in the Scottish Baronial style  by the Cambridge-based architect William Fawcettin 1890 for Andrew Browne. whose son Dominick Sydney Brown (1860 – 1927) , aka “the Major”, fought in the Boer War and WWI.


Brigadier Dominick Andrew Sidney Browne (d. 1982) was joint Master of the Galway Blazers Hunt from 1933 to 1936, served in Italy and north western Europe during WWII, entertained lavishly and played an active part in local affairs until he sold the property in 1961 for conversion into an upmarket hotel.


The following story but it made national headlines in 1961.

An inscribed headstone found near Breaghwy House recorded the amazing fact that close on 300 years previously Mayo men grew to the gigantic height of over 12 feet.

The headstone, which weighed over 2 cwt., created considerable interest at the time and recorded for posterity the size of a skeleton.

The inscription on the headstone read: “The above stone was found at Brefy A.D. 1732. The coffin of Genan contains a skeleton 12 foot long, Glenmask, Ireland, A.M. 2352, P.D. 702, A.D. 1681. This monument is erected to show the antiquity of the Irish character and the size of mankind in those dark ages, 1756.”

Note the spelling ‘Brefy’. It is well known that the spellings of names of particular areas and indeed of family names have changed over the generations.

The stone was found by officials from the Irish Land Commission, which had acquired Breaghwy House and surrounding lands from Brigadier D.A.S. Browne. The Browne family came to live in Breaghwy in 1626.

Also found near Breaghwy House was a second stone on which there is an Ogham inscription, characters used by the ancient Irish and other Celtic races.

Dick Tarpey, chief inspector of the Irish Land Commission, had both stones removed indoors and had the discovery reported to the Antiquarian Section of the National Museum. Mr. Tarpey lived at Station Road, Castlebar, and was a keen fisherman.

The story is like something from Ripley’s Believe it or not, but as my old neighbour, Jack Cassidy, always said, if you read it upon The Connaught Telegraph it has to be right.



The mansion, landscaped gardens and wooded grounds are currently run together with the Breaffy Woods Hotel and the Breaffy Lodges as theBreaffy House Sports Hotel Resort & Spa****, a leading regional conference and wedding venue.

St Aloysius church (RC) was built in 1976 to replace a C19th edifice dedicated to the same young Italian aristocrat.

Breaffy is


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