Foxford (Co. Mayo / North)
Foxford (Béal Easa -“mouth of the cararact”) (pop. 1100), scenically situated on the River Moy, overlooked by the Ox Mountains and east of Lough Cullin, has tourism facilities catering mainly for fishing enthusiasts. (Photo by seatrouthunter)
Cromwell’s Rock, at a ford a little below the town, marks the point where Parliamentary troops crossed the river towards the end of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
The 1682 survey of County Mayo by Robert Downing for William Molyneuxmentions “a new plantation of English and Scots, and Ironworks, now called Foxford, but once Bellasea“.
During the 1798 French invasion the village was on the route taken by General Humbert‘s troops from Castlebar to Sligo.
Lewis (1837) was impressed by Foxford as “a place of very great antiquity, ….. formerly the key of Tyrawley; from it the district, which extends a considerable distance, even into the adjoining county of Galway, takes its name” and noted that it was “remarkable for the longevity of the inhabitants, being considered one of the healthiest spots in this or any of the adjoining counties”. He reported that “A few years since, whilst the streets were undergoing some repairs, a deep pit was sunk at the corner of the main street, to raise gravel, on which occasion a great number of human skulls and skeletons was dug up, evidently indicating the scene of some battle” and that “in a garden at Foxford a brass coin or medal was found in 1835; it represents a bishop and a church, with a defaced motto, and on the reverse the words ‘Floreat Rex’ with a crown and a harp, and a pope at his devotions, looking up to the crown”. He recorded that due to the end of the linen industry “140 looms in this town and neighbourhood were thrown out of employment”, and mentioned that “about three miles distant, on the Castlebar road, are the ruins of an extensive monastery, still inhabited by a solitary individual of the order, and according as one dies his place is supplied by another” (a reference to Straide Abbey?).
Foxford church (CoI) at the top of Market Square was built in 1801; the tower was added in 1826 and the whole edifice was plastered in 1939.
Foxford railway station opened on the Ballina / Manulla Junction branch line to the west of the village in 1868 , closed in 1963, and reopened in 1988.
Saint Michael and Mary church (RC), a handsome building with an impressive tower, was erected in 1879, the year of the Knock Apparition. The altar was made by the English stonemason James Pearse, father of the 1916 Easter Rising leader Padraic Pearse. A large white crucifix in the grounds marks the grave of Agnes Morrogh-Bernard (1842 – 1932), akaMother Arsenius, who founded the local Sisters of Charity convent school, established theFoxford Woollen Mills, had houses built for its employees and set up a Music School in 1923.
Foxford Woollen Mills, around which the village grew and prospered, have been producing their famously warm Foxford blankets, rugs and tweeds since 1892. The Visitors Centre has a good restaurant and provides an interesting Historical Woolen Mill Tourthat also includes views of craftsfolk at work in the modern wing.
The River Moy bridge, described by Lewis (1837) as “a very ancient bridge of several arches, now in a state of decay”, is nowadays crossed by 10,000 vehicles per day on the busy N26 road, creating a major bottleneck. A proposal to bypass the village is currently on hold, despite costly preparation work and compulsory purchase orders.
The Admiral Brown Centre was founded in 1930 as the Brown Memorial Hall to honour William Brown (1777 – 1857), whose family emigrated from Foxford to Philadelphia in 1786, setting him on an adventurous course that saw him become an admiral, father of the Argentine Navy, hero of the Argentine War of Independence, and defender of Buenos Aires during the Argentina-Brazil War. Statues and monuments to the Admiral are found throughout Argentina, and his name is honoured with several streets, squares, towns, ships, societies and sports clubs. In Foxford visitors can still see his childhood home, a small white washed cottage in Providence Rd. A statue, presented to the people of Foxford by the Argentine Patriotic Association in 1957 on the occasion of the Argentine Navy’s visit to Ireland for the centenary of the Admiral’s death, has wreaths laid at its foot annually by Argentine officials. (Photo by Pamela Norrington)
The poet and theatre director Frederick Robert Higgins (1896 -1941), born in a house on Foxford’s Main Street but brought up in Ballivor in County Meath, served on the board of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre from 1935 until his death. His circle of friends included WB Yeats, Padraic O Conaire, George William Russell, Lennox Robinson, and for a time Frank O’Connor. His best-known book of poetry is The Gap of Brightness (1940), and his poem Father and Son is also well known. Foxford hosts an annual festival to celebrate his work every May.
The Foxford Way is an 86-km waymarked walking trail that circles the town, taking in the Ox Mountains, rural roads, boreens, archeological sites, bogland, lakeshores and river banks.
Small lakes east of the village include Lough Muck and the curiously bisected Lough Gallow / Callow Lakes.
Drummin Wood, a scenic Coillte forest recreation area on the northeastern shore of Lough Cullin, contains ancient oak trees and has three small sheltered beaches that are very popular for swimming in summer.
Knockmore is a village in the parish of Backs, a name deriving from the Gaelic Dabhac – “two bacs”, i.e. 1rregular strips of land / medieval parishes; the ruins of Ballinahaglish church can be seen in the graveyard of that name, while the remains of Kilbelflad church lie in Cloghans cemetery.
Mount Falcon, designed by the one of the most fashionable late Victorian architects in the British Isles, James Franklin Fuller, was commissioned in 1871 by John Fredrick Knox’s son Utred to impress hisfiancée, Nina Gore of Belleek Castle in Ballina, and took 5 years to complete. (Photo – www.irelandflyfishing.com)
The estate was purchased in 1932 by Major John Aldridge (d. 1976) and his wife Constance (d.1999), who first opened it to visiting anglers in 1955. In 2000 the property was acquired by new owners who renovated and refurbished the original house and added a new extension.
Mount Falcon Estate now comprises the Mount Falcon Country House Hotel****, Fisheries, Spa, Lodges & Leisure Centre, set on 100 landscaped acres with two miles of double bank exclusive private fishing on Ireland’s most prolific wild Atlantic salmon river – The Moy.
Scotchfort was the location of a lakeside cottage reportedly haunted in the late C19th by a poltergeist that invisibly slammed doors and noisily cleaned pots and pans.
Deel Castle / Castle Gore
Deel Castle, a C16th Tower House built by the Bourke family close to the northern end of Lough Conn, was forfeited by Col. Thomas Bourke for siding with King James II in the late C17th Williamite War.
The castle was granted to the Gore family, who later also acquired the Manor of Belleek and estates in county Donegal from the O’Haras, Barons of Tyrawley. Sir Arthur Gore, 3rd Baronet, was created Baron Saunders, of Deeps in the County of Wexford and Viscount Sudley, of Castle Gore in the County of Mayo, in 1758, and was made Earl of Arran, of the Arran Islands, in 1762. His son, one of the original 16 Knights of the Order of St Patrick, had 16 children, including Cecilia Underwood, Duchess of Inverness.
The 1st Earl of Arran’s sister Elizabeth had married James Cuff of Elmhall and Ballinrobe Castle in 1731, and in 1791 Deel Castle had a modern extension attached to it by their son James Cuff, who was made 1st Baron Tyrawley (2nd Creation) in 1797. In 1876 Colonel St George Cuff owned 3,205 acres in county Mayo.
The C18th wing, long used as a residence by the Cuffs’ estate steward, was torched by vandals in 1922 during the Civil War and not rebuilt. The old castle, which was still intact in the early C20th, is now a ruin.