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

Crossmolina & Moygownagh (Co. Mayo / North)

Crossmolina / Crosmolina (Crois Uí Mhaoilíona – “Cross of O Maolfhiona / Mullany”, a Gaelic chieftain) (pop. 1000), set in lush green countryside dominated by Nephin (806m) near the northern shore of Lough Conn, is an attractive rural town bisected by the River Deel / Deale, with several fine old buildings, traditional shopfronts, a lively social scene and good amenities for visitors. (

Crossmolina History


The Moyleog / Moylaw area, part of the legendary region of Iorrus–Domann, anciently inhabited by the Fir Bolg,  was settled by the Calry sept of the Fir-Domann. The Clann Fiachra came to control the plain of Catree and Glen Nephin from strongholds at Inniscoe and on Annagh Island in Lough Conn.One of the Fiachra, Daithi, supposedly Ard-Ri / High King of Ireland 405-483 AD (!), is traditionally believed to have died on nearby Sliabh Alp, and is commemorated in the name of Loch Dhaithi Bhain.


Daithi’s brother Amhalghaidh / Awley became ruler of the reduced territory of Hy-Fiachrach Moy and this territory became known as Tir-Awley, subsequently adopted as the name of the medieval Barony. The history of Crossmolina is inextricably linked with that of Tirawley in general and Errew, Castlehill and Inniscoe in particular.


Saint Patrick arrived at Tirawley to find the princes and people hotly                 disputing who would succeed the recently deceased Awley. Enda Crom became the first Christian ruler of Tirawley. His descendants settled in Moylaw, as did those of his brothers Aengus, Fionn and Connell.


Errew Abbey was founded in the C6th by Saint Tiernan, reputed to have been either a grandson or great grandson of Awley.


A group of marauding Danes were defeated by the men of Hy-Awley in 807 AD, and their leader Elair was killed. After this rout the O’Dowdas wielded power until Cosanmhaigh Mor O’Dowda was slain by O’Gloinin in his house at Inniscoe in 1162 A.D. Flaherty O’Molina was chief of one half of Calree until he was slain by O’Gabheachan chief of the other half in 1269.


Tirawley was invaded c.1270 by the Cambro-Norman Barrett family, who soon founded Crossmolina Castle and the nearby abbey of  St Mary’s.


Crossmolina passed into the possession of the Bourke family during the C15th.


Crossmolina Castle was demolished in 1526 when Hugh Dubh O’Donnell of Tir Conaill (County Donegal) invaded Tirawley, capturing Crossmolina and Castlehill.


In 1631 St Mary’s Abbey and its lands came into the possession of Sir Richard Blake.


In 1795 some 4,000 Roman Catholic refugees came to Mayo from Ulster, fleeing persecution after the Battle of the Diamond. Many settled in the Crossmolina area.


In August 1798, when General Humbert landed at Kilcummin, a large contingent from the Crossmolina area led by Hugh Maguire joined the French forces. A member of this contingent, Patrick Walsh, was sent to Ballina to prepare for the arrival of the French but was arrested and hanged shortly after entering the town. Fr. James Conroy from the parish of Addergoole, Lahardane, acted as interpreter between the French and the Irish. Fr. Owen Cowley from the parish of Crossmolina also acted as interpreter for the French and had to go ‘on the run’ after the French defeat at Ballinamuck. A man named Walshe was hanged on the old bridge which spanned the River Deel after the failure of the insurrection.


The 6th January 1839 was the Night of the Big Wind.


The Great Famine was the main cause for the Crossmolina area population to decrease by 5,000 between 1841 and 1851.


Crossmolina improved considerably in the latter part of the C19th as roads were developed and the Congested Districts Board became involved in land development.


The Crossmolina Conspiracy of 1881 was supposedly a plot by agricultural reform agitators and Fenians to kill a farmer’s son and and a shopkeeper who supported a local land agent. Six people were arrested, the most prominent being Pat Nally of Balla (1857-1891), who was convicted of treason, sentenced to ten years imprisonment and died in Mountjoy Gaol two weeks before he was due for release.


Electric light reached Crossmolina in August 1930.


The Oweninny works and the ESB plant at Bellacorick, set up in 1952, played a major role in the growth of the town.

Crossmolina Castle is now little more than an overgrown stump.

St Mary’s church (CoI), erected in 1818, has a handsomely furbished interior with beautiful stained glass windows and a gnomic sundial near the main door.

St Tiernan’s church (RC), dedicated to the C7th AD founder of the monastery at Errew, was built in 1860 on land donated by Sir William Roger Palmer, 4th Bart, to to replace an earlier construction dating from 1806 (now part of the Parochial Hall), and has been altered / renovated several times since, notably in 2007.

Crossmolina Methodist church, opened in 1857, clased in 1974, and is now a roofless ruin.

The original large stone bridge  spanning the River Deel at Crossmolina was replaced in 1893 by an iron structure, in turn substituted by the present bridge c. 1986. (Photo –

In addition to a Town Trail, a River Walk featuring attractive sculptures and pretty Community Garden across the road from the church, Crossmolina is close to several scenic rural walking routes.

The Crossmolina Festival, re-established in 2006 after 20 years, is a week-long event held annually towards the end of July.

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St Mary’s Abbey, the Augustinian Priory established c.1300 by the Barrett family, was originally dependent on the monastic community at Ballybeg near Buttevant, County Cork. In 1306 three Normans, John, son of William of Ratheogan, Walter de Usser, and Walter de Cogan, were indicted for robbing the Abbot of Crossmolina. The lands later passed into the hands of Edmund Albanach Burke of Inniscoe. The last Abbot of St Mary’s was one of the O’Multeeney sept, lords of Moyleog and owners of considerable territory around Crossmolina until they were wantonly despoiled by the Burkes and the Barretts. Situated in the area now known as Abbeytown, little remains of this foundation today.

The Abbeytown estate was acquired in the mid C18th by the Orme family, who were forced to   sell their extensive properties to the Encumbered Estates’ Court after the Great Famine.

Glenmore House was built c.1790 by a younger son of the Ormes of Abbeytown on his marriage to one of the Knoxes of Rappa, while his sister married Godfrey Fetherstonhaugh, whose namesake son bought the property in 1853. A later Godfrey Fetherstonehaugh, MP for North Fermanagh 1906-1916, sold the house in 1930 to Major Aldridge, a leading local historian and folklorist who later moved to the Mount Falcon estate.

Fortland was built in 1810 by an Oliver Jackson of Enniscoe. He was succeeded by his son,George Humphry, a barrister who was also an agent to the Featherstones of Glenmore. Around 1860, he carried out all the evictions in Behy, Ballaghamuck, Gurtnahurra, Attishane and Garraun. Fortland was purchased c.1907 for £850 by Adam Cooke, an ex RIC man, and was later the location of a sawmill that at its height employed 40 men making boxes to export eggs and turkeys, mainly to the UK.

Stonehall House was built in the early C19th by a branch of the Knox family, who lived there until after the Great Famine. It was acquired by the Scotts, who remained in residence until the estate was taken over by the Congested Districts Board.

Owenmore House was built c.1830 and was the first house to have electricity from the river. In 1876, landlord William Orme of Owenmore owned 7,566 acres of land in Moygownagh. When the remaining estate was divided by the Land Commission in 1926, the house, grounds and 2 or 3 small fields were purchased by the Misses Knox, who sold it in 1950 to Major Marcus McCausland. (Photo –

Belville / Belleville, the early C19th Orme family residence that still appears on some maps as the name of the district, was sold during The Troubles and later abandoned, gaining a reputation as a haunted house: it is no longer extant.

Moygownagh / Moygowna / Maganaugh (Maith Gamhna – “Plain of the Milch Cows”), historically aka Belville, is a village and district on the River Owenmore. In pre-Norman times this area was part of the territory of Bredach, apparently a unit of ecclesiastical as well as of civil administration.

St Cormac’s church (RC) was built in 1846 by Fr James McNamara. It is situated in Ardvarney townland, once owned by a landlord called Stackpole. At the rear of the church there are two wedge tombs known locally as the Druid’s altars.

(An Anglican church used to stand near Garranard Post Office, formerly the parson’s residence).

A sculpture of Saint Cormac and Saint Daria, erected in 2005. According to folklore Moygownagh derives its name from the old Gaelic Mag Gamhnach – “Plain of the cows with calves”, desired as a blessing given by the itinerant holy man to the abbess of a local nunnery, traces of which can still be seen in the old cemetery at Knocknacullen.

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Kilfian (Cill Aodháin) is a rural parish and district set in a scenic area stretching from Crossmolina in the south to Belderrig in the north and Killala in the east with the Nephin mountains in the background. The name Kilfian is said to be derived from a local C6th saint called Aodhan.

The Owenmore/ Palmerstown River runs through with its abundance of salmon, brown trout, perch, roach and eel. Whether walking, cycling or driving there are some breathtaking scenes.

Kilfian’s claim to fame is it association with Sir Alexander Fleming, the 1945 Nobel Laurete discoverer of penicillin, who ws married to Sarah Marion McElroy from Kilfian. A monument to his memory was unveiled by his son in 2001.

Kilfian also lays claim to one of Ireland’s geatest athletes, the late John Garvin, best known as a cyclist in the 1940-50 era.

Kincon village is the main village in the parish.

Mount Palmer National School has no connection whatsoever with Mount Palmer(2,007 m /6,585-ft), the mountain in the Chugach Mountains in Alaska, or the Mount Palmer township founded in 1934 in the Yilgarn shire in Western Australia after the discovery the Mount Palmer Gold Mine, which operated from 1934 to 1944.



There are two burial grounds in Kilfian. The cemetery currently used is in Seechaun where there is also an old cemetery. There is also an old Church and cemetery in Rathrea.









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