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

Irishtown (Co. Mayo / South)

Irishtown lived its moment of fame in April 1879, when the tenants of a particularly harsh local landlord (apparently a Roman Catholic clergyman called Burke / Bourke, of whom there were several, some evidently Fenian sympathisers and / or  supporters of the agrarian movement, so his exact identity has been much disputed), organised themselves to resist his despotism with the help of James Daly, Michael Davitt and other activists. A public meeting attracted thousands of sympathisers and led to the eviction notices being withdrawn from the tenants and a twenty-five per cent reduction in rents. From this success was born the Irish National Land League.

Castlereagh Lake near Irishtown is one of several local bodies of water popular for coarse fishing, and has stands for disabled anglers. (Photo –www.prebait.com)

Castlereagh Castle, now little more than a  moated mound, was occupied at the time of the C16th Composition of Connaught (Surrender and Regrant) by Walter Óg Mac Roru, a descendant of Morris FitzGerald PrendergastMuiris Súgach Mac Gearailt de Prendergast, from whom derived the names of the Mac Morris clan and the Barony of Clanmorris, the Morris in Claremorris and the Garrett in Castle Macgarrett.

Kilvine church, which gave its name to the local Roman Catholic parish that includes Irishtown and Ballindine, is believed to occupy the earliest consecrated grounds in the district. Kilvine derives from Cill Mhiáin, meaning the church of Mine, who according to local legend was a relative  (some say a sister) of Saint Patrick. The ruins visible today are medieval.

Ballindine (Co. Mayo / South)

Ballindine (Baile an Daighin – “Town of the Fortress”) (pop. 800) is a village with a pretty tree-lined main street and a Chinese restaurant called Wok & Roll.

The remains of a the Ringfort from which the village is said to have got its name are located in a field next to the National School. According to local folklore, the adjacent Logalisheen souterrain was connected by underground passages to the old churches in Cloonmore(about 2 km to the east) and in Garryduff (5 km west), reputedly destroyed together with the church at Kilvine by Cromwellian troops on a single day. Other archaeological sites in the district include a megalithic tomb at Lisduff and Standing Stones at Branraduff andNewtown.

Castle Macgarrett


Castle Macgarrett, just outside Ballindine,was once the ancestral home of the Prendergast family, descendants of Maurice de Prendergast who came to Ireland with Strongbow during the Norman invasion. The original Norman castle, now in ruins, is still visible.

 

A large part of the property had been in the possession of the Brownes for some 500 years before 1664, when heiress Mary Prendergast married Geoffrey Browne, MP for Tuam and later Mayor of Galway City. A new family residence was built in 1694 and lasted for several generations until it was destroyed by fire in 1811.

 

The present edifice was first erected by Dominick Browne (1787 – 1860), MP for County Mayo, who was famous for his profligacy. It is said that on one election he spent £40,000, of which £600 was spent on lemons for punch. In 1836 he was created Baron Oranmore and Browne, a title that included reference to the family lands in southern County Galway. He was ruined by the Great Famine and, with the exception of Castle Macgarrett and 2000 acres, was forced to sell off all his other estates,  some of which had been in the family for 600 years.

 

His son, assumed the surname of Guthrie on his marriage in 1859 to Christina Guthrie, and sat in the British House of Lords as an Irish Representative Peer from 1869 to 1900. The 3rd Baron, Geoffrey Browne (1861- 1927) was responsible for the building of the main part of the present mansion early in the C20th. He was an Irish Representative Peer from 1902 to 1926 and a member of the short-lived Senate of Southern Ireland. In 1926 he was created Baron Mereworth, of Mereworth Castle in the County of Kent, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. This title gave the barons an automatic seat in the House of Lords until the hereditary right was abolished in 1999.

 

The last Lord Oranmore and Browne to live at Castle Macgarrett was the 4th BaronDominick Browne, who was married three times. His second wife was the wealthy Lady Oonagh Guinness, the youngest of the three “Guinness Golden Girls” and mother of the Hon. Garrech de Brún and Tara (whose tragic death in a London car accident aged 21 inspired John Lennon to write the Beatles’ A Day in the Life). Dominick’s third wife was the film star Sally Gray. Having sat silently in the House of Lords for 72 years, he died in August 2002, aged 100 years and 291 days, making him the third oldest hereditary peer in British history.

 

 

At the estate’s zenith, many local people were employed to work as servants in the house and on the land, growing wheat, oats and other cereal and rearing cattle and sheep. A saw mill provided oak cross arms to the ESB for  electricity transmission units. The estate also had fine fruit and vegetable gardens with 80 varieties of apples. 1,200 pheasants were raised each year for “Shoots”, held in November and January, with lavish house parties as part of the festivities.

 

The estate ran into financial difficulties in the 1960s and was put up for auction. Most of the land was taken over by the Irish Land Commission c. 1965. The mansion was bought by nuns and known as Castlemacgarrett Nursing Home until it was sold again for development in 2006, and currently lies vacant.

St Joseph’s church (RC), built c. 1882 and renovated in 1990, has a fine stained glass window by Harry Clarke.

Ballindine railway station, opened in 1894  on the Claremorris / Tuam section of the network run by the Great Southern and Western Railway Co., was closed in 1963 for passengers and in 1990 for freight trains. It is scheduled to reopen in 2014 on the plannedWestern Rail Corridor providing Commuter services between Limerick and Westport,and may eventually also be served by trains to / from Sligo.

The Player, by Ballintubber-based sculptor Cathal McCarthy, commemorates the life and work of Martin O’Donohue, a musician and teacher who founded the Disabled Drivers Association. Commissioned in 2002, the accordion-like work met some initial resistance but now rises some 30 feet into the sky along the main N17 road and has become the symbol of Ballindine. (Photo by Brian Herrity)

Ballindine has had a monthly cattle and sheep fair since the 1960s. The village used to be famous for its yearly September Fair, while the July Gooseberry Fair was replaced by an annual ‘Gooseberry Festival’ up until 2002.

The village is on the busy N17, but is due to be bypassed by a new Tuam / Claremorrisdual-carriageway.

Ballindine is

Crossboyne (Co. Mayo / South)

Crossboyne (Crois bhaoithín), a small village that gave its name to the surrounding Civil Parish, has two churches, one on either side of the River Robe, here spanned by a splendid stone bridge.

All Souls church (CoI), now abandoned, has several interesting graves in its grounds.

The church of the Sacred Heart (RC) dates from 1826.

Crossboyne is

Claremorris Golf Club occupies a scenic stretch of land that used to form part of theCastle Macgarrett estate. The club was founded in 1918 on the grounds of the formerClaremount Racecourse.

The Claremorris Sadlery & Equestrian Centre, situated just off the N17, was established in 1980 by Cormac Hanley and is home to international riders Cameron and Carl Hanley. It has a large indoor area, two all weather sand managés, and a cross country course, plus livery stabling and stud facilities. Classes provide training for  show jumping and dressage or just tips on better horsemanship. The Centre hosts regular shows throughout the year.

 

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