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Nally’s Monument

Round Tower

‘Blessed Well’

Rest House

Dempsey Eviction

at Loonamore

PJW Nally (1856-1891), after whom the Nally Stand in Croke Park is named, was born at Rockstown House, near Balla.  He organised two National Athletic events in Balla, inter alia leading to the establishment of the G.A.A. in 1884.

Nally held strong Fenian views and in the late 1870s became a leading organiser of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Connaught. His Fenian activitities forced him on the run in 1880. After two years in England he returned but was arrested in 1883 for his involvement in the ‘’Crosmolina conspiracy’’.  Nally was sentenced to 10 years penal servitude.  For good conduct, he was due early release from prison. Alas, only 16 days before his release, he died in Mountjoy jail.  The death was recorded as typhoid fever, however it was widely believed that he was a victim of foul play. A Celtic Cross to his memory stands in the centre of the village.

Round towers are tall, circular, stone towers that were mainly used as watch towers, bell towers, and places of refuge in times of attack.  Most round towers  were built  between 875CE and 915CE during a lull in the Viking invasions.  The traditional Irish name for round towers is ‘’Croigtheach’’ meaning ‘bell house’, however this particular Round Tower at Balla is locally known as ‘’Clogar Balla’’, meaning ‘the Belfry of Balla’.  

There are two round towers on the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail.  Balla round tower, which is 10 metres high, has some uniquely odd features.  There is an opening at the back for which no archaeologist has been able to determine a purpose.  The opening is unique because it is located so low and suggests the Round tower was used as a bell tower, rather than for defensive purposes.

The ‘Blessed Well’ dates back to St. Mochua (Cronan) who founded the first monastic settlement at Balla in the year 616 CE.  The Well of ‘The Blessed Mother of God’, as it described on the slab of the Rest house, drew crowds up to 15,000 at its peak in the 19th century.  The Balla Blessed Well pilgrimage lasted from the 15th August to 18th September.  

On the wall to the west of the well, there was once a stone with a Latin inscription.  In English, the inscription reads, ‘’ We fly under patronage O Holy Mother of God.  The Parish Priest of the Well of the Gods Mother of Balla had me affirmed here.  25th March 1696 P.R.O.”  This stone slab is currently to be found in the Rest House beside the well.

Near the Holy Well in Balla, there are the remains of an old Rest House. It was used to house pilgrims throughout the 19th century.  The pilgrimage took place from the 15 August to 18th September.  The Rest House would also be a refuge for the blind or ill.  In the house, there were once two little pillars, of mason work, on top of which are two small stone crosses with inscriptions on them dated back to 1733.  Both inscriptions are written in English and underneath them are the words ‘Sub tuum presidium fugimus, sancta dei genitrix’, meaning ‘under your protection, we fly, Holy Mother of God’.  In the Stone walls of the Rest House, during spring and summer, there is a plant in bloom known as St Patrick’s Cabbage, which normally blooms in alpine areas.

In 1879 there was an attempted eviction of Anthony Dempsey and his family.  On Saturday, November 15, the sheriff arrived to enforce the eviction. A rally, led by the Fenian leader PW Nally from Balla, included many men armed with sticks. Dempsey’s supporters approached the home but the RIC challenged them. Charles Stuart Parnell arrived on the scene and urged the protestors to use peaceful protest only.   If news of the Dempsey eviction spread it would not help the movement. Therefore it was decided to pay the £26 rent out of League funds. Following the payment the Dempsey family was allowed back into their cottage.

While walking towards Guesdian, a large blue house, known as Bridgemount House, can be seen over a tall wall.

Bridgemount House was the home of the Acton family during the 19th century and the seat of G.H. Acton in 1894.

The house was built in 1827 and was sold or gifted to the African Missionary Brothers circa 1908 by Lieutenant Colonel Llewellyn Blake of Ballinafad and became a seminary. Thousands of men all over Ireland received education here and over the course of a 70 year period, nearly 500 students went on to be ordained to the SMA. A new wing was added in 1932.  

In the late 1970s the house was sold to Balla Mart and became an Agricultural College for a few years. Though the estate cannot be see directly from the trail, one of its many entrances can.  The gates to Ballinafad are located on the corner across form Bridgemount Estate on the way to Guesdian.

Early Patrician monastic site. Ring fort, site of Dempsey attempted eviction 1879.  This type of site can no longer be determined; however there is a considerable rise of land which would suggest a possible ringfort, rath, or cashel at one time.  

According to the land owner, the field that holds this ring fort is called Fortfield.  Though now there is no trace of a fort visible, the name suggests such a site once existed here.  The fort would most likely have been where there is a natural rise in the field.  There is also a large, roughly circular hollow area that is now used to shelter cattle.

The Land League held a rally on this field to bring national attention to evictions in general and to protest the eviction of the Dempsey’s in Loona. Charles Stewart Parnell, a mayor figure in the land reform movement was said to be in attendance that day.

The Dempsey’s were not evicted on the day of the rally; although the eviction was executed a few days later, after the attention had died down.

The Early Ecclesiastical Enclosure at Loona contains the ruins of Loona church as well as a childrens’ burial ground. A water hole was excavated within the area in which the landowner claimed to be a spring well which has since been filled in.

Originally, inside the enclosure was a Holy Well, named ‘Tobar Lughna’, which no longer exists. The childrens’ burial ground is situated roughly in the middle of the enclosure, though no trace of burials or grave markers is now visible.The only remaining evidence of Loona Church is its south wall, and stone debris nearby, which stands almost 2.5 metres in height.

Features at Loona

Land League Rally Fort
at Loona

Ballinafad College

Bridgemount House

Famine Wall

Guesdian Graveyard

During the time of the great famine, which began in 1854, there was an effort made on behalf of some landlords and other more wealthy residents to help the locals who were struggling for means of income.  One of these efforts was to hire a few local people to collect stones from the surrounding fields and build walls around their estates.  These walls are now referred to as Famine Walls, one of which can be seen while passing Bridgemount House on the way to Guesdian Graveyard.

The remains of  Guesdian Castle can be seen atop the hill while standing in Guesdian Graveyard.  The opposite side of the castle ruin, which cannot be seen from the trail, is the shape of a great arch.  The castle stands 20ft wide inside.  The castle is said to have originally been rectangular, however today only the remains of the east and west walls are standing connected by the remains of the roof.  Guesdian castle was a Burke castle, and in 1574, it was occupied by Riocard an Iarainn, legendarily known as Iron Dick.  He was the husband of the famous pirate queen Grainne Uaille (Grace O Malley) and the father of Tiobóid na Long, who was shot by his own brother in law and now buried in Ballintubber Abbey.

Guesdian Graveyard is located along the road passing through Guesdian.  In the graveyard are the remains of the Kilbrenan Church along with several headstones dating from the 19th and 20th century.  The earliest date from any of the stone in the graveyard is 1846.  

Many burial sites within Guesdian Graveyard are marked with Celtic Crosses.  The Celtic cross, which incorporates both Pagan sun as well as the Christian cross, visually represents the blended, rather then conquered symbolism of the two traditions.

Doonamona Castle was built originally by the Normans as an Irish Tower House.  When it was actually built, it was called the ‘ten-pound castle’ because of a grant of £10 was given to build it.  In the early 15th century, it was occupied by the O’ Kelly’s of Uimaine for a short while before being sold back to the Bourkes.  In 1574, Doonamona was owned by the De Burgo family, better known as the Bourkes.  

The castle remained in the control of Bourkes until it was taken over by Bingham who was known at the time as the Black Tyrant of Connaught. Doonamona castle was famous for being the place where the Indenture of Mayo was signed in 1586, after a majority of chieftains submitted to Bingham’s authority.

The oldest, and at one time the largest fair in Mayo was known as the Fair at Doonamona.  The Fairs were held on the 26th of May and the 17th of October.  

The Fairs at Doonamona were large and well attended.  They presented an opportunity for the local community to buy and sell stock.  Tents were set up so that the vendors could offer sugar cane, sweets, biscuits and drinks.  These events brought the communities of Clogher and Belcarra together.  It said that many young ladies, hoping to catch the eye of a wealthy farmer, would parade around the fairground in their Sunday best.

Tuffy’s Pub (Doonamona)

Tuffy’s Pub, built in 1841, is located at the crossroads beside Doonamona Castle.  Five generations of Tuffy’s have since lived in it.

Earthwork (Possible Ringfort)

This particular Earthwork, located just above the wetland and behind the castle at Doonamona, appears to have been a ringfort, however its importance cannot be fully determined without the need for further excavation.

There are two fine example of ringforts along the trail.  Both are at Fortlawn and Knockaraha.  The Univallate Ringfort , (meaning one bank surrounding the fort itself) in Fortlawn can be seen while walking along the road before coming upon Fortlawn Cottage. It can be spotted quite easily because the large beech trees stand roughly

50 feet above ground level in a circular shape. While it is still easily identifiable and mostly intact, it had been said at one time that there were more trees surrounding the circle.

After the Fortlawn Ringfort, the trail comes to Fortlawn Cottage.  Two pillars mark the beginning of the driveway, known as the ‘’Pineapple Pillars’’.   Fortlawn Cottage, believed built around 1748, is the oldest house remaining in residential use in Clogher.  Built as a thatch cottage, the original residents and builders are unknown.  The earliest known residents of the house were the Mulrooney’s.  Mrs Mulrooney was known as a great herbalist  and looked to Fortlawn Wood to create many of her cures.  In 1945, Mulroony’s sold the house Joe Blowick who was Minister of Agriculture at the time.  In 1962, Padraig and Bernie Mc Greal moved into the cottage, remaining there to this day.

Fortlawn Wood is located next to Fortlawn House.  Mrs Mulrooney, who lived at Fortlawn House, was locally  known to be a gifted herbalist who frequented the hedges and lanes collecting plants and berries for her various poultices.  

These plants would include black and white thorn trees, as well as hazel trees (revered  in Celtic times). Located within Fortlawn Wood are stones and walls that were once part of the ancient pilgrim path, Tochar Padraig.  After the wood, you will walk through a field toward the road.  In this field is a wide limestone wall, mostly covered in ivy, which marks the only remains of a small village that was once in this area.

Monastic Enclosure or Cashel: The enclosing element is best defined between the west and south west, here it survives as a broad bank of earth and stone, 5-6 metres in width and averaging 1.2 metres high internally and externally. Some later rubble has been dumped on the bank in places.

Between the south west and north west the enclosing element is enclosed by a later field fence but there is still a drop from the site to the outer field level. No clear trace of the enclosing element can be seen elsewhere. The ancient Church of Drum was the seat of the Parish of Drum. It is believed that St. Patrick built the first church here in 440CE  of timber construction.

Over the years a stone church (possibly medieval) was built which fell into disrepair in the 1800s. In 1871 local people decided to build a new church but sadly their wish was never fulfilled, all that remains of the old church is one wall aligned east-west. Around the old church are many gravestones dating back to the 1700s. The construction of a Cashel, The remains of which can still be seen west of the graveyard, further marked the importance of Drum church.

The remains of the Cashel can still be seen in a field west of the graveyard. Pilgrims would rest overnight in a place of safety. A Druid’s grave or pre Chris- á -tian burial place is to be found in the adjoining field, this is indicated by a large mound of earth. A footprint, believed to be St. Patrick’s, impressed into local stone, may be seen in a field to the rear of the graveyard.

Described as a Cross Slab dating c.900CE. Here we have the broken remains of a cross inscribed slab carved from sandstone. Part of the central bosse, the left hand arm and part of the stem are all that are visible presently. As one faces the slab in its present location (eastern end of the old graveyard at Drum) the top and left hand side are intact with breaks having occurred at the base and right hand side. The breaks appear very clear. At the base it has broken in a chamfer type feature. An examination of the graveyard to date has failed to uncover the remainder of this impressive slab.

Near to the remaining church wall lies the Fitzgerald Kenny enclosed burial plot, the Fitzgerald Kenny were central figures in much of Clogher’s history.

Clogher House originally known as Clogher Lynch House was built in 1770 by the Lynch family. Marcella Lynch married Major Crean from Hollybrook, outside Claremorris. On the 6th January 1839, ‘The night of the big wind’ the house was damaged and left roofless. This disaster was however welcomed as it gave reason to remodel the house – a further storey was added to the house and it was roofed with modern slates.

Helena Crean who inherited the estate from her father married James Fitzgerald Kenny from Galway in 1870. Clogher House passed to James Fitzgerald Kenny Jnr. when Harry, his oldest brother, died mysteriously at 23 years of age after an incident in a local public house. James was a brilliant lawyer and the most famous of the family; he was elected to Dail Eireann as a Cumann Na nGaedheal candidate in 1927 and was soon appointed as Minister for Justice, until he lost his seat to Dominick Cafferkey, Clann Na Talmhan, in the 1944 General Election.

James continued to live at Clogher until his death in 1956. After his death the house and estate were sold to a timber merchant in the late 1960’s. In 1970 the house was destroyed in a fire. All that is visible today are the ruins.

This forge in Newtown has been completely rebuilt from a ruin by the efforts of a local FÁS CE (Community Employment) Scheme in 1999. The site and ruin were donated by the Staunton Family of Ballyheane.

The old forge was in the Staunton family since the 19th century. Patrick Staunton, head of the household, was listed in the 1901 census as a ‘Blacksmith and Farmer’. Patrick’s son Richard, was also listed as a blacksmith.

John Staunton, who died in 1980, was the last of the Stauntons to operate the Forge.

Every effort has been made to reproduce a typical one bedroomed labourer’s cottage; constructed in 2003 by the local FÁS CE (Community Employment) Scheme, with the help of Leader and DSP, locally raised funds and donations.

Typical features of this type of dwelling include a Cailleach Bed/Hag Bed (a bed in an alcove/recess) and a loft. The loft would have been used as extra bed space but currently houses an excellent display of milk churns.

Local residents have donated many of the articles on display. The site for this Cottage was donated by Mrs. B. Cosgrave.

Guesdian Castle

Doonamona Castle

Doonamona Fairgreen

Features at Doonamona

Fortlawn Ringfort

Fortlawn Cottage

Fortlawn Wood

Drum Cemetery & Ecclesiastical Remains

Cashel, Druids Grave &
St Patrick’s Footprint

Cross Slab

Fitzgerald Kenny Grave

Clogher House

Staunton’s Forge

Clogher Heritage Cottage

Excellent example of a uni-vallate ringfort in good condition, the interior is subdivided by a low wall running east to west, while to the south there is a broad earthen bank dividing the holding in to two additional parts. The enclosing bank averages 0.3 metres internally and 1.4 metres high externally. Hazel trees grow on the edge and interior. The only clear entrance is a gap along the West side but this might only be the result of interference from Livestock etc. Ringforts, usually identified as a circular earthen bank, are mainly Iron Age single family settlements. Larger Ringforts may have contained several family units and may have two or more banks (bi-vallate or multi-vallate). Forts with more than one bank may have been an indicator of the inhabitant’s status or that the threat of attack was greater in some areas.

St. Patrick founded a church in Ballintubber after he brought Christianity to Ireland c.440CE. Ballintubber Abbey was founded in 1216 by Cathal Crovdearg O Connor for the Canon Regulars of St. Augustine (The Augustinians) beside the 5th century Monastic site associated with St. Patrick.

It became known as ‘’The Abbey that refused to die’’ after surviving much repression after the reformation, and burning by Cromwell in 1653. It continued as a place of worship during and beyond penal times, despite having no roof.

Tioboid Na Long (son of Grainuaille), first Viscount of Mayo, is buried in the sacristy. Restoration works on the Abbey began in the 1960s

Knockaraha Ringfort

Ballintubber Abbey

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Sites featured in these listings are generally ordered in the same sequence in which they occur along the trail between Balla and Murrisk. The majority of them are directly on the trail, though a few are slightly off the direct route, close by.