Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Mayo

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland. Here are From-Ireland.net’s records for Co. Mayo.

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    KILLALA, a sea-port, market and post-town, and parish, and the seat of a diocese, in the barony of TYRAWLEY, county of MAYO, and province of CONNAUGHT, 22 miles (N.) from Castlebar, and 131.50 (N.W.) from Dublin, on the road from Ballina to Ballycastle; containing 3,875 inhabitants, of which number, 1,125 are in the town.

    During the disturbances of 1798, General Humbert, with two frigates of 44 and one of 38 guns, having on board 70 officers and 1030 men, sailed from Rochelle on the 4th of August, to make a descent on the county of Donegal; but being frustrated in that attempt by contrary winds, landed his forces in Kilcummin bay on the 22nd of the same month. The garrison, at that time consisting of only 50 men, fled, after a vain attempt to oppose the entrance of the French vanguard; and several of them were taken prisoners. The French forces were joined by many of the peasantry, and after they had taken Ballina greater numbers flocked to their standard, to receive the arms and uniforms which had been sent from France for their equipment.

    The town is situated on the bay of the same name, and on the west bank of the river Moy; it contains about 200 houses, of which those in the principal street are well built. The manufacture of coarse linens is carried on to a very small extent, but the principal trade is the exportation of grain, of which the annual average from 1810 to 1820 was 5000 tons, chiefly oats and barley; and the value of the imports, consisting of planks, iron, tar, slates, flax-seed, herrings, and sugar, about £5000. The trade was on the increase from 1820 till 1825, but, from the improvements of the port of Ballina, what formerly came into this port for the supply of that town is conveyed thither direct by the river Moy, and from 1830 to 1835 the average exports from Killala have not exceeded 3500 tons, nor the value of the imports £4000 per annum.

    A considerable fishery is carried on, in which more than 300 persons are occasionally engaged, and for which this is a very good station; and large quantities of sea-manure are landed at the quay; the pier is very old, but has been recently repaired. The entrance to the bay is between Kilcummin Head and Kennisharrock Point. On the western side of the bay, off the point of Ross, are the Carrigphadric rocks, between which and the mainland is a shoal dry at low water; and on the eastern side, about two miles from Kennisharrock Point, is a creek called Pullogheeny, where small vessels load kelp and other commodities during the summer. The harbour affords good and safe anchorage for vessels drawing eight or nine feet of water, and vessels drawing 12 feet may get to the anchorage about high water.

    A constabulary police force is stationed in the town; and it is the head of a coast-guard district, comprising the stations of Dunkeehan, Port Terlin, Beldering, Ballycastle, Lacken, Kilcummin, and Ross. The market is on Saturday, and fairs are held on May 6th, Aug. 17th, and Nov. 8th. Petty sessions are held in a private house every Friday, and a manorial court is held occasionally.

    The parish includes the island of Bartra, or Bartrach, and is generally in a good state of cultivation; the soil is very fertile, and the lands are nearly divided in equal portions between pasture and tillage, except the waste land and a large tract of bog.

    The surrounding country is rather bleak, especially towards the north, but the scenery is enlivened by several gentlemen's seats, of which the principal are the Castle, formerly the episcopal palace, and now the residence of W. I. Bourke, Esq.; the Lodge, of T. Kirkwood, Esq.; Ross, of J. Higgins, Esq.; Castlerea, of J. Knox, Esq.; Farm Hill, of Major J. Gardiner; and Summer Hill, of T. Palmer, Esq.

    The living is a rectory and a vicarage in the Diocese of Killala, constituting the corps of the deanery of Killala, and in the patronage of the Crown. The tithes amount to £154.13s.9d. ; the lands belonging to the deanery adjoin the town and comprise 108 acres; and the dean, in right of his dignity, has the rectorial titles of the parishes of Ballysakeery, Rafan, Dunfeeny, Kilbreedy, Lacken, Kilcummin, and Templemurry; the entire revenue of the deanery, including the lands, is £772.

    In the Roman Catholic divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Templemurry; the chapel is a neat slated edifice. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.

    The parochial school, in which are about 90 children, is supported by the trustees of Erasmus Smith's fund, who allow the master £30 per annum, with a house and one acre of land rent free; and there are two private schools, in which are about 150 children. There is a dispensary for the poor of the neighbourhood.

    On an eminence in the town is an ancient round tower, about 83 feet high, of which the walls are of great strength and nearly perfect. About a mile to the south-east of the town, at the mouth of the river Moy, are the remains of a friary of Franciscans of the Strict Observance, founded in 1460 by Mac William Bourke, or, according to some writers, by Thomas Oge Bourke. Several provincial chapters of the order were held there, and the establishment continued to flourish till the dissolution, after which it was granted to Edmund Barrett. The remains consist of the church and some extensive portions of the conventual buildings; the church is a cruciform structure, 135 feet in length, and from the centre rises a lofty tower, supported on four noble arches leading from the nave into the choir and transepts.

    At Castlereagh, on the banks of the river Rathfran, about two miles from the sea, are the vestiges of a castle apparently of great strength, which has been levelled with the ground; about a mile to the west is Carrickanass castle about 35 feet square, and 45 feet high, built by the family of Bourke, and surrounded with a low strong bawn; and there are also several forts.