A distinctive landmark between Balla and Claremorris is Brize castle. A
ruined castle is present, and the original fort here was built by the
Prenderghasts, descended from Maurice de Prenderghast, a companion of
the Norman 12th century baron, Richard Strongbow ( Richard FitzGilbert
de Clare, earl of Pembroke.)
Prenderghast influence spread throughout the district. Their family
became known as " Clann Muiris na mBri." ( The Clann Morris of Bree.)
Bree rather then Brize is the older name of the district, and Bree or
Bri means hill in Irish Gaelic. Bri having a resemblance to the
Scottish word for hill, brae.
Both the town of Claremorris, ( Clann Morris) and the barony name
Clanmorris, takes their name from them. ( A barony is an ancient
During the Middle Ages larger families began to divide into smaller
offshoots, and the Clann Muiris were no exception. Some of them became
known as the Mac Muris or Mac Morris ( Meaning son of Morris. Mac in
Irish Gaelic means 'son of'.) The Mac Morris family in turn subdivided,
and offshoots included the Mac Garailts or Mac Garretts.
By the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century, Brize castle belonged
to Walter oge Mac Morris, who was in effect the ruler of a Gaelic
Lordship. By being called ' oge' ( og, Irish Gaelic for the word young)
it shows how far the Anglo-Norman families had become part of the
fabric of Irish society, being throughly part of the Irish culture and
way of life.
The Composition of Connacht. 1585.
The Composition of Connacht gives an insight into Mayo history during the reign of Elizabeth I. (1558-1603) She was a most able ruler and extended the rule of England throughout Ireland. Previously the rule of the English Government had been concentrated in the east of Ireland, in the area known as the 'Pale', an area around Dublin.
The Composition is a document telling us of a survey of landholders, and as well as being a legal record, it involved a scheme whereby the main landholders of a district surrendered their lands to the English Crown. In return they were given their lands back, paying rent to the Crown and rights to hold their land. This process has been named ' surrender and regrant.' The more ancient Irish and Brehon laws were disregarded and the Gaelic and Anglo-Norman lords brought into an English legal and administrative system.
The Composition or ' Compossicion Booke Of Conought', spelt so in Tudor English tells us the whole ' contry' ( country) or ' teritorie' ( territory) of Mayo was divided into nine principal parts. Among the main landowners listed are:
William McMoyler of the Neale.
James McMorrish of Barrile.
Richard oge McThomine of Ballycroy.
Richard Burke of Ballinecarran.
Robert oge Borrett.
Walter M Costillo.