History-By Stephen Goldrick

About The Historian

The 1844 Report of Samuel Nicholson

The Annals of Loch CÚ

The History of Ancient Brize Castle

The Composition of Connacht. 1585.

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About The Historian

Stephen Goldrick MA. MPhil.

I am a local historian with roots in Balla, County Mayo. Having graduated from the University of Wales Aberystwth ( BA in History), the University of Wolverhampton ( MA in local history ), and Birmingham University ( M.Phil in Theology). Working at a local heritage centre has given me a unique insight into both general Irish history and the history and heritage of Mayo County. I am available to assist anyone who wants to find out about their history and heritage.

I can be contacted by e-mail. Just click on the link below
Historian Stephen Goldrick MA. MPhil.

The 1844 Report of Samuel Nicholson

The 1844 Report of Samuel Nicholson. Civil Engineer and Land Valuator. Upon the Estates of Sir Robert Lynch-Blosse. Lying in the Baronies of Carra and Clanmorris and County of Mayo. The report gives a valuable insight into both Mayo and the West on the eve of the Great Famine.

The report mentions the local ' Big House' or Landlord's residence. It tells us:
' In this division stands the market town of Balla, and adjoining it, the house and demesne of Moat, or Athavalley, for some time the residence of the late Sir Francis Lynch-Blosse, Bart. The house is large, and considerable improvements have been made from time to time on the demesne, especially in planting, occupying a fine situation, and altogether one of the finest places in the country.'

Fairs and Economic life are commented on.
' Fairs are held in Balla throughout the year. The main days are the 11th May, 11th August, the 24th September and the 7th November. The fairs held on the 11th June and the 24th September are extremely large and seen as one of the best in the country for cattle.' Horse keeping is popular and Cattle rearing essential. ' The native breed of Cattle is small, but improved breeds particularly Short-horns are spreading all over the country.'

'Agrarian outrages here are unknown'
Finally the report tells us that Mayo was free from the disturbances between landlord and tenant, often found in other parts of the country at this time. ' No part of Ireland has ever been more tranquil than the County of Mayo. Agarian outrages are here unknown.'

Introduction to the Annals of Lough Ce

First can I explain some of the terms used in the piece. A host is a group of people, an army. A hosting is an event when a group of people came together to form an army.
An annal is a manuscript, written by hand, a record of significant historical events arranged in a date order, which is invaluable for Irish history up until the 16th century. An annal would be a collection of papers, yellowish brown coloured paper with black ink writing. The material it was written on would be vellum, which is fine parchment made from the skin of a calf. The owner and person who compiled the manuscript, later known as ' The Annals of Loch Ce' was Brian Mac Dermot of Carrick-Mac Dermot, County Roscommon, who died in the year 1592. The annals were purchased in Dublin in 1766 at a book sale of Dr John O'Fergus, by Dr Thomas Leland, a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. He placed the manuscript in the library of that University where it is now.

Annals of Loch Ce

These ancient historical sources tell us a great deal about past events, people and places and remind us of the great heritage of Mayo. The Annals of Loch Ce give us a rare insight into the history of Ireland and the West. The barony of Clanmorris in County Mayo takes its name from a Maurice whose descendants were called Clann Muiris na m-Brigh, ie Clan Maurice of Brees castle. In the year 1237, an Irish annalist tells us that the barons of Erin came into Connaught and commenced to build castles in it. A conflict is mentioned in 1256 between Walter Burc and Fedhlim O'Connor.

1256: ' A prodigious hosting was made by Walter, son of William Burc, against Fedhlim, son of Cathal Crobhderg, and against his son, ie Aedh son of Fedhlim, and to the sons of Tighernan O'Ruairc; and it was a very long time before or since a host so numerous as this was assembled in Erinn, for it was reckoned that there were in it twenty thousand to a man. And these great hosts marched to Magh-Eo of the Saxons, and from thence to Balla. ' Annals of Loch Ce.

The background of the extract was a time in Irish history when the Anglo-Normans came into Connaught. They had come to Ireland in 1169, but an effective invasion of the West by the Anglo-Normans, led by Maurice Fitzgerald and Richard de Burgh did not take place until 1235.

The extract tells of a conflict between Walter Burc, a major Norman baron and Aedh, son of Fedhlim O'Connor, a representative of the Irish Gaelic O'Connor Kings of Connaught. Walter Burc raised a great army, or hosting of over 20,000 men and invaded Mayo. The Normans showed their military muscle and marched to the town of Mayo, then known as Magh-eo of the Saxons and then on towards Balla.

The annals tell us of a process of Anglo-Norman intrusion into the West which led to extensive settlement. This colonisation led to the creation of castles and manor houses. The Anglo-Normans made a great lasting contribution to the history and culture of Ireland. They became part of the local population becoming 'more Irish than the Irish'. By the 16th century many Norman families changed their names to more Irish forms. The Burcs became Burke or Bourke, and contributed significantly to the development of Irish culture, language and customs.

The History of Ancient Brize Castle

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 territorial unit.)

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.