Balla, Co. Mayo

Balla Round Tower & Graveyard
Author's Personal Collection

The Town of Balla  or Ballagh / Bal  is important to the tradition of County Mayo with St. Patrick.  During the fifth century the the ‘Tochar Phadraig’  marked the route to Croagh Patrick via Ballintubber also Mayo Abbey.  St. Patrick’s name is also associated with the holy well near the round tower.  Originally the village was known as ‘Ros Dairbhreach’  or ‘The Height of the Oak Wood. [i]

Samuel Lewis’s ‘Topographical Survey of Mayo’ contained statistics from the first complete Census of Ireland in 1831.(published 1837)   Ballagh or Bal was a market – town in the barony of Clanmorris also six miles southeast by east from Castlebar within the province of Connaught.  The parish had one thousand, five hundred & eighty – six Inhabitants.  This town consisted of one long street that contained seventy – five houses.  A constabulary police station with petty sessions for the district was held within the court – house. [ii]

Balla was known originally as ‘Ros Dairbhreeach’  or ‘The Height of the Oak Wood.’  Coordinates are 53 48  0. north, 9 8 0 west.  (Dympna Joyce) [iii]

Athevallie / Athevalla House

Athevalla as the seat of the Rev. Sir F. Lynch Blosse, Bart. was a mansion that adjoined the town.  Ballagh Lodge, the seat of H. Waldron, Esq., the Logatiorn of W.M. Fitzmorris, Esq., were also in the area.  There was neither church, glebe – house nor a glebe.  Divine service was occasionally performed in the Court – House.  A school – room had been erected at an expense of two hundred pounds with two hundred boys & one hundred girls in attendance. Two hedge schools approximately catered for sixty – eight boys plus twenty – two girls.  St. Mochuo or Cronan founded a monastery in Balla.  Remains of an ancient unroofed round tower are approximately fifty feet in height.  Nearby were ruins of a small church with two chapels erected over the River.  A holy well dedicated to the Blessed Virgin also a small chapel was attached: where from 15th of August to 8th of September annually a Pattern was held. [iv]

Athevallie House was one of the principal Aristocratic Houses within the  Balla Area.  Sir Robert Blosse – Lynch owned seventeen thousand, six hundred acres around Balla at one time.  Other large houses in the area were located at Clogher, Castlecarra also Murneen which were occupied by several members of the extended family that included the Blake’s, the Browne’s, the Ffrenche’s also the Lynche’s of Partry.  A brother of Sir Robert Lynch Blosse, Peter Lynch died in Balla during 1810.  He had been a wealthy landlord with twelve children. The 7th Baronet Sir Henry Lynch had families both with his lawful wife &  his mistress Sib Cottle.  A dispute arose following his demise during 1788, whilst a play ‘The Spancel’ recorded events over his will.  Lady Harriot’s generosity has been recorded in that she distributed alms to the old or needy on Fridays also during the Christmas season she distributed food & blankets.  Sir Robert returned from America: he was involved in local politics, acted as high sheriff for a year, was justice of the peace also presided at petty sessions.  Sir Henry borrowed heavily with the result that the property eventually was sold to the Congested District Board.  Sir Henry emigrated to Canada then later to Worthing in Britain.  With his demise the remainder of the estate was awarded to his brother Sir Robert who also possessed properties in Ballina.  House was used as a military hospital for a year during the First World War.  During 1919 it was sold to the Order of St. Louis who established a convent also a secondary school in the premises.  Robert emigrated to England; his demise occurred during 1942 thus ended the Blosse – Lynch family connection with Athevallie.  (Brian Hoban)  [v]

The Lynch’s were one of the Tribes of Galway: Henry Lynch married Mary Moore from Brize in Claremorris.  Their son Robert resided at Athaville, also called Moate in Balla town (the original building is where the Convent now stands)  The Lynch’s records were preserved: they may be viewed in the National Library of Ireland.  Several  old maps of the estate may be viewed online.  Athavallie House became a military hospital during WW1 prior to a sale to the St Louis Congregation of nuns during 1919 for their convent.  It is still extant as a secondary school for girls & boys.  (Dympna Joyce) [vi]


St. Mochua or St. Cronan of Balla established a church during the seventh century & a holy well also a small church surrounded by a wall.  A medieval altar marks the site of a monastery also the remains of a round tower.  According to ‘The Annals of The Four Masters’  St. Mochua died around 637AD.  (Brian Hoban)  [vii]

This link states that St. Cronan or St. Mochua established a monastery at Balla / Balla Áilainn that survived the plague, attacks by Vikings also Normans until the reformation.  Remains of a round tower also an altar are visible at the monastic site:  [viii]

Saint Cronan’s Catholic Church

This church was constructed during 1906 to designs by Rudolph Maximilian Butler (1872-1943) of Dawson Street, Dublin (Irish Builder 20th October 1906, 848).  The structure represented an important component of the early twentieth – century built heritage of County Mayo with the architectural value of the composition that evoked favourable comparisons with the Butler – designed Saint Patrick’s catholic church (1914-8) in Newport (see 31208021) confirmed by such attributes as the rectilinear ‘hall’  plan form that was aligned along a liturgically – correct Axis.  St. Cronan’s catholic church was set in its own landscaped grounds with drag edged tooled limestone ashlar chamfered piers to perimeter, drag edged dragged cut – limestone ‘slated’  pyramidal capping that supported reclaimed wrought iron double gates.  The high pitched roof included a needle spire.  A pointed barrel vault pinpointed the engineering or technical dexterity of the church.  The robust rock faced surface finish was offset by sheer limestone dressings with not only a ponderous two – tone palette but slender profile of the coupled openings that underpinned a ‘medieval’  gothic theme with the chancel defined by a cusped jewel – like ‘east window’ (1914) attributed to Franz Mayer & Company (established 1847) of Munich & London (Bowe 1989, 38).  Constructed to a detached nine – bay double – height on a rectangular plan that comprised of a nine – bay double – height nave opening into eight – bay double – height flat – roofed side aisles.  A pitched delabole slate roof abutted flat roofs behind parapets on side aisles with clay ridge tiles.  Also included dragged cut – limestone coping to gables with cross finials to apexes with concealed rainwater goods that retained rosette – embossed cast – iron hoppers & downpipes.  Tuck pointed snecked rock faced limestone battered walls were included on dragged cut – limestone chamfered cushion course on plinth with Irish battlemented parapets of dragged cut – limestone coping.  Also constructed were paired cusped lancet window openings with drag edged rock faced hammered limestone block & start surrounds by framed storm glazed over fixed – pane fittings with lattice glazed bars on the west or stained glass margins centred on leaded east stained glass panels.  The east pointed – arch window opening had dragged cut – limestone interlocking Y – mullions.  Drag edged dragged cut – limestone block & start surrounds had chamfered reveals with hood moulding that framed storm glazed over fixed – pane fittings with leaded stained glass panels.  A pointed – arch door opening to the front west entrance  had dragged cut – limestone step threshold. Also constructed were drag edged dragged hammered limestone block & start surrounds that had splayed reveals with hood moulding that framed timber boarded double doors.  Paired lancet or pointed – arch window openings at gable had dragged cut – limestone Y – mullions. Drag edged dragged cut – limestone block & start surrounds had chamfered reveals with hood mouldings to frame – storm glazed over fixed – pane fittings with stained glass margins centred on lattice glazed bars.  West pointed – arch opposing door openings drag edged dragged hammered limestone block & start surrounds had splayed reveals with hood mouldings that framed timber boarded double doors.  The west Interior included vestibule with glazed terracotta tiled floor also pointed segmental – headed arcade  centred on glazed timber panelled double doors.  The full – height Interior had choir gallery on the west side. Carpeted central aisles between cruciform – detailed timber pews had pointed – arch arcades on granite ashlar octagonal pillars.  The timber boarded pointed barrel vaulted ceiling was constructed with carved timber ribs on box cornice on corbels.  On the east side was a stepped dais to a sanctuary with gothic – style reredos (1919) centred on quatrefoil – detailed gothic – style memorial also a  polychromatic high altar (1918) below the stained glass  ‘east window.’  Stepped Daises to side altars with gothic – style altars below stained glass memorial windows (1915) also gothic-style timber stations between stained glass memorial windows (1915 / 16).  Improvements occurred during the 1900’s: with vibrant stained glass signed by George Daniels (1854-1940) of Daniels &  Fricker (fl. 1920 – 7) of London & Joshua Clarke & Sons (established 1892) of Dublin. (1918), a reredos (1919) by Albert George Power (1881 – 1945) of Dublin (Irish Builder 3rd May 1919, 205).  Several images feature on this site.  Registered number is 31309022.  Coordinates are 125644, 284115.  (Date Recorded 23rd November 2010) [ix]

The present Roman Catholic Church was established during 1910.  Parish Priest Fr. John Mc ‘Dermott appealed in America for funds to erect a church in Balla.  This following report from ‘The Pittsburgh Chronicle’  appeared in ‘The Connaught Telegraph’ on Saturday 13th August 1910 as ‘Fr John Mc Dermott is making a tour of this country to raise funds for the erection of a new church to take the place of the old one, built 156 years ago, and which is now falling to ruins.’  Balla church is of a gothic design by R. M. Butler. (similar to Newport Church)  The central aisles are tunnel – vaulted with the side aisles flat ceilinged: the Balla aisles are concealed by impressive Irish battlements.  Lady chapel’s altar is a copy of the altar at Holy Cross Abbey.  The southern porch resembles the medieval Cong Abbey doorway.  The high altar constructed during 1918 is of multi – polychromatic marble.  Harry Clarke  & The Clarke Studies – stained glass windows have an Irish inscription: ‘Ros Dairbhreach is ainm don Ait seo fe lathair – Ball Aluinn is feasta is go brath.’ [x]

This link states that the first stone church of St. Cronan’s was established in 1913 following Fr. John Mc Dermott’s securing of funds in England also America.  It was completed by Fr. T. J. Ready: [xi]

The first church in Balla was the monastery built by St. Cronan beside the round tower in market square.  Following Viking & subsequent attacks other churches were built on this site: the last one was used as a town hall for a number of years.  It is now the site of the Balla resource centre.  During 1913 the present St. Cronan’s Church was constructed on the road to Mayo Abbey also an important monastic settlement that provides the county name.  St. Cronin’s church was designed by R.M. Butler who also designed the church at Newport  constructed at the same time.  It is gothic styled also has some Harry Clarke stained glass windows.  (Dympna Joyce)  [xii]

Church Bell

The church bell of St. Cronan’s has an interesting history in that it was originally cast for Dublin’s G. P. O. by William Dobson of Dounham in Norfolk, England during 1817.  It remained there for approximately sixty years until transferred to Balla Church.  This bell weighs two tons & twelve cwt.  (Brian Hoban)  [xiii]

Inside Balla church entrance porch is a bell produced during 1817 as part of a dial for a clock within the GPO.  In 1884 it was dismantled then sent to the Royal  University.  During 1917 when there was an re – construction of the building: one of the bells were sent to Balla with the other to Spiddal Co. Galway.  The bell’s weight is two tons.  (Dympna Joyce)  [xiv]

St. Cronan’s Holy Well

This link states that Balla was the major pilgrimage site of County Mayo.  St. Cronan or St. Mochua founded the holy well of ‘Tobar Mhuire’  at the monastic site:  [xv]

St. Cronan’s Pilgrimage Well & Rest House

According to local tradition a spring appeared when St. Cronan visited the area.  It is situated behind the round tower.  A ruin of a seventeenth century rest house for pilgrims is visible. Originally the well was celebrated as St. Cronán’s but it became associated with Our Lady then was called Tobair Mhuire (Lady’s Well).  The Feast day of the 15th of August heralded a pilgrimage, a festival with pattern in the Balla area.  (Dympna Joyce)  [xvi]

Balla Holy Well by author may be viewed at this link:

Round Tower

The Round Tower in Balla is partially extant, it stands at approximately ten metres in height.  Evidence of several etchings on the door of construction is visible from the twelfth century.  A church was constructed nearby during  the 1830’s.   In the ‘Irish Tourist Association Survey’ published in 1945 it reported that St. Cronan built an abbey on this site.  It was a place of learning until attacked by Richard De Burgo during 1236.  Two doors in the tower suggest two stones inserted are bullaun stones.  There is  one existing window.  (Dympna Joyce) [xvii]

Balla Round Tower by author may be viewed at this link:

Church of Ireland Holy Trinity Church / Graveyard

The Church was constructed of cut stone granite with Achill stone in 1825 by the Lynch Blosse family for their family also the protestant population in Balla.  Due to the decline of the protestant parishioners it closed in 1963 then was demolished during 1965.  The tower is still extant.  Headstones  are legible within the Graveyard: possibly these were the only burials there as it was a family graveyard.  In the Balla parish registry it stated that there were twenty burials within this graveyard from 1881 – 1928: among them were the following: Thomas & Amelia Pakenham with their son Thomas, Sir Robert Lynch Blosse & Lady Harriet  also William Coynyngham Blosse.  There are two interesting stones: Ann Waters who departed this life January 1871, aged twenty – six with her infant child who died 5th  February 1871 aged three weeks also John B Kerr Private No 375539, Royal Scotts died 30th November 1918, aged twenty – six.  John Kerr received treatment within the military hospital at Balla: he was too ill to travel when the troops withdrew at the end of WW1.  His demise occurred during 1918 nineteen days following the war’s end.  Several years later locals laid a wreath on a new grave erected for him by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.  (Dympna Joyce) [xviii]

Oak Wood

As mentioned above the continuing importance of the oak to the community was reflected in the ‘Dawn Oak 2000’  project.  Established at the beginning of the new Millennium two thousand oak trees were planted that created a new wood in Balla’s magnificent town park. [xix]

Severe storms devastated the ancient oak woods at Balla or ‘Ba’al.’  Former garda sergeant, Stephen Clancy conceived of an idea for the plantation of two thousand oak saplings.  As the ‘new dawn’  arrived Mr. Matty O’Dowd of the Balla pipe band struck the town’s three centuries old drum.  Mr. Matty Larkin, the town’s oldest resident at ninety – three years of age dug the hole for the first oak, then it was placed in the soil by his grand – nephew Mr. John Larkin.  On the drum’s third beat the ‘Volunteers’ moved forward to start the planting.  Mr. Frank Vaughan, the second – oldest resident at ninety – two years of age planted a tree in the earth assisted by Mr. Tom Donohue.  The actual two thousand plantation of an oaks was carried out by Ms. Margaret McNicholas: a wheelchair user also one of the first trustees of the Balla Town improvement association assisted by Ms. Carmel Joyce.  The Oak Wood project attracted enormous interest & support with Irish people also Europeans there to cheer the volunteers on.  Greetings arrived by fax from the Republic of Kiribati on the other side of the world – ‘Te mauri, te raoi, ao te tabemoa’ (greetings and blessings, peace, and harmony with nature and within the community).  The Dawn Oak project was undertaken ‘in ishe spirit of tabemoa’  according to the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kiribati.  The project’s website is: (Lorna Siggins ‘The Irish Times’ 3rd January 2000) [xx]

President Mc Aleese’s speech on the occasion of the dedication of the Dawn Oak Millennium Wood Balla, Co. Mayo may be viewed at this link:

Balla Railway Station

Balla Railway Station was an important block post between Claremorris with Castlebar town. The station closed to passengers during 1963 yet it controlled the Manulla Junction for the Ballina branch.  The junction points also the loop with sidings were worked from Balla Signal Cabin.  Manulla Junction station was reopened in approximately 1988 / 1989.  Once again passengers transferred to the Branch there, rather than at Claremorris with the result that Balla became redundant with its loop & sidings removed.  Balla station is no longer viable but the station building with cabin survive intact.  The goods shed was demolished. The Westport / Dublin train passes several times daily. [xxi]

A railway station was opened in Balla during 1862 as part of the Great Northern & Western Railway Company.  It was closed for passengers during 1963. (Dympna Joyce) [xxii]

An image of the ruins of Balla railway station featured on a postcard by iCan ‘Daoine agus Áit; Connecting with Communities’  project by Members of Mayo Genealogy Group.  It may be viewed at this link:


The family of Anthony Dempsey of Loona More townland near Balla following the foundation of the Land League received an eviction notice from Sir Robert Blosse Lynch.  The Dempsey’s relied on potatoes for their staple diet also they grew oats as a cash crop to pay their rent. During 1877 / 8 the crops failed prior to harvest time.  By May 1879 Anthony Dempsey owed twenty – six pounds then Sir Robert issued a decree against him.  On Saturday 15th November the sheriff arrived, he decided to postpone the event until a week later.  Once Land League activists from Balla were informed of the forthcoming eviction they posted notices of a Land League Rally on the Dempsey property at Loona More on the following Saturday.  A large gathering of reporters from throughout Ireland also England arrived to cover the event on the proposed eviction date.  The rally led by the Fenian Leader P. W. Nally from Balla was accompanied by men armed with sticks.  Charles Stuart Parnell also Michael Davitt arrived by train in Balla.  As the column of men (marching four deep) approached the Dempsey residence they were met by the RIC who challenged them with pointed rifles. Parnell ran to the frontline; he ordered the Land Leaguers to fall back.  A report by the RIC Inspector Wise stated that the rally was chaired by John J. Loudin with several resolutions that supported the aims of the league passed.  It was decided to pay the twenty – six pounds rent out of league funds, but the eviction proceeded.  Legal costs of approximately eight pounds were raised in a local collection with the result that the Dempsey family was allowed return to their cottage. (Brian Hoban)  [xxiii]

Earley, Noone & Knight

Tom Brennan’s parents had been evicted when he was a child.  As they passed away shortly afterwards he was adopted by Mickey Walsh of Kiltimagh.  He learned the trade of a cobbler.  He was involved with the Land League movement during the 1880’s.  He was admired by all: when he married Winnie Daly: his comrades were determined to provide a dwelling for them both.  Inspector Pepper arrived in Manulla on the morning of 13th September 1880 to find Tom Brennan with John Barrett in the process of taking measurements on the  Dunville & Kilmaine Estates border.  To his question as to their activities, he was informed they were about to build a house, so he returned to Castlebar to consult the regulations!  No sooner had he left then Tom Brennan provided a signal, within minutes tradesmen arrived to Construct the building.  The Land Leaguers were helped by Cumann na mBan members who also fed the workers.  These included Fanny Parnell, (a sister of Charles Stuart) Margaret, Bea Niland also Miss Nally.  The house was completed by nightfall.  By a strange coincidence three men named Earley, Noone also Knight were engaged in the construction.  Pat Earley erected the chimney, Willie Noone did all the carpentry with Owen Knight as the plasterer. (Brian Hoban) [xxiv]

The Maple Hall in Balla was in use as a dance hall from 1920.  The hall was in use prior to the construction of a church by Father Nolan during 1806 (on a of a plot of ground donated by Blosse Lynch)  It had a maple floor laid by Jimmy Roughneen & Willie Murphy in 1926. Drama was always associated with the maple hall: a play ‘An Cailin Ban’  was staged there also several drama festivals occurred in the town.  Friday 26th April 1996 was the date the last dance occurred with entertainment by Mayo’s Brose Walsh.  It was later demolished then replaced with a community resource centre. (Brian Hoban) [xxv]

The Chateau

A striking structure in Balla is the building that appears as a miniature castle.  Tradition states a gentleman from Balla encountered an extremely beautiful European lady who wished to have a chateau but was not anxious to settle within Ireland.  The gentleman then proceeded to have this structure on main street in Balla for her.  It is now unoccupied.  (Dympna Joyce) [xxvi]

Balla’s Famous People

Patrick W. Nally

The Nally Stand was originally erected in Croke Park to honour Patrick W. Nally.  It later was moved to Carrickmore in Co. Tyrone.  Patrick Nally was born just outside Balla.  A section of his family home is still extant, it may be seen from the Kiltimagh road.  Patrick’s  father was an agent for the Lynch Blosse Estate.  Patrick Nally was educated at St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam Co. Galway where he became acquainted with fenianism.  Patrick Nally was an athlete.  Patrick with his father organized a local sports event that included Contestants which were not from the elite class.  This was believed to be the catalyst for introducing sport events to the ordinary Irish people.  Though he had passed away when the GAA was established he was recognized as one of its forefathers.  He was the Connaught representative on the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He became a member of the Fenians also assisted in their anti – British campaign.  He like several other members was arrested for his revolutionary activity. His demise occurred within prison shortly before he was due to be released.  During 1900 the monument on Market Square in Balla was erected in his honour.  Several marks on the monument date from The Irish Civil War.  (Dympna Joyce ) [xxvii]

Beatrice Walsh

A lesser known Balla resident was Beatrice Walsh who was one of the founders of the Ladies Land League set up by  Cumann na mBan.  She came from a fenian family also she was  Michael Davitt’s cousin.  This branch was active when their male counterparts were imprisoned: on the men’s release the Women’s League were advised to disband.  The Ladies’ Land League raised funds in the U.S. to assist evicted tenants .  They provided  support for the poor & were involved in Land League campaigns.  (Dympna Joyce) [xxviii]

William Hamilton Maxwell ‘s Novelist Life is covered by author at this link:


Cart Wheel swellers were in use nationwide when carts were used for travel.  ‘When wood dries out, it shrinks and as the steel rims and wooden spokes become loose, they lose their integrity.  Soak your wheels in the water regularly and you maintain integrity.’  An image of the Balla site by Hassan Dabbagh features on this link:

Balla Catholic church is recorded on list of structures as 0001 at this link:

Fullarton A. 1844 ‘The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland: Adapted to the New Poor-law, Franchise, Municipal and Ecclesiastical Arrangements, and Compiled with a Special Reference to the Lines of Railroad and Canal Communication as Existing in 1843-44; Illustrated by a Series of Maps, and Other Plates; and Presenting the Results, in Detail, of the Census of 1841, Compared with that of 1831.’  Vol 4 (Dublin) references St. Colman’s Church at this link:

Balla parish is referenced also a location map may be viewed at this site:


[i] Balla History ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[ii] Articles ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[iii]  Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[iv] Balla Civil Parish ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[v] Athevallie House ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[vi] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[vii] St. Mochua ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[viii] History ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[ix] Saint Cronan’s [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[x] St. Cronan’s Church, Balla ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xi] History ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xii] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[xiii] St. Cronan’s Church, Balla ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xiv] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[xv] History ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xvi] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[xvii] Ibid

[xviii] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[xix] Balla History ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xx] Dawn Planting ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xxi] Local History ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xxii] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[xxiii] The Dempsey Eviction ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xxiv] The Land League Cottage ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xxv] The Maple Hall ( [assessed 23rd June 2021]

[xxvi] Dympna Joyce [assessed 12th May 2021]

[xxvii] Ibid

[xxviii] Ibid

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *