The name Ballyjamesduff probably comes from the Irish Béal atha a'seiscinn duibh, (the mouth of the ford of the black marsh) which became Baile Seamus Dubh, supposedly from an officer stationed in the town in 1798.  It was a coaching stop on the old Dublin to Cavan road. Its long, wide main street dates from that time. The route of the road was changed in 1820 and Ballyjamesduff became something of a quiet backwater. Percy French worked as a drains inspector in Cavan in the 1870s and 1880s. He wrote the song "Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff." This made the name of the town well-known. Paddy Reilly is reputed to have been one of Percy French's favourite jarvies or horse drivers in the area, who emigrated.
Since 1996 the town has been the location of Cavan's County Museum, in the former Poor Clares convent.

Samuel Lewis writing in 1837 described the town of Ballyjamesduff thus:

BALLYJAMESDUFF, a market and post-town, and a district parish, in the barony of CASTLERAHAN, county of CAVAN, and province of ULSTER, 8½ miles (SE) from Cavan, and 44¾ miles (NW by W) from Dublin; containing 3,227 inhabitants, of which number, 863 are in the town. The town is situated on the old mail coach road from Virginia to Cavan, and consists of five streets, containing together 150 houses. The market is on Tuesday, and is amply supplied; and fairs are held on Feb. 4th, March 5th., April 16th, May 7th, June 10th, July 17th, Aug. 15th, Sept. 2nd, Oct. 26th, Nov. 29th, and Dec. 23rd. Here is a constabulary police station, and petty sessions are held. The parish was created in 1831, by disuniting nine townlands from the parish of Castleraghan, five from that of Denn, two from Lurgan, and four from the parish of Kildrumferton. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Kilmore, and in the patronage of the several Incumbents of the above parishes, who present in rotation: the stipend of the perpetual curate is £80 per annum, towards which £30 is contributed by the incumbent of Castleraghan, £20 by the incumbent of Kildrumferton, and £15 each, by the incumbents of Denn and Lurgan. The church is a plain edifice, erected in 1834 by aid of a grant of £900 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and subscriptions amounting to £200. In the R C divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Castleraghan and Munterconnaught; the chapel is a spacious building. There is a place of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, and of the third class; also two for Wesleyan Methodists. A school at Remonan is supported by Lord Farnham, and another at Ballyjamesduff is aided by private subscriptions: about 140 boys and 150 girls are instructed in these schools; and there are three pay schools, situated respectively at Rawson, Lackenmore, and Lackenduff, in which are about 180 boys and 90 girls.

A modern description reads:

BALLYJAMESDUFF, Co. Cavan, a market town between Virginia (6 m.) and Cavan (10 m.), is the subject of Percy French's ever-popular ballad 'Come back, Paddy Reilly, to Ballyjamesduff'.
5½ m. SW., near Mountnugent, on an islet off the shore of Lough Sheelin, are the remains of Crover castle, built by Thomas, son of Mahon OReilly, in the late 14th century.

See map

Ballyjamesduff in the 1980s - and who lived there in the past 


BANK OF IRELAND — Mary Anne Briody (Toys and Sweetshop), McKiernans (Bookshop), Mr. Pickins.

LYNCH’S BUTCHERS — Pat Lynch, Mickie Lynch, Pat Lynch.

BYERS’ HARDWARE — Padraig Campbell, Jack Brady, John Byers, James Byers, Benny Brady (Pub), Pat Reilly (Pub).

PETER SORAHAN’S — Jackie Reilly, Paddy Reilly

SEAN LEE’S — Francie and Eileen Lynch (Sweetshop), John Lynch, N.T.

O’CONNELL’S — McCormacks.

PETER LYNCH — Katie Lynch, Willie Lynch.

POOR CLARES CONVENT (now demolished) — J. J. Cusack, (vacant site).

JIM O’REILLY’S — Dr. Cassidy, Dr. McQuaid, Dr. Lovelock.

BARRY’S — McEvoys, Tommy Reilly, Joe Reilly, Tommy Brady, Willie Treneneer.

CROWE — Michael Sheridan.

THE GROVE — Church of Ireland.

JOHNNY MCBREEN’S — Curate’s House one end, Mrs Murray.



TOMMY REILLY’S — Larry Reilly N.T., Thomas Reilly, (Cooper).

MAL RUDDEN’S (Restaurant) — Markey's, Tom O'Hara's (Restaurant).

GAMBLES — Chemist.

ROSE COOKE — Draper (now part of Hotel).

PERCY FRENCH HOTEL — Buckleys, Farrellys, Shaffreys, Byers (Wilsons Imperial Hotel).


MRS. SMITH — Phelim Kiernan, Barber Shop, Sloweys.

BRIODY’S Kimmons.

MRS. MULVEY (Dispensary), Mickie Caldwell, Bill Sheridan.

THE ROYAL BAR — Cahills, Dowds, McBreens, Goldricks (known as Royal Hotel).

BENNY MARTIN’S — Phil Lee’s (Pub), Eugene Reilly.

SHAFFERY’S HOUSE — Tom Morgan, Paddy Reilly.

THE COURTHOUSE — always the Courthouse

A.O.H. HALL — Built in 1915 — Doherty’s Woodwork Shop (now vacant).

GEORGE ARGUE’S — Garage, and behind it was the old Sweet Factory.

JOE FLANAGAN’S — Tailor Shop, Rosies Restaurant and Reilly’s Drapery Shop.

MARRON’S HOUSE — was Irish Military Barracks and then first Garda Barracks.

BENNY MARTIN’S — Television Shop, Conways, McEntees (Harness Makers).


MOLLOY’S — Flanagans (Restaurant), Browns.

ROTHWELLS — Tommy Lynch, Andy Lynch, Conor Lynch (Sweetshop).

MATTIE BRADY (Butcher), Jimmy Briody.


MAC’S BAR — Cusacks, Paddy Reilly’s, Conways.

F.  McEVOY’S — Eddie McEvoy, Tommy Matt Lynch.

McEVOY’S SHOP — Marion Smith, Michael Hill (Hardware and Leather).

TOM CUSACK (Grocery) — Tim Sheridan.

SHERIDAN’S — Magees (Drapery), Tom Greene.

MATTIE McCABE’S — Sweetshop and Grocery.

ANDY SMITH'S (Eagles), Tom Slowey (Postman).

DOLAN’S SHOP (where John Joe Coyle lives), Tim Smith's.  

McDAID’S — L. Lynch, Dessie Soden, Drumms.

DAN McDONALD’S — Dispensary House, Sheridans.

POUND FILLING STATION — McDaid's,  Paul Clerkin, Jim Reilly (as a yard).

DUBLIN STREET           

SMITH’S House— Pat Smith, Sheridans.  

TONY LYNCH’S — Mrs. Larry Brady.  

HAMILL AND RYAN (Sweetshop and and Toys).

THE ROCK SHOP — Brady's, Moynaghs, Mattie McCabe (Bakery), Reilly of Cladagh.

SUE LYNCH’S — Drapery, Hibernian Bank, Fay's Drapery, Peter Smith, Abey Pratt.

BRENDAN FAY’S — Hoggs.  

 —Were always thatched houses owned by Henry Reilly, Lisdonish.


MAYFLY INN — Bradys (Jim),  Moorehead, Larry Brady’s, Phil Sheridan's, Crowleys.

GORMLEY’S — Chemist, McGuirk’s  (Pub), Tommy Lynch's (Bar), Lynch, Arcans.

O’ROURKE’S — McEntee's Restaurant, and Saddlers.


MURPHY’S (Bar and Grocery) — McMahons, Monica Murphy, Louis Murphy.

JAMES MURPHY — Terence Farrerly.          

SLOWEY’S — White's Drapery Shop,  Ivan Sloweys, Hairdresser.

FLOOD’S — Bridget Flood.  


MARY COOTE — Sold turf at 1d (old pence) each. 

CONATY’S TYRE CENTRE — Charlie Clerkin, Tailors Shop, Willie Hynes (Tinsmith).

BOYLANS — Footwear Shop, father and grandfather Bootmakers.

VINCENT MAGUIRE’S — Barber, Paddy Kimmons, Hylands, Lizzy Brooks.

PADRAIG SMITH’S — Building Society Office, Madge Lynch’s.

MRS. REILLY’S — Sissy Flanagan's.

MICHAEL McCABE’S (Butcher Shop).

LARRY BRIODYS (Butcher Shop). Charlie O'Neill (Butcher Shop).

PHELIM KIERNAN (Barbers Shop).

McMAHON (Chemist Shop),  Mrs. Lynch (China Shop Warehouse).

McBRIDE’S — Hardware,  Lees,  Frank Lynch.

SODENS BAR — All along.

AlDEN REILLY’S (Spar Grocery).

MACKEY’S — H. Lynch's (Butcher Shop), Peter Murphy's.


REASONS   Pub and Lounge (Aiden Reilly).

JACK BRADY’S — John Brady, Harry Gaffney's, Kellett's Saddlery.

LANGTRY'S (sweetshop and Pub).

McCABE’S — Dan Galligan, James Gaffney, Bernard Smith.

COLLINS’ (Restaurant), Hughie McDonald's (Garage).

ARNOLD'S — Porters. Old Post Office run by Fanny Anne and Mary Jane Smith.

GAY REILLY’S — Mrs McCabe's,  Jack Brady's.

KEVIN ARNOLD — Paddy Dan Lynch's (Pub and Grocery).


PADDY FAGAN (Sweetshop), Flynns, Paddy Kellys, Mackeys, Willie Lynch (Butcher).

JACK BRADY’S (House), Johnny Brady, O'Hara (Garage).

STANTON’S — Tommy Reilly's (Forge).

GARDA BARRACKS — Built in 1931. St Joseph's Hall in 1950.

BRADY’S GARAGE — Mrs. McKeown's, Hughie McDonald's.

FRANK CLARKE’S HOUSE — Brian Mackey,  known as Mackeys Nailers.

BROWN HOUSES — Gormleys, McCormacks, Montgomery: Brown's House, Poultry and Egg Business, Grocery and Sweets.

PUB — Known as Reilly's: Mrs Smith (Solicitor), Clanceys, Floods, (Restaurant) and Coach Builders and Forge.

POST OFFICE — Martins, Mrs. McGlynn, Kathleen and Katie Brady (Drapery Shop).

TOMMY REILLY’S HOUSE — Kathleen Brady, Tommy Reilly.

MRS. REILLY — Fagans (Restaurant).

MARKET HOUSE — Gerald Clarke, Jack Brady, James Byers, Hugh Hawthorn: bought by James Byers in 1930 for £75: also was a Fowl Store and Egg Store: also Market Scales for weighing potatoes. Hugh Hawthorn was the Weigh Master: top floor of the Market House was a Ballroom, also used or Concerts, etc.



JIM REILLY — Garage.

MICHAEL SMITH (Furniture) — James Reilly.

DUNCAFFES    Colm Reilly’s, Jim Brady.

PAT BRADY    Mrs. Bob Finnegan, Gaffneys.

CRONIN’S     Reillys, Maguires,  McEvoy's. Old R.I.C. Barracks.

TONY FARRELL’S — Coles, Keogans, Fordes.

JOE McCABE’S — Tadhg McCarthy, Matt Lee's, Tom (Nip) Reilly, Pat Reilly, Peter Hughie Reilly.

KATHLEEN LEE — Matt Lee, Pat Kelly (Loan Fund).

DAN McDONALDS GARAGE — Paddy Sheridan.

HUGHIE McDONALD'S — Tom Green, Finnegans.

MOYNAGH’S — Peter O'Reilly (Pub), Hughie Smith (Pub), Bennie Boylan.

JIMMY SMITH’S (Butchers). 

MICKIE SMITH — Sweeneys. 

FOXES STORES — Greens, Katie Mahon, Jane Smith.

BEER GARDEN — Tony Clarke’s, Murphy’s, Gorby’s

EDDIE MURPHY’S — Packie Cooney, Mick Daly, James Brady, Murphys, Old R.I.C. Barracks.


FOXES CHEMIST — Greenes, Bennie Farrell, McMahon.

BERNARD CUSACK (Pub) — Chickens McCormack.


THE COSY BAR — McQuillan, Paul Clerkin, Paul Clerkin, Larry Clarke, McCalmont.

PAT REILLY — Phil Dowd, Jimmy Reilly.


CREDIT UNION — K. Reilly (Drapery).

 J. REILLY — Conor Reilly, Baker and Grocery

FASHION CENTRE — Eddie Murphy.

PAUL CLERKIN — Paddy Cusack, (Solicitor).

NATIONAL BANK — Dawsons (Drapery).

CAMPBELL’S PUB — Campbell, nearer half, Gallaghers.

FOOD MARKET — Pat Lynch, John Rogers, James Byers, Thomas McEvoys (Drapery), George Smith's, Clarks.

DUBLIN STREET in Ballyjamesduff was known at one time (locally) as Tommy Street because you had living in the street: Tom Green and son Tom; Tommy Dolan; Tom Cusack: Tommy Matt Lynch: Tom Gamble: Fr. Tom Daid: Tom Brady (Tailor).