SHRULE - J.F. Quinn's History
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A More Aristocratic Name

AN ancient spot like Shrule, with great historical associations, might be expected to have a more aristocratic name. It simply means a stream, and the name has been variously spelled. The ancient name was Sruthair, pronounced Sruther. It is also spelled Shruel. Struell, Sroot and Scroohil. It has the same meaning as Sruathan, pronounced phonetically Shruffaun, which is the old name applied to Newantrim Street. Castlebar, for the reason that a small stream passed that way the outflow from the springs at the creamery supplying the old reservoir, which was the town's first supply, and still in operation, supplying a few fountains known as the "Black Pumps." It is excellent spring water, and much in favour. It would be difficult to now trace it, as in the course of building operations it was confined within a stone lined drain, and its course today a good deal more diverted as the old maps show a different outfall of the river. The name is also met as Stroughan, Sruffaun, Straffan. Truan and Trone.

Land Of Contention

The parish of Shrule contains a lot of excellent land, and naturally attracted the greedy eyes of the early freebooters, for it was the location of a great Norman castle, from which a MacWilliam Burke ruled. This was the scene of contention and bloodshed. and many of Bingham's dark and foul deeds, previously fully referred to. On the Galway mearing, too, it was the scene of bloody strife by contending chiefs, and the great massacre at the Bridge of Shrule is still a vivid local tradition. The Cromwellians also cast their greedy eyes upon it, and absorbed ever acre of it. Then an influential English family had a beautiful seat and magnificent demesne there known as Dalgan Park. Here the late Baron de Clifford passed a hectic time for a few short years. Succeeding as a child, a handsome patrimony was accumulated during his minority, and when he got in the saddle he made things hum. Marrying a fashionable actress, he installed a fleet of motors at Dalgan, entertained royally, established a stud, racing stable and a race course in the demesne. A frail, neurotic specimen, eternally cigarette smoking, he spent money like water, and soon had to quit the scene, the break-up sale extending to a week. There was good competition for the horses, cattle, and the series of most fashionable and expensive bungalows he had set up, one still serving a well-known millionaire during his annual stay in Connemara. The horse boxes, jockey rooms, kennels, etc.,which had been established without regard to cost, looked like a little town, were put up in sections, and were disposed of all over the country. Retiring to England, the noble Peer was killed shortly after by his motor car. In a previous article I referred to the varying fortunes of various holders of this estate. When the Land Commission acquired it, they reserved the mansion and demesne, which were purchased by Maynooth Mission to China. It is now used as a college, a visit there being quite an experience. Entering one of the classrooms while study is in progress you are at once transported to another world; low-sized, meek-voiced, retiring little men in clerical garb are at the rostrum, spealing a strange tongue; young Levites of Irish origin answering in the same tongue, or making peculiar hieroglyphics on the blackboards. The professors are Chinese priests, it being essential to success that the missionaries should be able to speak the language of the remarkable country in which their lifework will be cast. This is but one of the many training grounds the Order has in Ireland. Since they took over there has been considerable development, and the beautiful demesne is a place where one would like to linger. It is extremely isolated and the country about is rich, but at the moment the farmers are staggering under the depression produced by the cattle tariffs.

Shrule Itself

The little town itself, standing on the Black River, is as moth-eaten as the others in the barony of Kilmaine. Trade is evidently dead, but all the people have land. On the high road to Galway the people see a goodly amount of traffic racing by, but only the bus stops to pick up a fare or drop a parcel. The craze for quick transport has killed it; the travelling shop keeps the villagers at home, and recently the fairs have been very small, it is one of the few places where pigs are still sold on the streets. In other days Shrule was a busy spot, with its mills and other industries. The ruins of the mills are there still - flour and oaten meal mills. Perhaps the people of Shrule may look with diffidence on my statement that flour was once manufactured there. It was not the only place in the famed barony where the local farmers had their corn converted into flour and bran. I am also able to tell them that there was a man in Shrule enterprising enough to purchase from the farmers their surplus wheat, milling it for the benefit of those who had none, also buying from the farmers their surplus bran, and selling it to people further afield. For the purpose of this article I was given access to an old file kept by a country shopkeeper in East Mayo. Some of the ragged documents dated back 160 years, and amongst them I found crude invoices "for bran put on carts and paid at the office" at Shrule mills 131 years ago. That man lived 50 miles from Shrule, and his grand-daughter told me that he often recounted when he used to go every week with two carts to Shrule mills for bran. Another peculiar thing - from the old man's stories she was as familiar with the features of the district along the road as he was. She was unable to recall if he ever went for bran or flour to Ballinrobe or Kilawalla, where famous mills were run under the patronage of Lord Avenmore.

Another Peculiarity

It is now too late to linger over an explanation why this parish, cut away from Galway by a strong river, was merged in that diocese. It is one of the peculiar things that happened when the wardenship of Galway was flourishing, and possibly is not a bit more inexplicable than having the parish of Moore, a detached part of Co. Roscommon, annexed to Tuam, and the barony of Ross carved. off Mayo and grafted on to Galway. In recent times we have had territorial adjustments, but they were to facilitate local administrative purposes. It was reducing Shrule, once the capital of an important ecclesiastical territory, to a low level, indeed by cutting it off entirely and joining it up with a district from which even nature had cut it off. To try and convey an idea of the incongruity of such an arrangement, I may say that Father Pat Lydon, who was recently in pastoral charge of Shrule, is now the parish priest of Lisdoonvarna. Though a well defined area, I am handicapped for lack of the parochial records of the townlands, for which, however, I did not apply, relying on Bald's map of the county; and when I went to inspect it I found it so placed at the bottom of the Kilmaine unit, and so scattered that I was not satisfied with the lines of demarcation; neither were the name places fully satisfying, and when I fell back on the Registrar-General's list, I was confronted by its partition among so many old district electoral divisions that I felt completely so rudderless. Another of my difficulties was. that in this region were a number of old parishes that have been submerged, and trying to trace them on this map seemed like a fool's game, and a nerve-shattering recreation. At a later date I hope to identify the existing and retrenched parishes by their townlands.

Some Indentifying Features

All Shrule, however, was in the old barony of Kilmaine, and remained in the modern one. The electoral division of Dalgan is struck up against the town - in fact the town is in it, yet five of the townlands are in the parish of Kilmainemore, including Milford demesne. Ten, come into the retrenched parish of Moorgagagh, namely, Bullaun, Cahermaculick, Carramore, Cregnanagh, Garroun, Gorteens, Kill, Lisheenielagaun, Moorgagagh and Tobernadarry. Only four townlands out of the whole complement fall within the ambit of Shrule parish, namely, Brackloon, Dalgan Demesne, Ramolin and Shrule itself. Of Shrule electoral division only the townlands of Ballinahyny and Carrowoughteragh are in Kilmaine parish, and the following in Shrule; Ballisnahyny (I cannot say if it is part of the same townland), Ballycurrin demesne, Ballynalty, Brodullagh North and South, Bunnafoolistrane, Cahernabrack. Cloghmoyne, Cloonbonaun, Commons, Collagh. Glasvally, Gortatober, Gortbrack, Kinlough, Mocollagan, McCarha, Mounthenry, Moyne, Rooaunalaghta and Toorad. with the islands of Croelian, Red and 23 others in Lough Corrib.

Churches And Castles

In the parish were three ancient churches. three abbeys and six castles. Shrule is of Patrician origin. In ancient days the name was applied to a deanery, which comprised not less than three baronies, namely, Kilmaine, Ross and Ballinahench,embracing nineteen churches within its limits. The territory within the confines of the present parish was, in the 15th and 16th centuries, parcelled out into three separate parishes, which were then both rectories and vicarages - Shrule, Kinlough and Killeenbrenan. It is, therefore, a composite parish. The names of the two latter have been long off the list of even the very old parishes. The entire area within the parish is very historic, and contains the ruins of three ancient churches and two abbeys. A third is mentioned, but it is doubtful. We also found within its limits the ruins of six castles. There were the churches of Shrule, Kinlough and Killeenbrenan, the abbeys of Killeenbrenan (Moorgagagh, the split church), and Moyne, the one of doubtful origin being Clogvanaba. There were castles at Shrule, Kinlough, Moyne, Ballycurrin, Moycarra and Ballisnahyny.

St. Patrick's Visit

About the year 440 St. Patrick, on his westward way, wended by the ford across the Black River, where, what was afterwards called the Bloody Bridge of Shrule, spanned the sluggish stream discharging into the lake nearby. The hill, called St. Patrick's Hill in the Rentals of Cong, drawn up in 1501, marks the saint's itinerary from Donaghpatrick, and should be marked on the Tochair Phadraig, which it is not. This hill was on the opposite side of the stream to Shrule, and near it was St. Colman's Church, called in the same rentals Killeen-Colman. Both the church and the hill were then in the parish of Kilkilvery, and now incorporated in Donaghpatrick, and were in mediaeval times ceded to Cong abbey by the de Burgo clansmen.

In Pre-Norman Times

In pre-Norman times Shrule was the title of a deanery, and the Edwardine Taxation of 1306 proves that as a deanery it was also co-extensive with the ancient diocese of Cong, and within the ambit of the deanery there were the following nineteen churches: -- Struthir, Kenlacha, Moyeculi (Moyne), Killyngymlroynd, (Cill-Mael-Rory), Cunga (Cong), Inismedan, Rodbha, Kilmorosegir (Ballinrobe), Kellyngeglara (Kilmolara), Ross, St. Patrick of Kilmedon, the Apostles of Kilmedon, Kilcolman, Logmesca, Inysredba (Ballinrobe), Margos, Kilkemantuyn (Kilcommon), Ross Claran and Inidaclin. According to Knox these ancient names now represent the modem Shrule, Kinlough, Moyne, Neal, Cong, Inishmaine, Ballinrobe, Killosheen, Kilmolara, Ross, Kilmainemor, Kilmainebeg, Attyrickard, Ballinchalla, Templenalecka, Moorgagagh, Kilcommon, Moyrus and Omey, so that the old deanery stretched beyond Lough Corrib and well into the Co. Galway. It embraced as I have said the present, and not the old barony of Kilmaine, the barony of Ross (then in the Co. Mayo), and that of Ballinahinch in Galway County.

Before Cong

An important ecclesiastical territory before the establishment of Cong, that abbey and bishopric overshadoewd and led to the dismemberment of the historic deanery of Shrule, probably established after the coming of St. Patrick. It is even alleged that Shrule was once a See, but there is no record to pprove it. However, there is ample proof that it was a deanery, comprising no less than three baronies, consequently a place of considerable importance. Even the parochial unit, so designed, after the tightening up by throwing three parishes into one, each of which was also at the time of considerable importance, being both rectories and vicarages, they retained claims of so important a character that they received the attention of the Holy See, as we find reference to them in the Roman records. It is difficult after such a lapse of time to say which was which, but the old churches are definitely defined as Shrule, Kinlough, Moyne and Killeenbrenan. References to Kinlough as a parish we have but they are pretty obscure, and it has not survived even as a retrenched parish - at least.the name does not appear in any of the Government records, which were not disturbed by the redistribution and submerging of parishes for church purposes. Same applies to Killeenbrenan, but we do know this was represented by Moorgagagh as a parish, and Moorgagagh existed as a parish in ancient times, and does so still according to the official records. The townland of Moorgagagh now represents what was Killeenbrenan, and there were a church and an abbey there. In the old parish of Moorgagagh, in Dalgan electoral division, there are ten townlands, which I have given so that it must have been an extremely small parish. The dimensions of Shrule church were 91 feet 10 inches by 24 feet 4 inches. Moyne of old written Maigen or Maigincula, had around it a substantial cashel, the walls of which were eight feet thick, and in shape it was perfectly oval, measuring 330 feet at its lesser and 380 feet at its greater diameter.. Knox says: "This Moyne is most likely to be the place mentioned in the Martyrologies, which refer to Muichin and Eodusa of Malgen." The ruins lay a little north of Moyne Castle, on an upland. The gables of Kinlough church are extant, and its dimensions are given as 65 feet by 22 feet 4 inches. Knox says it belongs to the Gothic period. The ancient church of Killeenbrenan is in the townland of Moorgagagh, and the traces of extensive foundations are discernible all round it. In its vicinity, in Kill townland, stand the remains of Moorgagagh abbey, 61 feet by 19 feet in extent. Archdall gives the date of its foundation as 1428, but Shrule, Kinlough and Moyne churches were probably erected at the same time as the castles beside which they stand. We have references to these castles by the Annalists, including this: "Castles were erected in Muintir Murcada (Mag Scola, or the barony of Clare), Conmaicne Cuil (Kilmaine) and Cera (Carra) by the aforesaid Barons in 1228." Knox remarks. that these churches belong to the period when the gothic style superseded the Romanesque, and this was in the thirteenth century. As we know, in 1306 these ancient churches stood in Shrule, Kinlough and Moyne, called in the Edwardine Taxation Struthir, Kinlacha and Maigencula, so that the parish lacks not in antiquity in that regard.

The Rentals Of Cong

The Rentals of Cong, compiled in 1501 by Tadh 0'Duffy, when William Boy 0'Duffy was Abbot, have the following entry:- "Item - the aforesaid clansmen (that is, the de Burgos) gave Segerin (Killosheheen) of the Canons in the town of Robbo to the aforesaid monastery. The same clansmen gave a parcel of land at Rathmoling in the town of Sruthair (Ramolin, Shrule). There is also this entry: ":And thus belongs to the aforesaid monastery Temple Colmain, in the aforesaid town, and the well of the same, and KillinColmain, on the opposite side of the river, and the half-quarter of land of the Hill, which is called St. Patrick's Hill." This proves to all the Titular or Patron of Shrule church is St. Colman. Rathmoling is now the townland of Romolin, near Shrule church.

Shrule Alienated From Tuam

This transaction is alleged to have taken place in the year 1501. Archbishop Joyes or Joyce, said to be one of the big Joyces of Connemara (1486-1501), united the rectory and vicarage of Oranmore and the vicarage of Meary, which belonged to Annaghdown, to the wardenship of Galway, and in 1501 he ceded Shrule from Tuam archdiocese. In 1488 he had alienated from the diocese of Annaghdown in the parishes of Rahoon, Moycullen and Shrule. It was on the 15th August, 1501, that Archbishop Joyce united Shrule and Kinlough to the wardenship of Galway. The two incumbents, Meiler and Tomas Mac Seonin, resented this alienation of their parishes,. appealed to Rome, had their claims allowed, and continued to enjoy the fruits, rents and emoluments as was their wont.

400 Years Ago

Worsted by the Mac Seonins, the Bishop went to Kingdom Come with his project unfulfilled, and in 1526 Thomas 0'Mullaly, the. then Metropolitan of Tuam, was troubled with the matter, having been queried from a source he did not like, but what he had to regard as official, in reference to the status of the joint parishes. The warden and vicars of Galway alleged that Meller and Tomas Mac Seonin had obtained the Papal Letters by fraud and misrepresentations, having concealed a previous union of Kinlough and Shrule with Galway. 0'Mullaly evidently verified this version, and in view of the surreptitious process of the two local rectors of the parishes, he cancelled the claims of the Mac Seonins, annulled all their rights, and united the parishes to Galway, or rather reinforced the parish union. Whether this was cannonical or not, considering that the Mac Seonins had been a quarter of a century in possession, based on Apostolic Letters, the union was not subsequently disturbed, and this lasted these four hundred years. An appeal could have been made to the Legatine Court, but no appeal appears to have been lodged, and thus the alienation was complete. Under subsequent diocesan re-arrangements the Metropolitans of Tuam do not appear to have made representations to have it handed back.

Endowments Of Cong

In the grant possessions of Cong Abbey made by the British Government to John King and John Bingley in 1609 among the list of possessions is recorded: "One moiety of the tithes, great and small for the rectories, churches, chapels or parishes, and amongst others are specified those of "Shrule, Kinlough, and Killinbrenin." King and Bingley, two greedy English adventurers on the rampage for Irish loot, had got tithes from Elizabeth, and were evidently not prepared to recognise the rights of the wardens of Galway, established eighty years previously. They grabbed all the loot from whatever source forthcoming but enjoyed it only for a short time.

The Suppression

Although Cong abbey had been suppressed in 1542, and the last abbot, Aneas MacDonnell, had been expelled, down to 1609 the power of England had not been fully effective in Connaught against the Church, and we find a Vicar, Dermot 0'Myn in Killinabrianin in 1591. In 1558 Dermot 0'Ruain was Vicar of Scruyr, John Og 0'Darcay was vicar of Kynlacha, and John 0'Konayll vicar of Killynbreayn, but the profits of both were usurped by William, son of John de Burgo, and the rectories of both belonged to Cong Abbey. In 1574 Scruer, Kynlagha and Killinbreanen were rectories and vicarages and two abbeys mentioned -Killinbreanyn and Moyne; but there is no reference to Clogvanaha, in Church Park, which must have been an ancient foundation and not functioning in 1574. The other two became extinct about this epoch. In 1591 Sruthir, Killinbranin and Kinlach are again registered as vicarages and rectories, and Dermot 0'Myn is mentioned as vicar of Killinbriain. This shows that the present parish of Shrule was a composite parish, embodying three preReformation vicarages and rectories. In 1833, Killeenbrenan was then called Moorgoger (Moorgagagh) parish in Goverment documents. The name is at present applied only to a townland, signifying cracked or split.

Moorgagagh Parish

Moorgagagh is mentioned as a See land, or Episcopal land, in 1617. The old taxations show that this little parish contained a half-quarter of episcopal land, and apparently it was donated to the Abbey of or Bishop of Cong. However, there is nothing certain about that, as some authorities hold that a See of Shrule ante-dated that of Cong. Certain it is, however, that in ancient times there was a very important tract of country known as the deanery of Shrule, embracing three baronies, but it was disintegrated even in the time of the wardenship of Galway, reduced even to the status of a parish, subsequently it was even further degraded by separating it from the archdiocese of Tuam, and even from the Co. Mayo by joining it up with Galway. The Mayo parishes attaching to it - those in the barony of Kilmaine - even omitting those in the baronies of Ballinahinch and Ross (Co.. Galway), which it also embraced, constituted an area almost as extensive as one of the existing Irish dioceses, namely Ross, which embraces parts of Cork and Kerry. Apparently some time after the deanery of Cong was set up. My only authority for this is that for some time Cong was regarded as the capital of the deanery - at least the Clerical Conferences, for what is now Ballinrobe deanery were held at Cong, and only very recently transferred to Ballinrobe. Naturally Cong retained a good deal of importance after that diocese was wound up and merged in Tuam, and it would be only reasonable to expect that the deanery would be so called, but it was backward, and not as central for the clergy as Ballinrobe. Delving deeper into the old records one is also faced with the presumption that these 40 acres of See land were attached not to Cong but to Moorgagagh abbey itself, for unquestionably there was an abbey there, Killeenbrenan been now the name The south wall of Killeenbrenan abbey was split, and had to be buttressed and re-inforced, which may have originated the name, murgacac, which means cracked. but down to this day Moorgagagh survives officially as a parish. The varying forms of the three ancient units comprising the modern parish of Shrule, together with some of the old churches, need to be noted in order to verify the references in the old documents prepared at a time when the Irish names predominated, and of which English officials and others made a sad mess. We have Shrule itself spelled Scurer, Struther, Sruhir, Scruyer in the same document; Kinlough as Kenlacha, Kynlagha, and Kenlach; Killeenbrenan as Kyllynbrenayn, Killinbreanyn, Killinbreanen and Killinabrian, and Moyne as Maigin and sometimes Mayenculi.

The Old Castles

There, were six old castles in Shrule parish- Shrule. Kinlough, Moyne, Ballycurrin, Ballisnahyny and Moycharra. Kinlough was one of three in Kilmaine barony that belonged to MacWilliam Burke, the chief overlord of the De Burgo clans. Moycharra, or Moycharra, belonged to the MacDonnell Gallowglass. This tribe had castles and lands all over Mayo, and got them as eric or warpay from the De Burgos, they being fierce mercenary soldiers, originally from Scotland and the Isles, who hired themselves out to Irish chieftains for war purposes and eventually they became strong and assumed chieftainship. In the subsequent years they were harassed by the British and it became a penal offence for Irish chiefs to hire them. For the most part those who held castles and lands in Mayo were the MacDonnells of the Scotch Isles, who settled in Antrim, and then came westwards. Speaking the Gaelic tongue they did so well out of war service in Connaught that they came to make raids on their own, and generally did a lot of destruction before they were either beaten off or exterminated. Many of them became permanent Irish leaders and patriots and the British generally seemed to have a special detestation for them. The Annals describe them as "well-appointed men of arms, and the stoutest men of their faculty." The occupants of these castles were all Catholics down to the seventeenth century. Wm. Burke of Shrule, backed by a large array, was a claimant for the MacWilliamship at Rausakeera royal fort in Kilmaine in 1595. It was to be the last foregathering of the Northern and Western Irish chieftains when they assembled at this confederation at the gloomy and foreboding closing of the sixteenth century.

Shrule Castle

This strong construction was erected about 1238, and had an uneventful history down to 1570, when it was captured by Sir Edward Fitton and a strong British force, who on this trip took all the castles of Kilmaine. The De Burgos and McDonnells came to the rescue of Burke of Shrule, broke and pursued the English army, but the event of the battle was doubtful. The Saxons kept the field, and with cajolery and treachery held it as far as the Kilmaine chiefs were concerned. Fitton himself was wounded. Wm. Burke occupied the castle, in 1574; John, his son, in 1610; Richard Burke, the Earl of Clanricarde, got the castle and lands to the extent of four quarters about this time, and leased them to Pierce Lynch of Galway. The massacre of Shrule in 1641 has already been referred to.

Kinlough Castle

This was a MacWilliam castle, and had a church close by. John Brown, of The Neale, described it in his map of 1584 as a "MacWilliam House." The MacWilliam Eighter, who was then Sir John Fitz-Oliver Burke, lived there in 1574; Sir Richard Fitz-Oliver in 1618, and his son, Walter, mortgaged it to Sir Valentine Blake, Menlough, in 1628. Sir Thos. Blake leased it to John Darcy in 1668, and Pierce Joyce purchased the lands in 1852.

Moyne Castle

This structure stood on the Black River and was surrounded by six quarters of castle lands. It is a massive square tower, with a spiral staircase. David MacJonyn (Jennings) Blake was owner in 1574, and Ulick, Earl of Clanricarde, then got it by confiscation in 1585. Richard, his successor, got a re-grant of the castle, and four quarters of land in 1610. George French was occupant in 1678, and in 1683 Thomas Blake got it on lease from William Earl of Clanricarde. The Blakes retained it until 1750, when they moved to Merlin Park (Galway). Martin K. Blake resided there until 1838, when it was let to Patrick Henry Lynch, who -was regarded as a "millionaire." This gentleman, afterwards resided at Strand Hill, near Cong, and was long a "Sunday man." He was father of Henry M. Lynch one of the defendants in the very protracted law suit of Lynch v. Clerkin (1898-1901), also of Julia Lynch, the Ballinrobe nun, who founded convents in America. The Blake interest was sold in 1853 to Joseph Burke and Paul Ward. Fate Of The Others Currin or Marsh was the original name of Ballycurrin castle. It was then a MacShoneen stronghold. Ulick MacShoneen Burke occupied it in 1574. It does not figure in the Annals. Richard, Earl of Clanricarde, got it in 1610. It was leased to the Lynchs, who retained it until Chas. Lynch, of Ballycurrin, died in 1897. Mr. Clerkin held it in modern times, and it was burned some years ago. Ballisnahyny seems to have derived its name from Lisnaheighnighe, which is mentioned in the "Historia et Genealogia" of the De Burgos (1578). It was also mentioned in the Division of Connaught in 1574 as a De Burgo castle, and William Burke was the then occupant. The ancient "liss" surrounds it, and gives the castle its name. Moycharra castle was also a De Burgo castle, and given to the MacDonnells for war services. This castle was in the territory anciently called."Eraght Thomas," which consisted of eight towns divided among eight brothers. Two of these sold Moyne to Clanricarde, also its four quarters of land. David MacEdmund MacUlick, the MacWilliam of the time, let 440 quarters to Clanricarde at a rental and this same Earl purchased Moycharra castle from the MacDonnells. The Earl then let all the lands again to the MacShoneens, MacMylers and MacGibbons at a rental. These were all de Burgos, snuffed out by the confiscations, when Clanricarde and others shut out all the old owners by taking the lands directly from the Crown.

Legal Thievery

The whole process seems to have been legal chicanery to oust the Burkes and invalidate their titles, and no wonder Richard, son of John of the Termon, who then lived in Ballinrobe castle, went into rebellion, and prevented the clansmen from paying any rent to the grasping Clanricarde. However, it was only prolonging the evil hour and wasting the country. I have told how Bingham, persecuted, murdered and robbed the Burkes.

Names And Religion Changed

The MacShoneens changed their names to Jennings, and their religion in many instances. Indeed except the Browns, of Brownstown; the Burkes, of Ower; the Blakes, of Tower Hill, and some of Galway, practically all the old families of South Mayo and North Galway embraced the new religion, the law of the land established in order to share in the spoils of confiscation. They certainly got them in abundance! Almost all have melted and are forgotten already. The once powerful Jennings sank to a low level. The rest of them all died at Mount Jennings, near Hollymount. There are five or six tombs of Protestant Jennings in Kilmaine Protestant graveyard, and other tombstones tell similar tales of other renegade families. Walter MacShoneen Burke's clan or people owned Ballisnahyny castle, and the clan of Thomas Burke owned Moycharra, Ballycurrin and Dalgan estates.

The Church Lands

Kinlough church lands were -- 26 quarters belonging to the Archbishop of Tuam, and 16 quarters belonging to the abbey of Cong. The nuns of Inishmaine and Ballinchalla owned two quarters in Moyne. There was half a quarter of land in Killeenbrenan, described as episcopal lands. The church lands, reckoning 120 acres to the quarter, would therefore be 6,340 acres. An enormous amount of church land was confiscated in the 16th century, and this went with it. The lands of Cong, Kilcreevanty, Ballintubber, and Abbeyknockmoy, not to mention those of Mayo and Annaghdown, were most extensive, and ran into tens of thousands of acres. All donated by pious people for the upkeep of the abbeys, convents and churches, the British Government ruthlessly alienated, robbed the church, but could not uproot it, and we are now coolly told that the Catholic Church had the title system in force before it was promulgated by the British Government for the upkeep of the Protestant Church.

When St. Patrick Came

There can be little doubt that St. Patrick visited Kilmaine and established a church at Shrule. Tirechan's seventh century account, copied into the Book of Armagh refers to him being in Conmaicne Cuil Tolad, the old name of Kilmaine, where he established four-sided churches, and in a damaged page "Air Usicon" is mentioned. Dr. Healy definitely identified the place, and Knox remarks that "air" might be the end of a word which represents Southair or Celiectuair. Southair meant not only Shrule, but the country about, and Knox was of the view that the church might be that of Shrule, or one of those in the adjoining graveyards. Kilquire, old church near Kilmaine was spelled anciently Kilchowyre. The mention of St. Patrick's Hill, near Shrule, given in the rentals of Cong, would seem to favour Southair. "Usicon" confused Knox and other authorities. "And the Sign of the Cross is at that place even to this day," is also mentioned in Tirechan's account, and this is taken to mean Cross, in the parish of Cong, where there is a handsome modern church. In ancient times there was an important Patrician church there, and the place was known as Cross of Cuil Tolad. There are villages known as Cross East and Cross West. The church stands by the road from The Neale to Headford, at the point where it branches to Cong.

The Old Church Order

According to Keating, the Synod of Rath Breasil (alleged to be somewhere in Westmeath), assigned five Sees in 1118 to Connaught , amongst which Achonry is not mentioned by name. The territories are very vague but amongst them was Cong, and its points are: From Amhain 0 m Brain, in the north of Elphin, and from Atha-an-termainn to the sea. The bigger territories like those ruled by the 0'Flahertys are not mentioned, neither are the baronies of Gallen and Leyney, which Keating's list would make fall under Tuam. Killala diocese was from Nephin to Ballysodare, while it should strictly be for the 0'Dowda Kingdom, which did not extend along the Ballina side of the Moy. The Tirechan section of the 0'Dowda Kingdom remained in Killala, the Coolcarney division falling into Achonry, which was one of the earliest of the Sees, and having its name omitted would render Keating's account unreliable, though possibly it had another name. Another account says Killala extended from Nephin to Ballyshannon, omitting altogether the large territory of Erris. While sceptical of those lists. we have to remember that in the old days organisation was not to perfect, and as time goes on the formation of the modern Sees is but of yesterday. The varying accounts indicate many changes in which .local chiefs played a more pronounced hand than the church authorities, and even the final change did not come with the re-casting after the abolition of the wardenship of Galway, for we had Dr. MacEvilly, when he was Archbishop of Tuam, exchanging a parish with the Bishop of Galway. It would be a justifiable step if Archbishop Gilmartin gave another exchange for the parish of Shrule, and have it no longer divorced from the countv to which it belongs. The diocese of Ardcarne or Ardagh, with points from Ard-Carna to Sliabh an Iarainn, and from Kish Corran to Urcaillti, is mentioned, and this is supposed to represent Achonry, but it is inexplicable how it is that the ancient or modern name was not mentioned, as it was as long established as Killala, and in the Papal Records we have reference to it. Innocent N, in 1249, referred to it. Apparently Achonry was more extensive then than now, as Urcaillti is said to be the boundary of Clonard in Meath; consequently it embraced big sections of what are now other dioceses. The explanation given for this is that the old kingdom of the 0'Rorkes (Breffini) was a sub=kingdom of Meath.

Cong See Wiped Out

While the Synod of Rath Breasil definitely establishes that there was a See of Cong, the names. of the Bishops have not come down. However, the ecclesiastical territories decided upon at Rath Breasil were never recognised. The old chiefs would not have them. They involved suppression of the ecclesiastical independence enjoyed by the powerful chieftains, who rendered the findings null and void, and kept up the old bishoprics, yet a number of them were wound up, such as those of Balla, Umhall (Aughagower), and even Carra had its bishops. They, however, must have been discontinued early, as no account of the Synod of Rath Breasil refers to them, and possibly the bishops were only the abbots,of the monasteries. Knox believes that there was never a bishop bearing the title of Cong, and yet there was. The territories of Conmaicne Cuil Tolad (Kilmaine) and Conmaicne Mara (Ross and Ballinahinch, Co. Galway) formed the deanery of Shrule in 1306, from which Knox inferred there was a Bishop of Shrule up to the Synod of Kells in 1152, and he was generally known as the Bishop of Cong. The See of Mayo was a reality. Perhaps the Bishop of Mayo was called the Bishop of Carra referred to. Quite an array of Bishops of Mayo have come down to us from St. Gerard in the 8th century - he died in 732 - to Eugene MacBrehaun in the 16th, which was definitely annexed to Tuam. Many authorities say Mayo was suppressed in 1209, yet strange to say we have the record of the consecration at Rome in 1578 of Patrick 0'Hely as Bishop of Mayo. He suffered martydom, and we have also proof of the consecration of his successor, who was the last Bishop of that historic See, which contained one of the most famous schools in Ireland.

Deanery Of Shrine

In the old deanery of Shrule all the rectories, except those which formed emoluments of prebendaries, were held by the abbey of Cong, so at this stage the distinction cannot be traced. In the closing and degrading days of the wardenship of Galway we then had the MacWilliam Burkes and others taking a hand in church control to further their own ends. It was endowed at the expense of poor parishes, emoluments of rectories and vicarages were annexed to benefit well paid people at the expense of religious intends, and so in this way the vicarages of Shrule and Kinlough were grabbed in 1501 .The deanery has a well-connected history, but as it is really part of, and so entwined the history of Cong, it will be more appropriate to reserve it for that parish, which I next deal with.
Another Old Church
Knox refers to an old church at Kilnamanagh, which is difficult to date. He claimed he found it in an ancient tract, and stated to be in Muintir Murcada. He claimed that it was the parish church of Struithir in Muntercuda (Muintir Cada), and that mentioned in the Taxation. The parish, or at least part of it, merged in that of Donaghpatrick, and the rectory of the whole belonged to the monastery at the time of the suppression. The Four Masters record the death of the abbot of Kilnamanagh in 1438. A Franciscan House had, however, no abbot, and it is supposed the term was used laxly. There are indications to show that the building had been extended, the reconstruction being done in a rough way. Much of the ruin remains. Moorgagagh abbey presents the features of a mediaval monastic church constructed on the site of an earlier Irish church. In the east wall is a small piece of very fine walling of pick-dressed stones with very fine joints, which seems to be a fragment of the east end of a very much older church. Unfortunately the upper part of the east wall is gone. The character of the rest of the building agrees with the date of foundation, 1428, given in Archdall's "Monasticon." The south wall began to fall out, and was reinforced by a thickening outside. This work was planned in days when the architects were not as expert as today and is not as artistic, or yet as substantial as the buttresses put to Killala Cathedral some years ago, the work being so well done that they look like part of the original structure. At Moorgagagh the buttressing was defective in that it was not fined down adequately, and had consequently to be covered so high up that the square windows high up in the wall were obscured and blackened. Another too massive construction reinforces the wall at the eastern end. This splitting of the walls is alleged to have given the place its name. Killeenbrenan was probably the original name, and still obtains on the official maps. Knox, however, was of the opinion, and he knew the ground intimately, that the name might have been applied to the far older church close by, called the Killeen, and in that case the chancel was built simply against the east wall of the old church. The remarkable piece of masonry alluded to would strengthen this opinion. The date has not been fixed, but its dimensions, 61 feel by 19 feet, mark it as a comparatively late construction, and this suggests that Killeenbrenan was the old parish church and that the abbey was raised on the site of another disused ancient church, The Killeen is in Moorgagagh townland, and the abbey in Kill. The Killeen was once a very important religious establishment. The land north, west and south is covered with foundations of walls and buildings that certainly indicate a large settlement- probably a monastery of the early epoch that crumbled to ruin under the more powerful influence of Cong, and possibly the church lands we find later attached to Cong were donated earlier for the support of the monks of this abbey and that of Kilnamanagh. The investigations proceeding may clarify the matter. Particulars of church lands in Shrule I also reserve until I am dealing with Cong.

The Old Manors

After the Normans had found their feet in Ireland they made elaborate preparations to hold on, erecting strongholds, in the vicinity of which they encouraged their fighting men and income producers on the land to place their dwellings. They formed both in England and Ireland what are still known as the Manor, and the head men, known as the Barons, encouraged the erection of small towns, given the status of boroughs for local administrative purposes, and in this way we had over a score of corporate towns in Mayo, most of which have ceased to exist. Amongst them was Shruher, still obtaining as Shrule, placed in the far end of the county, yet a place of considerable importance in those times. The Normans, who at the time were of superior intelligence, granted land on easy terms to encourage the building of towns. This was and is known as Burgage tenure, giving rise to the Irish Burghus, called Burgs in Scotland, and in England and Ireland "Boroughs." The places still known as Burris and Burg are a survival recording the existence of the old towns. We have still evidence that such places existed in Mayo, for we have the Manors of Moyne, Cong, Straide, Shrule, Kilveen (taken to be Kilmaine, or it could be Kilvine, the ancient name of Ballindine, and there is a townland called Burris there). Ballinrobe, Burrishoole, Aughagower, Kilmoremoy, Burriscarra, Castlekirke (which is supposed to be Barrett's Castle, near Foxford), Ballylahan (Straide), Ballymonagh (which cannot for now be placed), Ross (near Killala), Mayo, Castlemore, MacCostello (Ballaghaderreen) and Lehench.These Manors were broken up under the Composition, and while we still have the ruins of most of the old castles, we know but little about the extent of the territories. I have already described how these ancient structures were built, there being no doors or windows on the ground floor, the only opening being slits for the discharge of weapons of defence, access to the upper chambers being by ladder. This was a security procedure taken against robbers and raiders, however when the conditions became more normal flights of stone stairs were erected. One of such a type were castles of Ballykine, Cushlough, Ballinahiney and others in the barony of Kilmaine.

A Single Exception

When the Barons had developed the country somewhat, and were able to live in peace, many of the old castles were re-converted, and the new ones put up indicate a changed conditions of things, the disorders -starting early in the 14th century resulting in the erection of strong defensive walls round many of the castles, like the gigantic barricade that was put round Doonamona, the Hag's Castle and Ballyloughmask. We have one bare instance of the extent of the manors, and that in regard to Lehinch, near Hollymount. Some details of it are furnished by a law suit in the reign of Edward 11. (crowned in 1307 and murdered in Berkeley Castle twenty years later), when one of the Great Prendergasts, who gave name to the barony of Clanmorris, sued the Roches for recovery of the lands of the Manor. The result is not given, but apparently Prendergast lost, as in the same reign we had Roche's widow successfully suing for dower. There were also other lawsuits in the same regard and we have mentioned the villas of Coolcan, Coolisel (Lisatava), Ballylayne, Dericoul Oughteragh, Derinrus, Bailibloghan, Ardalas, Synnaghcathyn, Skealoghan, Moneycrower, Lathathlong, Derineserchath, Kilglassan, and Carthy (Camas). The Manor was in the parish of Kilcommon, and the site was within the Hollymount demesne, within which Lehench demesne is still pointed out, but it was obliterated long ago, and before the mansion known as Hollymount House was built by Spencer Lyndsay.

Religion Of The Normans

Mayo writers, including Ruskin, would like us to throw dirty water on the Normans, to try and apologise for their zeal in church building, and would have us understand it was all make-believe, to curry favour by conforming to the practices of those they conquer or in other words, to make themselves popular. It is alleged they never conformed properly to Christianity, but we know this to be a lie, though they were fierce soldiers, always ready to use the sword to enforce their will. A conquering race, never put God in the forefront, but to say the Normans conformed to Christianity only as far as it suited them, and that they put up altars to decieve God and stay His hand against their acts of tyranny and bloodshed is in contradiction of the facts. We have to admit they were of the superior intelligence at the time, the Irish being steeped in ignorance and slavery. Since their coming, very early in the 11th century, many noble churches in England and Ireland were erected by them. We are now asked to believe they were barbarians, and that the noble abbeys and churches they built in Mayo and liberally endowed was part of their programme to enlist the services of God in their work of conquest.

The Real Test

Even when the Normans were compelled to bend the knee to "England", even when they had been robbed of their lands, they did not abandon the Catholic faith. The strongest proof we can have of this is their wills. I have quoted some of them, and certainly they did not indicate they had made religion a blind. We have had many Norman descendants zealous Catholic Bishops; we had some great and distinguished nuns, and I have quoted references from the Irish and Papal records showing the motives moving them when they established monasteries, many of the founders of the families taking the habit, and ending their lives in the cloister. Under diabolical pressure many did apostatise to try and hold the land, but not a whit quicker than many of the native Irish.

The Moral Code

These same writers, without any foundation in fact, also assail the moral code operating under the Norman sway. It was in fact higher than in any European country. Even with all the impositions of the Normans, the high tradition of the Brehon Code survived, and early marriages were the custom. Grace O'Malley has not escaped the mud of hostile writers, and we have many at home who sneer at her and tell us extraordinary stories about her. She lived her life decently in rude times, and was not niggardly in the endownment of monasteries, churches and convents. Her strong forte was early marriages for her people, and in the battle, apportionment of land and fishing rights the bachelor did not get preference. The Normans realising the importance of this canon, also encouraged it, and execution for the moral delinquent was not uncommon. The low moral code introduced by the British was not common to the soldier only. The new overlords had no moral code. The law winked at their grave faults, and the British Government gave us the poorhouses to help to cover them up. The end of the revolting practices was not the introduction of a higher moral code, but the land laws, which finally released the tenants from their clutches, then the passage of the Law Amendment Act, and legislation which made the profligate civilly liable for his sins.

The Old Feuds

The Annals have many references to Shrule from the coming of the Nomans down to comparatively modern times, and long before Bingham operated it was a place of note. In 1262 0'Conor Sligo plundered the foreigners from Balla and Mayo of the Saxons to Shrule, burned towns and cornfields, slaying many and getting their demands, and in the following year the 0'Donnells ravaged the territory of Clanricarde returning home by Shrule, Ballinrobe and Tirawley, having obtained all their demands. It may seem strange to have them returning home by Tirawley, but I have an old account which says they sailed home from the Moy, which had then another name. Bingham's dark deeds at Shrule and throughout Kilmaine I have already referred to. We have still the remains of the historic castle, and a fine stone bridge spans the Bloody Ford. Early in the 14th century all Connaught was ravaged by tribal wars. In 1377 the chiefs were constantly at each other's throats, and in the following year Sligo chieftains pooled forces to have a resounding blow at the Burkes of Mayo, and wrought great destruction in a campaign that occupied seven months. The 0'Connors, MacDonoghs, 0'Haras and 0'Dowdas seem to have had the best of it. The Annalists say that they burned MacWilliam's country from Carnglass to the borders of Umhall. This is taken to be the barony of Tirawley, Iverglas being an ancient name for the River Moy. They also burned Burke's country from Ballinrobe to Shrule and Killenbrenan, and carried off great preys of cattle. The old account says that Cormack MacDonogh carried off the preys of John Burke's sons to Umhall, while another account says that the 0'Malleys opposed the raiders and drove them from Umhall. This raid also extended to East and South Mayo, for it is recorded that the Clan McDonogh of Sligo attacked Ballylahan castle (Athleathan) and carried its: gates away to Ballymote, after receiving great punishment from the De Exeter Jordans. While carrying the raid into the barony of Costello the MacDonoghs and their allies surprised the clan Costello, Teige MacDermott Gall, chief of his name, and many of his people being killed. An apologist for the 0'Dowdas says they were forced into this row by other Sligo chiefs, who threatened their territory if they remained neutral, while another account says that it was the last desperate attempt of the 0'Dowdas to recover chieftainship of the barony of Carra. lost through an outrage on a female of the Clan Cuain by Rory 0'Dowd, who was murdered for his crime. I have seen it stated that the MacDermotts of Moylurg, who were instrumental in depriving the 0'Dowds of Carra, declined to amalgamate their forces with 0'Dowda's in the execution of this raid, while yet anxious to scourge the Mayo chiefs, and this possibly explains why they were raiding in the east and south, while the other Sligo brigands were plundering what was called MacWilliam's territory. Shortly after the MacDermotts made a lightning raid on the territory of Clanmorris, penetrated as far as the Castle of Brize, burned the outbuildings and corn, slew many and returned safely, the Prendergasts and Burkes in hot pursuit, but they did not enter Sligo. In the same year the MacDonoghs came to plunder Clan Cuain, but the MacWilliam opposed them and drove their force out of Castlebar. On this occasion the MacDonoghs turned back with the intention of robbing Carra, but the Stauntons, supported by the Burke's. fell upon them. slaying many. So hard pressed were the invaders that when making their way home they took the old road running by the crown of Cruckspullaghadaun, and were pursued as far as Swinford, where they scattered in the bogs.

Destroying The Castles

In 1571, after it having been reported that Shane Mac Oliverus Burke, who shortly before had been made MacWilliam was engaging Scots and preparing for a rebellion. Sir Edward Fitton then went to South Mayo, accompanied by the Lords Clanricarde and Thomond, remaining from the beginning of September to the end of October. The account says that one castle was defended. and on being taken the ward of twelve men were slain. The keepers of the other castles abandoned them, the Burkes themselves fled from the country, and Fitton laid waste over an extent of about sixteen miles long and as many broad. destroying about £500 worth of corn. He is reported to have taken nineteen towns and castles in Kilmaine on this trip alone.

Date Of Old Church

The great parish church of Shrule is attributed to the descendants of the great Turlough 0'Conor as are Ballinrobe (Holyrood) and Burriscarra all built in the Gothic style and 90 feet long. The period assigned is between 1170 and 1230. It was built on. the very same site as that of an earlier one, and on the very ground where St. Patrick planted his crozier. The present parish church is a fine modern structure, and well furnished.

The Cry Of The Oppressed

Sir Edward Fitton, in 1570, when there were protests against the billeting of officers and soldiers on the people, reported to the Council: "Shane Burke Mac Oliverus, who was standeth to be MacWilliam Ewter, being exclaimed upon to his face by a poor widow of his country being undone by his rebellious practices in maintaining the Scots for our own defence. I see the destruction of the country. Again, if I shall take upon me the name of the MacWilliam, I shall be driven for maintenance thereof to spoil it myself. And if we shall submit ourselves to the English nation, they will be as bothersome as MacWilliam or Scots. The cess is very heavy, but soldiers must be kept, as they are always wanted all of a sudden. If the Queen's victuallers would furnish supplies for soldiers in every province the service would be no worse, and the people would be less oppressed, and as men of experience think their good will might be soon obtained. Yet they will not for a time readily consent to abandon old customs, but must be kept in fear." In the same year he put them in fear when he besieged Shrule Castle.

Fooling The Chieftains

When Sir Henry Sidney came as Lord Deputy in 1575 he put aside the cruel methods of Bingham and set about ensnaring the old chiefs by inducing them to take their lands under Crown tenure, the terms being acceptable. Though they also distrusted him as much as Bingham they were ready to make sacrifices to get from under the heel of the latter, and most of them accepted the terms offered. Sidney's first resting place in Mayo was at Shrule Castle, but here he could not tarry long, as most of the Mayo chiefs were in revolt, and a force he had sent in advance had attacked Castlebar, the castle of which was held by the stout sons of Edmund Burke. Sidney threw into the attack the strong force he had taken with him. Mrs. Burke fearing for the safety of her sons, went to Sidney's camp and offered terms for them. Sidney, recognising that he was in the presence of a lady, courteously received her, but also refused to raise the siege on promise of surrender. When the castle was taken it was found the Burkes had escaped during the night, and from that forth Castlebar knew them only as fugitives. On this trip Sidney broke the power of the Mayo chiefs. On his return to Galway he rested at Shrule, where many of the chieftains got audience, and shortly after they all including the MacWilliam and Grace O'Malley, appeared before them and made submission.

The See Lands

In the first list we have of See lands in Mayo appears Moorgagagh, the area being half a quarter. In a subsequent return of lands owned by the Archbishop of Tuam, Ross and Moorgagagh parishes are bracketed, With 122 acres in Russina (Rusheen townland, to the south of Rosshill) and 288 acres at Moorgoer (Moorgagagh); Cong and Moorgagagh are also bracketed, with. 1,121 acres at Kiltramadra (Houndswood) and Moorgoer. Under the Edwardine Taxation (1306) we have the following for the deanery of Struther: Struther, £2; Kenlacha (Kenlough), 13/4; Magenculi (Moyne), £l; Killyngmyirrynd (The Neal Old Church) £l; Cunga (Cong) £l; Inismedan (Inishmaine) £2; Rodba, £1 6s. 8d.; Kilcolman (Attyrickard) £4; Laughmescan (Ballinchalla) £2; Inysredba (Templenalecka) £1 6s 8d; Margos (Moorgagagh) £1; Kilkemantuyn (Kilcommon) £1 6s. 8d.; Rossclaran (Moyrus) 13/4; Innisdsclin (Omeyfeneen 16/-, making a total of £31 9s. 4d., the tenth of which (£3 2s. 11d.), went to the King. In Bodkin's "Visitation" Dermot 0'Ruain is mentioned as Vicar of Scruyr, the profits of which was usurped by William, son of John de Burgo. The rectory was under Cong monastery. John Og 0'Darcay was the vicar of Kynlacha (Kinlough), but the profits were usurped by the same gentleman. This rectory was also under Cong.
In the Division of Connaught (1574) the list of churches, is very confused, but the vicarage and rectory of Killeenbrenan, Sruer and Kynlagha are referred to, also the abbey of Killinbreanyn, and possessed "eyther by Freeres, or Rebells, so as her Majesty hath no commoditie by the same." Ballycally (Ballinchalla) and Homoheny (Feechin's Island) are also referred to.
A 1591 list shows that Sruhir was under the College of Galway, the Queen being named as Rector of Killeenbrena and Kinlough, and Conley 0'Keafavin of Ballinchalla. The vicarages of Sruhir and Kinlough were also held by the College of Galway, Dermot 0'Myn being named for Killeenbrenan and Kervall 0'Ceally for Ballinchalla. The old churches and graveyards were Killeenbrenan (Moorgagagh), the old church at Kill, in Moorgagagh parish, and in Shrule, Shrule Abbey, "Clogvanaha" graveyard, north of Dalgan House at Carrowmore, Moyne and Kinlough churches. In the 16th century the rectories, or rather chief churches, in the deanery of Shrule were -- in Conmaicne Cuil Tolad (Kilmaine) there were Ballinrobe, Kilmainemore, Shrule, Kilcommon, Kilmainebeg, Cong, Ballinchalla, Kilmolara, Moorgagagh and Ross, the following being in Conmaicne Mara (Connemara), Ballynakill, Omey, Ballindoon and Moyrus, and all except Ballinrobe and Kilmaine were under the abbey of Cong.

Last Siege Of Shrule


The Battle Of Shrule

At the period in which Sir Edward Fitton destroyed the castles in the barony of Kilmaine a serious rebellion raged all over Connaught. Mayo being the warmest part of it, the old chiefs fighting desperately to clear their country of the British. This was known as Thomond's rebellion of 1570, Fitton being forced to fall back on Galway and ask for reinforcements, which soon came, where upon Lord Thomond deserted his allies, and unsupported the Burkes decided to meet the English, and with disastrous results. Traitors like Clanricarde, one of the Barretts, and one of the MacDonnells, in order to have revenge taken on the Burkes of Tirawley, joined Fitton, who was supported by cavalry and artillery with which he made short work of the castles and laid the chiefs and their territories prostrate before him. In June, 1570, when the whole country was crying out against the heavy cess put upon them, and the burden imposed by the billeting of soldiers and horses. Fitton laid siege to the fine old castle of Shrule, and soon pounded it and the garrison into submission. It need not be taken that the Burkes remained idle. The decisive battle came on the 21st, when the British were beaten to a standstill.

Shortage Of Power

Occupying a hill close to the English camp, the Burkes opposed them, their men being disposed in six compact bodies. Fitton brought up his men in battle formation, each side keeping the cavalry in reserve. It was an epic struggle. Though received by a deadly volley the Burkes fell upon the English with the steel, the slaughter being great. The English gallowglasses broke and fled, pursued by the Irish. At this stage the English cavalry was brought into action and tried to take the Burkes in the retreat, but were met by the opposing cavalry, Sir Edward Fitton being unhorsed and wounded, as was his chief captain. Burke's pikemen drove back the English infantry, and covered by the cavalry, they broke, pursued by the Irish. Many of the chief men of the Burkes were killed or wounded. Re-forming, the British wrought havoc in the Irish ranks, and the Burkes withdrew at a time victory was in their hands, had they known it. The British had run out of powder. In fact the Burkes gained by it, and saved a big section of the country. Galway being under seige at the time. Next day Fitton took Shrule castle and put the garrison to the sword. Lord Chanricarde was given the castle, and undertook to guard it at his own expense. Soon after the Burkes again made peace, again broke it, and gave Bingham, the opportunity he sought to exterminate them. In the Composition of 1585 the following appears: "Farragh MacDonnell, of Cloonell, in respect of his good services done on Her Majesty's side at the meeting of Shrule, shall have that castle and four quarters of his lands free."

Clanricarde's Prize

Writing in 1838, John O'Donovan remarked that the parish of Shrule is bounded on the north by the parishes of Kilmainemor and Moorgagagh, on the east and south by Co. Galway, which meets at the bridge of Shrule, on the west by Lough Corrib, and north-west by the parish of Cong. He says the place takes its name from the river which runs under the bridge and divides the Co. Mayo and Co. Galway. It is written Sruthair by the Four Masters at the year 1590, and also by Mac Firbis in his pedigree of the MacWilliam de Burgo. There are several other places in Ireland so called, and his meaning is subsantially what I have already given. After Sir Edward Fitton took Shrule castle for the British he gave it to the renegade de Burgo, who had got the title of Earl of Clanricarde, and Downing, said: "There is in this barony of Kilmaine, upon the extreme bounds thereof, an ancient fair castle and manor house called Shrowle, now and Since the beginning of King James's reign, belonging to the Earl of Clanricarde, but since then, since the English invasion to another family of great note, formerly of the said Burkes, called Burkes of Shrowle, and of late years of Cloghauns, who is said to be the eldest of the Burkes of Mayo." "There is also in the village of Shruille, close to the boundary of Co. Galway, a castle in good preservation, which is certainly the one mentioned by Downing, and which held out a siege," adds O'Donovan.#

The Siege

The Four Masters, A.D., 1570, wrote of the Castle of Shruile: "The same President (Fitton) and the Earl of Clanricarde (Richard, the son of Ulick na Gilann Burke, who was son of Richard, who was son of Ulick of Cnoc Tuagh) laid siege to Sruthair in the summer of this year. In the President's army on this occasion were some of the most distinguished chiefs, heroes and champions of Upper Connaught, from Magh Aoi (Campus Connaciae) to Echtge, and from Galway to Athlone. In his camp there were great numbers of captains with their soldiers, and two or three battalions of Irish Giomachs as also Calbhach (the son of Torlogh, who was son of John Carragh, who was the son of MacDonnell), his two sons and their forces, a party of the descendants of Donall (who was son of John, who was son of Owen na Lathaighe McSweeney), namely, Hugh (the son of Owen, who was son of Donnell Oge and Donnell (the son of Morogh, who was son of Rory More), attended by choice battalions of Gallowglasses of the Clan-Dowell. He had ordnance and forces, which had been .brought from Galway, and he had also a body of vigorous cavalry, to the number of three hundred, accoutred in armour and coats of mail.

"Sorrowful In Mind"

"As soon as MacWilliam Burke (John, the son of Oliverus, who was son of John), heard that the President and the Earl had assembled this great army about Scruthair his heart became sorrowful and his mind confused. He immediately, however, summoned to his assistance the Lower Burkes and the descendants of Meyler Burke, as also the Clan Donnell Galloglach and Morogh of the Battle Axes (who was the son of Teige, who was the son of Morogh, who was son of Rory 0'Flaherty). These crowded to his standard, attended by as many as they had been able to procure of hired soldiers and youths, both Scotch and Irish, and never halted until they had arrived on a hill which was convenient to the President's and the Earl's camp. There they held a consultation to consider in what way they could best disperse or scatter those choice and unconquerable forces who had invaded their territory. At length, having by common consent converted their horsemen into infantry, they marched onward in ordered and regular array, and promised one another that they would not disperse or depart from that order whether they should defeat the army or be defeated by them. They all likewise resolved that if the son or relation of one of them would be slain before them they would not stop for him, but pass him by at once as though he were a stranger. In such state they advanced towards the other army.

The British Fly

"As to the President and the Earl, they placed their advance, their archers, their halberdiers and their mail-clad (horsemen on foot), in the narrow defiles through which they supposed the enemy would pass, placing by their side the Clan Sweeny, the Clan Donnell, the Clan Dowell, and all the other infantry of their army, while they themselves and the powerful body of energetic cavalry they had with them stood nigh ready to support the fight when occasion should require. It was wrestling with peril and facing destuction for the youths of West and Lower Connaught to attempt to pass this dangerous road. Nevertheless, they marched onward, but had not advanced far before their sides were pierced and their bodies wounded by the first volley of large shot discharged at them from guns, and of arrows from elastic bows. It was not, however, fear or terror, cowardice or even distardiness that these wounds produced in them, but rather a magnanimous determination of advancing directly to the contest, in which they soon tried the temper of their samhthachs, the hardness of their swords, and the heaviness of their battle-axes on the heads of their enemies. Their enemies did not withstand long those vigorous onslaughts, for a numerous body of them took to wild and precipitous flight, upon which the others (the Burkes) advanced and took their stations. They then proceeded to kill those who stood before them, and with vigour and switftness to pursue those who fled for the distance of two miles from the camp, during which pursuit they slew and disabled great numbers.

The Irish Victorious

"As the people of MacWilliam Burke while thus following up the pursuit were passing by the cavalry of their enemies, which stood apart, they were attacked by that numerous body, by whom numbers of their troops were felled and a still greater number would have been cut off, but for the closeness and compactness of the battle array which they had agreed that morning to preserve. They afterwards returned home victorious and triumphant. They had committed, however, one great mistake. As they had cleared the field of battle by putting their enemies to fight they should have remained that night in the camp, for in that case no dispute could arise as to whether they had routed the enemy, and they would have obtained the name and renown of having gained that battle. As to the President and the Earl of Clanricarde on the other hand, with the descendants of Donall MacSweeny (those who had not maintained the field against their enemies on that day), and a party of their archers remained in the camp that night. They afterwards stopped to search for and inter their slain friends, and to relieve the wounded throughout the field of slaughter.

A Drawn Battle

"Little Patrick Cusack who was slain in this battle by the English and his death was generally lamented," continues the Four Masters. "In this battle were also slain on the side of the Earl Calbhach (the son of Torlogh, who was the son of John Carragh), and many others not enumerated. On the other side were slain Walter (the son of John, who was son of Meyler Burke), who was called Cluas le Doininn (Ear to the Tempest), Randal, the son of MacDonnell Gallowglach, and the two sons of John Erenach, and two constables of the Clan Donnell of Scotland. On the field were also left dead countless numbers of Irish and Scotch auxiliaries of the MacDonnells, the MacSweenys, and the adherents of the Burkes. The victory was claimed by both sides. Those who had put the army of their adversaries to flight, but who had not maintained the field, thought that the victory was theirs, while, on the other hand, those Lords who had remained during the night in the camp considered that they only were entitled to the fame of having conquered." The Four Masters make no mention of the taking of the castle. Fitton took it at his leisure when the Irish withdrew, putting to death the garrison, and for years after Clanricarde held it for the British.

Two Holy Wells

"There is an old church near the village of Sruille, but it is not one of the ancient Irish churches; it is in the Gothic style, and certainly built by the Burkes," continues O'Donovan. "In this parish is situate Cionn Locha (Head of the Lakes), now anglicised Kinlough, where there are an old castle and church, the erection of which are ascribed by tradition to the family of Burke. This place is mentioned by the Four Masters at the year 1596 as in the country of the MacWilliam Iochtair Burke. Beside that of Sruille, there are two square castles in this parish, whose erection is also attributed to the Burkes, but of which no history is known. There is one in Ballynahyny and another at Ballycurrin. There are two holy wells in the parish, one in the West side of the townland of Rathmoling, called Tobar Chairain (fans Sancti Kierani), and the other in the demesne of Dalgan, called the well of Lough Ree, but the name of the saint who originally blessed it is forgotten. The tradition of the battle of Sruille is distinct (vivid) in the country, and the name is accounted for by a fabrication that a stream of blood or sruth-fuil ran by the castle at the time."

The President Of Connaught

Rev. Dean D'Alton in his History of the Archdiocese of Tuam gives a concise pen-picture of Sir Edward Fitton, who as President of Connaught, had, in military matters supreme and unfettered command at the time of the `Last Seige Of Shrule,' in 1570. "It was Fitton's duty also to uproot Catholicity. But such drastic changes as these neither chiefs nor people would have, and in consequence the Mayo Burkes broke out into open rebellion. Fitton, in 1570, took to the field against them, having with him the Earl of Clanrickard, 500 hired Gallowglasses, some English foot soldiers, 300 mounted men, and some artillery. On the opposite side the leaders were MacWilliam Burke, aided by his own kinsmen, the Burkes of Mayo, and by some of the 0'Flaherties of Iar-Connaught. The opposing forces met at Shrule, on the borders of Mayo and Galway, and the fight resulted in a hard-won but not decisive victory for Fitton. To induce the natives to. accept English rather than their own Irish law, to abandon their language and customs, and, above all, to desert the faith in which they were born, and turn upon the priests of their own blood, and then join with Elizabeth in cursing the Pope, would be no easy task for any man. But for a man of Fitton's temper and character success was utterly impossible. He had no tact in government, no sympathy with the people, no patience with their prejudices, no toleration for their religious belief. On the contrary, he despised them. He was cruel and corrupt, arrogant and domineering, perfidious and intriguing, ready to make reckless charges against men much better than himself, and protesting to Cecil, the Queen's chief adviser, that gentleness would be useless in Connaught, and that he could do no good without force. His desire was not just to administer even-handed justice, and thus show that English justice was superior to Irish, but rather to involve the Irish chiefs in rebellion, so that he could confiscate their lands.Finally, the Viceroy, Fitzwilliam, and Fitton quarrelled. The Viceroy even threw Fitton into prison, and complained to the Queen that Fitton's insolence was unbearable. But the offending President was soon restored to the Queen's favour - and returned to Connaught in 1574. by that time even the Queen was convinced of Fitton's incapacity to govern Connaught - and in the following year Fitton was deprived of his commission, and ceased to be President of Conaught.
J.F. Quinn series of articles on Mayo history published in the Western People during the 1930s.
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