MAYO ANTIQUITIES

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

There are four ancient round towers in the county, at Killala, Turlogh, Meelick, and Baal or Ballagh. Monasteries were numerous and of high repute for sanctity and wealth. The principal were Burrishoole, Ballintubber, or Tubberpatrick, Ballynasmall, Urlare or Orlare, Ballyhaunis, which was inhabited by a fraternity of friars in 1641, Cross, Strade, Ballinrobe or De Roba, Mayo, which was afterwards the see of a bishop and gave name to the county, Ballina, Crossmolina, Moyne, Rathbran or Rafran, Rosserick and Bofin, in the island of Innisbofin.

Among the military antiquities the most ancient is that at Downpatrick or Dunbriste, built on a neck of land forming a cliff three hundred feet high projecting into the sea; about the same distance in the sea stands a rugged perpendicular rock of equal elevation with that on the main land, of a triangular shape, contracting gradually from a large base, to the summit, where it is about sixty yards round, and on which are the ruins of a building: the strata and indentations of surface in the cliff on the main land and in the insulated rock correspond in shape and colour: near the extremity of the neck of land a strong grouted wall has been built across the point from sea to sea. The appearance of the whole indicates that the island was at one period attached to the main land, and was dissevered from it by some convulsion of nature. The name, Dunbriste, which signifies "the broken rock," confirms this supposition. It is a place of peculiar veneration; the people resorting to it do penance around several stone crosses on Good Friday, at which time a priest is in attendance.

Rockfleet castle, a small square building on the shore, about three miles west of Newport, is said to have been built by the celebrated Grace O'Malley already mentioned, who was so singularly attached to the sea that all her castles were erected on the shore; and tradition states that when she slept on shore the cable of her own barge was always fastened to her bedpost. Ballylahen castle, in Gallen barony, was built by one of the Jordan or Dexter family, who also built ten others for his ten sons; they are all small square buildings with very few contracted windows, a description applicable to most of the castellated structures which are numerously scattered throughout the county. Inver castle, on the eastern side of Broadhaven, was the principal fortress in Erris, and seems to have been a structure of great extent and strength; many ruins of inferior note are to be seen in this barony.

The castle of Ballinglen, built in a valley of the same name in Tyrawley, has on its top an altar, which gives to that part of the building the name of the altar-room. Deel castle, built by the Burke family, stands roofed and entire within four miles of Ballina, on the estate of the late Colonel Cuff. In Castle island, in Lough Conn, are the ruins of a fort in which O'Conor is said to have confined his brother, after depriving him of sight, for having rebelled against him.

Portnakally castle, about a mile from Downpatrick, is remarkable only for the total want of windows, although the walls yet standing are upwards of twenty feet high. The other remains of castles are not marked by any features sufficiently important to entitle them to particular notice; they were chiefly built by the Burkes, the Barretts, and the Jennings. The modern mansions of the nobility and gentry are noticed in their respective parishes.

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