The environs of Castleconor
In order to make some sense of the townlands on the eastern shore of the River Moy, I took a road trip to Ballina. I wanted to get a feel for Castleconor, in the barony of Tireragh, the last townland you encounter before entering Co Sligo on the coast road.
Coincidentally, Castleconnor (spelt with two ‘n’s) is also the name of a Civil Parish that straddles the border between Mayo and Sligo. In 1898, parts of Co Sligo, including seven townlands in Castleconnor, were transferred to Co Mayo to facilitate the Local Government Act. These seven townlands have curious ‘logainmneacha’ and are worth a closer look.
Townlands transferred to Mayo
Ardvally, ‘An Ardbhuaile’ means the High Booley or elevated summer pasture and the famous researcher John O’Donovan translated it as ‘high town[land]’.
Bellanira, or Iceford, is very unusual. The ‘English form prevails’, according to Prof Nollaig Ó Muraíle in an RIA lunchtime lecture from October 2014, and indeed in the the local Iceford Stables. However, the late Fiachra Mac Gabhann (author of the acclaimed ten-volume ‘Logainmneacha Mhaigh Eo’) goes with O’Donovan’s translation, ‘The mouth of the ford of the heir’. Apparently, etymology and grammar favour ‘heir’ or ‘descendent’ over ‘oighear’, the Irish for ice.
Castleconor, ‘Caisleán Mhic Conchúir’ or ‘Mac Conchúir’s castle’, was originally an ancient castle standing on the site of a dún, or earthen fort, on a hill called ‘cnocán uí dhubhda’, on a point of land extending into the River Moy. Completely in ruins today, historian Hubert Thomas Knox says it was attacked in 1371 by Donnell O’Dubhda, who ‘took Castleconor and Ardnarea Castle’ from the Berminghams until it was acquired by the Bourkes, who in turn ‘lost Castleconor but retained Ardnarea’.
Dooyeaghny or Cloonloughan, ‘Dumha Fhiachna’ or ‘Cluain an Locháin’, means ‘Fiachna’s mound’ or ‘the meadow of the little lake’. Mac Gabhann devotes two pages to describing how these translations have evolved since John O’Donovan’s (1838) original interpretation. As we know from other townlands along the Mayo coast, the ‘Doo’ prefix usually connotes a ‘sandbank’ or ‘dune’, but Dooyeaghny/Cloonloughan is inland and means a rise or mound in this instance. Fiachna may be a descendent of the Fiachra who gave his name to this barony of Tireragh, ‘Tír Fhiachrach’.
Farrangarode, ‘Fearann Ghearóid’ is ‘Gearóid’s ploughland’, from the Old German ‘Gairovald’, a compound of ger ‘a spear’ and vald ‘rule’, came to Ireland with the Anglo-Normans. Gearóid or Garrett is one of the Irish forms of the name.
Lugnamannow is ‘Log na mBanbh’ or ‘the hollow of the young pigs (bonhams)’, but, interestingly, Mac Gabhann’s ‘informants have never heard of this name before and The Quay Road is used in the vernacular for this area [of Ballina]’.
Rathdonnell, Ráth Dónaill or ‘Dónall’s fort’ is also the name of a townland in Donegal. Dónall/Domhnall, meaning ‘world-mighty’ is the ninth-most-popular name in early Ireland. It was the name of five high-kings, including Domnall Ilchelgach, who died in 566 and was ancestor of the O’Neills and MacLoughlins.
The town and townlands of Ballina are for another day. My road trip took me out along the N59 for 4km, where I then took a left along the R297 towards Inishcrone.
After exactly one kilometre I turned left again at a crossroads. This very narrow link road and the little stream (a tributary of the Brusna River) that runs alongside it on your left as you drive through Castleconor marks the border between Mayo and Sligo.
At the next T-junction you arrive at the coastal link road (L2605) that connects Crocketstown to Inishcrone, and there are no ‘welcome to Mayo’ or Sligo signs to be seen.
I grabbed a few photographs of the stream and did not venture onto the private land that would have taken me to the castle ruins and promontory fort.
As time was my own, I turned right at the T-junction for another 2km, until I spotted a sign for ‘The Warren Walk’, pointing left into a tiny car park. This must be the shortest walking trail in Ireland, all of 700m each-way to the coast and back, but it boasts huge biodiversity for such a small area.
Named in honour of ornithologist Robert Warren (1829-1915), who lived in nearby Moyview House for 50 years and co-authored ‘The Birds of Ireland’ in 1900 with Richard J Ussher. Warren wrote the chapters on white wagtail, surf-scoter, spotted redshank, greenshank, bar-tailed godwit, and sandwich tern.
The Warrens weren’t the only famous family to live in Moyview House. In 1990 it was bought by Gerry McGuinness, the businessman who founded the ‘Sunday World’. Moyview sold in 2019 for €1.5 million after his death, aged 79, in 2018.
John O’Callaghan MA MBA PhD is a mountain walk leader and has organised and led expeditions both at home and abroad. He has served on the board of Mountaineering Ireland and is currently on the Irish Uplands Forum board. In 2012, he wrote the winning article that secured Westport’s accolade as the Irish Times’ ‘Best Place to Live in Ireland’.