Meet Wilford, Sally and Roy

Townland tales

PEACEFUL SCENE Boats at Burrishoole.

A fleet of neighbouring townlands in Burrishoole

John O'Callaghan

Excluding islands and a few townlands like Cong and Caulicaun, Wilford is one of the smallest townlands in Mayo.
Incidentally, Caulicaun, or Calacán, near Newport, means ‘little landing-place’. Cong, or Conga, is a neck or isthmus.
In area, Wilford comprises just 13 acres. It lies in the barony of Burrishoole, on the L5437, a side-road to the left off the N59 between Newport and Mulranny. The name appealed to me because the townland contains only one house, named Wilford Lodge. This house may have been named after Lieutenant Colonel Richard R Wilford, who held a lease of the property from the Arbuthnot family in 1786.
One might be forgiven for assuming that ‘Wilford’ derives from ‘willow’ or ‘sally’ trees, as in Recess, or ‘Srah Salach’, in Connemara, meaning the strath or holm of the sallies. Confusingly, gives the Irish name for Wilford as Áth Shaileach or ‘Ford of the Willows’.
Wilford was leased to Reverend George Graydon, Sir Samuel O’Malley and Thomas G FitzGerald and A T Oram, as detailed in the Westport Estate Papers. Charles Pridham was the occupier at the time of Griffith’s Valuation. Also, at that time, Captain Alexander Wadham Wyndham (d 1869) held nine townlands in the parish of Burrishoole and six townlands in the parish of Islandeady, some of which he purchased from Reverend John Harvey Ashworth (author of ‘The Saxon in Ireland’, ‘Rathlynn’ and other books).
Other parts of these lands had been leased by the O’Donels, and Wyndham purchased the Marquess of Sligo’s interest in 1853. Some of the Wyndham estate in the parish of Burrishoole was soon after in the hands of the Stoney family, and six townlands were in the possession of HM Anketell-Jones in the early 20th century. The original Wilford House was replaced by a more modern home over 25 years ago.
The three other neighbouring townlands along this side road, signposted to Carrickahowley Castle, are Carrowsallagh, Rockfleet and Raigh (pronounced ‘Roy’). Contrary to the translation given above for Srah Salach/Recess, the other meaning of the Irish word ‘salach’ or ‘dirty’, and experts translate Carrowsallagh, An Cheathrú Salach, as ‘The Dirty Quarter’. So no ‘clean’ sallies or willows here surprisingly!
The Irish name for Rockfleet is Carraig an Chabhlaigh, literally ‘Rock of The Fleet,’ and it refers to Gránia Uaile’s tower-house, the building that dominates the shoreline in this townland. I went down there recently and followed the road over to the pier in Raigh townland, where some people were busy taking their boat out of the water. I wanted to get a photograph of Rockfleet from the estuary and the lady who was overseeing the lifting-out of the boat became concerned that I would point my camera in their direction and shouted ‘no photographs’ up to me on the pier. I assured her I was only interested in the surrounding landscape and had no intention of taking pictures of her boat or the operation to remove it from the water!
The castle/tower-house is currently undergoing a major refurbishment by the Office of Public Works and has been closed to the public for the past few years. It is very worthy of preservation, as it is one of the few remaining examples of its kind intact today.
Built in the 15th century as fortified residences of wealthy landowners, this tower-house was the chief residence of the Burke family of West Mayo, and hence the O’Malleys, when Gráinne married Thomas Burke. Rockfleet townland was owned by the Arbuthnots at the end of the 18th century and subsequently by William B Stoney, who leased it from Captain AW Wyndham. Raigh is an anglicisation of Ráth or An Ráith, The Ring-Fort. There is a Raigh Fort in the northern part of the townland, at 42 metres above sea-level, and another to the south shown close to a schoolhouse on the 1830s map.
The townland turns to the southeast, named Rosturk on the old maps but may be Rosstrunk, Ros Stronctha, meaning ‘Bent Headland’ or Ros Stronc, possibly meaning ‘Headland of the Land Divisions’. There appears to be ambiguity around the actual translation. This is not to be confused with Rosturk Castle, ancestral home of the Stoney family, further to the west in the townland of Rosturk, the ‘Promontory of the Boar’. Furthermore, there is another Raigh (‘Roy’) in Aghagower Parish, in the Barony of Murrisk.
If all of this has your interest piqued, you can find more information about and photographs concerning the Oram occupation of Wilford at, whom I acknowledge for use of their photograph.