On the shoulders of giants

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A WORK IN PROGRESS Moore Hall with its 80 acres of woodland estate overlooking Lough Carra, its courtyard and its walled garden (to the right of the picture) seems destined to become one of Mayo’s top tourist attractions for years to come.  Pic: Tom Quinn

Moorehall is still somewhat undiscovered, but not for much longer

Michael Duffy

It is probably fair to say that when growing up, no child has a full appreciation of their surroundings and how lucky or unlucky they are when playing the cards they are dealt. You just go with the flow, make the most of it and do your best to bank some memories, which will be treasured when you get a chance to have a longing look back.
Having grandparents living on the shore of Lough Carra was something myself and my siblings probably took for granted. True, we only lived ten miles away in Killawalla, but the majority of our summer evenings during the national school holidays were spent whiling away the long evenings in the Moorehall area, where we truly were in ‘God’s pocket’.
My grandparents’ house was one of the furthest up the village, right on the shoreline of majestic Lough Carra. But just a mile down the narrow, winding road was the an area of mystique and history, all surrounding the imposing structure known as Moore Hall.
The now ruin was, on February 1, 1923, torched by an armed anti-treaty group during the Civil War. The following morning James Reilly, the steward of Moore Hall, dispatched a telegram to the owners, the famed George and Maurice Moore, simply stating: “Moore Hall burnt down last night, nothing saved.”

Historic playground
The chaotic nature of life in Ireland in the early 1920s is being documented at present at length all over the country as part of the Decades of Centenaries, 2012-2023 – a Government-funded project. Those among us fascinated by such seismic moments in our country’s history are spoilt for choice, as evidenced by the 48-page supplement which ran this very paper only six weeks ago.
Indeed, there is much more to come, as the centenaries of many more events from the War of Independence into the Civil War are due to occur over the next couple of years.
Compared to most other Irish ‘big houses’ the history of Moore Hall is an exceptional one, and those who want to dig deeper should have a read of ‘The Moore’s of Moorehall’, by Joseph Hone, or just browse the copious amount of information on the internet.
However, for this Summer Series in The Mayo News, our journalists were tasked with shining a light on areas of the county that still may not be on the radar for a lot of people to visit during the summer.
And for me, Moore Hall, despite its history being well documented, still fits that bill.
As previously mentioned, in our youth we were aware the ‘big house’ existed, but in the ’80s the area was very much underdeveloped and wild. There were no distinct walking paths as there are now, and when we ventured into those 80 acres of forest on a long summer’s evening, myself, my siblings and our cousins were often fearful we might get lost, or even meet the ‘ghosts’ of Moore Hall.
The structure of the hall is both imposing and intimidating, and the underground tunnel at the back of the house was the scene of many a terrifying episode of Hide and Seek.

Walkers’ paradise
Having not returned to Moore Hall for quite a number of years, I took notion last Saturday evening – the hottest day of 2021 – to take a spin over.
I bought my intrepid niece Abigail for company. She had only recently visited there with my sister and was only too keen to return, provided we could bring her dog, Harvey, along for the ride.
The area has become increasingly popular for family picnics and walks in recent years, due in the main to the continuing efforts of the local community and Mayo County Council to shine a light on this fabulous facility.
However, on Saturday evening, with most of the country stretched out on the county’s beaches (and even on the shores of nearby Lough Carra) while enjoying the fabulous sunshine, we almost had the place to ourselves.
Thankfully, there is now a distinct track that leads walkers all the way around the 80 acres, and a map on entrance clearly plots a path to the attractions.
Newly added wooden sculptures along the trail are perfectly positioned, and the further we ventured into the forest, the more families and walkers we met along the way. They seemed to be nicely divided between leisure walkers, many probably locals from the area, and others, most likely families who wanted to sample west Mayo’s beautiful outdoors on a gorgeous summer evening.
There is no doubt the potential for this site is truly endless, and it seems even more so after the last 18 months of torture experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It ticks almost every box for a must-visit tourism attraction – and the good news is that works are underway and a clear path is being defined to make sure this becomes a reality. This follows years of painstaking campaigning by a host of local people.
I am sure those people will not mind me mentioning one man in particular, local Fianna Fáil councillor, Al McDonnell. Al grew up a stone’s throw away from Moore Hall itself, and throughout his three decades in public life, he has consistently highlighted the need for investment in order to make his home village an attraction that Mayo, and indeed the west of Ireland, can truly be proud of.
It is no exaggeration to say that Al was the proudest man in Ireland when I rang him back in January of 2018 after it had been announced that Moore Hall had been acquired by Mayo County Council.
It’s future is now in safe hands, but anyone familiar with such a project knows full well that development and progress are usually slow and steady.
For now, in the coming weeks, if you haven’t visited Moore Hall and the surrounding area, take a spin over and take it all in. You won’t regret it.