Achill Civil Parish Characteristics, County Mayo, Ireland

Achill Civil Parish is located in the far western portion of Burrishoole Barony. It is composed of Achill Island, Achill Beg Island and the Coraan Peninsula. When the Griffith's Valuation was conducted for Achill Civil Parish in 1855, there were 46 documented Townlands. I have included all named occupied islands in this list as noted in the Griffith's Valuation.

Achill Civil Parish is part of Achill Roman Catholic Parish. The only Roman Catholic Chapel documented as such in the Valuation was in the Townland of Derreen. There were churches of undocumented affiliation in the Townlands of Doogart East, Mweelin and Pollranny (Sweeny). There also was a Church in the Achill Missionary Settlement that was part of the Townland of Doogart. The only graveyards according to the Griffith's Valuation were present in the Townlands of Doogort, Doogart East, Mweelin and Pollranny (Sweeny). (Griffith, 1847-1864; 2003, Achill).

Achill Civil Parish didn't have any major market towns, but it was only 14 miles from the town of Newport-Pratt, a significant market town with a busy port. The only problem was that the roads were almost nonexistent until the early 19th century keeping Achill Civil Parish (particularly Achill Island) quite isolated. If you feel you have family in Achill Civil Parish, the book "Dugort, Achill Island 1831-61 A Study of the Rise and Fall of a Missionary Community" would be a great book to check out. Reverend Edward Nangle established a Missionary Community on Achill Island with the first school up and running by about 1834. Your family might not have been from Achill Island, but the Achill Mission's influence was felt well beyond Achill Island.

The Roman Catholic Church was outwardly opposed to the Achill Missionary Community's goal of converting Catholics to Protestantism. In response to the Mission's development, the Catholic Clergy encouraged what was termed "exclusive dealing" which strictly prevented local residents from working at the Achill Missionary Settlement, providing it with provisions or enrolling their children in Achill Mission Schools. As a result, the mission had to bring in provisions from Westport, a much more expensive proposition. They had to bring in a work force from Westport as well to reclaim the land, sow crops and build homes for the settlement. It wasn't just the cost that was a problem; physical assaults frequently took place as well. (Ghiobuin, 2001, p. 17-18). The mission's influence spread as they opened schools in the Villages of Dugort, Slievemore, Cashel and Keel by the year 1835. The Townland of Mweelin came under their control in the 1840's as well. The opening of more schools caused a ruckus in the Catholic Clergy and those that opened at Dooega and Bullsmouth were closed as a result; Inishbiggle and Scuffanbuis remained open. "In the summer of 1835, there were 8 full time schools in Achill, 4 were protestant schools supported by the mission, 3 were Roman Catholic Private Subscription Schools (later affiliated to the National Board) and one newly establish Hedge School." (Ghiobuin, 2001, p. 24, 37-38).

Edward Nangle created a successful settlement despite significant resistance. He was frequently accused of "souperism" as he was providing food to kids and their parents in exchange for them revoking their religion. During the famine years it became a choice of change or starve for many families- these were desperate times. He may have had ulterior motives, but by purchasing the Indian meal and providing it to the local residents he saved many from starvation. The rise and fall of the Achill Missionary Settlement took place over a period of about 25 years, from its early development in 1834 to its peak around 1845. A series of events, financial missteps, land agitation, falling rents etc led to its eventual demise as the Irish Church Mission Society that had taken it over in 1852 withdrew from the Island due to financial and other reasons in 1856. (Ghiobuin, 2001, p. 53, 63).

The Achill Island Missionary Settlement was nearly defunct by the time the Griffith's Valuation was conducted in 1855.

From an education perspective there were still many schools documented in the 1855 Griffith's Valuation for Achill Civil Parish. They are as follows: The Most Rev. John MacHale had a Schoolhouse in the Townland of Bunacurry, there was a Board of Education National School House in the Townland of Bunanioo, a National Schoolhouse in Derreen as well as an Irish Church Mission Society Schoolhouse. The Townland of Dooega had an Irish Church Mission Society Schoolhouse as well as a Board of Education National Schoolhouse. The Townland of Doogort that housed the Achill Missionary Settlement had an Irish Church Mission Society Infant Schoolhouse, another Schoolhouse and a Female Orphan House. The Townland of Doogort East had an Irish Church Mission Society Male Schoolhouse, an Irish Church Mission Society School House, Irish Church Mission Society Female Schoolhouse and a garden attached to a Female Orphan House is listed as well. The Townland of Keel East had an Irish Church Mission Society Male Schoolhouse and another Schoolhouse. The Townland of Pollranny (Sweeny) had an Irish Church Mission Society Schoolhouse; Slievemore had two Irish Church Mission Society Male Schoolhouses (one was in the Village of Dooagh that was within its borders) and an Irish Church Mission Society Female Schoolhouse in the Village of Dooagh as well. Tonregee West had a Board of Education National Schoolhouse. Mweelin had an Irish Church Mission Society Schoolhouse and an Irish Church Mission Society Training Schoolhouse. (Griffith, 1847-1864; 2003, Achill). Keep in mind that the National School System that is often mentioned in the Griffith's Valuation was established around 1831. Up until that time, the poorer parts of County Mayo relied upon Hedge Schools to educate their children.

As far as Economic activity goes, the Achill Missionary Settlement at Dugort and its satellite areas at Mweelin, Slievemore, Keel, and Dooega saw the most activity. There were two Board of Customs Watch houses on Achillbeg Island, a Tuck Mill in the Townland of Belfarsad, a Corn Mill in the Townland of Bellanasally, a Pound at Sraheens and Ferries in Tonregee East. The Achill Missionary Settlement at Doogort had a hotel and printing office (in which the Achill Mission produced its publication the Achill Missionary Herald). Doogart East had a Hospital, Stores and a Forge. The Townland of Keel East had a Board of Customs Coast Guard Watch house, Boathouse and Forge and Dooega had a Board of Customs Boat House and Herd's House. Dooniver had a Board of Customs Watch and Boathouse, and Pollranny (Sweeny) had the Grand Jury of County Mayo Petty Sessions House.

The Trustees of Achill Mission were still the most prevalent Landlords in Achill Civil Parish in 1855, followed by William McCormack, the Marquis of Sligo, Thomas Brassy and Samuel Holmes among others. Of interest here is that Thomas Brassy and Samuel Holmes were two of the three gentleman who assisted the Achill Missionary Settlement in the purchase of the land when Sir Richard O'Donnels property was placed in the Encumbered Estates Court around 1848. They each contributed funds so that the mission had 3/5 of the estate and they had 2/5 between the three of them. (Ghiobuin, 2001, p. 59). The other gentleman was William Pike who was listed as a Landlord in the Townland of Derreen and Sraheens in the Griffith's Valuation.

The population of Achill Civil Parish dropped during the famine years, but unlike many others the population surpassed prefamine numbers by 1911. In 1841 there were 6,392 individuals living in Achill Civil Parish; that number had decreased to 4950 by 1851. Of note is that the population surged back to 6,919 by 1911 before dropping to 3994 in 1979. (O'Hara, 1982, p. 7).