Balla Civil Parish Characteristics, County Mayo, Ireland

Balla Civil Parish is part of Clanmorris Barony and is included in Balla and Manulla Roman Catholic Parish. Manulla Civil Parish and Drum Civil Parish are also part of this Catholic Parish. Rosslee Civil Parish was also at one point part of this parish (then called Balla, Manulla, Drum and Roslee Roman Catholic Parish), but now is part of Mayo Abbey Catholic Parish. Balla and Manulla Catholic Parish was formed in 1837. (Mitchell, 1988, p. 87). The Catholic Church records for Balla and Manulla Parish cover the years 1837-1905 (earlier than many other County Mayo Catholic Parishes). When the Griffith's Valuation was conducted for Balla Civil Parish in 1857, there was only one documented Roman Catholic Chapel, located in the Townland of Balla in the Town of Balla. The only Graveyard was there as well. (Griffith, 1847-1864; 2003, Balla).

The Town of Balla within the Townland of Balla was clearly the hub of economic activity when the Griffith's Valuation was conducted in 1857. Balla is sometimes spelled Ballagh or Bal or Ball. Gustavus Moore applied for and obtained a patent for fairs in the Town of Balla as early as 1699. (Gillespie; Crawford, 1987, p. 83). When the Statistical Survey of County Mayo was conducted in 1802, Ball. as it was referred to had a Market or Fair for cattle; fair dates were set at June 11 and September 24. (McParlan, 1802; 2007, p. 45, 47-51). Samuel Lewis in his "A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland gives two additional fair dates in his 1837 description of Balla. He also stated that Balla's fairs were one of the largest in County Mayo for cattle and sheep. (Lewis, 1837; 1984, p. 102). Balla is only 6 miles from the Town of Castlebar, one of County Mayo's premier Market Towns in the 19th century.

When the Griffith's Valuation was conducted in Balla Civil Parish in 1857, the Townland of Balla housed the "Fair Green" and the Town of Balla within its borders had the Union of Castlebar Poor Law Guardians Dispensary, the Tolls and Customs of Fairs and Markets, a Court Housel, Constabulary Barrack, Ruins and a Store. The only other commercial items of interest were a Corn Mill and Kiln in the Townland of Legaun and Herd's Houses in the Townlands of Ardboley South, Ballyclogher, Carrowgarve, Garhawnagh, Drumadoon, Legaturrin, Pollavaddy and Rathduff. The number of Herd's Houses would seem to indicate that this area had a fair amount of pasture/grazing area. (Griffith, 1847-1864; Balla).

As far as education goes, the only school was a National Schoolhouse in the Townland of Balla according to the 1857 Griffith's Valuation. Samuel Lewis mentions two "Hedge Schools" as well in "A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" in 1837. (Lewis, 1837; 1984, p. 102).

There were no rivers documented in the Griffith's and only one lake, Cuilmore Lough in the Townland of Tully More. There were no designated "Bog" Parcels documented in Balla Civil Parish.

Sir Robert Lynch Blosse Bart was the primary Landlord in this Civil Parish dominating 13 Townlands distantly followed by Captain William Fitzmaurice, James Browne and Maurice Blake. The names Lynch, Blake and Browne were associated with large amounts of land in this Civil Parish for quite some time. Of note was that the Blakes were Catholic and the Lynches, who reputedly evicted large numbers of tenants from their lands, were protestant.

As far as my Irish Family research goes, I found it interesting that there were many Brennans in the Balla and Manulla Roman Catholic Parish records in the pre-famine era, but none noted in Griffith's Valuation immediately post-famine.

Balla Civil Parish saw a significant decline in population during and after the peak famine years, but not as severely as many Civil Parishes in County Mayo. In 1841, the population level was at 1,934, dropping to only 1,272 in 1851. By the year 1911, there were only 896 people living in Balla Civil Parish. ("O'Hara, 1982, p. 7).