Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland: A Description of its Development and Characteristics

Ballina was one of the premier market towns of County Mayo, Ireland in the 19th Century. It also had a major seaport, located on the River Moy, which was competitive with Westport in County Mayo. In "A Statistical Survey of the County Mayo" - 1802, a notation is made that the River Moy that runs up to Ballina from the Atlantic Ocean could allow heavily laden ships to reach Ballina if the river was deepened in one section. (McParlan, 1802; 2007, p. 94). The River Moy is what separates Ballina in County Mayo from County Sligo. (Slater, 1846;2005, p. 103). Ballina is located within County Mayo's corridor of commercial activity.

The Town of Ballina is incorporated into several Townlands in Kilmoremoy Civil Parish, the Townland of Ballina and the Townland of Mullauns. O'Hara, Lord Tyrawley, who founded Ballina formerly called Belleek in 1729, was also responsible for the development of a Cotton Factory that same year. (Lewis, 1837;2005, p. 104). Ballina had a market for grain and was considered one of the principal fairs in the Barony of Tirawley. Fairs were noted as being held on May 12 and August 12. (McParlan, 1802;2007, p. 37, 47-49). Lord Tyrawley applied for a patent for a weekly fair and market and by the year 1750 there were two fairs. (Gillespie, Crawford, 1987, p. 84). In the late 1700's and early 1800's Ballina was considered a major linen market town along with Castlebar, Newport and Westport. Large quantities of flax in the form of yarn and linen could be found in the market of Ballina. Although Ballina was considered one of the principal fairs in Tirawley Barony, it did not have a cattle fair when the 1802 Statistical Survey of the County Mayo was conducted. (McParlan, 1802;2007, p. 45-56). At first glance the survey looks a bit confusing as it lists a Ballina in Costello Barony as having a cattle fair. There is a Ballinacostello in Costello Barony, not a Ballina.

A gentleman named Mr. Malley built a Tobacco and Snuff Manufactory in Ballina in 1801 and in 1834 a J. Brennan from Belfast initiated a provisions trade. There were two large ale and porter breweries, two oatmeal and flourmills and a successful salmon fishery with weirs and drafting nets down near the quay. (Lewis, 1837;2005, p. 105). The Griffiths' Valuation taken later in 1856 shows a Tideway of the River Moy having the "Right of Salmon Fishery."

"Pigot's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1824" had a section on Ballina, which was listed as being 16 miles north of Castlebar and 24 north by east of Westport. It listed Ballina's chief export to be grain. As of 1824 a new quay had been created a mile down river and a line of canal was forming to communicate with the town of Ballina. This was expected to increase trade in Ballina. The Directory acknowledged that Ballina had a "good market on Monday, for corn and horses; it is one of the most important in the country." I found the listing of tradesman and merchants to be of interest; some of the categories included were Flour Millers, Grocers, Haberdashers, Merchants, Auctioneers, Apothecaries, Ironmongers, Skin Dealers, Watchmakers, Tallow Chandlers, Painters and Glaziers, Publicans, Brewers, Bakers and Academies. The categories that would be part of the textile industry were Linen and Wool Drapers, Linen Buyers and Calico Dealers. (Pigot, 1824;2005, p. 194).

By 1846 Ballina's primary export was corn and the salmon fishery was a significant commercial venture as well. (Slater, 1846:2005, p.103). Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846 acknowledges Ballina to be one of the top markets in County Mayo (especially for horses and corn) and it lists 4 fair dates as of 1846. (Slater, 1846;2005, p. 104). Ballina had a significantly longer listing of commercial business that the Market Town of Newport when the 1846 Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland was completed. The Ballina entry noted a large number of Nobility, Gentry and Clergy, a large number of corn merchants, Apothecaries, Attorneys, Auctioneers, Bakers, two Banks, Blacksmiths, Boot and Shoe makers, Brewers, Butchers, Cabinet Makers, Calico Dealers, Carpenters, China, Glass and Earthenware Dealers, Coach Makers, Confectioners, Fire Office Agents, Grocers, Gunsmiths, Inns and Hotels, Iron and Brass Pounders, Ironmongers and Hardwaremen, Land Agents and Surveyors, Leather Sellers, Linen and Woolen Drapers and Haberdashers, Merchants, Millers, a Newspaper, Printers and Glaziers, Physicians and Surgeons, Provision Merchants, Rope and Twine Manufacture, Saddlers and Harness Makers, Ship Broker, Shopkeepers and Dealers in Sundries, Tailors, Tallow Chandlers and Soap Makers, Timber Merchants and Wine and Spirit Merchants. There were Catholic, Baptist and Methodist Chapels, a Union Workhouse, Fever Hospital and Dispensary and an assortment of other items listed. (Slater, 1846;2005, p. 103-105). In a document listing manufacturing industries for County Mayo founded in the 1800's, Ballina is listed as having two of the six: Issac Beckett Ltd (1860), a Sawmill and Jointery company and Western People (1882), a printing company. (O'Hara, 1982, p. 231).

When the Griffith's Valuation was conducted in 1856, there was significant commercial activity in the Town of Ballina. As I mentioned earlier, the Town of Ballina was part of the Townlands of Ballina and Mullauns. The Townland of Ballina housed a Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, a Gate lodge, Dispensary and numerous stores; the list within the Town of Ballina was much more extensive. In the table below I will provide information on the Streets that had documented commercial or other significant activity:

Townland, Town Street name Commercial Activity
Ballina, Ballina Knox Street Market Stall, Board of Ireland Revenue Bonding Stores, Custom's House, National and Provincial Banks, Coach Office, Stables, Stores, Kiln, Stamp Office, Old Ball Room
  Charles Street Police Barrack, Presbyterian Church and Schoolhouse
  Lloyd's Lane Store
  Pawn Office Lane Store
  Dillon's Row Stores, Kiln
  Brock Street Ruins, Stores
  Bohernasop? Ruins
  Bridge Street Forge
  King Street Stores, Kiln
  John Street Store, Forge and Baptist Preaching House
  Hill Street Store
  Shambles Street Market, Ruins and Shambles
  Piper Hill, Lower Methodist Chapel, Ruins, Forge`
  Paddin's Lane Ruins
  Mill Street Ruins and a quarry that was not being worked
  Arran Street Ruins, Stores and two Kilns
  Garden Street Stores, Kiln and Ruins
  New Garden Street Ruins
  Conway's Lane Store and a Kiln
  Broughane Lane Lime Kiln, Quarry and ruins
  Arthur Street Stores, Kilns x 2, Rent Office, National School House
  Francis Street Stores, Kiln, Courthouse and Bridewell
  Cockle Street Ruins
  Rahins Road Ruins, part of the River Moy runs along here.
  Old Garden Street Tolls and Customs of Fairs and Markets, Ruins
  Ball-Alley Lane Ball Court, Forge
  Pound Street Store
  Durkin's Lane Forge
    Union Workhouse, Fever Hospital (These are listed as exemptions for the Town of Ballina, Ballina Townland, but there was no particular street mentioned)
Mullauns, Ballina Water Lane Ruins
  Hart's Lane Ruins, part of the River Moy
Mullauns (Townland) Mill Street Kilns x2, corn mill, ruins, store and a storehouse. (This is not listed under the Town of Ballina, but Ballina is part of this Townland so I have included this here)

(Griffiths, 1847-1864; 2003, Kilmoremoy).

There were many different Landlords represented in the Town of Ballina, but Col. F.A. Knox Gore, The Earl of Arran, Col. Thomas Kirkwood, Mary Joyner, Patrick Howley, Peter Langan, Patrick McLoughlin, Thomas and Geo. Bewry and Robert Moore appeared most frequently. When Ballina is discussed two major landowners come to mind, Col. A. Knox Gore and the Cuffes of Deel Castle. I will cover these in more detail at a later date on a section on the Landowners of County Mayo, but what can be said about the Knox family from James Knox Gore, to his eldest son Francis Arthur, and daughter Matilda was that they proved to be what most would regard as "model landlords" showing great kindness to their tenants. James Cuffe, who took over Deel Castle during the Cromwellian confiscations in Tirawley Barony, and the Cuffes that were to come, including Col. Cuffe who was a resident Landlord at Deel Castle when the 1802 Statistical of the County Mayo was completed, are another story entirely.