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

Killala, County Mayo one of the major market Towns of the 19th Century, is conveniently located on Killala Bay and the River Moy, only 6 miles from Ballina, another major market town. Killala, like Ballina is a seaport; as Ballina developed in the early 1830's, some of the trade shifted away from Killala to Ballina.

The Town of Killala is part of the Townland of Townplots West, Killala Civil Parish, Tirawley Barony, and is quite obviously the economic hub of the parish (although the Townland of Moyne has a cattle fair and several others fairs as well).

A patent to hold fairs and markets was obtained as early as 1613 by the Bishop of Killala and another was obtained in 1683 for additional fairs and markets. (Gillespie; Crawford, 1987, p. 88). According to the Statistical Survey of County Mayo that was conducted in 1802, Killala had a market for grains; fairs were held on May 6 and November 8, and the Killala fishery was acknowledged as "considerable." Regarding the linen market in 1802, it was acknowledged that there were no "bleach greens" to dye the fabric so the linens were gray, but the manufacture was listed as "considerable." (McParlan, 1802; 2007, p. 37, 45, 47-51, 96, 107). By the time Samuel Lewis published his "A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837, the coarse linen manufacture didn't sound particularly significant and he listed an additional fair in August. (Lewis, 1837;2005, p. 119-120). Of course, the textile industry was declining in the other major market towns of County Mayo by this time as well. Killala was a significant enough market town to be listed in the "Statistical Survey of County Mayo, 1802", "Pigot's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1824" and in "Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846." Pigot's Directory described Killala's primary exports as being grain (like oats and barley) and provisions. (Pigot and Co. 1824;2005, p. 209).

When the Griffith's Valuation was conducted in Killala Civil Parish, Townplots West (of which Killala was a part) had a Timber Yard. Killala was home to the following: The Ecclesiastical Commissioners had a Shambles and Potato Market and the Tolls and Customs of Fairs and Markets. There were numerous stores, a workshop, two forges, a kiln, the Grand Jury of County Mayo Petty Sessions House, a Constabulary Barracks, the Board of Guardians of Killala Union Dispensary, a National Schoolhouse, Wesleyan Schoolhouse and another school, a Roman Catholic Chapel and Graveyard, and the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. (Griffith, 1847-1864; 2003, Killala).

Numerous Landlords were represented in the Town of Killala, but the predominant ones were the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, several members of the Kirkwood family such as Tobias, Robert, Captain Charles and Joseph and George Sills. The only Kirkwood of these three that I saw listed in the CD ROM "The Landowners of Ireland, 1878" by De Burgh was Captain Charles Kirkwood, who held 944 acres in County Mayo in 1878. He was listed as a member of the North Mayo Militia. (De Burgh, 1878;2007, p. 252).

Killala's location within County Mayo's Central Corridor aided the development of this Market Town, and its seaport, though small helped sustain it after the waning of the linen industry and the difficulties of the famine years.