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

A gentleman named Captain Pratt developed a port on Clew Bay at the start of the 18th Century. It was referred to as "Newport Pratt" for many years. (O'Hara, 1982, p. 72). "Ballyoveghne seems to be another old name for Newport." (Quinn, 1996, Volume 2, Chapter 12, p. 112). Newport, as it later became known is located 5 1/2 miles from Westport (another major market town) on Clew Bay and it is 11 1/2 miles from Castlebar.

James Moore, who represented the Medlycotts (absentee landlords), was responsible for the development of the quays at Newport. Newport was the dominant port on Clew Bay until it was replaced by Westport around 1818. (O'Hara, 1982, p. 75). When Pigot's Commercial Directory of Ireland was compiled in 1824, Newport was not among the Towns listed in the Connaught section that included Ballina, Castlebar, Killala, Swineford and Westport from County Mayo. The Book "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors" mentions a Thomas Medlicott under available estates records for County Mayo. He identified the National Library of Ireland as having records such as rent rolls of the major tenants on his estates (Burrishoole Civil Parish and its Townlands are listed among the records.) (Grenham, 2006, p. 302). If this Medlycott or his representative could possibly be your ancestor's landlord these records might be worth a look!

Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846 mentions the following about Newport: "The imports, since the removal of the Custom House to Westport, have become inconsiderable." They list Sir Richard Anneslay O'Donnell Bart as the proprietor of the town and associate the pier development at Newport with him and a group of local merchants. (Slater, 1846; 2005, p.153). What I found to be of interest in this directory were the relatively few merchants and tradesmen listed in contrast to other major market towns of the day. The O'Donels were the primary landowners in the area having acquired much of the Medlycott Estate. They later built "Newport House."

It appears that the earlier fairs (2) held at Newport Pratt (1750) were done so without a patent, but in 1787 two more fairs were added with a patent obtained by Sir Neil O'Donel. By the year 1852 "it had a Tuesday fair with no patent." (Gillespie, 1987, p.89).

Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland acknowledges the shift in trade from Newport to Westport, attributing it to the "difficulty of communication with the interior." Grain became Newport's primary export at this point (1000 pounds was shipped annually to England). (Lewis, 1837; 2005, p. 429).

Newport had a market for grains and the following fairs: June 8 August 2 and December 20. Apparently the Newport fishery was somewhat abandoned at the time the survey was taken because of the perception that herring were no longer prevalent, but the Salmon Fishery in town was still productive. (McParlan, 1802; 2007, p. 37, 47-51, 95). Newport is listed as having a cattle fair as well.

The Town of Newport is part of Burrishoole Civil Parish, Burrishoole Barony. The Griffith's Valuation was conducted for this Civil Parish in 1855. The Town of Newport is incorporated into the Townlands of Newport, Carrowbaun and Sandymount. The Townland of Newport is one of 155 Townlands in this Civil Parish. Most of the Townlands are quite small with Newport clearly being the largest, most commercially active in the parish. The portion of the Town of Newport that lies within the Townland of Newport houses the Constabulary Force and Revenue Police Barracks, the Grand Jury of County Mayo Petty Sessions House, the Tolls and Customs of Markets and Fairs (which by the way lists Sir O'Donnel Bt as the representative Landlord), multiple corn stores, a plantation, Presbyterian Schoolhouse, a Roman Catholic Chapel on Barrack Hill and one on Castlebar Road, and another church and graveyard on Church Lane. The portion of the Town of Newport that lies within the Townland of Carrobaun houses a parochial Schoolhouse, several plantations, the Guardians of Newport Union Dispensary, and a Board of Education Schoolhouse. The portion of the Town of Newport that lies within the Townland of Sandymount has a corn store and a plantation. (Griffith, 1847-1864; 2003, Burrishoole). It can be a little confusing when you try to picture the Town of Newport being part of three different Townlands, but if you look at a map you would see the Townlands of Newport, Carrowbaun and Sandymount clustered next to each other with the Town of Newport being the focal point between all three.

Sir Richard O'Donel, one of the most prevalent landlords in Burrishoole Civil Parish at the time the Griffith's Valuation was conducted, (he resided in Newport House), held 80.1 statute acres of land in 1838; that area dwindled to 7.4 statute acres by 1876. (Gillespie; McCabe, 1987, p.110). The majority of the O'Donel clan were buried in the Protestant Church Cemetary that lies next to Newport House.

The book "Mayo Aspects of Its Heritage" provided a list of Manufacturing industries and the year they were created; it covered the years 1829 to 1954. What I found to be of interest if that none of the industries were located in Newport. The Towns listed were primarily the other major market towns in County Mayo, Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballina, Foxford, Westport, Swinford, etc., (O'Hara, 1982, p.231).

In the late 18th Century and early 19th century those involved with the linen trade, farmers and fisherman were thriving in the Newport area. The decline in the weaving industry, subdivision of farms, shift of influence from Newport to Westport and even Ballina appear to have been quite detrimental to the economic prosperity of Newport and its surroundings.