Athavallie House, Balla in Co. Mayo

The Blosse-Lynches and Athavallie House

Sir Robert Blosse-Lynch owned 17,600 acres around Balla in former times and his family seat was Athevalle, which is now a community school in the town. Prior to this it was a second level Boarding school run by the St Louis Sisters.

Athevallie House was one of the principal aristocracy houses in the area. Other Big Houses in the area were located at Clogher, Castlecarra and Murneen and were occupied by other members of the extended family. Other relations included the Blakes, the Brownes, the Frenches and the Lynches of Partry.

Peter Lynch, brother of Sir Robert Lynch Blosse died in Balla in 1810. He was a wealthy landlord and had at least 12 in family. It is uncertain where his family was educated but it seems that some of them were educated at a private Academy run by George Ralph in Castlebar prior to 1800. Sir Henry Lynch the 7th Baronet was a man who lived life to the fullest. As well as a family by his lawful wife he also had an illegitimate family by his mistress Sib Cottle. When he died in 1788 a major family squabble erupted. Indeed a play was written called The Spancel recalling the events surrounding his will.

The Big house provided some employment for labourers and servants but the tenant farmers were expected to provide free labour as part of their tenancy. The lady of the Big House was often quite charitable. Lady Harriot often distributed alms to the old and needy on Fridays and at Christmas time she would distribute food and blankets to the needy. This was a sharp contrast with the cruel evictions during the famine and afterwards. She and her husband were laid to rest in the graveyard beside the old Protestant Church on the Castlebar road.

Following the death of the last Sir Robert took over the estate after returning from America. He was involved in public life in the county and was High Sheriff for a year. He was a justice of the Peace and presided at Petty Sessions in the area. He entertained Judges and members of the Legal fraternity to dinner at Athevallie regularly. Sir Henry borrowed heavily and eventually the house had to be sold to the Congested District Board. The house was used as a military for a year during the First World War.

In 1919 it was sold to the order of St. Louis who established a convent and secondary school. Sir Henry went to Canada and within a short time his inheritance had dwindled and he returned to Britain. He lived for a while at Worthing and died shortly afterwards. The remainder of the Estate went to his brother Robert who also had properties in Ballina. Robert also left for England where he died in 1942 thus ending the saga of the Blosse-Lynch family of Athevallie.

By Brian Hoban