Moyne Poem, Ballina in Co. Mayo

In 1936, Cyril Knox of Palmerstown wrote this poem which enshrines the legend of the ship, laden with bones pillaged from the Moyne ossuary intended for grinding into manure, which perished in a sudden storm.


Before the River Moy was changed to flow by Enniscrone

Franciscan monks from other lands, their abbey had o’er flown

And seeking ground on which to build for their increasing band

An Abbey new, they travelled thro the whole of Awley’s land.

This site of Moyne they choose at last not far from old Rosserk

Where they received free gifts of land from one McWilliam Bourke


He undertook the building too, and labour freely gave

Of horses, carts and skilful men to build and to engrave.

No labour did they spare nor cost, upon this church of Moyne

Completely built of oolite stone from quarries which adjoin.

The workmanship and beauty was the theme of every tongue

While in a tower ninety feet a sweet-toned bell was hung.


The Bishop of Killala then, O’Connor journeyed there

In 1462 to consecrate the place to prayer.

From that for o’er a hundred years Moyne was a famous school

Where priests and scholars came to learn and abbots rose to rule.

A home where weary strangers found rest, food and comfort warm

And ships within the pool of Moyne might shelter from the storm.


Alas, in 1581 the dissolution came

When monasteries far and wide went up in smoke and flame

And Moyne the fate of others shared, its greatness could not save

What eared the English how much good it to the country gave.

A company of Fitton’s troops the Abbey sacked one night

Though warned by kindly friends the monks had safety sought in flight.


All fled to sea, save one old man, O’Hara, brave who swore

To stay and guard the sacred place or leave it nevermore.

Alas, when later those who fled dared venture back again

They found upon the altar steps O’Hara’s body slain.

They saw upon the floor his blood, shed by those ruthless bands

And elsewhere beheld the wreck of sacrilegious hands.


Ere two years passed they came again and fearsome tales were told

Of how the monks were treated by those warriors of old.

One friar they believed to be concerned in some dark plot

And put him to the torture to confess he knew not what

Then to the gallows he was dragged where one last wish he craved

That he might a confessor have so that his soul be saved.


The boon was granted with the hope the priest would then reveal

The secret which the soldiers thought the other did conceal

But he would break no sacred trust nor any secrets tell

And when the torture faded to force they hanged him up as well

Such deeds, as this, were common in those days of long ago

And every house in Erin told the same sad tale of woe.


In later years a Spanish ship cast anchor in the bay

And seeking bones to make manure took all they could away.

The famous bell and other things they stole forth did flee

But lo, the hand of justice smote that ship upon the sea.

A storm arose and drove her on the rocks along the shore

And down she went with all her crew and all her grisly store.


No wreckage of that evil ship was ever seen again

Nor bodies of the crew who robbed the holy place in vain.

The sweet-toned bell went down as well and never more was found

It lies beneath the 'pool' they say and in a storm will sound.

The Abbey fell to ruin then for as the years rolled on

Its persecuted friars fled to safety one by one.


Behold the grand old ruin now, all open to the sky

Yet showing in its crumbling walls the shell of days gone by.

The lofty tower safe remains and still is worth a climb

To view the prospect from the top as monks in olden times

O’er Bartra Island, Enniscrone, Kilcummin and the sea

To Poullaheeney, Knocknarea, Killala and Raathlee.


Save that by Moyne the silver Moy has long since ceased to flow

The view is much the same to-day as centuries ago.

Though monks and river both have gone and taken trade away

The Abbey yet still stands sentinel o’er all Killala Bay.

And so may stand for endless years in lonely silence dumb

To tell the story of the past in ages yet to come.