Ballyvary History

Ballyvary, Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland

James McFarlan lists Ballyvary as a County Town in his Statistical Survey of County Mayo published in 1802. He states that the village was given town status in 1752. It was granted a Charter to host three annual fairs, in May, August and November. Tradition has it that fairs were held in the old Abbey Fairgreen long before this.

Ballyvary, the largest village in the parish of that time did not have a church or a blessed well. McFarlan states in his survey of Ballyvary that the houses all had a chimney and were all built of stone, most of them having out-offices.

By 1838 Ballyvary had a Constabulary Barracks, it was on the left-handside of the street facing Castlebar. There were four public houses, a post-office, a Presbyterian assembly hall, an industrial school, a corn mill and a Petty Sessions Courthouse. Judge Mr. Patrick Burke held courts in this building during the Civil War.

Records of 1841 show that 119 people lived in nineteen homes in Ballyvary. According to the census of 1851 there were 117 people in 23 homes, four of these uninhabited.

A William Malley invested heavily in his Ballyvary property and was responsible for the expansion of trade in the post-famine years. He spent several thousand pounds on draining and sub-soiling the land and then had it divided by stonewalls into suitably sized fields. Much of this workmanship has survived to the present day.

He enlarged the Corn Mill to provide storage space for 400 tonnes of grain and added two kiln stones and three lofts plus machinery. The Millpond covered an area of ten acres and this supplied sufficient waterpower to work four pairs of stones making the mill one of the most up-to-date in the county. Alexander Beckett from a family of millers rented the Ballyvary Mill from William Malley. The Mill was now in full production, and gave employment to local workers and contributed greatly to the prosperity of Ballyvary.

Wheat, barley, oats and Indian corn were ground, the weekly market took on a new lease of life as farmers, shopkeepers, publicans and traders did their business. William Malley however was having financial problems and in 1859 he was forced to lease Ballyvary House and was declared bankrupt in 1862.

In 1863 Charles Fitzgerald became the new landlord of Ballyvary and in 1880 he leased Ballyvary House to the Royal Irish Constabulary who retained it until it was burned out in 1920. The house was demolished by Mayo County Council in 1983 to make way for the new by-pass.

The new branch of the Midland Great Western Railway opened between Manulla and Ballina in 1895. Lord Lucan originally built the railway line for the express purpose of transporting his herds of cattle for a quick sale in England but it failed in its objective.

It was however remarkably successful in transporting people into exile until it’s closure 1963, and hundreds of would-be exiles took their first step into the great unknown at Ballyvary Station. The possibility for transporting cattle and farm produce by rail from Ballyvary Station to any part of the country was great and dealers came from all around the country to trade pigs at the monthly pig fair. These were transported by rail to bacon-factories around the country. During the 1920's Indian meal was processed at the mill and the cargo of grain was transported by train to Ballyvary Station and returned by the same route.

Mr. Fitzgerald sold his Ballyvary estate years later to the Congested District Board, but he retained a portion of the field which he presented to the townspeople, who could use it as a fair green, sports field or other amenity and it became known as " the Fair Green".

The Garda Barracks now occupies the southwest area of the green while the main highway built in 1983 passes through the centre portion.

By Susannah Sweeney

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