History of Lough Brohly, Bonniconlon in Co. Mayo

Lough Brohly Waterworks

The idea of a water supply for Ballina was first conceived by John Carlon, clerk of the Ballina Town Commissioners in 1881. It was then decided that a waterworks scheme would start and that Lough Brohly would supply the town of Ballina with water.

A seven inch pipe was laid down from Lough Brohly to the town through Lissardmore, Graffy, Currower, Rathkip, Shanaghy and Ardnaree. There were 80 employed and the ganger was William Ferguson from Ballymore. The contractor was John Dillon. The scheme was not without its difficulties and the contractor was involved in lengthy court proceedings with the local miller John Brogan.

The case was eventually resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The plumbing was done by Jimmy Gilmartin who was later the caretaker of the scheme. John Crean was the iron worker on the scheme. When the scheme was completed in 1884 it served 519 households in Ballina. The scheme was improved during the late 1920s and a ten-inch pipe was laid. This time the contractor was Thomas Reid.

He owned Ballina Gas Company and resided in the house where the Bishop of Killala now lives. The Lough Brohly supply was used until the 1960s when Lough Conn became the major supplier of water for Ballina. Lough Brohly is still used as a reserve supply for the local area.

Historical Lough Brohly

Lough Brohly also has a rich ancient and social history attached to it. Lios Ard Mór or the great high fort is situated on a hill overlooking Lough Brohly and borders the townland of Carracastle in the parish of Attymass.

It is a Celtic fort measuring 18 yards wide but only the ring shaped structure remains today. Folklore reveals that a cave leads from it to another local one known as Grey Fort. Close to the fort there is also a cromlech which is believed to be a giant's burial place and is treated with much local fear and superstition.

A priest who was hunted in the penal times is also buried in the area and his final resting place is indicated by a flat stone.

However Lough Brohly is historically famous for the battle which took place between the men of the north and locals from Coolcarney (Bonniconlon and Attymass).

The late Patrick Flannelly, Attymass school teacher of the 1940's and immanent folklorist and archaeologist on the local area gave a lecture to the Ballina Historical Society on the 26th February 1938 entitled 'When Two Thousand North Men perished in the Moy' The details included in this lecture are simply related to the battle and act to fill in the gaps which have always made this episode a vague event for people.

Tradition says many centuries ago the men of the north used to come into Coolcarney, across the Ox Mountains and scour the country even as far as Castlebar. They came to plunder the cattle, seized them and rush them through the Gap beyond Bonniconlon or by Aclare. They continued these raids until the people on this side of the mountain got too strong for them and defeated them in a great battle at Lissardmore.

It is said that on this occasion the northmen were surrounded at Lough Brohly. Failing to escape at the south end, they kept to the shallow water along the western shore of the lake in order to reach the north side where at that time was a narrow ford. Baulked here also, they were forced to take to the field at "Lag na Fola," where most of them fell in.

The battle finished on "Clochan na Mallachtai," beside the ford. It is believed that after practically all the northerners were killed following the battle, the wail of their women crying out "ca bhfuil sé?" could be heard. Their anxious quest over, they knelt down on their knees beside the dead and cursed the ground upon which they knelt. Hence the name "Clochan na Mallachtai."

Following the battle the problem of burial arose; and what would be more convenient for the purpose than the fosse or old fort? About two hundred and fifty yards to the south west of Clochan na Mallachtai, and on the western side of the Lissardmore road, is a three corner field called "Garrdha Phunta" or "Pound field."

It is here some are convinced that there once stood such a fort of which the mounds were but the remains. The dead bodies were placed in the fosse and the clay from the ramparts was thrown in for covering, leaving no trace of the fosse and laying bare the stones underneath.

The present owner is Mr. John Fox of Carracastle, but in years preceding the Great Famine the land belonged to a man called Thomas Philip Glacken. It is said that in his time the field was tilled and to the consternation of all, human remains were unearthed. After him came John Durkan of Bofield, who took the same field in con-acre and again found human remains.

The battle has a historical basis in both the Annals of 1856 and the Knox History of Mayo. The Annals basically follow the line that the Scots landed in Inishowen, Co. Donegal in 1586. The Burkes invited them to join forces and promised them goods and property in exchange for defence against the King's Army.

The amalgamated ranks went into battle with the army at Collooney and were forced to ford the Ox Mountains and proceed to Ardnaree Castle, the stronghold of the Burkes. The Governor of Connaught Bingham collected men for fifteen days and also had spies out to check the progress of the northmen.

He then continued to Banada Abbey and from there to Ardnaree where he attacked the Northmen. The Scots were forced to fly and 2,000 were slain near the Moy. The survivors fled towards the Ox Mountains but were slain on their journey.

Knox states that the Scots plundered Inishowen, Tirconaill and Fermanagh. There were 1,400 of them along with 80 Irish. They headed off to Mayo and came as far as Dromahair in Co. Leitrim. Bingham on hearing this mustered together four hundred foot, sixty horses, one hundred risers out and two hundred Irish to go to Sligo.

Meanwhile the Scots had arrived in Coolcarney on the 19th September and were in Ardnaree the following day. Bingham then travelled to Banada Abbey and on to Aclare Castle. He went by quiet paths over the Ox Mountains to Coolcarney. He sent on 12 scouts and the remainder of the force stayed behind.

The Scots at Ardnaree spotted the scouts and chased them only to encounter the main body of soldiers at Lissardmore and hence they were slaughtered. Flannelly maintains that their paths could have been through the townlands of Derreen, Graffy and onto Lissardmore, hence the tradition of the battle in the folk history of the late thirties.