Castlebar (9,795) Caislean an Bharraig (‘De Barra/Barry’s castle’).
Caslen an Barraig in A Conn, 1412; Castlanevarre in a Fiant from the reign of Edward VI, 1553, Castlebarra in a Fiant dated 1585; Castlebarr in Straff. 1635. Pop.1841 5,137; 1851 4027(+1,584 in workhouse and 539 in gaol); 1871 3,571; 1891 3,588; 1911 3,698.
Castlebar, on the river Castlebar, is the county capital of Mayo. After the Normans conquered Connacht they built castles at strategic locations. A castle was built at the place we now call Castlebar, around 1240, by one of the Barry family from Buttevant, Co.Cork. The castle was called Barry’s Castle, (Caislean a’ Bharraig). John Bingham, ancestor of the Earls of Lucan, founded Castlebar town itself at the beginning of the seventeenth century. James I granted the town a borough charter in 1611.
The town returned two members to the Irish Parliament until the Act of Union (1800). Castlebar featured prominently in “The Year of the French”(1798), when the French/Irish force under General Humbert defeated the English under General Lake at “The Races of Castlebar”. John Moore’s grave can be seen beside the 1798 memorial in the Mall, and there is a memorial to some French soldiers at French Hill. The Mall, Castlebar, was once the cricket pitch of Lord Lucan and his family, but it is now a town park. The Mayo Land League was founded by Michael Davitt in Daly’s Hotel, on 16 August 1879. There is a tablet on the wall of the Hotel, which reads:
“In this house the National Land League was founded on 16th, 1879, by Michael Davitt, without whose life and work we would not own our land to day. To his memory and the memory of all those who helped in the Land War which our people, under his leadership, fought and won, the Land Project of 1949 is dedicated, on behalf of the Irish people, by the Government of Ireland, August 16th, 1949.”
Extract from: “Mayo- Aspects of it’s Heritage”, by Bernard O Hara. Published by kind permission of the author.