History Of Doohoma in Co. Mayo

Doohoma is situated approximately fifteen miles southwest of Bangor Erris, overlooking Achill Island to the south. It is a linear development along the road from Tallaghan Bawn to Doohoma Head, although much of the housing was originally closer to the seashore.

Travel before the mid 19th century was mainly by sea, as is evident by the wide extent of inter-marriage between the people of Ballycroy and Doohoma. A ferry operated from the neighbouring village, Tallaghan Bawn to Ballycroy throughout the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Regular visits were made across the bay to horse races, dances, sports and other social functions, as well as for purposes of trade.

Goods, including slates, cement, and timber were also traded between this port and the towns of Newport and Westport. This traffic took place in spite of this treacherous channel, where ships could always be at risk, especially in winter. One of the most prominent vessels to be lost was the Harlequin, a revenue cutter, which was wrecked in December of 1823.

The famine years wreaked a devastating effect on the townland of Doohoma. The population was more than halved throughout the 1840's. Mass burials took place on the sandbanks, and in the years that followed, the call by local people grew louder for a proper cemetery. This was repeatedly rejected by the civil authorities, until in 1926, when a cemetery was built by voluntary work. Three hundred local men erected a sod wall, which was later consecrated by Bishop James Naughton. Mayo County Council eventually erected a stone wall to surround the two acre site.

Again, local residents were unsuccessful in their endevours to get a road built from the sandbanks to the cemetery, so in 1967 over 100 volunteers built a road to improve access. In 1989 the condition of this road was greatly improved by its tarring.The first main road through the townland was not built until 1847.

Doohoma, like much of Erris, had a long history of emigration. Fishing, although of great importance to the local economy, was never able to sustain the growing population. Hence the huge numbers who annually travelled, or permanently relocated to, the potato picking fields of Scotland. These were known as the "tattie hookers". So numerous were these workers that ships would moor off Doohoma Head to transport them to their new lives. The money these workers sent back home was an important income for their families throughout.

The first National School was established in Doohoma in 1859. This consisted of a thatched, one-room building built of stone, lime and mortar. Like all the subsequent schoolhouses it was sited just outside the boundry of the Tallaghanbawn townland. A long-standing desire for a church in Doohoma was finally realised in the late 1950's. In March 1959, Bishop Patrick O'Boyle opened the new chapel, also situated in Tallaghanbawn close to the school.

A new industry was opened in the early 1970's, situated between the chapel and the school. This was the Eagle Isle Seafoods which was founded in 1972, by well-known local businessmen Eamon Holmes. This concern has grown to a business which now exports smoked wild Atlantic salmon all over the world. In 1987, Mayo County Council financed a two million pound water scheme. This brought piped water from Carrowmorw Lake, a much neede boost to the local infrastructure.

In 1985, Conway's Hall was reopened for 'Doohoma Come Home' week, a festival for emigrants from all over the world. This hall had previously been the centre of a lively social scene in the 1950's. The townland recieved nationwide renown, both in the seventies and more recently, with the screening of the RTE documentary 'Doohoma'. This dealt with the theme of emigration to England and the effect on local families.

Article by Tony Conway

Acknowledgements

  • ‘Where the Sun Sets' by Father Sean Noone

  • ‘A Various Country - Essays in Mayo History' - edited by Raymond Gillespie and Gerard Moran

  • ‘The Heritage of Mayo' by Áine ní Cheanainn

  • ‘The Parishes in The Dioces of Killala' by Father E. McHale

  • ‘Lewis' Topographical Survey of Mayo 1837'