Irishtown (Baile Gaelach) is a village in County Mayo, famed as the home of the Land League, an organisation founded in 1879, which led to widespread reform throughout Ireland in the lates 1800's.
Located on the R328 regional road, midway between Claremorris and Tuam, on the border with County Galway, Irishtown is in the Civil Parish of Crossboyne, in the Catholic Diocese of Tuam. With a vibrant local community Irishtown has a number of excellent facilities in the village including a national school, community centre, church, pub as well as a number of small businesses.
At the entrance to the village of Irishtown a modern plaque proudly proclaims: 'Cradle of Land League. Site of Tenant Right Meeting of 20 April 1879 which led to foundation of The National Land League'.
In early 1879 the tenants of Canon Burke, a landlord of Irishtown in east Mayo, approached James Daly the editor of the 'Connaught Telegraph' seeking help. Tenants on small plots of land rented from wealthy landlords, at that time, had very little rights and the Irishtown tenants were facing eviction because they were in already in arrears and Burke was seeking to raise their rent. A well known activist for tenancy rights in Mayo, James Daly quickly organised a protest meeting at Irishtown. In spite of a warning by the Catholic church not to attend, the meeting was a resounding success, with 8,000 people turning out in support. It was clear at the meeting that tenants were prepared to resist attempts to evict them more vehemently than they had during the Great Famine. That meeting was the genesis of what would later that year become the Land League.
In his article in the 'Connaught Telegraph' at the time, James Daly described the march to Irishtown: ‘Since the days of O’Connell a larger public demonstration has not been witnessed than that of Sunday last. About 1 o’clock the monster procession started from Claremorris, headed by several thousand men on foot - the men of each district wearing a laurel leaf or green ribbon in hat or coat to distinguish the several contingents. Further along the road, they were joined by a contingent of tenant-farmers on horseback 'showing discipline and order that a cavalry regiment might feel proud of' ......... A further 500 carriages from other towns and neighbourhoods joined the procession, the marshals wearing green and gold sashes. The sight was truly imposing. The endless train directing its course to Irishtown, a neat little hamlet on the boundaries of Mayo, Roscommon and Galway.’
The early existence of two Bardic schools at Poll Chormaic, Leface and Poll Dumh, Lisduff depicts Irishtown's long association with education. These Bardic schools preceded hedge schools in a number of villages around Irishtown including Kilmacnella, Crimlin, Boleyboy, Cullane and Fallagherin. Two schools under the National Schools System opened in Irishtown in 1873, one for boys and one for girls, both were sited in the old priests house of the time. The existing national school was built and opened in 1897 and following extensive renovations in 1983, that well-equipped school still serves the educational needs of Irishtown and surrounding areas.
There is an interesting article by Peter Ryan titled "Recollections of Irishtown School". This article is one of a number of articles available through the Ballindine Post.