The Brabazon Estate, Swinford in Co. Mayo

The town of Swinford owes its origin to the Brabazon family, who were given land in the parish of Kilconduff during the Cromwellian settlement. The family originally came to Ballinasloe from Leicester in England.

They were dispossessed of their castle and lands at Ballinasloe on August 12th 1652 and Anthony Brabazon then fled to Spain. His son George and his wife Sarah Burke from Galway came to Kilconduff and built the Brabazon house and stables in Swinford. Their son Anthony inherited the estate and married Anne Moyneux in 1776.

One of their four children, Sir William, became an MP for Mayo and much of the development of Swinford can be attributed to him. It was he who was responsible for the building of the Protestant Church (now in ruins) which was started in 1801 and completed in 1807. It had a tower added in 1811. In 1811 as MP for Mayo he had a Post Office, a police station, and a Courthouse erected in Swinford. He had the fairs removed from the hill road leading to the cemetery to the town. In harder times he was responsible for the erection of the Union Workhouse.

He died a bachelor while dining at his own table, having choked on a chicken bone on 24th October 1840 aged 62 years. He was buried in the family vault under the Church of Ireland. A slab had been erected on the family vault in Kilconduff cemetery in August 1827, and this provided details of the early history of the family.

The estate was then handed over to Hugh Higgins - Brabazon, a nephew of Sir William. Hugh was a benevolent landlord during the famine. He helped his tenants improve their homes, advised them not to sell their corn and even had their rents repealed during the worst years of the famine. He purchased two houses in the town and set up soup kitchens and shelters for those who could not make it to the workhouse. He died in 1864 and shortly afterwards the family emigrated to England.

The last of the Brabazons to visit the town was Sir John Palmer Brabazon who returned with his sister and stayed for a short while in 1877. In 1880 during the land disturbances two companies of the Nottingham and Derbyshire regiments of the British army occupied the house.

The estate was later sold to the Congested District Board, who gave it to the Land Commission. The Land Commission in turn distributed much of the lands among the local people, while the demesne known as Brabazon Park was given to the people of the town, vested in local trustees appointed by the Commission.

Some of the land was sold to the Sisters of Mercy and the house and lands were used as a Domestic Economy School until 1964. This section of the estate has since been purchased by the Western Health Board who developed Aras Attracta, a complex, of hospital units to cater for the disabled. The remainder of the lands comprise a public park with facilities for football, golf, athletics, gymkhana and a new centre for all indoor activities.

General Humbert's visit to Brabazon Park

After the success of The Races of Castlebar in 1798, General Humbert and the Franco-Irish forces left Castlebar for Ballinamuck accompanied by Sarrazin, Charcot, Kane and Teeling.

They stopped at Barleyhill House, Bohola where they were looked after by Bryan Mc Manus the local landlord. They then proceeded to Swinford where they stopped at Corley's Hotel, now "The Hagen".

The Yeomen who were heading for Sligo camped in Brabazon Park later in the day and had a barbecue on the site now occupied by the Vocational School. Two steers were donated by the Brabazons and two by Mc Manus. They used the gate leading into the Brabazon property as a spit to roast the beasts.

Food and some valuables were seized from local businesses and landowners and there were claims made to the authorities following the rising. Many of these claims were disputed and the only ones to be compensated were those property owners who were loyal to the crown.

By Brian Hoban