Turlough History in Co. Mayo

The picturesque village of Turlough derives its name from the flash of lake that is situated below the village and in front of the present edifice of the remaining Fitzgerald Family. (The big house of the Fitzgeralds is to be turned into a heritage centre).

The village has historical links going back as far as the days of George Robert. Better known as "Fighting Fitzgerald", he was renowned for his equestrian prowess and having the finest horses competing in the races in the Towerfield, adjacent to the Round Tower.

This racecourse was reckoned to be one of the finest on this side of the Shannon. The Land Commission eventually took over Towerfield and subsequent races were held on Vinegar Hill on the south side of the river.

The Turlough Round tower of the 9th century is one of the most complete and best-preserved round towers in Ireland. Round towers were built as places of refuge for the occupants of important Churches or Abbeys against the Vikings.

From the windows near the top of the tower a lookout kept watch for the invaders and when they approached the occupants of the church moved in and brought their valuables with them. The entrance was high up on the wall so they would climb a ladder and pulled it in afterwards to get into the tower.

The beautiful round tower is a splendid landmark and it reminds one of the golden age of faith.

Turlough is one of the ancient places associated with St. Patrick. St. Patrick's Church was built in 441 but the Cromwellians, on the confiscation of the Burgo Estate in Turlough, destroyed it in 1654. The ruins of the old church are still to be seen, and it has cery interesting stone sculpture.

It was under the jurisdiction of the Primates of Armagh up to the 16th century. For almost a thousand years the Primatial See of Armagh continued to claim rights over the parish by reason of those early associations. 

By Brian Hoban