Captain William Fitzmaurice, Balla in Co. Mayo

Lagaturn House is situated a short distance from Balla on the Mayo Abbey road near the railway station and was the home of the notorious Captain William Fitzmaurice. He had served in the 4th Light Dragoons although little else is known of his military career.

Fitzmaurice was a notorious character and was often involved in controversy and squabbles. Fitzmaurice opposed the O'Connell's Repeal Association which was sweeping the country at the time and contributed to the anti-O'Connell fund.

Robert Dillon Browne was a Liberal MP for Mayo at the time and supported Daniel O Connell. A dispute arose between him and James A Browne of Brownehall over the failure of James A. Browne to be appointed a magistrate and a duel was arranged near Chester in England. Mr. Somers MP for Sligo attended Robert while William Fitzmaurice attended James A. After the second exchange of shots Robert was shot in the thigh by James A. and the matter was then settled between the opposing parties.

A tradition in the area at this time was the celebration of May Day. Fires were lit and a bush called May Bush was erected and games and festivities were arranged. People who participated in these festivities were known as May-Boys. On May Day 1842 (La Bealtaine) the usual May Day parade was held in the village of Balla and afterwards several of the participants called on the homes of the aristocracy. On calling to Lagaturn Captain Fitzmaurice demanded a sword from one of them, which was apparently stolen by a simpleton who was visiting the area. Fitzmaurice was furious and local publicans were sworn to give information against the May-Boys. One publican refused to co-operate and was jailed for two days.

On one occasion Fitzmaurice once wounded a servant by gunshot, as the work in the garden was not to his liking. On another occasion James Reilly from Ballingran was fatally wounded for failure to pay rates on a bail of oats. Thomas Nyland from Lisnolan was fined one shilling in the pound to Fitzmaurice (Poor Rate Collector) for his failure to pay his dues on time.

In 1851 David W. Ruttledge was appointed High Sheriff for Mayo and when Fitzmaurice was not appointed to the grand jury, he challenged the High Sheriff to a duel. During the Summer Assizes of that year the day after the Grand Jury was sworn in, the High Sheriff and Counsellor Atkinson were walking on the Mall in Castlebar, when Captain Fitzmaurice approached them and demanded to know why he had been excluded from the list of Grand Jurors. When he did not get a satisfactory answer to his query, he stated: "I rode into town to horsewhip you." The affair did not end in a duel but came up before the Crown Court at the Spring Assizes. Even though Fitzmaurice apologised for his behaviour, Baron Lefroy sentenced him to a month in jail.

Six years after this Captain Fitzmaurice was forced to sell his estate due to the fact he was in deep financial trouble. William Faulkner of Lakemount, his son-in-law, purchased the estate. Mr. Faulkner lived in Lagaturn for some years. Eventually the property came into the occupancy of the Nally family. In the early days of the G.A.A. Lagaturn estate was the venue for many Gaelic football matches and sporting events.

After his departure from Lagaturn, Fitzmaurice went to England and died in Bristol some years afterwards aged 69 years. All that is left of the notorious Fitzmaurice is the shell of his former home.

By Brian Hoban

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