Extract from 'Mayo - Aspects of its Heritage'
(Population 6,063), Béal an Atha ('the mouth of the ford'). Founded 1729 by O'Hara, Lord Tyrawley, originally named Belleek', Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, 1837. The name, which later became the town-name, occurs in various 17th-cent. sources: Carowvellanaha in an Inquisition dated 1617; Bealeake alias Ballanahe in BSD; Ballina in Hib. Del. 1685. Bel atha in fheada in a late 15th, or perhaps 16th, cent. addition to the Book of Lecan may represent an earlier form of the name, but the absolute identity of the place mentioned in the great Sligo manuscript with Ballina/Béal an Atha is not altogether certain.
1841 5,313; 1851 4,635 (+747 in workhouse); 1871 4,307; 1891 4,846; 1911 4,662. (These figures are rendered somewhat unsatisfactory for purposes of comparison by periodic changes in the extent of the urban district - as in 1881, when Ardnaree and Bunree were incorporated in the U.D.) Ballina was founded in 1729 by Lord Tyrawley, and quickly developed into an important commercial centre and seaport. There is a monument in Ballina commemorating "The Year of the French", known as the 'Humbert Monument'. Part of the inscription on the monument reads:
In memory of General Humbert Sarrazin, Louis Octave Fontaine Bartolomew Teeling, Matthew Tone, Henry O'Keon, Father Conroy, Patrick Walsh and all the other gallant patriots who sacrificied their lives for the freedom of their country after the landing of the French at Killala 1798 The ruins of an Augustinian Friary, founded by the O'Dowds in 1427, can be seen in Ardnaree. The Dolmen of the Four Maols is a cromlech near the railway station. According to local tradition it marks the grave of four foster-brothers, who murdered Bishop Ceallach of Kilmoremoy in the sixth century, and were executed by the bishop's brother. The place has since been known as Ard na Riadh, Ardnaree, or the Hill of the Executions.
The ruins of two friaries can be seen on "the Moyne road" from Ballina to Killala. Rosserk Friary was founded around 1441 by a man named Joyce for the Observantine Franciscans. The nave, chancel, domestic buildings, and several carvings are well preserved. Moyne Friary was founded in 1460 by Mac Uilliam êochtarach for Franciscans of the Strict Obedience. It was one of the chief houses of study for young Irish Franciscans. It was burned by Sir Richard Bingham in 1590. The cloisters, nave, and chancel are still in good condition.
Extract from: "MAYO - Aspects of its Heritage", by Bernard O'Hara.