The Burkes of Tyrawley in Ballycastle in Co. Mayo

How the Burkes/Bourkes came to settle in Tirawley

This story was transcribed by the famous Irish historian Duald McFirbis from the records of his ancestors.

Around the year 1600 the Barretts had the upper hand in Tirawley. One day they sent their steward Snognagh Bhuid Beartha to demand rent from the Lynots. The Lynots killed him and threw his body down a well located near Garanard. Thereafter the well was known as Tobar na Sgoraaighe (Snognagh's Well). When the Barretts learned of the murder they assembled their forces and made track for the Lynots. Soon the Baretts subdued the Lynots and gave them the choice of two punishments - to have all their menfolk blinded or castrated. The Lynots chose to be blinded, the logic being that blind men could still propagate their species while a castrated man could not beget even a blind man. The Barretts then proceeded to blind the Lynot men by piercing their eyes with needles. As a test, when each man had his eyes pierced, he was made walk over a causeway known as 'Clochan na nDall' (Causeway of the blind men) which is in Carn townland. If the man passed over the causeway directly his eyes were pierced a second time to ensure complete blindness.

The Lynots remembered this foul deed by the Barretts for generations and vowed vengeance. In pursuit of their revenge, the Lynots were advised by their elders to foster the son of a powerful man of the MacWilliam Burke family. They fostered Thoabald Maol Burke.

However, Theobald Maol was later killed by the Barretts. The Barretts, fearing a Bourke reprisal, decided to offer their son Eric with 18 quarters of land as compensation to the Burkes. Lynot, who was the foster father of Theobald Burke, demanded only the right to distribute the 18 quarters of land. Lynot distributed the land in small divisions (all over Tirawley) so that the Burkes would now be spread throughout Tirawley and everywhere act as pests to the Barretts and win the country from them.

Thus, the Burkes overcame the Barretts in Tirawley and deprived them of almost all their lands - hence the reason why, today, the name Burke/Bourke is so widespread throughout the barony of Tirawley. At length, however, in the year 1652 the Cromwellian forces arrived in Tirawley and deprived both the Burkes and Barretts of their lands.

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