Kilcommon - Lewis' Topographical Survey 1837

Kilcommon, a parish, in the barony of Erris, county of Mayo, and province of Connaught; containing, with the sea-port and post-town of Belmullet, 13,667 inhabitants. This very extensive parish, which includes the harbour of Broadhaven, comprises 211,906 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £8674 per annum; 8519 acres are waste, and 1844 are water. The surface is mountainous, with extensive tracts of bog; between the mountains are deep valleys, which are productive; but towards the sea the lands are very bleak and exposed to the western blasts, by which the crops are frequently destroyed. The mountain soils might be easily reclaimed by the use of a silicious marly gravel, which is found in various parts of the parish, but agriculture is in a very backward state; spade husbandry is generally prevalent.

Limestone abounds in the eastern portion of the parish, and there are some quarries of good flag-stone, which is used for building; iron ore of good quality is found in abundance, and some mines were opened and a furnace for smelting the ore was erected by Sir Arthur Shean, but from the great expense of procuring fuel, the works were discontinued.

The scenery is wild and romantic, abounding with features of rugged grandeur; the mountains, of which that called Shenachabine, or John Cabine, is 927 feet above the level of the sea, and abounds with grouse and other game, form a vast amphitheatre from north-west to south-east; and nearly in the centre of the parish is Lough Curramore, 8 miles in circumference, and abounding with salmon and trout.

The principal seats are Tarmoncarra Glebe, the residence of the Rev. W.P. Dawson; Enver, of J. Gibbons, Esq.; Rossport House, of S. Bourns, Esq.; Cross Cottage, of D. O'Donnelly, Esq.; Rimoe, of Lieut. A. Henry, R.N.; Bangor Lodge, of Lieut. Bingham; Pallatomas, of J. O'Donnell, Esq.; Pickle Point, of -- Cashe, Esq.; and Croy Lodge, of Con O'Donnell, Esq. Monthly fairs are held at Belmullet (which see) and fairs are held at Bangor on the 20th of Jan., Feb., March, April, and July, the 11th of June, August, and Dec., 10th of May, 8th of Sept., and 16th of Oct. and Nov., for cattle, sheep, pigs, and yarn.

The principal rivers are the Owenmore, which enters the parish near the bridge of Carrick, and falls into the bay of Tulloghane at Goolamore, and on which is a valuable salmon fishery, the property of Major Cormack; the Munshine, which issues from Lough Curramore, and falls into the Owenmore; the Glenamory, which falls into the harbour of Broadhaven, and is also celebrated for its salmon; and the river Greyhound, so called from the rapidity of its current. The shore is extremely bold, rising in perpendicular cliffs of great height, perforated in some parts with immense caverns, one of which is 700 feet high at the entrance.

The harbour of Broadhaven is separated from Blacksod bay by an isthmus connecting the peninsula of the Mullet with the main land, and is 6æ miles long from the entrance, which is æ of a mile wide, to the town of Belmullet. It affords good anchorage, of sufficient depth for any vessels; but there is room for only two large or four small ships to ride in shelter from northerly winds, at half-cable length to the eastward and westward; the anchorage is between two spots of sand, one stretching from Ringtail Head on the west, and the other from Rinishummuck on the east side.

To the north-east of the harbour is Binwy Head, 900 feet in height; off which are the Stags of Broadhaven, remarkably high rocks visible at a great distance, and serving to distinguish this part of the coast, which to Killala bay is clear of rocks and shoals, the shore being mostly steep cliffs indented with small fishing covers. To the north of the entrance to Broadhaven bay, off Binwy Head, is Kid island. It is in contemplation to cut through the isthmus separating the harbour from Blacksod bay, which is only 200 yards in width, and to connect these harbours, which are defended from the Atlantic by the breakwater of the Mullet, 15 miles in length, opening entrances both from the north and the south, and affording full security to vessels sailing in and out of the harbour; thus rendering them as safe and commanding as any on the western coast of Ireland.

The whole line of coast is characterised by features of striking magnificence; the cliff scenery between Balderig, to which is a branch leading from the new road from Killala to Erris, and Kilgalligan Head is unrivalled for grandeur and beauty, and the intersections and trap dykes between those places afford highly interesting geological specimens.

In rowing along the shore, to the westward of Balderig, is Moista Sound, a remarkable passage, little more than a cable's length from one extremity to the other, and so narrow as to preclude the use of oars; it is bounded on both sides by perpendicular walls of rock, more than 500 feet high; and the space between them was most probably filled by a trap dyke, the decomposition of which, either from the perishable nature of the material, or from some chemical action, has perhaps formed this interesting chasm.

Near Port Twilling, a coast-guard station, eight miles from Balderig, and affording good shelter for boats, is the Natural Arch, 30 feet high, which may be rowed through at half-tide in moderate weather with perfect safety; a key-stone of trap, 12 feet high, extends from the centre of the arch nearly to the summit of the cliff, where it is continued along a hollow, indicating a subsidence of the dyke at some former period, a recurrence of which may probably produce another sound similar to that of Moista; at the eastern extremity of the archway is a perpendicular cliff, 618 feet high. About 1.5 miles from the archway is a headland, remarkable for its beauty and the fanciful contortions of its strata; and about a mile farther to the west is the mouth of Port-a-Clay, an interesting small haven, where is a coast-guard station, with good shelter for boats. Near this is the entrance to a cavern called the Parlour, situated at the northern extremity of the lofty promontory of Doonrinalla; the entrance is through an archway, 30 feet high, and wide enough to allow a boat to be rowed into it; the main branch runs in a direct line, and gradually contracts in width and height, terminating in a fissure 10 or 12 feet high, and probably communicating with another cavern, called the Kitchen, on the south-west side.

To the eastward of the Parlour are immense masses of detached rock lying on a inclined plane. Binway, or "the Yellow Mountain, rises perpendicularly on its north-west side to the height of 900 feet, and commands from its summit a most extensive and truly magnificent prospect. The the south-west are the deeply indented shores of the Mullet, the bays of Blacksod and Broadhaven, with the towering bays of Blacksod and Broadhaven, with the towering Achill in the distance; to the east are the Stags and the iron-bound range of coast between Binwy and Ben More, the Wedge, and Downpatrick Head, with the Sligo shore and the mountains of Donegal and Arranmore in the distance; to the north is the ocean, and to the south mountains rising above each other in majestic grandeur.

Near Binwy is Renval, and near that are the ruins of an ancient strong hold, of which only the gateway is remaining. At Ross Ferry, or Ross Port, on the south side of Gutta mountain, are huge hills of sand, now covering a tract which, 50 years since, was as fertile as any in the barony. Between Renval and Ross Ferry a gradual subsidence of the land, or the elevation of the level of the sea, appears to have taken place; rocks appear in two places projecting above the surface of the road, and a ridge of bog rises through the shingle to a level with high-water mark.

The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Killala, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is appropriate to the precentorship of the cathedral of Killala. The tithes amount to £340, one-half payable to the precentor, and one-half to the vicar. There is no church, but divine service is regularly performed in the court-house at Belmullet, and occasionally in private houses in different parts of the parish.

There is no glebe-house; the glebe comprises 35Ω acres. In the R.C. divisions the parish forms the three districts of Ballycroy, in which is an old thatched building at Cross Hill, used as a chapel; Kilcommon West, in which is a chapel built in 1832, at an expense of £300, by subscription; and Kilcommon-East of which the chapel is at Bangor.

There are 14 schools, all of which are private, and the total number of children educated is 450. At Kiltairn, on the banks of the Owenmore, are the remains of an ancient abbey, and also of the old parish church; and at Doona, the remains of castle belonging to the celebrated Grace O'Malley, known by the name of Gran-Uile. Near Pallatomas is an ancient burial-ground.

The parish is rich in minerals, among which are found the Greenland pot stone, the rutil, kyanite, white limestone, feldspar, rock crystal, garnet, micaceous quartz, and other varieties. In the townland of Enver there is a druidical altar, consisting of three upright stones supporting a large flag-stone. In January 1835, a labourer discovered several gold coins in a field on that townland; and great numbers of shillings of the reigns of the Edwards and Hen. VIII. are frequently dug up in various parts.

The Rev. W. Maxwell wrote the greater portion of his works at Croy Lodge, the neighbourhood of which was the scene of his "Wild Sports of the West." -- See Belmullet

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