Extracts from 'Mayo - Aspects of its Heritage'


Although the town itself only dates back to 1825, when it was founded by Major Bingham (who over the previous thirty years had built Bingham's Castle and found Binghamstown), the name is attested, as Ballimolitt, in Hiberniae Delineatio ('Petty's Atlas’), 1685. The word mullet is English, but whether it refers to the fish of that name or to the five-pointed star called by that name in heraldry (and perhaps suggested by the shape of the peninsula?) is uncertain. The original name of the town in Irish was probably Beal an Mhuileat, a form that still survives to some extent. A change from 'I', to 'r', which is quite common in Irish may have given Beal An Mhuireat which in turn became Beal an Mhuirhead. Pop. 1841 637; 1851 935; (+400 in workhouse); 1871 849; 1891 652; 1911 681.


The barony of Erris the north west corner of the Co. Mayo. BroadHaven from the north and Blacksod Bay from the south, penetrate to meet at the isthmus of Belmullet and cut off the rest of mullet peninsula to the west. On the east Erris adjoins barony of Tirawly. The term Erris in the language of the older inhabitants of Du Chaochain is of restricted meaning and applies to the Mullet peninsula only. P. Knight at p 4. of his book (Erris in the Irish highlands, Dublin,1836) writes: 'Erris means western peninsula and strictly speaking should be confined to the portion within the isthmus of the Mullet…. the natives call all beyond that 'the mountains'."

"At two points in the barony I found Irish in full vernacular : Faulmore and adjacent townlands to the west and Du Chaochain, comprising Kilgalligan, Carateigue, Stoneflied and Cornboy in the north of the barony, beside Beinn Bhui Head . At these two places, Irish was in 1936 the every day speech of old and young and the majority of the children acquired their first knowledge of English on attending school. Many of the older people knew Irish only.

"The entire people of the two Islands of Inniskea had been accommodated in new holidays by the Irish Land Commission at Glosh and Nakil on the opposite mainland soon after 1930. In their new homes on the mainland these migrants formed a compact community whose main pursuit continued to be fishing. They have always been entirely Irish-speaking.

"Faulmore was, before the land commission's scheme of consolidation there was completed in 1936-'37, an old world rural village or 'baile', made up of a score or more of thatched houses built close to one another . The main harvest of the community was from the sea. With the coming of consolidation each household acquired additional land and a new dwelling on its own holding. The old village was demolished. In the past Faulmore had considerable contact with the Iniskea islands, and intermarriage between members of the two communities was uncommon.

"Doohoma is on the southern coast of the small peninsula or headland south-west of Geesala village, and has extension Ceann Reamhar Head pointing in the direction of Achill. In Doohoma in 1935,those of the older generation were fluent Irish speakers but English was fast replacing Irish as the every day speech of the younger generation and those of school age. There has been heavy emigration to Scotland and to England for many years from the Doohama district.

"Phonetically and in its accidence Erris Irish is in marked with the Irish of Ballycroy and Achill, where Donegal influence is much in evidence. Doohoma people used to quote the Ballycroy version of the proverb 'cat after kind' viz . siul a' chuit ag a' phisin, for which Doohma people said siul a' chait ag a' bpisin. They contrasted too, ar a' phortach, insa bhad, ar a' bheithioch for Ballycroy, with their own ar a' bportach, insa mbad ar a' mbeithioch. They also adverted to the Achill and Ballycroy pronunciation of deanamh as deanu, for which they in Doohoma would say dionu.

"The Irish of Erris seems to be typical of Mayo Irish in general; it is conservative in its sounds, as also in its declensional patterns, and has gravely disgressed from Classical Irish, though there are some features in which it shows a striking departure from classical forms. Two scholars in the past have had observations to make, which are opposite here, and may be quoted.

John Mac Neill in Clare Island Survey Section 1, part 3, p.7, says of the local dialect Clare Island; 'Its phonetic system is the best preserved of all the extant Irish dialects known to me, that is to say, is the most fully in conformity with the orthography of the early modern Irish'. T.F. O. Rahilly in his Irish Dialects, p.246, and remarks: On the whole, it would seem that the Irish of N. Connacht has the fewest deviations from the older pronunciation’. These remarks would appear to be equally applicable to the Irish of Erris today".

by Bernard O'Hara, Reproduced by kind permission of the author

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