Bonniconlon History in Co. Mayo

The village of Bonniconlon or Bunnyconnellan is situated close to the Windy Gap in the Ox Mountains and the rugged beauty of Glenree, near the County Sligo border. There is evidence of a large settlement in the area in the early part of the 19th century, but the townland was referred to as Kilgarvin.

It is noted at this time that the original church in Kilgarvin was founded by Saint Feichin during the 7th century. In 1834, there were two hedge schools in existance in the area, while in the 1840’s, funds were granted to build a new school in Kilgarvin.

Later in the 19th century, sometime in the 1860’s, a Post Office was established in the village. Michael Fitzmaurice was the first known Post Master to Kilgarvin and Michael’s daughter, Lizzie, also worked at the Post Office which was located on the Main Dublin to Ballina route.

The latter stages of the 19th century were harsh in Kilgarvin, as there were a series of conflicts between the local people and those who yielded power. Due to this strife, and the rationing of food, the Mayo village experienced a shortage of food in 1880. This event became known as the 'Little Famine' and occured just a few decades after the Great Irish Famine of the late 1840’s.

It was during the period of close of the 19th century that the name Bonniconlon was officially adapted as the title of the village. Some relief was negotiated for Bonniconlon with a programme of works which gave the area an economic boost. A school was built in Bonniconlon in 1890 and another school was built in Bofield during 1895. The Lough Brohly Waterworks was also completed during this period, providing water for the town of Ballina.

The scars of famine and deprivation weighed heavy on the people of Ireland at the turn of the 20th century and there was a self-determination among the people to liberate the country. There was a strong nationalist element in Bonniconlon at the time of the Easter Rising in 1916 and a Volunteer force was formed during this period under the stewardship of Thomas Loftus.

An Ambush was organised by the volunteers on a local school in which the RIC were expected to raid. On 3rd April, 1921, the volunteers encountered the RIC brigade on the Ballina side of Bonniconlon and during gunfire, members of the RIC were injured but no one was killed.

An account of the event is given by Stephen Donnelly in the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements. During the Irish Civil War, another ambush took place at Drumsheen, where Brigadier Joe Ring was killed, along with John Ingram. Several men and women from Bonniconlon fought with anti-treaty forces during the war.

The 1930’s would bring more stability to Bonniconlon as the era of conflict came to an end. The village boasted two dance halls, a Post Office, Garda Station, Shop and Slaughterhouse. A Community Field was also established by Father Eddie O’Hara which was officially opened in 1936.

Fr O’Hara was Chairperson of Mayo GAA from 1922 to 1939. However, there was no electricity or mains water in Bonniconlon during the 1930’s or 1940’s. In the 1950’s a new dance hall was built by Martin Judge and attracted some of Ireland’s top bands. 'The Grove' became a very popular venue and continued to have a long and distinguished existance.

One of Ireland’s most popular rural events is staged in Bonniconlon annually. The Bonniconlon Agricultural Show began in 1949 and has grown considerably in the past number of years. The show is now one of the largest in Ireland and takes place every summer on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Historical articles on Bonniconlon
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