Killummod (Roscommon) County Roscommon

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Baile an Bhealaigh
Baile an Bhealaigh

Baile an Bhealaigh aka Ballinvilla (lit. the town of the road or pass) is the only townland of this name to have its name immortalised in “The Annals of the Four Masters”. Compiled in 1632-36,  this  famous Irish manuscript tells us that, for a long period up until 1489, Ballinvilla was occupied by the progenitors of the Brennans (a family long associated with this area) and prior to that, the O’Mulcrony clan (an old family of Uí Máine):

“The title of Mac Branan was conferred on John Mac Branan by O’Conor and Mac Dermot; and on that day he remitted to the O’Mulcrony Clan the half mark which his predecessors had from them for a long period, for Baile-an-bhealaigh”. [SOURCE “Annála Ríogachta na hÉireann” Vol. IV: “The Age of Christ 1489” – pg. 1174]

 “Lios” (ring-forts) are numerous in this area, and Ballinvilla itself has three in close proximity -  probably the site of Baile an Bhealaigh - close to O'Daly's Fort in Lisdaly

Archaeologists are agreed that the vast bulk of ring-forts are the farm enclosures of the well-to-do of early medieval Ireland. Wealthy individuals built at least one house and kept cattle inside these earthen ditches, which were often still in use up to the early 1700s.

Ballinvilla has another unique feature – an old road (clearly outlined on the first OS map of 1837) leading to  Canbo Castle, suggesting this McDermott stronghold was "the way to" served by this townland.



Curiously, while most of Co. Roscommon remained Catholic-owned prior to the outbreak of the 1641 Irish Rebellion, a pocket of townlands surrounding (and including) Ballinvilla were Protestant-owned since the Tudor Confiscations of 1540 (awarded to John Crofton, an Elizabethan settler). 



In 1641, Josias Lambert (by marriage to Crofton’s daughter) had come to own Canbo Castle, Carrowmore, Lisdaly, “Drumerr – Ballinvilly”, Drumlion and Danesfort. Sadly, “Ballinvilly” does not appear on Cromwell’s Survey (nor on Petty’s 1655 map). Lambert retained his lands following Cromwell’s transplantation and was still there in 1670.

In 1690 King James II “gave” Canbo castle back to the McDermotts in reward for their support. 



The last will and testament of James Ferrall (d.1735) bequeathed land in Killummod (which included Ballinvilla and Canbo) to his nephew – Robert Caddell on condition that he take the name O’Ferrall.

In 1749, the Elphin Census gives us a clear account of who was living in “Ballynvill” and Canbo, which were significantly less inhabited than other townlands in the area. Bunreagh, for example, was home to 13 families (all substantial farmers). Bogs in the old days were generally left uninhabited as the vapours from them were believed to carry deadly disease. Canbo accommodated just 4 cottiers.  Ballinvilla, in spite of its size, was home to just 2 families:

Mrs Anne McDermot, widow of James McDermott, a substantial farmer, lived with 3 teenage children and three servants; (“Papists”)

Tully & Winny Higgins, herd/farm labourer with 3 teenage children. (“Papists”)

Circa 1759 Matthew MacDermot Roe M.D. of Alderford, dispossessed by his brother, sought refuge at Ballinvilla (home of James MacDermott) and married their daughter (c1765). Their son Charles McDermottroe M.D. emigrated from Ballinvilla to Jamaica and founded a line which now stretches to Canada and New York (including Galt MacDermot, the composer). Charles’ grandfather, was Henry Baccach,  the principal patron of Ireland’s most renowned composer, Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738).

In the latter half of the 18th Century, graziers were brought in to settle this parish and thus began the Barretts' long association with the townland.


On 26 Jan 1819, "Drumerr-Ballinvilly" was among a number of townlands advertised by Richard O'Farrell Caddell TO LET for "One life or 31 years" in the Dublin Evening Post. (An 1824 survey report recorded this townland as “Drumballinville”).  

The lease was taken up by Patrick Barrett Sr. (c.1771-1829) who divided the townland among his sons and daughters, as they came of age to marry.

In 1836, Ballinvilla and Drumerr were still being recorded together as "the quarter of Drumhir otherwise Drunham otherwise Drumhurr, otherwise Ballinvillyotherwise Balliwilly" (see Deed Abstract dated  25 Nov 1836).

In 1837, the first Ordnance survey measured Ballinvilla at 406 statute acres, 1 rood (quarter acre) and 1 perch (40th of an acre). 153 acres of this was bog. It had three natural spring wells, which were used for drinking up until the late 1980s.  It had its own lake – “Ballinvilla Lough” (disappeared after the introduction of drainage in the lat 19th century; replanted as forest today). Ballinvilla’s boundary to the south-west includes part of Lisdaly lake.

By the time of the Tithe Applotment Records of 1842, only Patrick Barrett's sons (and sons-in-law) are listed in Ballinvilla:

  • Anne Barrett (c1807-1880) married Hugh Boyd; res BALLINVILLA farm #4
  • Matthew Joseph Barrett (c1809-c1870) married Susan Kelty GV farm #5  *evicted*  > emigrated to the US
  • Patrick Barrett Jr. (1812-1863) of Ballinvilla; married Mary Moraghan; GV farm #6
  • Michael Barrett  (1814-?) of Ballinvilla; married Elizabeth Dignan; GV farm #3 *evicted* 
  • Mary Barrett  (1815-1905) of Ballinvilla; married Daniel Collins; GV farm #1
  • John Barrett  (1816-1886) of Ballinvilla; married Mary Dowd of Ryefield (1818-1865); GV farm #2

Cottiers, laborers, other trades were ommitted from these records. Any families living on the land as tenants-at-will (holdings with no lease) were too small to be deemed titheable. The 1837 map of Ballinvilla records these 6 farming households plus an additional 6 cottier huts. 

During the Great Famine 1845-51, the Croghan lost close to 30% of its parishoners. The cottier class (cottage-dwelling labourers, having no more than a potato-patch for land) was virtually wiped out.  Ballinvilla, may not have had it so easy. The Freeman’s Journal reported that their landlord, Richard Caddell (a Catholic) graciously gave a rent reduction during this difficult time.

In 1857, following the Famine, 5 of Ballinvilla's cottier huts were vacant, and only John Brennan ( - 1874) remained,  subletting a house & garden from Hugh Boyd.  Ballinvilla’s labouring class had all but disappeared.  The impact of the Famine on the Barrets revealed itself in the aftermath.

1863 saw quite an upset in Ballinvilla. Michael Barrett fell bankrupt and was forced to sell on his lease. On 15 December, his brother, Pat Barrett of Ballinvilla died young, age 48. Then, on 21 December, just before Christmas, another brother, Matthew Barrett and family were evicted.

By 1881, 4 of the original Barrett farms remained occupied by first cousins (in bold):

1a Edward COLLINS & Jane Moraghan and family

2a Martin BARRETT (soon to marry his neighbor Kate Dowd)

3a Martin DOWD & Catherine Beirne and family

4a James BOYD & Catherine Shivenan and family

4b Mary (nee Boyd) Collins (sub-letting on Boyd's land)

5a Parrick REGAN & Catherine Harrington & adult children.

6a James BARRETT & Eliza Nolan & family.


In the 1901 Ballinvilla Census, 7 inhabited dwelling houses were recorded here (all thatch; none deemed 1st class). 7 families made up a total population of 18 males and 18 females, all Catholic, and all speaking English only. By the time of the 1911 Census, the number of inhabited houses at Ballinvilla had reduced to 6. 

Land Act Purchases 

In 1914 the farms in Ballinvilla were held “in Fee” by Land Act Purchases from Sophia Jermingham (nee Caddell). Facilitated by grants form the British Government,  Ballinvilla's farmers held title to their land, and ceased to be tenants. However, while they may now have become “land rich” they were cash-poor and these loans were borne as heavy debts by the next generation inheriting the farms.

 In 1923, the Collins name died out in Ballinvilla when James Boyd Jr. purchased 1a from Mary Barrett’s grandson, Tom Collins. 

Ballinvilla remained home to the Barretts until the turn of the 21st century.



“Annála Ríogachta na hÉireann” Vol. IV pg. 1174 Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Ballinvilla TL Geography Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Elphin Census 1749: Killummod Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Tithe Applotment Records: Ballinvilla Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Griffith's Valuation: Ballinvilla Ireland VIEW SOURCE
1901 Census: Ballinvilla Ireland VIEW SOURCE
1911 Census: Ballinavilla (sic) Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Ballinvilla (Croghan) PLACENAME archive Ireland VIEW SOURCE

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