1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

BALLYMORE, or ST. OWEN'S of LOUGHSEUDY, a post-town and parish, in the barony of RATHCONRATH, county of WESTMEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 12 miles (W. by S.) from Mullingar,and 57 .50 miles (W.) from Dublin; containing 8494 inhabitants. An abbey is said to have been founded here in the year 700 ; but the only religious establishment of which there are any authentic records was a monastery founded by the De Lacy family in 1218, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, for Premonstratensian canons and Benedictine nuns, who occupied distinct portions of the same building. Hen. VIII. made the church of this monastery the cathedral church for the diocese of Meath, which it continued to be for a short time. In the parliamentary war of 1641, this was the principal military station of the English in this part of the country ; the garrison had possession of a strong fortress on the shore of Lough Shodie, or Loughseudy, which was accessible from the land only by a drawbridge across a wide and deep moat. In the war of the Revolution, when part of the English army had fortified themselves at Mullingar, this place was strengthened by a party of the Irish forces from their head-quarters at Athlone, with the view of acting against Mullingar ; but they were soon attacked by Gen. De Ginkell, and pursued with loss to Moat-a-Grenogue. The fort of Ballymore, on the island in the lake, was still in the possession of James's forces, and garrisoned with 1000 chosen men; but the forces of William advancing from Athlone to besiege it, the garrison, on seeing some armed boats launched to act against it from the lake, on which side it was defenceless, surrendered themselves prisoners of war after only one day's defence, and the fort was taken by Gen. De Ginkell, who repaired the fortifications and placed in it a strong English garrison. The town, which is situated on the mail coach road from Moate, extends partly into the parish of Killare, and contains 668 inhabitants, of which number, 510 are in that part of it which is in the parish of Ballymore ; it consists chiefly of small houses and cabins, and the only public buildings are the parish church and R. C. chapel. It had formerly a market, which has been discontinued ; but fairs are held on Whit-Monday and Oct. 14th. Here is a chief constabulary police station; and petty sessions are held every alternate Friday. The parish, which is called St. Owen's of Loughseudy, comprises 9189 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: about three-fifths of its entire extent are arable, and the remainder is pasture, with some waste land and bog.

Agriculture, which had been long in a very neglected state, has within the last five or six years shewn some slight indications of improvement, There are some fine limestone quarries, which are worked for building and for burning into lime, but only for private use.

The lake of Shodie, or Loughseudy, is studded with some pleasing islets towards the north. Beyond it is

  • Shinlas, formerly the residence of the Malones, but now in ruins:
  • Emoe, the seat of F. Magan, Esq., and
  • Moyvoughly, that of C. Arabin, Esq., are pleasantly situated about two miles south-west of the town.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Meath, united to the impropriate curacy of Killare, and in the patronage of the Bishop to whom the rectory is appropriate: the tithes amount to £323-1s-6.25d, payable to the bishop. The church, a neat edifice with a square tower, was erected by aid of a loan of £1200 from the late Board of First Fruits in 1827. The glebe-house was built by a gift of £450 and a loan of £50 from the same Board, in 1813: the glebe comprises 30 acres.

In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, which comprises also the parish of Killare, each of which contains a chapel.

There are seven pay schools, in which are about 330 children. Near the town are the remains of an ancient castle, said to have belonged to the De Lacy family; the only portion standing is a round tower, about 20 feet in height.

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