The History of Ballinlough

Ballinlough (Baile An Locha) is a small town of approximately two hundred people situated in the ancient parish of Kiltullagh, In the west of Ireland county of Roscommon. It lays close to the borders of neighbouring counties Mayo & Galway.
View of The Lakes Crannog

Lake O Flynns iconic island was originally a Crannóg (a man-made island fort), which was inhabited up until the middle of the 13th century, archaeologists now think the Crannóg dwellers moved ashore and built a ring fort in Rabbitborow. They later constructed a stone castle at the bottom of the avenue, so there is a direct link from O Flynns castle, to the Rabbitborow fort, to the island crannog. To go even further back in history, there was a Bronze age dugout canoe recovered from the lake dated to 1000BCE, which is now on display in the Knock Shrine Museum.
Train Pulling into Ballinlough Station

The original name of the town was Baile Locha Ui Fhlionn, The town of lake o Flynn. This was how it was known in Celtic Ireland. Some theorise that the town is named not after the nearby lake o Flynn but after a Locháin (pond) that was located at the bottom the town that was drained around the turn of the last century. But most now agree it was named after lake o Flynn as all the earliest maps call the town Baile Locha Ui Fhloinn & not Baile Locha. The original Baile Locha Fhloinn was a circular collection of houses or Lotháns around the entrance to the “avenue” which led to Flynns Castle.

Train Pulling into Ballinlough Station
Sketch of Ballinlough Village

The town continued its development into the 20th century, the Roscommon Journal of 1922 reported the town had a post Office, Banks (On Fair days), Excise Office, Veterinary Surgeon, Doctor & Nurse, Smiths, Motor Garage, A Hotel, Grocers & Publicans, Drapers, Victualler, Fancy Store & Hardware. Markets were held every Friday.

The Town and surrounding areas population grew substantially in the early 19th century due to land subdivision and implementation of the ‘lazy bed’ system to grow large amounts of potatoes on marginal land, while the area did suffer the famine of 1845-47, the area faired better than many others, unfortunately it suffered worse at the hands of the 1879 famine. Historians have noted the appearance of a religious revival during the famine months, most famously the Marian apparition along with two saints at a church in nearby Knock in County Mayo. The population continued to decline up to the 1960s as emigration took its toll.

The O Flynn lands eventually extended from Glinsk to Loughlynn encompassing 2500 acres, they also built a larger castle at the top of the avenue where not stands the water tower. The Flynns were a feisty bunch as they appear again and again in early Irish texts involved in conflicts, they were close allies of the O Connors, high kings of Ireland. They continued to be the prominent Gaelic Chieftains up until the 16th century, then being dispossessed of their castle by Elizabethian forces, which was finally destroyed by Cromwells Army in 1650. This saw a downturn in the towns fortunes which didn’t begin to recover until the 1750s, The Sandford Family were now the Landlords, began to develop the town with an eye toward tourism, this fizzled out by the 1840s but significant development was achieved, At the start of the 19th century the town had no church, by the end it had two, a Church of Ireland(18–) & Roman Catholic (18–)

Stanleys Shop

The people were divided by the Following civil war but the split was not as deep as in some parts of the country, and it was noted men who had stood together during the war of independence and separated during the civil warm stood once again side by side during the 1966 fifty years commemoration of the rising.

The 1950-60s Saw the peak of Emigration in the country and Ballinlough was as effected as everywhere else, Few businesses remained here by the start of the 21st century that had been here at the start of the 20th.

Ballinlough 1970s

The townland has a rich political history, the Train station & market square made it an important stop for political rallies on topics that’s have formed Ireland, the land question, tenants rights, the Parnell split & Home Rule. This constituency elected the first Sinn Fein MP George Noble Plunkett, Father of the Easter Rising Leader Joseph Plunkett. During the war of Independence, a local volunteer squad attempted to burn down the RIC barracks, but British Forces were lying in ambush for them, three men were killed, Commandant Pat Glynn, Private Michael Keane and Lieutenant Michael Glavey, after whom the GAA Club was named.

Ballinlough 1970s

With thanks to Dermot P Morris for This insightful article, his Book “Ballinlough – a personal perspective on its History Evolution and Development” Vol 1 by Dermot Morris, was published in 2018.