SHRULE – J.F. Quinn’s History
A More Aristocratic Name
AN ancient spot like Shrule, with great historical associations, might be expected to have a more aristocratic name. It simply means a stream, and the name has been variously spelled. The ancient name was Sruthair, pronounced Sruther. It is also spelled Shruel. Struell, Sroot and Scroohil. It has the same meaning as Sruathan, pronounced phonetically Shruffaun, which is the old name applied to Newantrim Street. Castlebar, for the reason that a small stream passed that way the outflow from the springs at the creamery supplying the old reservoir, which was the town’s first supply, and still in operation, supplying a few fountains known as the “Black Pumps.” It is excellent spring water, and much in favour. It would be difficult to now trace it, as in the course of building operations it was confined within a stone lined drain, and its course today a good deal more diverted as the old maps show a different outfall of the river. The name is also met as Stroughan, Sruffaun, Straffan. Truan and Trone.
Land Of Contention
The parish of Shrule contains a lot of excellent land, and naturally attracted the greedy eyes of the early freebooters, for it was the location of a great Norman castle, from which a MacWilliam Burke ruled. This was the scene of contention and bloodshed. and many of Bingham’s dark and foul deeds, previously fully referred to. On the Galway mearing, too, it was the scene of bloody strife by contending chiefs, and the great massacre at the Bridge of Shrule is still a vivid local tradition. The Cromwellians also cast their greedy eyes upon it, and absorbed ever acre of it. Then an influential English family had a beautiful seat and magnificent demesne there known as Dalgan Park. Here the late Baron de Clifford passed a hectic time for a few short years. Succeeding as a child, a handsome patrimony was accumulated during his minority, and when he got in the saddle he made things hum. Marrying a fashionable actress, he installed a fleet of motors at Dalgan, entertained royally, established a stud, racing stable and a race course in the demesne. A frail, neurotic specimen, eternally cigarette smoking, he spent money like water, and soon had to quit the scene, the break-up sale extending to a week. There was good competition for the horses, cattle, and the series of most fashionable and expensive bungalows he had set up, one still serving a well-known millionaire during his annual stay in Connemara. The horse boxes, jockey rooms, kennels, etc.,which had been established without regard to cost, looked like a little town, were put up in sections, and were disposed of all over the country. Retiring to England, the noble Peer was killed shortly after by his motor car. In a previous article I referred to the varying fortunes of various holders of this estate. When the Land Commission acquired it, they reserved the mansion and demesne, which were purchased by Maynooth Mission to China. It is now used as a college, a visit there being quite an experience. Entering one of the classrooms while study is in progress you are at once transported to another world; low-sized, meek-voiced, retiring little men in clerical garb are at the rostrum, spealing a strange tongue; young Levites of Irish origin answering in the same tongue, or making peculiar hieroglyphics on the blackboards. The professors are Chinese priests, it being essential to success that the missionaries should be able to speak the language of the remarkable country in which their lifework will be cast. This is but one of the many training grounds the Order has in Ireland. Since they took over there has been considerable development, and the beautiful demesne is a place where one would like to linger. It is extremely isolated and the country about is rich, but at the moment the farmers are staggering under the depression produced by the cattle tariffs.
The little town itself, standing on the Black River, is as moth-eaten as the others in the barony of Kilmaine. Trade is evidently dead, but all the people have land. On the high road to Galway the people see a goodly amount of traffic racing by, but only the bus stops to pick up a fare or drop a parcel. The craze for quick transport has killed it; the travelling shop keeps the villagers at home, and recently the fairs have been very small, it is one of the few places where pigs are still sold on the streets. In other days Shrule was a busy spot, with its mills and other industries. The ruins of the mills are there still – flour and oaten meal mills. Perhaps the people of Shrule may look with diffidence on my statement that flour was once manufactured there. It was not the only place in the famed barony where the local farmers had their corn converted into flour and bran. I am also able to tell them that there was a man in Shrule enterprising enough to purchase from the farmers their surplus wheat, milling it for the benefit of those who had none, also buying from the farmers their surplus bran, and selling it to people further afield.
For the purpose of this article I was given access to an old file kept by a country shopkeeper in East Mayo. Some of the ragged documents dated back 160 years, and amongst them I found crude invoices “for bran put on carts and paid at the office” at Shrule mills 131 years ago. That man lived 50 miles from Shrule, and his grand-daughter told me that he often recounted when he used to go every week with two carts to Shrule mills for bran. Another peculiar thing – from the old man’s stories she was as familiar with the features of the district along the road as he was. She was unable to recall if he ever went for bran or flour to Ballinrobe or Kilawalla, where famous mills were run under the patronage of Lord Avenmore.
It is now too late to linger over an explanation why this parish, cut away from Galway by a strong river, was merged in that diocese. It is one of the peculiar things that happened when the wardenship of Galway was flourishing, and possibly is not a bit more inexplicable than having the parish of Moore, a detached part of Co. Roscommon, annexed to Tuam, and the barony of Ross carved. off Mayo and grafted on to Galway. In recent times we have had territorial adjustments, but they were to facilitate local administrative purposes. It was reducing Shrule, once the capital of an important ecclesiastical territory, to a low level, indeed by cutting it off entirely and joining it up with a district from which even nature had cut it off. To try and convey an idea of the incongruity of such an arrangement, I may say that Father Pat Lydon, who was recently in pastoral charge of Shrule, is now the parish priest of Lisdoonvarna. Though a well defined area, I am handicapped for lack of the parochial records of the townlands, for which, however, I did not apply, relying on Bald’s map of the county; and when I went to inspect it I found it so placed at the bottom of the Kilmaine unit, and so scattered that I was not satisfied with the lines of demarcation; neither were the name places fully satisfying, and when I fell back on the Registrar-General’s list, I was confronted by its partition among so many old district electoral divisions that I felt completely so rudderless. Another of my difficulties was. that in this region were a number of old parishes that have been submerged, and trying to trace them on this map seemed like a fool’s game, and a nerve-shattering recreation. At a later date I hope to identify the existing and retrenched parishes by their townlands.
Some Indentifying Features
All Shrule, however, was in the old barony of Kilmaine, and remained in the modern one. The electoral division of Dalgan is struck up against the town – in fact the town is in it, yet five of the townlands are in the parish of Kilmainemore, including Milford demesne. Ten, come into the retrenched parish of Moorgagagh, namely, Bullaun, Cahermaculick, Carramore, Cregnanagh, Garroun, Gorteens, Kill, Lisheenielagaun, Moorgagagh and Tobernadarry. Only four townlands out of the whole complement fall within the ambit of Shrule parish, namely, Brackloon, Dalgan Demesne, Ramolin and Shrule itself. Of Shrule electoral division only the townlands of Ballinahyny and Carrowoughteragh are in Kilmaine parish, and the following in Shrule; Ballisnahyny (I cannot say if it is part of the same townland), Ballycurrin demesne, Ballynalty, Brodullagh North and South, Bunnafoolistrane, Cahernabrack. Cloghmoyne, Cloonbonaun, Commons, Collagh. Glasvally, Gortatober, Gortbrack, Kinlough, Mocollagan, McCarha, Mounthenry, Moyne, Rooaunalaghta and Toorad. with the islands of Croelian, Red and 23 others in Lough Corrib.
J.F. Quinn series of articles on Mayo history published in the Western People during the 1930s
Hardcover, Brendan Quinn