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Annals :: 1800-1850

Local history from the Act of Union to the Famine .

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A survey made as a preparation for the emanticipation of Catholics and supplied by the bishops to the government, shows Fr. Lowther as P.P. for Shrule and Fr. Hubert Mac Nally as curate, Fr. McNally was also prior to the friary of Kilroe with Fr. John McNally and Fr. John Henon as friars, one of those two friars was also curate for the parish of Headford.

There were 406 famillies paying their due and a few more who could not afford to pay, the average parochial income being given as 30 pounds 16 shillings.

Curates for the parish of Shrule. prior to 1840 the friars of Kilroe served as curate for the parish but they were not replaced after their departure.


A dispute arose betweem Fr. Burke of Kilmaine and Fr. Lowther of Shrule over some unspecified townland, the same as forty years before. Archbishop Dillon set up a commission but Fr. Lowther’s representant failed to attend the meeting. The Archbishop then ordered Fr. Lowther to stop officiating in that townland until a full investigation had been completed. Later we find Fr. Lowther removed from Shrule and P.P. in Rahoon, and the matter definitively settled in favor of Kilmaine.


After the death of their benefactor, Sir Henry Lynch of Ballycurran, the friars of kilroe changed the name of their townland from Kilroe to Mounthenry, to perpetuate his memory.There was great hardship for a few years, because of severe wea- ther in the summer and autumn the potato crop was poor and the people suffered from hunger, malnourishment in turn bringing typhus and dysentery.


To finance a campain for Catholic Emancipation, organised by O’Connell’s Catholic association, a rent was levied on every Catholic household and was collected on the first Sunday of the month at the church gate.On the 15 November of that year the Connaught Journal reported that Fr. Monahan, P.P. of Shrule, neglected to collect the rent in his parish, this may have been because of the poverty the people were in. However the following month the same paper noted that the Catholic rent in Shrule was now being paid.


We saw earlier how the wardens and vicars of the wardenship of Galway were elected. By this time the system was greatly abused and only members of the tribal families were chosen, therefore it seems that it was influence instead of merit which mattered in the elections. In addition to the foregoing tension there was also a marked distinction between regular and secular clergy.

Matters were further complicated when disagreement arose over funerals and High Mass arrangements, these were settled in 1828 but the overall situation was still far from satisfactory and the Pope had to be kept informed.


The Pope, Pius VIII, sent the Bishop of Dromore and the Bishop of Down to consult with Archbishop Kelly of Tuam and Dr. French, Bishop of Kilmacduagh and Warden of Galway, in order to solve the problems in the Wardenship.Dr. French agreed to resign from the Wardenship and to keep his diocese where he was advised to reside. The tribal families agreed to abandon their ancient privileges and the visiting Bishops sent a strong recommendation to Rome for the constitution of an independant diocese of Galway.

Around that date a new church was built in Shrule, it was erected by the Kirwanes of Dalgan who contributed 1300 pounds and also donated the site. Tradition tells us that it was originally built as a protestant chapel but was not used because of lack of parishioners and that it was given to the Roman Catholics when the thatched roof of Teampall Cholmain burned down. Incidently this seems to indicate that Teampall Cholmain was repaired and used once more when the persecution of Catholics relaxed, the chapel in Brodulagh being abandoned.

The main door of the new church was on the Kilmaine side of the building, it has since been blocked up but a decoration, consisting of three balls placed in a triangle above that door, can still be seen. As this decoration is a freemasonic sign and cannot normally be found on a Catholic church, it seems to indicate the truthfulness of the above mentioned tradition.The altar piece was presented by the Martins, a local family who had a thriving woodwork and carpentry business in Shrule at that time.


1831 March

Pope Gregory XVI created the new diocese of Galway

1831 October

Dr. George P. Browne became the first Bishop of Galway.


A “Topographical Dictionary of Ireland”, published that year by Samuel Lewis, gives a good description of the parish in pre-famine times.

It tells us that Shrule had 8,959 statute acres, as aplotted under the Tithe Act, and that under the said act Shrule paid 264 pounds-2s.-8d of which 183 pounds-17s.-5d. was payable to the protestant warden of Galway and the remainder to the vicar, as there was hardly any protestants in Shrule it means that Catholics were compelled to pay dues to the Protestant church when they could barely support their own clergy.

It also tells us that there was 4167 inhabitants in the parish of which 507 were in Shrule village then containing 86 houses.The main System of agriculture was tillage with the wheat being considered as the best in the country.Limestone of exellent quality was found in abundance and quarried for building and for agricultural purposes.

The main Landlords of the time were: In Dalgan park P. Kirwan, in Glencorrib A. Brown, in Ballycurran castle P. Lynch, in Houndswood M. D’Arcy, there was two absentee landlords, in Moyne Blake and in Kinlough Joyce, so it is that before the great famine all the landlords in Shrule parish were members of the Tribes of Galway, descendant of the Normans, strongly Irish and mainly Roman Catholic.

In Shrule R. Golding was owner of an extensive brewery and a large corn mill. Three other mills were at Ballycurran, Ballynalty and Ower, owned by local landlords and rented out. It is worth mentioning that the Goldings were also devout Catholic who donated a stained glass window to the Church in Shrule.

There was a corn market held every Thursdays and fairs were held every Easter Monday, July 26 and November 11. Four others were added at a later date, in May, August, September and October.A constabulary police force was stationed in Shrule and petty sessions were held on alternate Thursdays.

There were three private schools but only about 100 pupils.

6 January 1839

The night of the big wind.

At the time there were only two friars left in Kilroe and on the night in question they succoured and sheltered the local people whose home had been damaged or destroyed by the storm.


The Franciscan order decided to withdraw from Kilroe, definitively closing a chapter in our history. As the friars conducted a private school there, when they left the need for education was strongly felt and this prompted Mr. Lynch to make a donation for the construction of a national school in 1849.


Robert Dillon Browne, Esq., of Glencorrib, M.P. for Mayo, Head repeal inspector for Connaught.

28 August 1843 (Connaught Ranger)

“Headford Petty Sessions An unusually large bench included: Richard Mansery St. George,Esq., Headford castle, as president…..J. Bourke,Esq.,Ower…To hear the charge of assault against the Headford Orangemen and anti-repealers brought by the repealers of Shruel and other towns in the vicinity.” (verdict unknown)

27 October 1843 (Connaught Ranger)

“Loyal repeal association . We held in Shruel on yesterday the Mayo arbritation court, I had the honor of presiding and was associated with Mr. Hunt of Riverview and Mr. Lynch of Ballycurren castle,1st cousin of Charles Lynch,who, in the absence of that gentleman, was unanimously selected by the people, and whose acting, though not yet published, we consider quite in conformity with the declaration made by the liberator in his speeches explanatory of the arbritation system…..however, on yesterday, so perfectly satisfied were the people that one man,who claimed a balance of rent for grazing, said (when we judged he had not established his claim) that so confident was he in the justice of our decision, that if we ruled that he was not entitled to the money he had already received he would restore it on the spot.We attend next Wednesday in Kilmaine, next Thursday in Shruel again and next Saturday in Cong. Mr. Lynch of Ballycurren Castle is nominated by the clergy and the Wardens as a fit person for the neighbouring district.”

R.D. Browne


The famine years

In those years our parish was very fortunate in having sympathetic catholic landlords who were fully aware of the plight of their tenants, not only was there no evictions at that time but large concessions on the payment of rent were made, sometimes completely disregarding the amount due. The Kirwans of Dalgan are on record for having allowed tenants evicted from neighbouring areas to settle on waste ground on their estate.As we saw earlier a large amount of corn was being grown in Shrule at the time and during the famine an abundant harvest was ground into flour and meal in the mills of Shrule, Ballycurran, Ballynalty and the two mills at Ower, to be redistributed to the people. Also alternate crops were planted by some, allowing them to survive. Mention of famillys living on turnips for long periods are not uncommon. Of course relief work was also available in the form of wall building and mainly drainage schemes.

During that period the river was drained for the first time, causing the water level to drop considerably so putting the mill at Shrule bridge permanently out of action for lack of water.Because of these various reasons there seems to have been very few, if any, death from hunger in our parish, which does not mean that people were not undernourished.Regretfully hunger was not the only calamity during those terrible years, fever and disease, specially cholera, were also rampant. Because of malnutrition and a total lack of medical services in the area many people in Shrule parish died in these epidemics. There was neither a doctor nor a nurse available between Galway and Ballinrobe and no effort was made in providing one.

It was mentioned to us that many from Shrule and Cloobannan who died from disease in those years were buried in Wakefield, properly called Gortlaggagh which is in the county of Galway, but this still has to be confirmed.Other consequences of the famine were people leaving the land and emigrating, new tenants being very hard to find, the more generous landlords going bankrupt and losing their estates and in many way it precipitated the end of the land tenancy system.This system had been imported into Ireland by the Normans and worked reasonably well while the population was low but by this time became absolete because of the large increase of the that population over the years.

In conclusion we can say that despite the popular opinion that the landlords were solely responsible for the effects of the famine, the evidence shows that the landlords in Shrule parish behaved responsibly and did their best to alleviate the hardship of the people, sometimes incuring great personal losses in doing so, especialy Robert Dillon Browne of Glencorrib and the Kirwans of Dalgan park.


Fair days in Shruel 13/4 – 26/7 – 11/11

Headford 11/5 – 14/8

Castlehackett 2/6 – 2/10

Kilmaine 12/7 – 28/10

In Shrule there was also a corn market every Thursday and a horse fair in october.A fair on the 1st of every month has been mentioned for Shrule but this might have been a later practice.


Charles Lynch of Ballycurran donates one acre of land and some material help for the construction of a national school in Kilroe, the first of its kind in these parts.


The Encumbered Estates Act was passed, it provided for the setting up of special courts to sell the estates which had gone bankrupt during the famine years.

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2 Responses

  1. Dick JoyceOctober 4, 2016 @ 10:41 pmReply

    I am looking for the words of a song called The Mills of Ower, starting with the words “we’ll praise the mills of Ower and we’ll praise them quite continually, for I hear they’re grinding flour for a quarter of a century”. Another line says “Walsh of the red hair and ….from Mount Henry”.

  2. Rosemary SlatteryFebruary 17, 2013 @ 6:07 pmReply

    Thanks for this interesting site.

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