Ballinrobe () is a town in County Mayo, Ireland. Ballinrobe is located on the River Robe, which empties into Lough Mask two kilometres to the west.
Dating back to 1390, Ballinrobe is said to be the oldest town in South Mayo. The registry of the Dominican friary of Athenry contains a mention to the monastery de Roba, an Augustinian friary whose recently restored ruins are one of the historical landmarks of the town today. The District Courtroom is housed in the old Market House, a marketing center for local produce established in 1752.
Its development into an important economic center in south west Mayo was due to a Royal Patent granted to the people of Ballinrobe on December 6, 1606 by King James. This Patent allowed the town to hold fairs and markets. It was necessary to obtain the approval of the king to hold a market or fair in any town in Ireland or England. Obtaining a market charter was an important step in the economic development of a town and required having a spokesperson who was in the king's favor. Once a market charter was obtained it virtually assured that the town would become the largest and most important in the area. In addition to the exchange of money and goods the market brought, it also increased the local economy because all the people traveling to market from any distance needed a place to stay and food to eat. It was the custom to retire to the pub for a drink to seal a deal on the purchase of cattle or other livestock. The established market day in Ballinrobe was Monday. Each commodity had its special place in the town. Well into the mid 1900s, "Turf" or peat, hay, potatoes, turnips, and cabbage were sold on Abbey Street, poultry on Glebe Street, calves on Bridge Street, cloth, flannel, woolen socks, lace, wheat, oats, and barley outside the Market House. There were special live stock fairs held a different times of the year for pigs, cattle, and sheep. Perishable goods such as butter, meat, and bread were sold in the lower part of the Market Hall. The upper floor was used as a meeting hall. In 1698 it was the site of a "Commission of Inquiry" which among other things, relocated property from Catholic to Protestant landlords. In 1716 the County Assizes (Civil and Criminal Courts) were held in Ballinrobe, most likely in the Market Hall.
In 1704 a law was passed that required the registration of all Catholic priests. The Catholic Church was suppressed throughout all of Ireland. There are no records for any Catholic rites in the area before 1831. There were, however, priests who continued to perform the rites in secret. The name of at least one of the local priests is known. Fr. Duffy ministered in Ballinrobe from 1696 until 1712. He was captured and deported to Spain where he died. There also appears to have been a number of priest between 1649 and 1875 who were associated with the Augustine Abbey.
The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 allowed the Catholics to freely practice their religion. It wasn't until 1847, however, that the first curate, Fr. Conway, was appointed Curate of Ballinrobe. He was the minister to both Ballinrobe and Partry for a number of years. He was responsible, after long negotiations with Colonel Knox in obtaining permission to start the construction of St. Mary's Catholic Church on Main Street. The church was stated under Fr. Conway in 1853. Subsequent curates were Fr. Hardiman and Dean Ronayne. Fr. Hardiman is credited with bring the Mercy Order of Nuns to Ballinrobe in 1851 and Dean Ronayne is credited with bring the Christian Brothers to Ballinrobe in 1876. The Sisters of Mercy Convent in Ballinrobe was founded from Westport in 1851. Their mission included the education of children, visitation and care of the sick, and helping the poor.
The Union Workhouse
In 1839 the Union Workhouse of the Poor Law Union of Ballinrobe was founded. And as with other law unions of Ireland, Ballinrobe suffered greatly during The Great Famine of 1845 to 1849. With 2000 inmates at the height of the famine, the Workhouse was so overcrowded that on March 23, 1847, The Mayo Constitution reported:
In Ballinrobe the workhouse is in the most awfully deplorable state, pestilence having attacked paupers, officers, and all. In fact, this building is one horrible charnel house, the unfortunate paupers being nearly all the victims of a fearful fever, the dying and the dead, we might say, huddled together. The master has become the victim of this dread disease; the clerks, a young man whose energies were devoted to the well-being of the union, has been added to the victims; the matron, too, is dead; and the respected, and esteemed physician has fallen before the ravages of pestilence, in his constant attendance on the diseased inmates. This is the position of the Ballinrobe house, every officer swept away, while the number of deaths among the inmates is unknown; and we forgot to add that the Roman Catholic chaplain is also dangerously ill of the same epidemic. Now the Ballinrobe board have complied with the Commissioner's orders, in admitting a houseful of paupers and in striking a new rate, which cannot be collected; while the unfortunate inmates, if they escape the awful epidemic, will survive only to be the subjects of a lingering death by starvation!
Ninety-six people died in just one week in April 1849. The dead were buried in unmarked, shallow graves, located just outside the boundary on the southwest of the ruins. In 1922, during the Irish Civil War, a great deal of the structure was burned, although some portions remain to this day.
In 1935, Feliksas Vaitkus, the sixth person to make a successful flight over Atlantic Ocean with a single engine single seat airplane, landed at Ballinrobe. Vaitkus flew his transatlantic flight with Lituanica II. Vaitkus had to fight the terrible weather conditions and was helped considerably by hourly broadcasts from an Irish radio station. He learned that Dublin was fogged in, as well as all areas heading east as far as the Baltic Sea. Vaitkus knew that he could not make it to Kaunas due to his low fuel supply, and being exhausted after a 23-hour struggle fighting the elements, felt it was best to come down somewhere in Ireland. He spotted an open field at Ballinrobe and came down, with the airplane suffering extensive damage, but he himself suffered no injuries. Lituanica II was crated for shipment to Lithuania, where it would be restored. By ship and by train he made his way to Kaunas where he was given a hero’s welcome.
Ballinrobe today is once again a thriving market town. Its recent growth is attributable to the Irish construction boom and its development as a dormitory town for both Galway and Castlebar. It also has received many immigrants from the new EU member states. The 2006 census results showed that more than 25% of the town's residents are from overseas.
There are numerous renovated, historic structures in and around the town. Genealogical records (Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, Civil, Gravestone Inscriptions, etc) for this area are held at the South Mayo Family Research Centre on Main Street in Ballinrobe.
Ballinrobe lies some 48 km north of Galway, on the N84 road which connects Galway to Castlebar. The town has become a bottleneck in recent years and is awaiting a bypass.
A bus service running three times a day between Galway and Ballina passes through Ballinrobe and Castlebar.
Ballinrobe railway station was opened on 1 November 1892, closed to passenger traffic on 1 June 1930 and finally closed altogether on 1 January 1960. Ballinrobe was a branch line from Claremorris.
- Ballinrobe boasts the only race course in Mayo.
- There is also an 18-hole championship golf course nearby.
- Flanagen Park is one of the only pitches with floodlights in Mayo.
- List of towns and villages in Ireland
- Market Houses in Ireland
- ↑ "The Second Transatlantic Flight. Felix Waitkus: Forgotten Hero" by Edward W. Baranauskas
- ↑ "Ballinrobe station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. http://www.railscot.co.uk/Ireland/Irish_railways.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-10.