History/Folklore Section of mayogodhelpus.com


History Index

Monasteries and other church settlements were top of their agenda, these sites being a source of wealth, in most cases. Succeeding waves of Viking "visitors" were more civilized; finding trade and commerce to be more profitable ways of making a living. Initially, the Irish had no organized defence against the marauding bands of Viking pirates who could land anywhere along the coast and select their targets in the vicinity, strike, and disappear out to sea again.

In response to the attacks Round Towers began to be built at or near monastic sites. Mayo Those were circular stone structures, serving both as look out towers and places of refuge. Several still survive in the county, a fine example being the one at Meelick, not far from my native town of Swinford.
The Normans arrived in Mayo in the early 13th century.Those hybrid descendants of the Vikings were into looting and pillage in a big way also but their plans for the places that they invaded were more long term. Where the land was of strategic military importance or of good agricultural value they tended to stay, building castles to consolidate their gains at the earliest opportunity.
They left their mark indelibly on the history and indeed the architecture of Mayo. Many common Mayo surnames today are of Norman or related origin. The Normans were relatively few in numbers and enlisted the help of mercenaries; others who came with them on what is called today in legal circles, a "no foal, no fee" basis. I hope to include a narrative account of the antics of some of those worthies, "The Welshmen of Tyrawley", at some stage in the Folklore section.
Many modern Mayo towns grew up around sites first settled and fortified by the Normans.

The history of the succeeding ages, up to, say, the Cromwellian Settlement in 1641 is an interesting one for students of history. There was a slow gradual change in Mayo, as in other parts of Ireland, from a basically Celtic way of life to an amalgam of Norman and Celtic traits. All the time, in the background, loomed the spectre of the English monarchy. From an initial position of virtual impotence the Crown slowly but surely took over control of the entire country, Mayo included. Both Norman and Celtic opposition was brushed aside.

Mention should be made of Granuaile, the seafaring leader of the O'Malley clan who had her fortress on Clare Island situated at the mouth of Clew Bay and adjacent to the town of Westport.
This lady would have made modern proponents of Women's Lib seem very tame indeed. She flourished around the time of Queen Elizabeth I, another woman who never felt that the gentler sex were, or are, in any way inferior to their male counterparts. I hope to include a story about Granuaile in the Folklore section of this site but space does not permit me to enlarge on her exploits here.

The wrecking of the Spanish Armada, in a storm in the year 1588 off the west coast of Ireland led to quite a stir along the coast of Mayo with many of the ill-fated members of that fleet being washed ashore there. An even worse fate awaited them on landing as most of them were either slaughtered or handed over to the English.
Much is contained in folklore of the area around Brize, a place between Balla and Claremorris, both about its famous fair and its castle. Legend has it that 'Red' Hugh O'Donnell spent the winter of 1598 here and also visited it on his ill-fated march to Kinsale in the winter of 1601.
He is said to have taken part while there in sports on the Castle Bawn. He reputedly was an expert at a version of what we today call 'leapfrog'.
This in spite of his crippled toes!
The route Red Hugh took going home, over the hill of Crucksbullgadawn and on to Ballylahan Castle and from there to Ardnaree is still pointed out today. With over 4,000 seized cattle, the journey must have been a slow and noisy one.
In the year 1629, a game of the same leapfrog had rather terminal consequences for Tioboid na Luing, the 'sleeveen' son of Granuaile and her husband, Risteard an Iarainn. In 1627 after a masterly career of crossing and doublecrossing, he received the title of Viscount Mayo for 'devoted service to the Crown'.
Two years later he visited Ballintubber Abbey for the annual "Pattern' or sports day. This was partly a day of remembrance for the dead, culminating with field sports and music. When the leapfrogging began Tioboid decided to take part.
Being somewhat advanced in years and having been always a devotee of the pampered life he decided to make life easier by calling on a young local hunchback, Diarmeen Chructach to be his 'frog'. (Little Crooked Dermot is about as close a translation as can be used.)
Diarmeen was a member of a sept of the De Burgos or Burkes that had been defeated and humiliated by Tioboid years before when he has sided with the forces of Queen Elizabeth. Diarmeen felt Tioboid wanted to make a laughing stock of him and his disability.
As his oppressor leapfrogged over him Diarmeen struck him with an upward stroke of a short dagger which he had concealed in the sleeve of his smock. This rather abruptly ended Tioboid's interest in the contest and indeed in life itself.
For centuries afterwards the phrase, " Turas Thioboid na Luing leat go Baile an t-Obair" was a feared curse to bestow on someone. ("May you have the journey of Tioboid na Luing to Ballintubber", is a reasonably close translation.)
The set back suffered by O'Donnell and his ally, Hugh O'Neill proved the end of any form of resistance to the inexorable Anglicization of Ireland. It certainly put paid to any plans the O"Donnells had to extend their sphere of influence down the western seaboard.

Around the late 800's, the Vikings came to Mayo. They do not appear to have had a lasting impact on the Mayo scene, unless of course you consider the impact they had on the poor unfortunate monks and others who came into immediate contact with them!

Their reasons for coming were simple; looting and pillage being high on the priority list.

The Vikings

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