The name Ballinrooaun is the anglicised spelling of its gaelic name of Baile an Ruadháin which translates as the ‘townland of the reddish place’. It derives its name from the vegetation that grew in this area many hundred years ago and there are two distinct reasons as to why the vegetation was this colour. Firstly, it is set on a limestone base and has shallow depths of topsoil and subsoil, for the most part, and in long spells of hot and dry weather conditions vegetation, including grass, would have a ‘reddish’ hue and secondly two distinct areas, at the northern and southern extremes of the townland, are recorded as ‘bog’ in the earliest maps of the area and as being ‘reclaimed bog’ in subsequent and more recent ordnance survey maps, and again the heather vegetation with a ‘reddish’ hue in these areas was a dominating factor in the naming of the townland. The spelling that is most commonly used today is Ballunruane though many historical records use spellings such as Ballyruan and Ballyruane.
Earlier History and Placenames.
Though townlands have Gaelic origins and even pre-date the Norman invasion of 1169 many changes to those names and areas would have taken place as a result of those very same Norman invasions, Cromwellian plantations, Ordnance Survey mapping projects as well as other national initiatives to formalise these divisions. The names of many of our townlands as we know then today would have changed, perhaps even several times, since their initial naming.
The earliest definitive name for what is today the townland of Ballinrooaun dates to 1640 when the area is recorded in The Down Survey and titled Carrowcornovragh and it is most likely that this was a well-established name at that time and may indeed date from its very formation. So the gaelic title of Carrowcornovragh , recorded in 1640, has a most significant and appropriate translation and still has a relevance to this day and this can be established when its title is broken down into three key parts – ‘carrow’, ‘corn’ and ‘ragh’. Many townlands in Ireland contain ‘carrow’ as part of their title and this refers to the gaelic word for a ‘quarter’ which was an area equivalent to four cartrons where each cartron equated to 30 great acres. The second significant part of the title is ‘corn’ which is the gaelic for a round hill and final third part of its ancient title, ‘ragh’, is perhaps the most significant as this means ‘fort’ which indicates the ringfort that is located on a hill at a location known locally to this day as ‘the lisheen’. All of these considerations indicate Carrowcornovragh translates as ‘the quarter of the fort on the round hill’ and it would indeed be a most appropriate description of the area as this ringfort forms the townlands most important physical feature, which comprises our built and natural heritage at a single site, as well as contributing to much of the folklore of the region over many generations.
Following on from this period, but prior to the naming and mapping of townlands as we know them today, there are numerous documented references to three distinct divisions recorded as ‘North Villages’, ‘Road Park’ and ‘Mountain Park’. These are best seen in the Tithe Applotment Books of the 1820’s and the Encumbered Estates Courts records for the sale of the townland in 1852. North Villages refers to a dense concentration of dwellings in the northern portion of the area while Road Park refers to a section straddling the main roadway from the junction at Windfield crossroads to Killoscobe graveyard. Mountain Park indicates the most extreme southerly portion that borders Derryglassaun and represents the start of a steep incline that leads to the summit of a major East-West esker and to this day is referred to as ‘The Mountain’ by locals in neighbouring Derryglassaun, Gilkagh, Ballynamona and Skehana. Though these names are not mapped they are confirmed by analysis of the family names which are noted with explicit detail in all records.
Ballinrooaun shares a boundary with the eight neighbouring townlands of Mullaghmore South on its northern boundary, Carrownacregg West, Ballaghnagrosheen and Cloonmweelaun to the east, Derryglassaun to the south and Windfield Lower, Windfield Demesne and Windfield Upper to the west.
Physically it could be described as a divided townland with the two main centres of population to its extreme north and extreme south with the area in between comprising almost exclusively of farmland with just a single residence prior to the early 1980’s. The earliest maps of Ballinrooaun present us with a few reasons as to why this actually occurred. Firstly there were two main road arteries, one to the north and one to the south, and these roadways would have developed around centres of population. The northern road ran in an east-west direction joining the townland of Mullaghmore South to Windfield Lower, and virtually identical to its route today, and the southern road also ran in an east-west direction connecting the townland Windfield Upper to Ballaghnagrosheen and again identical to its current route. The most lightly reason that the central part of the townland, which was a very expansive of ground, was virtually uninhabited was that it was of much more elevated ground and would have given more exposure to extreme westerly elements whereas the highly populated areas to the north and south were on lower plains and provided a more sheltered environment. With the introduction of landlordism to Ireland these greater expanses of ground with very few inhabitants were more easily consumed by their new owners and developed and shaped into significant farms. It was not until the latter years of the eighteenth century that a connection roadway to join these was constructed. This coincided with major advances in the move from the era of landlordism to tenant ownership of their lands. Indeed the southern portion of the townland is often referred to locally as ‘Windfield Road’ which is a term that roughly represents this southern section of Ballinrooaun and also the southern section of Windfield Upper.
Landscape and features.
At a glance the most striking features of the townland are its intricate matrix of single dry limestone walls and the rich green pastureland which covers virtually its entire surface area. These walls were built mostly from limestone rocks collected from the land, though some may have been quarried, while much of the outer townland boundary has a double limestone wall with lime. Walls in general are the most common boundary with only limited lengths of ditches or hedging evident in the area and these are for the most part in the southern end of the townland. The land would be considered to be highly efficient in self draining and thus the lack of any water features other than perhaps a few ponds while its shallow depth of topsoils and subsoils would, with todays tilling methods, make it unsuitable for tillage in most parts and best suited to grazing. In its centre it has a very elevated area from which, in suitable weather conditions, can be seen Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo, wind turbines on Skrine Hill outside Athleague Co. Roscommon and wind turbines at Derrybrien bordering on Co. Clare.
The townland is quite unique in these parts as it has two ringforts. Ringforts had two purposes basically as firstly they would have been used as a fortified enclosure within which families would have lived and thus were provided with protection from animal or human intrusion and secondly the enclosure would have been used to enclose and maintain animals such oxen that were used for farm work or for providing milk and also fowl and other important food providers. Details of each are contained on this site in the Townland Features section.
A study of the records of the Down Survey and Civil Survey of the 1640’s shows Edmond O’Concannon, a catholic, as the ruling landowner of what was then known as Carrowcornovragh. The O’Concannons were the Gaelic chiefs mainly in the Kilkerrin area of north east Galway. Edmond O’Concannon was dispossessed and relocated during the Cromwellian war when most of his lands were confiscated. However after that period the O’Concannon’s or Concannon’s were to again be a prominent family in the locality when the lands of Carrownacregg were granted to Sisby O’Concannon by patent dated March 21st 1678. Waterloo House, in the Aghanahil townland, replaced Carrownacregg as the main family residence in the early 19th century and in 1824 Edmund Concannon, of Waterloo Lodge, is recorded as a resident proprietor in County Galway. Carrownacregg West, including a mansion ‘out of repair’, was sold to James Browne in 1851 and is the current home of the Hughes family.
When the O’Concannons were displaced the lands of Carrowcornovragh were granted to Baron Trimlestown, of Trimlestown in the County of Meath, which is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created in 1461 for Sir Robert Barnewall, brother of Nicholas Barnewall, Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas, and younger son of Sir Christopher Barnewall, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in Ireland.
The Barnewalls arrived in Meath from County Dublin around 1349 when Sir Wolfram Barnewall received the manor of Crickstown and lands at Kilbrew. However, it was not until the fifteenth century that the Barnewalls began to add to their landed wealth, mainly as a result of the marriages of the sons of Sir Christopher Barnewall. The most advantageous marriage was made by his second son, Robert, who married the heiress of Sir John Brune sometime before 1442. This brought Robert a share in the lordship of Athboy including the important manor of Tremblestown (or Trimleston).
The Barnewalls were themselves a catholic family and were displaced in County Meath and were forced across the Shannon River as part of Cromwells ‘To hell or to Connaught’ plan. Naturally they were least pleased about their uprooting and were reluctant arrivals to these parts. The most emphatic proof of this, if it were needed, is an inscription on the tombstone of Mathyas Barnewall, the 12th Baron, and who was the first of that family to control the lands of Carrowcornovragh or Ballinrooaun. He is buried in Kilconnell Abbey beneath these words:
“Here lyeth the body of Mathyas Barnewall the 12th Barron of Trimestowne whoe beinge transplanted into Conaght with others by orders of the usurper Cromwell dyed at Moinivae the 17 of September 1667 for whome this monument was made by his sonne Robert Barnewall the 13 lord of Trimestowne. Here lyeth alsoe his uncle Richard Barnewall, James Barnewall who died at Cregan the 2 of October 1672 and James Barnewall of Aughrim. God have mercy on their soules”.
The Barnewall family actually resided in a Woodlawn House though not on the site of the present Woodlawn House as we know it while they also held dominion over the townlands of Gilkagh, Gorteendrishagh and Carrowferrikeen as well as some others on the Galway-Clare border. Again they married into well-established Galway tribes such as the Kirwans and Martins before the 15th Baron eventually returned to their original seat in Co. Meath in c.1740.
Control of the townland now came under the Lynch family who were one of the Tribes of Galway and the last Lynch, Alexander, actually resided in Shannonbridge on the Roscommon bank of the Shannon River when the property again changed ownership in the early 1830’s. At this time it was controlled by two men namely George Porter who owned about 494 acres and Thomas H. Thomson who owned the remaining 154 acres. The Porter portion of the townland was sold under The Encumbered Estates Courts on March 25th, 1852 and was purchased by John Cannon Evans whose family would remain until ownership of the lands was eventually granted to all tenant farmers in the early 1900’s. John Cannon Evans would later acquire the Thomson portion of the townland also in 1864.
John Cannon Evans was the eldest son of Samuel Evans and Esther Cannon and was born at Mount Evans near Woodlawn. He married Mary Anne Malley at Hollymount, Co. Mayo on May 15th 1827 and afterwards they resided at Cross House, near Menlough, in the parish of Killoscobe. They had no children and John Cannon Evans died on March 19th 1871 while Mary Anne died in 1895. The lands he held at Mount Evans were on lease from Lord Ashtown of Woodlawn Estate and the lands at Cross were leased from Lord Fitzgerald Vesey. Having purchased a portion of the Ballinrooaun townland in 1852 under the Encumbered Estates Court he continued to lease the major portion of the townland to his tenants but retained the original Porter farm (later Treacys, Murphys, Flynns) for his own use. The remaining part of Ballinrooaun he held on lease from Thomas H. Thompson (later Parkers) and he also farmed this portion.
John Cannon Evans will of March 3rd 1871 (sixteen days before his death) directed that all stock, farm produce, farming implements and furniture be sold by public auction except for £200 worth to be chosen by his wife. To his wife he willed the interest in the lease of Mount Evans and that portion of Ballinrooaun that he had purchased in 1852. He willed that portion of Ballinrooaun held on lease from Thomas H. Thompson to his nephew Wesley Albert Evans. However two days later he was to revoke this latter part of the will and instead left it to his wife’s nephew Thomas Noble Holton. He left part of the Cross farm to Robert John Parker of Ballymacward.
Wesley Albert Evans was the nephew of John Cannon Evans and was born in 1848. He farmed his uncle’s land at Ballinrooaun and lived in Ballinrooaun House. It appears however that he ran up a considerable debt following which he requested assistance from his brother-in-law John Robert Parker and it was agreed that John Robert parker would purchase the Thomas Noble Holton portion of Ballinrooaun and lease it back to Wesley. However Wesley was to emigrate and John could not recoup either the purchase cost of the land or the repayment of Wesleys loans to the Bank of Ireland in Mountbellew and it was eventually sold to the Land Commission and further divided amongst the tenant farmers of Ballinrooaun and Ballaghnagrosheen.
Wesley first married on July 4th 1878 and described himself as a gentleman farmer and gave his address as the Wicklow Hotel, Wicklow Street, Dublin. He would emigrate a few years later and marry again in 1885 and in 1902. Wesley died on April 6th 1909 in Chicago and is buried in Philadelphia.
The fields of Ballinrooaun had seen numerous owners over the previous centuries but they were finally distributed to local tenants in the early 1900s and the final act was played out in 1917 with the eventual distribution of what was by now a Parker farm to those very same families along with some others. While Ballinrooaun never had a ‘Big House’ it did have a substantial residence in Ballinrooaun House and its associated large holding. It would be safe to say that it was always governed by absentee landlords who at most times would have leased the property onwards. Ballinrooaun House would however have been a hub for farming on a large scale with expansive fields and courtyard as well as dedicated outhouses for a variety of farming enterprises and indeed much of this has been retained and still in daily use.