Garbally Description.

Jimmy Laffey.


Garbally is the anglicised spelling of the old Gaelic name An Garbhaile or Garbh Bhaile translating as ‘rough enclosure or townland’. It is likely to have been derived from the terrain particularly located at the south-western end of the townland. Other variations of the spelling have also been identified such as Garbelly and Gar Bhaile.

Geographical location.

Garbally, a townland in the civil parish of Moylough and the Barony of Tiaquin and bisected by the main Menlough to Monivea roadway, shares borders to its north with the townlands Carrowmore and Esker and to the south with Pollacrossaun and Gorteendrishagh.

Landscape and features.

The townland in total covers an area of 74 acres, 1 rood and 27 perches would be considered to be relatively small in area. It is important to note that no more than two houses were ever occupied in the townland, even to this day, which is again quite unusual. This terrain evolves from lower lying high quality agricultural ground at the north end to a gradual upward sloping area at it’s southern end.

It’s most predominant feature is undoubtedly Garbally Castle. This imposing structure was a 15th century tower house built by Malachy O’Kelly in 1499. However in 1504, the castle was initially destroyed by MacWilliam De Burgo along with two other nearby O’Kelly castles at Monivea and Gallagh. It was unsure thereafter to what extent of which the castle was restored as it was noted by Samuel Lewis in 1832 that the castle was once again ‘partially destroyed by Cromwell’ along with another nearby castle during the 17th century invasion.

The Kelly Clan was well known at the time for their skill in building strongholds.

Early Ruling Families.

By 1670, shortly after the Cromwellian invasion of the late 1640s, the townland was owned by a trio of Catholic landholders. Patrick Ffrench, in addition to Garbally, had six other townlands in Tiaquin Barony – Kilbeg, Corrandoo, Doonaun, Ballynamona, Pollacrossaun and Cooloo in addition to properties in counties Mayo and Sligo. George Evellin shared these same townlands in Tiaquin while, in addition, he personally ruled properties in counties Roscommon and Tipperary with the latter being his most expansive base with ten townlands. This was later spelt Evelyn and extensive records are available for that family both for County Galway and in the Ballynacourty area of County Tipperary. The third landowner was another Patrick Ffrench who in addition to Garbally also ruled in Esker, Doonaun and Cooloo.

The Ffrench family is descended from Sir Maximilian de Ffrench, the first of the name, who accompanied their kinsman, William The Conqueror, into England from Normandy in France. Their original place of settlement in Ireland, along with many other English and Anglo-Norman adventurers was County Wexford. From there two branches of the family moved west into Galway (1). One of these branches moved west and bought the lands of the O’Kelly family, building onto the fortifications of the O’Kelly castle and establishing Monivea House. Successive generations of the Ffrenchs worked hard to reclaim useful land from an estate which was mainly bogland and encouraged the growth of plants, especially trees, which would dry out and stabilise the soil. Following the confiscation of their lands during the Cromwellian invasion they were in a position to buy them back again and continued the reclamation process.

At Griffiths Valuation of Tenements, early 1850s, Robert French was the owner of the entire townland. He was a member of the British diplomatic service and served as Secretary to the British Embassy in St. Petersburg and Vienna. He travelled widely and led the life of a rich Diplomat. He married Sophia, only child of Alexander de Kindiakoff, a Russian noble of great wealth with seven estates on the Volga River and they had one child – Kathleen Ffrench. Robert died in Italy in 1896 and Kathleen decided to build a Mausoleum in Monivea where he would be laid to rest. While the Mausoleum is immaculately preserved and maintained only the central tower of the main house and some of stables survive. In fact this was the original castle around which was built a more modern house.

Kathleen (1864 -1938) often visited Monivea from her travels abroad and once wrote that she loved Monivea so much that she “could quite easily settle here”. While Kathleen spent much of her life away, her cousin Rosamund stayed in the house and remained there until she died. A rift developed between the women in later years. Rosamund may have thought that Kathleen ignored Monivea and stopped financing the house and was leading the high life abroad.  Kathleen died in Harbin 1st January 1938. Her body was brought back to Monivea, a distance of four thousand miles. Kathleen left nothing in her Will to her cousin Rosamund but Rosamund inherited the estate following a legal problem – but had died 2 days previously so she never knew. As neither had an heir the Estate passed to Rosamund’s friend Cicily Godwin Austen and her chauffeur Henry Stainer. By the 1940s most of the estate was disposed of by the Land Commission. Kathleen Ffrench willed that the house be used as a home for “indigent artists”. The terms of the Will were never honoured and the house was knocked down though the original tower house around which it was built remains to this day.

Through the decades it appears that the only residents of Garbally townland resided in Garbally House and that situation remained until the late 20th century. During the latter part of the 19th century Garbally House was occupied by Blake

In the early 1800s it Garbally House and a portion of land was leased to Patrick Blake and at the time of Griffith’s Valuation, in the 1850s, it was occupied by Patrick’s son, Thomas Blake. Patrick Blake was an M.P. and was central to the hanging of Neddy Lohan in Cooloo. More information on this event is available on this site (click here)

By 1901 the house was occupied by Dympna Blake, a sister of Thomas, and her nieces Delia and Celia Roche, who were employed as housekeepers. Dympna Blake, or Demmie as she was known, died on July 23rd 1903 to finally end that family name with Garbally. In 1911 the house was occupied by Delia Roche with Charlotte Kelly, a visitor, and Thomas McDonagh, a servant. Garbally house was later purchased by the Ruane Family.

  • 1. The History of the Town and the County of the Town of Galway by James Hardiman Esq. – 1820.
This page was added on 14/02/2020.

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