BALLINTOBBER, a parish, partly in the half-barony of BALLYMOE, but chiefly in the barony of BALLINTOBBER, county of ROSCOMMON, and province of CONNAUGHT, 4 miles (S. E. by S.) from Castlerea; containing 2480 inhabitants.
This place is supposed to derive its name, signifying "the town of the wells;" from some fine springs near the village. It is uncertain at what period the castle, now in nuns, was built: tradition ascribes its erection to Cathol Creudfarag O'Conor, in the 18th century; but Ledwich attributes it to Sir John King, to whom the property was granted in 1605. The same writer asserts that the place had its origin in an abbey founded in 1216 by O'Conor, King of Connaught. In 1590, Hugh O'Conor Don or Dun, having incurred the hatred of his sept by accepting an English knighthood and remaining in allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, was besieged in the ancient castle by Hugh Roe O'Donnell, and was taken prisoner and deprived of his chieftaincy. In the war of 1641, Lord Ranelagh, Lord-President of Connaught, led a force of 900 foot and two or three troops of horse against the castle, then the principal strong hold of the O'Conor Don, near which were assembled 3000 horse and foot of the Mayo forces under Butler, and the insurgents of this county under O'Conor himself. The lord-president, to draw them into the plain ground, feigned a retreat for about three miles, and was pursued by the enemy; but turning round, he charged and routed them. The parish is situated on the river Suck, and on the road from Roscommon to Castlerea; and comprises 4274 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. Considerable tracts of bog are spread over its surface; and there is a quarry of excellent limestone. The village contains about twenty-six dwellings, all cabins except three ; and behind it to the west, at the extremity of a limestone ridge, are the grand and picturesque ruins of the castle.
The principal seats are
- Willsgrove, the property of W. R. Wills, Esq. ;
- Enfield, the seat of P, O'Connor, Esq,;
- French-dawn, of Mrs. French;
- Fortwilliam, the residence of P. Teighe, Esq. ;
- Willsbrook, of O'Connor, Esq. ; and
- Tenny Park, the seat of T. T. Byrne, Esq.
A large fair for horses, formerly much resorted to for the sale of yarn, is held on Aug. 25th. Petty sessions are also held here, generally monthly.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Elphin, forming the corps of the prebend of Ballintobber in the cathedral church of Elphin, and united by act of parliament of the 9th of Queen Anne to the vicarages of Baslick and Kilkeevan, which three parishes constitute the union of Ballintobber or Kilkeevan, in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £200 ; and the gross tithes of the benefice to £625. The church of the union is in Kilkeevan : it is a neat edifice of ancient English architecture, built in 1818 by a loan of £2500 from the late Board of First Fruits. The glebe-house, also situated in that parish, was built by aid of a gift of £100 and a loan of £825 from the same Board: the glebe comprises 14 acres 8 roods 80 perches.
The Roman Catholic parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church: the chapel is situated in the village.
There is a school at Willsgrove under the patronage of W. R. Wills, Esq., by whom the school-house was built, in which about 80 boys and 40 girls are taught; and there are two hedge schools, in which are about 180 boys and 40 girls.
The remains of the castle consist of a quadrangular enclosure, 270 feet in length and 237 in breadth, defended by strong polygonal towers at each angle, and by two others, one on each side of the principal gateway, facing an esplanade at the end of the limestone ridge on which they are situated; they are surrounded by a deep fosse, over which was a draw-bridge from a postern. The towers much resemble those of Caernarvon castle, and that on the south-west is very imposing and picturesque.