Ballinamore (Irish: Béal an Átha Móir, meaning "mouth of the big ford")[2] is a small town in County Leitrim, Ireland.


Béal an Átha Móir
Main Street-High Street, Ballinamore
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54.052°N 7.802°W / 54.052; -7.802
CountryRepublic of Ireland
CountyCounty Leitrim
74 m (243 ft)
Irish Grid ReferenceH131112


Béal an Átha Móir, corrupted Bellanamore, means "town at the mouth of the big ford", so named because it was a main crossing (ford) of the Yellow River. The gaels called the baile Átha na Chuirre ("homestead of ford of the afflictions") because a hospital-house stood near the bridge in the 13th century.[3][4]


Ballinamore is in south county Leitrim, 19 km (12 mi) from County Fermanagh, and built on the 'Yellow River'. The R202 regional road intersects the R199 and R204 roads here. A historic barge waterway, built in the 1840s to connect the Erne and Shannon rivers, was reopened for boat traffic in 1994 as the Shannon–Erne Waterway. Ballinamore has daily Local-link bus services to Carrick on Shannon and Dromod railway station Monday to Saturday.

Notable features

  • The local Church of Ireland church is the oldest building in Ballinamore in the 1780s from the ruins of the local Roman Catholic Church (St Patrick's) demolished during the reformation and penal laws.
  • The Ballinamore Estate was granted to the Ormsby family in 1677.[5] Elizabethan settlers located at first in County Sligo, from where they spread into Counties Mayo, Roscommon and Galway. The Ballinamore branch were descended from the Ormsby of Comyn or Cummin in County Sligo.
  • A monument to the IRA Chief of Staff, TD, and local councillor John Joe McGirl is located on the bridge crossing the Shannon-Erne Waterway. The monument bears the phrase: "An Unbroken and Unbreakable Fenian".
  • Christy Moore released a song called The Ballad of Ballinamore in 1984, giving the writing credits to Fintan Vallely. Later compilations have referred to the song as simply Ballinamore. The song was a parody of an earlier Irish rebel song called The Man from the Daily Mail. It was written after an RTE investigation in the Ballinamore area for evidence of the abducted racehorse Shergar (believed to be abducted by the Provisional IRA) found several locals refusing to say anything other than "no comment".


After the 5th century, the Conmaicne settled this area, displacing and absorbing an older tribe named the "Masraigh".[6] These Conmhaícne ancestors were called the "Cenel Luachán". This is the origins of Ballinamore.

In 1244, the town (Irish: baile) was named Ath na Chuirre ("ford of the afflictions") because, according to the Irish Annals, a hospital dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (Irish: spital) stood beside the ford. Saint Bridget's church, and holy-well, stood on a high hill one kilometre north of present-day town.[7][3][4]

In 1256, the Battle of Magh Slecht occurred nearby, leading to the division of Bréifne between the O'Rourkes of North Leitrim and the O'Reillys of East Bréifne (modern-day County Cavan).[7]

In 1621, the name 'Ballinamore' is first mentioned, when under the Plantation of Leitrim, the "Manor of Ballinamore" was granted to Sir Fenton Parsons with 600 acres (2.4 km2) of arable land.[8]

Around 1693, Ballinamore Iron works was established, and in production until circa 1747 when the business was put up for sale, the assets including a furnace, forge, slitting mill, mine yards, coal yards, large quantities of pig iron, mine and coals.[8][9][a 1] The native Irish forests bounding the parish were exhausted for this mining.[10]

In the 18th century, dispossessed Catholics from County Down settled in the area.

In 1860, the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal was opened, but declined in use after the 24th October 1887, the date Ballinamore railway station opened. The railway station was part of the narrow gauge Cavan and Leitrim Railway and was the hub of the line, with the locomotive depot and works. It was the point where the line from Dromod through Mohill and Ballinamore to Belturbet branched to Kiltubrid, Drumshanbo and Arigna.[11] The railway line was used until closure on 1 April 1959.[12]

In the 19th, and early 20th centuries, annual fairs were held at Ballinamore on- May 12, and November 12.[13][14]

In 1925, Ballinamore town comprised 163 houses, approximately 28 being licensed to sell alcohol.[15]

In 1994, the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal was reopened as the Shannon-Erne Waterway, bringing tourists to the district.

Annalistic references

Various Irish Annals mention the baile of Ath na Cuirre, i.e. Ballinamore,[3][4] in 1244AD. A Connachta army marched from Fenagh, County Leitrim towards the baile, presumably along the R202 route. At the Yellow river ford, today's bridge into main street, the soldiers vandalised the nearby Hospital of Saint John the Baptist, accidentally killing one of their own,[a 2] a important leader of Clann Murtagh O'Connor named Mhaghnusa mic Muircertaig Muimnigh.[16][17][18]

Irish: "Do imdhigh in slúag iarsin ass an mbaile amach, ... co h-Ath na Cuirre forsan nGeircthigh, & do bhí an tuile tar bruachaib di, & ni rancotar tairrsi condernsat tech sbidél Eoin Baisde do bhái a nimeal in átha do scaoiled, da chur tarsan abhuinn do dhul tairsi dont slúaig; condechaid mac Muircertaig Muimnigh, .i. Maghnus, isin tech, & Concobar mac Cormaic Mic Diarmada; condubairt Maghnus risin bfer do bhí thúass ag scaoiled an tighe, ag sínshépe a cloidem uadha súas, agsin an tairrnge chongbhus an maide gan tuitim; leisin comrádh sin do thuit airrghe an tighe a gcend Mhaghnusa mic Muircertaig Muimnigh, gonderna brúligh día chinn, gur bhó marbh dhe ar an lathair sin"

"English: The host went afterwards out of the town, ... to Ath-na-cuirre on the Geirctech; and the flood was over its banks, and they did not pass over it until they pulled down the hospital-house of John the Baptist, which was on the margin of the ford, to place it across the river, that the host might pass over it. The son of Muirchertach Muimhnech, i.e. Maghnus, and Conchobhar, son of Cormac Mac Diarmada, went into the house, when Maghnus, pointing up his sword, said to the man who was overhead throwing down the house, ‘there is the nail which prevents the beam from falling.’ At these words the rafter of the house fell on the head of Maghnus, son of Muirchertach Muimhnech, and fractured his skull, so that he died on the spot;".[19]

[text: Annals of Lough Ce][19]

See also

Notes and references


  1. Iron works at Ballinamore, Castlefore, and Dromod, were established on Irish land confiscated during the plantations of Ireland, by english adventurers named Capt. William Slacke, John Skerret, and Joseph Hall.[10]
  2. Or a sudden blast of wind according to the Annals of Clonmacnoise- "Phelym O’Connor with great forces … came to the Corre, where there was a tymber house of Couples, into which Magnus m’Mortagh, and Connor m’Cormack entered, & immediately there arose a great blase of winde, which fell down the house, whereof one couple fell on the said Magnus … was struken dead;"

Primary sources

  1. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Ballinamore". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  2. Placenames Database of Ireland (see archival records)
  3. Early and O'Seaneachain 2015, p. 439.
  4. 1935 & Seymour, p. 245.
  5. "Estate Record: Ormsby (Ballinamore)". Landed Estates Database. NUI Galway. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  6. O'Duigeannain 1934, p. 113-140.
  7. AFM.
  8. Fr Dan Gallogly (1991). Sliabh an Iarainn Slopes, History of the Town and Parish of Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim.
  9. Meehan 1926, pp. 413.
  10. Kelly 1995, pp. 1-12.
  11. Baker, Michael HC (1999). Irish Narrow Gauge Railways. A View from the Past. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2680-7.
  12. "Ballinamore station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
  13. Longman 1819, pp. 405.
  14. Watsons 1830.
  15. Irish Free State 1925, pp. 31.
  16. Bambury, p. 1244.5.
  17. AFM, p. M1244.6.
  18. Simms 2001, p. 5.
  19. Hennessy, p. LC1244.4.

Secondary sources

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