Saturday, 25 May 2013

Ballyshannon 400 and Forthcoming Blogs for our Worldwide Diaspora

Ballyshannon 400

Ballyshannon 400 will showcase the cultural, sporting and community activities for which the area is renowned. There will be a host of events on in the town every day from 5th-11th August. Ballyshannon 400 looks back to a moment in time when the town was granted a charter and became a borough town. Ballyshannon Town Council in association with Backing Ballyshannon are organising a week of events to mark the granting of a charter to the town 400 years ago (1613-2013). There will be daily events from the 5th – 11th August 2013 when it is hoped that many of our diaspora and friends will visit Ballyshannon.

Background to the Charter of 1613

  • The English government as part of the conquest of Ireland set about planting the land with settlers from mainland Britain. The Ulster Plantation at the beginning of the 17th century resulted in the dispossession of the Gaelic chieftains and their replacement by servitors and undertakers who were rewarded for their military service in the wars against the Irish amongst other things. The O’ Donnells lost all their lands in the Ballyshannon area as did the Cistercian monks at Assaroe and the Ó Cléirighs at Kilbarron Castle. 

  • To maintain control of places like Ballyshannon the English demolished the O’Donnell castle in the Market Yard. They erected barracks to control this important crossing point on the Erne which led into west Ulster. Sir Henry Folliott who had served in the military wars against the Irish was granted the town and much of the surrounding areas. He later became one of three members of his family to be Barons of Ballyshannon. Trinity College was also granted lands including the area around Wardtown Castle and lands around Bundoran.

Ballyshannon Created a Borough by Royal Charter 1613

  • On the 23rd March 1613 Ballyshannon was granted a charter by King James1 which allowed it to have borough status. Around the same time Lifford and Donegal Town were also created as borough towns.
  • Ballyshannon was to be developed as a town with a strong military garrison to defend the English interests and to control the native Irish.  
  • Another reason for developing the town was to make it economically attractive for the settlers as a centre for trade for merchants and others. 
  • Ballyshannon was ideally located as a seaport which could expand on this commercial trade through importing and exporting goods. 
  • The town was to grow as a centre for supplying a wide hinterland including the strong garrison based here.

Some of the Privileges of being a Borough Town 

  • Ballyshannon was granted a corporation with 12 burgesses under a Provost (Portreeve). The first 12 appointed were Bennet Payne (Provost), Henry Folliott, William Rastell, Richard Bennett, Stephen Orme, William Atkinson, John Connor, John Glasson, Hugh Allingham, John Forster, John  Stephenson and Francis Edmunds.

  • The burgesses also had the right to hold fairs and markets in Ballyshannon. The memory of these markets is maintained in the Market Yard which nowadays is a car park. Until recent times the town also had a Market House and a Fair Green which nowadays is Allingham Park. The town down through the subsequent centuries was a successful market town and the cattle and horse fairs drew dealers from Ulster, Connacht and served a wide area. The biggest fair of the year was the Harvest Fair held annually in September.

  • Under the Charter Ballyshannon was entitled to have a court of record which could try civil cases up to the amount of £3-6-8.

  • The burgesses also could introduce bye-laws, regulate tolls and set up a guild of merchants with a common seal.

Ballyshannon had Two Members of Parliament 

  • The burgesses were able to elect 2 members of parliament in this closed borough. This meant that a small elite controlled who the members of parliament would be; and needless to say whose interests they would serve. People like “The Speaker Conolly” who had been born in the town and went on to become one of the richest men in Ireland, in the early 18th century, controlled (through the burgesses) the election of these members of parliament.The first two members of parliament for Ballyshannon were Paul Gore who resided at Magherabeg near Donegal Town and Edward Cherrye whose name is still recalled in a place name on the road to Belleek called Cherrymount. 
  • When these closed boroughs were disbanded by the Act of Union 1801 the Earl of Belmore who lived at Castlecoole which stills stands close to Enniskillen golf club was paid £15,000 compensation as he controlled the 2 seats at that period. He had originally bought the 2 seats in parliament from the Conollys for £12,000. Castlecoole is a fine period house which was built with Portland stone, marble etc. which had been shipped to Ballyshannon and then brought by barge up the Erne to Enniskillen. From the Act of Union onwards Ballyshannon no longer had 2 members of parliament.

Ballyshannon the Largest  and Oldest Town in County Donegal in the 17th Century

  • Towns as we know them today were quite small in the 17th century.  In 1695 Ballyshannon was the biggest town in County Donegal with a population of 134 made up of 71 Irish and 63 English and Scots. Donegal Town had a population of 95. Letterkenny had a population of 73.
  • In the overall history of the town it should be remembered that Ballyshannon is recognised, in the legendary accounts, as the place where the first settlers resided over 5,000 years ago. The area has a very rich Gaelic culture which will be discussed in a future blog which will reflect on the O’Donnells, the Ó Cléirighs and the other families who have left us a proud heritage prior to the Ulster Plantation. 

Lots Happening in Ballyshannon in Early August 2013- Hope You Can Make It

In the lead up to Ballyshannon 400 visitors will be in town for the Ballyshannon Folk Festival which takes place from the 1st to the 4th August also for a Dedication Service and weekend events to commemorate the Erne Fishery Case  on 3rd and 4th of August. A future blog will discuss the victory in 1933 won by the people in what has become known as The Erne  Fishery Case 

So Ballyshannon will have lots of interesting events happening and it would be an ideal time for our diaspora to be here for some or all of Ballyshannon 400 from 5th-11th August when there will be daily events of a historic, cultural and community nature. 

Check out the events you might like to attend later in the year including Ballyshannon 400 on  Lots happening in Ballyshannon in the summertime including Rory Gallagher Festival in June 
Ballyshannon Folk Festival 

Forthcoming Blogs in June 2013 

1st June The Most Unusual Legal Case Ever in Ballyshannon
8th June The Conversion of Ballyshannon 
15th June A Forgotten Story plus The Top Ten Most Popular Blogs in 2013 
22nd June The Games People Played a Century Ago

Ballyshannon Musings:  Good to hear that people from the Ballyshannon area are enjoying the blog in over 40 countries. Please let people with an interest in Ballyshannon and surrounding areas know about this site, particularly people who are not living locally and those who are abroad. The site is called Ballyshannon Musings and there are a number of back issues available on the internet. 
Copy this link and it can be googled at The site can be located on the internet (or by connecting to my Facebook page). New items will be posted every week on Ballyshannon Musings during 2013the year of “The Gathering”. The blogs are original and are not taken from the book below. 

Welcome New Attractions for Visitors to Ballyshannon
  1. The Ballyshannon and District Museum, with coffee shop available, is newly opened  in Slevin's Department Store.
  2. Dicey Reilly's Micro-Brewery Market Street, the first established in County Donegal
  3. "Local Hands"  Arts and Crafts Gallery  newly opened in Main Street Ballyshannon.

A New Local History suitable for those at Home and Away 

Anthony Begley, local historian, published a new book entitled: "Ballyshannon. Genealogy and History" which reveals newly researched history and genealogy of the town, extending as far as the Rossnowlagh, Cashelard, Corlea, Clyhore, Higginstown and Finner areas. Includes the parishes of Kilbarron and Magh Ene.
The genealogy material provides detailed guidelines for anyone tracing their roots in the area or anywhere in County Donegal or Ireland. The book contains 500 pages and is richly illustrated with stunning colour, aerial photography, original illustrations and rare photographs of the area not seen before.

Topics include: How to go about Tracing your Roots/The first settlers in the area/ Newly researched history of the town of Ballyshannon and the townlands in Kilbarron and Mágh Éne parishes/ Records of the first travellers and tourists to Ballyshannon, Bundoran, Belleek and Ballintra/An aerial guide to place names along the Erne from Ballyshannon to the Bar/Flora and Fauna of the area/ A history of buildings and housing estates in the locality/Graveyard Inscriptions from the Abbey graveyard, St. Joseph’s and St. Anne’s /Rolling back the years with many memories of the Great Famine, Independence struggle, hydro-electric scheme, Gaelic games, boxing, handball, Boy Scouts, soccer, mummers, characters, organisations, folklore and lots more.

Book Available from The Novel Idea Bookshop Ballyshannon, Ballyshannon and District Museum, The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or Anthony Begley West Rock Ballyshannon.  Enquiries welcome for postal and other details.

Next Blog posted Saturday 1st June is called "The Most Unusual Legal Case Ever in Ballyshannon"


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