Achill Island History, Co Mayo, Ireland
A brief history of Achill
Achill has a long history of human settlement and there is evidence that Achill was inhabited as many as 5,000 years ago. Megalithic tombs (see picture, right) and promontory forts testifying to this can be seen at Slievemore, along the Atlantic Drive and on Achill Beg Island.
Kildamhnait on the south east coast of Achill is named after St. Damhnait, or Dymphna, who founded a church there in the 16th century. There is also a holy well just outside the graveyard. The present church was built in the 1700's and the graveyard contains memorials to the victims of two of Achill's greatest tragedies, the Kirchintilloch Fire (1937) and the Clew Bay Drowning (1894).
Grace O'Malley's Castle
Kildamhnait Castle is a 15th century tower house associated with the O' Malley Clan, who were once a ruling family of Achill. Grace O' Malley, or Granuaile, the most famous of the O' Malley's was born in Clare Island around 1530. Her father was the chieftain of the barony of Murrisk. The O'Malleys were a powerful sea faring family, who traded widely and refused to submit to English rule. Grace became a fearless leader and gained fame as a sea captain and pirate. She is reputed to have met with Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1593. She died around 1603 and is buried in the O'Malley family tomb on Clare Island.
Achill Mission (The Colony)
One of Achill's most famous historical sites is that of the Achill Mission or 'the Colony' at Dugort. In 1831 the Protestant Reverend Edward Nangle founded a proselytising mission at Dugort. The Mission included schools, cottages, an orphanage, a small hospital and a hotel (nowThe Slievemore Hotel). The 'Colony' was very successful for a time and regularly produced a newspaper called the 'Achill Missionary Herald'. The Reverend Nangle expanded his mission into Mweelin, where a 'school' was built. The Achill Mission began to decline slowly after Nangle was moved from Achill and was finally closed in the 1880's. Edward Nangle died in 1883.
Railway Line to Achill
In 1894, the Westport - Newport railway line was extended to Achill Sound. The train station is now a hostel. The train provided a great service to Achill, but it also fulfilled an ancient prophecy. Brian Rua O' Cearbhain had prophesied that 'carts on iron wheels' would carry bodies into Achill on their first and last journey. In 1894, the first train on the Achill railway carried the bodies of victims of the Clew Bay Drowning. This tragedy occurred when a boat overturned in Clew Bay, drowning thirty two young people. They had been going to meet the steamer which would take them to Scotland for potato picking.
The Kirkintilloch Burning Disaster in 1937 fulfilled the second part of the prophecy, when the bodies of ten victims were carried by rail to Achill. These people had died in a fire in a 'bothy'. This term referred to the temporary accommodation provided for those who went to Scotland to pick potatoes. Young people from Achill spent their summers work in Scotland. Nowadays, most of the young people of Achill continue in school until they are 17 or 18, in one of the two post-primary schools and gain employment in modern high tech companies in Ireland and abroad.
Achill History continued »