Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
It’s yet another damp and miserable day – typical Irish spring weather – but if you put on your raincoat, you can come along with me for an hour and a bit to visit the town of Ballina in county Mayo.
Ballina is an interesting town to visit, on our walk we can see evidence of the town’s settlement from the earliest times to the modern day and I hope that I can share a whole lot of history as we go along.
Let’s park at the railway station on the outskirts of the town, and off we go … The name Ballina comes from the Irish ‘ Béal an Átha’, meaning ‘mouth of the ford, and it’s located on the mouth of the river Moy. Now, the Moy is one of the most important rivers in Ireland for fishing and anglers come from all over the world to fish for salmon, earning the town the title The Salmon Capital of Ireland !!
Our first stop will be primrose hill, just behind the station and let’s take a look at the dolmen of the Four Maols. This is a bronze age tomb that dates to 2000 BC so we can see that Ballina was inhabited thousands of years ago . It is said this is the burial place of the four Maols and it is also known as the Giant’s table as the capstone is so high off the ground ! Let’s head towards the river and take a look at St Muredach’s Cathedral,. This imposing building was completed in 1834 . Now, Who was Saint Muredach ? Muredach was the local bishop in the 6th Century and the ruins of one of his churches can be seen right beside the Cathedral . It is said that he was appointed as head of the local church of by St Patrick in the 6th Century, and his feast is celebrated on August 12th. Have you seen our new St Patricks Pendant ? https://connemaramarble.com/…/connemara-marble…/
Let’s now head out the Crossmolina road to visit the only remains of the old Ballina workhouse. These workhouses were the only refuge for the poor during the famine in the 1840’s and this one was opened in 1847 . Life was terrible in the workhouse but several locals , including one Edward Blewitt kept thousands alive by building roads and carrying out drainage work. Edward Blewitt and his family emigrated from Ballina toward the end of the Great Famine, their only thoughts were on survival and making a new life in America. 170 years later , Blewitt’s great-great-great grandson, Joe Biden became president of the United States . Biden and his family came to Ballina to visit their roots in 2016 and nowadays a mural has been painted close to where the family home once stood.
The rain seems to be getting heavier but let’s walk through the centre of town and have a look around. There are a good selection of pubs, shops and restaurants and one more interesting stop . On the corner of Walsh street stands the Jackie Clarke Museum. Jackie Clarke was a local businessman who during his lifetime amassed over 100,000 artefacts spanning 400 years of Irish history. On his death in 2000 he donated the collection to Ballina and we can enjoy a browse of his charming , eclectic and interesting collection – as the sign says – One man , One museum .
I will bet you are busting for some refreshment, so lest head back to the car and take a short drive out of town to Ballina Quay.
Long ago the Quay was a centre for commerce , trade and export of salmon. There was an Ice house built to help preserve the catch and nowadays it’s a trendy hotel. Nearby we can see the remains of the cranes and sheds. As we stop for yest another WAW – Wild Atlantic Way signpost , can you see an old abandoned ship lying in the river ? that’s the Crete Boom and it has an interesting story to tell ….
In England during the first World War there was a shortage of steel for shipbuilding leading to the invention of a ship made from Concrete. These vessels were made from concrete poured into a huge mould and then covered in tar to make them waterproof. 52 Barges and 12 Tugboats were constructed and most stay afloat until the 1930’s . The Crete Boom was purchased by Ballina harbour to be used as a kind of breakwater and prevent the river silting up . When the ship arrived and moored at the quay it was leaking badly and the harbourmaster was worried it would sink and block the jetty , so he ordered it to be towed mid-stream where indeed it sank . It remained there until 1974 when it was moved slightly to its present location and does its work preventing a build-up of silt and the free running of salmon upstream !
Time for that well earned cup of tea. I hope that you did not get too wet on today’s walk, and I hope you enjoyed coming along with me.
Stay well until next time , Stephen.