Ballintubber & Skehanagh
County Mayo is located on Ireland's western seaboard. During its long history it has experienced invasions,
war, the dispossession of its people, famine, emigration, revolution and rebirth.
Ballintubber is a small collection of townlands situated between Castlebar and Ballinrobe. Its name in Irish is Baile an Tobair Phádraig which means Town of the Well of Patrick - which is
a succinct explanation of how it got its name. St. Patrick founded a church here in the 5th century close to a well where he baptised the local people. In 1216, King Cathal O'Conor of Connacht founded
a substantial abbey of limestone in the Romanesque style. The abbey served pilgims on their way to the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick on the coast. In 1653 disaster struck in the form of the burning and suppression
of the abbey by Oliver Cromwell's marauding army which was at that time conducting a brutal military campaign in Ireland.
The period after 1653 was characterised by the largely total assumption of control of Ireland by the English authorities. Ownership of land almost completely transferred to new English settlers and some Irish people loyal to English rule. Repressive laws
were enacted to suppress the Catholic religion in a bid to sway the Irish population towards conversion to the established church of the English administration. This period of "penal laws" in the 17th century throws up the story of a
government bounty hunter called Seán na Sagart or John of the Priests. Seán had close associations with Ballintubber but ultimately met his end in the neighbouring village of Partry. He is reputed to be buried in the Abbey graveyard, his grave marked
by a sinister looking gnarled tree known as the Seán na Sagart tree.
Skehanagh is the townland in which Mathew O'Malley and his wife Sarah Fadden settled, probably after their marriage in 1845. The placename in Irish is Sciáthanch which translates to english as "abundant in briars".