Street Wise Athlone – Baylough
This series of articles for the Westmeath Independent is run in conjunction with the Street Wise Athlone series on Athlone Community Radio which is broadcast on Wednesdays during Athlone Today at 2.30pm and repeated on Thursday mornings at 10am on The Brekkie Show.
Athlone Miscellany by Gearoid O'Brien
Baylough or Bellaugh is the name of both a townland and a village in the parish of St. Peter’s and the Barony of Athlone, Co Roscommon. The townland consists of almost three hundred and fifty-five acres and stretches from Duogue to Bogganfin and from Monksland to Ranelagh. It is not generally realised that the Batteries and indeed The Shamrock Lodge Hotel are both located in this townland. Today we tend to associate the name with a thriving community on the outskirts of Athlone on the old Galway Road but don’t always realise that this is in fact a village and probably the closest village to the town of Athlone.
The late Kitty Canavan first brought the interesting entry on Bellaugh from P.W. Joyce’s ‘Irish names of places’ to my attention:
“The word bel or beal [bale] primarily signifies a mouth, but in a secondary sense it was used, like the Latin os, to signify an entrance to any place. In this sense, it appears in Bellaugh, the name of a village lying west of Athlone. Between this village and the town there was formerly a slough or miry place called in Irish a lathach [lahagh], which the Four Masters mention by the name of Lathach-Caichtuthbil; and the spot where the village stands was called Bel-lathaigh, the entrance to the lathach, which is now correctly Anglicised Bellaugh”.
Baylough in the Annals of the Four Masters
The following account appears under the year 1227 in the Annals of the Four Masters as translated and edited by John O’Donovan in the mid-nineteenth century:
“Hugh, the son of Cathal Crovderg, [King of Connacht], appointed a conference at Lathach Caichtubil with William Mares (de Marisco), the son of Geoffrey Lord Justice of Ireland. A few only of his chiefs went with him across the Lathach [slough], namely Cormac, the son of Tomaltagh [MacDermot], Dermot, the son of Manus, the son of Murtough O’Conor, Teige, the son of Mahon O’Kerrin, and Rory Mulrenin. William Mares set out to meet them, accompanied by eight horsemen. But when O’Conor recollected the treachery already mentioned, he rose up against the English and excited his people to attack them; and he himself attacked William Mares, and at once took him prisoner. His people responded to O’Conor’s incitement, rushed upon the English, and defeated them; they killed the constable of Athlone, and took Master Slevin and Hugo Arddin prisoners. Hugh sent these Englishmen across the Lathach to be imprisoned; and then, advancing with his troops, he plundered the market of Athlone and burned the whole town. This achievement was of great service to the Connacians, for he [O’Conor] obtained his son and daughter, and all the other hostages of Connaught, who had been in the hands of the English, in exchange for the aforesaid prisoners; and obtained moreover a peace for the men of Connaught.”
John O’Donovan adds an extended footnote concern the place-name Lathach Caichtubil “This Lathach, or slough, is now dried up, but the old men living near Athlone still point out its situation and exact extent. The name is still preserved in that of a village and townland lying immediately to the west of Athlone, in the parish of St. Peter, viz. Beal-Lathaich i.e. the os, mouth, or entrance into the Lathach. The name of the village is now correctly Anglicised Bellaugh, and sometimes, but incorrectly, Bellough, and even Bullock. The Irish, however, call it distinctly Beal Lathaigh, and understand it as a reference to the Lathach which lay between it and Athlone”.
This reference in interesting for several reasons, firstly it tells us that what was once a slough, or mud-filled hollow, was by the 1850s dried up but was remembered only by the ‘old men’.
It seems plausible to believe that this low-lying land between the village of Baylough and Ranelagh had been effectively drained by the cutting of the Athlone canal in 1756 and probably further improved with the Shannon navigation works of the 1840s. It is also interesting because it recalls a time when the Irish language was still widely spoken around Athlone.
Bishop Synge’s Census of 1749
In 1749 the Church of Ireland Bishop of Elphin, Dr Edward Synge, had a census of his diocese taken. The material which he collected is arranged by parish and townland and it lists by name the head of each household together with details of their occupation, their religion, the number and religion of children in the house and the number, sex and religion of any servants in the household. In considering the village of Bellagh (or Baylough) we must look at two areas in Synge’s Census: Gallowshill and Belagh. In 1749 there were eighteen householders in Belagh, with 21 Papist children under 14 years of age, 6 Protestant children in the same age category, 11 Papist children over the age of 14 and 5 Protestant children over the age of 14.
There were eight servants of whom five were men and three were women. The heads of seven households were labourers while another six were hatters, of the remainder one was a shoemaker, one an ale-seller, one a weaver, one a smith and one a widow.
In Gallowshill there were a further nineteen households with 20 ‘Papist’ children and two Protestant children one under 14 and the other over 14 both belonging to the ‘Widow Grey’. The occupations in Gallowshill included eight labourers, one beggar, a skinner, a brogue-maker, a glover and a hatter.
Some of the family names found in Belagh in 1749 inclued Doyle; Dolan; Hargadn; Conner; Fallon and Frane. Those in Gallowshill included: Deleny; Buckley; Burn; Curry; Duffy; Fflyn; Curley; Branan; Conr and Ffallon.
In 1825 Arthur Robinson (brewer) of Fardrum leased a house called Annsfield (and formerly known as Bellaugh) from Joseph Sproule. The property consisted of a dwelling-house, offices and garden and stood on a four-acre plot – Arthur was paying a rent of £70 per annum. It was probably a reasonably successful business in the early years though he was in direct competition with other larger breweries in Athlone.
In 1848 Arthur Robinson assigned his interest in Annsfield to his son, Arthur John, who continued to operate a brewing business from there until the mid-1850s. Arthur John was declared insolvent at the Athlone Petty Sessions in 1855. Annesfield House was demolished in recent years to make way for the Annesfield Wood housing estate.
Famous Connections with Baylough
T.P. O’Connor, politician and writer, bought the house known as ‘The Grove’ in Baylough for his parents. Three bishops are associated with Baylough – Bishop Browne of Elphin lived in Baylough for a while before living in O’Connell Street; Bishop Lyster of Achonry was a son of Patrick Lyster and his family lived in Baylough before moving to King Street and the retired Bishop of Clonfert, Dr John Kirby, is also a native of the village of Baylough.
Two of well-known local historians are also natives of Baylough: Rosaleen Fallon who with her husband, Michael, has done so much to record the history of Clonown and John Burke who has written three fine books, most recently ‘Roscommon: The Irish Revolution 1912-23’ published by the prestigious Four Courts Press last year which contains plenty to interest Athlone and South Roscommon readers.
Next article: Monksland
See previous articles in the series here