5 Things Friday – Co. Mayo Facts

Welcome to my 5 Things Friday blog, where this week I’m taking a look at some interesting facts about fabulous Co. Mayo. One of Ireland’s most beautiful counties, Mayo is bounded on the North and West by the Atlantic Ocean and inland by Galway, Sligo and Roscommon. It has lots of interesting things to see and do and some pretty amazing scenery. Below are some of my favourite facts about the county or its sons and daughters.

Population of Co. Mayo: 130,638 (2011 Census)

Area: 5,586 Sq. Km (2,157 Sq. mi)

Map of Co. Mayo

Map of Co. Mayo

Co. Mayo comes from the Irish Contae Mhaigh Eo, meaning ‘Plain of the yews’ (as in trees, not as in ‘how are yews doing?’). Area-wise, it is the third largest county in Ireland, but fifteenth largest in population terms, so there are plenty of wide-open spaces to enjoy. There is a wealth of interesting places and sights in Mayo, not least Achill Island, the largest island in the country, of its West coast. Some of my nights out ever have been had in Westport in pubs like Matt Molloy’s and you would be hard pushed to find anything better for the soul than a walk along Keem beach on the aforementioned Achill Island. As ever with my ‘5 Things Friday’ blog, there are many amazing things that I’ve learned on my Ireland Planner journey that I could have added below, but I’ve chosen a select few of my favourites for my 5 Things Friday reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy them.

5 Things about Co. Mayo you might not know from my 5 Things Friday!

1. From Foxford to the father of the Argentinian navy

Admiral William Brown

Admiral William Brown

5 Things Friday brings me next to man by the name of William Brown, he was born in Foxford in Co. Mayo in 1777. He moved with his family to Pennsylvania in 1786 where his father died shortly afterwards from yellow fever, the light of heaven to him. After a chance encounter on the banks of the Delaware River, Brown became a cabin boy on a shop moored in port and so began a ten year career on the Atlantic, working his way up to merchant captaincy. He was press-ganged (basically kidnapped!) onto a British ship and captured during the Napoleonic wars and imprisoned before escaping and making his way to England where he justifiably renounced his naval career. He married there soon after and moved to Uruguay, setting himself up as a merchant with a ship trading between Montevideo and Argentina. He amassed some wealth as the years passed and eventually moved to Argentina, operating a regular sailing-packet service between Uruguay and Argentina, the first of its kind in South America, a feat enough in itself. However, poor Brown’s ship was destroyed by the Spanish colonial government of the time, who felt Brown represented a threat to their mercantile interests. Argentina’s coastline was under threat from Spanish raiders and they decided to provide ships to protect their coast and Brown was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine fleet. Admiral Brown went on to lead the Argentine Navy to victories in the Argentine Independence War and the Cisplatine (Argentinian-Brazilian) War amongst others and he is today considered a National Hero of Argentina. There are statues commemorating Admiral Brown in both Argentina and Foxford, his place of birth. There is also a statue of Brown on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin. Fitting tributes to a brave and legendary Mayo native and delighted to add him to my 5 Things Friday.

2. It’s all in a name

Charles Boycott by Leslie Ward for Vanity Fair, 1888

Charles Boycott by Leslie Ward for Vanity Fair, 1888

Nowadays, the term ‘Boycott’ is in common use as a way of describing a protest by a group of people by abstaining from using, buying from or dealing with a person or organisation. It is often for social or political reasons and has proven effective in many cases to force a change in behaviour for the better in the targeted individual or company. I have to say, I myself and my friends once used it as an efficient way of getting out of swimming lessons in a freezing cold Cavan lake. But did you know that the word ‘Boycott’ itself was coined in Co. Mayo?! Captain Charles Boycott was the land agent of an absentee landlord Lord Erne, near Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. In 1880, harvests had been poor and Lord Erne offered his tenants a 10% reduction in their rents. They demanded a 25% reduction and he refused, and Boycott tried to evict 11 tenants from the land. Everyone in the locality shunned Boycott as a result – his workers stopped working, local traders refused to deal with him and even the postman stopped delivering letters. This meant that Boycott could hire no-one to harvest his crop and eventually 50 Orangemen volunteers had to be escorted to and from Claremorris by 1,000 policemen and soldiers, though there was no violence. The crop was harvested, but for far less than the cost of the protection, which somewhat defeated the purpose. Boycott’s name spread nationally and then internationally and the term soon became a verb. Newspapers as far away as the New York Tribune reported on the story, and the The Times in London became the first newspaper to use the name in relation to the kind of organised isolation we associate it with today. The name stuck and has been in use around the world ever since. I thought this was worth a mention in my 5 Days Friday.

3. The 100th Mayor of New York

New York Mayor Bill O'Dwyer

New York Mayor Bill O’Dwyer

A great story for my 5 things Friday. William O’Dwyer was born in the small village of Bohola in Co. Mayo and as a young boy considered a life in the priesthood. After abandoning his religious studies, he moved to New York in 1910 where he worked first as a labourer and then as a police officer. He studied law at night and eventually, in 1923, became a Brooklyn court judge. Popular among his contemporaries, he became District Attorney for King’s County in 1939 and his prosecution, in this role, of the crime syndicate known as ‘Murder Inc.’ made him a national celebrity. He ran for mayor in 1941 but lost to LaGuardia and so went to fight in World War Two, achieving the rank of Brigadier General. On his return, he ran again in 1945, winning on the Democratic ticket, his reputation aided by his military efforts. Some of his achievements in office include working to make New York the home of the head office of the United Nations and presiding over the city’s first one billion dollar budget! After his resignation in 1950 he was appointed US Ambassador to Mexico by President Truman but questions his association with organised crime figures dogged him his whole life. He died in 1964 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. What an incredible life journey for a lad from Bohola to the highest office in the Big Apple. Well worth a mention in my 5 days Friday.

4. The Titanic village

The Addergoole Titanic Memorial

The Addergoole Titanic Memorial

Next stop for my 5 Things Friday is to Lahardane a small village in the parish of Addergoole in Co. Mayo. In April 1912 it waved goodbye to 14 of its parishioners as they made the long journey to Castlebar and on to Cobh in Co. Cork (then Queenstown) to sail on the great Titanic liner for a new life in America. Sad to see their loved ones leave, but supportive of their dreams for a better life abroad, their loved ones and neighbours held an ‘American wake’ for them before they left so they could all say their goodbyes. These were so-called because often those who went to America often never made it back home for various reasons and so their leaving was akin to the death of a loved one, never to be seen again. After tearful farewells and good wishes, the Addergoole Fourteen (as they became known) set off for Cork to join the 109 other passengers boarding the mighty ship in Cobh. Little did they know that days later tragedy would strike and the ship would sink. Of the fourteen who boarded, eleven poor souls lost their lives that night, marking arguably the largest loss of life from any one area amongst the Titanic’s passengers. When word of the tragedy reached Lahardane, locals held real wakes with only photographs of their loved ones in lieu of bodies. It was a major loss to such a small and close community and the Addergoole Fourteen are remembered to this day. On the morning of the 15th of April every year at 2.20am, the church bell chimes 11 slow and solemn times for the victims, followed by 3 quicker chimes for the survivors. A sad and lonesome reminder of a tragic event that fractured this small Irish parish.

5.The deserted village

The deserted village of Slievemore

The deserted village of Slievemore

5 Things Friday brings you next to Slievemore. Standing like sentries in a remote corner of Achill Island, sheltered by Slievemore Mountain, are 80-100 stone cottages that are a haunting reminder of bygone times. Known as Slievemore, it is the largest and most recently abandoned ‘booley’ village on Achill Island, though it dates much farther back than that. Booleying was the practice of living in different locations in summer and winter, mainly to allow cattle to graze in summer pastures. It continued in Achill long after it had been abandoned elsewhere and so there are several examples of these settlements on the island. Findings at the site indicate that there was a settlement in this area at least as far back as early medieval times. An hour passes easily as you wander through the ancient homes, echoes of distant lives and laughter whistling on the Atlantic breeze. It feels like stepping back in time and is a lovely place to escape for a while and reflect or just enjoy the amazing barren landscape.

So there you have it for another edition 5 Things Friday. A few of my favourite ‘interesting things’ about stunning Co. Mayo. As ever, there are many more, but I’ll save those for another date. Please feel free to comment and please share my 5 Things Friday blog with your friends.

Happy Irish travels,

Tara


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