by Thomas Langan (1909 - 2002)
Originally published in the North Mayo Historical Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, 1988/9 as "Two Wild Nights in Ballinglen., by Tom Langan Ex-N.T."

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(1) Echoes of the Tithe Wars

Editor's note: This first report gives us echoes in the local folklore of Ballinglen, Ballycastle concerning the Tithe War of the eighteen-thirties.

It was late September. Since early morning it had been raining steadily soft rain which gradually got heavier as the day wore on. In the evening the roar of Pollaphuca could be heard all over the Glen.

Before closing his door for the night the tithe proctor took a look at his well stocked haggard - thirteen neat stacks of oats all neatly thatched with green rushes secured with sugans of golden oaten straw. "Let it rain" thought the proctor. "The tithe is secure and high and dry". Then a sudden gust from the north west bearing what felt like a sheet of water caused him to hurry indoors, bolting and barring the door behind him.

Next morning the sun was already over the top of Achaliag (Aghaleague) when the proctor again looked toward the haggard. Then he gasped in horror - not one stack, not one sheaf remained only green rushes and golden sugans scattered on the ground. What had happened? In the dead of the night scores of men from whom the corn had been confiscated gathered silently beside the haggard. When all had arrived a line was formed stretching from the stacks to the banks of the raging torrent which was now the river. Silently the stacks were stripped of sugans and thatch, and the sheaves passed from hand to hand down along the line to be thrown into the rushing water.

All the way to Bunatraher bushes along the river banks were festooned with sheaves; there were swathes of sheaves in hollows where the river had overflowed its banks and there were sheaves floating all over Bunatraher Bay.

The drowning of the Sheaves was but one small incident in the Tithe War and must have occurred near the end of that struggle as tradition had it that Tithes were never again collected.

(2) The Widow's Roof

Editor's note: This contribution refers to the post-Famine period when local reaction to the inhuman treatment of a poor helpless widow has such sad consequences.

The second incident which is described as an outrage (though an outrage with a difference) is thus described in the police report: -

"On the night of Friday last the 9th Instant, and at the hour of about half past eleven o'clock a party of men of about fifteen in number one of whom was armed with a gun and the others having with them straw, ladders and ropes came to the house of William Stindon of Ballinglen and having first fired a shot and thrown stones at his door, threatening him not to attempt coming out until they had finished the work which they came to perform.

Stindon however, boldly sallied out and faced the party, and being armed with a gun also fired among them and desperately wounded a man named John Dean who fell and the others instantly decamped. Dean was secured until the arrival of the police - who had him next morning brought before Mr. Fausset J.P. who in consequence of the dangerous state of his wound admitted him to bail that he might receive medical treatment.

The outrage originated not through any personal malice to Stindon but he having let a portion of his threshing barn to an aged female (a spinster) and she having kept possession without paying him any rent for the last four years - and Stindon - not being able to remove her peaceably - and wishing to get rid of so unprofitable a lodger permitted the roof of her room to fall into decay - The uncomfortable state of her apartment it appears excited the feelings of a portion of her neighbours who started to forcibly thatch the premises contrary to the wish of Stindon who repulsed the assailants. He denies knowing any of the others, but he having mentioned to Mr. Wm. Stindon of a further attack I have directed constant patrols of the police towards his home.

It is doubtful if Dean will recover the shot having taken effect high up in his thigh. N. Calvish Cap. Ballina, March 13th, 1878.

Note: Tradition has it that Dean died as a result of the wound, and that Stindon, who was an Englishman, left the area soon afterwards. The only other name mentioned in the report is that of John Joynt who notified the police of the incident.

(3) William O'Brien 1852-1928

Although originally published as an addendum to "Two Wild Nights in Ballinglen",  the "William O'Brien" article has been moved to a separate page.