Almost Wordless Wednesday: Castlebar, Ireland


Castlebar (Irish: Caisleán an Bharraigh, meaning Barry's Castle ) is the county town of County Mayo, Ireland. A campus of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and the Country Life section of the National Museum of Ireland are two important local amenities. The town is connected by railway to Dublin and the neighbouring Mayo towns of Westport and Ballina. The town has several small satellite villages around it, such as Breaffy. The main route by road is the N5. Its economy is primarily service based. The population at the 2006 census was 11,891 (including environs).


The modern town grew up as a settlement around the de Barry castle in the 12th century and was later the site of an English garrison. A military barracks operates in the town to this day. Armed conflict has been the centerpiece of the town's historical heritage. French forces under the command of General Humbert aided in a rout of the English garrison in the town during the failed Irish Rebellion of 1798. This was so comprehensive that it would be known as "The Races of Castlebar". A shortlived provisional Republic of Connaught was declared following the victory and John Moore, head of the Mayo United Irishmen and the brother of a local landowner, was declared its president. His remains are today interred in a corner of the town green, known as the Mall, previously the cricket grounds of Lord Lucan, whose family, the Binghams, have owned and own large tracts of the town and county. The town received its charter from King James I in 1613 and is today governed by an urban district council, a subdivision of Mayo County Council. The Lake in Castlebar is also known as Lough Lannagh.


Castlebar is the location for important festivals and traditions, among which is the International Four Days Walk. A well-established blues music festival in venues across the town takes place on the weekend before the first Monday in June each year.

Castlebar is also home to The Linenhall Arts Centre which exhibits visual art throughout the year, as well as hosting live drama and music performances. The Linenhall also organizes a children's arts festival (Roola Boola) annually. The Royal Theatre, with a capacity of two thousand, hosts larger-scale productions and popular music concerts.


Castlebar is traditionally a market town, and it is still a major destination for shoppers from all over the west of Ireland. It boasts an increasing number of national and international chain stores, and several new shopping areas have been developed in the past 10-12 years on what were considered the outskirts of the town. The modern shopping precinct along Hopkins Road is now the commercial heart of the town, surpassing Main Street.


Castlebar is the second biggest retail center in Connacht, after Galway city. A survey by consultants Experian showed that 284 million euros is spent by shoppers in Castlebar every year. The Irish Retail Centre Rankings ( show Castlebar is the 12th biggest retail center in the Republic of Ireland in terms of retail spend, and 20th on the island of Ireland overall.

However, the survey counts many major shopping centers separately from the cities they are situated in. If the euros spent for several major shopping centers in the Dublin area are included with the Dublin figures, Castlebar moves up to the seventh-biggest retail center in the Republic. It is surpassed only by the Republic's five main cities, and the town of Tralee. Who knew?


Battle of Castlebar
The Battle of Castlebar occurred on August 27th during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 when a combined force of 2,000 French troops and Irish rebels routed a force of 6,000 British troops in what would later became known as the Races of Castlebar.


The long-awaited French landing to assist the Irish rebellion begun by Theobald Wolfe Tone's Society of United Irishmen had taken place five days previously on August 22nd, when almost 1,100 troops under the command of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert landed at Cill Chuimín Strand, County Mayo. Although the force was small, the remote location ensured an unopposed landing away from the tens of thousands of British soldiers concentrated in the east in Leinster, engaged in mopping up operations against remaining pockets of rebels. The nearby town of Killala was quickly captured after a brief resistance by local yeomen; Just south, Ballina was taken two days later following the rout of a force of cavalry sent from the town to oppose the Irish march. Following the news of the French landing, Irish volunteers began to trickle into the French camp from all over Mayo.


The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Cornwallis, requested urgent reinforcements from England but in the interim all available forces were concentrated at Castlebar under the command of General Gerard Lake, the victor of the Battle of Vinegar Hill. The build-up of the British forces at Castlebar had reached 6,000 soldiers with dozens of artillery pieces and huge caches of supplies by dawn of the August 27th.


Leaving about 200 French regulars behind in Killala to cover his rear and line of withdrawal, Humbert took a combined force of about 2,000 French and Irish on August 26th to march on and take Castlebar. The obvious nature of his objective presented the reinforced British there with the apparent advantage of being able to deploy their forces to face a head-on attack from the Ballina road and their forces and artillery were accordingly arranged. However, local rebels advised the French of an alternative route to Castlebar through the wilds along the west of Lough Conn, which the British thought impassable for a modern army with attendant artillery train. This route was successfully taken and when Lake’s scouts spotted the approaching enemy, the surprised British had to hurriedly change the deployment of their entire force to face the threat from this unanticipated direction.


The British had barely completed their new deployment when the Franco-Irish army appeared outside the town at about 6:00 a.m. The newly sited British artillery opened up on the advancing French and Irish and cut them down in droves. French officers, however, quickly identified an area of scrub and undergrowth in a defile facing the center of the artillery line which interfered with, and provided some cover from, the British line of fire. The French launched a bayonet charge, the ferocity and determination of which unnerved units of the militia stationed behind the artillery. The militia units began to waver before the French reached their lines and eventually turned in panic and fled the battlefield, abandoning the gunners and artillery. Some soldiers of the Longford and Kilkenny militias ran to join the rebels and even joined in the fighting against their former comrades. A unit of cavalry and British regular infantry attempted to stand and stem the tide of panic but were quickly overwhelmed.


In the headlong flight of thousands of British soldiers, massive quantities of guns and equipment were abandoned, among which was General Lakes personal luggage. Although not pursued a mile or two beyond Castlebar, the British did not stop until reaching Tuam, with some units fleeing as far as Athlone in the panic. The panic was such that only the arrival of Cornwallis at Athlone prevented further flight across the Shannon.

Although achieving a spectacular victory, the losses of the French and Irish were high, losing about 150 men, mostly to the cannonade at the start of the battle. The British suffered over 350 casualties of which about 80 were killed, the rest either wounded or captured, including perhaps 150 who joined the rebels. Following the victory, thousands of volunteers flocked to join the French who also sent a request to France for reinforcements and formally declared a Republic of Connaught.

Why all this information about Castlebar in the County Mayo of Ireland?


Just to find out a little more about the place where one of my favorite bloggers, Jaws-Fisherman and Swimmer with Sharks Ken Armstrong of Ken's Writing Stuff calls home.


Thanks for reading.

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Ken Armstrong said...

That's my home all right - what a surprise, Matt, thank you so much! :)

There's got to be a good caption for photo two with you looking at that stream and saying something like 'I don't care what size it is, I'm gonna raft it'. :)

That lake picture is striking - 'must take a walk there later!!

'chuffed. ken

September 17, 2008 8:44 AM
Matthew S. Urdan said...

You're welcome, Mate. It's my pleasure.

September 17, 2008 9:11 AM
torasham said...

beautiful place...
all i can do i just imagine and wish i can visit there...

September 17, 2008 10:08 AM
Kirsten said...

Thanks for the pictures! I guess I have to put this on my long list of places to see!

September 17, 2008 1:37 PM
Amy Lilley Designs said...

I knew that there was a reason why you were telling us all about this most interesting and beautiful place called Castlebar...very nice Matt..stunning pics...hope that you and your fellow blogging friend, Ken, get to meet one day, maybe in Castlebar! ...great post..

September 17, 2008 5:22 PM
Ken Armstrong said...

This post has had an interesting effect in that it has opened my eyes a little wider to what a great place I live in. This evening I has to drive over the hills a bit to a place called Pontoon where two lakes meet:

On the drive there, I was just thinking 'how nice of Matt to do that post' and guess who came on the radio at that very moment?

Freaky!! Thanks again, you did me some good.


September 20, 2008 5:49 PM
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August 30, 2010 9:45 PM

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