Islandeady Community Council, Rinnaseer, Islandeady, Co. Mayo   |   email:  Fr. Chris Brennan: facebook

Brief History of Islandeady

“Tradition says that St. Patrick, on his way to Croagh Patrick, visited Raheens. Also it is noted that Islandeady would have belonged to the ‘Patrician lands of Connaught’. The date given by historians to St. Patrick’s missionary work in Islandeady is 440 A.D, where he preached on the shores of a lake in the peaceful little parish. Before the land acts were passed at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Centuries, most of Islandeady parish was the property of three landlords, Browne, Palmer and Kilmaine”.
“Browne had no tenants but worked his huge demesne, which extended from Raheens along the shores of Castlebar and Islandeady Lakes, and was bounded on the northern side by the Newport road. Sir Walter Palmer owned the lands in the Glenisland region and, unlike Browne he did not have tenants. The part of the parish between Palmer and Browne’s estates belonged to Kilmaine. It was also tenanted”.
“The parish was certainly in the hands of those tyrants when the Act of Union was passed in 1801, and possibly long before that. Tradition maintains that the Browne estate began with the Cromwellian plantation. It is said that Cromwell gave it to one of his officers who despised it and offered it to anyone who would give him a horse to take him to Athlone. A soldier named Browne duly obliged, giving him an old white horse and received the estate in return. This estate was purchased by Mr. McKenna for the Irish Land Commission for the paltry sum of £375, thus ending the days of feudalism and landlordism.
“The people of Islandeady suffered much during the famine years. Like many parts of the country the landlords demanded their rents seemingly oblivious to, or ignorant of the plight of their tenants. Hunger, fever, plague, starvation and death followed. Evictions became rife and tenants became cottiers. The population was decimated and cattle replaced the tenants. The remaining population was shrouded in poverty. Emigration to America became the norm. Such were the fruits of the famine in the parish of St. Patrick, and the inhabitants will never forget them”.
“Islandeady took an active part in every phase of the national Struggle, but never produced one of the leaders. Through the centuries men from the parish have responded to the calls of their nation. Young men gave generously of their free time to the Local Defence Force and the Red Cross. In 1798, some men from Islandeady are noted in Humbert’s supporters. The Fenians later found a good response in the parish. Sinn Fein and the aftermath of 1916 spurred many to join the Volunteers. During the Black and Tan period the English army was kept busy in the many bogs and mountains of the parish. Two young men gave their lives to the cause.”
(Reflections, pg.11)

Islandeady Parish - A Short History by Seán Rice.

According to local historian Paddy Browne (and recorded by Lewis in 1837) Islandeady and Glenisland Churches were built in 1820. Glenisland church was built in 1820 at a cost of £150 and Islandeady church was built in 1820 at a cost of £300. The population of Islandeady parish at that time was 8,564.

The name Islandeady or Oileán Éadaigh is derived from 13th century St Aidan who founded a church in the hillside cemetery. A church site at Annagh dates from Patrician times. Ancient churches were at Rahins, which Patrick also visited, Drimneen, Kilbree and Knockbawn in Glenisland.

Aolain, who gives his name to Glenisland 'Gleann Aolain', was a saint who lived here. Nearby, in Pollanass, is a double-cupped stone reputed to show the marks of the hermit's knees.

Islandeady parish stretches from Crumpaun river near Glenhest on the north, to Ayle near Aughagower on the south. It borders six more parishes in Tuam Diocese - Kilmeena, Westport, Aughagower, Carnacon, Castlebar, and Newport (on a spot on Beltra lake). Islandeady also borders Lahardane parish (Addergoole) in the Diocese of Killala.

Islandeady-Glenisland parish stretches 20 km ie almost 15 miles from one end of the parish to the other - from the end of Beltra lake to the top of Sheeaune hill. There are five national schools in the parish - Glenisland, Cornanool, Leitir, Cloggernagh, Coguala.

Traces of Mass paths in many villages leading to the Church are proof of the devotion of the people to the Mass. In 1574 Islandeady was a curacy only. In 1591, however, Rev. Hubert Og Burke was parish priest and Rev John Hubain curate.

The present church of Islandeady, dedicated to St Patrick, was originally thatched. On his appointment as parish priest in 1849 Rev John Fitzgerald had the building slated and the centre aisle, or 'long house', was added.

The Church of the Holy Rosary in Glenisland was built in 1820 for 150 pounds.

Islandeady was decimated by the Famine. In 1834 the Catholic population was 9,164. Two decades later, the number had dwindled by half. In 1844 there were 370 baptisms. Nine years later only one hundred babies were baptised. The population of the parish in 2013 stood at 1580.

The earliest recorded baptisms and marriages come from Rev Richard Henry, appointed parish priest in 1839. Celebrations marking 150 years of those records were held in 1989.

Evictions were commonplace when Rev Thomas O'Malley, a Jesuit, was appointed parish priest in 1872. Fr. O'Malley, a native of the parish, was highly influential and his intervention saved many tenants from eviction by the agents of landlords to whom he did not endear himself.

A former curate, Rev Francis J. McCormack, (1862-1867), was appointed Bishop of Achonry and, from 1887 until his death in 1909, was Bishop of Galway.

Further refurbishment of St Patrick's Church was undertaken by Rev Stephen Blowick - brother of Fr. John, cofounder of the Society of St Columban - following his appointment as parish priest in 1951. Rev Anthony O'Toole had the main aisle Porch added in 1988.

In more recent times Rev Pat Donnellan built a new extension at the rear of the Church - St Aidans room, kitchenette, store room, toilets & Prayer garden. This was completed in May 2009.

St Patrick's Church Islandeady - in the shadow of Croagh Patrick - is named after our Patron Saint Patrick. The recent extension is called St Aidan's room - called after the old Church Ruin of St Aidan in Islandeady Cemetery which gives our Parish its name (Oileán Éadaigh i.e. the Island of Aidan).

The name of Glenisland church reflects devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary and is called Holy Rosary Church Glenisland. In April 2013 the parish was reduced from two priests to one priest.

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