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Article Published February 12, 2002



County Mayo (Ireland): An Outline History
By: Bernard O'Hara and Nollaig ÓMuraíle,
Copyright: Mayo Ireland Ltd.



Eighteenth Century

For the vast majority of people in County Mayo the eighteenth century was a period of unrelieved misery, with some minor famines. Because of the operation of what were called 'the penal laws', Catholics had no hope of social advancement while they remained in their native land. However, emigration could and did lead to new opportunities and challenges for many like William Brown (1777-1857), who left Foxford at the age of nine and thirty years later was an admiral in the fledgling Argentine Navy. Today he is revered as 'the father of the Argentine Navy', and as a national hero in that country.

Culturally, 16th century Mayo made some contribution to the "hidden Ireland" of the time, and two Mayo-born poets from the period have retained considerable popularity: Riocard Bairéad (d. 1819) from the Mullet, whose songs included 'Eoghan Cóir', 'Preab san l', and 'Tarraingt na Móna' and blind Anthony Raftery (d.1835) from Killedan, near Kiltamagh (alias Kiltimagh) , who spent most of his life in south and east Galway, and whose numerous compositions included the ever-pupular 'Máire Ní Eidhin', 'Aithrí Reaftaraí' and, of course, 'Cill Liadáin'.

There were some stirrings in the west in the 1790s, with reports of agrarian disturbances in Tirawley, and an influx into Mayo of Catholic refugees from Ulster following the sectarian clashes in north Armagh in 1795 which led to the formation of the Orange Society. Nevertheless, when the United Irishmen were forced by government repression to move from working openly for reform to secretly plotting revolution, and when Leinster and east Ulster blazed into rebellion in June of 1798, no one expected Mayo to play a memorable role in the bloody drama about to commence. The man who dragged Mayo onto the stage of Irish history in 1798 was a French general from Lorraine, a former dealer in goat and rabbit skins named Joseph Amable Humbert.

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