Canoeing Lessons on The Royal Canal at Ballymahon, County Longford.

Ballymahon is located in the Southern part of the county, along the R392. The River Inny flows through the town and a beautifully landscaped picnic and walking area has been developed along its banks.

Ballymahon derives its name from the Gaelic, Baile Uí Mhatháin meaning ‘town of Mahon’. Mahon is reputed to have been a Western chieftain who fought a famous battle in the vicinity of Ballymahon at Shrule. Mahon defeated O’Rourke of Cavan at this battle and laid claim to the lands in the area.

History & Info
The town as it is today was developed in the mid-nineteenth century by two main families, the Shuldham family of Moigh House and the King-Harmans of Newcastle. The buildings in the town are of late Georgian architecture, with two and three storey gabled houses, colour-washed and in rows of three and four. A special feature of the town is its wide main street. Ballymahons most famous resident was the renowned author Oliver Goldsmith. The great poet, dramatist and novelist was born at Pallas, outside Ballymahon in 1728. At this time his father was rector in Forgney church where to this day remains a stained glass window commemorating the Goldsmith family. The Goldsmiths later moved to Lissoy, which was to inspire his great poem ‘The Deserted Village’. Oliver Goldsmith lived with his mother in Ballymahon for three years before emigrating in 1752, never to return. Ballymahon has a fine monument on the mainstreet commemorating the poet. This is a sculpture by Eamonn O’Doherty on the theme of ‘The Traveller’ which is Goldsmith’s most famous poem. The sculpture marks the meeting point for those taking The Goldsmith Trail during the Goldsmith Literary Festival.

Another renowned Ballymahon native is Leo Casey, an Irish  patriot, poet, novelist and member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Leo Casey’s father, Luke Casey was born in Milltown parish in the year 1812. He qualified as a teacher and began his teaching career in 1835 in his own parish of Milltown. He married in 1843 and moved later moved to Lahawn with his wife and three children, two girls and one boy who was born in 1846 and was christened John Keegan Casey. In 1856 the family moved to Gurteen, a village three miles west of Ballymahon , where Luke Casey took up a teaching post. It was here in Gurteen that John Keegan Casey took up the teaching profession and worked as a monitor for his father. Even at this early age John Keegan Casey had penned many songs and ballads including the widely published ‘Rising of the Moon’ before he was fifteen. He wrote under the pen name of ‘Leo’, producing many works before his untimely death at the age of twenty-four. The two-classroom school at Gurteen approximately four miles from Ballymahon is the only remaining link with Leo Casey. Abandoned in the 1960’s the building is the focus of a revival of interest in the author and his work.

Things to See & Do
The town and surrounding countryside is well known for its outdoor sporting activities, from canoeing, kayaking and water polo to white water rafting, water tubing and zorbing.  The area offers fantastic opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and Ballymahon is noted for its great white water rapids. The Inny Park and Mill is situated on the banks of the River Inny  which flows through the town and  is a scenic spot often used as a picnic area for locals and visitors. The park also has a landing area for the local canoeing club, which is across the river.  The Royal Canal harbour is situated about 2Km from Ballymahon town and is also an idyllic picnic location. Miles of landscaped walkways and scenic views along the canal with numerous cut stone bridges, old store house buildings and loughs add to the pleasure for those boating or walking along its banks.

Rambling through the many forest trails in Newcastle Woods is also a must for the keen walker. Newcastle Estate, originally of the Sheppard family passed through marriage to Wentworth Harman in 1619 and remained the seat of the Harman family throughout the eighteenth century. Between 1765 and 1784 it was home to the Very Rev. Cutts Harman, who built the famous octagonal hunting lodge of Castle Cor, west of Ballymahon . The present house is a large gabled three-storey mid Georgian house which was probably constructed in 1750 by the King-Harmans. Later in the eighteenth century it was enlarged and altered by the addition of a single-storey east wing and a two-storey west wing. While some of the original Georgian interior detail have been changed over the years much of it still remains.

Angling is not only a favourite pastime for locals in Ballymahon but also draws anglers from around the county and sometimes further afield. Ballymahon is blessed with several waterways that are teeming with a variety of fish, ranging from Bream, Trout, Roach, and Hybrids to Perch and Pike. Perch is the most common fish, which can be caught in many areas including the all along the River Inny . Some locally recommended spots are, the Red Bridge, Shrule Bridge, Houlihan’s Hole, and the mouth of the Inny and Lough Drum.

For more information on the heritage sites of Ballymahon visit the Explore Longford App available to download here: