Ballinalee is a lively village situated on the Camlin River, in the Parish of Clonbroney. The Camlin river (Cam Líne, Crooked Line) which rises near Granard and flows for thirty miles to where its two branch distributaries enter the Shannon, is a natural boundary between north and south Longford. The Camlin enters the parish of Clonbroney from Clonfin Lough and meanders across the parish from east to west, a distance of ten miles. The river is easily accessible to the angler with fish such as pike, trout, bream and roach, swimming its water.
The name Ballinalee is derived from the Irish, “Béal Átha na Laogh” – the mouth of the ford of the calves.
History & Info
Ballinalee was formerly a plantation town consisting of a borough and township, was called St Johnstown and was owned by Lord Granard. The borough had the right to return two M.P.s to the Irish House of Commons until its abolition in 1800, prior to the Act of Union. The history of Christianity in the parish dates to the time of St Patrick when he himself appointed his ‘foster brother’ Guasacht as Bishop of Granard and together with the two St Emer’s, his foster sisters, founded the first convent in Ireland in an area presently known as Old Clonbroney. Ballinalee is renowned as the birthplace of General Seán MacEoin, the legendary ‘Blacksmith of Ballinalee’ and military hero of the War of Independence. General MacEoin was a leader of the National Volunteers; North Longford Flying Column and led a number of successful actions against the British, principally the Battle of Ballinalee and the Clonfin Ambush. Seán MacEoin had a long and distinguished political career and was held in high esteem by all that knew him. It was in Ballinalee that he and his father Andrew before him, worked at his trade as a blacksmith. The forge was a meeting place for everyone in the countryside, Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist alike. Customers included the local landed families, the Edgeworths of Kilshrewley, the Wilsons of Currygrane and the More O’Farrells of Lissard. Material for debate was provided by the land laws, home rule, Sinn Fein, the United Irish League, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Larkin and Connolly and the labour troubles in Dublin, the temperance movement and the Boer War. All issues were debated around the anvil. Micheal Collins visited Seán MacEoin at this forge and persuaded him to leave his work and to work for Ireland instead. After the famous Battle of Ballinalee, the cottage and forge were set on fire by the Black and Tans. The forge survived and continued to be operated by Sean’s brother, Micheal. Over the years, it gradually became derelict. Restoration work on it was carried out on it in 1993 for the centenary of MacEoin’s birth and it is now open to the public for visits. The final resting place of Mac Eoin and his wife Alice can also be visited in the graveyard of St Emers in Ballinalee. Rose Cottage, located to the left on entering the village acted as Mac Eoins headquarters during the War of Independence. It is currently in private ownership. Another important site in the village is Bully’s Acre, the execution site and burial ground of over one hundred insurgent prisoners, which were taken captive by the ramapaging English forces after the famous Battle of Ballinamuck in 1798. There are several fine churches in the parish and the parochial hall, opened in 1939, is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Ashe, the Irish patriot and Nationalist leader who was arrested while addressing a meeting in the village in 1917. He later died in prison from force feeding having been on hunger strike.
Things to See & Do
Ballinalee hosts a number of well established festivals and events annually which attract a varied group of people. There are several small lakes in the vicinity of Ballinalee which are excellent for angling as well as being places used by locals in the summer months for swimming, boating and picnicking. Gurteen Lake is a small lake situated in the townlands of Gurteen and Gurteenrevagh. It is a ‘bog lake’, and homes such fowl as snipe and swan. Very popular with local fishing enthusiasts it provides a variety of coarse fish including pike and perch. The Seán Connolly GFC grounds overlook the lake, and a fine pitch ‘n’ putt course and tennis court overlooks the Lake. Corbeagh Lake is also a small lake located approximately three miles outside the village of Ballinalee. Situated in the townland of Corbeagh or Cor Beith in Irish, which translates as ‘Round hill of the birch trees’, Corbeagh Lake also borders the townlands of Drumeel and Currygrane. The Lake could be described as “off the beaten track” and is in a secluded setting, a very tranquil and peaceful place with a great picnic area surrounded by green fields and some small woodlands. A smaller Lough is joined to the main body of the lake by a narrow neck of water, this small Lough is known as ‘Farrelley’s Lough’. Corbeagh Lake formed part of the estate of James Wilson, a JP and High Sheriff of Co Longford. A windmill was situated near the lake which pumped water to the plantation fields of this estate. Corbeagh contains two small islands of artificial formation known as crannógs. These small islands are known as ‘Round Island’ and ‘Fry Island’.
For more information on the heritage sites of Ballinalee visit the Explore Longford App available to download here: