Ballymahon derives its name from Gaelic Baile Mathuna Town of Mahon. Mahon was a western chieftain who fought a battle in the vicinity of Ballymahon at Shrule, in Irish Sruaith Fhuil, River of Blood. Mahon defeated O'Rourke of Cavan at this Battle and laid claim to lands in the area. Hence the town of Mahon originated.
Ballymahon is situated almost in the very central plain of Ireland, its the most southern town in the County of Longford. The N55 which serves North-South traffic passes through the town. Ballymahon is in close proximity to major towns, such as Longford, Roscommon, Mullingar and Athlone. The River Inny flows through Ballymahon and enters Lough Ree on the River Shannon three miles west of the town. The location of the town is idealy for manufacturing industries and distribution services as it is withen easy access of any part of Ireland.
THE TOWN OF BALLYMAHON
Ballymahon is a small market town in south County Longford close to the eastern shore of Lough Ree. Situated between the larger towns of Longford, Mullingar and Athlone, its location, now by-passed by the principal routes crossing the midlands, has meant that it preserves to a remarkable degree the character of a 19th Century Irish market town.
Coming from the east, the town proper starts just before the crossing of the fast flowing River Inny. On the far side of the river is a large mill complex, with the Church of Ireland church visible behind it. The main street widens out to accommodate the fairs and markets once such a common feature of Irish country towns. The free standing market house still survives about half way down on the south side of the main street where it widens out at what would have been the central focus of a fair day in the past.
The towns former prosperity is indicated by the number of substantial shop and residential premises which survive from the 18th and 19th centuries. Unlike so many other Irish market towns, the central built up area is not spoiled by endless ribbons of suburan houses and bungalows along the approach roads. Likewise, it does not suffer from the air of neglect and dilapidation that have affected other towns when their former functions declined or were taken over by larger urban centres nearby.
Today Ballymahon with its renowned street is a vibrant business town with amenities and infrastructure required for a town of its size. Ballymahon could be described as a dormitory town as many people live here, but commute to their places of work in Longford, Athlone and Mullingar. As in the 1830's it still is a market town as farming is still the predominant livelihood of the area. Gone are the fairs, flower mills, constabulary barracks. Place names such as Dogs Hollow, Green Lane, Spud Row, replaced by cattle mart, modern factories and gaily painted shop fronts and supermarkets.
As stated in the 1996 census, Ballymahon has a population of just over 1,500. There are four schools, St Colmcille;s Boys National, Convent of Mercy National, Convent of Mercy Secondary and Ballymahon Vocational schools. There are two churches, St Mathew's Catcholic Church and St Cathrine's Church of Ireland. To cater for the commercial life of the town, The Bank of Ireland, Irish Permanent, Post Office and Modern Credit Union fulfill its needs. The social life of Ballymahon is vibrant with its Pubs, Restaurants, Theatre and Community Centre.
THE ROYAL CANAL
The Royal Canal was built to connect Dublin and the northern Shannon between 1789 and 1818. Ballymahon was an important market town with a productive agricultural hinterland, and it was inevitable that it would be included on the route mapped out for the Royal Canal. However, the history of the building of this canal was even more prolonged and difficult than the Grand Canal. The cost of the canal meant that the Royal Canal company was dissolved in 1813 by the Goverment when the canal had only reached Mullingar. A new organisation was set up to oversee the completion of the canal to the Shannon. A new civil engineering company - Henry, Mullins & amp; Mc Mahon - was formed by the association of a number of smaller firms in ordr to bid for the contract for the entire western end from Mullingar to Richmond Harbour. Such companies, capable of taking on very large construction jobs, had started to appear in Britain in the previous century, but this was the first time it had been seen in Ireland. Starting work in 1814, Henry, Mullins & amp; Mc Mahon completed the work on time and within the budget, and the canal was opened from Dublin to the Shannon by 1818. The goverment passed the administration of the canal to a new company which was free of the large debts built up during its construction.
The canal was run by this new company until 1845 when it sold out to the Midland Great Western Railway Company. The railway company(as variously constituted over the next one hundred and forty years) continued to operate the canal with gradually diminishing trade until it was finally closed in 1961. The western end of the canal was dewatered and left to merge back into the quiet midland landscape. Most people assumed the canal would disappear the way the Ballinsloe line of the Grand Canal has.
The rebirth of the canal started in the 1970s before it passed from the control of CIE to the OPW while little was done specifically to try to restore the canal to navigation - large stretches of the canal were put back in water, especially in the eastern section between Dublin and Mullingar. The newly formed Royal Canal Amenity Group in Dublin together with local groups on the western section lobbied and worked to ensure that nothing was done to disimprove the situation of dewatered canal by local authorities while momentum gathered in favour of a complete restoration. The passing of control of the waterways to the OPW in 1986 saw the ambitions of the RCAG grow: nothing less than a full return to navigation would be acceptable. With active official support this aim looks like becoming a reality within the next year or two. The Royal Canal runs north-west from Mullingar through Ballynacargy and Abbeyshrule before winding along parallel to the River Inny as far as Ballymahon. The canal does not extend into the town, but runs around it a little to the north, passing three harbours, Toome Bridge, Ballybrannigan Harbour and Archie's Bridge. Toome Bridge was the terminus for coach passengers to and from Athlone on their way to Dublin, a service that for a period in the first half of the 19th century was provided by Bianconi. The harbour proper was a little further west along the canal within sight of the town itself at Ballybrannigan Harbour. At Archies Bridge on the other side of Ballymahon there are two three storey warehouses, part of a former grain mill, along the quayside
THE FORMER TICKET OFFICE
Once under Chaigneau Bridge the canal widens out into Ballybrannigan Harbour. There is a long quayside, a three storey warehouse still in fairly good condition and a two storey former ticket office now roofless. To the east of Chaigneau Bridge there is a former lock-keeper's cottage with its back turned to the canal. Off to the south-west the town of Ballymahon can be seen just under a mile distant. The most direct path to the centre of the town was along the old Masspath, which seems to have come into existance in the middle of the nineteenth century, and which may be reinstated under the Ballymahon Development Plan
The local Royal Canal amenity group hope to restore the former ticket office to a one bedroom apartment, canal heritage centre, coffee shop.
BALLYMAHON ANGLING INFORMATION
Bream, Roach, Hybrids, Trout, (early and late in season), Pike, up to 20lbs.
Above: Trout, Roach.
Directly below: Some Trout, Good Roach.
(Farmer on this section may charge small fee for access -Hugh Mulvihill in bungalow)
1/4 mile below; wide bend, excellent for good Roach, Perch and Bream. Occassional good Pike
Poor access but when fishing well can produce up to 300lb bags Bream.
Accessed from gate in field on Athlone side of meat factory.
MOUTH OF INNY
South side - head towards Maghera, turn right into Anna and straight through to Fox's. Small charge for parking and access.
Good quality Bream, Roach, Perch, Hybrids and Pike.
North side-head towards Gurteen and turn left onto Derry road lake at end on left. Quality Bream.
On Lanesborough road below Terlicken on left. Excellent Trench but requires pre-baiting. Roach and Pike.
Perch are to be found on RIVER INNY and LOUGH REE at almost all locations. Recent catches up to 2 1/2lb
BALLYMAHON AS AN ANGLING CENTRE
Ballymahon is ideally located to present the visiting angler wth the very best game and coarse fishing in the Midlands. Local amenities include the River Inny (Trout, Pike, Perch, Bream, Roach, Chub and Hybrids), Lough Drum (Trench, Roach, and Pike), Lough Ree (Trout, Pike, Perch, Bream, Roach, etc) and, in the near future, the Royal Canal. ( It is OPW policy to stock restored Canal stretches with coarse fish - because of their accessibilty, canals are favourite haunts of visiting anglers).
However, Ballymahon can offer more than this. Situated in the heart of the Midlands, anglers are within a thirty minute drive of the very best angling that the Midlands can offer. To the west is the huge expanse of Lough Ree which offers both excellent game and coarse fishing whilst the River Suck offers the same but with very differing environs. To the north is the world renowned 'hot spot' by Lanesborough power station - this is probably the most prolific stretch of water in Europe for coarse fish. A little further upstream is the highly acclaimed game fishing at Tarmon Weir whilst further still brings you to Lough Forbes which is an excellent summer and winter venue and is known to produce huge Pike. The Camlin Club are continously restocking reaches of the Shannon and the Camlin River with Brown Trout and the old Longford reservior with both Brown and rainbow Trout. Moving across to the North East are the well known fisheries of Lough Gowna and Lough Sheelin (coarse and game fishing respectively) and Lough Derravaragh and Lough Owel to the east are also very well known fisheries. Moving South and passing by the impressive coarse fishery of the Canal in Mullingar is the picturesque Lough Ennell renowned as an excellent game fishing lake. This area also has some stocked fisheries contaning excellent Carp and Tench. Moving back towards Ballymahon there is a stocked Trout water at Mt Dalton Louhg.
Why is Ballymahon a better angling location than Mullingar, Athlone or Lanesborough? All waters vary - some come on early in the season and others later. Temperatures and other climatic conditions can affect different venues producing 'off days'. People catering for the visiting angler need to know where to fish and for what species, they also need contacts near other fisheries to find out which waters are fishing well at any given time. Although Ballymahon offers some excellent fishing areas it is pointless keeping visiting anglers 'local' if conditions are not right the important thing to remember is that excellent fishing is not far away because Ballymahon is central to the best fishing that the Midlands can offer.
Buildings and Locations of Interest in the area
Ring Dong Heritage Centre Ardagh Village Brannigan Harbour Inny Park and Mill Pallas, Birthplace of Goldsmith Newcasle House Ledwithstown House Gurteen-Leo Casey School House Ballymahon Workhouse
Famous People Associated with Ballymahon
- Oliver Goldsmith
- John Keegan Casey
- Mary Flynn
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
BALLYMAHON FESTIVAL JULY 6TH-JULY 9TH 1999 contact Pat Byrne
Goldsmith Summer School June 2nd to 4th
Co Longford Community Games