Erris is split between Ballina and Westport Poor Law Unions (1840)

Siobhan McAndrew
4 min readMar 1, 2024



The Constitution, 19 May 1840, p. 2.

A meeting was held on Friday in this town, pursuant to public notice, for the formation of the Union of Ballina, which was numerously and respectably attended. At half past one o’clock, the Court House was crowded almost to suffocation. Amongst those present we noticed Col. Gore, George V. Jackson, Rev. Joseph Verschoyle, Capt. Atkinson, Hon. Col. Wingfield, Hon. F. Cavendish, W.J. Bourke, Esq., Major Gardiner, Rev. D. Rodgers, Jas. Vaughan Jackson, John F. Knox, John Perkins, Annesley Knox, James A. Knox, Robert Orme, Wm. Orme, Js. S. oyner, and Wm. Malley Esqrs, Rt. Rev. Dr. Feeny, Rev. Dean Lyons, Rev. Messrs. Flanelly, Corcoran, Costello, Hart, McNamara, Moyles, McHale, &x. Capitain Short, Thomas Ham, Denis Bingham, John Bourke, Thomas Palmer, John Kirkwood, Edward Howley, sen. Edward Howy, jun., Patrick C. Howley, Pat I. Howley, W. Manley James Higgins, Edward P. McDonnell, P. Nolan, Geo. Irwin, William Culkin, and John F. Blake Esqrs.; Drs. Whittaker Faucett, Devlan, McHugh, &c.

COL. GORE, High Sheriff, in the Chair.

Mr. Burke, the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, proceeded to explain very satisfactorily, the manner in which the act should be carried into operation. He said he hoped the Electors would endeavour to avoid any contests taking place, as such would be attended with considerable expense — that the act was one of charity and should not raise up disputes or contentions amongst the electors, but that they should co-operate with each other and render every assistance in their power, in order that it should be productive of that blessing to the poor for which it was intended. In the union of Swinford he was happy to say, only two contests took place, and he hoped to find, as he was given to understand the people of this Union were well united, that no religious or party feelings would cause them to heap unnecessary costs upon themselves. The following are the number of Guardians to be appointed for each electoral division:-

Ballina Electoral Division -Includes the parishes of Kilmoremoy (part of) Ardagh, Kilbelfad (one-fifth of,) Ballinahaglish (one-fifth of,) population 12,340 — four Guardians.

Ardnaree — Kilmoremoy (part of) Castleconnor, (one-sixth of) population 6,613 — two Guardians.

Backs — Kilbelfad (four-fifths of,) Ballinahaglish (four-fifths of,) population — 7,124 — two Guardians.

Attymass — Population, 3,276 — one guardian.
Kilgarvan — do 4,230 — one guardian.

Dromorewest — Kilmacshalgan — 3,330. One guardian.

Easkey — Population 6,129 — two guardians.

Kilglass do. 4,356 — one guardian.

Castleconnor (five-sixths of) population 3,871 — one guardian.

Ballisakeery — Population 5,993 — two guardians.

Killala — Killala, Rathrea, and Templemary — population 7,654 — two guardians.

Kilbride — Lackan, Kilcummin, and Kilbride — population 7,587, two guardians.

Ballycastle — Doonfeeny — population 4,110, one guardian.

Kilfian — Kilfian, and Moygownagh — population 7,637, two guardians.

Crossmolina — Population 11,697, three guardians.

Belmullet — Kilcommon (two thirds of,) population 10,284, three guardians.

Binghamstown — Kilmore — population 9,159, three guardians.

Population 110,772

No. of Guardians 33

Ex-officio do. 11

Total: 44

The Very Rev. Dean Lyons then rose, and addressed Mr Bourke, Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, at considerable length, on the injustice done to, and injury inflicted upon the inhabitants of Erris, by having them divided and joined to the unions of Ballina and Westport; when, he said, they were willing to support their poor, they were, therefore, entitled to a union of their own. He said as an inhabitant of Erris, and a Cess-payer, he had to report a breach of faith on the part of the Poor Law Commissioners, who pledged themselves, that no decision would be come to, whether Erris should or should not form a union, until an Assistant Commissioner had first visited the district, and that notwithstanding which, and before such inquiry was instituted, the Commissioners have declared Erris to belong to the unions of Westport and Ballina, thereby violating their pledge, to the injury of that prosperous country. — He contended that such treatment was at variance with the humane intentions of the Legislature; converting a boon of charity into an instrument of persecution to the destitute poor, for whom confinement in a work-house at such a distance form their homes, would be a virtual transportation. That in consequence of the great distance of the Workhouse form the inhabitants of Erris, those who might be elected as Guardians, could not conveniently attend, as it would take three days for that purpose at each meeting of the Board, attended with much inconvenience and expense, which would be unreasonable to expect from them. He stated that the Erris portion of the expense of the intended work houses at Westport and Ballina, would be nothing short of the amount required for a house in Erris, and that by forming Erris into a union, the poor would be relieved in their own country, without being exiled — the Guardians would not be put to such cost and loss of time — the cess raised would be spent in their own neighbourhood and land would be cultivated — a market would be established at Belmullet and the tradesmen and labourers would get more employment; and under these circumstances, and as he (Mr Lyons) would give a site for a Poor House, free of expense, the people of Erris deem it their duty to lay their grievances before the Lord Lieutenant and both Houses of Parliament.

Mr Burke in reply contended that as there were no resident Magistrates in Erris to act as ex-officio guardians, nor even a market held in that district, and as the present mode would be found a considerable saving to the cess payers of Erris, the Commissioners did not consider it prudent to make a separate union of that portion of the country at present — Ballina Advertiser.



Siobhan McAndrew

I research in the social science of culture and religion, moral communities and civic engagement. PPE, University of Sheffield