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The village name in Irish means "Mouth of the Ford of the Calves". The name "St Johnstown" came from the name of the Church of Ireland Church of St. John. There are two fine Roman Catholic churches in the parish: the Church of the Holy Trinity in the village and the uniquely styled Church of St James in Clonbroney. Ballinalee was the site of the first convent in Ireland at Old Clonbroney. Its remains are still to be seen.
The St Johnstown borough constituency in the Irish House of Commons was nominally representative of the town. In 1833, the Commissioners appointed by the UK Parliament to inquire into municipal corporations in Ireland reported that the corporation of the borough was "virtually extinct". The 1846 Parliamentary Gazeteer records:
It stands on the Camolin rivulet, and on the road from Granard to Longford, 6 miles west-south-west of Granard, 6 north-northwest of Edgeworthstown, and 6 north-east by east of Longford. It is a poor and miserable place,—a small daub caricature of even a rotten borough. In 1833, it contained only a new police barrack, a cottage ornée in course of erection by a gentleman who had acquired some of the burgess-freeholds, 5 houses of annual value between £5 and £10, and 40 houses of annual value less than £5. The charter, which incorporated it was granted in the third year of Charles II.; assigned 88 acres of land as the site and property of the town; ordered the place, still then only in posse, to be called the Borough and Town of St. Johnstown; appointed it a corporation, consisting of a sovereign, 11 other burgesses, and an unnamed number of free commons; gave that corporation the power of sending two members to parliament; and granted a weekly market on Tuesday, and annual fairs on May 1 and 2, and Nov. 11 and 12. The Earl of Granard eventually carried the borough in his pocket, and in consequence received the £15,000 of compensation for disfranchisement at the Legislative Union. The landed property granted by the charter was vested, not in the corporation as a public body, but in the twelve first burgesses to descend from them by inheritance or purchase; and it now exists in plots of from 6 to 8 acres, —two of which are called the Lords Plots, and belong to the Earl of Granard, while the others bear the names of Gladstone's, Adair's, Lecky's, and Kennedy's Plots, and Furrcy-Park, John's-Park, Rowleys-Hill, Gallow's-Hill, and High-Park. A grey friary, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is supposed to have stood on the site of the town; but, if it ever existed, it has become completely untraceable. Area, 11 acres. Pop., in 1831, 255; in 1841, 299. Houses 50.—
During the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), the town was the scene of the Battle of Ballinalee, where local leader Sean Mac Eoin (sometimes known as the Blacksmith of Ballinalee) was the leader of a well-equipped battalion of 300 men. They held off 900 RIC/British Army for three days. It was the only successful defence of an Irish town against the British forces. Within the parish is the ruins of Old Clonbroney; it was reportedly the home of the first convent in Ireland, which was founded by St Patrick around 440 AD.
There are two scenic lakes in the parish. Corbeagh lake, or Currygrane Lough, is situated in the middle of the parish and is located within the townlands of Drumeel Corbeagh and Currygrane. It has four small islands on it and one, called "Round Island," is thought to be a Crannog or ancient settlement. The other lake is called Gurteen and is situated near the village and adjacent to the Maguire Park.
Donnelly's Pioneer Bus Service, a longstanding local bus company based in Granard, operate a route from Granard to Longford via Ballinalee. There are three journeys each way daily (no Sunday service) 
The village has a strong tradition in the Gaelic Athletic Association sport of Gaelic football. The name of the local team is "Sean Connolly's". The Club is named after Sean Connolly, the Irish freedom fighter who was born near the pitch in the townland. France Connolly was shot in an ambush at Selton Hill, Co Leitrim in 1921. Their grounds, James McGuire Park, are located on France Road.
The club grounds also hosts an 18-hole Pitch-and-Putt course, which is known as "The Acres" and a Basketball and Tennis Court concrete walkway, as well as a fully equipped gymnasium and meeting room. The underage section of the Club goes under the name of the parish, Clonbroney.
The Club won the Senior Football Championship for the only time in 1917. The Captain of that team was Sean Connolly. Over the years, the club has a proud tradition of supplying officers at Community Board level, including three Co-Chairmen and four Co-Secretaries, as well as a number of other officerships and also a long list of officers at Co Minor board level. Community Games and Soccer are also participated in at parish level, and they have a good tradition of success at the county level.
People from Ballinalee
- Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland (1835). "Report on the Borough of St. Johnstowne (Longford)". First Report: Appendix. Command papers. XXVIII (8). HMSO. pp. 1287–93. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "Ballinalee or Saintjohnstown". Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
- "Constituencies: St Johnstown (Co. Longford)". History of the Irish Parliament. Ulster Historical Foundation. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
- Commissioners 1835, p.1292 ¶23
- "Johnstown (St.)". The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland: Adapted to the New Poor-law, Franchise, Municipal and Ecclesiastical Arrangements, and Compiled with a Special Reference to the Lines of Railroad and Canal Communication, as Existing in 1814-45. Vol.2. A. Fullarton and Company. 1846. p. 336.