Newport, County Mayo
Baile Uí Fhiacháin
View across the harbour of the town, 2007
|Elevation||14 m (46 ft)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||IST (WEST) (UTC-1)|
|Irish Grid Reference||M989937|
Newport, historically known as Ballyveaghan (Irish: Baile Uí Fhiacháin), is a small picturesque town in the barony of Burrishoole, County Mayo, Ireland with a population of 590 in 2006. It is located on the west coast of Ireland, along the shore of Clew Bay, north of Westport. The N59 road passes through the town. The county town of Castlebar is approx 18 km east of Newport. The Black Oak River flows through the centre of the town and there are pleasant walking paths along its grassy banks.
Bus Éireann route 440 Dooagh-Westport-Knock Airport operates once a day in each direction. On Sundays route 440 does not operate however Expressway route 52 provides an evening journey each way to/from Westport and Galway
Newport was established in the early 18th century by the Medlycott family. James Moore, working for the Medlycott Estate, designed the quay at Newport in a formal layout. The Medlycott family's land agent was a Captain Pratt. Pratt introduced linen manufacturing to the town under the management of immigrant Quakers who relocated to Co. Mayo from Ulster. It would appear that, although the immigrant Quakers consequently found living conditions in Mayo too difficult, the linen industry picked up in the mid-18th century and for the next forty years or so the town prospered around the industry, but in the early 19th century it again fell into decline as it was superseded as a port by the town of Westport seven miles to the south. At the end of the 18th century, the Medlycott Estate was taken over by the O'Donel family who built Newport House, now a hotel, overlooking the harbour.
Quakers in Newport
In 1719 a community of Quakers or Society of Friends came to Newport  under a Captain Pratt who established a colony of linen weavers in the town which was known as Ballyvaughan at that time. Quakers, due to their reputation of being honest and excellent hard working tenants, were much sought after by the landlords of estates at the time. Quaker communities usually prospered wherever they went but the Quakers in Newport were always reported to be in poor circumstances and they always needed support and help from other Quakers across Ireland and further afield from whom they were now far removed geographically by their remote location. The nearest community of Quakers was based in Co. Roscommon at a place called Ballymurray. The Newport Quakers appear to have been an unfortunate community with no meeting house, instead meeting for religious worship in each other's homes. With many deaths of their young people occurring within the community in the years after resettling in Mayo, a burial ground had to be established for them in the town. The linen business interests fell on hard times and life was always a struggle with constant assistance having to be brought to Newport by visiting Quakers. By 1736 the Newport Quakers started to think very seriously about removing from their settlement in Co. Mayo. There was no fresh blood for them to be able to find suitable marriage partners from within their own community as they were all closely related and this caused them great concern. Only marriage within the Quaker community would have been acceptable to the elders of the community as would have been normal practice in those days. Anybody choosing a partner from outside would have had to leave the community network and could no longer be accepted into the Religious Society of Friends. The Newport Quakers community struggled on for a few more years and eventually bought some land in Roscommon where they would be closer to the Quaker community at Ballymurray. During the winter of 1739/1740 the last of the Newport Quaker community left their Newport land and homes and moved to Co. Roscommon where their lives would be less wretched. Many Quakers went to America to make new lives for themselves in the years that followed. The Quakers are well recognised in Ireland because during the time of the Great Famine (1845/47) they raised a lot of money for famine relief, and came to the aid of famine victims setting up soup kitchens in some of the worst hit areas of the west.
The Sisters of Mercy
The O'Donel family who took over from the Medlycotts were Protestant but George O'Donel's wife was a Catholic and he donated three acres of land on Barrack Hill to the Sisters of Mercy to build a convent in Newport. It was noted that when the foundations were being dug out for the new convent in 1884 many coins and buttons were unearthed, the buttons bearing the inscription of "Pratt". In 1887 the convent was completed and St. Joseph's Convent National School opened with a roll of 211 girls and 34 boys. The school was a great success and numbers continued to grow. The nuns were a popular addition to Newport and local merchants donated gifts to the convent. In 1894 a school to train girls in the lace making industry opened and provided a successful industry until the lace market collapsed after the 2nd World War. Due to rationalisation, the sisters vacated the convent in 1977 and took up residence in a rented building in the town. The convent then had its own secondary school but in recent years, Newport pupils travel to secondary schools in Westport.
- Birthplace of John (Juan) King who went on to become along with Admiral Brown, one of the founders of the Argentine Navy.
- John Henry Kelly, the paternal grandfather of Grace Kelly, the American actress and the wife of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, was born in Drumilra, Newport.
- The historic Murray Hotel of Mackinac Island, Michigan, in the United States, which opened in 1882, was founded by Dominick Murray of Newport. The Murray family is still today a prominent clan in the Straits of Mackinac region.
Places of interest
Newport has a very striking disused railway viaduct crossing the river which, together with the Roman Catholic church on top of the hill, dominate the town and create a picturesque appearance. St. Patrick's Catholic Church, built in 1914 in the Irish Romanesque Revival style by Rudolph M. Butler is so imposing that it is usually referred to as 'Newport Cathedral'. It has a magnificent stained glass east window of The Last Judgement, the last window completed by Harry Clarke in 1930. Burrishoole Friary and Gráinne O'Malley's Rockfleet Castle are both just to the west of the town. The town is a popular angling and tourist centre.
Gallery of historic structures
- Placenames Database of Ireland
- Land and Popular Politics in Ireland: County Mayo from the Plantation to the ... By Donald E. Jordan
- http://www.ackworth.w-yorks.sch.uk/images/Newport.jpg Views of Newport
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