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Béal Tairbirt
Belturbet is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°06′N 7°27′W / 54.1°N 7.45°W / 54.1; -7.45Coordinates: 54°06′N 7°27′W / 54.1°N 7.45°W / 54.1; -7.45
Country Republic of Ireland
Province Ulster
County County Cavan
Elevation 57 m (187 ft)
Population (2006)
 • Urban 1,411
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)
Irish Grid Reference H361168
Main Street, Belturbet

Belturbet (Irish: Béal Tairbirt, meaning "mouth of the isthmus")[6] is a town in County Cavan, Republic of Ireland. It lies on the N3 road, around 14 km (8.7 mi) north of Cavan town and 123 km (76 mi) from Dublin. It is also located around 4 km (2.5 mi) south of the border with Northern Ireland, between the counties of Cavan and Fermanagh, and 36 km (22 mi) from Enniskillen.


Belturbet's location is historically one of the best places for crossing the River Erne. When the Anglo-Normans tried to conquer Cavan in the early 13th century, Walter de Lacy built a motte-and-bailey on Turbet Island. The fort was probably made of wood and has not survived, although the steep mound of earth where it was built can still be seen. In the late 16th century the local O'Reilly chieftains built a castle opposite Turbot Island, but this has not survived either.

As part of the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century, the lands around Belturbet were granted to the English "undertaker" Stephen Butler. He soon established a thriving urban centre, whose prosperity relied heavily on its position on the Erne. In October 1641 the town was seized by the Irish during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Belturbet was the site of one of the massacres of planters, in which over two dozen were thrown from the town's bridge and drowned. In March 1653 Belturbet, under Viscount Magennis of Iveagh, was the last town in Ireland to fall to Cromwell; the final Irish stronghold at nearby Cloughoughter held out for a further month.[7]

Belturbet also acquired an English garrison in the late 17th century. Many of the original fortifications are in good repair. The town retains much of its original lay-out. The main street leads to the square or 'diamond' where all of the town's important buildings are situated. The Church of Ireland chapel dominates the sky-line; some of it dates from the early 17th century, and it was one of the first Anglican churches built in Ireland, reputedly using materials from Drumlane Abbey. In the 1650s the proto-Quaker leader, William Edmundson, was detained at Belturbet and put in the stocks.[8] The church was damaged by lightning in the 1720s.

Belturbet constituency was represented in the Irish House of Commons from 1611 to 1800. Between 1725 and 1793 Catholics and those married to Catholics could not vote.

In 1760 John Wesley passed through and noted[9]

a town in which there is neither Papist nor Presbyterian; but, to supply that defect, there are Sabbath-breakers, drunkards, and common swearers in abundance.

James Somers won the Victoria Cross during World War One. He is buried at Modreeny, in Munster.

Andrew Grene (1965–2010), a civil affairs officer with the United Nations, grew up largely on a small farm outside of Belturbet. He was killed in the earthquake of January 12, 2010. He was laid to rest in Belturbet churchyard. The Department of Foreign Affairs dedicated the annual Andrew Grene Conflict Resolution Scholarship in his honor. The Andrew Grene Foundation, a charity dedicated to assisting Haiti through education and microfinance, was also founded in his memory.

The Troubles[edit]

Two young people, Geraldine O'Reilly, Staghall, Belturbet and Patrick Stanley, from Clara, Co. Offaly, were killed by a Loyalist car bomb in Belturbet on 28 December 1972.[10]

An award winning documentary on the atrocity, 'The Forgotten bomb' was made by Fran McNulty, it featured interviews with the families and locals who remembered the bombing. The programme was broadcast on Shannonside Northern Sound Radio. The journalist won the best regional journalist award in the ESB media awards in 2004 for the programme. Both parents of Patrick Stanley featured in the documentary. The brother of Geraldine O'Reilly, Anthony, who was serious injured in the attack also featured. A specially sculptured monument was erected in early 2007 on the site of the bomb, dedicated to these two victims.

Cavan County Council have erected a monument to commemorate their deaths at the site of the bombing. Several memorial services have been held at the monument. The 30th anniversary of the tragedy heard the father of Patrick Stanley, Joe, make a heart touching speech at the site. It came just weeks after the death of Patrick's mother.


The town contains four schools, three of these are primary schools.

Primary Schools[edit]

St. Mary's BNS, a male primary school for second class up to sixth class. Fairgreen National School, a mixed gender Church of Ireland primary school. Covent of Mercy National School, a primary school for boys up to 1st class and girls up to sixth class.

Post Primary Schools[edit]

The town's only secondary school is St Bricins Vocational School(school website). It is a vocational school run by County Cavan VEC.


Belturbet Railway

Rail transport[edit]

The railway station in Belturbet has recently been restored and is back to its former glory. It was opened on 29 June 1885 for the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) connecting to the broad gauge branch to Ballyhaise railway station on the Clones to Cavan line. It also served the narrow gauge Cavan and Leitrim Railway to Dromod and Arigna, for which it opened on 24 October 1887. The station finally closed for all services on 1 April 1959.[11][12]

Belturbet railway station is a railway museum.

Coach/ bus transport[edit]

Bus Éireann Expressway Route 309, jointly operated with McGeehan Coaches, provides a frequent service to/from the town many times daily and Ulsterbus Route 5810 from Enniskillen has its terminus in the town. The bus stop is located outside the former post office on the Diamond (for Cavan/Dublin-bound services it is on the opposite side of the road). Leydons Coaches operate route 930 linking the town to Cavan, Ballyconnell, Bawnboy, Swanlinbar and Enniskillen.[13]


The Staghall to Drumaloor section of the N3 Belturbet Bypass opened on 2 August 2013.[14][15] The remainder to the south opened on 13th December 2013.[16]


The town's main source of revenue is tourism, which includes fishing, boat cruising, the local railway station and country walks. The town has its own festival, Belturbet Festival Of The Erne which also includes the Lady Of the Erne competition. The festival attracts large crowds for the last week in July and boasts one of the largest fancy dress parties in Ireland. Employment for most of the locals is in Cavan Town, Ballyconnell or other nearby areas. There are few sources of employment in the town itself, aside from tourism related jobs. The town has a Farmers Mart every Friday afternoon, where local and fresh produce is sold, and specialities include Cheese, Fish, Breads, Vegetables, etc. There is a Car Boot Sale at the Railway Station on the last Sunday of every month, commencing around 10.30a.m.


According to the CSO Census of 2006, the population of Belturbet was 1,411 (up from 1,304 in 2002).[17]


Belturbet has a local GAA club, Belturbet Rory O'Moores. The club plays ladies' and men's football and has a number of underage teams. The town also has a golf club which is run by Daniel O'Reilly with terrific pride. He also runs a local drama school that helps disadvantaged young people.


Dead Can Dance singer and composer Brendan Perry lives in the vicinity of the town.

A Play entitled "The Tangler in Court" written by local Playwright Brendan McCann, and produced by Belturbet Dramatic Society is presented at Belturbet Festival of The Erne during the period July 26 - August 3, 2009.

From 1893 to 1931, Shan Fadh Bullock wrote 14 novels set in the Cavan-Fermanagh borderland, renaming Belturbet "Bunn" for his books.[18] Belturbet is mentioned in James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses, in the fifteenth episode, Circe. The reference comes from Cissy Caffrey, who says: 'More luck to me. Cavan, Cootehill and Belturbet'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Census for post 1821 figures.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. 
  5. ^ Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850". The Economic History Review. Volume 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. 
  6. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland
  7. ^ Pádraig Lenihan, ‘Magennis, Arthur, third Viscount Magennis of Iveagh (1623/1626–1683)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  8. ^ Richard L. Greaves, ‘Edmundson, William (1627–1712)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010
  9. ^ Wesley, John: The Journal from May 6, 1760, to October 28, 1762
  10. ^ Children of Ireland
  11. ^ "Belturbet station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  12. ^ Baker, Michael HC (1999). Irish Narrow Gauge Railways. A View from the Past. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2680-7. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ beyond2020
  18. ^ Patrick Maume, ‘Bullock, Shan Fadh (1865–1935)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

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