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Leitir Fraic
View of Letterfrack and Ballinakill harbour, 2008
View of Letterfrack and Ballinakill harbour, 2008
Letterfrack is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 53°33′N 9°57′W / 53.55°N 9.95°W / 53.55; -9.95Coordinates: 53°33′N 9°57′W / 53.55°N 9.95°W / 53.55; -9.95
CountyCounty Galway
81 m (266 ft)
Irish Grid ReferenceL697591

Letterfrack or Letterfrac (Irish: Leitir Fraic meaning "The Speckled Hill") is a small village in the Connemara area of County Galway, Ireland. It was founded by Quakers in the mid-19th century. The village is approximately 3 kilometres (2 miles) west of Renvyle and 15 kilometres (9 miles) north-east of Clifden on Barnaderg Bay and lies at the head of Ballinakill harbour. Letterfrack contains the visitors centre for Connemara National Park.


James and Mary Ellis, a Quaker couple from Bradford in England, moved to Letterfrack, during the Great Famine. Ellis became the resident landlord in Letterfrack in 1849.[1] As Quakers, the Ellises wanted to help with the post-famine relief effort. They leased nearly 1,000 acres (405 ha) of rough land and set about farming it and planting it with woodland.[2] They built a schoolhouse, housing for tradesmen, a shop, a dispensary, and a temperance hotel.[3] In 1857 the property was sold to John Hall, a staunch Protestant, and supporter of the Irish Church Mission to Roman Catholics. The ICM used the building with the aim of converting Catholics to Protestantism. After 25 years without much success, Hall sold it in 1882, under the impression he was selling it to a Protestant buyer, for £3000 for 1,000 acres (405 ha).[4]

However, under a false name, the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, John McEvilly, bought the former Ellis property in 1882, which at that time was being used by the Protestant Irish Church Missions to Roman Catholics.[5] In 1885, he established St Joseph's Industrial School, Letterfrack[3] which opened in 1887. Letterfrack Industrial School became notorious for neglect and abuse of the children in its charge, and the school closed in 1974.[6][7]

Marconi Wireless Station[edit]

Letterfrack was selected by Marconi as the location for the transatlantic wireless receiver station for his new duplex transatlantic wireless service. The Duplex operation was initially developed by Marconi at Letterfrack and quickly became standard practice for commercial and military radiotelegraph communication worldwide.

Beginning in 1913, eastbound messages were sent from Marconi Towers, a high power wireless station in Nova Scotia, to Letterfrack; while westbound messages were sent simultaneously from the Clifden high power wireless station to Louisbourg. The Letterfrack station was closed in April 1917 at the direction of the Admiralty and was never re-opened for commercial traffic. Some experimental work on shortwave and other work, by Marconi engineers Franklin and Witt, was carried out into the early 1920s.

St. Joseph's Church[edit]

St. Joseph's Church

In 1924–26 a church was built on the ground of the Industrial School after the designs of the architect Rudolf Maximilian Butler in a Romanesque Revival style. The church was dedicated to Saint Joseph by Thomas Gilmartin on 12 June 1926. The church consists of a single four-bay nave aligned north-south with two small side chapels and an attached sacristy on its western side.[8][9][10]

GMIT Campus[edit]

GMIT Campus building in Letterfrack, originally built as St Joseph's Industrial School in 1887 after the designs of the Cavan architect William Hague.[11][12]

In 1987 the Connemara West began running furniture courses which has become the Furniture College/Campus for the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.[13]


Connemara Community Radio broadcasts from Letterfrack.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tánaiste Launches Joan Johnson’s book James & Mary Ellis Background and Quaker Famine Relief in Letterfrack Archived 2 August 2012 at Archive.today Dept. of Trade and Innovation, Monday 31 July 2000
  2. ^ James & Mary Ellis Background and Quaker Famine Relief in Letterfrack, by Joan Johnson, Historical Committee of the Society of Friends in Ireland, Dublin 2000.
  3. ^ a b Living, working and playing in the glow of Diamond Mountain and the shadow of cruelty Irish Times, Wednesday, 18 August 2010.
  4. ^ History of Education Letterfrack by Dr. Tony Lyons. Archived 15 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Connemara: visions of Chonnacht By Michael Gibbons
  6. ^ http://www.paddydoyle.com/a-history-of-neglect/
  7. ^ "Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Chapter 8, Letterfrack Industrial School ('Letterfrack'), 1885–1974".
  8. ^ "Dedication of Letterfrack Church". The Connacht Tribune. 12 June 1926. p. 3.
  9. ^ "CO. GALWAY, LETTERFRACK, CHURCH (RC)". Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720–1940. Irish Architectural Archive. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Letterfrack, County Galway 30329007". National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  11. ^ "CO. GALWAY, LETTERFRACK, INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS". Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720–1940. Irish Architectural Archive. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Letterfrack, County Galway 30329005". National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  13. ^ College Building - Galway Mayo Institute of Technology Archived 11 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine GMIT Website
  • Whelan D. (ed.) Founded on Fear; Letterfrack Industrial School, war and exile by Peter Tyrrell. Irish Academic Press 2006. ISBN 978-0-7165-3403-7