Tóin an tSeanbhaile

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Tóin an tSeanbhaile
Tóin an tSeanbhaile
Tóin an tSeanbhaile is located in Ireland
Tóin an tSeanbhaile
Tóin an tSeanbhaile
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°00′44″N 9°58′02″W / 54.01233°N 9.96730°W / 54.01233; -9.96730Coordinates: 54°00′44″N 9°58′02″W / 54.01233°N 9.96730°W / 54.01233; -9.96730
Country Ireland
Province Connacht
County County Mayo
Elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)
Irish Grid Reference L709089

Tóin an tSeanbhaile (Traditionally: Tóin a'tSean-bhaile,[1] Colloquial English: The Valley/Tonatanvally[2]) is a small village located on the north east point of Achill Island, Ireland. It lies within the Mayo Gaeltacht.


Tóin an tSeanbhaile is one of the flattest places on Achill Island,[3] a shallow plain encircled by low hills[4] which is bordered mostly by the sea, with Ridge Point to the north, and Sruhill Lough to the south. To the southeast lies the village of Dún Ibhir (Dooniver), to the west lies Dúmha Goirt (Dugort) and to the south lies Bun an Churraigh (Bunacurry).[5] The bedrock of the area consists mainly of Schist and Gneiss, with lowland blanket bog to the south,[6] and machair and rocky seashore to the north and west.

The area has a number of lakes, Lough Gall (Loch Geall, the bright lake), Loch na mBreac (The lake of the trout), Lough Doo (Loch Dubh, The black lake) and Sruhill Lough (a tidal lake).[7] These lakes have healthy stocks of Brown trout,[8] some sea trout, and Lough Gall is also artificially stocked with Rainbow trout.

A machair exists near Lough Doo, which has been designated a Special Area of Conservation[9] by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, under the European Habitats Directive. The site itself is of international importance in the conservation of mosses and liverworts,[10] with some scarce and rare species, Catoscopium nigritum and Fossombronia incurva, and is in fact the only location in Ireland that the liverwort Leiocolea gillmannii has been recorded at.[11]

Much of the southern townland was designated a Natural Heritage Area by Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, in 2007 because of its importance as a hyperoceanic blanket bog habitat.[12][13]

The village itself is broken into a number of smaller subsections - Shruffle, Fóirín, Árdán and the street. These divisions go largely unnoticed through the year until 23 June (St. Johns night), which sees subsection having its own bonfire, as per local tradition.[14]


Tóin an tSeanbhaile is one of the oldest settlements on Achill island, as evidenced by its name (Tóin an tSeanbhaile - The end of the old village),[15] with a number of prehistoric archaeological sites, including a Cairn to the south of the village near Bun an Churraigh, a Midden, Ringfort and Enclosure on Caraun Point (where the first settlement existed), a Crannóg near the centre of the modern village.[16] A cillín, a burial ground for the unbaptised, mainly children is also found on Caraun point,[17] and which gives it its Irish name Rinn na Leanbh.[18]

John Goodacre sold the 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) of land around Tóin an tSeanbhaile which had been bought by his father,[19] to the 8th Earl of Cavan, Frederick J.W. Lambart in the early 1870s.[20] Lambart built a hunting lodge on this land, and in 1888 his wife sold the land to Mrs Agnes

The Valley House as it currently stands. Visible at the top of the gable is the plaque showing the year of construction (AD1902).


The then landlady and the estate became national and international news in 1894,[22][23] when Mrs. McDonnell was brutally attacked by her bailiff, James Lynchehaun, and left for dead after he set fire to her house. His arrest, and subsequent escape were reported in the media, and became part of the popular culture of the era, with references to the affair in J.M. Synge's drama The Playboy of the Western World,[24][1] Joyce's Ulysses (1922)[25] and ballads of the time.[26] The house was subsequently rebuilt by McDonnell, and completed in 1902. The estate was purchased from McDonnell's son, Leslie Elliot, by the Gallagher family in 1942.[27] It currently operates as a bar and hostel. In recent years, the story of Mrs. McDonnell and Lynchehaun has become the subject of fiction, with a book, The Playboy and the Yellow Lady published in 1986,[28] and a 1998 film Love and Rage, starring Daniel Craig as Lynchehaun, and Greta Scacchi as Agnes McDonnell.[29]

The 1911 census show a population of 253,[30] which has declined today to an estimated population of 113.

Census data for Tóin an tSeanbhaile, 1841–1911[31]
Year 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911
Number of Houses 21 22 74 81 84 55 43 46
Population 115 96 334 381 413 274 232 253


Tóin an tSeanbhaile has a broad diversity of wildlife. Marine mammals (whales, porpoises) and basking shark are commonly sighted off Ridge point,[32][33] and the area is well known for its diversity of mosses and liverworths. Common birds-foot trefoil, ladys bedstraw, various small sedges and sand sedge are found on the Machair near Loch Dubh, and Loch na mBreac has a good growth of common reed, branched bur-reed and bulrush.

Birds commonly sighted on the shore include cormorants, shags, snipe, lapwing, oystercatcher, common tern, Arctic tern, Sandwich tern, common gull, kittiwake, black-headed gull, great black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull.[34] Further inshore, species commonly sighted include whooper swan, wigeon, teal, mallard, coot, lapwing, curlew, little grebe, grey heron, red-breasted merganser and light-bellied brent goose.[35] From time to time the rare corn crake has nested inland also.[36]

The blanket bog to the south has a large biodiversity of flora, including black bog-rush, purple moor-grass, cross-leaved heath, ling heather, white beak-sedge, common cottongrass, deergrass, round-leaved sundew, lousewort, bog mosses (Sphagnum spp.), lichens (Cladonia spp.), Racomitrium lanuginosum, liverwort Pleurozia purpurea is also present. There are hollows colonised by bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) and moss Campylopus atrovirens and the bog moss Sphagnum contortum also occurs.[6] A report on the area by the National Parks and Wildlife service further details

The lake in the south-east corner of the site supports pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum), bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and bulbous rush (Juncus bulbosus) and a marginal flush that is extensive in parts. The flush contains bog mosses Sphagnum recurvum and S. cuspidatum, carnation sedge (Carex panicea), marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris), oblong-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia), yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) and many-stalked spike-rush (Eleocharis multicaulis). The slopes of the low-rising hills to the west of the site support a mosaic of blanket bog and dry heath. Species noted include ling heather, devil's-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), hard fern (Blechnum spicant) and the lichens Cladonia uncialis and C. portentosa.

— National Parks and Wildlife service, Site Synopsis of the Natural Heritage Area Doogort East bog[6]


Although a small village, Tóin an tSeanbhaile has a number of amenities, including a Primary School (S.N Thóin a'tSeanbhaile, built 1914),[37] Soccer Pitch (Fr. O'Brien Park, home ground of Achill Rovers, [38] a Roman Catholic church, a Pier and blue flag beaches,[34] a Pitch and Putt course,[39] as well as a Bar and Hostel. The village has one postbox, one bus stop and is served by the Bus Éireann 440 once a day in each direction.[40]



  1. ^ Irish Placenames Database, archival data - http://www.logainm.ie/Image.aspx?PlaceID=36859&Url=Ref+58\36859.jpg&NoBlock=yes
  2. ^ The Placenames Act (Gaeltacht areas), 2007, #248 - http://www.coimisineir.ie/downloads/An_tOrdu_Logainmneacha_(Ceantair_Ghaeltachta)_2004.pdf
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey Ireland - http://ims0.osiemaps.ie/website/publicviewer/main.aspx#V1,469037,802455,3
  4. ^ National Parks and Wildlife service, Site Synopsis of the Natural Heritage Area Doogort East bog - http://www.npws.ie/en/media/Media,4381,en.pdf
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey Map, detailing townlands - http://ims0.osiemaps.ie/website/publicviewer/main.aspx#V1,470430,808855,5
  6. ^ a b c National Parks and Wildlife service, Site Synopsis of the Natural Heritage Area Doogort East bog - http://www.npws.ie/en/media/Media,4381,en.pdf
  7. ^ Irish Placenames Commission - http://www.logainm.ie/?parentID=36859&typeID=L
  8. ^ "Fishing and angling on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, Ireland". achilltourism.com. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  9. ^ http://www.npws.ie/en/SAC/001497/
  10. ^ Mayo County Council - http://www.mayococo.ie/en/Services/Environment/LeisureAmenities/Beaches/GoldenStrand/
  11. ^ National Park and Wildlife Service report -http://www.npws.ie/en/media/Media,4088,en.pdf
  12. ^ "S.I. No. 516/2007 - Natural Heritage Area (Doogort East Bog NHA 002381) Order 2007". irishstatutebook.ie. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  13. ^ http://www.npws.ie/en/media/Media,4381,en.pdf
  14. ^ Institute of Maritime History, Field report - http://www.maritimehistory.org/content/achill-island-field-report-7-st-john’s-eve-bonfire-night-23 June 2006
  15. ^ Archive data from the Irish placenames initiative - http://www.logainm.ie/Image.aspx?PlaceID=36859&Url=Box62\36859-60_1.JPG&NoBlock=yes
  16. ^ Dept of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Archaeological Survey of Ireland - www.archaeology.ie
  17. ^ "Excavations.ie. Searchable database of Irish excavation reports.". web.archive.org. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  18. ^ Caraun point, logainm.ie - http://www.logainm.ie/?parentID=36859&typeID=RINN&placeID=1399228
  19. ^ "Estate Record: Goodacre". landedestates.ie. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  20. ^ "Estate Record: Lambart". landedestates.ie. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  21. ^ NUI Galway, CONNACHT LANDED ESTATES PROJECT - http://www.landedestates.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=413
  22. ^ New York Times article on the attack - http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9F04E4D61339E333A2575BC0A96F9C946297D6CF
  23. ^ Irish Times Headline - The Achill Assault - http://www.irishtimes.com/search/archive.html?rm=listresults&filter=dateasc&keywords=agnes+mcdonnell&daterange=custom&day1=19&mon1=6&year1=1895&day2=25&mon2=3&year2=1900
  24. ^ The Irish Review (1986-), No. 4 (Spring, 1988), pp. 136-139 - http://www.jstor.org/stable/29735369
  25. ^ Reference to Lynchehaun, Ulysees Chapter 10 - http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ulysses_(novel)/Chapter_10
  26. ^ Tim Robinson's introduction to JM Synge's Th Aran Islands - https://books.google.com/books?id=VncPMT7g5FYC&lpg=PR35&ots=y_Rs5VU6QP&dq=ballads%20james%20lynchehaun&pg=PR35#v=onepage&q=ballads%20james%20lynchehaun&f=false
  27. ^ "History of The Valley House". valley-house.com. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  28. ^ Open Library details of The Playboy and the Yellow Lady - https://openlibrary.org/b/OL2431852M/playboy_the_yellow_lady
  29. ^ "Love & Rage (2000) - IMDb". imdb.com. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  30. ^ Census Data for the townland, Census 1911 - http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/results.jsp?surname=&exact=&firstname=&county=&townland=Tonatanvally&ded=&age=&sex=&relationToHead=&religion=&education=&occupation=&marriageStatus=&marriageYears=&childrenBorn=&childrenLiving=&birthplace=&language=&deafdumb=&search=Search&sort=&pageSize=100
  31. ^ Census Data for the townland, Mayo County Library - http://www.mayolibrary.ie/maps/data/townlands/DL.htm
  32. ^ "www.iwdg.ie". iwdg.ie. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  33. ^ Irish Whale and Dolphin group sightings record - http://www.iwdg.ie/iscope/sightings/default.asp?dataset=sightings&county=1190&location=124&species=&resultsFormat=map&search1=Search
  34. ^ a b "Mayo County Council - County Mayo, Ireland -- Golden Strand". mayococo.ie. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  35. ^ "BirdWatch Mayo". birdwatchmayo.org. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  36. ^ http://archives.tcm.ie/westernpeople/2001/09/20/story7172.asp
  37. ^ "thevalleyns.com: The Leading The Valley Ns Site on the Net". web.archive.org. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  38. ^ "Fr O'Brien - Honorary President Achill Rovers Football Club - Fr Vincent O'Brien Achill Island Co Mayo". achillrovers.com. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  39. ^ "Visit Achill - Golf on Achill, Co Mayo, Ireland". visitachill.com. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  40. ^ http://www.buseireann.ie/pdf/1203333497-440.pdf

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