by John Downey
Ballymore Castle was built by John Lawrence in year 1585. on the land he acquired through his marriage to the daughter of O'Madden. It was damaged in subsequent wars and repaired by his son, Walter, in 1620. John Lawrence Jnr. was dispossessed by Cromwell in 1641. he having espoused the royalist cause in the war of that time. The castle and much of his estate was given to Sir Thomas Newcomen. He leased the castle to the Lawrences for many years. On his death it passed to Nicholas Cusack of Cushinstown, Co. Meath. who sold it to John Eyre of Eyrecourt about 1720.
The Seymour family settled in the castle around 1700. The castle was modernised and a large house added in 1815. Thomas Seymour purchased the castle and lands outright from Giles Eyre around 1824. This family were to remain in possession of the castle until the early part this century. Mrs. Hale, a relative of the Seymours, inherited the estate which was somewhat reduced at this time a large portion having been acquired by the Irish Land Commission. She leased the castle to a family named Smiths and also to the infamous Major Belassy.
The Belassy family arrived in Ballymore in 1948. Using the false pretence that his money was delayed in being transferred from his English accounts. He sought and obtained credit facilities from many shop owners and farmers in the local area. Time passed but the excuse remained unchanged. The family car was often seen leaving the castle at night and returning in the morning. This was a source of suspicion and puzzlement to many though a few who were aware of what was happening were "encouraged" to maintain their silence. Staff eventually discovered that the valuable silverware of the castle was been removed during there nocturnal excursions. The major was arrested and received a short prison sentence. The family left Ballymore when they failed to elicit any financial help from the local clergy. Mrs. Hale returned and paid some of the debts incurred by Belassy to uphold the good name of me castle. It was subsequently sold together with its lands to Joe Naughton for £9.000. His family remain there to this day.
Galway County Council's Long Connections With Lawrencetown
Galway County Council was first set up in 1899 and the first County Secretary was Mr. Walter Gordon Seymour from Ballymore Castle in Lawrencetown. He served as County Secretary from 1899 to 1925 and his Galway Address is given as The Courthouse, Galway. Peculiarly enough he was also elected as a County Councillor in 1905, in 1908, in 1911, and in 1914. At that stage elections took place every three years but because of the World War 1 and the War of Independence there was no other election until 1920.
In the 1914 election John McKeigue of Craughwell, Lawrencetown was first elected. He was affectionately known as “Honest John McKeigue” and his descendents are numerous in the Lawrencetown area. His grandson Michael McKeigue is the owner of Coille Mór Hill the champion Irish Show-jumper and his other grandson Tony McKeigue is very active in the Lawrencetown Community Enterprise Company.
In that same year of 1914 Mr. James J. Hoban of Ballydonagh, Lawrencetown, also became an Ex-officio member of Galway County Council so that Lawrencetown had three members on the Council at that time. The Hoban families of Bellevue are descendents of James Hoban. However after the 1920 election the three of them were no longer members.
In 1925 John McKeigue made a successful comeback and won his seat in the Ballinasloe Electoral Area and was re-elected again in 1928 and in 1934. His service as a Councillor seems to have ended in 1942 and from that year to 1955 Lawrencetown was without a Councillor.
In 1955 John Dowd of Roohan, Lawrencetown was first elected and he was re-elected in 1960. However he did not stand for re-election in 1967 and it was not until 1974 that James Joyce of Lawrencetown was first elected. He was re-elected in 1979 and in 1985 but lost his seat in 1991. However he regained his seat on the Council in 1999 and is currently on the Council. He is currently Vice Chairman of the Lawrencetown Community Enterprise Company.
Sir Edward Carson's Connection with Ballymore Castle
On the 9th of February 1854 Edward Henry Carson was born in Dublin. His parents Edward Henry Carson and Isabella Lambert lived at that time in No. 4 Harcourt Street close to St Stephen's Green. Isabella Lambert was from Castle Ellen about 7 miles from Athenry in Co Galway. Her father Captain Peter Fitzwalter Lambert was married to Eleanor Seymour of Ballymore Castle in Lawrencetown and she was the daughter of the owner of Ballymore Castle, Thomas Seymour. The Lamberts were descendants of “Honest John Lambert” a Yorkshire man who became one of Oliver Cromwell's Major Generals and took a leading part in the Council of Officers who offered Cromwell the post of Protector when the Parliament of Westminster was broken up in 1653. For the leading part he took in the Civil War against King Charles I, John Lambert was given extensive property in Ireland. The same was true for the Seymours whose ancestor, Thomas Seymour, was granted the ownership of Ballymore Castle and lands by King William III (William of Orange) after the conclusion of the Revolutionary wars of 1688-1691 which included such famous battles as The Siege of Derry 1689, The Battle of the Boyne 1690, The First Siege of Limerick 1690, The Battle of Athlone 1691, The Battle of Aughrim 1691 and the concluding Second Siege of Limerick 1691. Thomas Seymour was an Officer in the Williamite Army. Some of the Seymour Family are buried in the Mausoleum in the Lisheen Cemetery in Ballymore and more of them are buried in a vault in Clonfert Cathedral.
Sir Edward Carson's political career in Northern Ireland is legendary. In 1912 he was leader of the Ulster Unionists and led a massive campaign against the introduction of Home Rule for Ireland by the British Government. He was the first to sign the Ulster Covenant of 1912 on Ulster Day 28th September 1912, which pledged Unionists to “stand by one another in defending for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority” In all 218,206 men signed the Ulster Covenant and a similar Ulster Women's Declaration was signed by 228,991 women.
Very soon this led to Orangemen and Ulstermen carrying out drilling exercises and acquiring military skills. In January 1913 the Ulster Unionist Council decided that the Volunteers should be united into a single body to be known as the Ulster Volunteer Force, (UVF). It's membership was to be limited to 100,000 men who had signed the Ulster Covenant. On the night of the 24/25 April 1914 35,000 rifles and 3,000,000 rounds of ammunition were successfully brought in from Germany by the UVF at Larne, Donaghadee and Bangor.
In September 1911 Carson had stated in Craigavon, “We must be prepared……. The morning Home Rule passes, ourselves to become responsible for the government of the Protestant province of Ulster.” Exactly two years later the Ulster Unionist Council approved the setting up of a Provisional Government if Home Rule should become law. The Council delegated its powers to the Provisional Government with Carson at its head.
In 1914 it seemed inevitable that Home Rule would become a reality and the Nationalist people of Ireland had set up a similar force called the National Volunteers to defend Home Rule. However World War 1 erupted in August 1914 and the question of Home Rule was set aside until the war was over. Carson was asked by the British Minister of War, Lord Kitchener to provide four battalions for the war effort. Instead Carson supplied 12 Battalions of soldiers from the ranks of the UVF who became the 36th (Ulster) Division and distinguished themselves at the Battle of the Somme. Indeed many Irishmen who also took part in that War were former members of the National Volunteers from all over Ireland and they too paid the supreme sacrifice of their lives.
The Easter Rising of 1916, when Nationalist Ireland tried to assert its right to an Irish Republic took the British by surprise and eventually the Rising was brutally crushed. However when the Great War was over in 1918 everything had changed. As W. B. Yeats said “A terrible beauty was born”. The demand for an Irish Republic led to the War of Independence from 1918 to 1921 after which there was a truce leading to the Treaty. Twenty six Counties of Ireland became a Free State and the six Counties of Northern Ireland were given a Government of their own under Sir James Craig as Prime Minister. By then Sir Edward Carson had passed from the scene but to this day his statue can be seen in a most commanding position in front of Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast, the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
And there you have it. I bet not many people know Sir Edward Carson's granny came from Lawrencetown, in County Galway or that his mother was born and reared near the Fields of Athenry. History is peculiar.
H. Montgomery Hyde, CARSON, The Life of Sir Edward Carson, Lord Carson of Duncairn
Sir Edward Carson, A Dream Too Far, by John Hostettler
The Ulster Covenant, A Pictorial History of the 1912 Home Rule Crisis, edited by Gordon Lucy.
With thanks to the Belfast Public Libraries, Royal Avenue, Belfast BTI IEA