Baile na gCros / Cionn Toirc
|— Village —|
|Dáil Éireann||Meath West since 2007|
|Elevation||88 m (289 ft)|
|Irish Grid Reference||N461702|
The name Castlepollard comes from the name of a castle or fortified manor built by the English Army captain Nicholas Pollard in the early 17th century. The village's official Irish name is Baile na gCros (anglicised Ballinagross), meaning "town of the cross".1 However, the name Cionn Toirc (anglicised Kinturk), meaning "head of the boar", has also been applied to the village.1 The townland of Kinturk Demesne covers the southern part of the village.
Bus Éireann route 111 serves Castlepollard eight times a day (less often at weekends) linking it to Dublin, Trim, Athboy, Delvin, Abbeylara, Granard and Cavan.2 Route 447 provides a link to Mullingar via Crookedwood on Thursdays only.3 The nearest rail service can be accessed at Mullingar railway station approximately 21 km. distant.
Nicholas Pollard, an English Army captain from Devonshire, arrived in Ireland in 1597 during the Nine Years' War. He fought under the Earl of Essex's command against the Gaelic Irish forces. After that campaign, Captain Pollard was settled on land in the Mayne area. Cionn Torc (Kinturk), a lush valley between the lakes, was granted 'in capite' by the aging Queen Elizabeth I to Captain Pollard. He built a small castle at Rathyoung which he called Castle Pollard.
Walter Pollard, first son of Nicholas, married Ismay Nugent of Roscommon. He received a regrant of the desmene during the restoration period following the Civil War and Cromwellian confiscations. The grant was made by charter from King Charles II, and approved by the Irish Parliament. In addition, he was granted a permit for a weekly market and a fair which was held four times annually. The Pollard family was reconfirmed in the manorial title by the edict of William and Mary. Serving as Commissioner for Supplies during the War of the Three Kingdoms, Pollard sat in the Irish Parliament, and became High Sheriff of the county in 1692. The family gradually improved the residence and the desmene. They rebuilt the adjoining out buildings and developed the village of Castlepollard. They intermarried with the Dillon family of Ladyhill, the Packenhams, the Duttons, the Tuites, and other landed county families. The descendants of Nicholas Pollard lived here at Kinturk Desmene into the early twentieth century.
The well preserved original village layout is now landscaped in a central triangular green. Surrounded by buildings from the Georgian period, a fine sculpture on the square depicts a scene from the famous locally centred legend of the Children of Lir. A plaque outlines the story in several languages. The setting of the legend is the picturesque Lough Derravaragh. There are several ringforts on the surrounding high ground. Two ancient forts are of special archeological interest. Randoon is located in nearby Ranaghan, south west of Lough Lene, and Turgesius Island, is situated on Lough Lene. Turgesius was a Viking leader who sojourned here with a local lover while on respite from his seafaring. He held sway in Danish Dublin (Dyflin) and Shannon Viking port near Clonmacnoise.
Castlepollard has two churches which serve the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Christian communities. Kinturk House, the Georgian period Pollard residence, now serves as St. Peter's Centre. It was purchased by the Sacred Heart Sisters from the family in 1935, who added a chapel wing. A hospital designed by T.J. Cullen (1879–1947) was built c. 1935 and was part of "an extensive hospital construction programme initiated during the first decades of the Irish Free State"4 financed by the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake. The sisters operated a Magdalen Asylum there for many years; the property was sold to Midlands Health Board in 1971.5
In the early nineteenth century, the main village and the Pollard family properties underwent a major reconstruction program. The Kinturk Desmene residence and the adjacent town buildings were rebuilt in the classical Georgian style of the period. Some common lands were enclosed. A new Church of Ireland building was erected in the Square, along with the Market House.6 Located on the west side of the green, this was the village's major public building and landmark. The quarterly Court of Petty Sessions convened here.
During the War of Independence the Irish Republican Army (IRA) burned the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks located on the Mullingar Road. The RIC then moved to the courthouse. In 1921, the IRA began a wave of burnings which targeted United Kingdom government offices throughout Ireland. This was a concerted effort to cripple the UK civil service in its day to day administration of the country. It was very successful. The Market House was also torched. Two sitting magistrates were kidnapped by the IRA on their way to the court. The men were held hostage locally, reportedly in a cow byre on the Hill of Moal. Happily, they were released unharmed after forty eight hours, and the village was spared reprisals. The Market House was rebuilt in 1926, and serves as the Town Fire Station.
Recent additions to the built environment include multiple housing estates, the Area Office of the Westmeath County Council,7 and the Castlepollard Community College's new school building (2004),8 both on the Mullingar Road.
Mergon International, a manufacturer of moulded parts, is one of the main businesses in the town. The town has a good retail base, and is a vibrate commercial centre for North Westmeath, consisting of Filling Stations, Banks, Post Office, Council Buildings, Primary and Secondary schools, a number of Grocery/Newsagent Shops, Hairdressers, Beauty Salon's, Boutiques, Drapery stores, Furniture stores, Pharmacy's and a large Hardware store. Castlepollard also has number of pubs and is home to the Hotel Castlepollard.
Hurling is the major sport in the area. Castlepollard is home to a successful hurling team who have won the Westmeath Senior Championship on thirteen occasions. 'Pollard are arch-rivals of neighbouring Lough Lene Gaels of Collinstown.
Ballycomoyle (5 km (3 mi) away) play in the Junior Gaelic football championship while Castletown Finea Coole Whitehall (CFCW) (13 km (8 mi) away) play in the Intermediate championship.
Castlepollard Celtic Football Club, founded in 2004, caters for underage soccer in the area with teams ranging from Under 7's to Under 16's for boys and girls.
Two kilometers west of Castlepollard on the Granard Road (Pakenham Hall Street) is Tullynally Castle, seat of the Pakenham family, later the Earls of Longford. Also known as Pakenham Hall, the original 17th century fortified house (c. 1655) was remodelled first as a comfortable Georgian mansion in the 1730s, then as a huge rambling Gothic Revival castle.9 Kitty Pakenham (1773–1831) was a friend of novelist Maria Edgeworth and married Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
The Irish National Inventory of Architectural Heritage calls Tullynally a "magnificent sprawling castle, with a picturesque skyline of turrets, pinnacles, battlements and tall Tudoresque chimneystacks... The attention to detail displayed throughout and the quality of the workmanship is outstanding and Tullynally Castle is, without question, a hugely significant structure of national importance." The castle was worked on by many of the most important architects operating in Ireland during the early-to-mid nineteenth-century, including such luminaries as Francis Johnston, James Shiel and Sir Richard Morrison."
A number of other historically significant structures are located on the grounds, including the Gate Lodge which fronts the Granard Road facing Castlepollard. The two-storey limestone building was designed by Shiel (a noted architect of his day and former clerk of Francis Johnston) c.1820 whilst making renovations on the main house. An integral Tudor Gothic-arched carriage arch to the centre of the main body of the building and a single-bay three-storey tower on polygonal-plan (with slight base batter) attached to the north end of the main façade (east) form "a pleasing vista on a main road leading out of Castlepollard from the west and marks the start of a long tree-lined avenue to Tullynally Castle itself."10 It is currently in use as private residence.
The renown gardens, like the castle, are on a magnificent scale, covering nearly 12 hectares (29½ acres). Terraced lawns around the castle overlook superb 18th century parkland. The adjoining woodland gardens and walled gardens date largely from the early 19th century and encompass a grotto of eroded limestone from nearby Lough Derravaragh and two ornamental lakes. The present owners have added a Chinese garden, complete with pagoda and a Tibetan garden of waterfalls and streams; and a local sculptor has made fantastic woodcarvings in existing roots and trees. The walled gardens have extensive flower borders and an avenue of magnificent 200 year old Irish yews.11 The gardens are open to the public in the spring and summer.12
The current Earl of Longford, Thomas Pakenham, is a noted historian and arborist. He is the chairman of the Irish Tree Society.
On 23 May 1831 members of the paramilitary Royal Irish Constabulary force which Britain established to police Ireland arrested a man following a fight at the town's fair.13 The crowd surrounded them until they released the man. At approximately 5pm that day members of the same force returned, this time armed with muskets.13 These RIC members were then allegedly jeered by the crowd. In response they lined up and fired shots.13 By the time they had finished 13 people lay dead, and many others were injured.13 The names of the dead were: Patrick Dignam, Mary Kiernan, John Slevin, Patrick McCormick, Brian Mahon, Tomas Kiernan, Patrick McDermott, Patrick McDonagh, Mary Neill, James Fagan, Patrick Keegan, Patrick Ledwich and Peggy Leary. 19 police officers were sent to Mullingar jail but at their hearing in Mullingar in July 1831 all 19 were discharged without conviction.13
This incident may have been related to the enforcement of collection orders during the Tithe War (1831–1836). Spasmodic violence broke out around this time (particularly in Kilkenny, Wexford, and Cork) when the police entered local fairgrounds to enforce seizure orders on cattle for non payment of tithes. Order was finally restored by rescinding seizure orders in 1836. The subsequent revision of the Tithe Act commuted the levy. The Church of Ireland was disestablished by the Gladstone government in 1869, and the tithe was abolished.
- Placenames Database of Ireland: Castlepollard
- Castlepollard Massacre
- Castlepollard Hurling Club Website
- Official Castlepollard Website
- Mergon International
- Ballycomoyle GAA Club
- Castlepollard Karting Circuit
- Castlepollard Roman Catholic Parish
- Castlepollard Celtic Football Club
- Hotel Castlepollard