Grange village, Co. Sligo: A short history

O'Harte and O'Connor

Grange village was once a stronghold of the O’Harte and O’Connor families. The Annals of Ireland record that in 1604 a ‘new castle and 7 cottages were built by Hugh O’Hart in the town of Grange, Co. Sligo.’ In the 17th century the village belonged to the Cistercians of Boyle Abbey and remained so until the Dissolution of the monasteries. Long before that time the O’Hartes had been assigned the village by the O’Connor Sligoe at which time it was known as Grange Muintir Hart. The name Grange itself comes from the Irish Grainseach from a granary that once stood there.

Demise of the old clans

Grange, in common with the rest of the county, was shortly to be divided among the Cromwellians: the Temples (Lord Palmerston’s forbears), the Wynnes, the Gores to name but a few, many of whose descendants own large tracts of land to this day. In 1641, in an attempt to reclaim their lands and properties, the chiefs of Sligo, the O’Harts of Grange and the O’Connor Sligoe among them, took up arms in rebellion and attacked the English garrison at Sligo Castle. The soldiers surrendered and were given safe passage out of the county. Twenty settlers placed in Sligo jail for safety by the insurgents were killed there by a vengeful mob. In the long run nothing much changed and the settlers held on to their lands.

Grange: Grainseach: the granary

A large granary or storehouse from which Grange gets its name, stood where the Catholic Church now stands. This was owned by the monks of Boyle Abbey some of whom had actually taken up
residence in the village. They supervised the operation of the granary and the storage of food there pending transferral to Boyle. An Ordnance Survery map of 1837 shows a ‘Tuck Mill’ and mill race south of the present village. Correspondence of the Classiebawn estate indicates a flax scutching mill being built, ‘at the river above Grange’ in 1864. Six sets of scutching machines were being made at Belfast. The builders of the mill, finding a new wheel too expensive, were on the lookout for a second-hand water wheel.

Grange village c1945

The early village
For more information on Grange we may be grateful to the Folklore Commision. Grange resident, John Gilmartin, 70 years old in 1937 related to Folklore collectors that in Penal Times (18th cent.) Grange consisted of a single row of houses on the southern end of where the village now stands. A double row of small daub huts stood on either side of the road to the south of this again. This, the village proper, was known as ‘Sráid Trá’. The huts of ‘Sráid Árd’ to the north were occupied by tradesmen: ‘shoemakers, weavers, patchers, wheelwrights, smiths, basketmakers, millers and coopers. In fact we may say that Grange was then much more of a hive of industry than it is today!

Streedagh Beach

 Streedagh beach near the village of Grange today presents an idyllic picture of golden wave-lapped sands and peaceful waters.  It wasn’t always so!
  The ‘Erin’s Hope’ dropped anchor here during the Rising of 1867.  A man named Buckley had discharged weapons on board causing injury to members of the crew.  The injured men were put ashore at Streedagh and were shortly discovered by the Coastguard who were stationed nearby.  The men were brought before Ormsby-Jones at the district court, charged with treason, and sent to prison.

R.I.C poteen raids 
Streedagh beach was often used as a departure area for raids by the R.I.C. on the poteen industry of nearby Inishmurray island.  Constable Jeremiah Mee recalled in his memoirs a visit he made there in 1918.  He and another constable were equipped with ‘long, pointed steel rods which were to be used for probing hay and corn stacks, and shingle along the strand, in our search for illicit stills’.  He describes boarding a boat at Streedagh Point manned by ‘two hefty Mullaghmore fishermen’. 
  The boat was anchored a distance from shore as there was no proper harbour: ‘With their pants folded well above their knees,’ he wrote, ‘the two fishermen advanced from the boat to meet us.  On reaching the strand, after a peremptory greeting, they turned their backs on the sergeant and Clarke, who got up on the fishermen’s backs and were carried high and dry to the little boat.  The two R.I.C. men took this as a matter of course and the sergeant did not even smile as I sat on the shore laughing at the unusual sight.  One of the boatmen returned when I, too, got up on his back and never in my life did I feel less like a policeman’. For more click HERE

The Spanish Armada
  Eleven hundred men died cruelly here in 1588.  Making their way back to Spain after disastrous naval battles with the English, three ships of the Spanish Armada took shelter from an Atlantic gale in the bay between Inishmurray and Streedagh.  One of the survivors, Francesco de Cuellar, wrote an account of the events that followed:
  In his memoir he recounts that: ‘Such a thing was never seen for within the space of an hour all three ships were broken in pieces, so that there did not escape three hundred men and more than a thousand were drowned.’

Stáid Abbey: "the Church and images of the saints burned and completely ruined".

On reaching the shore his troubles were just beginning as Sir Richard Bingham’s men were after them:   ‘At the dawn of day’ he wrote, ‘I began to walk little by little, searching for a monastery of monks that I might repair to it as best I could, the which I arrived at with much trouble and toil.  I found it deserted, and the Church and images of the saints burned and completely ruined, and twelve Spaniards hanging within the church by act of the soldiers, who went about searching for us to make an end to all of us who had escaped the perils of the sea.’
  Others who attempted to make their escape by the mountains were hanged at Keeloges church in Ballintrillick.  Speaking of the churches he encountered on his travels he says: ‘most of them have been demolished by the hands of the English and by those natives who have joined them who are as bad as they.  In this country there is neither justice nor right and everyone does as he pleases.’
  In May 1985 a team of marine archaeologists discovered the remains of the ships, the Lavia, La Juliana and the Santa Maria de Vision, buried in the sand.  Three cannon and other artefacts from the excavation are on display in the National Museum. More HERE
  The lichen encrusted gable of Stáid monastery stands today as a gaunt and elegant memorial to the monks and Spaniards whose lives ended so violently in this beautiful place.

Grange village today

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