County Mayo

History

The County Mayo has a well-documented history. Located at Belderrig on the coast of north Mayo, its history dates back to the middle stone age with communities being established sometime near 4500 cal. BC. There is a substantial amount of Neolithic period archaeological remains in so far as ritual stone circles and megalithic tombs,
Those that first began to populate Ireland focused mostly towards coastal areas that offered heavy forested grounds. Historical records show that the first settlements were established approximately eleven thousands years ago during the Middle Ages. Artefacts found in pits of about a metre deep in County Mayo include cooking pits and hearths, charred bones, shells and stones.

Around 6000 years ago, inhabitants in the county began to progress towards farming the land and domesticating animals for the production of milk and food and remained in place for extended periods. This saw those settling in the area increasing their skills with pottery making, tool making, and housing construction. This time era saw farmers clearing forested areas to allow livestock grazing and the growth of crops. Due to thin covering on the grounds in the area, this saw a reduction is soil levels as evidence shows that the area was covered in bog. Historians have discovered pre-bog systems along the coastline near North Tyrawley and Eirris.

The discovery of evidence in the country show around this time those inhabiting the area began to develop burial rituals for the dead. This includes large ornate tombs that have been identified as megalithic tombs. To date, over 160 have been found in the county including those that are classified as portal tombs, court tombs, wedge tombs and Irish megalithic tombs. There are multiple examples of each throughout County Mayo in Behy/Glenurla, Achill, Céide Fields, Kilcommon, Moygownagh and Ballyhaunis Killable.

County Mayo saw its population increased during the Bronze Age as metalworking and stone tools began to take hold. Its history lasted to 500 BC and remains from archaeological digs have found evidence of stone circles, cooking areas and stone alignments. This era progressed to the Iron Age and a time when instability hit the county mayo as kings and tribes fought for control of the area. Identified tall stone markers can be found throughout the county with lettering from Ogham alphabet marking territories.

Following the Iron Age came the Early Christian period. It brought recorded history through the introduction of recording events through writing. It also saw the beginnings of new religious settlements. As the Early Christian period drew to a close, the Anglo-Normans populated the county until the 16th centuries. This was a period that saw Tribal kings in Ireland appealing to the King of England to help in their crusade to colonise the country and battle neighbouring kings. The Anglo-Norman put the county under the control of the Normans, and many Norman names still are common in the county to this day.

The 19th and 20th centuries were problematic due to large increases in the county’s population. This resulted in famine as the total population in Ireland surpassed eight million. Many in Ireland depended on potatoes crops to survive the winters however a fungus near destroyed most crops in 1845, and this saw the many leaving the county to find work and steady sources of food. Today the county is home to over 130,000 people with its main source of employment centred around farming as well as engineering and manufacturing.