History of Moygownagh

Moygownagh was an ancient name, even when the Vikings settled in Dublin. A legend which refers to events in the 5th or 6th century relates how St Cormac - a missionary to the North-West of Ireland - was received so hospitably by St Daria, Abbess of a nunnery where the old graveyard stands now, that he blessed her and her lands with the name of Magh Gamhnach – which means 'the plain of the Milch Cows (i.e. cows within their first year of calving). 
St Daria was probably the local goddess of an ancient pagan shrine which the church had appropriated. It probably then developed as a Christian site until the 11th century. When re-organisation of the Diocese into definite parishes transferred the property to the Bishop of Killala.

Moygownagh as a parish began life in the mid 13th century just as the Normans were establishing themselves in North Connacht under the de Burgo, who was granted the Kingdom of Connacht, and allotted the fertile lands of Tirawley to his loyal followers. De Lynot was such a Knight and he built a castle in Carn, on the site of the small tower there now. However, intermittent strife with more local lords, such as de Barrett, reduced the Lynott family's ambitions, and ultimately led to their disastrous rout and punishment meted out at 'Clochan na nDaLL'  or 'The Stepping Stones of the Blind'. At these stones in Carn townland the defeated men had the choice of castration of blinding by the victors. They chose blinding and were forced to walk over the flooded Duvowen river.

In the aftermath of the 1641 rebellion the local Irish nobility were dispossessed of their lands and a new Protestant elite was granted swaths of territory. The Ormes now figure in Moygownagh’s history, taking up residence first in Ballintubber and then Belville, Millbrook (later named Owenmore), Glenmore and Abbeytown in Crossmolina. While remembered as kinder landlords, the Owenmore estate suffered one of the larges losses in the 1798 rebellion, with the entire house razed to the ground. The newer house of Owenmore was not constructed until the early 1840's.

During the Penal times, the old civil parish of Moygawnagh was enlarged and became the present larger Catholic parish with the Glenmore, Crocnacally and Fairfield areas being added. The Great Famine decimated Moygownagh - as North Mayo in general. Over two thousand people died or emigrated from Moygownagh during those black times between 1841-51. The Orme family did attempt to help those in need, setting up a soup kitchen and sending letters beseeching aid. It was then that our present church of St. Cormac's was constructed.