Ballyhaunis Friary, Co Mayo

Augustinian Friary, Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo

The Augustinian Friary in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, is a historic religious site known for its architectural beauty and cultural significance.

Ballyhaunis, a town rich in history, has been shaped by its past and the influential figures who played pivotal roles in its development. From the Norman era, the Costello family held sway over Ballyhaunis. It was Jordan Dubh Mac Costello who, in 1384, established the Augustinian Friary. This friary wasn't just a religious hub; it was also a school, a hospital, and a model farm. Despite facing destruction in 1608 and challenges during the Cromwellian and Penal times, the friary was restored in 1641 and stood resilient. The Augustinian Friars, who were the heart and soul of this establishment, continued their spiritual services until 2002.

By 1848, Ballyhaunis had evolved into a quaint market town, equipped with essential amenities like a police station and a dispensary. The introduction of the railway further propelled its growth, and by 1892, the town was bustling with a population of 911. The mid-20th century saw Ballyhaunis as a primary market town, catering to the agricultural community. However, the subsequent decades, especially post-1971, witnessed an industrial surge, positioning Ballyhaunis as a hub for major industries.

Diving deeper into its history, the very essence of Ballyhaunis is intertwined with the Augustinian settlement of St. Mary’s Abbey. Founded in the 14th Century, around 1348, this abbey has been instrumental in the town's progression and the well-being of its residents. The Augustinians, after centuries of unwavering presence, decided to withdraw from Ballyhaunis in 2001. This decision led them to seek community input regarding the future of the Friary house, St. Mary’s Abbey, and its adjoining lands.

The departure ceremony of the Augustinian Order from St. Mary's Abbey on 16th June 2001 was a poignant moment. Fr. Desmond Foley, O.S.A., the Provincial of the Augustinian Order, expressed the collective sorrow of the occasion. He emphasized the significance of the abbey, hoping it would continue to serve the community and be a place of solace. Fr. Dick Lyng O.S.A. recounted the Augustinian legacy in Ballyhaunis, tracing back to their Anglo-Norman origins in the 12th century. He highlighted their expansion from Ballinrobe to other parts of the West, including Ballyhaunis.

The community's response to the Augustinians' departure was proactive. Following their call for proposals on the future use of the grounds, local groups came forward with suggestions. This collaborative effort led to the formation of two entities: the Ballyhaunis Abbey Trust and the Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership. The former, comprising representatives from the Ballyhaunis Community Council, Mayo County Council, and Augustinian nominees, was set up to oversee the trust. The latter was established to manage and develop the property.

In recent years, especially 2010, the Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership and Abbey Trust have been proactive in upholding the legacy of the Augustinian friars. Established in 2002, the Abbey Partnership has been dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Augustinian property, ensuring it remains a cherished space for Ballyhaunis residents and those in neighboring areas.