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Castlepollard


Castlepollard takes its name from an ancient castle built by Captain Pollard in the seventeenth century in an area then known as Rathyoung. The castle no longer survives.  In Irish Castlepollard is known officially as Baile na gCros but the name Cionn Toirc is sometimes used.  Both of the Irish forms of the name come from local placenames: Baile na gCros is the Irish form of Ballinagross an old name for part of the land on which Castlepollard was developed while the Kinturk demesne, which adjoins the Church of Ireland, gives rise to the Irish form Cionn Torc (literally the boar’s head) which is also used as an Irish form of Castlepollard.   
Castlepollard is an attractively laid out village in North Westmeath which largely dates from the early to mid nineteenth century.  It takes its name from the descendants of one Captain Nicholas Pollard who was granted lands at Mayne in the seventeenth century.  Castlepollard is located in a fertile valley which nestles between Lough Derrraveragh and Lough Lene.


Under the terms of Letters Patent of King Charles II, Walter Pollard was charged with building a town on the lands of Ballinagross and Rathyoung and was granted permission to hold both a fair and weekly markets.  It was during the time of William Dutton Pollard, who was the local lord of the manor from 1803 until his death in 1839 that the village itself was developed.

Castlepollard is a planned town built around a square with a village green at its centre.  The square provided the necessary infrastructure for successful community living: houses, shop units, a market house, court house, police barracks, Post Office and churches for Protestant, Catholic and Presbyterian worshippers.  In 1848 a National School was built in Castlepollard and almost ninety years later, Castlepollard Technical School, the forerunner to Castlepollard Community School, was opened.


Castlepollard is close to two famous lakes: Lough Derravaragh and Lough Lene which have links with history and folklore.  Lough Derravaragh is associated with the story of the Children of Lir as it was here that Aoife, wife of Kig Lir, brought her four step-children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Con and turned them into swans.  Lough Lene is associated with the fearless Viking warrior, Turgesius who was drowned in the lake by King Malachy’s soldiers.  There is a piece of public sculpture by the Westmeath sculptor Dolores Nally, depicting the Children of Lir, on the village green in Castlepollard.

There are several important large houses in the vicinity of Castlepollard including: Tullynally Castle, Turbotstown House and Kinturk House a description, history and evaluation of these houses can be found on the website www.buildingsofireland.ie

In terms of sport Castlepollard is best known as a centre for  hurling.  Castlepollard Hurling Club celebrated its centenary in 2003 and has won the Westmeath Senior Hurling Championship on no fewer than fourteen occasions, most recently in 2005.

Donie Cassidy a native of Castlepollard first came to prominence through the showband scene.  He was a member of the original ‘Firehouse 5’ showband in the late 1960s.  The original line-up included: P.J. Kennedy (guitar / trombone), Donie Cassidy (sax), Larry Kennedy (drums), Michael Kennedy (guitar), Noel Masterson (bass) and Angela Blacoe (vocals).  Donie Cassidy discovered Jim Tobin who later fronted ‘Firehouse’.  Donie Cassidy moved into entertainment management and among the acts he represented was Foster & Allen.  He promoted Irish entertainers on his own radio programme on Radio Eireann ‘Donie Cassidy Promotions show’.  He has also had a distinguished career as a national politician.

One of the most prominent artists working in the area is Terence O’Connell a member of the Watercolour Society of Ireland.  His work has been exhibited in the RHA and in exhibitions throughout Ireland and as far afield as Tokyo.  He is represented in the Christy Kiernan Art Collection in Westmeath County Council and two of his pieces ‘Lough Derravaragh in Autumn’ and ‘Heron’ are on display in Castlepollard Library.

The Pakenham family has certainly put Castlepollard on the literary map.  The 7th Earl of Longford, Frank Pakenham (1905-2001) and his wife Elizabeth were both writers of distinction and their family included three daughters (all published authors): Antonia Fraser; Rachel Billington and Judith Kazantzis as well as the present Earl of Longford, Thomas Pakenham who resides at Tullynally Castle with his wife Valerie both of whom are also widely published and well respected authors.  Other writers associated with the area include the poet Michael Walsh (1897-1938), Brinsley MacNamara (1890-1963) novelist and playwright, author of The Valley of the squinting windows, was a native of nearby Delvin. The travel writer and documentary film maker Manchan Magan lives in Collinstown and the poet and novelist Dermot Healy is a native of Finea. Micheál Ó Conláin has made an enormous contribution to recording the history of Castlepollard and has generously lodged copies of his research in the archives of Westmeath County Library.  Details of his work which can be consulted in the local studies department of Mullingar Library appear in the bibliography which follows:

Suggestions for Further Reading

Dunne, Danny (ed) The Town at the Crossroads, Baile na gCros: a history of Castlepollard, Castletown and Finea Parish (Castlepollard: Castlepollard, Castletown and Finea Bicentenary / Centenary Committee, 2006).  [This is a major publication of 676p which is an invaluable resource for the area]

Coleman, Marie The History of the Pollard family (photocopy in Westmeath County Library)

Conlon, Michael The Trial of the Castlepollard police. Occasional Paper No 2. (Mullingar: Westmeath Archaeological & Historical Society, 1982)

Ó Conláin, Micheál The Castlepollard massacre [1831] (Mullingar: Westmeath Archaeological & Historical Society, 1981)

Ó Conláin, Micheál The Castlepollard Tithe Applotments. Occasional Paper No 4. (Mullingar: Westmeath Archaeological & Historical Society, 1990)

Ó Conláin, Micheál Register of Castlepollard fever hospital, curtha in eagar ag Micheál Ó Conláin (Mullingar: Westmeath Archaeological & Historical Society, 1998)

Ó Conláin, Micheál The Castlepollard notes curtha in eagar ag Micheál Ó Conláin (Mullingar: Westmeath Archaeological & Historical Society, 1996). [extracts from newspapers etc relating to Castlepollard 1750-1925]

Ó Conláin, Micheál Some memorials from Castlepollard Parish curtha in eagar ag Micheál Ó Conláin (Mullingar: Westmeath Archaeological & Historical Society, 1996)

Ó Conláin, Micheál Priests and missionaries of Castlepollard, Castletown and Finea. 2001.

O’Farrell, Padraic Fore: the fact and the fantasy (Mullingar: Topic Newspapers, 1984)

Sharkey, Olive Fore its history and buildings (Mullingar: Magpie Publications, 1999)

Sharkey, Olive Four swans county: discovering north Westmeath (Mullingar: Magpie Publications, 1984).