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Gaelic: Béal Átha na Muice
County Mayo
Grid reference: M376997
Location: 53°56’30"N, 8°57’-0"W
Population: 1,394  (2016)
Post town: Swinford
Postcode: F12
Local Government
Council: Mayo

Swinford, historically called Swineford, is a town in County Mayo. It is surrounded by the settlements of Midfield, Meelick, Culmore, Cloonaghboy, Killasser and other villages.[1] It is on the N5 road, located 11 miles from Ireland West Airport Knock. Situated on a tributary of the River Moy, Swinford is known for its fishing waters, including the Callow lakes and the lakes of Conn and Cullin. Swinford was bypassed in 1993 by the N5 route and was the first town in Mayo to be bypassed. The town was the only urban centre in County Mayo to experience a population decline in the 2011 census.


Swinford hosts one of County Mayo's largest summer festivals and has done since the mid-1980s: Siamsa Sráide Swinford, (Fun in the Streets of Swinford). This street festival of pageantry, céilí dancing, and heritage displays depicts the traditions of East Mayo. The five-day festival takes place in the first week of August and features live bands playing open-air concerts as well as a heritage day, history walks and an busking competition.[2]

Swinford is used for the filming of TV show Hardy Bucks, as the fictional town of Castletown.


Up to the mid-1980s the town had three secondary schools: St Patrick's college, St Mary's Convent and the Vocational school. All three schools amalgamated in August 1992 to Scoil Muire agus Padraig.[3] [4]


Swinford railway station opened on 1 October 1895, closed for passenger traffic on 17 June 1963 and finally closed altogether on 3 November 1975.[5] At present there is work being carried out to reopen the line.


Swinford Revolt

John Dillon was a long-serving Member of Parliament for East Mayo at Westminster. His major policy issue was the resolution of the Land Question. Dillon took an uncompromising position in favour of the smallholders (small farmers) who sought to gain ownership of the land which they held as tenants from the largely Anglo-Irish landlords. From the middle of the 19th century, ongoing attempts were made at Westminster by the Liberal Party under William Ewart Gladstone to resolve the issue by passing the Irish Land Acts. Irish opinion, while welcoming of the initiative to resolve the injustice, was divided between the moderates, led by William O'Brien, who favoured a conciliatory approach (known as the doctrine of conciliation) and the hardliners. The hardliners supported an aggressive agrarian struggle and sought to advance simultaneously the struggle for Home Rule. On 25 August 1903, Dillon, addressing a meeting of his constituents at the Swinford Workhouse, spoke vehemently against the doctrine of conciliation. This divided the Party and led to the departure of William O’Brien. It became known as the "Swinford Revolt". Despite the turmoil, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, George Wyndham's Irish Land (Purchase Act) 1903 passed at Westminster, resolving the Irish Land Question.[6]

War of Independence

Swinford, like other areas in the West of Ireland, was the site of a number of actions during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). According to one account, nationalists in East Mayo had a long running split dating back to the Parnell scandal, with relations between nationalist factions in Swinford and Meelick particularly poor.[7] The failure to organise in advance of the Easter Rebellion in 1916 paradoxically meant however that relatively few Swinford men were arrested and interned, meaning they were outside the network of republican leaders that developed in the internment camps and prisons. It was not until approx 1920 that the IRA was structured in Swinford, and from then, with the participation of a group of young volunteers, the activity increased, particularly in the sphere of Republican Courts.[7]

According to the Galway Observer of Saturday, 24 July 1920, in an article entitled "Shots in Swinford":

A military patrol of the Border regiment from Claremorris was fired at on Saturday night at Swinford and two soldiers were severely wounded. The soldiers halted at Swinford courthouse, from which four streets branch and immediately shots were fired at them by unknown parties. The lorry was riddled in several places with several bullets.

The military returned the fire, discharging as many as 500 rounds, with what result did not transpire. The wounded soldiers were conveyed to Claremorris, where their wounds were dressed prior to removal to the Curragh Hospital.[8]

On 19 August 1920, IRA members broke into the goods shed at Swinford Railway station and destroyed 10 tons of food and fuel belonging to British security forces.[9] Later that month, on 27 August 1920 IRA volunteers from Swinford and Bohola attacked and captured Ballyvary RIC Barracks,[10] and on 27 November 1920 two Swinford men, James Henry and Thomas Fraher were convicted at a military court in Galway of possessing weapons and intelligence on the RIC. Both were sentenced to periods of imprisonment.[11]

Local folklore has it that other British patrols were ambushed in rural areas outside the town, and that local Volunteers from the (Old) Irish Republican Army climbed onto the roof of the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks (now the site of the Gateway Hotel) and burnt it to the ground by breaking slates and pouring petrol into the building.


  • Thomas Martin Aloysius Burke, bishop of Albany (New York)
  • Ciana Campbell, former RTÉ broadcaster.[12]
  • Mary Davis, presidential candidate and disability rights activist is from Kinaffe, between Swinford and Kiltimagh.[13]
  • David Heaney, 2006 Mayo Senior Football captain.[14]
  • Martin Hennigan, 1984-85 All Ireland Handball 40x20 Singles and 1984 RTÉ Top Ace champion.[15]
  • Jack Judge, musician and composer of "It's a long way to Tipperary".[16]
  • Joseph Patrick Lydon, double Olympic medalist
  • Enda Marren, a member of the Council of State and a former member of the Law Reform Commission, is from Killasser
  • Ulick and Des McEvaddy, founders and owners of Omega Air.[17]
  • Professor Donncha O'Connell, Head of the School of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway and former Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Part-time Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission and member of the Legal Aid Board.[18]
  • Patrick O'Connor, former president of the Law Society of Ireland
  • Bernard Durkan TD was born in Killasser
  • Caitríona Ruane, Stormont Minister for Education and South Down MLA.[19]


  1. "Swinford - Set dancing". Western People. 2007-01-10. http://archives.tcm.ie/westernpeople/2007/01/10/story34925.asp. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  2. "Swinford comes alive for annual Siamsa festival". Western People. 2004-07-21. http://archives.tcm.ie/westernpeople/2004/07/21/story20681.asp. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  3. "Adjournment Debate - School Accommodation". Dáil Éireann Debates. Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas. 2003-09-17. http://www.irlgov.ie/debates-03/17Dec/Sect7.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-21. "Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): The school came into operation as a result of an amalgamation of the existing secondary school, Meanscoil Mhuire agus Phádraig, and the local vocational school in August 1992." 
  4. "Post Primary Schools in County Mayo". Educationireland.ie. http://www.educationireland.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=131&Itemid=143. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  5. "Swinford station". Railscot - Irish Railways. http://www.railscot.co.uk/Ireland/Irish_railways.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  6. Jackson, Ireland 1798-1998: Politics and War, p 152
  7. 7.0 7.1 Michael Hopkinson (2002). The Irish War of Independence: The Definitive Account of the Anglo Irish War of 1919 - 1921. Gill & Macmillan Ltd. ISBN 9780717161973. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=q_P4AwAAQBAJ&pg=PT149&lpg=PT149&dq=RIC+Barracks+Swinford&source=bl&ots=hr78abI3C7&sig=sG8SvVuTN5r9xe5TMZaOe_GS3jI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiErq_o0MPOAhVHIMAKHcakBAIQ6AEISzAJ#v=onepage&q=RIC%20Barracks%20Swinford&f=false. 
  8. "Shots in Swinford". Galway Observer. 24 July 1920. http://places.galwaylibrary.ie/history/chapter336.html#pt3. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  9. Cecil John Charles Street (1921). "The administration of Ireland, 1920 by I.U.". https://archive.org/stream/administrationof00streuoft/administrationof00streuoft_djvu.txt. 
  10. "August 1920". Chronology of Irish History 1919 - 1923. Archived from the original on 12 February 2005. https://web.archive.org/web/20050212101341/http://www.dcu.ie/~foxs/irhist/august_1920.htm. 
  11. "Sentences — Results of Recent Court Martial at Galway — Six Months for Acting as Republican Policeman". Connacht Tribune. 27 November 1920. http://places.galwaylibrary.ie/history/chapter281.html. 
  12. "THE CEIFIN CENTRE". ceifin.com. http://www.ceifin.com/conference/34/speaker.html. 
  13. http://thepost.ie/post/pages/story.aspx-qqqt=AGENDA-qqqs=agenda-qqqid=58548-qqqx=1.asp
  14. "Head to head: Kieran Donaghy v David Heaney". hoganstand.com. 2006-09-12. http://www.hoganstand.com/ArticleForm.aspx?ID=66274. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  15. "40x20 senior singles". gaa.ie. http://www.gaa.ie/page/40x20_senior_singles.html. 
  16. TheHarpNews.com
  17. "Opportunity Knocks". The Sunday Business Post Online. 2007-01-21. http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2007/01/21/story20347.asp. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  18. "Proust Questionnaire: - Donncha O'Connell, NUI, Galway". Galway Advertiser. Advertiser Group. 2002-09-02. http://www.galwayadvertiser.ie/dws/story.tpl?inc=2002/02/09/entertainment/28338.html. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  19. "Swinford native is to be northern Minister for Education". Mayo Advertiser. 2007-04-06. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20071014041044/http://www.mayoadvertiser.com/index.php?aid=1597. Retrieved 2007-04-09.