Glenamaddy Town

Glenamaddy (Leagan Gaeilge – Gleann na Madadh) is situated in north-east County Galway, midway between Roscommon to the east and Tuam to the south-west and equidistant from Castlerea to the north and Mount Bellew to the South. Other forms of the name include Glennamaddy, Glanamadue and Glanamada. The census population of the town and townland combined in 2011 was 338. Opinion varies as to the precise origin of the name. Some people say that the town’s Irish name translates as The Valley of the Dogs while others hold the view that the town derived its name from Gleann na Maighe Duibhe meaning the Valley of the Black Plain, so called after the nearby turlough which dries up in summer leaving behind a film of black mud.

Following the decline of Boyounagh as an ecclesiastical centre, Glenamaddy, with better road access, was strategically positioned to become the site of a village which evolved into a small town as the 19th century progressed. The construction of a new ‘slated’ church in Glenamaddy in 1820, the presence of a Police Barracks on the Creggs Road as depicted in the 1840 O.S. map, the opening of a workhouse in the the outskirts of the town in 1853 coupled with the growth of a rural economy supporting markets and fairs and the self-interest of local resident landlords, saw the town of Glenamaddy expand and prosper as the 20th century dawned.

As time progressed trade increased resulting in the establishment of additional commercial outlets which served most local domestic and agricultural needs and provided significant local employment as can be gleaned from the occupation columns of the 1901 and 1911 census returns. Griffith’s Valuation lists the occupiers of the various plots of land in the embryonic town in the 1850s but it doesn’t provide details of their occupations, though with local knowledge this has been established with commendable accuracy. The 1901 and 1911 census returns list the occupations of the residents but don’t supply maps to associate families with commercial premises and residences.  We very much depend on the information provided by senior citizens and local historians to complete the jigsaw and trace the transfer of ownership of premises that occurred in the town over time. The current and former owners of commercial premises are listed and their places of business identified on street maps in the parish heritage publication entitled “Glenamaddy Boyounagh: Our People – Our Heritage”.

From the beginning of the 19th century the town’s wide streets facilitated the staging of markets while an improvement in the road network within the parish as well as to neighbouring towns facilitated transportation, communication and travel. The development of railway stations at Ballymoe and Tuam in the 1860s proved to be convenient for importing merchandise and exporting produce. Street markets were well established long before the first fair in Glenamaddy attracted additional business to the town in November 1888.

Commercial premises employed ‘shop boys’ and ‘servant girls’. Many of the original public houses had grocery departments attached. Publicans bottled their own stout. Michael Murphy, Clooncon West, who according to the 1901 census was born in 1884, recounts his experience ferrying goods, including porter, by horse and cart from Ballymoe Railway Station to shops in Glenamaddy. He mentions in Memory Lane in the History section of this site that the cargo included barrels of stout and that both himself and his assistants used to tap the wooden barrels and help themselves to the contents at a vantage point along the way. They had specialised tools for tapping the wooden casks and timber plugs to disguise their handiwork. In the early years whiskey was the preferred tipple and people could take offence at being offered porter, or stout. The story goes that a publican, pushing on in years, who operated a pub in the town square was concerned that his whiskey was being tampered with while being transported from the warehouse to his establishment and the condition of the driver and his assistant on their return only added to his suspicions. As quite an amount of whiskey was consumed at the time the product was purchased in hogshead wooden barrels (238 litres), or half hogsheads, which had to be collected in a bonding warehouse in Galway city. Even though advanced in years he decided on one occasion to accompany the carters and keep a close eye on his charges. The journey was long, the weather inclement and darkness descended early in the back end of the year. On the return journey the old man nodded off prompting his assistants to engage in the well-established practice of helping themselves to some “uisce beatha” free gratis. By the time they set foot in Glenamaddy, following a round trip of eighty miles, his servants were ‘well oiled’. The publican had to concede defeat and live down the ignominy of failure on what seemed a simple task. Publicans later took to weighing barrels on delivery. But knowing the ingenuity of employees they probably found a way round this initiative.

In the early years the names of Garvey, MacDermott, Reilly, Connolly, Collins, Glynn and Keaveny dominated the shopfront signage. In addition to alcoholic beverages the early shops also sold a combination of groceries, farm supplies, hardware, household goods, stationery, drapery and footwear and provided an undertaking service. Most shops had a large enclosed yard to the rear where patrons could park carts.  It was said that a yard of counter was as valuable as a farm of land. In bygone years when contributors to priests’ collections were announced from the church pulpit shopkeepers invariably topped the list. People tended to shop exclusively in one shop unless the product they required wasn’t stocked. At year’s end loyal patrons were rewarded with Christmas boxes as a gesture of appreciation for their valued custom throughout the year. As most people living in the hinterland didn’t have a regular form of disposable income they were granted credit, with accounts settled periodically when farm produce was sold at markets and fairs.

Following the relaxation of the Penal Laws a Fr. Browne built a new church in 1820 with a slated roof on land donated by the Fahy family to the south-west of the old cemetery. Prior to that time the parish church was a thatched building in Kilnalag on the outskirts of present-day Williamstown. By 1905 the old church was in a poor state of repair and incapable of accommodating the Mass-going population. Fr. Conway who was appointed Parish Priest in 1896 embarked on an ambitious building programme which included schools, a parochial house, a town hall and the jewel in the crown, a magnificent church which to this day has retained its grandeur and serves as a reminder of the man’s organisational ability and leadership qualities.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1905 with much fanfare and universal appreciation Fr Walter Conway P.P. celebrated the first mass in the new church in fulfilment of a promise given when the foundation stone was laid exactly one year previously. This was followed by the opening of St. Brigid’s Town Hall in 1909, with new parish primary schools soon to follow. The same Fr. Walter Conway spoke approvingly in “Historical Notes on the Parish of Glenamaddy” of the facilities which the town of Glenamaddy offered at the beginning of the 20th century. “For, not withstanding the fact of its distance from railways and from larger centres, from madding crowds and busy haunts of men and from other supposed-to-be civilising influences, it is a go-ahead and up-to-date place, with many things to distinguish it from the ruck of ordinary Connacht villages. It has two very neat hotels, which for cleanliness, comfort and cuisine, combined wit modern tariffs, can compare with such establishments in much larger centres. It has more than half-dozen warehouses, large as are to be found in many county towns, and in which everything required for the farm, the homestead, the table and the boudoir can be had as good and as cheap – or as dear – as in city warehouses. It is provided with fine new schools capable of accommodating three hundred children and served by a staff of half-dozen excellent teachers. It has a fine Gothic church, recently built (1904) and with seating accommodation for from fifteen hundred to two thousand worshippers. It has two presbyteries, a parish hall, a golf links, motor and telegraph service and two daily postal deliveries”.

We like to think that more than a century down the road the Glenamaddy of today is equally “go-ahead and up-to-date” with a well-appointed, tastefully decorated church, a refurbished town hall, a vibrant community centre, excellent schools, modern shopping facilities, active sports clubs and volunteers to ensure the smooth running of a range of organisations, clubs and activities.

The town became a mecca for dancers in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s when large crowds danced the night away to the live music of the biggest showbands of the day. The four roads which converge in the town centre and the Esker Ballroom, later rebranded as the Sound of Music, inspired London-based singer-songwriter Johnny McCauley to compose “Four Country Roads which brought the town to the attention of a wide audience and propelled Big Tom to the top of the hit parade in 1981.

The accompanying maps give some idea of the development of the town down through the generations.

1840 Glenamaddy Town Map

1930 Glenamaddy Town Map
1930 Glenamaddy Town Map 

2018 Glenamaddy Town Map

A brief summary of the The Four Roads over time:

Ballymoe Road: Glenamaddy townland’s northern boundary starts on the Ballymoe Road, originally known as the Mill Road, at what is now a disused lane beside a small sinking river.  There used to be a  spring below the town, known as ‘Tom Johnnie’s Well’, that supplied part of the town with fresh water. A sheep-dipping facility owned by Davy Geraghty was located close by. At various stages in the past two hundred years a Garda station, three primary schools, two hotels, a post office, three grocery stores, two sweet shops, a car repair workshop, an undertaking service, a hairdressing salon, a beauty salon, a shoe repair shop, a café, a furniture store, a hardware shop and two public houses have been located on this road.

Kilkerrin Road: The townland’s southern boundary on the Kilkerrin Road begins at the intersection of the Kilkerrin/Clonberne Roads. In the past two hundred years, two dance halls, two cinemas, two bakeries, a hotel, a bicycle shop, a musical instruments and sound systems shop, a primary school, a post primary school, an undertaker, a post office, a garage, a café, a hairdressing salon, two petrol stations, a fuel depot, a nursing home, a dispensary, a computer store, a creche, a weighbridge, a health centre, a supermarket, a furniture store, three grocery stores, a butcher’s shop, a boutique and two public houses operated at different stages along this road.


Dunmore Road (Church Street): The townland’s western boundary on the Dunmore Road starts at the road leading to Scotland. At different stages since 1800 two churches, a bakery, a filling station, a boutique, an optician, a hairdressing salon, a primary school, a post primary school, a café, a cemetery, a garage, a stationery shop, soccer pitches, a library, a veterinary clinic, a hotel, a music school, a supermarket,  a drapery shop, a shoe shop, two grocery stores, three butcher shops, two public houses, a monumental works, a bank and a Credit Union have been located along this road.



Creggs Road: The townland’s eastern boundary on the Creggs Road commences at the access road to Mountkelly. The 1840 Historic Ordnance Survey Map shows a police barracks on this road. Since the early 1800s six public houses, a parochial hall, a filling station, GAA pitches, an undertaker, a financial services office, a community centre, two drapery shops, a creche, a barber shop, two grocery stores, a furniture store, a butcher’s shop, a public telephone kiosk, a nursing home, weighing scales, a bank, a medical centre and a pharmacy have operated on this road.

Census Records: Population and Household data for Glenamaddy Townland. Sometimes the Town/Village and Area censuses were taken and published separately.

Census Years 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 2011
Glenamaddy Area Population   173 144   101 96 72 67  
Glenamaddy Town/Village Population 446 160 169 257 159 141 189 195 338
Glenamaddy Townland Population 446 333 313 257 260 237 261 262 338
Glenamaddy Townland Households (incl. Town) 82 67 68 50 46 49 47 53 147

Glenamaddy and the Irish Folklore Collections:

The article posted on this website under the ‘Heritage > Folklore’ tab provides an overview of the folklore material submitted by Glenamaddy parishioners to the National Folklore Commission, now known as the Irish Folklore Collections. It also explains the background to the 1937 Schools’ Collection (Bailiúchán na Scol) project which has good representation from a parish perspective

The Irish Folklore Collections housed in the Folklore Department of University College Dublin contain a treasure trove of folklore material, some of which is accessible online. Both the Main Manuscript Collection and the Schools’ Collection contain a considerable number of submissions from collectors and informants who resided in the parish of Glenamaddy. The quick reference directories featured in the ‘Parish > Townlands’ section of this website complement the user-friendly search features of the dú website and are helpful in tracking Schools’ Collection submissions associated with townlands. Submissions are categorised under – School, Teacher, Language, Volume Number, Page Number, Collector, Collector’s Townland, Informant and Informant’s Townland. Where applicable, Schools’ Collection directories showing online townland-related submissions appear at the end of the following townland posts on this website – Ballinapeaka, Ballinastack, Barna, Boyounagh More (Middletown), Bushtwon, Cashel, Classaghroe, Cloonacross, Clooncon East, Clooncon West, Cloonkeen, Cultiafadda, Eskeromullacaun (Esker), Felimspark, Glenamaddy, Gortaganny, Gortnagier, Kiltullagh, Knockauns, Lisheenaheltia, Loughpark, Meelick, Scotland, Shannagh More, Stonetown and Woodfield.

Schools’ Collection Townland-Related Quick Reference Directory:

Parish folklore submissions contained in the Schools’ Collection are also accessible online via the following links:-

Árd Aoibhinn National School – Part 1 –

Árd Aoibhinn National School – Part 2 

Glenamaddy Girls’ National School

Glenamaddy Boys’ National School – Part 1

Glenamaddy Boys’ National School – Part 2 

Gort na Léime National School – Part 1   

Gort na Léime National School – Part 2 

Lisheenaheltia Girls’ National School 

Lisheenaheltia Boys’ National School    

Glenamaddy submissions which form part of the Main Manuscript Collection are not posted online but may be examined in the reading room of the Folklore Department in U.C.D., Belfield, Dublin 4. Typed versions of some of the parish contributions contained in the Main Manuscript Collection are published under the ‘Heritage > Folklore’ tab on this website.   

Quick Reference Directory of Glenamaddy folklore submissions in the Main Manuscript Collection:-

Author: Pat Keaveny

For related posts click on the following links:

St. Patrick’s Parish Church

Fr Walter Conway

Four Country Roads

I’ll Go Back To Glenamaddy

My Lovely Glenamaddy

Glenamaddy Turlough

Glenamaddy Workhouse


Glan to Glan – Parish Magazine

“Historical Notes on the Parish of Glenamaddy”. Fr. Walter Conway

Glenamaddy Arts and Historical Society Journals

Glenamaddy Map and Gossiping Guide

Central Statistics Office

“History of the Parish of Boyounagh”. Patrick Knight

The National Archives –  Census of Ireland 1901/1911

University of Essex: Online Historical Population Reports