We are in the centre of Boyle now at the historic crossroads, to our right is Green Street leading up to the Curlews and the road took by poor old Conyers Clifford in 1599 when he met his end along with a lot of his soldiers, Straight ahead is the road to the west, to Gurteen, Tubbercurry, the Ox mountains and the Windy Gap into Ballina, an ancient road mentioned in chronicles of the 7th and 8th centuries.. But we are turning left into town and on the right, on the corner, is a building that used to be the Northern Bank and prior to that a public house/hotel where in 1917 when Count Plunkett was elected as the first Sinn Fein Member of Parliament there was much celebration with Michael Collins amongst many celebrating this famous by-election victory.
8. Boles of Boyle
Next door we pass Boles of Boyle owned by a Church of Ireland family since at least the 1870s. It has sold clothes, furniture and other household goods to the rural hinterland of Boyle for all that time. They had travelling salesmen tracing the byways of North Roscommon and south Sligo offering higher purchase on goods before the term was invented. Sadly the previous owner and grandson of the founder Robert Boles, David Boles recently died, a true gentleman and now succeeded by his son Mervyn, the latest in a long line stretching back to Robert Boles who came down from Leitrim and started business in Green Street in 1886. Since then they have expanded greatly eventually taking over Coleman’s, an egg seller, in 1970. They now occupy the whole block.
9. Fry House and the Shambles
On the left the three story terrace of shops and houses from Main Street continue up to the town bridge. On the right just passed Boles premises and set back off the road is the Stone House Cafe. This was the gate house for Frybrook House built by Henry Fry in 1736 where he set up a weaving business. Henry was from Somerset and was reputedly a relation of the Fry family from Bristol of Chocolate and Quaker fame. Next door to the gate house. Fry House itself is a wonderfully preserved Palladian style house now in the process of being restored to a high quality guest house. Adjacent to the gatehouse is the Shambles, opened by Lord Lorton in the 1830s in his town improvements of that decade. It was a large trading yard where farm produce was sold on a daily basis. It is now a small industrial yard where tradesmen sell their services.
10. The Town Bridge.
This bridge linked the south side of town with the north side and it is the third bridge in its present location built in the 1820’s after the 2nd bridge here was demolished it being in poor condition. Lord Lorton provided 50% of the cost of rebuilding the bridge whilst the county provided the other half, £2500 in total. The three arch bridge as so far stood the test of time in its 184 years of life.
As we walk up Bridge Street we pass the same three story terraces of shops and houses which now form the epicentre of trade in Boyle. Up the hill on the left hand side we reach:-
11 The Courthouse
Built by Lord Lorton in 1830 which served its purpose until about 2010 when the justice department shut it down . It is now being restored to its former glory by government money and plans are in place to turn it into some civic attraction. At the side and rear of the courthouse there was built a brideswell for the customers of the justice handed down by said court. There was 8 cells and a keepers house in the complex. This is now a nursery for children with working parents. Let us hope these cjhildren do not approve of the habits of their forebears.
12. The Poor House
Situated on the corner of Elphin Street and Felton Road the poor house Union was founded in 139 and attracted its first tenants at Christmas 1840. It covered an area of 16 electoral divisions or 283 square miles and 65662 inhabitants. Boyle electoral division had a population of 11921. It consisted of an area of 11 acres and catered for the registered paupers of the district. People who could not pay rent or had no home. It suffered badly during the famine of the 1840s and was over populated beyond its registered capacity. On the site was built a 44 bed fever hospital with an adjacent graveyard. It had served its purpose by 1960 and the site was demolished to make way for a state run old folk home and health centre serving the medical needs of 21st century medicine.
if we carry on down Felton Road where the first council housing was built in the mid 20th century and where returning NCOs from the Great War were given half an acre and a house to live in for their efforts in the war, we turn right to the bridge into Stewarts Mill. At the river we turn left and walk a 100 metres to a little construct.
13. St Patrick’s Well.
As legend goes it was at this spot St Patrick crossed the river in the 5th Century and a stream sprang up out of the ground. Over the years this spot became a sacred place and a structure was built in his honour. The population of the town drank from this spring of holy water until the authorities declared it to be unsafe to drink in the early 20th century. The water coming down from the Poorhouse area was without doubt contaminated but the watercress that grew there between the spring and the river was reputed to be the finest in the whole of Ireland.
Our walk ends here at this sacred place. I could have turned left or right at any time during this walk and explained the historic glories of this town. Its hinterland is covered with sites going back 5,000 years. I could write reams about the place but at some stage you have to stop. I am returning home with my colonial loved one now for a well earned cup of tea.