Balla Nally Monument
Traveling east to west, the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail begins here, in the centre of Balla Town.
Overlooking the main thoroughfare is this limestone monument dedicated to the memory of Patrick William Nally (c.1856-1891), son of William Nally, land agent for absentee landlord Sir Robert Lynch-Blosse.
The Nally Monument
This William Nally would have been responsible for many of the evictions that took place on the Lynch-Blosse estate in the years around the Great Irish Famine. Yet it is thought he privately supported the idea of a free and democratic Ireland, and that when his son Patrick William became involved in clandestine political movements to that end he did little to dissuade him.
Patrick William became a prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), one of the secret revolutionary bands that sprang up in the second half of the 19th century. The IRB were also known as Fenians. Fenianism found moral and financial support not just in Ireland, but also in Britain, Canada and the US.
In 1884, at the age of 28, PW Nally was arrested for gun running and for his part in what became known as the ‘Crossmolina Conspiracy’, an alleged plot to murder a number of landlords with estates in Mayo.
Sentenced to ten years penal servitude, Nally’s good behaviour earned him the prospect of early release, yet just before this came to pass he died in prison. The official record gives the cause of death as typhoid fever. Others are convinced that the British authorities were wary of giving such an influential man his liberty at a time of political upheaval and had him murdered.
The monument you see in Balla Square consists of a Celtic cross, the origins of which can be traced back long before Christianity came to rural Ireland.
Beneath this stands the Maid of Erin, who was later personified as Kathleen ni Houlihan, the leading character from WB Yeats’ 1902 nationalistic play of the same name, and who is representative of a free Ireland.
Cathleen has an Irish wolfhound at her side. Under ancient Brehon Law the wolfhound could only be owned by kings and chieftains. On her other side is an Irish harp.
The entire monument is richly symbolic.
It bears scars inflicted by British army riflemen, who used this icon of freedom from the colonialist yoke for target practice during the War of Independence (1919-21).
In Yeats’ play Cathleen ni Houlihan spoke of those who would make the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of Irish liberty in these words: “They shall be remembered forever, They shall be alive forever, They shall be speaking forever, The people shall hear them forever.” As long as this monument stands Patrick William Nally will be fondly remembered by the people of Balla.
This is a fine way to begin our Heritage Trail. Now we must move to the grounds of the ruined abbey and its associated round tower.