Deerparks are large areas, usually enclosed by a wall, for the keeping of herds of deer. The townland in question here—'Deerpark’ near Westport in Co. Mayo is named after such a wall. These deerparks were introduced by the Normans and were a common feature of the constructed landscape from the 13th century on. The Normans also brought with them rabbits and fallow deer. 'Deerpark West' is the name of this specific territory (boundary and wall together) and its main gate and entrance pillars still remain today at the western end of the north wall. Most of the wall still stands today, although some has been taken away along the southern end of the townland. There are two extant square shaped pens, or deer folds, that are made of stone, positioned near the south of the townland, however there is only a faint outline of a third fold, which exists in the northern position. The two square shaped pens cannot be seen from the trail (Michigan State University, 2009).
Leo Morahan says in his book entitled "Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo: archaeology, landscape and people," that it is probable that the deerpark in question is a feature associated with the ‘Westport House’ estate. Morahan goes on to say that the first Westport House was built in 1650, which was possibly on the foundations of a castle built in that place earlier in history (Morahan, 2001, p 140).
There is the chilling story chronicled on an Irish national heritage website (Duchas.ie, 2023) about a deerpark wall in Co. Mayo—probably in the Claremorris area, during the time of the Great Famine. It is told by a Mrs. Kiggins under the tutelage of Michael O’ Slatara. As said above, the walls were intended to keep in deer, but in this case, it served to keep out a poor lad in famine times. Mrs. Kiggins goes on to say, “My grandmother’s mother once gave an account of the Famine. She added that a boy from Burrish used to go to Claremorris weekly for a supply of Indian meal. One day he set out for the usual supply. He was hardly able to struggle along. He got the meal and started back. But he was too weak to pass the Deerpark wall. When he didn’t turn up a search was made. He was found dead by the wall with some of the meal unswallowed in his mouth.”
Duchas.ie (2023). The Famine. Available at: https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4427843/4350058/4441027?ChapterID=4427843&LangID=en (Accessed on 26th of February, 2023).
Michigan State University, Study Abroad Programme. (2009). Deerpark Wall. Internal Report: Folder 4, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail—Clogher Environmental Group Ltd. Unpublished.
Morahan, L. (2001). Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo: archaeology, landscape and people. The Croagh Patrick Archaeological Committee, Westport.