Killasser is a rural parish situated north-west of Swinford, County Mayo, in the West of Ireland. It stretches from the County Sligo border on the north and east to the River Moy on the south and from the parishes of Attymass and Toomore (Foxford) on the west to the parish of Charlestown on the south-east. The N26 road from Swinford to Foxford, which can be accessed from the N5 Castlebar/Dublin road, runs through the parish. The area of the civil parish is eighty square kilometres, containing 7,963 hectares. It has an oblong shape from west to east, and is shown on the Ordnance Survey sixinch scale maps with sheet numbers 49, 50, 61 and 62 for County Mayo. The place-name Killasser is ecclesiastical in origin, an Anglicised version of the Irish, Cill Lasrach, which means ‘the church of Lasair’. Cill Lasrach got the name from an eighth century Fermanagh-woman, Saint Lasair, whose name is preserved in her native district of Killesher ( Cill Laisre) near Lough Macnean in the south-west of the county. Her father was said to be Rónán, who gave his name to the parish of Kilronan (Cill Rónáin), which is situated near Keadew in north Roscommon. St. Lasair is said to have lived for some time with her father in Kilronan along the shore of Loch Maothla (now Lough Meelagh).
With regard to the civil parish of Killasser, it was a larger area than the present Catholic Church parish. The townlands of Askillaun, Attimachugh, Larganmore and part of Coollagagh (excluding the area known as Coolegrane which is in Killasser/Callow) are in the Catholic parish of Foxford, and Tumgesh is in the Catholic parish of Swinford. Otherwise, it is similar to the old medieval parish unit. District Electoral Divisions were adopted as units for compiling voting registers in respect of local and national elections following the enactment of the Local Government (Ireland) Act of 1898. Killasser was divided into three District Electoral Divisions, Callow, Cuildoo and Tumgesh, with the actual townlands in each shown in table 1.1. (Two adjoining townlands, Cloonygowan and Pollsharvoge were also included in Cuildoo District Electoral Division.)
Table 1.1: Townlands in the District Electoral Divisions of Killasser
Callow DED Cuildoo DED Tumgesh DED
Askillaun Blackpatch Attinaskollia
Attimachugh Boleyboy Bellanacurra
Callow Carrowbeg Carroweeny
Carrowmore Carrowmoremoy Carrowliam Beg
Carrownageeragh Carrowneden Carrowliam More
Coollagagh Coolcashla Cartron
Corlee Creggaballagh Cartronmacmanaus
Cuillonaghtan Cuildoo Cloonainra
Cullin Doonmaynor Clooncleevragh
Doonty Dromada(Duke) Cloonfinish
Knockfadda Graffy Cloontubbrid
Larganmore Killeen Cornageeha
Prebaun Lismoran Creggaun
Toorard Listernan Darhanagh
Treanrevagh Magheraboy Dromada (Gore)
Rubble Dromada (Joyce)
Killasser has a rich archaeological heritage, with evidence of human habitation for over five thousand years. Over three hundred archaeological monuments were identified in a major local survey carried out between 1988 and 1991, nearly a third of which were then unrecorded on maps or in literature. The wealth of antiquities in Killasser is by any standards remarkable, representing all periods from the Neolithic Age ( c. 3500 to 2000 BC) to recent times, and include megalithic tombs, pre-bog walls and enclosures, pre-historic habitation-sites, mounds, cairns, ringbarrows, standing-stones, stone alignments, fulachta fiadh, crannóga, ringforts, souterrains, early ecclesiastical sites, bullaun-stones, children’s burial grounds, mills, lime-kilns and several other monuments from the recent past. The parish is really an open-air archaeological museum.
The first church site in Killasser was a monastic settlement in the townland of Knockmullin and was later given the name Cill Lasrach, from which the parish got its name. There is also another possible monastic site in Graffy townland, known as Cill tSeiscneáin, Anglicised as Kilsheshnan. Teampall Maol in Coollagagh beside the Yellow river is also a monastic site. The ruins of a church can be seen in a ringfort in the townland of Carrowneden, which possibly dates from the late medieval period. There is another possible medieval site in Cullin. The original structure of the present Church in Callow was erected in 1811/12 and Killasser Church in 1832. The history of the parish was a constant struggle for survival, especially during and immediately after the Great Famine from 1845 to 1850. No one can even imagine the pain and suffering endured in those dreadful times, or indeed the pain of emigration and migration over generations. The population of the civil parish declined from 6,962 in 1841 to 4,852 in 1851 after the Great Famine. It was 4,213 in 1911, a figure that declined to 1,035 by 2006.
The influence of its sons and daughters has extended throughout the world. Priests and religious sisters have served the Church in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland. Other sons and daughters have made huge contributions to society at home and away.
Boran, Marie, Mulligan, Helen, McNulty, Louis, (eds.) Callow School: A Celebration. Ni Chiaráin, Áine,(ed.) Callow Church 1812-2012: The Church and its Community.
O’Hara, Bernard ,Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish.*
O’Hara, Bernard, The Archaeological Heritage of Killasser, Co Mayo.
The above are in print and can be obtained from:
Killasser/Callow Heritage Society,
Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish can also be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from
Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle and Kindle Fire) and from
Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader). Just look for
Heritage of a Mayo Parish
by Bernard O’Hara.