We were in Galway the day prior for my sister-in-laws 30th birthday and after the celebrations we decided it was time to slow things down, enjoy the seaside and maybe take in some local history. We headed North, towards Dugort, then turned West onto Achill Island through winding country roads we arrived at the base of Slievemore mountain where we discovered the Deserted Village. There are approximately 80 ruined houses in this famine ghost town.
The houses were built of unmortared stone, which means that no cement or mortar was used to hold the stones together. Each house consisted of just one room and this room was used as kitchen, living room, bedroom and even stable.
If one looks at the fields around the Deserted Village and right up the mountain, one can see the tracks in the fields of ‘lazy beds’, which is the way crops like potatoes were grown. In Achill, as in many areas of Ireland, a system called ‘Rundale’ was used for farming. This meant that the land around a village was rented from a landlord. This land was then shared by all the villagers to graze their cattle and sheep. Each family would then have two or three small pieces of land scattered about the village, which they used to grow crops.
For many years people lived in the village and then in 1845 Famine struck in Achill as it did in the rest of Ireland. Most of the families moved to the nearby village of Dooagh, which is beside the sea, while some others emigrated. Living beside the sea meant that fish and shellfish could be used for food. The village was completely abandoned which is where the name ‘Deserted Village’ came from.
No one has lived in these houses since the time of the Famine, however the families that moved to Dooagh and their descendants, continued to use the village as a ‘booley village’. This means that during the summer season, the younger members of the family, teenage boys and girls, would take the cattle to graze on the hillside and they would stay in the houses of the Deserted Village. This custom continued until the 1940′s. Boolying was also carried out in other areas of Achill, including Annagh on Croaghaun mountain and in Curraun.
At Ailt, Kildownet, you can see the remains of a similar deserted village. This village was deserted in 1855 when the tenants were evicted by the local landlord so the land could be used for cattle grazing, the tenants were forced to rent holdings in Currane, Dooega and Slievemore. Others emigrated to America.
I would recommend you wear proper footwear because the land is now shared with a wandering family of sheep as they help to continually keep the grass clipped and properly fertilized.