The Lanes and Alleys of Ballina and Ardnaree By James Reddiough

 In History

The recent visit of Vice President of the US Mr. Joeseph Biden to Ballina centred around garden from whence his ancestors came in 1835.  Garden Street was one on of the most populated areas in Ballina from the earliest records in 1856 to 1932 when the people moved into the new hosuing develpments in Circular Road in particular.

The people of Balilna and Ardnaree lived in lanes and alleyways from the 1850’s to the 1920’s when new housing developments took them from these places to new houses.  These were like the tenements of Dublin of the nineteenth century.

There were some 29 lanes and alleys in Ballina and Ardnaree in 1856 and these lanes were still in use especially around Garden Street in the late 1920’s.

Joe Egan writing about the subject said there were some 15 lanes in their collection and they were stores, ruins and there were forges and a ball alley in some of them.  Garden street was fondly remembered for its lanes in the reminiscences of Bridie Ruddy in the north mayo historical journal of 1993/1994.

Theses lanes were communities in themselves and they had inhabitants until the new housing developments were built in the early 1930’s under the De Valera Government in 1932 and these houses were built in 1934 and later in the 1940’s too.  The people of Garden Street for example there there was a maze of lanes settled in the Corcoran Terrace area and in Circular Road and Marian Crescent also.

There were some 29 lanes in Ardnaree and Ballina during the 19th Century and they were as follows and they may be familiar to readers.

Chapel Lane, Pound Lane, Ball Alley Lane, Callaghan’s Lane, Dixon’s Lane, Durkan’s Lane, Gallaghers Lane, Hart’s Lane, Joyce’s Lane, Lloyds Lane, McLoughlins Lane, O’ Dowds Lane, Pawn Office Lane, Reilly’s Lane, Water Lane, Workhouse Lane, Sheridan’s Lane, Broughan’s Lane, Conway’s lane, Dowds Lane, Franklin’s Lane or Lane League Lane, Garden Lane, Healy’s Lane, McCann’s lane, KIlgallon’s Lane, Padden’s Lane, Polks’ Lane and Solomon Lane.

Those would be reduced to 15 lanes by 1911 and there was a sizeable population living there in that year.  Bridie Ruddy has left behind a memorable article about the lanes and the life that was lived in them in the North Mayo Historical Journal of 1993/1994 and this is clear that life was poor and simple there but the people were happy in them and they missed the close knit sense of community that they lost when they moved to the new streets close by but at least the same people moved with them this was between the years 1927 and 1935 the era that marked the transition of people from the lanes to the housing estates.  Bridie recalled fondly the people who lived in the lanes off Garden Street and the kindness that they showed to the children in particular.  “Such a close knit community it is hard to imagine and such hard times they were too”, remarked Bridie in her essay.  Bridie remembered that people shared and enjoyed the festivities and colour of the nearby Fair Green and the Market Square in those days of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.  “Everything was shared, food, love, pity, sorrow, joy anything special, but above all help.  Everyone helped out when it was needed.

The Alleys and Lanes of Ballina and Ardnaree are still to be seen today; one Saturday morning I took a stroll by the streets and counted some ten lanes with names on them and then a good number of others that have no name plate and have been blocked off.  They are an important part of our heritage and were once places of vitality albeit also of hardship.

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