BALLIBAY, a market-town and post-town, and a parish, partly in the barony of MONAGHAN, but chiefly in that of CREMORNE, county of MONAGHAN, and province of ULSTER, Smiles (S. by E.) from Monaghan, and 50 miles (N. W. by N.) from Dublin; containing 6685 inhabitants, of which number, 1947 are in the town. This place, which is situated at the intersection of the roads from Castle-Blayney to Cootehill and Clones, and from Carrickmacross to Monaghan, derives its name from a pass between the lakes at the southern extremity of the town.
A battle was fought in the vicinity, at a place called Ballydian, between De Courcy, first Earl of Ulster, and the Mac Mahons and O'Carrols, Prior to the introduction of the linen manufacture the town was of very little importance; but since the establishment of its linen market about the middle of the last century, it has rapidly advanced, and now contains about 400 houses, many of which are respectable and comfortably built, and has become the principal mart for the inhabitants of the surrounding country. The manufacture of linen, of a texture from nine to fourteen hundreds, is extensively carried on throughout the parish. The market is on Saturday, and is amply supplied; great quantities of butter are sold, and from October to February inclusive not less than from 8000 to 12,000 stone of flax is sold weekly: there are also extensive markets for grain on Tuesday and Friday. Fairs are held on the third Saturday in every month, and are remarkable for large sales of horses, horned cattle, and pigs. A reading society was established in 1816, and is supported by a proprietary of annual subscribers; the library contains nearly 1000 volumes. Petty sessions are held in the market-house irregularly: and here is a constabulary police station.
The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 8741¼ statute acres, of which 181 are in the barony of Monaghan, and 8560¼ in that of Cremorne; 180 acres are under water. It was formed by act of council in 1796, by separating from the parishes of Tullycorbet and Aughnamullen several townlands, applotted under the tithe act and valued at £6957 per annum. Its surface is studded with lakes and boldly diversified with hills and dales. About four miles from the town is the mountain of Bunnanimma, at the base of which are bleach-greens and mills. The approach to the town opens upon an extremely beautiful and picturesque tract of country. To the east are seen, at the distance of 20 miles, the deep blue summits of the lofty Slievegullion, with the village, about a quarter of a mile beneath, apparently embosomed in hills and situated on the margin of a lake a mile in diameter, which forms its boundary on the east and south, and is itself bounded by a rich amphitheatre of woods. The soil is of a fair average quality, but agriculture is not in a very forward state: the growth of flax has been much encouraged, and large quantities of very good quality are raised. There is no waste land. Very extensive tracts of bog supply the inhabitants and the various works with abundance of fuel; so great is the quantity consumed that many of the manufacturers employ from 60 to 100 persons for three months every year to dig and prepare it. The draining of these bogs, and the numerous population around the works, have caused a great change in the climate of the Bunnanimma mountain, which formerly was liable to be enveloped in thick fogs for ten or twelve days successively; but now the drying of the turf is seldom interrupted for a single day. The mountain lands, though naturally very poor, have on this side been nearly reclaimed. The prevailing substratum is whinstone; slate also exists, and was formerly quarried for roofing; and there are extensive quarries of greenstone, called "Ribbil," of which the town is built.
A. lead mine was opened at Laragh, about half a mile from the town, but it has not been worked since 1826; it is very rich in ore, and from silver found in it has been manufactured some plate in the possession of Col. C. A, Leslie. About half a mile from the town is Ballibay House, the seat of that gentleman, on whose estate the town is built; it is a handsome and spacious mansion beautifully situated on the border of a lake, and backed by some extensive plantations. The other principal residences in the parish are Derry Valley, the seat of T. McCullagh, Esq.; Aghralane, of T. Lucas, Esq.; and Lake View, the residence of the Rev. Hercules Langrishe, the incumbent.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £383. 5. The church is a neat edifice occupying a romantic situation on an eminence rising abruptly from the lake; the east window is embellished with stained glass, and there are some tablets to the memory of the Leslie family. The glebe-house is a handsome residence, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits gave £100: the glebe comprises 25 acres. In the R. C. divisions this parish forms part of the union or district of Tullycorbet: the chapel is situated at Ballintra, about a mile and a half from the town; and there is a small chapel of ease in the town, connected with the clergyman's residence.
There are two places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster; one of which, in the town, is a handsome building in the later English style, and is of the second class; the other is about a mile distant, and nearly adjoining it is a place of worship for Seceders. About 150 boys and 110 girls are taught in four public schools; and there are also six hedge schools, in which are about 140 boys and 70 girls; and two Sunday schools. -A dispensary is open two days in the week for the gratuitous aid of the poor.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.