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Northeast Mayo: Local change in the West of Ireland

Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2016

This section explores the specific question of uniqueness of place and how this has changed since the 1980s by looking at the area of Northeast Mayo around Killala.

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This is the start of the Northeast Mayo series of articles in the Change in the West of Ireland collection.
The collection is made up of five series as follows

Killala 1983

Killala in 1983 by Pat Jess Creative commons image Icon Pat Jess under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license Killala in 1983

As Pat Jess drove northwards in 1983 into Killala in the Northeast of County Mayo she described visible evidence of change. New houses in and around the town were numerous and definitely not in vernacular architecture, but what was perhaps most noticeable – almost to the point of visual shock– was a huge industrial plant overlooking Killala Bay, to the immediate south of the town. She commented that ‘It may take a geographer's enthusiasm to ask how places come to be as they are, but I think that any traveller however casual would wonder how such a plant came to be in Northeast Mayo’. She then explored this question in a study of the area around Killala as part of The Open University geography course ‘Changing Britain, Changing world: geographical perspectives, first published in 1985. 

Killala 2015

Driving into Killala in 2015 was a very different. There was no sign on the skyline of the huge industrial plant seen in the 1983 photograph. Instead, visitors could not fail to be taken back to Killala’s early history. As the ‘visit Mayo’ website declares; ‘Killala's skyline is dominated by a round tower, dating to the 12th century, a testament to the historic distinction of the village as an ecclesiastical centre. The Killala round tower was most likely used as a belfry and is one of the best examples of round towers in Mayo’. 

View of Killala in 2015 Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Mayo Ireland Ltd 1996-2016 Killala in 2015

This section explores the specific question of uniqueness of place and how this has changed since the 1980s by looking at the area of Northeast Mayo around Killala. In addition to the focus on the area’s heritage and its location on the Wild Atlantic Way the legacy of the huge industrial plant still survives in 2015, even though the site is in a very different condition than when the industrial plant was in operation. Through exploring the case study of Killala and Northeast Mayo you will be using the method of synthesis applied in a geographical way to examine local social change – the production and reproduction of uniqueness within an area. 


Looking at the photos of Killala, identify the different aspects of society which are represented, e.g. pier and boats = fishing industry, etc.


 Now move on to The Killala area up to the 1980s.


See all the articles in this series

See the other series in the Change in the West of Ireland collection

This article is part of a collection on the 'Uniqueness, Interdependence, Uneven Development and Change in the West of Ireland'. To find out more about the collection, a good place to start is the introduction, Change in the West of Ireland. 

References for this section

  • O’Cearbhaill, D. (1982) ‘Development through self-help; the achievements of the Killala Community’, in Sewel, J. and O’Cearbhaill, D. (eds) (1982) Co-operation and community development, Social Sciences Research Centre, University College Galway.

  • Ó Cinnéide, M.S. and Keane, M.J. (1980) Resource survey of the Killala area, Social Sciences Research Centre, University College, Galway.





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