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Gortnalea is situated on the north-west end of the parish and, nestled at the side of Sliabh Dart, is bordered by Cappagh, Shanballymore, Adrigoole and Knockatee. Looking at the various spelling of its Irish name we can interpret its meaning as (1)Gort na Liath, the Tilled Field of the Grey Stones;(2), Gort na Lao, the Tilled Field of the Calves;(3),Gort na Lia, the Tilled Field of the Physicians. With an acreage of 473 acres 2 roods and 17 perches, 120 acres of bogland and 31 tenants, Mr. Griffith valued it at £112-3s.0d. In the early 1800’s it was part of the George Shee estate along with Gortnagine, Adrigoolebeg and Knockatee. Following the death of Shee in the 1870’s, ownership of the estate passed on to his nephew, George Deering.

The land is of good quality and in former times produced the usual tillage crops of potatoes, beet, oats and barley, as well as grazing for cattle and sheep. Of course every house reared a few pigs and all would have had the usual quota of hens, ducks and geese. When the pig killing had to be done Michael Tobin and Michael Bowens were on call and when any of the farm animals became unwell or when cows were calving, James Mannnion, the village “vet”, was available. In later years his son Henry was equally successful in administering the appropriate cure. Mick Mannion supplemented his farm income by sowing cabbage plants and selling them at the market in Dunmore and Tuam. They got their spring water from wells owned by the Bowens family and Bid Mannion-no worries about water meters then- and I’m sure that this was an occasion for meeting and sharing news. Cloonagh bog was their destination when the turf cutting season arrived and indeed turf is still being saved in Cloonagh by many of the present families. But this is not the onerous chore endured by their ancestors. For them, the bog work went on for months, and how pleased they would be now to have a machine to do the cutting plus tractors to take it home. Like every other country village they visited during the long winter nights –Ted Grady’s house was a popular destination as was Henry Mannion’s, where they also played cards.   

 Records from the Tithe Applotment Books from the 1820’s, show 24  Gortnalea tenants paid their tax to the local Protestant clergy and 2 of these family names, Reddington and Tierney, are still present in Gortnalea today. Census figures from 1841 tell us that there were 232 people living there-108 males and 124 females and it would appear that the village did not suffer excessively during the Famine times as census returns from 1851 show a population of 209. However, the downward trend has continued ever since. In 1901, there were 32 families living there with a population of 181, 92 males and 89 females. All of the dwelling houses were stone; all had thatched roofs; most of them had 2-4 rooms and so were 2nd. Class. Cow houses, piggeries and barns were the most common outhouses. By 1911, there were 29 families and a population of 164- 94 males and 70 females. The standard of housing was much the same as in 1901-27 were 2nd class, 1 was 3rd class; 27 were thatched and 1 was slated. All of the villagers were Catholic, spoke Irish and English and received their primary education in Shanballymore N.S. This population decrease has continued over the decades and would have been largely due to enforced emigration and lack of local employment opportunities. However, with the opening of the Vocational School in Dunmore in 1953 and Incarnate Word College in 1963 together with the provision of Free Education in the following years, a new generation has been able to avail of opportunities to gain qualifications and employment experiences, both in Ireland and in countries all over the world. At the present time the population is 34 and the number of occupied houses is 14.       

Of course farming has always been the main means of livelihood but some families supplemented the family income by trades like carpentry, and dressmaking. Information from both the 1901 and 1911 census tells us that 3 Reddington families produced carpenters, Mary Kenny and Mary Reddington were dressmakers,James Mannion was a carter. The McManus brothers were blacksmiths there and also operated a forge in Ballintava, but later moved their business to Barrack St., Dunmore.

 Road names and field names are important details of every village and Gortnalea has road names like Cnocaun na Fola, (Knockatee towards Gortnalea), New Line (Adrigoolebeg towards Gortnalea), and Bothar na Cuige (Off Gortnalea Hill), where there were 5 houses located. The families who lived on that road were McGovern, Lyons, Kilgarriff, Kennedy and Tully. Its field names are many and a good mixture of Irish and English-The Gobeen, Garra Nua, The Screach, Ballyhear, The Long Gleann na Gabhar, The Clovereen, The Beet Field, The Three Corner, Betties.

Fr. Neary’s book, “History and Antiquities of the parish of Dunmore”, marks the location of”A well- defined fort situated  in Gortnalea”. Local knowledge tells us that it was used as a children’s burial ground but there are no visible traces to be seen now. It is believed that the last burials to have taken place here were those of a family who lost 6 or 7 children in the 1930’s. Another local landmark was the dancehall, situated on land now owned by Patsy Flaherty but at the time it was built, was owned by the Lyons family. A few locals got together, bought the site and started to build. Eddie Grady, Michael Reddington and the McManus family were the main people involved. Music was supplied by Jimmy Reddington (Gortnalea), Andy Mullarkey (Quinaltagh) and Mick McWalter from Cloonfad, who all played the accordion. Admission prices ranged from 3 pence to 6 pence and in Des Rushe’s memoir, “A Thumb of Rushes” we read that “You could have tea, bread and jam plus a dance for 4 pence”. Rick Reddington was the doorman and although the dancers came mainly from the surrounding villages, there were those who crossed county boundaries and travelled from Cloonfad and Logboy, in search of fun and frolics. This hall, which replaced an earlier one located across from Jack Kenny’s house, continued until the 1920’s30’s.