Ballaghaderreen is known in Irish as Bealach an Doirin meaning ‘The way of the little oak wood’. There is little known about the origin of Ballaghaderreen except for an old folklore story that explains how the town originated. According to the story all that existed in what is now Ballaghaderreen town was a trackway through an oak wood. This was mainly used by the people from Kilmovee to transport their goods to Sligo to be traded. One day after a storm the traders found their route through the wood blocked by a fallen tree. They had to unload all their goods from their carts and carry them to the other side of the tree, they then had to reload their carts when they were on the other side. This went on for some time attracting the attention of the local people who began trading at the spot of the falling tree with the Kilmovee men. From then on it became a trading centre, resulting in the landlord near the area at the time to see the trading potential and offered six acres of land to anyone who would build there.
The earliest mention of Ballaghaderreen in history seems to be the following from the Annals of Loch Ce for 1548: Aenghus, son of Toirdhelbhach, son of Colla Mac Domhnaill, was killed by Maelruanaidh, the son of Ruaidhri Mac Diarmada, an Bealach-an -Doirin.
Another written mention of the town of Ballaghaderreen was in 1795 when it was described as ”A poor village with a dozen shops, a few score squalid cabins, three or four slated houses and seven fairs in the year.” The next mention of the town was in 1837 in the ”Topographical Dictionary of Ireland”, it was described as a market town in the parish of Kilcoleman, it was a thriving market town in the west in the 18th century, and this tradition has lived on with a farmers market held in the town every Saturday.
At the beginning of the 19th century the town was redesigned by Charles Strickland, who was an agent for Lord Dillon of Ballaghaderreen. Strickland helped out financially with the construction of the town’s cathedral, he was also responsible for the building of a market place called the Shambles which had 16 lock-up stores. Strickland also succeeded in opening a railway line for the town, it opened in 1874 allowing merchants to transport their goods to nearby towns. This railway line was officially closed in 1963.
The location of Ballaghaderren is a topic that has been debated for a long time. What county is it in? Mayo or Roscommon. Up until 1898 Ballaghaderreen was part of county Mayo. This changed under the Local Government Act of 1898 when the town was transferred from Mayo to Roscommon. This act had to be introduced in Ireland as changes needed to be made to the local government in the country and to bring order to the local authorities.