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Ballycastle Coastguard Station, Co. Mayo 1
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Back in the mid-1960s, Stella Maris was the center of community life in this part of rural County Mayo, the monument to all that was important in this ruggedly beautiful area in western Ireland.

Stella Maris hosted baptisms, weddings and, yes, funeral gatherings, for countless families within 50 miles of Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. Yet even in grief, Stella Maris brought life and laughter to thousands of people who passed through its impregnable stone walls.

The site of many a local feis (Gaelic for party), Stella Maris provided a mesmerizing view of the Atlantic Ocean, which millions of Irish men and women crossed to find a more fruitful life in the United States. Through the ’60s and ’70s, though, Stella Maris provided a focal point for those locals who were unable or who had no desire to leave the small farming community on the West Coast of Ireland.
Built in 1853, Stella Maris was designed and constructed as a Coast Guard regional headquarters by the British government, which ruled Ireland until 1921. The building was one of several British Admiralty buildings which dotted the coast of Ireland, built on the best land with commanding views overlooking various bodies of water that surround Ireland. Her gun turrets—small holes cut out of hand-carved stone—still guard Bunatrahir Bay from the forces of perceived evil.

In 1914, the Coast Guard fortress was taken over by the Sisters of Mercy, who named the building appropriately Stella Maris, which is Latin for “Star of the Sea.” The Sisters of Mercy used the building as their home while they taught primary school in the town of Ballycastle, less than two miles away, riding back and forth each day on a horse-drawn cart. They would later add a “commercial” school at Stella Maris, where they taught lace making and music.

In 1960, a new national school was built in the village of Ballycastle, much closer to the parish church. Subsequently, the Sisters of Mercy acquired a new convent through the purchase of a former hotel in the town. The church sold Stella Maris to Annie and Frank Whelan, who turned the old Coast Guard bastion cum convent into a small hotel. Thus, the hotel in the village became a convent and the convent down by the pier became a hotel.

Date: 10/08/2009
Added by: Kalilileth
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