Connemara National Park Visitor Centre

Letterfrack, Ireland

Connemara National Park Visitor Centre


Letterfrack or Letterfrac (Irish: Leitir Fraic meaning "The Speckled Hill") is a small village in the Connemara area of County Galway, Ireland. It was founded by Quakers in the mid-19th century. The village is south-east of Renvyle peninsula and 15 kilometres (9 miles) north-east of Clifden on Barnaderg Bay and lies at the head of Ballinakill harbour. Letterfrack contains the visitors centre for Connemara National Park.

James and Mary Ellis, a Quaker couple from Bradford in England, moved to Letterfrack, during the Great Famine. Ellis became the resident landlord in Letterfrack in 1849. As Quakers, the Ellises wanted to help with the post-famine relief effort. They leased nearly 1,000 acres (405 ha) of rough land and set about farming it and planting it with woodland. They built a schoolhouse, housing for tradesmen, a shop, a dispensary, and a temperance hotel. In 1857 the property was sold to John Hall, a staunch Protestant, and supporter of the Irish Church Mission to Roman Catholics. The ICM used the building with the aim of converting Catholics to Protestantism. After 25 years without much success, Hall sold it in 1882 to the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, John McEvilly, who used a false name to give Hall the impression that the buyer was a Protestant, for £3000 for 1,000 acres (405 ha). In 1885, he established St Joseph's Industrial School, Letterfrack which opened in 1887. Like many other institutions run by the Christian Brothers, Letterfrack Industrial School has since become notorious for excessive use of corporal punishment, neglect, and child molestation of the boys in its charge, and was closed down in 1974.

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