Dillons of Dillon Terrace

The original stores and warehouses built upon this site were first erected in 1834 by a Mr. James Brennan from Belfast, a wealthy merchant, dealer and chapman. During his tenure in the locality, over 10,000 pigs were slaughtered here annually and the resultant bacon cured before export to London. However this enterprise did not last long and by October 1841, Brennan had been declared bankrupt. As a result of which, his property was disposed of including the Ballina premises and sold to a Mr. Thomas Dillon from Lissian near Ballaghaderreen, then in county Mayo.

Thomas was the son of Luke Dillon (d.1826) a land agent for Patrick Dillon the 11th Earl of Roscommon and his wife Anne Blake. Thomas’s brother Valentine was one time Crown Solicitor for county Sligo, while his other brother John Blake Dillon (5th May 1814-15th September 1866) was a writer and politician and one of the founding members of the “Young Ireland” movement. John was educated at St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, and originally intended to enter the priesthood but instead left after two years to study law at Trinity College Dublin. In 1842 Dillon alongside Thomas Davis and Charles Gavan Duffy founded ‘The Nation’ newspaper whose aim was to promote Irish Nationalism. A keen follower of Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association, advocating the appeal of the Act of Union in 1800, Dillon and other young members of the party including William Smith O’Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher came to be known as Young Ireland, threatening the use of force to repeal the Act of Union. Following a failed rebellion in 1848 amidst great devastation throughout the Irish countryside during the Famine, Dillon fled to France and later New York before returning to Ireland on amnesty in 1855. John was elected an MP for county Tipperary in 1865 and lobbied for a federal Union between Britain and Ireland, denouncing violent methods used by the Fenian movement.

Thomas Dillon

Back in Ballina, John’s brother Thomas set about establishing a large mercantile hardware business. In August 1845 two ships the SS “Julie” and “Wilhelmina” bound from St. John’s Newfoundland arrived at the port in Crocketstown carrying a large cargo of Yellow Pine, Birch, Crown Memel, Redwood Deals, Staves and Lathwood. Also at the same time Thomas had chartered another ship from Quebec loaded with Oak, Ash, Elm, Birch, Cartwright, slates, tiles, sheetlead, eave runs, Laths, & Lath Nalls, Plaster Paris, Roman Cement, Window Glass, Russian, Swedish, Lowmoor, & British Iron, Metal Castings, Cart & Plough Mounting, Tin Plates, Copper etc. All of which would be available for sale at “moderate terms” in his warehouses. The previous year at a meeting held on the 19th November 1844 in the Ballina courthouse attended by members of the local Gentry, Merchants and Traders of the town, it was announced by the Lord Commissioners of the Crown Treasury, that Ballina was to be made a bonding port and it would be necessary to find a suitable premises as bonding stores. Thomas Dillon who was present at the meeting offered his stores at Arran Bridge, which he proposed to renovate to meet the views of the Commissioners “and generously offered to take whatever was allowed by the general regulations as compensation”. Thomas Dillon had married a Miss Blake from county Sligo and by her had two sons John Blake Dillon “Long John” born in 1842 and Valentine Blake Dillon born in 1845. Upon Thomas’s death he was succeeded by his eldest son JB Dillon who in circa 1870 converted the front block of the old warehouse buildings into a fine terrace of seven comfortable townhouses. The largest of which the family kept as a private residence. Hence the name Dillon Terrace.

Valentine Blake Dillon

The Valentine Blake Dillon who I mentioned above qualified as a solicitor in 1870, and was an active politician throughout his lifetime. In 1880 he would defend Charles Stuart Parnell, as the Land War intensified with an increase in agrarian unrest and widespread boycotts. Parnell and thirteen others were arrested and charged for seditious conspiracy, however the case later collapsed. In 1891 Dillon was proposed as the Parnellite candidate in the North Sligo by-election following the death of the sitting member, Peter McDonald. He failed to win the seat however and lost out to the former Mayor of Sligo, Bernard Collery. Valentine later acted as an election agent for James McCann in his successful campaign to win Dublin, St. Stephen’s Green. Between 1894-1895 Dillon served as Lord Mayor of Dublin and was featured as ‘Val Dillon’ in a scurrilous passage of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not only was Dillon known to Joyce, but Valentine was also a childhood friend of Bram Stoker and it is believed they may have been distant cousins through Stoker’s mother Charlotte Blake Thornley. On the 9th of January 1872 Valentine Blake Dillon had married Miss Margaret Josephine Phelan a daughter of the late Richard Phelan Esq of Allegheny City, United States at St. Columba’s church Ballybrack. The couple had one daughter together, Jennie Dillon. Valentine died on the 31st of March 1904 of a sudden illness.

John Blake Dillon

John Blake Dillon of Ballina who I mentioned earlier had married on the 27th of September 1877 at the Church of St. Joseph, Rathdown county Dublin, Elizabeth Sullivan the daughter of William K Sullivan, a former president of University College Cork. The couple had five children together, all of whom were born and raised in the locality and went on to have interesting careers of their own. At the time of both the 1901 and 1911 census, members of the family were in residence at the house on Dillon Terrace. An article appeared in the Western People on the 17th of February 1912 announcing that an auction was to take place at Dillon Terrace on the 22nd of the same month of the entire household furniture and effects belonging to Mr. J B Dillon. The family left Ballina and moved to 32 Edenvale road Dublin where John died on the 23rd of June 1914 aged 72. His occupation was given as land agent. In 1912 the Moy Club was founded in the old Dillon residence and has remained in operation ever since.

Many thanks to Martin Leonard for the History of Dillon Terrace

Ballina’s Best Kept Secret