CARLOW

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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NAME.—County named from the town. The old name of the town is Cetherloch (pronounced Keherlogh), meaning "quadruple lake" (Gaelic, Cether, four); and the tradition is that the Barrow anciently formed four lakes at the place where the town now stands; but of these lakes there is now no trace.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Length, from the Pollmounty River at the southern end, to the northern boundary near Rathvilly, 32 ½ miles; greatest breadth at right angles to this, from Black Bridge on the Dinin River in the west, to the boundary line beside Ballyredmond House near Clonegall in the east, 20 miles; area, 346 square miles; population, 46,568.

SURFACE.—Nearly the whole of this county is level, forming a part of the great central plain of Ireland, and it is generally fertile and well cultivated: at the extreme southeast, and at the extreme west, it is skirted by mountains.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—The Mount Leinster and Blackstairs Mountains, which form a continuous range, run for nearly their whole length (about 16 miles) generally on the border of the counties of Carlow and Wexford. Beginning at the northeast, Greenoge (1,399) and Kilbrannish (1,335); both west of Newtownbarry, lie wholly in this county. At the southern base of Kilbrannish Mountain is the Gap or Pass of Corrabut, traversed by a road running east and west between this hill and Mount Leinster. The boundary runs over the summit of Mount Leinster (2,610), a conspicuous mountain, the culminating point of the whole range. Knockroe (1,746) is 2 miles further south. South of this is Scullogue Gap, which separates the range of Mount Leinster from that of the Blackstairs, forming the only carriage-road pass across the mountains. South of the Gap, the summit of Blackstairs Mountain (2,409) lies on the boundary. That part of the county west of the Barrow (the barony of Idrone West) is hilly, rising in several places to over 1,000 feet.

RIVERS.—On the western side, the Barrow, where it flows by Carlow town, forms for 5 miles the boundary between Carlow and Queen's County; next flows through Carlow for 11 miles; and for 19 miles more forms the boundary between Carlow and Kilkenny. On the eastern side, the Slaney runs southward through the county for 18 miles, and for 3 miles more forms the boundary between Carlow and Wexford; after which it enters Wexford. The Burren River rises on the northern slope of Mount Leinster, and flowing northwest, through the middle of the county, joins the Barrow at Carlow. The Derreen, which enters Carlow from Wicklow, joins the Slaney 3 miles below Tullow: it rises in the southern slope of Keadeen mountain, east of Baltinglass in Wicklow, and is then called the Douglas, flows southwest for some distance, and then forms for a mile the boundary between Wicklow and Carlow, after which it enters Carlow: further on it forms again the boundary between Wicklow and Carlow for five miles, and then finally enters Carlow, ending its course in the Slaney a little further on.

The Clody rises in Mount Leinster, and flowing eastward, joins the Slaney at Newtownburry, running the whole way on the boundary between Carlow and Wexford. The Mountain River and the Corries River (also called, in the lower part of its course, the Black River or Dinin River) both join the Barrow at Borris. The Pollmounty forms the extreme southern boundary, and is joined from the northeast by the little river Drummin. The Lerr rivulet, joining the Barrow 3 miles north of Carlow town, forms a small part of the northern boundary.

TOWNS.—Carlow (7,185), on the Barrow, just where the Burren River falls into it, the assize town, is a neat, cheerful-looking town, of which the town of Graigue, (1,287), on the other side of the river (in Queen's county), forms a part. The remains of the old castle are on a hill over the Barrow. In the town is the Roman Catholic cathedral, near which is "Carlow College." Proceeding down the Barrow, we come to Leighlinbridge (835), 8 miles below Carlow, with the "Black Castle"—the ruin of an Anglo-Norman stronghold—near the bridge; and two miles below this is the pretty town of Bagenalstown (2,141), of which many of the working classes are employed in preparing the granite and "Carlow flags" (see next paragraph) quarried in the vicinity. Borris (1,617), on the Dinin,near where it joins the Barrow, is romantically situated in the midst of a rugged district. The other towns are Tullow (1,977) on the Slaney, in the midst of a lovely country; west of which a mile and a half is "Castlemore Moat," one of those old forts so numerous in the country, a conspicuous representative of its class. Hacketstown (721), placed on a hill, is in the northeast corner of the county; three miles south of which is the hamlet of Clonmore, or as it was anciently called Clonmore-Mogue, once a very celebrated religious establishment, founded in the sixth century by St. Maidoc or Mogue (who was not the same as St. Maidoc, the patron of Ferns in Wexford). Near the northern boundary of the county is the village of Rathvilly (302), beside which is the large fort or rath which gives name to the village and parish.

MINERALS.—The eastern half, and part of the west, of the county produces fine granite for building. The Castlecomer coal field (in Kilkenny) just touches Carlow at the extreme western side, so as to include a small portion of the barony of Idrone West. In connection with these coal fields there is a kind of sandstone that splits into layers and large slates, well known as "Carlow flags."

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—Moy-Fea was the old name of a plain lying in the barony of Forth. There were two districts in Leinster anciently called Fotharta (pronounced Foharta): one was called Fotharta-Fea, because it included the old plain of Moy-Fea, above mentioned: and it is now represented by the barony of Forth. "Art, the son of Conn the Hundred-fighter (king of Ireland, A.D. 123) succeeded to the throne A.D. 165, and immediately on his accession he banished from Munster his uncle, Ohy Finn Fothart, who had aided in the slaying of Conn. Ohy proceeded to Leinster; and the king of that province bestowed on him and his sons certain districts, the inhabitants of which were afterward called Fótharta, from their ancestor Ohy Finn Fothart. Of these the two principal still retain the name, viz., the baronies of Forth in Wexford and Carlow."

Hy Felimy was the name of a tribe and district in the present barony of Rathvilly: the old name is still preserved in that of the town of Tullow-O-Felimy, now commonly called Tullow.

The tribe of Hy Drona gave their name to a territory extending on both sides of the Barrow —part in Kilkenny and part in Carlow: and that part of it lying in Carlow is still represented in name and position by the two baronies of Idrone.

The present poor village of Old Leighlin, west of the Barrow, was once an episcopal see: its first bishop was St. Laserian or Molaise (pronounced Molash'a) who lived in the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, and who had 1,500 monks under his rule at Leighlin. The ruin of the old cathedral is still there.

Another famous center of religion was St. Mullins on the Barrow, in the extreme west of the county, so called from St. Moling, who founded the church in the 7th century.

About a quarter of a mile south of Leighlinbridge, in the townland of Ballyknockan, is a great old moat or fort over the Barrow, which is the remains of the palace of Dinn Ree, the most ancient residence of the kings of Leinster. In connection with this old palace we have the following piece of half-legendary history. In the third century before the Christian era, Coffa the Slender murdered the king of Ireland and his son, usurped the throne, and banished the young heir, Lavra the Mariner, grandson of the king. Lavra fled first to Munster, and from that to Gaul. He entered the service of the Gaulish king; and after having greatly distinguished himself, he returned to his native land with a small army of foreigners to wrest the throne from the usurper. He landed at the mouth of the Slaney, and being joined by a number of followers, marched to the palace of Dinn Ree, in which Coffa the Slender was then holding an assembly with 30 native princes and a guard of 700 men. The palace was surprised by night, and all the inmates—king, princes and guards—were burned to death. Lavra then became king, and reigned for 19 years.

Description of County Carlow | Carlow Bridge | Dublin Street, Carlow | Court House, Carlow | Jaunting Car |Carlow Map

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