FERMANAGH

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Fermanagh | Enniskillen | Tully Castle, Lough Erne | Devenish Island | Fermanagh Map

NAME.—The county took its name from the tribe called Fir-Monach, or the men of Monach, and these were named from their ancestor Monach, fifth in descent from Cahirmore, king of Ireland from A.D. 120 to 123. Monach settled on the shore of Lough Erne about the end of the 3d century, and his posterity ultimately spread themselves over the whole county.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Greatest length from the boundary, near Rosslea, in the southeast, to the northwest point 3 ½ miles west of Belleek, 45 miles; average breadth about 21 miles; area, 714 square miles; population, 84,879.

SURFACE.—Fermanagh may be described as a trough, in the bottom of which lies the great chain of lakes formed by the two Loughs Erne. A belt one or two miles wide along the lakes at both sides is level; but beyond this, on either side, northeast and southwest, the country is nearly all mountainous or hilly, the two ranges of upland forming the sides of the trough.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—The two highest summits stand on the middle of the southwest boundary, and belong partly to Cavan, namely Cuilcagh (2,188) and Tiltinbane (1,949), which have been noticed in Cavan. North and northwest from these the chief summits are Belmore Mountain (1,312), 6 miles west of Enniskillen, well known for its splendid cliffs and its ancient sepulchral monuments: near this to the west is Ora More (854). Two miles southwest from Derrygonnelly is Knockmore Cliff (919), a conspicuous and precipitous rock noted for its caves, containing ancient inscriptions; and near this on the west is Trustia (989). Northwest of Derrygonnelly is the conspicuous hill of Shean North (1,135), rising in broken acclivities directly over Lough Erne; and near this again to the west, Drumbad (1,009). In the barony of Knockninny, in the south of the county, is Slieve Rushen (1,269), near the boundary of Cavan; and the verdant Knockninny (628), remarkable for its beauty, and for the fine view from its summit.

The chief summits at the other side of the lakes, beginning at the southeast are: Slieve Beagh, on the point of junction of the three counties, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Monaghan, celebrated in legendary history: it includes several summits, one of which, Dooharn (1,255), is wholly in Fermanagh. Carnmore (1,034) lies east of Lisnaskea; Brocker (1,046) is on the boundary with Tyrone, north of Tempo; and still nearer to Tempo, at its southwest side, is Topped (909). Tappaghan (1,112), in the north, near the village of Lack, belongs more to Tyrone than to Fermanagh.

RIVERS.—The great drainage artery of the county is the river Erne, which belongs for the greater part of its course to Fermanagh. In its passage by Belleek, after issuing from Lower Lough Erne, it falls over a ledge of rocks, forming a very fine cascade. Into the Erne or into its expansions, flow a number of rivers down the sides of the trough from the northeast and southwest. In the south the Woodford River, coming from Cavan, forms part of the boundary between Fermanagh and Cavan, and flows into the head of Upper Lough Erne. Northwest of this the Clodagh or Swanlinbar River belonging partly to Cavan, flows into Upper Lough Erne. The Arney rises in Leitrim, but that part of its course from Lough Macnean to the river Erne lies in Fermanagh. The Sillees drains several small lakes, and flowing southeast by Derrygonnelly, joins the Erne a mile above Enniskillen. The Roogagh, a small, rapid river, flows west into Lough Melvin at the village of Garrison.

On the northeast side of the county the Colebrooke River (called in its upper course the Many Burns) flows by Maguire's Bridge into Upper Lough Erne; and the Tempo River runs by Tempo and joins the Colebrooke a mile below Maguire's Bridge. The Bellanamallard River flows by Bellanamallard into Lower Lough Erne. Further to the northwest the Kesh River (called in the early part of its course the Glen Derragh) flows by Ederney and Kesh, and near it on the west the Bannagh, both running into Lower Lough Erne. The Termon River, flowing by Pettigo into the same lake, forms part of the boundary between Fermanagh and Donegal.

LAKES.—Upper and Lower Lough Erne belong almost exclusively to Fermanagh and stretch through nearly the whole length of the county, dividing it into two almost equal longitudinal sections. The two lakes are connected by the river Erne, and from the point where the river issues from the Upper Lake to its junction with the Lower Lake, the distance is 10 miles following the windings, or 8 miles direct.

The Upper Lake is very complicated, and greatly broken up by islands and peninsulas, like Lough Oughter in Cavan; it is 10 miles long, with an average width of about 2 miles; greatest width at the northwest end, 3 ½ miles. The Lower Lake, measuring along its curved southwest shore, is 18 ½ miles long, or measuring direct from near Enniskillen to the mouth of the river Termon, near Boa Island, 16 miles; greatest width, 5 ½ miles.

These lakes, though possessing no grand mountain features, can vie with most other Irish or British lakes in the quiet and gentle beauty of their scenery.

On the southwest border is Lower Lough Macnean or Lough Nilly, belonging to Fermanagh, except a very small portion which runs into Cavan. Near it is the larger sheet of Upper Lough Macnean, 4 ½ miles long, about half of which is in this county. At the extreme west end is Lough Melvin, a small part of which belongs to Fermanagh. In Drumgay Lake, 2 miles north of Enniskillen, are some remarkable "crannoges," or ancient artificial island habitations. Numerous small lakes lie scattered through other parts of the county, especially round Upper Lough Erne.

ISLANDS.—The islands in the two lakes Erne are very numerous: in popular estimate there are 365, but this is an exaggeration. In the Upper Lake the chief islands are Trannish, Inishcorkish and Naan, all about the middle, and Belleisle, at the north extremity. In the Lower Lake, Boa Island, at the northwest end, is 4 ½ miles long. Near it to the southeast are Lustymore, Lustybeg, Cruninish, and Hare Island. Near the eastern shore are Crevinishaughy and Inishmakill, and close by the southwest shore is Inishmacsaint, containing an ancient church ruin, and giving name to the adjacent parish. The most celebrated of all is Devenish, 2 miles below Enniskillen, where a monastery was founded in the 6th century by St. Molaise (pron. Molash'a), which for ages continued to be one of Ireland's chief seats of religion and literature. The island still contains a most interesting series of church ruins, and a perfect round tower, one of the finest in Ireland.

TOWNS.—Enniskillen (5,712), the assize town, is built on an island formed by two branches of the river Erne, with suburbs on the mainland at both sides, situated in the midst of a beautiful and well-cultivated country. Beginning at the southeast extremity of the county, and proceeding with the left hand to Lough Erne, we come first to Newtown Butler (421), on the summit of a hill, northeast of which, in the extreme east of the county, is the village of Rosslea (328). Lisnaskea (793), near Upper Lough Erne, was anciently the inauguration place of the Maguires, chiefs of Fermanagh: and near it, in the north, is Maguire's Bridge (513), on the Colebrooke River. The village of Tempo (417), is on the Tempo River. Irvinestown or Lowtherstown (795), stands near the border of Tyrone. Kesh (268) and Ederny (317) are on the Kesh River. In the southwestern half of the county are Derrygonnelly (277), 2 miles from the shore of Lower Lough Erne; and in the extreme northwest end, on the river Erne, beside a beautiful cascade, is Belleek (280), a small village, now coming into prominence on account of its manufacture of the well-known "Belleek Pottery."

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—Fermanagh belonged in former days to the Maguires, so that it was for many ages commonly known as "Maguire's Country."

Enniskillen was anciently called Inis-Cethlenn, the island of Kethlenda, wife of "Balor of the mighty blows," a mythical hero, chief of the ancient sea robbers called "Fomorians." (See Sligo.)

Belleisle, in Upper Lough Erne, formerly belonged to the family of Mac Manus, and from them it received its old name, Ballymacmanus or Senat Macmanus. It is memorable as having been the residence of the great Irish scholar, Cahal Maguire, dean of Cloger in the 15th century, who compiled the "Annals of Ulster," a most valuable historical work which still remains to us.

The district lying between Lough Melvin and Lough Erne was the ancient Tooraw; and the baronies of Clankelly and Clanawley retain the names of old tribes and of the districts they inhabited.

Description of County Fermanagh | Enniskillen | Tully Castle, Lough Erne | Devenish Island | Fermanagh Map

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