LONGFORD

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Longford | Interior of St. Mel's Cathedral | Exterior of St. Mel's Cathedral | Longford Map

NAME.—The Gaelic form of the name is Longphort, which signifies a fortress; the word was originally applied to the old circular forts, but in after ages to the more modern stone castles. There are about twenty places in Ireland called Longford, all so named from fortresses of some kind. The town of Longford, from which the county has its name, is called in the annals, Longford O'Farrell, from the castle of the O'Farrells, the ancient proprietors, which was situated where the present military barrack stands.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Greatest length, from the southwest point in Lough Ree near Black Islands, to the northeast corner near Gulladoo Lough 30 ½ miles; greatest breadth from the river Inny in the east, to Drumshanbo Lake north of Drumlish, 18 miles; average breadth about 16 miles; area 421 square miles; population 61,000.

SURFACE: HILLS.—A range of low round hills extend from the northeast near Lough Gowna, to the southwest near Newtown Forbes; of which Carn Clonhugh (912), toward the southwest end, is the highest summit, a flat-topped hill, very conspicuous in consequence of rising in the midst of a great plain. This hill should have been called Carn Clanhugh, for it took its name from the Clanhugh (the children or descendants of Hugh), who were a sept of the O'Farrells, ancient princes of Annaly. Slieve Golry 650 a mile and a half southwest of Ardagh, is another hill conspicuous for the same reason. These are the only hills worth mention in the whole county. All the rest of the county is flat, in some places, as long the course of the Camlin River, quite level and uninterrupted; in other places broken up by long ridge sandhills. In the level portions there is a good deal of bog.

RIVERS.—The Shannon bounds the county on the west from a point, below Roosky a mile to where it opens into Lough Ree at Lanesborough, a distance of 14 miles. The Rinn River coming south from Leitrim, forms the boundary between Leitrim and Longford for 2 miles, then flows through Longford for a mile, and enters Lough Forbes. In the same neighborhood the Black River flows southwest through Longford, and enters Leitrim to join the Rinn River.

The Camlin rises near Granard, and flowing through Longford town, joins the Shannon 2 miles above Cloondara. The Keenagh or Fallan River, flowing northwest, joins the Shannon at Cloondara; but a branch of it connects with the Camlin, so as to form with that river and the Shannon what is called the Island of Cloondara. The Inny, coming westward from Westmeath, forms for 2 miles the boundary between Westmeath and Longford, then flowing for 12 or 13 miles through Longford, and passing by Ballymahon, it enters the eastern corner of Lough Ree. The Inny is joined on the left bank, 3 miles below Ballymahon, by the Tang River, which, coming from Westmeath, forms for the last 3 miles of its course the southern boundary of Longford; and a little above Ballymahon, by the Rath River, which also comes from Westmeath, and flows through Longford for the last 3 miles of its course. The Riffey, another tributary of the Inny on the right bank, rises near Edgeworthstown, and flowing southeast, enters Westmeath.

All the above streams send their waters to the Shannon. But there is a district in the northeast which is drained by a number of rivulets into Lough Gowna, whence the united waters are carried off by the river Erne.

LAKES.—The lake expansions of the Shannon that touch Longford are: Lough Forbes, near Newtown Forbes, and Lough Ree, which forms the southwestern boundary. Along the northwest boundary there is a line of small lakes, viz., Drumshanbo Lake, Lough Sallagh, Fearglass Lake, Cloncose Lake, Lough Nahelwy, Doogary Lake, Gortermore Lake, Tully South Lake, Beaghmore Lake, and Gulladoo Lake, this last at the north extremity of the county. These belong partly each to Longford and Leitrim.

Proceeding on in the same direction round the boundary; near Gulladoo Lake is Lower Lake, near the village of Arvagh in Cavan lying (with the adjacent lake of Garty in Cavan) in the midst of a series of pretty hills; a little south from which is Enaghan Lake. Lough Gowna on the northeast margin, a very beautiful lake, belonging partly to Cavan, is about 6 miles in length, extremely irregular in shape, and greatly broken up by peninsulas and islands. Lough Kinale lies on the east border, beside which is the smaller lake Derragh, which is wholly in Longford. Glen Lough lies 3 miles southeast of Edgeworthstown.

The following lakes are in the interior: In the northern corner, Corglass Lake, Lough Naback and Lough Annagh. Killeen Lake, and Cloonfin Lake lie 3 miles west of Granard. Gorteen Lake and Currygrane Lake lie immediately south of the village of Ballinalee. Lough Bannow lies beside Lanesborough; and southeast of this, beside the village of Keenagh, is another Lough Bannow. In the southern end, Derry Lake and Derrymacar Lake lie about 4 miles west of Ballymahon.

ISLANDS.—Those in Lough Ree belonging to Longford are: In the north end, Incharmadermot; a mile south of this is the larger island of Inchenagh; and another mile south is Clawinch. The next is Inchcleranun, or Quaker's Island, which was in old times the seat of a religious establishment, founded by St. Dermot in the 6th century, and which still contains a most interesting group of ecclesiastical ruins, commonly called, as elsewhere, the "Seven Churches." The little cluster called the Black Islands lies south of the southern point of the county, and lastly, to the northeast of Black Island, is Saint's Island, on which are the ruins of a church.

In that part of Lough Gowna belonging to Longford is Inchmore or Great Island, which;ontains the ruins of an abbey, called Temple Columkille, i.e., St. Columkille's Church, which was the original parish church of, and gave name to the surrounding parish of Columkille.

Portrait of Oliver Goldsmith

TOWNS.—Longford (4,380), on the river Calmin, is the most important town and the best business center between Dublin and Sligo; Granard (1,828) is in the northeast of the county. Beside the town is the "Moat," a very large and high mound, the remains of the fortified residence of some old king or chief, similar to others found in many parts of Ireland; it is on the top of a hill, commanding a great view of the surrounding country, and is a very remarkable feature in the district. Two miles southeast of Granard is the village of Abbeylara, containing the interesting ruins of an abbey from which the place has its name. Edgeworthstown (842), near the eastern margin of the county, is a very neat town; it received its name from the family of Edgeworth, well known in literature—one member, Maria Edgeworth, being particularly distinguished. Ballymahon (869) in the south, stands on the river Inny. Two miles east of Ballymahon is the village of Pallas, the birth place of Oliver Goldsmith; and five miles southwest of Ballymahon, in the county Westmeath, is the village of Lissoy, celebrated under the name of Auburn in the "Deserted Village."

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—The county Longford is co-extensive with the ancient territory of Annaly, which was for some centuries before the invasion the patrimony of the O'Farrells. In earlier ages, about the time of St. Patrick, it formed what was called North Teffia, to distinguish it from South Teffia, which comprised a large part of Westmeath, the two Teffias being separated by the river Inny. A portion of North Teffia, viz., the barony of Granard, was one of the districts anciently called Carbery; and to distinguish it from the other Carberys this was called Carbery of Teffia.

One of the several districts called Calry was situated round the village of Ardagh in this county; and the name, though no longer applied to the territory, is preserved in the name of Slieve Golry. This hill was in more ancient times called Bri-Leth; it was the residence of the Dedannan fairy prince Midir; and in some very old Gaelic romantic tales there are curious fairy legends in connection with it.

At Ardagh a monastery was founded by St. Mel, a British missionary who was contemporary with St. Patrick and St. Brigid; and the place was and is still held in great veneration. It contains the ruins of a church, with all the characteristics of extreme antiquity, and it has continued an episcopal see since the time of its first bishop St. Mel.

Description of County Longford | Interior of St. Mel's Cathedral | Exterior of St. Mel's Cathedral | Longford Map

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