COUNTY FERMANAGH

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

FERMANAGH, an inland county, of the province of ULSTER, bounded on the east by Monaghan and Tyrone, on the north by Tyrone and Donegal, on the west by Donegal and Leitrim, and on the south by Cavan. It extends from 54° 7' to 54° 40' (N. Lat.), and from 7° 1' to 8° 5' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 456,588 ½ acres, of which 320,599 are cultivated land, 46,755 are under water, and the remainder are unprofitable bog and mountain. The population, in 1821, amounted to 130,997; and in 1831, to 149,555.

The Erdini, according to some authorities, were the inhabitants of this district in the time of Ptolemy; but Whitaker considers it to have been part of the territory of the Nagnatae. By the ancient Irish it was called Feor Magh Eanagh, or "the Country of the Lakes," and Magh Uire, or "the Country of the Waters:" it was also called Ernai or Ernagh, and the inhabitants who lived round Lough Erne, Ernains and Erenochs, a name supposed to be derived from the Erdini. It was divided into two great portions, one called Targoll, the ancient seat of the Facmonii, and of the Macmanii, or the Mac Manuses; the other named Rosgoll, occupied by the Guarii or Guirii, from whom the Mac Guires, or Maguires, derive their origin. This family was so powerful that the greater part of the county was for several centuries known by the name of Mac Guire's country.

It was made shire ground in the 11th of Elizabeth, by the name which it still retains. The unsettled state of the district at this period may be inferred from the anecdote told of its chieftain, when the lord-deputy sent to inform him that he was about to send a sheriff into his territory; Maguire's answer was, "that her majesty's officer would be received, but at the same time he desired to know his eric, the fine to be imposed on his murderer, in order that, if he happened to be slain by any of his followers, the amount might be levied on the offender's chattels."

It was one of the six counties which escheated to the Crown by the flight of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, on an imputed conspiracy, and which were included in the celebrated scheme of James I. for the improvement of the north of Ireland, under the name of the Plantation of Ulster. According to the arrangements therein made, the county is supposed to have consisted of 1070 tates of 30 acres each, besides 46 islands, great and small: of these, 212 tates, containing about 6360 acres, were assigned to the church, and the remainder disposed of among the English and Scotch settlers, who, from their undertaking to fulfil the conditions of the plantation, were called Undertakers. A portion, consisting of 390 tates, was assigned to the head of the Mac Guire family; and the rest of the native inhabitants were here, as in the other five counties, removed to waste lands in Munster or Connaught.

The principal settlers were Sir James Belford, Sir Stephen Butler, Sir William Cole, Sir John Hume, Malcolm Hamilton, John Archdall, George Hume, and John Dunbar, who were Scotchmen; John Sedborrow, Thomas Flowerdew, Edward Hatton, Sir Hugh Wirrall, George Ridgwaie, Sir Gerrard Lowther, Edward Sibthorp, Henry Flower, Sir Edward Blenerhasset, and Thomas Blenerhasset, Englishmen; besides whom, Sir John Davis, Capt. Harrison, Sir Henry Folliott, and Captains Gore and Atkinson, acquired large tracts in the allotments set apart for such natives as were suffered to reside. Of these, Con Mac Shane O'Neal, and Brian Mac Guire were the only persons of sufficient consequence to be noted in the report to the English government on the state of the plantation in 1619.

In the war of 1688, this county became famous by the gallant stand made by its inhabitants, under the name of the Enniskillen men, in favour of King William, during which period they not only maintained themselves in the town of Enniskillen, thus preserving this important pass between Ulster and Connaught, in spite of all the attempts made to obtain possession of it, but made incursions into the neighbouring counties, from which they carried off many prisoners and much booty, and paralysed the operations of a large portion of the Irish army before Derry, from an apprehension of an attack from this quarter. After the relief of this city, they joined the army of William in Ulster, and from their gallant demeanour and knowledge of the country rendered him good service, and made the name of the Enniskilleners respected among their English friends and dreaded by the Irish enemy. The military spirit thus drawn forth has been maintained ever since, so that not only do the sons of the native farmers frequently prefer a soldier's life abroad to that of an agriculturist at home, but young men from other counties anxious to enlist travel thitherto the recruiting parties which are always ready to receive them.

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County Fermanagh | Fermanagh Baronies and Towns | Fermanagh Lakes and Mountains | Fermanagh Agriculture | Fermanagh Geology | Fermanagh Manufactures | Fermanagh Fish and Birds | Fermanagh Rivers | Fermanagh Antiquities | Fermanagh Peasantry | Fermanagh Mineral Springs

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