From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Armagh | View of Armagh | Old St. Patrick's |
St. Patrick's Cathedral | Armagh Map

NAME.—County named from city. The name belongs to pagan times, and existed long before the time of St. Patrick. The oldest form is Ard-Macha, which means Macha's height: this Macha being a semi-mythical heroine, the founder of the palace of Emania, 300 years B.C.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Length, from north to south, 33 miles: breadth from east to west, 21 miles: area, 512 ½ square miles: population, 163,177.

SURFACE.—The northern part—comprising the two baronies of Oneilland—is flat, with much bog. The greater part of the rest of the county consists of gentle hills, for the most part cultivated, or in pasture, with fertile valleys between. Toward the southern border it becomes more hilly, till the upland culminates in Slieve Gullion.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—Slieve Gullion (1,893), one of the finest detached mountains in the kingdom, rise abruptly from the plain. From its position, in the midst of a level country, it commands from its summit a view scarcely exceeded by that from any other mountain in Ireland. Near the top is a small, deep lake, celebrated in fairy legend. On the very summit is a great carn of stones, in which is an artificial cave formed of dry masonry. In this cave, according to legend, dwelt an enchantress, the fairy daughter of Culand, the mythical smith of the Dedannans. The Newry Mountains lie about 2 miles west of the town of Newry: highest summit—Camlough Mountain (1,385), separated from Slieve Gullion by a deep valley; and Ballymacdermot Mountain (1,019). The Fews Mountains run north and south through the two baronies of Upper and Lower Fews—to which they have given name—forming a long, low range, now in great part cultivated; of which Deadman's Hill (1,178), Carrigatuke, or Armaghbrague Mountain (1,200), Darigry (1,093), Tullyneill (1,014), and Mullyash (1,034)—this last in Monaghan—all lie near Newtown Hamilton, to the north and west. Vicar's Carn (819), lying 3 miles west of Markethill, is a remarkable hill, having a carn, with a curious cave on top. Three miles south of Newry is Fathom Mountain (820): at the extreme southeast corner, on the boundary, and belonging partly to Louth, is Anglesey Mountain (1,349). Round Forkhill, on the south border, are several low hills, the highest of which is Slievebrack (896), a mile northwest from the village.

RIVERS.—The Upper Bann enters Armagh near Carrick Blacker: and from this to where it enters Lough Neagh (12 miles) it flows through this county. The Blackwater, flowing into the southwest corner of Lough Neagh, forms, for nearly the whole of its course, the boundary between Armagh and Tyrone. The Callan River, flowing by the city of Armagh, and the Tall River, running by Rich Hill, join together, and the united steam enters the Blackwater 1 mile below Charlemont. The Cusher River, formed by the junction, near Mountnorris, of two small streams (the Creggan and the Blackwater), flows by Tanderagee, and joins the Bann 1 mile above Portadown. The White River runs south through Newtown Hamilton, and takes, as it goes along, the successive names of Cullyhanna River, Creggan River, and (in Louth) the Castletown River, (from three villages so called), joining the sea at Dundalk. Parallel to this, and 2 or 3 miles east of it, flows the Cully Water (formed by the junction of the Dorsey and Ummeracam), which enters Louth, and joins the Castletown River. Between this and Slieve Gullion is the Forkhill River, which lower down is called the Kilcurry River, and enters Louth to join the Cully Water. The Fane forms the southwest boundary for about 3 miles. The Tynan River takes name from the village by which it flows, and joins the Blackwater at Caledon.

LAKES.—In the southwest corner, north and west of Crossmaglen, is a group of small lakes, chief of which are—Ross Lake, a mile in length, a small part of which belongs to Monaghan: Lough Patrick: St. Peter's Lake (half belonging to Monaghan); Kiltybane Lake, Lisleitrim Lake, and Cullyhanna Lake. Camlough—a long, narrow sheet of water—lies in the valley between Camlough Mountain and Slieve Gullion. Clay Lake is in the west, near the village of Keady. In the north, bordering on Lough Neagh, are Lough Gullion, near the mouth of the Upper Bann; and, somewhat more to the west, the three lakes of Derrylileagh, Derryadd, and Annagarriff.

TOWNS.—The city of Armagh (10,070) is the metropolitan see of all Ireland: the cathedral was originally founded by St. Patrick, about the year 457, on a commanding site, given to him by the local chief—Dairè. That portion of Newry which lies in this county has a population of 5,657 (the whole population of the town being 14,808). Lurgan (10,135), in the northeast corner, is a neat and improving town: Portadown (7,850), on the Upper Bann, is a busy, thriving town. Keady (1,598) stands on the stream running from Clay Lake into Callan River. Tanderagee (1,592) is on the Cusher River, with Tanderagee Castle crowning the hill over it: Markethill (874) is a flourishing little town, near which is Gosford Castle, with its fine demesne. Newtown Hamilton (898) is beautifully situated in the midst of the Fews Mountains: Rich Hill (595), in a pretty spot on the Tall River, 5 miles from Armagh. Crossmaglen (872) is in the southwest corner: Charlemont (247), on the Blackwater, was formerly an important place, as it commanded a pass across the river: the old castle remains, and is now occupied by military. Charlemont and Moy, at the other side of the river, really form one town.

MINERALS.—Limestone is quarried plentifully round the city of Armagh—the finer part of which is good marble.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—This county formed a part of the ancient kingdom of Oriel. The eastern part of the kingdom of Oriel was called Oirtheara (pron. Or'hera, and meaning "eastern people"): it was the territory of the O'Hanlons, and the name is still preserved in that of the two baronies of Orior. The old territory of Hy Niallain is now represented in name and position by the two baronies of Oneilland. On the southern shore of Lough Neagh, round the mouth of the Bann, was situated the ancient district of Hy Breasail, or Clanbrassil.

The palace of Emania—which was the residence of the kings of Ulster from about 300 B.C. to A.D. 332—was situated a mile and a half west of the present city of Armagh. The remains of this old royal residence are there still, consisting of a great circular rath, or rampart of earth, with a deep fosse, inclosing 11 acres, within which are two smaller forts. The ruin still keeps the old name; for it is universally known as the "Navan Fort." The Gaelic name is Eamhuin, pronounced Aven (of which Emania is a Latinized form); and when the "n" of the Gaelic article ("an") is placed before this—as is done in many other names—it forms 'n Eamhuin, which is exactly represented in sound by Navan. In the first century A.D. this palace was the residence and training place of the militia called the Bed Branch Knights, under Conor Mac Nessa, the Ulster king; they lived in, and took their name from, one of the houses, called Craobh-ruadh (pronounced Creeveroe), or the "Red Branch," and this house left its name on the adjacent modern townland of Creeveroe.

The finest part of ancient Irish romantic literature has reference to these Bed Branch Knights and their exploits. Their chief heroes were Cuchullin—the mightiest champion of all—who lived at Dundalgan (see Louth); Conall Carnagh; Leary the Victorious; Fergus Mac Roy; and the three sons of Usna, namely Naisi, Ardan, and Ainlè. The three sons of Usna having been treacherously put to death by king Conor Mac Nessa, in violation of the solemn guarantee of Fergus Mac Boy, a large band of warriors, with Fergus at their head, left Ulster and entered the service of Maive, queen of Connaught. Soon after, queen Maive, with an army of Connacians, aided by the exiled Ulstermen, made a raid into Ulster and brought away a great spoil of cattle, especially from the district called Quelnè (see Louth); and thus a war was begun between the two provinces which lasted for seven years. During this war the mighty hero Cuchullin defended Ulster against the Connacians, and against his own exiled countrymen; and his exploits, and the general events of the war, form the subject of the ancient Irish epic, the Tain-bo-Quelnè (see also Louth).

The highest point of the Fews Mountain (probably Carrigatuke)was anciently called Slieve Fuad, and was celebrated in old Irish romance.

On the Callan River, about 2 miles north of Armagh, is Bellanaboy, or the Yellow Ford; where, in 1598, a great battle was fought, in which Hugh O'Neill, earl of Tyrone, defeated Sir Henry Bagenal; and Bagenal himself and 1,300 of his men were slain. This ford has however, lost its old name.

Description of County Armagh | View of Armagh | Old St. Patrick's |
St. Patrick's Cathedral | Armagh Map

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