From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of King's County | Birr Castle | Great Telescope, Birr | Cumberland Square, Birr | Seven Churches, Clonmacnoise | King's County Map

NAME.—Kings County and Queens County were formed into shire ground in the reign of Philip and Mary, and received their present names in honor of the king and queen.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—The county is irregular and broken in shape, and it is not easy to fix on suitable dimensions. Greatest length from the Ollatrim River near Moneygall, at the southwestern corner, to the boundary near Edenderry in the northeast, 52 miles (but the straight line between these extreme points falls, for about halfway, outside the county); breadth from Clonmacnoise on the Shannon to the boundary near Frankford, 19 miles, or from Banagher to Arderin mountain, 17 miles; area 772 square miles; population, 72,852.

SURFACE.—The east margin of the great southwestern projection is mountainous or upland; in the barony of lower Philipstown in the north there are a few inconsiderable hills. All the rest of the county is flat, and much of it, especially in the northwest, flat without any relief whatever. A considerable part of the Bog of Allen belongs to Kings County; and bogs and morasses—some small, some stretching for miles—cover a large area of the county. The eastern projection and the barony of Garrycastle, in the west, are particulary distinguished by the prevalence of flat bogs and fens.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—A considerable section of the Slieve Bloom Mountains lies within the boundary of this county, in the barony of Ballybritt; of which the chief summits are Arderin (1,733), on the boundary of Queens County, the highest of the Slieve Bloom range; under which on the north side is the deep Gap of Glendine, one of the two passes leading across the range.

(See Queens County, for another pass.) Two miles southwest of Arderin is Farbreague (1,411), also on the boundary. Knocknaman (1,113), standing on the west, detached from the general range, rises over the village of Kinnitty; and between this and Arderin lies Carroll's Hill (1,584). Northeast of these, Wolftrap (1,584) stands on the boundary; and near it on the northwest is Spink (1,087).

The rest of the county is such a dead level that trifling elevations count as remarkable hills. Croghan Hill (769) in the north of the county, 4 miles north of Philipstown, rising quite detached in the midst of the great plain, is a conspicuous object, and affords an immense view from its summit.

RIVERS.—The Shannon forms the western boundary for 23 miles. The Little Brosna, coming from Tipperary, runs to the northwest through the southwestern extremity of the county for 7 miles, after which it forms the boundary with Tipperary for 13 miles till it falls into the Shannon. Its chief head-water, the Bunow, which flows across the corner of Tipperary by Roscrea, rises in Kings County, northeast of Roscrea, and draws some of its head feeders from Queens County. The Barrow, flowing easterly, forms the south boundary of the eastern extremity for 9 miles, except at the middle of this space —at Portarlington—where a corner of Queens County projects northward to the other side of the river. In the northeast, the Boyne, coming from the east (from Kildare), forms the boundary for nearly 4 miles. West of this the Yellow River, coming from the interior of Kings County, and joining the Boyne, forms the boundary for the last 3 miles of its course; and west of this again the Mongagh (which joins the Yellow River) is the boundary for 5 or 6 miles. The southwest corner is bounded and separated from Tipperary for 2 ½ miles by the Ollatrim River. All the streams of the interior of the county are tributaries, either immediately or remotely to the foregoing.

In the northwest the Blackwater drains a large area of the bogs of the barony of Garrycastle, and joins the Shannon 3 miles below Shannon Bridge. A little south of this the Brosna, coming from Westmeath, flows toward the southwest through Kings County for about 26 miles, passing by Clara and Ferbane, and joins the Shannon near Shannon Bridge, 2 miles above Banagher. The Brosna has the following affluents belonging wholly or partly to this county: The Gageborough River, coming from the north, joins just a mile below Clara. The Clodiagh, coming from Queens County, enters Kings County at Monettia Bog, and flowing northwest joins the Brosna 2 miles below Ballycumber. The Clodiagh itself is joined by the Tullamore River, which flows west through Tullamore and joins two miles below the town, and by the Silver River, from the northeast, which joins the Clodiagh a little above the mouth of the latter. Another Silver River flows from the Slieve Bloom Mountains, first westerly through Frankford and then northward, and joins the Brosna a little above Ferbane; and the Boora, running northward from Lough Boora, also joins the Brosna 2 miles above the mouth of the Silver River.

In the extreme south, the Camcor flows westward from Slieve Bloom through Birr or Parsonstown, and joins the Little Brosna half a mile below the town. In the eastern part of the county, the Figile flows southward through Clonbulloge; then crossing a corner of Kildare, forms for a little way the boundary between Kings County and Kildare, till it joins the Barrow near Monasterevin. The Figile is joined from the west by the Cushina (which flows first through Kings County and afterward forms the boundary for 3 miles between it and Kildare), and from the east by the Slate River, coming from Kildare. Higher up the Philipstown River flows eastward through Philipstown and joins the Figile at Clonbulloge.

LAKES.—Lough Boora, half a mile in length, lies a little north of Frankford; Lough Coura lies nearly midway between this and Birr, and is about a mile in length; Lough Annaghmore is on the boundary, east of Frankford, and is about the same size as the last; Pallas Lough, northeast of Frankford, is a mile in length, and very narrow; Lough Fin, nearly circular, and half a mile across, lies near the Shannon at the north-western boundary.

TOWNS.—Tullamore (5,098), on the Tullamore River, the assise town, is an excellent business center: east of which is Philipstown (829), on the Grand Canal, and near the Philipstown River. Birr or Parsonstown (4,955) stands on the Camcor River, just where it enters the Little Brosna; beside it stands Parsonstown Castle, where are some of the finest reflecting telescopes in the world, erected by Lord Ross. Edenderry (1,555) is on the east margin, near the Boyne, and not far from the northeast extremity of a branch of the Bog of Allen; and on the Shannon, in the west, is Banagher (1,192). Clara (956), in the north of the county, is watered by the Brosna; Frankford (559) lies near the middle of the southeast boundary, on the Silver River. In the southwest projection is Shinrone (448), and near the very extremity, just beside the boundary of Tipperary, is Monegall (376). That portion of Portarlington lying in Kings County contains a population of 842.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—The old territory of Ely O'Carroll—the inheritance of the O'Carrolls—included the southwest portion of this county, viz., the baronies of Ballybritt and Conlisk; but it also extended into Tipperary. This whole territory was in old times counted part of Munster, though the Kings County portion of it is now in Leinster. A part of Ely O'Carroll—coextensive with the barony of Ballybritt—was called Kinel Farga, and was held by the O'Flanagans.

The old district of Fircall included the present baronies of Eglish, Ballyboy, and Ballycowan. It was the territory of the O'Molloys, and was included in the ancient province of Meath. There were several territories called Delvin in different parts of Leinster and Connaught; one of which, Delvin-Ethra or Delvin-Mac Coghlan, was in this county; it was nearly coextensive with the barony of Garrycastle, and was the patrimony of the family of Mac Coghlan. The barony of Kilcoursey was the old Munter-Tagan, the district of the O'Caharneys, Sinachs, or Foxes. The barony of Upper Philipstown formed part of Clanmaliere, the country of the O'Dempseys, which also extended into Queens County.

On a high bank over the Shannon, 9 miles below Athlone, is Clonmacnoise, one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, of all the ancient religious establishments of Ireland. It was founded by St. Ciaran (or Kieran) in the 6th century, and flourished for many ages afterward.

It was adopted as the burying place of the kings of Ireland belonging to the southern Hy Neill race; and numberless kings and chiefs retired to it to spend their old age in meditation and prayer. Even to this day it is the most celebrated and the most frequently used of all the ancient cemeteries of Ireland. It contains the ruins of many churches (popularly called the "Seven Churches"), two round towers, old crosses, and many ancient tombs.

Description of King's County | Birr Castle | Great Telescope, Birr | Cumberland Square, Birr | Seven Churches, Clonmacnoise | King's County Map

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