The publication of similar works on England and Wales, forming portions of a great national undertaking, intended to embrace Topographical Dictionaries of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, had in some measure prepared the proprietors for the difficulties which they have encountered in their recent survey of Ireland. The numerous county histories, and local descriptions of cities, towns, and districts of England and Wales, rendered the publication of their former works, in comparison with the present, an easy task. The extreme paucity of such works, in relation to Ireland, imposed the necessity of greater assiduity in the personal survey, and proportionately increased the expense. But if the labour was thus augmented, the generous encouragement which the proprietors received animated them to a continuance of those exertions which have at length brought this portion of their undertaking to a close. To distinguish all to whom they are indebted for assistance in affording local information and facilitating their researches, would present a record of the names of nearly all the most intelligent resident gentlemen in Ireland: this fact, therefore, must be admitted as an apology for expressing, in a general acknowledgment, their gratitude for such disinterested services. They can with confidence assure their numerous subscribers, that, in the discharge of their arduous duties, they have unremittingly endeavoured to present every fact of importance tending to illustrate the local history, or convey useful information respecting the past or present state, of Ireland: fabulous tales and improbable traditions have generally been intentionally omitted; the chief aim being to give, in a condensed form, a faithful and impartial description of each place.
To render the account of every town and place of importance as correct as possible, prior to its being finally put to press, proof sheets were forwarded to those resident gentlemen who had previously furnished local information, in order that, in their revisal of them, they might introduce any changes which had subsequently taken place, or improvements that might be at that time in progress: these were, with very few exceptions, promptly examined and returned, but in some instances inevitable delay was occasioned by the absence of the parties to whom they were addressed. Though this essential precaution may have retarded the publication, it has conduced materially to the accuracy of the work. For a similar reason, the time employed in the survey has been longer than was at first anticipated; it having been thought advisable that the persons engaged in that arduous and important service should protract the period originally prescribed for their researches, rather than compromise the interests of the work by omitting to avail themselves of every possible source of intelligence.
The unsettled orthography of names rendered it somewhat difficult to select a standard of arrangement calculated to afford facility of reference. That mode of spelling was therefore adopted which, after careful examination and inquiry, appeared to be sanctioned by general usage; and where a name was found to be spelt in two or more ways, a reference has been given from one to the other. On this head, two points may require explanation, as a guide to reference: The final l in the prefix Kill has been dropped when followed by a consonant, and retained when followed by a vowel. The ultimate of the prefix Bally (a corruption of Baile) is written variously, the letter i being sometimes substituted for y, but the latter is by far the more general; in respect to names compounded of this and other simple terms, the non-discovery of a place under the head Bally will lead to the inference that it is given as Balli. It is necessary to state that all distances are given in Irish miles; glebes, and every other extent of lands, except when otherwise expressed, in Irish plantation acres; grants and sums of money, unless the standard be specified, may be generally regulated, as regards their arnount, by the period to which they refer, in its relation to the year 1826, when the assimilation of the currency took place. Numerous Reports to Parliament, of recent date, have been made available for supplying much useful statistical information. The Ordnance survey, so far as it has extended, has been adopted as the best authority for stating the number of acres which each parish comprises. As regards other parishes, the number of acres given is that applotted under the tithe composition act, which in some cases embraces the entire superficies of the parish, in others excludes an unproductive tract of mountain waste, of which the estimated value is too small to admit of its being brought under composition. The amount of parochial tithes was derived from parliamentary returns of the sums for which they have been compounded. In case of a union of parishes forming one benefice, and of which the incumbent only receives a portion of the tithes, the parishes constituting the benefice are enumerated under the head of that which gives name to it; the tithes of the latter of which, and their application, are first stated; then, the gross tithes of the benefice payable to the incumbent, the appropriation of the remaining portions of the tithes of the other parishes being detailed under their respective heads.
The Presbyterian congregations are divided into classes corresponding with the sum which each receives from the annual parliamentary grant called the Regium Donum. Those in connection with the Synod of Ulster, Presbytery of Antrim, and Remonstrant Synod, consist each of three classes; each congregation of the first class has an annual grant of £92. 6. 2. (British currency); of the second, £69. 4. 8.; and of the third, £46. 3. 1. The Presbyterian Synod of Ireland, generally styled the Seceding Synod, is also divided into congregations of the first, second, and third classes, respectively receiving £64. 12. 4., £46. 3. 1., and £36. 18. 6. each per annum. Each congregation is designated in the work as being of one of these three classes, thus indicating the amount which it receives. Those in connection with the Synod of Munster, few in number, not being classed, the sum which each receives is stated.
The census of 1831 has been adopted with reference to the population and number of houses; and the Reports of the Commissioners on Ecclesiastical Revenue and Patronage, of Ecclesiastical Inquiry, and of Public Instruction, have furnished much valuable matter relative to the Church. The number of children educated in the several schools in connection with the Board of National Education is given from the Report of the Commissioners. With respect to other schools, the numbers are generally those reported by the Commissioners of Public Instruction, which, being the numbers entered upon the books of the different schools, must be regarded as exceeding those in actual attendance. In cases where the information obtained on the spot materially differed from that contained in the Reports, the former has been adopted; but the introduction of the National system has caused such numerous alterations, as to render it extremely difficult to state with any degree of precision the exact number of children at present receiving instruction in each parish.
The arms and seals of the several cities, boroughs, corporate towns, bishopricks, &c., are engraved from drawings made from impressions in wax, furnished by the respective corporate bodies; and, notwithstanding they have generally been either enlarged or reduced to one scale, for the sake of uniformity, great care has been taken to preserve, in every instance, an exact fac-simile of the original.
The Proprietors cannot indulge the hope that, in a work of such magnitude, containing notices so numerous and diversified, some errors may not be found: indeed, the information collected upon the spot, even from the most intelligent persons, has frequently been so contradictory, as to require much labour and perseverance to reconcile and verify it. They have, however, regardless of expense, used the most indefatigable exertions to attain correctness, and to render the work as complete as possible; and they, therefore, trust that occasional inaccuracies will receive the indulgence of the Subscribers.