LONGFORD (County of), an inland county of the province of LEINSTER, bounded on the south and east by that of Westmeath, on the north by those of Cavan and Leitrim, and on the west by that of Roscommon, from which it is separated by the Shannon and Lough, Ree. It extends from 53° 30' to 53° 54' (N. Lat.), and from 7° 21' to 7° 53' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 263,645 acres, of which 192,506 are cultivated land, 55,247 are bog and mountain, and 15,892 are under water. The population, in 1821, was 107,570; and in 1831, 112,558.

It appears uncertain from Ptolemy's statement what tribe inhabited this portion of the island in his time. It was afterwards known by the name of the Anale or Annaly, and was the principality of the O'Farrels, or O'Ferrals, which family was afterwards divided into two main branches, O'Farrel Buy or the Yellow, which held the southern part of the county, and O'Farrel Ban or the White, which possessed the northern portion. The family of O'Cuin also had a small territory here, of which Rathcline castle was the head quarters and chief fortress. Feargal, chief of this country, was defeated in 960 by Mahon, prince of Thomond, on the banks of the Inny, near its influx into Lough Ree, to which place the latter had ascended by the Shannon with a number of small vessels; but this event produced no territorial changes.

Previously to the arrival of the English, Annaly was included in the province of Meath, and as such formed part of the grant made by Henry II. to Hugh de Lacy, who built castles and planted a colony of English there; but this remote part of his territory, although the English families of Tuite and Delamare succeeded in making a settlement in it, yielded him little more than nominal submission, as the O'Farrels held the chief power till the time of Elizabeth. On the division of Meath into two counties in 1543, the Annaly was considered to be a portion of its western division, and was not formed into a separate county until the 11th of Elizabeth, when it was made shire ground by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord-Deputy, under the name of Longford, from its chief town, and was considered as one of the seven counties of Connaught.

Notwithstanding this interference on the part of the English government, the O'Farrels were still recognised as chieftains until the 29th year of the same reign, when Faghan O'Farrel made a formal surrender of the territory to the queen, and next year obtained a re-grant, subject to the jurisdiction of the English law. That the authority of the English government had but little influence during the subsequent reigns of James and Charles I., is evident from the fact that no charter of incorporation was granted to any town in it by the former of these monarchs, by whom so many places in other counties were endowed with corporate rights; the earliest grant of this nature being that of St. Johnstown, in the beginning of the reign of Charles I., while those of the other borough towns, Longford, Granard, and Lanesborough, were not obtained until the middle of that of Charles II.

From a remonstrance purporting to be sent by the inhabitants of Longford to Lord Costello, to be presented by him to the Lords Justices in Dublin, dated Nov. 10th, 1641, in which they complain of the grievances under which they laboured as Roman Catholics, and petitioned for an act of oblivion and restitution, liberty of conscience in matters of religion, and a repeal of the statutes of Elizabeth against popery, it also appears that the O'Farrel family still maintained almost the exclusive control over the county, as the 26 signatures affixed to the document are all of this name.

Shortly after the breaking out of the war of 1641, Longford castle was besieged and taken by the Irish for the O'Farrels, and the garrison put to the sword, notwithstanding it had surrendered on promise of quarter. Castle Forbes, the only other fortress in the county held for the government, also fell into the power of the insurgents. But the ultimate triumph of Cromwell's forces entirely reversed the fate of the country, and the O'Farrels lost both their property and influence, which have since been vested in other and various hands.

County Longford | Longford Towns and Baronies | Longford Topography | Longford Agriculture | Longford Geology | Longford Manufactures | Longford Antiquities | Longford Residences

Search Topographical Dictionary of Ireland »