The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"COUNTY LEITRIM, a maritime county in the province of Connaught, in the N.W. of Ireland, bounded on the N. by Donegal Bay and the counties of Donegal and Fermanagh, on the E. by Fermanagh and Cavan, on the S. by Longford, and on the W. by Roscommon and Sligo. Its greatest length, N. to S., is 51 miles, and its breadth varies from 5½ to 26 miles. The circuit is about 134 miles, of which 4 miles, in Donegal Bay, are sea-coast. The area is 613 square miles, or 392,363 acres, of which 249,350 are arable, 115,869 uncultivated, 3,396 planted, and 23,748 covered by water. It extends from 53° 45' to 54° 29' N. lat., and from 7° 53' to 8° 8' W. longitude. According to the geographer Ptolemy, Leitrim, with Fermanagh and Cavan, was occupied by the tribe of Erdini, or Erneigh, and this district subsequently was known as Breifne, or Brenny. Leitrim was known as West Breifne, Hy-Brinia-Breifne, or Breifne O'Rourk, the former name arising from Brian, son of Eachod, the first Scotch king of Connaught, and the latter from the chief family in the district; while Cavan was called Breifne O'Reily, from the name of the ruling family there.

The country was invaded by Dermod MacMurrough, with the assistance of Henry II., but Tiernan O'Rourk, who was chief at that time, defeated him, and subsequently assaulted Dublin, though unsuccessfully. He afterwards, however, assisted the English in their attack on Roderick, King of Connaught. From this time, till it was constituted a county by Sir H. Sidney in 1595, Leitrim formed part of Roscommon. The O'Rourks remained independent of English rule till the middle of the 16th century, and in 1588 Brian O'Rourk rose against the English and occupied Dromahaire Castle, from which he was driven by the Earl of Clanricarde and Sir Richard Bingham. He then fled to Scotland, where he was captured, and was finally hanged in London. In 1596 his son Teigue joined O'Donnell's rebellion, and in the next year he, with Maguire, chief of Fermanagh, defeated Sir Conyers Clifford in the Curlew mountains. In 1603 he submitted to the English rule. In 1641 the people of Leitrim, under Sir Owen O'Rourk, joined O'Nial's rebellion, at the termination of which most of the remaining property of the family was confiscated. Many grants to new settlers were also made at the restoration of Charles II. and the accession of William III. Other powerful families in Leitrim were the O'Murreys, MacLoghlins, MacGlanchies, and MacGrannels. The name Reynolds is borne by some of the descendants of the last-mentioned family, being obviously a corruption of the more ancient name. The northern part of the county is exclusively mountainous, while the southern extremity, from Rusky to Carrick, and along the vale of the Shannon, is fertile and cultivated. Tracts of good land occur also in the vales of the northern division, as, for instance, round Dromahaire, Manorhamilton, and Glencar. The principal mountains areas follows:-In the vicinity of Lough Allen, Slievan Jerin, 1,922 feet; Bencroy, 1,707 feet; Lugna Cuillagh, 1,424 feet; Cashell, 1,377 feet; Bartony, 1,301 feet; Slieve Nakilla, 1,703 feet: near Manorhamilton are the two mountains of Mullaghnatire, 1,422 feet; and Benbo, 1,366 feet: further N. are Truskmore, 2,072 feet, the highest in the county; Brookhill, 1,712 feet; Dovey, 1,511 feet; Cruckaballin, 1,408 feet; Aghabonad, 1,346 feet; and Mullaghnatire, 1,275 feet. The Shannon is the chief river in Leitrim. It enters the county from Cavan at Glangavlin, and, passing through Lough Allen, proceeds southwards through Leitrim, Carrick-on-Shannon, Jamestown, and Drumsna. The whole length has been rendered navigable by means of canals. Lough Allen is the largest lake in Leitrim, measuring 7 miles by 5. The Shannon also forms loughs Boffin, Corry, and Bodarig. The river Bonnet rises in Lough Glenade, towards the N. of the county, and flows past Manorhamilton and Dromahaire into Lough Gill. The Glenfarn runs from near Manorhamilton into Lough Macnean, which lake is united to Lough Melvin by the river Kilcoo, which separates Leitrim from Fermanagh. The river Difforin runs through Lough Car into Sligo Bay. Lough Belhavel is united to Lough Allen by a short stream called the Duibhachar. W. of Lough Allen there are the Yellow river, which rises near Bencroy, and flows past Ballinamore to Lough Garadice; the Eslin, which flows through several small lakes into Lough Boffin; the Rinn, which rises near Feenagh, and passes through Lough Ilinn on its way to join the Shannon; and several smaller streams and lakes. The Drowes and the Duff, which are the respective outlets of loughs Melvin and Gill, possess salmon fisheries. Trout and other fish are plentiful in all the loughs and rivers, and herrings, sprats, cod, whiting, and ling, are caught in abundance off the coast. The geological formation of the county corresponds with the character of its surface. The fertile valleys in the S.W. have a substratum of limestone, covered with a dark rich loam, while those in the N. rest upon conglomerate, sandstone, and greywacke. The subsoil of the sides of the hills is more commonly clay-slate. The mountains round Lough Allen are chiefly formed of millstone grit, while those farther N. are mountain limestone. The Old Red sandstone occurs on the sea-coast. The granite and trap found on the western side of the Bonnet, with the gneiss and mica slate of Benbo, are the only primary rocks in the county. Coal and iron are plentiful on the W. of Lough Allen, and lead, copper, and manganese on the mountains near Manorhamilton. There are sulphur springs at Drumsna, Meelock, Athimonus, Drumshanbo, and Cashcarrigan, and chalybeate spas at the northern extremity of Lough Allen and at Oakfield, near the coast. The climate is cold and damp, and subject to sudden changes. The land is more suited for grazing than for agriculture, and though the dairies are neither large nor numerous, still, as nearly each family possesses a cow or two, large quantities of butter are made for exportation to England. The best breeds are a cross between the old Leicester and Durham for the lowlands, and between the Leicester and the native long-horn for the uplands. The new Leicester breed of sheep, or a cross between that breed and the sheep of the country, are found to thrive exceedingly well. The breed of pigs is not so good as in other parts of Ireland, and the horses are not equal to those of-Longford, Roscommon, and Sligo. The agricultural capabilities of the county are not sufficiently developed, and modern improvements are but sparingly used. The most fertile tracts are the valleys of the Shannon, Rinn, and Bonnet, and the flat country in the S.W. of the county. The chief crops are oats, potatoes, and flax, but wheat, barley, and clover are becoming more common. Good orchards and kitchen gardens are found attached to most of the farmhouses. The food of the country people is chiefly oaten bread and potatoes, with buttermilk and fish. Meat is not within the reach of the lower classes. The majority of the inhabitants can speak English. Leitrim is divided into the following five baronies:-Carrigallen, Dyomahaire, Leitrim, Mohill, and Rossclogher, which contain 14 parishes and parts of 3 others. There are four market towns-Carrick-on-Shannon, Manorhamilton, Ballinamore, and Mohill. The first mentioned is the county, assize, and sessions town; the first three have quarter sessions courts; and the first two, with Mohill, are the heads of Poor-law Unions. The above towns, with Dromahaire, are the heads of police districts, there being in all 39 stations, the chief station being at Carrick. The county returns two members to the House of Commons. At the Union, before which six members were returned, Carrick and Jamestown were disfranchised, but the former is still the place of election for the county. The population in 1851 was 111,915, and in 1861, 104,744. The local government is in the hands of a lieutenant and custos, a high sheriff, 16 deputy-lieutenants, and 55 magistrates. The county is in the Connaught circuit and the Belfast military district. The barracks of the regulars are at Carrick, and the headquarters of the militia at Mohill. The revenue police have stations at Drumshanbo, Manorhamilton, Mohill, and Drumkeeran. The county prison is at Carrick, and there are court-houses and bridewells also at Manorhamilton and Ballinamore. The county infirmary is situated at Carrick, and dispensaries in that town and at Ballinamore, Carrigallen, Drumsna, Kinlough, Kiltubrid, Manorhamilton, and Mohill. Leitrim has the right of sending 34 patients to the Connaught lunatic asylum at Ballinasloe. Leitrim is in the dioceses of Kilmore and Ardagh. The earldom of Leitrim was granted in 1795 to Robert Clements, who had previously held the barony and viscounty. The manufactures in the county are unimportant, the principal being the spinning of flax and weaving of linen. Friezes, flannels, and other coarse woollen stuffs are also made, and the flannel especially is considered as good as any made in Ireland. At Dromahaire and Leitrim a considerable quantity of common pottery is manufactured. The antiquities of interest in Leitrim are, the Druid stones at Feenagh, Creeolea, and Letterfyan; the abbeys of Feenagh, founded in the 5th century by St. Caillin, Creeolea, founded by the wife of Owen O'Rourke in 1508, Annaduff, Clone, Ince, and Kilnaile; and the castles at Dromahaire, Longfield, Cloncarrick, and Car: all of which belonged to the O'Rourks-Drumlease, Jamestown, Castlefore, Castlejohn, Dungarbery, and two on Lough Gill. The castle at Manorhamilton is a handsome building of the time of Elizabeth. The seats of the nobility and gentry in the county are, Manorhamilton, of the Earl of Leitrim; Lough Rhynn, Viscount Clements; Portland, White; Hollymount, Armstrong; Killycar, Godley; Kilbracken, Irwin; Belhaville, Montgomery; Derrycairne, Nisbet; Garradice, Percy; Driney House, Peyton; Clooncorrick, Simpson; Kilronan Castle, Tenison; and Glenfarn Hall, Tottenham. The Midland Great Western railway from Longford to Sligo runs through the S. of the county, passing Newtownforbes, Rooskey, Dromod, Drumsna, and Carrick-on-Shannon. Another line from Enniskillen to Bundoran and Sligo is also being constructed. There is a canal from Carrick-on-Shannon to Ballyconnell or Lough Erne. The roads and distances from Carrick are, to Leitrim, 3 miles; Drumshambo, 8 miles; Drumkeeran, 22 miles; Lough Balhavel, 25 miles; Dromahaire, 29 miles; Sligo, 39 miles; Manorhamilton, 33 miles; Lough Glenade, 39 miles; Kinlough, 44 miles; Bundoran, 46 miles; and Ballyshannon, 57 miles: to Kiltogher, 4 miles; Feenagh, 12 miles; Ballinamore, 14 miles; and Newton Gore, 19 miles: to Drumsna, 3 miles; Drumote, 9 miles; Longford, 16 miles; and Dublin, 90 miles: to Mohill, 9 miles; Cloone, 13 miles; Carrigallen, 20 miles; and Cavan, 30 miles."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018