County Roscommon, Ireland


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County Roscommon, Ireland

County Roscommon is an inland County 100km in length from the top of the Arigna valley in the north to Shannonbridge in the south, with a breadth of 64km at its greatest to 26km in the south of the county.

The River Shannon is the boundary in the east and the River Suck in most of the west. Two-thirds of the county is bounded by water. In the north are the largest lakes – Lough Key, Lough Gara and Lough Boderg – with the great Lough Ree in the east. The limestone foundation of the whole county and the numerous lakes make it a fisherman’s paradise.

One-third of the county is under bog, mostly in the east and west of the county. The 113,316 hectares of arable land are to be found in the centre of the county. This land is of superior quality, praised by Arthur Young and Weld in their relative publications of the 19th century, so that the principal occupation of the people is the raising of cattle and sheep.

History of Roscommon

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, Roscommon was one of the areas first populated by the foreign legions that invaded the country. The county abounds in burial mounds, megalithic tombs, ring forts and many traces of early colonisation – over 5,000 at the last count!

From before the dawn of history, Rathcroghan, in the heart of the county, was the home of the kings of Connaught and at later times, the home of the high kings of Ireland. The two great families of the county – the O’Conors and the MacDermotts – were amongst the leading Gaelic families of medieval Ireland.

The county’s rich grazing ranches fell prey to many cattle rustlers, notably the O’Rourkes of Breffni and the O’Donnells of Tir Conaill; they came through the Curlew Pass and the ford in the River Boyle at Knockvicar. In the various plantations of more recent times, practically all of the Roscommon lands passed into the hands of non-Irish, and the “Big House” became a feature of the landscape while many of the old families receded to the bogs and the poorer areas of the county. In the 1920’s and 1930’s many of these large farms were acquired by the Irish Land Commission and today happy homesteads replace the large and, in many cases, non-residential ranches.

From Thom's Irish Almanac and Official Directory for 1862

ROSCOMMON, an inland county in Connaught province. Boundaries: N., Sligo and Leitrim; E. and S., Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath, King's, and Galway; W., Galway and Mayo. Greatest length, 60 miles; greatest breadth, 40 miles; comprising an area of 949 square miles, or 607,691 acres, of which 440,522 are arable, 130,299 uncultivated, 6,732 in plantations, 768 in towns, and 29,370 under water. The surface is undulating or flat, except towards the N., where the Curlew mountains lie, near Sligo, and the Braulieve, near Leitrim. The Shannon, with its loughs, Boffin, Bodarigg, and Ree, form part of the E., and the Suck the W. boundary; Lough Key is in the N., and Lough Gara in the W. of the county. The soil in the level parts is very fertile; the subsoil is limestone; coal and iron have been wrought, but never to advantage; bogs are numerous. The population, in 1841, was 253,591; 243,539 in the rural, and 10,052 in the civic district; and in 1861 the total population of the county was 156,154, being a decrease of 97,437. The occupations are agricultural; grazing is chiefly attended to; the linen manufacture is declining.

The county is divided into 9 baronies--Athlone, Ballintober N. and S., Ballymoe, Boyle, Castlerea, Frenchpark, Moycarn, and Roscommon, and contains 58 parishes. It is in Elphin diocese, with small portions in those of Tuam, Clonfert, and Ardagh. The principal towns are, Roscommon, population in 1861, 2,699; Boyle, 3,002; and part of Athlone, the other part being in Westmeath county; total population, 5,601. The County returns 2 members to Parliament, constituency in 1859, 3,345. It is in the Connaught Circuit. The Assizes are held at Roscommon. The county is in the military district of Dublin; and there are Barrack stations at Athlone, Boyle, Castlerea, and Roscommon.

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