County Leitrim

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County Leitrim (Irish: Contae Liatroma) is one of the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland. It is located in the province of Connacht. It was named after the town of Leitrim (Irish: Liatroim). The population of the county is 28,950 according to the 2006 census.[1] Leitrim is the 26th largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and smallest in terms of population[2]. It is the smallest of Connacht’s 5 counties in both size and population.

Contents

History

In ancient times Leitrim formed the western half of the Kingdom of Breifne. This region was long influenced by the O'Rourke family of Dromahair, whose heraldic lion occupies the official county shield to this day. Close ties initially existed with East Breifne, now County Cavan, and the O'Reilly clan seated there. The Normans invaded in the 13th century and occupied the south of Breifne. Much of the county was confiscated from its owners in 1620 and given to Villiers and Hamilton. Their initial objective was to plant the county with English settlers. However, this proved unsuccessful. British Deputy Sir John Perrot had ordered the legal establishment of "Leitrim County" a half-century prior, in 1565. Perrott also demarked the current county borders around 1583. Five forests are traditionally said to have stood in Leitrim up till the 17th century.

Leitrim was first hit by the recession caused by the mechanisation of [linen] weaving in the 1830s and its 155,000 residents (as of the 1841 census) were ravaged by the Great Famine and the population dropped to 112,000 by 1851. The population subsequently continued to decrease due to emigration. After many years, the wounds of such rapid population decline have finally started to heal. Agriculture improved over the last century. Leitrim now has the fastest growing population in Connacht.

Working of the county's rich deposits of iron ore began in the 15th century and continued until the mid 18th century. Coal mining became prominent in the 19th century to the east of Lough Allen in Sliabh an Iariann and also to the west in Arigna, on the Roscommon border. The last coal mine closed in July 1990 and there is now a visitor centre.[3] Sandstone was also quarried in the Glenfarne region. William Butler Yeats spent the turn of the twentieth century fascinated with Lough Allen and much of Leitrim. In the northwest, 11 km from Manorhamilton can be found Glencar Waterfall, which was an inspiration to Yeats and is mentioned in his poem The Stolen Child.

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