County Longford

County Longford

Inland county in the province of Leinster.

After Leitrim , the landlocked county of Longford (421 square miles) is the second least populated county in Ireland, with 31,500 inhabitants.

Primarily agricultural, the county has some light industry and textile production. The reputation of being of being a flat midland county is not really justified. The western part, bordering the River Shannon, is certainly low-lying, but to the east of Longford town, the land is higher, reaching 912 feet at Carn Clonhugh. A much lower hill, Slieve Calry, is identified with the Bri-Leith of ancient Irish mythology, residence of Midir of the Tuatha De Danann tribe. At the foot of Slieve Calry is the village of Ardagh, where there is an old church dedicated to St. Mel, Longford’s patron saint, and where Oliver Goldsmith is said to have mistaken a convent for an inn, an event recalled in his play She Stoops to Conquer. Goldsmith (1728-74) was supposedly born at Pallas, not far from Ballymahon. A younger contemporary was Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817), author and investor after whom the village of Edgeworthstown (also known as Mostrim) was called. He was also father of Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) who, though born in England, spent most of her life in County Longford, where she wrote Castle Rackrent (1800) and corresponded with her friend Sir Walter Scott. Other writers from Longford include Leo Casey, author of songs and ballads, and the poet Padraic Colum.

In early times, Longford’s leading family was the O’Farrells, lords of Annaly, who defended the county against Norman invaders. A fine example of motte and bailey, erected by Hugh de Lacy in the twelfth century, overlooks the town of Granard. Other ancient monuments include the fine, but little known, dolmen at Aghnacliff, and the  Cistercian abbey of Abbeylara. During the Rebellion of 1798, a combined French and Irish force was defeated by the British under Lord Cornwallis at Ballinamuck. Longford’s best known modern politician is Albert Reynolds, the Republic’s Taoiseach (prime minister) from 1992 to 1994.

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