From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Roscommon | Boyle Abbey | Bridge and Castle, Athlone | Roscommon Map

NAME.—The county takes name from the town. In the beginning of the 8th century, St. Coman founded a monastery where the town now stands; and the place was called from him Ros-Comain, Coman's Wood.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Length from north to south, 59 miles; breadth from Roosky to the western corner, west of Lough Errit, 33 ½ miles; area, 949 ½ square miles; population, 132,490.

SURFACE: HILLS.—Roscommon is on the whole a level county. The northern end near Lough Allen is hilly, rising to an elevation of 1,377 feet on the boundary with Leitrim at the extreme north corner, and rising to 1,081 feet 2 miles east of the village of Ballyfarnan. In the northwest, near Boyle, the Curlieu Hills run on the boundary between Roscommon and Sligo from southwest to northeast; and though they are not more than 863 feet high, the range is very conspicuous, both for its fine forms and outlines, and because it commands very grand views from its summit level, on account of the flatness of the country at both sides. In the eastern part of the county, southeast of Stokestown, the range of heights called Slievebawn runs in a general direction parallel with the Shannon, attaining an elevation of 857 feet at their highest point, 4 miles northwest of Lanesborough, at the northern extremity of Lough Ree. Nearly all the rest of the county is a plain, in some places interrupted by low heights, but the greater part flat, with much bog and marshy meadow land, especially along the Suck and the Shannon. Some of the level districts of Roscommon, as, for instance, the plain laying round Tulsk in the middle, and the district between Boyle and Elphin—commonly called the Plains of Boyle—are among the finest and richest grazing lands in Ireland.

RIVERS.—The Shannon and its expansions form the whole of the eastern boundary, from Lough Allen in the north to Shannon Bridge in the south; and into the Shannon, the whole county, with some trifling exceptions, is drained. The Suck rises in Mayo, a quarter of a mile from the boundary with Roscommon, nearly midway between Ballyhaunis and Lough O'Flyn; crosses the boundary into Roscommon and falls into Lough O'Flyn; issuing from which, it runs by Castlereagh, and first touches Galway near Ballymoe; from which point to where it joins the Shannon near Shannon Bridge (about 56 miles, following the windings), it forms the boundary between Galway and Roscommon, except at Athleague, where it runs for 9 miles through Roscommon. Beside the main stream, some of its head-feeders come also from Mayo.

Near Stokestown, a stream called the Scramoge flows to the northeast into the Shannon.

At the northern extremity of the county the Arigna, flowing southeast from Sligo and Leitrim, forms for three-quarters of a mile the boundary between Sligo and Roscommon; flows for the rest of its course (about 6 miles) through Roscommon, and joins the Shannon just where the latter issues from Lough Allen. The Feorish, coming from Sligo, and passing by Ballyfarnan, crosses the north extremity of Roscommon, and falls into the Shannon two miles below the mouth of the Arigna. The river Breedoge, in the northwest of the county, issuing from Lough Bally, falls into Lough Gara; and the Lung River, belonging chiefly to Mayo, forms the boundary between Mayo and Roscommon in three several places, and falls into Lough Gara at its western corner. The Boyle River, a very full and very beautiful stream, issues from Lough Gara, and flowing eastward by Boyle, through the "Plains of Boyle," enters Lough Key; from which it again issues, and expanding into Oakport Lake, enters the Shannon. A few of the very small head-streams that fall into Lough Arrow, send their waters from that lake northward to Sligo Bay; and this small district is the only part of Roscommon not belonging to the basin of the Shannon.

LAKES.—The lakes of Roscommon are quite as numerous as those of the surrounding counties. The expansions of the Shannon that touch Roscommon are Lough Allen, Lough Boderg, Lough Bofin, Lough Forbes, and Lough Ree. In the extreme north are Lough Skean and Lough Meelagh, the former on the boundary with Sligo. Lough Arrow and Lough Gara barely touch Roscommon at the northwestern boundary, but belong almost wholly to Sligo. The great lake feature of this district is Lough Key, one of the finest lakes in Ireland, about 2 ½ miles in length and the same in breadth, containing 3 ½ square miles; the beautiful demesne of Rockingham is on its southern shore; and it contains a number of lovely wooded islands; on two of which are ecclesiastical ruins, and on a third the old castle of the Mac Dermotts, the ancient proprietors of the surrounding district. Southeast of Lough Key is Oakport Lake, an expansion of the river Boyle. A little south of Lough Key are the two small lakes of Cavetown and Clogher; and southeast of these are Corbally and Canbo Lakes; west of which, near Frenchpark, is Lough Bally.

In the western corner of the county are Loughs Errit, Cloonagh and Cloonacolly, beside each other; east of which is Lough Glinn (which gives name to the Village beside it), with finely wooded shores, an oasis in the midst of a bare bleak district. South of these, near the village of Ballinlough, is Lough O'Flyn, which is a mile and three-quarters in length. A little south of Elphin are a number of small lakes, the chief of which are Lough Clooncullaun and Lough Annaghmore; between which and the Shannon is another group, the chief being Lough Nablahy and Kilglass Lake, this last 2 miles long. Between the two last a narrow arm of Lough Boderg stretches westward for 4 miles. Immediately southwest of Strokestown are three lakes close together, Cloonfree Lake, Ardakillen Lake, and Fin Lough between them.

In the barony of Athlone, in the south of the county, are Lough Funshinagh (2 miles long); near which to the west are Lough Croan and Lough Cuilleenirwan; and a little further south, Corkip Lake.

TOWNS.—Roscommon (2,117), the assize town, with its fine old abbey, founded in the 13th century by Felim O'Connor, prince of Connaught (son of Cahal of the Red Hand), and still containing the tomb of the founder; the town contains also the ruins of a beautiful Anglo-Norman castle built in the same century. Boyle (2,994), in the north of the county, in a pretty situation on the Boyle River, is a neat and prosperous town, with an abbey ruin, one of the best preserved and most interesting in Ireland. Castlereagh (1,229), in the west, stands on the river Suck. Elphin (997), toward the northeast side of the county, stands in the midst of a rich district; and six miles southeast of it is Stokestown (837) a well-built town, situated near the northern slope of Slievebawn. That part of Athlone lying west of the Shannon, in this county, has a population of 3,683; a suburb of Ballinasloe also lies in Roscommon, containing a population of 947; and a part of Carrick-on-Shannon, containing 100 inhabitants, also belongs to this county.

MINERALS.—That part of the north end of the county verging on Lough Allen belongs to the Connaught coal district; and along the Arigna River are the Arignairon mines.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—The old district called Moylurg, of which Mac Dermott was chief, extended from the Curlieu Mountains on the north, to near Elphin on the south, and east and west from the Shannon to Lough Garra; this district is now known as the Plains of Boyle. South of this, and conterminous with it, lay Moy-Ai or Maghery-Connaught (the Plain of Connaught), a beautiful plain extending from Elphin to the town of Roscommon, and east and west from Stokestown to Castlereagh. The ancient territory of Hy Many (for which see Galway) originally included that part of Roscommon lying south of Lanesborough and the town of Roscommon. This same part of Roscommon also formed one of the territories called Delvin, of which there were seven, this one being called Delvin-Nuadat.

That part of Roscommon lying between Elphin and the Shannon, and extending north and south from Jamestown on the Shannon to the north part of Lough Ree, was called the Three Tuathas or Three Territories, these three territories being Kinel Dofa, which lay between Slieve Bawn and the Shannon; Corcachlann, west of Slieve Bawn; and Tir Briuin of the Shannon, which lay north of the two others.

At Rathcroghan, midway between Tulsk and Bellanagare, are situated the ruins of Croghan, the ancient palace of the kings of Connaught. It was erected by Ohy Feleach, king of Ireland in the first century of the Christian era, for his daughter Maive, queen of Connaught (see Louth and Armagh); and it is almost as celebrated in Irish romantic literature as the palace of Emania. The remains consist of a great fort now called Rathcroghan, containing a cave in which are some remarkably-inscribed stones; this rath being surrounded by a number of others, forming quite a town of raths.

Description of County Roscommon | Boyle Abbey | Bridge and Castle, Athlone | Roscommon Map

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