GALWAY(County of), a maritime county of the province of CONNAUGHT, bounded on the east by the counties of Roscommon, KING'S county, and Tipperary, from the former of which it is separated by the Suck, and from the two latter by the Shannon; on the north, by those of Roscommon and Mayo; on the west, by the Atlantic Ocean; and on the south, by Galway bay and the county of Clare. It extends, from 52° 57' to 53° 42' (N. Lat.), and from 7° 53' to 10° 15' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 1,510,592 acres, of which 955,713 are cultivated land, 476,957 are unprofitable bog and mountain, and 77,922 are under water. The population, in 1821, exclusively of the town and liberties of Galway, which forms a county of itself, was 309,599; and in 1831, 381,564.

In the time of Ptolemy, this region was inhabited by the Auteri, who spread themselves also into the adjoining counties of Mayo and Roscommon. At a later, though still a very remote, date it was thus parcelled out among tribes or families; Clanconow, or Clonmacnoon, among the Burkes; Clanfirgail, among the O'Hallorans; Hymaine, among the O'Dalys and O'Kellys; Maghullen, now Moycullen, among the O'Flahertys; Silnamchia, now Longford; and Hy-Fiacria-Aidne, afterwards Clanricarde, possessed by the Burkes, Burghs, or De Bourgos. The Burkes or De Bourgos alone were of Anglo Norman descent, and settled here in consequence of a grant made by Henry III. to Richard de Bourgo, of the whole kingdom of Connaught. A border warfare consequently ensued, and De Bourgo succeeded in securing some of the southern parts of the present county of Galway, making Meelick Castle one of his principal strong-holds.

Under this family the towns of Athenry and Galway considerably increased; and in 1333, William de Bourgo, Earl of Ulster, being assassinated, this part of his possessions was seized by a younger male branch of the family, who assumed the Irish title of Mac William Eighter, which was also adopted by his successors, until their acquisition of that of Earl of Clanricarde. Sir William, or Ulick, was the first Mac William Eighter, and from his son Richard was the name of Clanricarde first given to his territory and people. The limits of his dominion were extended or curtailed according to the strength of arms possessed by the Anglo-Norman chieftain, but they commonly comprehended the six present baronies of Athenry, Clare, Dunkellin, Kiltartan, Leitrim, and Loughrea. The chief subinfeudators of the De Bourgos were the Birminghams.

Another English colony was in the mean time planted in the north-western extremity of the county, now forming the barony of Ross, in the reign of Edward I., by Thomas Joyes or Joyce, who married the daughter of an Irish chieftain: they became tributary to the O'Flaherties, adopting the Irish language and customs; and that part of Connaught is known to the present day by the name of the Joyces' country. The last chieftain of Clanricarde, who bore the title of Mac William Eighter, was Sir William de Burgh, created Earl of Clanricarde by patent of the first of Edward VI.

Until the reign of Elizabeth, the county of Galway was regarded as part of the county of Connaught, which comprised all the province of the same name except the county of Roscommon. The present county, therefore, called after the name of its chief town, has no earlier antiquity as a distinct shire than the re-division of Connaught into shire ground by the Lord-Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, in 1585. At this time, and until the middle of the 17th century, the septs and families possessing the western parts of the county were the O'Flaherties, O'Malleys, and Joyces; the north-eastern districts were held by the Mac David Burkes, and the Birminghams; in the eastern quarter were the O'Naghtens, O'Fallons, O'Kellys, O'Mullallys, O'Dalys, and a branch of the Birminghams; Clanricarde contained, besides the territories immediately held by the Earl, the lands of the O'Heynes, O'Maddens, and O'Shaughnessys; bordering on Lough Corrib were the O'Hallorans; and in the immediate neighbourhood of the town of Galway were the possessions of the Kirwans, Martins, Blakes, Skerrets, Lynches, Frenches, Brownes and Darcys, all mercantile families of that town.

In the rebellion of 1641, this county took part with the confederate Catholics, notwithstanding the exertions of the Marquis of Clanricarde. At the termination of the war a great proportion of the landed property passed into the hands of new families, to whom it was confirmed after the Restoration; and the war of the Revolution served but to confirm the change.

The whole western portion of the county, between Lough Corrib and the Atlantic Ocean, is frequently called Connemara, signifying, "the Bays of the Ocean;" the name, however, is strictly applicable to only one of the three subdivisions of this district; those of the other two are Iar-Connaught and Joyces' country. These, respectively, are almost conterminous with the three existing baronies of Ballynahinch, Moycullen, and Ross.

Galway, County of | Galway Baronies | Galway Topography | Galway Bays | Galway Climate | Galway Crops | Galway Agriculture | Galway Trees | Galway Geology | Galway Manufactures | Galway Fisheries | Galway Rivers | Galway Antiquities | Galway Social History | Galway Town

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