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Sligo, Ireland (County)

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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Sligo, Ireland
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A county of Ireland in the province of Connaught, bounded N. by the Atlantic, E. by Leitrim, S.E. by Roscommon, and S. and W. by Mayo. The area is 452,356 acres or about 707 sq. m. The coast-line is very irregular, and in some places rises into grand escarpments and terraces. The principal inlets are Killala Bay and Sligo Bay, the latter subdivided into Brown Bay, Drumcliffe Bay and Ballysadare Bay. Near the coast are the islands of Inishmurray and Coney and other smaller islets. Though Sligo cannot be compared for scenery with the western parts and north coast of County Mayo, it is well wooded and possesses several beautiful lakes and rivers and some ranges of hills finely situated and grouped. In the north are the limestone elevations of Ben Bulbin (171 2 ft.) and Knocknarea (1078), contrasting with the adjacent rugged gneiss mountains, among which are King's Mountain (1527) and Gullogherboy (1430). On the boundary with Leitrim, Truskmore reaches a height of 2 113 ft. In the west are the ranges of the Slieve Gamph and Ox Mountains, upwards of 1300 and 1600 ft. respectively. The Curlew Mountains, an abrupt ridge of limestone gravel, upwards of Boo ft. in height, with flattened summit, separate Sligo from Roscommon. The principal rivers are the Moy, forming for a part of its course the boundary with Mayo, and flowing southwestward and then northward into Killala Bay; the Easky, flowing northward from Lough Easky; and Ballysadare, with its branches the Owenmore, Owenbeg, and Arrow, or Unshin; and the Garvogue, or Garavogue, flowing from Lough Gill. Except the finely-situated Lough Gill (extending into Leitrim), Lough Arrow, and Lough Gara, all of which exceed 3000 acres in extent, none of the lakes has so large an area as 400 acres. The salmon, sea-trout and trout fishing is generally excellent in these waters, especially during the autumn, but Lough Arrow also provides sport during the Mayfly season.

This county essentially consists of Carboniferous Limestone, broken by the Dalradian axis of the Ox Mountains. The gneisses of this range, which obviously result from the intermingling of granite and a series of schists and quartzites, form a ridge of rocky hills, smoothed by glaciation, on the flanks of which Carboniferous shales rest. Above these, the limestone is boldly developed, forming great scarped tablelands north of Sligo, with some sandstone on the summit of Truskmore. Knocknarea, conspicuous from Sligo, is an outlier of the Upper Limestone. Lough Gill is picturesquely bounded by the gneissic range on the south and these high carboniferous masses on the north. The limestone also produces fine features in the south of the county, in Keishcorran and round Lough Arrow. East of this point, it forms the slopes of the Leitrim and Roscommon coalfield, the summits being capped by the Millstone Grit series; while on the south, bounded by a fault, rises the Old Red Sandstone range of the Curlew Hills. Lead was mined at Ballysadare, and the clay-ironstone from the east of the county was at one time smelted.


There is considerable variety both in the character of the soil and in the agricultural advancement in different parts of the county. In some parts it is a light sandy loam resting on a freestone bottom, and in the lower districts a rich and deep mould prevails resting on a substratum of limestone. Owing to the moistness of the climate cattle feeding is found to be the most remunerative method of farming, as may be gathered from the increasing or wellmaintained numbers of cattle, sheep and poultry. Oats and potatoes are the principal crops, but the acreage devoted to them decreases, and the proportion of tillage to pasturage is roughly as I to 31. Coarse woollens and linens are manufactured for home consumption, and there are tanneries, distilleries, and breweries in the principal towns. A considerable general trade is carried on at the ports of Ballina (on the Moy) and Sligo. The fisheries on the coast are valuable, and there are important salmon fisheries at the mouths of the rivers. The town of Sligo is the chief centre.

The Sligo branch of the Midland Great Western railway enters the county from the S.E., with a branch S.W. from Kilfree to Ballaghaderreen in county Mayo; the Limerick and Sligo line of the Great Southern and Western enters from S.W.; and the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern counties, from Enniskillen (county Fermanagh), and Manor Hamilton (county Leitrim), from the N.E. These lines unite at Collooney and share the railway from this junction to the town of Sligo.

Population and Administration

The population (94,416 in 1891, 84,083 in 1901) decreases at a rate considerably above the average of the Irish counties, and emigration is heavy. Of the total about 90% are Roman Catholics and about 7% Protestant Episcopalians. About 88% is rural population. The county town is Sligo (pop. 10,870); Ballymote and Tobercurry (or Tubbercurry) are small inland market towns. The county is divided into six baronies. Assizes are held at Sligo and quarter-sessions at Ballymote, Easky and Sligo. For parliamentary representation the county has since 1885 formed two divisions (North and South), each returning a member. The county is mainly in the Protestant diocese of Kilmore, and in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Ardagh, Achonry, Elphin and Killala.


The county was created by Sir Henry Sydney in 1579. On Carrowmore, between Sligo and Ballysadare, there is a remarkable collection of ancient stone monuments (see Sligo, town). At Drumcliffe (5 m. N. of Sligo) are the only round tower remaining in the county and a beautiful Celtic cross 13 ft. in height. The principal monastic ruins are the abbey of St Fechan at Ballysadare, with a church of the 11th or 12th century; the abbey of Sligo; and a remarkable group of buildings on the island Inishmurray, which include a cashel or walled enclosure; three oratories, one of which contains an oaken figure in ecclesiastical garb; two holy wells; and also altars, pillar stones, inscribed slabs (one of which is unique among those of its kind in Ireland in having an inscription partly in Latin), and several examples of beehive cells. This settlement is associated with Molaise, a saint of the early 6th century (not identical with the Molaise of Devenish in Loch Erne), and the remains still attract pilgrims, who revere the oaken figure mentioned as an image of the saint, though it is more probably the figurehead of a vessel.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sligo, Ireland (County)'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​s/sligo-ireland-county.html. 1910.
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