Longford Ui Fhearghail
Situated in the heart of Ireland, County Longford has a long and varied history, stretching back about 9,000 years. The county was part of the early medieval territory known as Teathbha or Teffia. By the 12th century, it had become the lordship of Annaly, under the O’Farrell clan ‘Longphort Ui Fhearghail’ - O Farrell stronghold. The Anglo-Normans arrived in the area by the end of that century, but failed to establish strong, widespread settlement. This meant that Longford was very much a frontier county, with the influence of the historic Gaelic clans retaining much of their influence and power. In 1570, the O’Farrells submitted to Queen Elizabeth I and at that stage Annaly became the county of Longford.
Historical Sites and Monuments
Throughout the county there are historical sites and monuments from the different phases of Longford’s history. Prehistoric monuments include portal tombs at Aughnacliffe and Cleenrath. There is the extraordinary Corlea Bog Trackway, near Kenagh, dating from 148 BC, part of which is preserved in a visitors’ interpretive centre. Early church and monastic sites include Ardagh, founded by St Patrick; Old Clonbroney, close to Ballinalee; and Ballinakill, near Killashee. The Motte and Bailey castle site at Granard is one of the finest of its type in Ireland, and an impressive reminder of the Anglo-Norman presence in the region. There were medieval monasteries at Abbeyshrule, Abbeylara, Abbeyderg and Saints Island. Longford also has the remains of Gaelic tower-houses, such as at Mornin and Castlerea in the Moydow area. There are some significant eighteenth and nineteenth century estate houses, amongst them Newcastle House and Ledwithstown House, both near Ballymahon; the former Ardagh Convent; and Castle Forbes, Newtownforbes. Throughout the county there are also many fine churches of the various denominations.
Politics & Military
In addition to such sites, the visitor can experience places associated with pivotal episodes in Irish history, including the villages of Granard and Ballinamuck, where there were battles fought during the 1798 Rebellion. One of Longford’s major political figures was General Seán MacEoin, ‘The Blacksmith of Ballinalee’, a leader in the War of Independence (1919-1921). His family Blacksmith Forge can be visited near the village of Ballinalee and so can Rose Cottage the site of his headquarters during the war. Another interesting place to visit is The Greville Arms Hotel in Granard which was once owned by the family of Kitty Kiernan, fiancée of Michael Collins. Collins was a frequent visitor to the area and had many good friends in Co Longford. Some interesting letters relating to Michael Collins and his activities hang on the wall in Clarkes Bar on Dublin Street in Longford town. They make for a fascinating read.
Longford also has a very rich literary heritage. Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) was born at Pallas, near Abbeyshrule. He is famous as a writer in many genres, including drama and poetry. Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849), though born in England, spent most of her life on her family’s estate at Edgeworthstown. She was a novelist with wide interests including education. Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was born in Longford Workhouse, where his father was master. He was a poet, playwright, biographer and folklorist as well as a lecturer in US colleges including Colombia University. John Keegan Casey (1846-1870), known by his pen-name ‘Leo’, was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood or Fenians, and was a noted poet whose most famous work was the ballad ‘The Rising of the Moon’. He taught at schools in the Ballymahon, Cashel and Kenagh areas where his name lives on and is proudly spoken of.
For more information on the heritage sites around the county go to the Explore Longford App available to download here: