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MONAGHAN (County of), an inland county of the province of ULSTER , bounded on the east by Louth and Armagh , on the north by Tyrone, on the west by Fermanagh and Cavan, and on the south by Meath. It extends from 53º 53’ to 54º 25’ (N. Lat.), and from 6º 33’ to 7º 18’ (W. Lon.) ; and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 327,048 statute acres, of which 9236 are unimproved mountain and bog, 6167 are under water, and the rest cultivated land. The population, in 1821, amounted to 174,697 ; and in 1831, to 195,536.
According to Whitaker, this county was inhabited in the time of Ptolemy by the Scoti, who then possessed all the inland parts of Ireland : it afterwards formed part of the district of Uriel, Oriel, or Orgial, which also comprehended Louth and part of Armagh ; but it was more generally known by the name of MacMahon’s country, from the powerful sept of that name. Its present name is derived from its chief town, Monaghan or Muinechan, “the Town of the Monks,” although no trace of an ecclesiastical establishment can now be discovered there.
Immediately after the English invasion, when De Courcy entered Ulster, he was joined by a chieftain named MacMahon, who ingratiated himself so much with him that he was entrusted with the command of two forts, which, on the first change of fortune, MacMahon utterly destroyed ; and when questioned on his breach of faith, answered, “that he had not engaged to keep stone walls ; and that he scorned to confine himself within such cold and dreary enclosures, while his native woods were open for his reception and security.” Hugh de Lacy, some time after, invaded Monaghan and burned the town and abbey, but soon after erected a castle there and restored the monastic institution.
In the reign of Hen. IV., Lord Thomas of Lancaster, his son, having gone to Ireland as Lord-Lieutenant, received the homage of several of the native chieftains, among whom was MacMahon, who then submitted so far to the rules of English law as to accept an estate for life in that part of the county called the Ferney, for which he paid ten pounds a year chief-rent. This state of acquiescence, however, was not permanent ; for, in the very next reign, Lord Furnival, who was then Lord-Deputy, found it necessary to undertake a military expedition against the MacMahons and other insurrectionary septs in Ulster ; but, though he succeeded so far as to make them sue for the king’s peace, he was unable to reduce them to the obedience of subjects.
The county remained in the same state until the time of Elizabeth, in the 11th of whose reign, the parts of Ulster that had not previously acknowledged the Queen’s authority, were reduced into seven shires, of which Monaghan was one ; and afterwards the Lord- Deputy Fitzwilliam, during a progress through this part of Ulster, caused MacMahon to be attainted and executed for high treason, and the county to be divided according to the baronial arrangement which it still retains, the lands to be allotted among the Irish occupiers and English settlers, and to be held according to the tenures. of the law of England .
According to this arrangement, the particulars of which are still extant in the original document, the five baronies contained one hundred “ballibetaghs,” a term applied by the Irish to a tract of land sufficient to maintain hospitality, each ballibetagh containing 16 tathes of 120 English acres each ; thus making the area of the county 86,000 acres, exclusively of church lands.
All the grants then made contained a clause of forfeiture, in case of the re-assumption of the name of MacMahon, of failure in paymont of rent, or of attainder on rebellion. The subsequent insurrection of the Earl of Tyrone, however, prevented the plan from taking effect. The chief of the MacMahons still continued to arrogate the title of supreme lord, and the whole county was occupied by three or four families only, namely, those of the chieftain, and of Mac Kenna, Mac Cabe, and O’Conally. So little had the progress of civilisation been forwarded by the measures of the English government, that in the succeeding reign of Jas. I., when the lord-deputy made a progress thither to inspect and settle the province, he was forced on entering the county to encamp in the open field.
On investigating the titles by which the lands were held, it was found that the patents were all void in consequence of the non-observance or breach of some of the conditions ; new grants were therefore made, and the country being reduced to a state of perfect submission, partly by intimidation and partly by concession, continued tranquil till the war broke out in 1641, when it followed the example of the rest of the north of Ireland in joining with the Irish against the lately established government, and the MacMahons again vainly endeavoured to recover their supremacy.
The county is wholly within the diocese of Clogher and province of Armagh . For purposes of civil jurisdiction it is divided into the baronies of Cremorne, Dartree, Farney, Monaghan, and Trough. It contains the disfranchised borough, market, and assize town of Monaghan ; the market and post-towns of Carrickmacross, Castle-Blayney, Ballybay, Clones, and Newbliss ; and the post-towns of Emyvale and Glaslough : the principal villages are Smithsborough (which has a penny-post), Ballytrain, Ballinode, Glennon, and Rockcorry.
Prior to the Union it sent four members to the Irish parliament, two for the county at large, and two for the borough of Monaghan : since that period the two returned for the county to the Imperial parliament have been its sole representatives : the election takes place at Monaghan. The constituency, as registered at the close of the October sessions, 1836, consisted of 269 £50, 216 £20, and 1946 £10 freeholders ; 4 £50 and 21 £20 rent-chargers ; and 36 £20 and 602 £10 leaseholders ; making in the whole 3094 registered electors, The county is included in the north-eastern circuit : the county court-house and gaol are in the town of Monaghan, where the assizes are held ; general quarter sessions are held four times in the year at Monaghan and Castle-Blayney, which latter town has a sessions-house and bridewell. The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 11 deputy-lieutenants, and 50 other magistrates, besides the usual county officers, including two coroners.
There are 21 constabulary police stations, having in the whole a force of an inspector, a stipendiary magistrate, a paymaster, 5 chief officers, 24 constables, 140 subconstables and 6 horses. The district lunatic asylum is at Armagh, the county hospital at Monaghan, and there are dispensaries at Ballytrain, Farney, Scotstown, Castle-Shane, Smithsborough, Ballybay, Clones, Newbliss, Drum, Rockcorry, Monaghan, Carrickmacross, and Glaslough ; half of the expenses of the dispensaries is raised from the baronies in which they are situated, while in every other county it is assessed on the county at large.
The amount of Grand Jury presentments for 1835 was £17,071. 8. 1½., of which £801. 1. 3. was for roads, bridges, &c., of the county at large ; £7045. 17. 0½. for roads, bridges, &c., of the baronies ; £5001. 3. 4. for public buildings, charities, officers’ salaries and incidents ; £2537. 10. 3½, for the police; and £1676. 16. 2½. for repayment of advances made by Government.
In military arrangements the county is in the northern district, and contains a barrack at Monaghan for cavalry, which has accommodations for 3 officers, 54 privates and 44 horses, and hospital accommodation for 4 patients, but is generally occupied by a detachment of infantry from Londonderry or Newry.
Monaghan is described by old writers as being very mountainous, and covered with wood : it is, however, rather hilly than mountainous, and is now entirely stripped of its forests. The Slievebeagh or Slabbay mountains form an uninterrupted ridge of high land along the north- western boundary, separating the county from Tyrone, and exhibiting an uninteresting waste, with none of the romantic features that often atone for the want of fertility.
The next mountain in point of extent is Cairnmore, whose summit commands a very expanded prospect, comprising the whole of this county, and parts of those of Armagh, Fermanagh, Cavan, Leitrim, Down, Tyrone, Louth, and Meath ; Lough Erne, studded with beautiful islands, is also in full view, as are the numerous lakes scattered throughout the county. Crieve mountain, towards the south, though not of such extent as Cairnmore, is more elevated, commanding views far more extensive and varied, It is about six miles in circumference, and the waters flow from it in opposite directions, on one side towards Dundalk and on the other towards Ballyshannon.
The lakes are numerous and highly interesting. On Cairnmore is one of considerable size and very deep : it has no apparent outlet for its waters, is always agitated, and is surrounded by a very wide strand. Another, called Lough Eagish, covers about 50 acres and is very deep : its waters are extremely useful for the supply of the neighbouring bleach-greens, fourteen of which are worked by the stream flowing from it, the tail race of one mill forming the head of the next in succession ; the lake is under the care of an engineer, whose duty it is to regulate the flow of the water, so as to allow every claimant his fair proportion.
But the largest and most interesting of all the lakes is that of Castle- Blayney, also called Lough Muckno : it is about 3 miles in length, covers upwards of 600 acres, and is embellished with numerous beautifully wooded islands ; the shores are exceedingly romantic, and the demesne and woods of that mansion entirely surround its fertile banks. Glaslough, which gives name to a flourishing and beautiful town, and is situated near the northern boundary of the county, is somewhat less than that of Castle- Blayney ; but the fertility and gentle undulations around its banks, the extensive demesne, the fine old timber, and the numerous plantations combine to form a delightful landscape.
Near Mount Louise is a beautiful lake : the land rises suddenly and boldly from its shores, presenting an unusual inland scene, but the absence of wood considerably diminishes the effect. The town of Ballybay is situated between two lakes of considerable beauty. At Dawson Grove is a peculiarly interesting lake, around which is some sylvan scenery, rarely found in the North : there are also other very pretty lakes, particularly those of Emy, Leesborough, Creeve, and White Lough, besides upwards of 180, upon a smaller scale, scattered over every part of the county.
The climate is damp, but not unwholesome ; the humidity is owing to the situation of the county, which is placed at the inner extremity of a very broad valley, for the most part forming the county of Fermanagh, through which pass the waters of Lough Erne to their influx into the Atlantic ocean at Ballyshannon ; and as the wind from this quarter prevails for nine months in the year, the vapours are driven up the vale with great force, and rushing against the Slievebeagh mountains cause frequent showers or mists : this humidity is also much increased by the numerous lakes, whose exhalations, even in summer, are sensibly felt, particularly by strangers ; the inhabitants, however, are in general very healthy.
The undulating surface of the county produces a great variety of soil. The low lands are generally wet, sour, and moory, particularly near the foot of Slievebeagh ; yet even in this district are some exceptions, for amid the very poorest tracts several gentle elevations of limestone are found, and in the valleys are extensive deposits of marl ; this moory soil is everywhere reclaimable, though the subsoil is stiff, and the shallow and mossy loam on its surface imbibes the moisture like a sponge, so that after a fall of rain it is nearly impassable for cattle, and a few dry days harden the surface so as to render it nearly impenetrable to a plough ; this character pervades the greater portion of the barony of Trough.
The central district, comprehending the depressed land between the Slievebeagh and Crieve mountains, is far superior to any other part of the county in point of fertility ; it is interspersed with beautiful lakes, well watered with streams, has a sufficiency of bog, and in richness and natural capability may vie with some of the best improved lands in the north of Ireland.
A vein of excellent land runs from Glaslough, by Tyhallon, Monaghan, Scotstown, and Clones, into Fermanagh at Corren. The southern extremity of the county consists for the most part of a rich and highly productive soil, based on a substratum of limestone, and in some places a deep loam highly improveable by calcareous manure. The soil in the intermediate district varies much in quality, and is disposed very irregularly : even in several parts of the same field it is seen sometimes to vary extremely, being deep and argillaceous at one spot, a gravelly grit at another, exhibiting at a third a stiff clay, and at a fourth a party-coloured mixture of red and greenish gravel ; yet in general character it approximates nearly to that of the northern part. The western side of the county is a rich but shallow loam, in its natural state spongy, wet, and overspread with rushes, but capable of a high degree of improvement by manuring.
The large estates of the county vary from £20,000 to £1000 per ann., but a very considerable portion of the land is held in grants producing from £20 to £500 per ann. : the former are not resided on by the proprietor in fee, but the latter almost uniformly ; many of them are held from the crown by the descendants of the Scotch colony introduced here after the settlement of the county by James I. ; a considerable portion were grants to Cromwell’s soldiers, many of whose posterity now possess farms so small as not to yield an annual income exceeding £20.
Few of the farms on the larger estates are tenauted in perpetuity : the usual term is 21 years, and a life, or 60 years and three lives. The mountainous districts form an exception to this observation, as they are divided into extensive portions, and mostly depastured by young cattle. An extraordinary mode of tenure formerly existed on some estates, of letting several townlands in one lease to all the occupying tenants, who might be from 20 to 30 joint lessees ; by which practice part of the legal expenses for drawing the lease was saved by the tenants, but it gave the landlord a powerful control over them, as any one of the tenants is liable to have his goods seized for the rent of the whole : the rent paid by each is acknowledged by a receipt on account, and he who pays last obtains a receipt for the total amount.
The farms throughout the county do not average 25 acres ; the smaller, which are much more numerous, not six : so that ten acres may be adopted as the general average. Great improvements have been made within the last few years in almost every department of agriculture, both as to the treatment of the land and the implements. The principal manure is lime and the produce of the farmyard, together with composts of various kinds.
Limestone in a state of decomposition is found in several districts ; when first raised, it has a compact slaty appearance, but on exposure to the atmosphere forms a kind of paste ; no benefit is derived from it as a manure for the first year ; but for several years after the crops are most abundant. Marl , though found in several parts, is little used except in the southern districts, where it has been found very beneficial to the corn crops : but in general, land is seldom manured for any crop but the potato.
In the northern districts, in consequence of the smallness of the farms, and the wetness of the soil, the manure is mostly carried to the fields in baskets, here called “bardocks,” slung across the back of an ass, and very often on the shoulders of the women. There is no county in Ireland where manual labour is more employed in farming than in Monaghan.
The spade which is generally used in tilling the land, working the manure, raising potatoes, resembles the English spade in having a footstep on each side, but differs from it in having the blade made hollow and filled with timber, to which the handle is made to fit in a sloping form. In some parts, where the soil is heavy and adhesive, the blade tapers nearly to a point, and is much curved in the middle, to prevent the mould clogging upon it. The principal crops are wheat, oats and potatoes.
Flax has been a favourite and beneficial crop for the last few years : the quantity sown is constantly increasing. Clover and green crops are every year becoming more common. The pasturage in the mountainous districts is mostly formed of rushes and sprit grass, neither of which affords much nutriment ; in the other parts it is very rich and close, the grass heavy and exceedingly nutritious. In some parts white clover is produced spontaneously, though too often choked with rushes ; in others it is sown with grass seeds and mowed twice or thrice a year : oats are also mixed with the clover seed, and cut green for fodder, by which management the farmers estimate that one acre is more productive than four of common pasture. The tops of furze, here called whins, are used for fodder ; they are prepared by being pounded in a stone trough with a wooden mallet, which makes them very juicy ; they are greedily eaten by horses, and answer the double purpose of food and medicine.
In some parts much attention is paid to the fences, which are generally quicksets of white thorn, often mixed with sallows that are afterwards applied to many purposes of country work ; in some parts the only fence is a small mound of earth, apparently raised more as a boundary mark than as a means of security against trespassing.
The chief breed of horned cattle is a cross of the Old Leicester with the Roscommon cow, which grows to a large size and fattens rapidly. Butter is made in great quantities in the north and west : for though there are no large dairies, every farmer makes some, the greater part of which is sent to Monaghan, Newry and Dundalk, where it is bought up for the English market.
Sheep are very numerous in the north and north-west, and of great variety of sorts. The native horses are not of a good kind ; those worthy of notice are brought in from other counties : a small strong breed called Ragheries, imported from Scotland by carriers who are inhabitants of the island of Rathlin, (whence the name) are in great request ; they are cheap, durable, serviceable, well calculated for a hilly country, and live to a great age. Asses are also numerous : they are found to be extremely useful and very easily fed, being particularly fond of the green tops of furze, on which the Raghery horses also feed. Pigs are more numerous here than in any other county ; they are slaughtered in great numbers for the provision merchants of Belfast, Newry and Drogheda, and are also exported alive to Liverpool, The lakes abound with fish, particularly trout and pike, which grow to a great size : the pearl muscle is found in some of the larger streams.
Of the extensive forests mentioned by early writers, no vestiges can be traced, except in the stunted underwood so frequent at the foot of the hills, and the numerous trunks of forest trees, found deeply imbedded in almost every bog. The mountains and hills present no remains of timber, and the only woods now found in the county are those belonging to the mansions and demesnes of the nobility and gentry.
Those of Dawson Grove and Anketell Grove are more especially worthy of notice. At Glaslough are some of the finest ash trees in Ireland ; near Monaghan are several remarkably large beech trees, and some few venerable oaks are to be seen in different parts, so that Monaghan may be said to produce timber nearly sufficient for its own consumption.
Sycamore is in much repute for the shafts of bleach-mills, round which the webs of cloth are rolled and beetled : it never splinters during the operation of the machinery, whereas when other timber is used for the same purpose, it must be cased with horse skins, which do not last long, In the moory bottoms at the foot of hills, groves of sallow and osier are planted, which thrive vigorously, and the wicker-work made of the twigs yields a return which forms no inconsiderable portion of the rent. Fuel is procured in the greatest abundance from the numerous bogs, which are so dispersed in every part that the carriage adds but little to the expense.
The county forms part of the northern extremity of the great limestone field of Ireland ; and, except in its northern districts, the rock is well distributed and lies very advantageously for working. The limestone is of great variety and of excellent quality ; at Glenmore it is raised in large blocks, and, when polished, exhibits all the varieties of fine marble.
Freestone of beautiful and valuable quality is found in various parts. Part of Slievebeagh is formed of a fine white sandstone extensively used for architectural purposes. The south side of this mountain is formed altogether of jasper, in some places very pure, but mostly in a state of decomposition, much resembling clay-slate and of a bright vermillion hue : the mountains of Crieve are entirely formed of greenstone and basalt. Escars can be traced in several parts, particularly in the neighbourhood of Tyhallon, which, in one respect, are unlike all others in Ireland, being entirely formed of jasper, quartz, agates and argillaceous sand.
Coal has been found in thin seams at the foot of the Slievebeagh mountain near Emyvale, and at Glennon in large blocks ; but the most extensive beds are near Carrickmacross, where pits were opened a few years since, but after a few tons had been raised, the workings were discontinued. Iron-stone of Inferior quality is frequently found ; slate quarries are worked at the Crieve mountains, and flags in three quarries in Dartree. Large lead-works were erected in the Crieve mountains for the smelting of lead-ore, but they have been long since abandoned : the ore has also been found near Castle. Blayney, both in large blocks and in thin veins : some promising veins can be traced in the limestone near Carrickmacross.
Indications of copper have been discovered near Castle-Blayney, and ochres, potters’ clay and soft unctuous earth in the same neighbourhood. Potters’ clay found near Glaslough is wrought into glazed earthenware ; brick clay, and oxyde of manganese, are distributed over all the country. The bones and antlers of the moose deer and the bones of several other kinds of animals, long since extinct in the island, have been discovered. Four teeth of extraordinary size were discovered on the Slievebeagh mountains, which on an examination by the Royal Society of London, were pronounced to be those of an elephant ; two of them weighed 2¾lb. each ; the other two, 6oz. each.
The linen manufacture was established here at a very early period, and several towns and villages owe their origin to this branch of national industry. Both spinning and weaving declined considerably until the last two years, within which period the trade has revived. A large linen factory is now in process of erection at Glaslough, and great quantities are made and bleached in various parts : the yarn is spun by the women.
A very good description of woollen cloth is manufactured in considerable quantities at Carrickmacross. At Stonebridge and Emyvale are iron-mills, which are chiefly employed in the manufacture of agricultural implements. Tanning is extensively carried on at Glaslough and Castle-Blayney.
The county has within it no stream of water deserving the name of river, The Blackwater, which bounds it on the side of Tyrone, receives several of its smaller tributaries ; and a very rapid stream separates the county from Armagh. The Finn, which falls into Lough Erne, rises in the centre of Monaghan, but is not navigable for boats until it has quitted the county.
The Lagan forms its southern boundary and afterwards joins the Glyde in the county of Louth. The canal from Lough Neagh to Lough Erne, now in progress, enters the county near Middleton and proceeds thence by Tyhallon, Bessmount and Monaghan, near to which town the works are almost finished ; it is intended to carry it round this town and thence towards Clones, but some disputes having arisen respecting the lands through which the line was originally laid down, another line is now under survey.
There are two ancient round towers in the county, one at Clones, the other at Inniskeen. Contiguous to the former is a rath of large dimensions, and near the latter a circular mount enclosed with a wall of stone and mortar.
At Freamount is another large rath, and another also of very considerable dimensions, but now nearly concealed by plantations, at Fort Singleton near Emyvale. Near Carrickmacross are the ruins of a Druidical temple, consisting of an oblong mound of earth enclosed by a circuit of large upright stones. Wicker hurdles of very curious workmanship have been found in the bogs, in a high state of preservation : they appear to have been carried thither by parties on a marauding expedition, for the purpose of crossing the bog, and having been left behind in the hurry of advance or retreat, were gradually imbedded in the bog.
A curious relic is preserved at Knockbuy, near the town of Monaghan : it is called the “Balaghdthownagh,” and consists of a box, about the size of a thick folio volume, containing a crucifix and some relics : it is kept with the greatest veneration as a kind of heirloom in the Bradley family, and is used as an attestation of innocence for imputed crimes which do not admit of the usual kind of evidence ; when let out on an occasion of this kind, valuable security is always required for its restoration.
No county in Ireland has so few vestiges of monastic buildings : the abbey of Clones is the only one of which any remains exist : that of Monaghan is utterly destroyed, and a castle was erected on its site : the wealthy abbey of Tyhallon is known only by name. The castle of Monaghan is noticed by Sir John Davies, in his account of the lord-deputy’s tour through the county, as being then in a state of ruinous neglect : the ruins of the old mansion-house of Castle-Blayney still standing are so close to the modern building as to injure the appearance of both : there are also the ruins of an old building in the same demesne, bearing no resemblance to a religious structure ; the walls are very massive, but it is so overgrown with trees as to render its inspection very difficult. At Vicar’s Dale, in Donaghmoyne, are the ruins of a castle ; and near Dawson Lodge, those of another, called Maghernacligh.
The residences of the great landed proprietors are not remarkable for architectural splendour ; they are rather good family houses, and are noticed in their respective parishes. The farm-houses are better than those of the same class in Leinster ; those of the class that combines manufacture with farming are comfortable in appearance, but the habitations of the cottiers and journeymen weavers are miserably poor.
Such tenants hold their hovel, with a small plot of ground for a garden, either by a “dry cot take” or a “wet cot take,” the former implying an agreement by which the tenant pays a rent for his tenement and works at taskwork or for daily pay at the loom for his landlord ; the latter signifying that he has also the grass for a cow in winter, for which he pays an additional amount of rent, but finds his own hay and grass in summer : these tenures are merely from year to year.
The clothing of the peasantry is frieze, or a coarse light blue cloth manufactured at home and dyed with indigo : the women wear cottons more generally than stuffs : all are tolerably well supplied with linen and with shoes and stockings. Their food is potatoes, meal, milk, and butter ; though in the poorer parts, where the population depends wholly on the produce of the soil, the cottiers are seldom able to procure anything better than salt to their potatoes ; while in the neighbourhood of the county town the luxury of animal food is occasionally enjoyed.
Irish and English are indiscriminately spoken in the intercourse of the peasantry with one another. An attempt was made some years ago to diminish the pressure of mendicancy, which is very prevalent, by compelling the paupers to wear badges, but it had no permanent effect. An extraordinary custom of annually electing a mayor, with power to decide all disputes, long prevailed in the village of Blackstaff, near Carrickmacross, which was composed of about 200 wretched hovels in the centre of 500 acres of bog, heath, and rock, so barren as never to have been cultivated, and on which the inhabitants supported themselves by holding each a very small portion of land at a considerable distance from the village. But the inconvenient distance of their habitations from their farms, and the dangers apprehended from this irregular union of a number of families during the disturbed period of 1798, caused the community to be broken up, and its members established on their separate plots of land ; yet for years after they met annually at Blackstaff to commemorate the bygone pleasures of their former state of social intercourse.
A chalybeate spring rises in Cairnmore, at a place called Drumtubberbuy, or “the ridge with the yellow spring,” from which flows a stream of pellucid water covered with a strong scum of ochre ; it is not noted for any medicinal qualities. At Tullaghan is a spring, the water of which, though tasteless and perfectly pellucid, forms an incrustation on all the substances it passes over near its source. This county gave the title of Baron to Sir Edw. Blayney, who was ennobled by Jas. I., in 1621, for his services against the Irish.
MONAGHAN, an incorporated market-town and parish, the chief town of the county, and formerly a parliamentary borough, in the barony and county of MONAGHAN, and province of ULSTER, 12¼ miles, (W. S. W.) from Armagh, and 60 (N. N. W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Londonderry ; containing 11,875 inhabitants, of which number, 3848 are in the town. This place, till within a comparatively modern period, was distinguished only by a monastery, of which St. Moclodius, the son of Aedh, was abbot ; and which, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, was plundered in 830 and again in 931.
It appears from the same authority to have flourished for more than two centuries, and the names of its abbots, deans, and archdeacons (among the former of whom was Elias, the principal of all the monks of Ireland , who died in Cologne in 1042) are regularly preserved till the year 1161, after which date no further mention of it occurs. Phelim MacMahon, in 1462, founded on the site of the ancient abbey a monastery for Conventual Franciscans, which at the dissolution was granted to Edward Withe ; but even at that time no place deserving the name of a village had arisen near the monastery, and the whole of this part of the country, under its native chiefs, the MacMahons, still retained the ancient customs.
About the commencement of the 17th century, Sir Edward Blayney, who had been appointed seneschal of the county, erected a small fort here, which he garrisoned with one company of foot ; and on the approaching settlement of Ulster, when the Lord-Deputy came to this place to make some arrangements respecting the forfeited lands, it was so destitute of requisite habitations, that he was under the necessity of pitching tents for his accommodation.
On this occasion the Lord-Deputy was attended by the Lord -Chancellor and judges of assize, and by the attorney- general, the celebrated Sir John Davies, who describes the place as consisting only of a few scattered cabins, occupied chiefly by the retired soldiers of Sir Edward Blayney’s garrison. Besides that fort, which was on the north side of the village, he notices another in the centre of it, which had been raised only 10 or 12 feet above the ground, and was then lying in a neglected state, although £1200 had been expended on it by the king. as a means of retaining the native inhabitants of the district in subjection.
The Lord-Deputy divided several neighbouring “ballibetaghs” among the soldiers residing in the town ; and as the fort at this time depended on Newry for its supplies, which, from the hostility of the intervening country, were frequently precarious, he granted to Sir Edward Blayney a portion of land on which he erected the fortress of Castle Blayney. In 1611, Sir Edward obtained the grant of a market and fair ; and the town, which now began to increase in population and extent, was, in 1613, made a parliamentary borough, and the inhabitants were incorporated by a charter of Jas. I., under the designation of the “Provost, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Monaghan.”
The town consists of one principal square in the centre, called the Diamond, in which is the linen-hall, and of another spacious opening in which is the market-house, and of three streets diverging from the principal square in a triangular direction ; the total number of houses is about 580, of which many are well built, and those in the environs are neat and handsome.
There are barracks for cavalry, a neat building adapted for 3 officers and 54 non- commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 44 horses, and a small hospital. A news-room is supported by subscription ; and a savings’ bank has been established, in which, in 1835, the deposits amounted to £22,016. 2. 5., belonging to 749 depositors.
There is a large brewery in the town, but no particular manufactures are carried on ; the chief trade is in agricultural produce and the sale of linen, for which this place is one of the principal marts in the county ; the quantity of linen sold, in 1835, was 6641 pieces, of 25 yards each, and the average price per piece, 18s. 9d. The market days are Monday, for linen and for pigs, of which great numbers are slaughtered and sold to dealers, who send the carcasses to Belfast, where they are cured for exportation ; on Tuesday for wheat, bere, barley, and rye ; on Wednesday for oats ; and on Saturday, for oats and potatoes : flax, yarn, butter, and provisions of all kinds are also sold here in large quantities.
Fairs are held on the first Monday in every month, and are amply supplied and numerously attended. The market- house, a very commodious building, was erected by the late Gen. Conyngham, afterwards Lord Rossmore, whose arms are emblazoned over the entrance. The Ulster canal, which is now in progress, will pass through the northern part of the parish ; a branch of the river Blackwater also bounds the parish on the north, running nearly parallel with the canal. These facilities of water conveyance will contribute to the benefit of the town, which is at present in a thriving state, and is progressively increasing in importance.
The corporation, by the charter of Jas. I., consists of a provost, 12 free burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, two serjeants-at-mace, and other officers. The provost is annually chosen from the free burgesses on the festival of St. John the Baptist, and sworn into office on that of St. Michael ; the burgesses are elected, as vacancies occur, from the freemen by a majority of their own body, by whom also freemen are admitted by favour only ; the recorder and serjeants-at-mace are chosen by the corporation at large, but no recorder has been chosen since 1815, when the last, who was also the first serjeant-at-mace, died.
The corporation continued to send two members to the Irish parliament till the Union , when the borough was disfranchised. The court of record, ordained by the charter to be held every Monday, with jurisdiction extending to five marks, has not been held for the last 50 years. The assizes for the county are held here, also the quarter sessions four times in the year, and petty sessions every Tuesday.
There is a chief constabulary police force stationed in the town. The county court-house, situated in the centre of the town, is a handsome modern building of hewn stone, containing spacious court- rooms and all requisite offices, and in every respect well adapted to its purpose. The county gaol, completed in 1824, and situated on an eminence near the entrance to the town, is a handsome semicircular range of building, containing 75 single cells, and 11 rooms with more than one bed each, with appropriate day-rooms and airing-yards, in one of which is a tread- wheel applied to the raising of water for the supply of the prison ; there are a male and female hospital, a chapel, and a school ; the prison is well adapted for classification, and under very good regulations.
The parish, called also “Rackwallis,” comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 13,547½ statute acres, of which 12,758 are applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £23,013. 13. 2. per ann.; 26½ acres are water, and the remainder principally under tillage.
The general surface is irregular and hilly, rugged towards the south, but smoother and more gently undulating towards the north. The soil is rich in the vicinity of the town, but inferior towards the south and south-west ; there is but little bog in the parish, though there are large tracts in those adjoining, from which abundance of fuel is obtained, The system of agriculture is improved ; limestone abounds, and there is a very fine quarry at Milltown Bridge ; marl is also found, but is seldom used for manure ; whinstone also forms part of the substratum.
The principal seats are Rossmore Park, the residence of the Right Hon. Lord Rossmore, a handsome mansion in the Elizabethan style, situated in an extensive and beautifully diversified demesne, abounding with wild and romantic scenery and commanding some fine distant views ; Castle Shane, of E. Lucas, Esq., an ancient mansion in a highly enriched and tastefully embellished demesne (within which is the site of the ancient village of Castle- Shane), with a handsome entrance lodge in the later English style of architecture, and forming an interesting object as seen from the new line of road winding through the valley ; Cornacassa, of Dacre Hamilton, Esq., pleasantly situated in a highly cultivated and well- planted demesne ; and Camla Vale, of Lieut.- Col. Westenra, brother of Lord Rossmore, a spacious and handsome residence, situated in grounds tastefully laid out and adjoining the demesne of Rossmore Park : there are also many handsome residences in the immediate environs.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, and in the patronage of the Bishop : the tithes amount to £553. 16. 11 The glebe-house is a neat thatched residence, and the glebe comprises 38 statute acres, valued at £114 per annum.
The church, a very handsome structure, in the later English style of architecture, with a tower and spire, was erected on the site of the former edifice in 1836, at an expense of £5330, of which £1100 was a legacy, with interest, bequeathed by the late Dowager Lady Rossmore ; £1000, a bequest of Mrs. Jackson ; £2000, a loan from the late Board of First Fruits, the remainder being raised by subscription.
The interior contains some handsome monuments and tablets of white marble, to the late rector, the Rev. Mr. Montgomery, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, the families of Lucas and Cole, and the lady of Col. Westenra. The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church ; there are chapels situated respectively at Latlurken, Ardahy, and in the town. Contiguous to the chapel at Latlurken are the national school and a house and ground given by the Rossmore family for the residence of the R. C. clergyman.
There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the second and third classes, and for those of the Seceding Synod, of the first class ; also for Wesleyan and Primitive Wesleyan Methodists. The consistorial court of the diocese of Clogher is held in the town ; and the presbytery of Monaghan, in connection with the Synod of Ulster, also holds its meetings here in February and October. The diocesan school for the sees of Raphoe, Kilmore, and Clogher was founded by Queen Elizabeth and is supported chiefly by the bishops and clergy of those dioceses : the school-house is a spacious and handsome edifice, towards the erection of which Lord Rossmore contributed largely, and endowed the establishment with an annuity and five acres of land. About 1400 children are taught in ten other public schools, of which the parochial school, for which a new house has been recently built, is partly supported by the rector ; a free school for boys was founded by H. Jackson, Esq., who endowed it with £22. 10. per annum, and a house rent- free ; a female sewing school is also supported by the same gentleman, who endowed it with a house rent-free and a salary of £16 for the mistress ; and a school at Killamarly is aided by an annual donation from W. Brook, Esq.
There are also seven private schools, in which are about 300 children. The county infirmary, a good building, occupying an open and elevated site, is supported by a parliamentary grant, by the interest of a legacy of £4000 bequeathed by the late Francis Ellis, Esq., a rent-charge of £20 by the late 3. Wright, Esq., and £100 per annum from Bishop Sterne’s charity ; also by Grand Jury presentments and subscriptions. During the year ending Jan. 6th, 1835 , it afforded relief to 286 in-patients, and medicine and attendance to 900 out-patients.
There are also a mendicity society, and a penny a week society for the assistance of the poor, supported by subscription and weekly contributions from the members. An almshouse for six poor widows was founded by the late Richard Jackson, Esq., who endowed it with £25. 19. per annum, charged on lands in the parish.
A large house in the square called the Diamond is said to occupy the site of an ancient castle ; and in the rear of it are some old walls, said to be the remains of the old abbey ; the cemetery attached appears to have been very extensive. In levelling the ground in front of the old gaol, human bones and a skull of unusually large size were discovered.
On the summit of the hill to the north of the town, and near the site of the new gaol, was a small mound of earth, marking the site of the fortress built by Sir Edward Blayney for the protection of the town, and noticed by Sir John Davies as serving both for a garrison and a gaol. Several silver coins have been found here, among which was a curious coin of one of the Henrys, and a larger coin of Jas. I., which is in good preservation ; and in a meadow near the river was dug up, some years since, an ancient brass spur, similar to those in the museum of Trinity College, Dublin .
On the townland of Lisard, about two miles to the south-west of the town, is a perfect fort, with a rampart and fosse ; it is situated on an eminence commanding the surrounding country.