LEITRIM, a county of Ireland in the province of Connaught, bounded N.W. by Donegal Bay, N.E. by Fermanagh, E. by Cavan, S.E. b*y Longford, S.W. by Roscommon and W. by Sligo. The area is 392,381 acres, or about 613 sq. m. The northern portion of the county consists of an elevated table-land, of which the highest summits belong to the Truskmore Hills, reaching 1712 ft.; with Benbo, 1365 ft. and Lackagh, 1446 ft. In the southern part the country is comparatively level, and is generally richly wooded. The county touches the south coast of Donegal Bay, but the coast-line is only about 3 m. The principal river is the Shannon, which, issuing from Lough Allen, forms the south-western boundary of the county with Roscommon. The Bonnet rises in the north-west and flows to Lough Gill, and the streams of Drones and Duff separate Leitrim from Donegal and Sligo. Besides Lough Allen, which has an area of 8900 acres, the other principal lakes in the county are Lough Macnean, Lough Scur, Lough Garadice and Lough Melvin. The scenery of the north is wild and attractive, while in the neighbourhood of the Shannon it is of great beauty. Lough Melvin and the coast rivers afford rod fishing, the lough being noted for its gillaroo trout.
This varied county has in general a floor of Carboniferous Limestone, which forms finely scarped hills as it reaches the sea in Donegal Bay. The underlying sandstone appears at Lough Melvin, and again on the margin of a Silurian area in the extreme south. The Upper Carboniferous series, dipping gently southward, form mountainous country round Lough Allen, where the name of Slieve Anierin records the abundance of clay-ironstone beneath the coal seams. The sandstones and shales of this series scarp boldly towards the valley of the Bonnet, across which rises, in picturesque contrast, the heather-clad ridge of ancient gneiss which forms, in Benbo, the north-east end of the Ox Mountains. The ironstone was smelted in the upland at Creevelea down to 1859, and the coal is worked in a few thin seams.
The climate is moist and unsuitable for grain crops. On the higher districts the soil is stiff and cold, and, though abounding in stones, retentive of moisture, but in the valleys there are some fertile districts. Lime, marl and similar manures are abundant, and on the coast seaweed is plentiful. The proportion of tillage to pasture is roughly as i to 3. Potatoes are grown, but oats, the principal grain crop, are scanty. The live stock consists chiefly of cattle, pigs and poultry. Coarse linens for domestic purposes are manufactured and coarse pottery is also made. The Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties railway, connecting Sligo with Enniskillen, crosses the northern part of the county, by way of Manor Hamilton; the Mullingar and Sligo line of the Midland Great Western touches the southwestern boundary of the county, with a station at Carrick- onShannon; while connecting with this line at Dromod is the Cavan and Leitrim railway to Ballinamore and Arigna, and to Belturbet in county Cavan.
The population (78,618 in 1891; 69,343 in 1901) decreases owing to emigration, the decrease being one of the most serious shown by any Irish county. It includes nearly 90% of Roman Catholics. The only towns are Carrick-on-Shannon (pop. 1118) and Manor Hamilton (993). The county is divided into five baronies. It is within the Connaught circuit, and assizes are held at Carrick-on-Shannon, and quarter sessions at Ballinamore, Carrick-on-Shannon and Manor Hamilton. It is in the Protestant diocese of Kilmore, and the Roman Catholic dioceses of Ardagh and Kilmore. In the Irish House of Commons two members were returned for the county and two for the boroughs of Carrickon-Shannon and Jamestown, but at the Union the boroughs were disfranchised. The county divisions are termed the North and South, each returning one member.
With the territory which afterwards became the county Cavan, Leitrim formed part of Brenny or Breffny, which was divided into two principalities, of which Leitrim, under the name of Hy Bruin-Brenny, formed the western. Being for a long time in the possession of the O'Rourkes, descendants of Roderick, king of Ireland, it was also called Brenny O'Rourke. This family long maintained its independence; even in 1579, when the other existing counties of Connaught were created, the creation of Leitrim was deferred, and did not take place until 1583. Large confiscations were made in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., in the Cromwellian period, and after the Revolution of 1688.
There are " druidical " remains near Fenagh and at Letterfyan, and important monastic ruins at Creevelea near the Bonnet, with several antique monuments, and in the parish of Fenagh. There was a flourishing Franciscan friary at Jamestown. The abbeys of Mohill, Annaduff and Drumlease are converted into parish churches. Among the more notable old castles are Manor Hamilton Castle, originally very extensive, but now in ruins, and Castle John on an island in Lough Scur. There is a small village named Leitrim about 4 m. N. of Carrickon-Shannon, which was once of enough importance to give its name to a barony and to the county, and is said to have been the seatjjf an early bishopric.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)