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Tyrone County

TYRONE COUNTY, a county of Ireland in the province of Ulster, bounded N. and W. by Donegal, N.E. by Londonderry, E. by Lough Neagh and Armagh and S. by Monaghan and Fermanagh. The area is 806,658 acres or about 1260 sq. m. The surface is for the most part hilly, rising into mountains towards the north and south, but eastward towards Lough Neagh it declines into a level plain. Running along the north-eastern boundary with Londonderry are the ridges of the Sperrin Mountains (Sawel, 2240 ft., and Meenard, 2061 ft.). Farther south there is a range of lower hills, and Mullaghearn, north-east of Omagh, reaches 1778 ft. South of Clogher a range of hills, reaching 1255 ft. in Slieve Beagh, forms the boundary between Tyrone and Monaghan. On each side of the Mourne River near Omagh rise the two picturesque hills Bessy Bell and Mary Gray. The Foyle forms a small portion of the western boundary of the county, and receives the Mourne, which flows northward by Newton Stewart. The principal tributaries of the Mourne are the Strule (constituting its upper waters), the Derg from Lough Derg, and the Owenkillew, flowing westward from Fir j Mountain. The Blackwater rises near Fivemiletown and ' forms part of the south-eastern boundary of the county with Monaghan and Armagh. With the exception of Lough Neagh, bounding the county on the east, the lakes are small, also few in number. Lough Fea is picturesquely situated in the north-west, and there are several small lakes near Newtown Stewart.

Geology. The Sperrin Mountains in the north consist of ordinary " Dalradian " mica schists, covered mostly with grass. Lower Carboniferous Sandstone occurs as an outlier between the mountains and Strabane. The relation of the northern schists to the gneissic and " green rock " axis that forms the central moorland of Tyrone is obscure; intrusions of granite have evidently coarsened the structure of this axis. Ancient perlitic rhyolites occur among the " green rocks " on its northern flank. Omagh lies on Lower Carboniferous Sandstone, which, fringed by Old Red Sandstone, stretches west from the town to the county boundary; but the Dalradian schists appear continuously south of this from Omagh to Lack in Co. Fermanagh. A great mass of Old Red Sandstone, rising in long ranges of hills, occupies most of the south of the county, resting on Silurian shales at Pomeroy. Lower Carboniferous sandstone and limestone occur on the south flank of this upland, and extend over its east end to Cookstown. At Slieve Beagh in the extreme south Upper Carboniferous sandstones and shales are reached, and from Coalisland to Dungannon true Coal Measures appear. This coalfield includes one fine seam 9 ft. thick at Coalisland; less important coals occur in the Millstone Grit series at Dungannon. Though much denuded before Triassic times, the field doubtless continues eastward under the Triassic sandstone that stretches towards Lough Neagh. The pale clays, probably Pliocene, of the southern shore of the lake cover the flat land east of Coalisland. and are several hundred feet thick. North of Stewartstown, near Tullaghoge, a very small patch of Magnesian limestone contains Permian marine fossils; and, farther north, the county includes part of the basaltic plateaus, protecting Chalk, which extend away into Co. Londonderry. The Glacial epoch has left immense deposits of gravel and long eskers throughout the county. These are especially conspicuous north of Pomeroy. Fire-clay is raised from the collieries at Coalisland ; but coal-mining here awaits exploration on the east.

Industries. The hilly districts are unsuitable for tillage; but in the lower regions the soil is remarkably fertile, and agriculture is generally practised after improved methods, the county in this respect being in advance of most parts of Ireland. The excellent pasturage of the hilly districts supports a large number of young cattle. The proportion of tillage to pasture is roughly as I to ij. Oats, potatoes and turnips are the principal crops. The cultivation of flax, formerly an important industry, has greatly deteriorated. Poultry-keeping is a growing industry. There are manufactures of linens and coarse woollens (including blankets) ; brown earthenware, chemicals, whisky, soap and candles are also made. There are a few breweries and distilleries, and several flour and meal mills. But for the lack of enterprise the coal and iron might aid in the development of a considerable manufacturing industry.

Branches of the Great Northern railway from Portadown (Co. Armagh) and Dungannon in the south-east, and from Enniskillen (Co. Fermanagh) and Fintona, unite at Omagh, whence a line proceeds north by Newtown Stewart and Strabane to Londonderry. From Dungannon a branch runs north to Cookstown, where it joins a branch of the Northern Counties (Midland) railway. From yictoria Bridge on the Londonderry line the Castlederg light railway serves that town. The south of the county is served by the Clogher Valley light railway. Water communication includes Lough Neagh, and the Blackwater entering it, and navigable to Moy, whence the Ulster canal skirts the boundary of the county with Co. Armagh to Caledon. The Foyle is navigable to Strabane.

Population. The population (150,567 in 1901) shows a decrease among the most serious of Irish county populations, and emigration is heavy. About 55% of tbe inhabitants are Roman Catholics, 22% Protestant Episcopalians and 19% Presbyterians; about 90% constitute the rural population The chief towns are Strabane (pop. 5033), Omagh (the county town, 4789) , Dungannon (3694), Cookstown (3531) and Newtown Stewart (1062). The county comprises 8 baronies. Two county members and 2 for each of the boroughs of Augher, Clogher, Dungannon and Strabane were returned to the Irish parliament; after the Union the county returned 2 members to parliament, the borough of Dungannon also returning i; but in 1885 Dungannon was disfranchised and the county arranged in four divisions east, mid, north and south each returning one member. Assizes are held at Omagh and quarter- sessions at Clogher, Cookstown, Dungannon, Omagh and Strabane.

History. Tyrone became a principality of one of the sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages in the sth century, and from his name Eogan was called Tir Eogan, gradually altered to Tyrone. From Eogan were descended the O'Neals or O'Neills and their numerous septs. The 'family had their chief seat at Dungannon until the reign of Elizabeth, when it was burned by Hugh O'Neill to prevent it falling into the hands of Lord Mountjoy. The earldom of Tyrone had been conferred by Henry VIII. on Conn O'Neill, but on his death, when the earldom should have descended to his heir Matthew, baron of Dungannon, another son, Shane, was proclaimed chief with the consent of the people. Shane maintained a contest with English authority, but his last-remaining forces were completely defeated near the river Foyle in May 1567, and shortly afterwards he was himself killed. Tyrone was one of the counties formed at Sir John Perrot's shiring of the unreformed parts of Ulster; but his work was interrupted by the rising of Hugh O'Neill in 1596. During the insurrection of 1641 Charlemont Fort and Dungannon were captured by Sir Phelim O'Neill, and in 1645 the parliamentary torces under General Munro were signally defeated by Owen Roe O'Neill at Benburb. At the Revolution the county was for a long time in the possession of the forces of James II.

Raths are scattered over every district of the county. There is a large cromlech near Newtown Stewart, another at Tarnlaght near Coagh and another a mile above Castlederg. At Kilmeillie near Dungannon are two stone circles. There are some ruins of the ancient castle of the O'Neills, near Benburb; mention may also be made of the ruins of the castles of Newtown Stewart, Dungannon, Strabane and Ballygawley.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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