Connacht

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Connaught
Connacht[1]

Flag
Coordinates: 53°47′N 9°03′W / 53.78°N 9.05°W / 53.78; -9.05Coordinates: 53°47′N 9°03′W / 53.78°N 9.05°W / 53.78; -9.05
State Ireland
CountiesGalway
Leitrim
Mayo
Roscommon
Sligo
Government
 • Teachta Dála12 Fine Gael TDs
3 Fianna Fáil TDs
2 Labour Party TDs
2 Independent TDs
1 Sinn Féin TD
Area
 • Total17,788 km2 (6,867 sq mi)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total542,547
Patron Saint: Kieran the Younger[3]
 
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Connaught
Connacht[1]

Flag
Coordinates: 53°47′N 9°03′W / 53.78°N 9.05°W / 53.78; -9.05Coordinates: 53°47′N 9°03′W / 53.78°N 9.05°W / 53.78; -9.05
State Ireland
CountiesGalway
Leitrim
Mayo
Roscommon
Sligo
Government
 • Teachta Dála12 Fine Gael TDs
3 Fianna Fáil TDs
2 Labour Party TDs
2 Independent TDs
1 Sinn Féin TD
Area
 • Total17,788 km2 (6,867 sq mi)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total542,547
Patron Saint: Kieran the Younger[3]

Connacht or Connaught[4] /ˈkɒnəkt/[5] (Irish: Connacht[6] or Cúige Chonnacht) is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the west of the Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" (in Irish: rí ruirech).

The province of Connacht has the greatest number of native Irish speakers at between 5–10% (40,000–55,000) of the population. There are several important Irish-speaking areas in Counties Galway and Mayo.

Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes. In later centuries, local government legislation has seen further sub-division of the historic counties. The province of Connacht has no official function for local government purposes, but it is an officially recognised subdivision of the Irish state. It is listed on ISO-3166-2 as one of the four provinces of Ireland and "IE-C" is attributed to Connacht as its country sub-division code. Along with counties from other provinces, Connacht lies in the North-West constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

Irish language[edit]

The Irish language is spoken in the Gaeltacht areas of Counties Mayo and Galway, the largest being in the west of County Galway. The Galway Gaeltacht is the largest Irish-speaking region in Ireland covering Cois Fharraige, parts of Connemara, Conamara Theas, Aran Islands, Dúithche Sheoigeach and Galway City Gaeltacht. Irish-speaking areas in County Mayo can be found in Iorras, Acaill and Tourmakeady. According to the 2011 census Irish is spoken outside of the education system on a daily basis by 14,600 people.[7]

There are between 40,000–55,000 Irish speakers in the province, over 30,000 in Galway and more than 6,000 in Mayo. There is also the 4,265 attending the 18 Gaelscoils (Irish language primary schools) and three Gaelcholáiste (Irish language secondary schools) outside the Gaeltacht across the province.[citation needed] Between 7% and 10% of the province are either native Irish speakers from the Gaeltacht, in Irish medium education or native Irish speakers who no longer live in Gaeltacht areas but still live in the province.

See also:

Geography and political divisions[edit]

The province stands divided into the city of Galway and five counties; Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. It is the smallest of the four Irish provinces, with a population of 542,547.

Physical geography[edit]

Glencar Waterfall at Glencar Lough, County Leitrim

The highest point of Connacht is Mweelrea (814 m), in County Mayo. The largest island in Connacht, and the island of Ireland, is Achill. The biggest lake is Lough Corrib.

Much of the west coast – Connemara, Nephin, Erris – is ruggedly inhospitable, and poorly conducive for agriculture. It contains the main mountainous areas in Connacht, including the Twelve Bens, Maumturks, Mweelrea, Croagh Patrick, Nephin Beg, Ox Mountains, Dartry Mountains.

Killary Harbour, Ireland's only natural fjord, is located at the foot of Mweelrea.

Connemara National Park is located within Connacht in County Galway.

The Aran Islands, featuring spectacular pre-historic forts such as Dún Aonghasa, have been a regular tourist destination since the 19th century.

Inland areas such as east Galway, Roscommon and Sligo have enjoyed greater historical population density due to overall good agricultural land and better infrastructure.

Rivers and lakes include River Moy, River Corrib, the Shannon, Lough Mask, Lough Melvin, Lough Allen and Lough Gill.

The largest urban area in Connacht is Galway with a population of 76,778 in the city. Other large towns in Connacht are Sligo (19,452), Castlebar (12,318) and Ballina (11,086).

Largest settlements (2011)[edit]

#SettlementCountyPopulation
1GalwayCounty Galway76,778
2SligoCounty Sligo19,452
3CastlebarCounty Mayo12,318
4BallinaCounty Mayo11,086
5AthenryCounty Galway8,242
6BallinasloeCounty Galway & County Roscommon6,659
7WestportCounty Mayo6,063
8RoscommonCounty Roscommon5,693
9LoughreaCounty Galway5,062
10OranmoreCounty Galway4,799
11Carrick-on-ShannonCounty Leitrim & County Roscommon3,980
12TuamCounty Galway3,950

Etymology[edit]

Connacht derives its name from the Connachta dynasty, who claimed descent from the mythical king Conn of the Hundred Battles. The name Connachta means "the descendants of Conn". Before the dynasty was born the province (or fifth) was known as Cóiced Ol nEchmacht.

In Irish, the province is usually called Cúige Chonnacht. Cúige denotes a portion. Because Ireland had five major kingdoms, the term came to denote a fifth, meaning a territory comprising one fifth of the island. The other fifths were Ulaid, Mide, Laighin and Mumhan. Notable kingdoms such as Aileach, Brega, Osraighe and Ui Maine, never gained the status of fifths, but were recognised as powerful kingdoms within each fifth.

An alternative anglicised spelling officially used during English and British rule is Connaught.[8] In 1874 Queen Victoria granted the title Duke of Connaught to her third son.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Listoghil Complex, Carrowmore, County Sligo, with a small satellite tomb, tomb 52, in the foreground

Up to the early historic era, Connacht then included County Clare, and was known as Cóiced Ol nEchmacht. It is said that the Fir Bolg ruled all of Ireland right before the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived. When the Fir Bolg were defeated, the Tuatha Dé Danann were so touched by the courage of their enemy that they would give them a quarter of Ireland. They chose Connacht.

Sites such as the Céide Fields, Knocknarea, Listoghil, Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery and Rathcroghan, all demonstrate intensive occupation of Connacht far back into prehistory.

Enigmatic artefacts such as the Turoe stone and the Castlestrange stone, whatever their purpose, denote the ambition and achievement of those societies, and their contact with the La Tène culture of mainland Europe.

In the early historic era (c. 400-c.500), Ol nEchmacht was not a single unified kingdom. It instead comprised dozens of major and minor túath; rulers of larger túath (Maigh Seóla, Uí Maine, Aidhne and Máenmaige) were accorded high kingly status, while peoples such as the Gailenga, Corco Moga and Senchineoil were lesser peoples given the status of Déisi. All were termed kingdoms, but according to a graded status, denoting each according the likes of lord, count, earl, king.

Early peoples and kingdoms of Ireland, c.800.

Some of the more notable peoples included the following:

For an extensive list of nations known to have resided in Connacht during this era, see Cóiced Ol nEchmacht.

By the 5th century, the pre-historic tribal polities were giving way to dynasties. Older nations such as the Auteini and Nagnatae – recorded by Ptolemy (c. AD 90–c. 168) in Geography – gave way to dynastic hereditary rule. This is demonstrated in the noun moccu in names such as Muirchu moccu Machtheni, which indicated a person was of the Machtheni people. As evidenced by kings such as Mac Cairthinn mac Coelboth (died 446) and Ailill Molt (died c. 482), even by the 5th century the gens was giving way to kinship all over Ireland, as both men were identified as of the Uí Enechglaiss and Uí Fiachrach dynasties, not of tribes. By 700, moccu had been entirely replaced by mac and hua (later Mac and Ó).

During the mid-8th century, what is now County Clare was absorbed into Thomond by the Déisi Tuisceart. It has remained a part of the province of Munster ever since.

The name Connacht arose from the most successful of these early dynasties, The Connachta. By 1050, they had extended their rule from Rathcroghan in north County Roscommon to large areas of what are now County Galway, County Mayo, County Sligo, County Leitrim. The dynastic term was from then on applied to the overall geographic area containing those counties, and has remained so ever since.

One of hundreds of small initials from the Book of Kells, in a script known as "insular majuscule," a variety of uncial script that originated in early medieval Ireland.

See also:

The Kingdom of Connacht[edit]

Ireland's main kingdoms as of 1014. Clockwise from the north-east they are Ulaidh, Airgíalla, Mide, Laigin, Munster, Connaught, Breifne and Aileach. The city-states of Dyflin, Weisforthe, Vedrafjord, Corcach and Luimneach are shown. Missing are kingdoms of Osraighe and Uí Maine.

The most successful sept of the Connachta were the Ó Conchobair of Síol Muireadaigh. They derived their surname from Conchobar mac Taidg Mór (c.800–882), from whom all subsequent Ó Conchobair Kings of Connacht descended.

Conchobar was a nominal vassal of Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid, High King of Ireland (died 862). He married Máel Sechnaill's daughter, Ailbe, and had sons Áed mac Conchobair (died 888), Tadg mac Conchobair (died 900) and Cathal mac Conchobair (died 925), all of whom subsequently reigned. Conchobar and his sons's descendants expanded the power of the Síl Muiredaig south into Ui Maine, west into Iar Connacht, and north into Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe and Bréifne.

By the reign of Áed in Gai Bernaig (1046–1067), Connacht's kings ruled much what is now the province. Yet the Ó Conchobair's contended for control with their cousions, the Ua Ruairc of Uí Briúin Bréifne. Four Ua Ruairc's achieved rule of the kingdom – Fergal Ua Ruairc (956–967), Art Uallach Ua Ruairc (1030–1046, Áed Ua Ruairc(1067–1087) and Domnall Ua Ruairc (1098–1102. In addition, the usurper Flaithbertaigh Ua Flaithbertaigh gained the kingship in 1092 by the expedient of blinding King Ruaidrí na Saide Buide. After 1102 the Ua Ruairc's and Ua Flaithbertaigh's were subborned and confined to their own kingdoms of Bréifne and Iar Connacht. From then till the death of the last king in 1474, the kingship was held exclusively by the Ó Conchobair's.

The single most substantial sub-kingdom in Connacht was Uí Maine, which at it maximum extant enclosed central and south County Roscommon, central, east-central and south County Galway, along with the territory of Lusmagh in Munster. Their rulers bore the surname Ó Cellaigh.

Though the Ó Cellaigh's were never elevated to the provincial kingship, Ui Maine existed as a semi-independent kingdom both before and after the demise of the Connacht kingship. Notable rulers of Ui Maine included

Kings and High Kings[edit]

Rory O'Connor Stone Carving.jpg
Stone carving of Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair from Cong Abbey

Under kings Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (1088–1156) and his son Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (c.1120–1198) Connacht became one of the five dominant kingdoms on the island. Tairrdelbach and Ruaidrí became the first men from west of the Shannon to gain the title Ard-Rí na hÉireann (High King of Ireland). In the latter's case, he was recognised all over the island in 1166 as Rí Éireann, or King of Ireland.

Tairrdelbach was highly innovative, building the first stone castles in Ireland, and more controversially, introducing the policy of primogeniture to a hostile Gaelic polity. Castles were built in the 1120s at Galway (where he based his fleet), Dunmore, Sligo and Ballinasloe, where he dug a new six-mile canal to divert the river Suck around the castle of Dun Ló. Churches, monasteries and dioceses were re-founded or created, works such as the Corpus Missal, the High Cross of Tuam and the Cross of Cong were sponsored by him.

Tairrdelbach annexed the Kingdom of Mide; its rulers, the Clann Cholmáin, became his vassals. This brought two of Ireland's five main kingdoms under the direct control of Connacht. He also asserted control over Dublin, which was even then recognised as the national (political).

His son, Ruaidrí, became king of Connacht "without any opposition" in 1156. One of his first acts as king was arresting three of his twenty-two brothers, "Brian Breifneach, Brian Luighneach, and Muircheartach Muimhneach" to prevent them from usurping him. He blinded Brian Breifneach as an extra precaution.

Ruaidrí was compelled to recognise Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn as Ard-Rí, though he went to war with him in 1159. Mac Lochlainn's murder in 1166 left Ruaidrí the unopposed ruler of all Ireland. He was crowned in 1166 at Dublin, "took the kingship of Ireland ...[and was] inaugurated king as honourably as any king of the Gaeidhil was ever inaugurated;" He was the first and last native ruler who was recognised by the Gaelic-Irish as full King of Ireland.

However, his expulsion of Dermot MacMurrough later that year brought about the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. Ruaidrí's inept response to events led to rebellion by his sons in 1177, and his deposition by Conchobar Maenmaige Ua Conchobair in 1183.

Ruaidrí died at Cong in 1198, noted as the annals as late "King of Connacht and of All Ireland, both the Irish and the English."

Had the Norman invasion of Ireland not occurred, the Ó Conchobair dynasty may well have established themselves as the royal family of Ireland. The senior head of the clan, the O'Conor Don, is still recognised as the presumptive claimant to the throne of Ireland, should it ever be re-established.

High medieval era[edit]

Connacht was first raided by the Anglo-Normans in 1177 but not until 1237 did encastellation begin under Richard Mor de Burgh (c. 1194–1242). New towns were founded (Athenry, Headford, Castlebar) or former settlements expanded (Sligo, Roscommon, Loughrea, Ballymote). Both Gael and Gall acknowledged the supreme lordship of the Earl of Ulster; after the murder of the last earl in 1333, the Anglo-Irish split into different factions, the most powerful emerging as Bourke of Mac William Eighter in north Connacht, and Burke of Clanricarde in the south. They were regularly in and out of alliance with equally powerful Gaelic lords and kings such as Ó Conchobair of Síol Muireadaigh, Ó Cellaigh of Ui Maine and Mac Diarmata of Moylurg, in addition to extraprovincial powers such as Ó Briain of Thomond, FitzGerald of Kildare, Ó Domhnaill of Tír Chonaill.

Lesser lords of both races included Mac Donnchadha, Mac Goisdelbh, Mac Bhaldrin, Mac Siurtain, Ó hEaghra, Ó Flaithbeheraigh, Ó Dubhda, Ó Seachnasaigh, Ó Manacháin, Seoighe, Ó Máille, Ó Ruairc, Ó Madadháin, Bairéad, Ó Máel Ruanaid, Ó hEidhin, Ó Finnaghtaigh, Ó Fallmhain, Breathneach, Mac Airechtaig, Ó Neachtain, Ó hAllmhuráin, Ó Fathaigh.

Galway map of c. 1651 displaying the medieval town, which now forms the modern city centre

Independent from both Gael and Gall was the town of Galway, the only significant urban area in the province. After expelling the Burkes of Clanricarde, its inhabitants governed themselves under charter of the king of England. Its merchant families, The Tribes of Galway, traded within Ireland, as well as England, France and Spain till it was reckoned one of Ireland's most eminent towns. It was something of an oddity as it was ruled by a merchant middle class of elected freemen, whereas both Gaelic-Irish and Anglo-Irish lordships were inherited by those of noble blood, or violently seized. Its mayor enjoyed supreme power but only for the length of his office, rarely more than a year. Galway's inhabitants were of mixed descent, its families bearing surnames of Gaelic, French, English, Welsh, Norman and other origins. In contrast to much of the rest of the province, they were literate and multi-lingual and actively sought the protection of the English Crown. They however remained devout Catholics, which displeased the Anglo-Irish administration, and later, the House of Stuart.

Connacht was the site of two of the bloodiest battles in Irish history, the Second Battle of Athenry (1316) and the Battle of Knockdoe (1504). The casualties of both battles were measured in several thousand, unusually high for Irish warfare. A third battle at Aughrim in 1691 resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths.

All of Connacht's lordships remained in states of full or semi-independence from other Gaelic-Irish and Anglo-Irish rulers till the late 16th century, when the Tudor conquest of Ireland (c. 1534–1603) brought all under the direct rule of King James I of England. The counties were created from c. 1569 onwards.

Confederate and Williamite Wars[edit]

During the 17th century representatives from Connacht played leading roles in Confederate Ireland and during the Williamite War in Ireland. Its main town, Galway, endured several sieges (see Sieges of Galway), while warfare, plague, famine and sectarian massacres killed about a third of the population by 1655.

One of the last battles fought in pre-20th century Ireland occurred in Connacht, the Battle of Aughrim on 12 July 1691.

Early modern era[edit]

Connacht was mainly at peace between 1691 and 1798. A population explosion in the early 18th century was curbed by the Irish Famine, which led to many deaths and some emigration. Its memory has been overshadowed by the Great Famine (Ireland) one hundred years later.

The Republic of Connacht had a brief existence in 1798 with French military support.

Learned people from the province in this era included the following:

The Famine to World War One[edit]

Connacht was the worst hit area in Ireland during the Great Famine, in particular counties Mayo and Roscommon. In the Census of 1841, the population of Connacht stood at 1,418,859. Its highest ever. By 1851, the population had fallen to 1,010,031 and would continue to decline until the late 20th century. [1]

Connacht in the Annals of Ulster[edit]

Early references[edit]

Historical references to Connacht are generally accepted from the early 6th century onwards, commencing with the battle of Claenloch between the Ui Fiachrach Aidhne and the Ui Maine. It is though that Claenloch is what is now called Coole Lough, four miles north of Gort, in County Galway.

References 925–1039[edit]

References to Vikings[edit]

Tor and Crioslach and Usban and Gotmann and Allgot [settled] in Connacht, according to Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (768.4, pp.44–45, volume III, leabhar na nGenealach). The Annals of Ulster have the following references concerning Viking activities:

References 1041–1131[edit]

A variety of annals and chronicles were kept in Ireland from c. 500 A.D. onwards. The following are extracts from the Annals of Ulster concerning the Connacht region from 1041 to 1166.

The years 1132 to 1155 are missing from all extant editions of the Annals of Ulster.

References 1156–1166[edit]

References 1167–1187[edit]

References to the Arts c.1100 to 1700[edit]

Literary and historical works were produced in Connacht during these centuries included the Book of Ballymote (c.1391), the Great Book of Lecan (between 1397 and 1418), An Leabhar Breac (c. 1411), Egerton 1782 (early 16th century), and The Book of the Burkes (c.1580). Writers and learned people of the times included:

Signature page from the Annals of the Four Masters, Peregrine Ó Duibhgeannain's signature is last in the list

Politics[edit]

Connacht–Ulster was one of Ireland's four regional constituencies for elections to the European Parliament until it was superseded in 2004 by the new constituency of North-West.

Sport in Connacht[edit]

See also:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-1, 19 February 2010, which gives "Connaught" as the official English name of the Province and "Connacht" as the official Irish name of the Province and cites "Ordnance Survey Office, Dublin 1993" as its source – http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_3166-2_newsletter_ii-1_corrected_2010-02-19.pdf
  2. ^ "Province Connacht". Central Statistics Office. 2011. 
  3. ^ Challoner, Richard. A Memorial of Ancient British Piety: or, a British Martyrology, p. 127. W. Needham, 1761. Accessed 14 March 2013.
  4. ^ ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-1, 19 February 2010, which gives "Connaught" as the official English name of the Province and "Connacht" as the official Irish name of the Province and cites "Ordnance Survey Office, Dublin 1993" as its source – http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_3166-2_newsletter_ii-1_corrected_2010-02-19.pdf
  5. ^ John Wells
  6. ^ ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-1, 19 February 2010, which gives "Connaught" as the official English name of the Province and "Connacht" as the official Irish name of the Province and cites "Ordnance Survey Office, Dublin 1993" as its source – http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_3166-2_newsletter_ii-1_corrected_2010-02-19.pdf
  7. ^ "Province Connacht". Central Statistics Office. 2011. 
  8. ^ The spelling Connaught reflects the former English practice—in Ireland, though not in Scotland—of representing the Gaelic voiceless velar fricative /x/ as gh (compare lough for loch), gh having been used in Middle English for the same sound. Though this sound later disappeared from standard English, the spelling of words like "thought" and "caught" remained unaltered—and in a further anglicisation, the "new" English pronunciation of -aught was even applied in Britain to titles like the Duke of Connaught. In Ireland, the original pronunciation remained intact, the Gaelic-style spelling Connacht now used more often in English. It may have gained currency by mistranslation of the Irish name into English: in Irish, the form Cúige Chonnacht 'province of Connacht' is almost always used, and this may have led to people misunderstanding genitive case Connacht as the Gaelic version instead of nominative case Connachta.

External links[edit]