County Laois facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
County Laois
Contae Laoise
Coat of arms of County Laois
Coat of arms
Motto: I bpáirt leis an bpobal  (Irish)
"In partnership with the community"
Location of County Laois
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
Dáil Éireann Laois
EU Parliament Midlands–North-West
Area
 • Total 1,720 km2 (660 sq mi)
Area rank 23rd
Population (2016) 84,732
 • Rank 23rd
Vehicle index
mark code
LS
Website www.laois.ie

County Laois (/ˈlʃ/ LEESH; Irish: Contae Laoise) is a county in Ireland. It is located in the south of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster, and was formerly known as Queen's County. The modern county takes its name from Loígis, a medieval kingdom.

Laois County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county is 80,559, according to the 2011 census - 20% higher than it was in the 2006 census, which is the highest percentage of population growth in the country.

History

Prehistoric

The first people in Laois were bands of hunters and gatherers who passed through the county about 8,500 years ago. They hunted in the forests that covered Laois and fished in its rivers, gathering nuts and berries to supplement their diets.

Next came Ireland’s first farmers. These people of the Neolithic period (4000 to 2500 BC) cleared forests and planted crops. Their burial mounds remain in Clonaslee and Cuffsborough.

Starting around 2500 BC, the people of the Bronze Age lived in Laois. They produced weapons, tools and golden objects. Visitors to the county can see a stone circle they left behind at Monamonry, as well as the remains of their hill forts at Clopook and Monelly. Skirk, near Borris-in-Ossory, has a Bronze Age standing stone and ring fort. The body of Cashel Man indicates that ritual killing took place around 2000 BC.

The next stage is known as the pre-Christian Celtic Iron Age. For the first time iron appeared in Ireland, as factions fought bloody battles for control of the land. At Ballydavis, archaeologists have discovered ring barrows that date from this time period.

The county name derives from Loígis, of which the modern county is only a part. In the 11th century, its dynastic rulers adopted the surname Ua/Ó Mórdha. They claimed descent from a member of the Red Branch Knights

By the first century AD, the western third of Laois was part of the Kingdom of Ossory. The eastern part was divided roughly into seven parts, which were ruled by the Seven Septs of Loígis: O’More (O’Moore), O’Lalor, O’Doran, O’Dowling, O’Devoy (O’Deevy), O’Kelly and McEvoy.

Ireland900
Map of Ireland around 900 AD. The western third of Laois was part of the Kingdom of Osraige.

Introduction of Christianity

When Ireland was Christianized, holy men and women founded religious communities in Loígis. St. Ciarán of Saighir (called "The Elder" to distinguish him from the younger St. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise) founded his monastic habitation in the western Slieve Bloom Mountains as the first bishop of Ossory, reputedly before St. Patrick. His mother Liadán had an early convent nearby at what is now Killyon. Between 550 and 600, St. Canice founded Aghaboe Abbey and St. Mochua founded a religious community at Timahoe. An early Christian community lived at Dun Masc or Masc’s fort, on the Rock of Dunamase.

The Synod of Rathbreasail that established the Irish dioceses was held near Mountrath in 1111, moving the Church away from its monastic base. As religious orders with strong ties to Rome replaced older religious communities, the wooden buildings of the early Christian churches in Laois gave way to stone monasteries. The Augustinians and Dominicans established themselves at Aghaboe Abbey, while the Cistercians took over an older religious community at Abbeyleix.

Norman Invasion

The Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169-71 affected Laois as it was a part of the Kingdom of Leinster. In Laois, the fortress on the Rock of Dunamase was part of the dowry of the Irish princess Aoife, who was given in marriage in 1170 to the Norman warrior Strongbow. Advancing Normans surveyed the county from wooden towers built on top of earthen mounds, known as mottes. They also built stone fortresses, such as Lea Castle, just outside Portarlington. Several of the county’s towns were first established as Norman boroughs, including Castletown, Durrow and Timahoe.

From 1175 until about 1325, Normans controlled the best land in the county, while Gaelic society retreated to the bogs, forests and the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The early 14th century saw a Gaelic revival, as the chieftains of Loígis caused the Normans to withdraw. The Dempseys seized Lea Castle, while Dunamase came into the ownership of the O’Mores. Examples of tower houses built by the Irish Mac Giolla Phádraig chieftains are found at Ballaghmore and Cullahill Castle, both decorated with Sheela na gigs.

In 1548, the English confiscated the lands of the O’Mores, and built "Campa," known as the Fort of Leix, today’s Portlaoise.

County status

Emo, County Laois - geograph.org.uk - 1811906
A church in Emo

It was shired in 1556 by Queen Mary as Queen's County, covering the countries of Leix (Loígis), Slewmarge, Irry, and that part of Glimnaliry on the southwest side of the River Barrow. Laois received its present Irish language name following the Irish War of Independence. Laois was also sometimes spelt "Leix". Portlaoise (previously Maryborough) is the county town.

Loígis was the subject of two Plantations or colonisations by a mix of Scottish and English settlers. There was a more successful plantation in the county in the 17th century, which expanded the existing Scottish and English settlement with more landowners and tenants from both Scotland and England. Neither plantation was fully successful due to a lack of tenants and because of continuous raids and attacks by the O'Moores.

In 1659, a group of Quakers settled in Mountmellick, while a group of Huguenots were given refuge in Portarlington in 1666 after their service to William of Orange in the Williamite War in Ireland.

What followed was a period of relative calm. Anglo-Irish landowners enclosed the land and built fine houses, including Durrow Castle, Heywood House and Emo Court. In 1836, a branch of the Grand Canal stretched to Mountmellick, further stimulating industry in that town.

The Great Famine of 1845-49 devastated the county. The county’s workhouses could not cope with the number of destitute people seeking shelter. By the time the workhouse opened at Donaghmore in 1853, many of the poorest had emigrated or died.

The county was formerly known as Queen's County (Irish: Contae na Banríona) until its name was informally changed on establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. The county's name was formerly spelt as Laoighis and Leix. Despite the county's name being upheld as Laois through the 2001 Local Government Act, no legislation was ever enacted after independence explicitly changing the name from Queen's County, the name formally established under the 1898 Local Government Act which continued to have legal effect. When land is sold in the county the relevant title deeds are still updated as being in Queen's County.

Geography and political subdivisions

Portlaoise, County Laois - geograph.org.uk - 1805202
The M7 near Portlaoise

Laois is the 23rd largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and also has the 23rd largest population. It is the seventh largest of Leinster’s 12 counties in size and tenth largest in population. The county is landlocked and, uniquely, does not border any other county which touches the coast. This is known as being doubly landlocked. It is therefore considered to be "the most landlocked county in Ireland".

Baronies

There are nine baronies in the county:

  • Ballyadams
  • Cullinagh
  • Maryborough East
  • Maryborough West
  • Portnehinch
  • Slievemargue
  • Stradbally
  • Tinnehinch
  • Upper Ossory

Towns and villages

ViewFromDunamase
Countryside south of Portlaoise.
  • Abbeyleix
  • Aghaboe
  • Arles
  • Ballacolla
  • Ballaghmore
  • Ballickmoyler
  • Ballinakill
  • Ballybrittas
  • Ballybrophy
  • Ballyhide
  • Ballyfin
  • Ballylinan
  • Ballyroan
  • Barrowhouse
  • Borris-in-Ossory
  • Camross
  • Castletown
  • Clonaslee
  • Coolrain
  • Cullohill
  • Donaghmore
  • Durrow
  • Emo
  • Errill
  • The Heath
  • Jamestown
  • Killeshin
  • Mountmellick
  • Mountrath
  • Newtown
  • Portarlington
  • Portlaoise
  • Rathdowney
  • Rosenallis
  • Shanahoe
  • Stradbally
  • The Swan
  • Timahoe
  • Vicarstown

Climate

For climatological information please visit: durrow.ie for averages and extremes.

The weather station at east Durrow was set up in May 2008. The equipment used is a Davis Vantage Pro II that measures temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and barometric pressure. This data is transmitted every 2 seconds to a website where the data can be freely accessed. The station also reports to the Irish Weather Network which displays live weather data from similar stations all around Ireland.

In addition, a Met Éireann climatological station (Number: 472) was installed in September 2010 and the data collected is sent to headquarters in Glasnevin, Dublin on a monthly basis. The climatological station measures rainfall in a manual gauge, soil temperatures at 5 cm, 10 cm and 20 cm depths, air temperature including wet-bulb, daily maximum and daily minimum temperatures. The climatological station is a project that is envisaged to last thirty years and collect a climate profile for Durrow and Laois in general.

Places of interest

RockDunmase22
Rock of Dunamase
  • Slieve Bloom Mountains
  • Rock of Dunamase
  • Emo Court
  • Castle Durrow
  • Timahoe Round Tower
  • Stradbally Hall
  • Mountmellick Quaker Museum
  • Ballyfin House
  • Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise
  • Portlaoise Leisure Centre
  • 18-hole golf courses include: Abbeyleix Road in Portlaoise; The Heritage in Killenard; The Heath; Abbeyleix and Rathdowney.

Also County Laois has a mixture of castles, mansions, forts and old structures that are now in ruins but are still worth visiting.

Demography

The population of County Laois is expanding rapidly, given its easy commute to the employment centres of Kildare and Dublin, and affordable housing in pleasant surroundings. Laois’s population growth during the period 2002-2006 (14%) has been stronger than the National average (8.2%), as follows:

  • 2002 ... 58,774
  • 2006 ... 67,012 ... +14.01%
  • 2011 ... 80,559

Culture

Performing Arts

The county's largest theatre is the Dunamaise Theatre in Portlaoise which opened in 1999. There are many festivals held in Laois each year including:

  • Durrow Die-Cast Model and Toy Show
  • Halloween Howls
  • Laois Bealtaine Festival
  • Half Door Club Music & Set Dance Festival
  • Rose of Tralee Regional Finals
  • Laois Fleadh
  • Heartlands Rally
  • Gordon Bennett Classic Car Run
  • Laois Walks Festival
  • Festival Francais Portarlington
  • Durrow Scarecrow Festival
  • Stradbally National Steam Rally
  • National Ploughing Championships
  • Electric Picnic
  • Maureen Culleton Festival of Dance
  • B.A.R.E in the Woods
  • Fisherstown Trad Festival
  • Ossory Agricultural Show
  • William Edmundson & Friends Gathering
  • Mountmellick Drama Festival
  • Laois International Golf Challenge
  • Laois Fleadh

People

  • John George Adair (1823–1885), builder of Glenveagh Castle and financier of JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle.
  • Darina Allen (1953- ), TV chef.
  • Brendan O'Brien, Sports Journalist with the Irish Examiner
  • John Barrett (1753–1821), Vice Provost, Trinity College, 1807–1821.
  • Sir Jonah Barrington (1760–1834).
  • Elizabeth Barton of the Barton Family, Straffan and Lisduff
  • Claire Byrne (1976- ), TV presenter/newscaster, best known for co-presenting RTÉ's The Daily Show
  • Tony Byrne, former professional footballer who played for Ireland.
  • William Cosby, governor of New York from 1732 to 1736.
  • Evelyn Cusack Met Éireann meteorologist
  • William Dargan (1799–1867), responsible for the Industrial Exhibition, 1853.
  • Cecil Day-Lewis (1904–1972), British Poet-Laureate, 1967–1972.
  • Dr. Daniel Delany (1747–1814), Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
  • Eileen Dunne (1958- ), TV newscaster.
  • Mark Doheny (1982 - ),Comedian.
  • Denis Dynon, recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Oliver J. Flanagan (1920–1987), Minister for Defence, 1976–1977.
  • Stephen Hunt (1981-), professional footballer playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ireland.
  • James Fintan Lalor (1807–1849), Young Irelander.
  • Peter Lalor (1827–1889), leader of the Eureka Stockade miners revolt, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
  • James Macauley (1889-1945), former Ireland soccer international player.
  • Dr. Bartholomew Mosse (1712–1759), founder, Rotunda Maternity Hospital, Dublin.
  • Valentine O'Hara (1875–1945), author and authority on Russia and the Baltic states.
  • Kevin O'Higgins (1892–1927), Irish Free State Minister for Justice.
  • Bernard O'Shea, comedian, best known for his roles on RTÉ's Republic of Telly.
  • Brian Rigney, former Ireland rugby international.
  • Robin Roe (1928-2010), 19 times capped Irish rugby international who also played for the British and Irish Lions.
  • Hon. William Russell Grace (1832–1904), mayor of New York, 1880-1885.
  • John Shaw (1773–1823), U.S. Naval Officer.
  • Robert Sheehan (1988- ), actor best known for playing Nathan Young on E4's comedy drama, Misfits.
  • Kivas Tully (1820–1905), architect, Trinity College, Toronto, the Custom House and the Bank of Montreal.
  • Zach Tuohy (1989-), professional Australian rules footballer, currently playing for Carlton Football Club.
  • Colm Begley (1986-), Gaelic football player. He played Australian rules football for the Brisbane Lions in the AFL.
  • Professor Noel Fitzpatrick (1967-), Veterinary Surgeon for Channel 4 television series The Supervet.
  • Fionn mac Cumhaill, was a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology

Twin Towns

County Laois is a participant in the Twin Towns program and has a relationship with the following municipalities:

United States Arlington, Massachusetts, United States
Canada Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada (2008)
France Coulounieix-Chamiers, France (1996)
United States Franklin, Tennessee, United States (2008)

County Laois Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.