THE Connacht county of Leitrim is all but landlocked, having a coastal outlet to the Atlantic only two miles in length on Donegal Bay between the boundaries of Co. Sligo and Co. Donegal. Co. Leitrim is otherwise bounded to the west by Co. Sligo and Co. Roscommon, to the south by Co. Roscommon and Co: Longford, to the east by Co. Cavan and Co. Fermanagh, and to the north by Co. Donegal. Co. Leitrim, therefore, has boundaries with both Ulster and Leinster.
Leitrim, once the county town, has the remains of a castle and some other ancient buildings, but has lost its former importance and dwindled to a village. Carrick-on-Shannon became the chief town of the county, which had one other borough, Jamestown, built for settlers in the I7th century, and three other market-towns, Manorhamilton (which derives its name from its I7th century settler founder, Sir Frederick Hamilton), Ballinamore, and Mohill.
Anciently the county formed part of the kingdom of Breffny whose Landlords, the O'Rourkes, retained some power until the confiscations of the I6th and I7th centuries; Dromahaire had, by that time, become their principal seat. After the sequestration of the O'Rourke chieftain's territory, it was erected into the county of Leitrim in 1565. Prior to that time and the subsequent arrival of settlers the principal families besides the O'Rourkes were the subordinate septs, McGlanchy or McClancy, McGoldrick, McRannall (which has frequently become Reynolds), McGovern or Magauran, McLoughlin, McMorrow, and McTernan. By 1879 not one O'Rourke held land in the county according to a list of landowners of upwards of one acre. The commonest surnames today in the county are the ubiquitous Kelly or O'Kelly and the indigenous Reynolds in about equal numbers, followed, after a considerable gap in numbers, by Flynn and O'Flynn, McLoughlin, McHugh, Rooney and O'Rooney, McMorrow, and McTernan, all in about equal numbers, and then, in descending numerical order, Keany, McGowan, Moran, Reilly and O'Reilly, Dolan, Maguire, Beirne and O'Beirne, Gallagher, McDermon, McGovern, McSharry, Mulvey.
The county, which is thinly populated, is hilly, ranging from shaggy brown hills to lofty mountains, and with deep valleys. There are several beautiful lakes of which the best known are Lough Gill, Lough Allen, Lough Garadice, Lough Glenade, Lough Rynn, and Lough Melvin whose western shore is in the county of Leitrim and the eastern in the county of Fermanagh; many of the smaller lakes are also picturesque.
The county, in the medieval period, was thickly forested and five great forests endured into the I7th century but they have disappeared leaving bleak tracts of country. The soil of Co. Leitrim is exceptionally retentive of water which accounts, with its many lakes, for a standard joke that land in the county is sold by the gallon rather than by the acre. Despite the cold and damp climate agriculture has improved over the last century when the principal crops were potatoes, flax and oats. However, even in poorer times in the past almost every Leitrim family kept at least one cow. A great quantiy of butter was made in the county and sent in firkins to the markets whence it was exported to England. There were also large farms in the county where cattle were fattened for the Dublin and English markets. There was but little commercial activity in Co. Leitrim and scant manufacture, but coal mines were opened up in the 19th century to the east of Lough Allen and where a vein was discovered in the Munterkenny Mountains. Sandstone, quarried in the Glanfarn region, was worked into ornamental objects. In the mid-I8th century, working of the county's rich deposits of iron ore was abandoned due to lack of timber to fuel the furnaces. A few years later one O'Reilly family started an iron works designed to smelt the iron with coal but this was a financial failure due largely to lack of foresight and uneconomical experiments in trying to produce malleable iron instead of cast-iron.
Drumkeerin is a small Community nestling among the drumlin hills and mountains on the north west Shore of Lough Allen, the first of the great Shannon lakes. This an area of renowned unspoilt beauty. Amidst the rugged landscape, surrounded by mountains, lakes, and woods, a thriving business enterprise Centre helping to assist in the economic, social and cultural development of the area.
The Drumkeerin Development Association was formed in the early 1970's. In 1986, Drumkeerin Community Council was established in an attempt to redress the problems that beset a small rural Community in order to regenerate employment and to create its own Opportunities. This was done by harnessing local initiatives, talent and goodwill together with the assistance of State and other funding agencies combined with a determination to succeed. in 1992, Drumkeerin Tourist and Development Company was incorporated in order to effect these plans by the Community Council. The main thrust of the plan was to establish a number of community enterprise workshop units. This idea was decorated into the Arigna Task Force report and implemented in other locations in the region.
The companies occupying the units are enjoying great success and creating valuable employment where hitherto there was no possibility of any industry being established in the town.