Our reference are to County Galway; but in fact the concept of Galway as a county is relatively new, when compared with the history of the Larkins. Just as Ireland is sub-divided into the four ancient Gaelic Provinces (Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht), we may also consider a County as a subdivision of a province, and a barony as a subdivision of the county. The outlines of this county were drawn up in the 1580's to assist the British administration in Ireland at the time. It continued to evolve over a long period of time, and parts of it were still changing up the the end of the 19th century. The area was administered as three separate counties up to quite recently - the West riding, the East riding and the County of the Town of Galway. This has created certain historic anomalies - for example, parts of County Roscommon were originally in County Galway, so the Barony of Ballymoe straddles the border between the two; and the parish of Lusmagh now in County Offaly was originally in County Galway - making it the only part of Connacht east of the Shannon. In fact, the Parish of Lusmagh is still a part of Clonfert Diocese in Galway. Here's what today's County Galway looks like:

The county has the wild Atlantic ocean on one side (They say that on a clear day, one can see Boston); the Shannon river on the other, and Lough Corrib in the middle. Not to mention Lough Mask to the north, and Lough Derg at the south-east corner. The Aran islands guard the entrance to the bay - historically associated with County Clare, but a part of County Galway since Cromwellian times. County Galway is practically surrounded by water, and has the second-largest lake in Ireland (Lough Corrib) in the middle as well. In fact, the lake and its associated river Corrib split the county in two; the limsestone east and the granite west. West of the lake, the land is actually the poorest in all of Ireland.  And that's what Cromwell had in mind when the land of the remainder of the country was divided up amongst his adverntures, and Connacht was reserved for those Gaelic chieftains driven out of the rest of Ireland. It was then that he coined his notorious phrase, saying the mere Irish could go "to Hell or to Connacht".  With a small exception, Connacht remained unplanted, and within Connacht, Galway remained the least planted county of all Ireland. The exception referred to was the 5 mile strip corridor Cromwell planned for the Connacht border, which surrounded the whole province (including County Clare, which he said had "not enough water to feed a man, not enough trees to hang a man, and not enough earth to bury a man"). This was initially intended to protect the coastal strip from access by England's enemies, and likewise to protect the shores of the Shannon river which forms the provincial border. County Galway lost out both ways, as Galway has a large coastline, and is also backed by the Shannon river. This latter was a factor in the movement of the Galway Larkins. Their ancestral homeland around Meelick is located on the banks of the Shannon river. Sure enough, we find several Larkin transplantations within County Galway in the aftermath of the Cromwellian settlement. Several Larkin landowners were moved westwards towards the Loughrea area; but over the years have gradually worked their way back eastwards again. However, there were no transplantations of Larkins from any other county into the Galway area. Back to the geography - the Western half of the county is very mountainous, rugged, windswept and wet; with lots of mountains, rivers, lakes, barren bog land and rocky terrain. It supports a relatively low population, except along the coastal strip, where fishing added something to lifestyles. Today it also benefits from a substantial tourism boom. The eastern half of the county , by way of contrast, is relatively green, flat & fertile.

The Coat of Arms of Galway, which reflect the maritime location of the area, as well as a long history of maritime trade, are shown below. The County Council have recently updated the shield for County Galway, and this is shown below in the centre. On the right are the arms of the historic province of Connacht.


Copyright © 1999-2008 by Pádraic Ó Lorcáin Uasal.  All rights reserved.
Revised: 08 Jun 2008 11:38:13.

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