1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kerry

KERRY, a county of Ireland in the province of Munster, bounded W. by the Atlantic Ocean, N. by the estuary of the Shannon, which separates it from Clare, E. by Limerick and Cork, and S.E. by Cork. The area is 1,159,356 acres, or 1811 sq. m., the county being the fifth of the Irish counties in extent. Kerry, with its combination of mountain, sea and plain, possesses some of the finest scenery of the British Islands. The portion of the county south of Dingle Bay consists of mountain masses intersected by narrow valleys. Formerly the mountains were covered by a great forest of fir, birch and yew, which was nearly all cut down to be used in smelting iron, and the constant pasturage of cattle prevents the growth of young trees. In the north-east towards Killarney the hills rise abruptly into the ragged range of Macgillicuddy’s Reeks, the highest summit of which, Carntual (Carrantuohill), has a height of 3414 ft. The next highest summit is Caper (3200 ft.), and several others are over 2500 ft. Lying between the precipitous sides of the Tomies, the Purple Mountains and the Reeks is the famous Gap of Dunloe. In the Dingle promontory Brandon Mountain attains a height of 3127 ft. The sea-coast, for the most part wild and mountainous, is much indented by inlets, the largest of which, Tralee Bay, Dingle Bay and Kenmare River, lie in synclinal troughs, the anticlinal folds of the rocks forming extensive promontories. Between Kenmare River and Dingle Bay the land is separated by mountain ridges into three valleys. The extremity of the peninsula between Dingle Bay and Tralee Bay is very precipitous, and Mount Brandon, rising abruptly from the ocean, is skirted at its base (in part) by a road from which magnificent views are obtained. From near the village of Ballybunion to Kilconey Point near the Shannon there is a remarkable succession of caves, excavated by the sea. One of these caves inspired Tennyson with some lines in “Merlin and Vivien,” which he wrote on the spot. The principal islands are the picturesque Skelligs, Valencia Island and the Blasquet Islands.

The principal rivers are the Blackwater, which, rising in the Dunkerran Mountains, forms for a few miles the boundary line between Kerry and Cork, and then passes into the latter county; the Ruaughty, which with a course resembling the arc of a circle falls into the head of the Kenmare River; the Inny and Ferta, which flow westward, the one into Ballinskellig Bay and the other into Valencia harbour; the Flesk, which flows northward through the lower Lake of Killarney, after which it takes the name of Laune, and flows north-westward to Dingle Bay; the Caragh, which rises in the mountains of Dunkerran, after forming several lakes falls into Castlemaine harbour; the Maine, which flows from Castle Island and south-westward to the sea at Castlemaine harbour, receiving the northern Flesk, which rises in the mountains that divide Cork from Kerry; and the Feale, Gale and Brick, the junction of which forms the Cashin, a short tidal river which flows into the estuary of the Shannon. The lakes of Kerry are not numerous, and none is of great size, but those of Killarney (q.v.) form one of the most important features in the striking and picturesque mountain scenery amidst which they are situated. The other principal lakes are Lough Currane (Waterville Lake) near Ballinskellig, and Lough Caragh near Castlemaine harbour. Salmon and trout fishing with the rod is extensively prosecuted in all these waters. Near the summit of Mangerton Mountain an accumulation of water in a deep hollow forms what is known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, the surplus water, after making a succession of cataracts, flowing into Muckross Lake at the foot of the mountain. There are chalybeate mineral springs near Killarney, near Valencia Island, and near the mouth of the Inny; sulphurous chalybeate springs near Dingle, Castlemaine and Tralee; and a saline spring at Magherybeg in Corkaguiney, which bursts out of clear white sand a little below high-water mark. Killarney is an inland centre widely celebrated and much visited on account of its scenic attractions; there are also several well-known coast resorts, among them Derrynane, at the mouth of Kenmare Bay, the residence of Daniel O’Connell the “liberator”; Glenbeigh on Dingle Bay, Parknasilla on Kenmare Bay, Waterville (an Atlantic telegraph station) between Ballinskellig Bay and Lough Currane, and Tarbert, a small coast town on the Shannon estuary. Others of the smaller villages have grown into watering-places, such as Ballybunion, Castlegregory and Portmagee.

Geology.—Kerry includes on the north and east a considerable area of Carboniferous shales and sandstones, reaching the coal-measures, with unproductive coals, east of Listowel and on the Glanruddery Mountains. The Carboniferous Limestone forms a fringe to these beds, and is cut off by the sea at Knockaneen Bay, Tralee and Castlemaine. In all the great promontories, Old Red Sandstone, including Jukes’s “Glengariff Grits,” forms the mountains, while synclinal hollows of Carboniferous Limestone have become submerged to form marine inlets between them. The Upper Lake of Killarney lies in a hollow of the Old Red Sandstone, which here rises to its greatest height in Macgillicuddy’s Reeks; Lough Leane however, with its low shores, rests on Carboniferous Limestone. In the Dingle promontory the Old Red Sandstone is strikingly unconformable on the Dingle beds and the Upper Silurian series; the latter include volcanic rocks of Wenlock age. The evidences of local glaciation in this county, especially on the wild slopes of the mountains, are as striking as in North Wales. A copper-mine was formerly worked at Muckross, near Killarney, in which cobalt ores also occurred. Slate is quarried in Valencia Island.

Fauna.—Foxes are numerous, and otters and badgers are not uncommon. The alpine hare is very abundant. The red deer inhabits the mountains round Killarney. The golden eagle, once frequently seen in the higher mountain regions, is now rarely met. The sea eagle haunts the lofty marine cliffs, the mountains and the rocky islets. The osprey is occasionally seen, and also the peregrine falcon. The merlin is common. The common owl is indigenous, the long-eared owl resident, and the short-eared owl a regular winter visitor. Rock pigeons breed on the sea-cliffs, and the turtle-dove is an occasional visitant. The great grey seal is found in Brandon and Dingle bays.

Climate and Agriculture.—Owing to the vicinity of the sea and the height of the mountains, the climate is very moist and unsuitable for the growth of cereals, but it is so mild even in winter that arbutus and other trees indigenous to warm climates grow in the open air, and several flowering plants are found which are unknown in England. In the northern parts the land is generally coarse and poor, except in the valleys, where a rich soil has been formed by rocky deposits. In the Old Red Sandstone valleys there are many very fertile regions, and several extensive districts now covered by bog admit of easy reclamation so as to form very fruitful soil, but other tracts of boggy land scarcely promise a profitable return for labour expended on their reclamation. Over one-third of the total area is quite barren. The numbers of live stock of every kind are generally increased or sustained. Dairy-farming is very largely followed. The Kerry breed of cattle—small finely-shaped animals, black or red in colour, with small upturned horns—are famed for the quality both of their flesh and milk, and are in considerable demand for the parks surrounding mansion-houses. The “Dexter,” a cross between the Kerry and an unknown breed, is larger but without its fine qualities. Little regard is paid to the breed of sheep, but those in most common use have been crossed with a merino breed from Spain. Goats share with sheep the sweet pasturage of the higher mountain ridges, while cattle occupy the lower slopes.

Other Industries.—In former times there was a considerable linen trade in Kerry, but this is now nearly extinct, the chief manufacture being that of coarse woollens and linens for home use. At Killarney a variety of articles are made from the wood of the arbutus. A considerable trade in agricultural produce is carried on at Tralee, Dingle and Kenmare, and in slate and stone at Valencia. The deep-sea and coast fisheries are prosperous, and there are many small fishing settlements along the coast, but the centres of the two fishery districts are Valencia and Dingle. Salmon fishing is also an industry, for which the district centres are Kenmare and Killarney.

Communications.—The Great Southern & Western railway almost monopolizes the lines in the county. The principal line traverses the centre of the county, touching Killarney, Tralee and Listowel, and passing ultimately to Limerick. Branches are from Headford to Kenmare; Farranfore to Killorglin, Cahersiveen and Valencia harbour, Tralee to Fenit and to Castlegregory; and the Listowel and Ballybunion railway. All these are lines to the coast. The Tralee and Dingle railway connects these two towns. The only inland branch is from Tralee to Castleisland.

Population and Administration.—The population (179,136 in 1891; 165,726 in 1901) decreases to an extent about equal to the average of the Irish counties, but the emigration returns are among the heaviest. The chief towns are Tralee (the county town, pop. 9867); Killarney (5656), Listowel (3605) and Cahersiveen or Cahirciveen (2013), while Dingle, Kenmare, Killorglin and Castleisland are smaller towns. The county comprises 9 baronies, and contains 85 civil parishes. Assizes are held at Tralee, and quarter sessions at Cahersiveen, Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney, Listowel and Tralee. The headquarters of the constabulary force is at Tralee. Previous to the Union the county returned eight members to the Irish parliament, two for the county, and two for each of the boroughs of Tralee, Dingle and Ardfert. At the Union the number was reduced to three, two for the county and one for the borough of Tralee; but the divisions now number four: north, south, east and west, each returning one member. The county is in the Protestant diocese of Limerick and the Roman Catholic dioceses of Kerry and Limerick.

History.—The county is said to have derived its name from Ciar, who with his tribe, the Ciarraidhe, is stated to have inhabited about the beginning of the Christian era the territory lying between Tralee and the Shannon. That portion lying south of the Maine was at a later period included in the kingdom of Desmond (q.v.). Kerry suffered frequently from invasions of the Danes in the 9th and 10th centuries, until they were finally overthrown at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. In 1172 Dermot MacCarthy, king of Cork and Desmond, made submission to Henry II. on certain conditions, but was nevertheless gradually compelled to retire within the limits of Kerry, which is one of the areas generally considered to have been made shire ground by King John. An English adventurer, Raymond le Gros, received from this MacCarthy a large portion of the county round Lixnaw. In 1579–1580 attempts were made by the Spaniards to invade Ireland, landing at Limerick harbour, near Dingle, and a fortress was erected here, but was destroyed by the English in 1580. The Irish took advantage of the disturbed state of England at the time of the Puritan revolution to attempt the overthrow of the English rule in Kerry, and ultimately obtained possession of Tralee, but in 1652 the rebellion was completely subdued, and a large number of estates were afterwards confiscated.

There are remains of a round tower at Aghadoe, near Killarney, and another, one of the finest and most perfect specimens in Ireland, 92 ft. high, at Rattoe, not far from Ballybunion. On the summit of a hill to the north of Kenmare River is the remarkable stone fortress known as Staigue Fort. There are several stone cells in the principal Skellig island, where penance, involving the scaling of dangerous rocks, was done by pilgrims, and where there were formerly monastic remains which have been swept away by the sea. The principal groups of sepulchral stones are those on the summits of the Tomie Mountains, a remarkable stone fort at Cahersiveen, a circle of stones with cromlech in the parish of Tuosist, and others with inscriptions near Dingle. The remote peninsula west of a line from Dingle to Smerwick harbour is full of remains of various dates. The most notable monastic ruins are those of Innisfallen, founded by St Finian, a disciple of St Columba, and the fine remains of Muckross Abbey, founded by the Franciscans, but there are also monastic remains at Ardfert, Castlemaine, Derrynane, Kilcoleman and O’Dorney. Among ruined churches of interest are those of Aghadoe, Kilcrohane, Lough Currane, Derrynane and Muckross. The cathedral of Ardfert, founded probably in 1253, was partly destroyed during the Cromwellian wars, but was restored in 1831. Some interesting portions remain (see Tralee). There is a large number of feudal castles.