1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Connaught

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CONNAUGHT, a province of Ireland occupying the Midwestern portion of the island, and having as the greater part of its eastern boundary the river Shannon, over its middle course. It includes the counties Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Galway and Roscommon (qq.v. for topography, &c.). According to the legendary chronicles of Ireland, Connaught (Connacht) was given by the Milesian conquerors of the country to the Damnonians, and the Book of Leinster gives Tinne mac Conrath (20 B.C.) as the first of the list of the kings of all Connaught, whose realm at its greatest extent included also the district of Brenny or Breffny, corresponding to the modern county of Cavan. The Damnonian dynasty held its own till the 4th century A.D., when it was ousted by the Milesian Muireadhach Tireach, king paramount (airdrigh) of Ireland from 331 to 357. Henceforth the annals of Connaught are of little interest until the end of the 12th century, when William de Burgh received a grant of lands in Connaught from King John as lord paramount of Ireland. In the quarrel between Cathal Carrach and Cathal Crovderg for the throne he supported either side in turn, with the result that he lost his Connaught estates in 1203. In 1207, however, his son Richard received a grant from King Henry III. of the forfeited lands of the king of Connaught, and thenceforth the history of the province is closely bound up with that of the great family of Burgh (q.v.). In 1461 Connaught, with Ulster, fell nominally to the crown, in the person of Edward IV., as heir of Lionel, duke of Clarence, and his wife, daughter and heiress of William de Burgh, 3rd earl of Ulster (d. 1333). In the wild districts of the west of Ireland, however, legal titles were easier to claim than to enforce, and from 1333 onward Connaught was in fact divided between the de Burghs, Bourcks or Burkes (MacWilliam “Oughters ” and MacWilliam “Eighters”), assimilated now to the Irish in dress and manners, and the native kings of the ancient Milesian dynasty, which survived till 1464. It was not till the 16th century that Connaught began to be effectively brought under English rule. A stage in this direction was marked by the conversion in 1543 of the MacWilliam Eighter, Ulick Bourck, into a noble on the English model as earl of Clanricarde; though it was not till 1603 that the MacWilliam Oughter became Viscount Mayo. Meanwhile, about 1580, Connaught was for the most part divided into shires by Sir Henry Sidney, who also brought into existence the administration of Connaught and Munster by presidents, which continued for seventy years. The county Clare (hitherto Thomond or North Munster) was now annexed to Connaught, and continued to belong to it down to the Restoration.