Page:EB1911 - Volume 14.djvu/776

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The lakes (called loughs—pronounced lochs) of Ireland are innumerable, and (apart from their formation) are almost all contained in two great regions, (1) The central plain by its nature abounds in loughs—dark, peat-stained pools with low Lakes. shores. The principal of these lie in county Westmeath, such as Loughs Ennel, Owel and Derravaragh, famed for their trout-fishing in the May-fly season. (2) The Shannon, itself forming several large loughs, as Allen, Ree and Derg; and the Erne, whose course lies almost wholly through loughs—Gowna, Oughter and the Loughs Erne, irregular of outline and studded with islands—separate this region from the principal lake-region of Ireland, coincident with the province of Connaught. In the north lie Loughs Melvin, close above Donegal Bay, and Gill near Sligo, Lough Gara, draining to the Shannon, and Lough Conn near Ballina (county Mayo), and in the south, the great expanses of Loughs Mask and Corrib, joined by a subterranean channel. To the west of these last, the mountains of Connemara and, to a more marked degree, the narrow plain of bog-land between them and Galway Bay, are sown with small lakes, nearly every hollow of this wild district being filled with water. Apart from these two regions the loughs of Ireland are few but noteworthy. In the south-west the lakes of Killarney are widely famed for their exquisite scenic setting; in the north-east Lough Neagh has no such claim, but is the largest lake in the British Isles, while in the south-east there are small loughs in some of the picturesque glens of county Wicklow.

Climate.—The climate of Ireland is more equable than that of Great Britain as regards both temperature and rainfall. No district in Ireland has a rainfall so heavy as that of large portions of the Highlands of Scotland, or so light as that of several large districts in the east of Great Britain. In January the mean temperature scarcely falls below 40° F. in any part of Ireland, whereas over the larger part of the eastern slope of Great Britain it is some 3° lower; and in July the extremes in Ireland are 59° in the north and 62° in Kilkenny. The range from north to south of Great Britain in the same month is some 10°, but the greater extent of latitude accounts only for a part of this difference, which is mainly occasioned by the physical configuration of the surface of Ireland in its relations to the prevailing moist W.S.W. winds. Ireland presents to these winds no unbroken mountain ridge running north and south, which would result in two climates as distinct as those of the east and west of Ross-shire; but it presents instead only a series of isolated groups, with the result that it is only a few limited districts which enjoy climates approaching in dryness the climates of the whole of the eastern side of Great Britain.  (O. J. R. H.) 

Geology.—Ireland, rising from shallow seas on the margin of the submarine plateau of western Europe, records in its structure the successive changes that the continent itself has undergone. The first broad view of the country shows us a basin-shaped island consisting of a central limestone plain surrounded by mountains; but the diverse modes of origin of these mountains, and the differences in their trend, suggest at once that they represent successive epochs of disturbance. The north-west highlands of Donegal and the Ox Mountains, with their axes of folding running north-east and south-west, invite comparison with the great chain of Leinster, but also with the Grampians and the backbone of Scandinavia. The ranges from Kerry to Waterford, on the other hand, truncated by the sea at either end, are clearly parts of an east and west system, the continuation of which may be looked for in South Wales and Belgium. The hills of the north-east are mainly the crests of lava-plateaux, which carry the mind towards Skye and the volcanic province of the Faeroe Islands. The two most important points of contrast between the geology of Ireland and that of England are, firstly, the great exposure of Carboniferous rocks in Ireland, Mesozoic strata being almost absent; and, secondly, the presence of volcanic rocks in place of the marine Eocene of England.

The fact that no Cambrian strata have been established by palaeontological evidence in the west of Ireland has made it equally difficult to establish any pre-Cambrian system. The great difference in character, however, between the Silurian strata at Pomeroy in county Tyrone and the adjacent metamorphic series makes it highly probable that the latter masses are truly Archean. They form an interesting and bleak moorland between Cookstown and Omagh, extending north-eastward into Slieve Gallion in county Londonderry, and consist fundamentally of mica-schist and gneiss, affected by earth-pressures, and invaded by granite near Lough Fee. The axis along which they have been elevated runs north-east and south-west, and on either flank a series of “green rocks” appears, consisting of altered amygdaloidal andesitic lavas, intrusive dolerites, coarse gabbros and diorites, and at Beagh-beg and Creggan in central Tyrone ancient rhyolitic tuffs. Red and grey cherts, which have not so far yielded undoubted organic remains occur in this series, and it has in consequence been compared with the Arenig rocks of southern Scotland. The granite invades this “green-rock” series at Slieve Gallion and elsewhere, but is itself pre-Devonian. Even if the volcanic and intrusive basic rocks prove to be Ordovician (Lower Silurian), which is very doubtful, the metamorphic series of the core is clearly distinct, and appears to be “fundamental” so far as Ireland is concerned.

The other metamorphic areas of the north present even greater difficulties, owing to the absence of any overlying strata older than the Old Red Sandstone. Their rocks have been variously held to be Archean, Cambrian and Silurian, and their general trend has undoubtedly been determined by post-Silurian earth-movements. Hence it is useful to speak of them merely as “Dalradian,” a convenient term invented by Sir A. Geikie for the metamorphic series of the old kingdom of Dalriada. They come out as mica-schists under the Carboniferous sandstones of northern Antrim, and disappear southward under the basaltic plateaux. The red gneisses near Torr Head probably represent intrusive granite; and this small north-eastern exposure is representative of the Dalradian series which covers so wide a field from central Londonderry to the coast of Donegal. The oldest rocks in this large area are a stratified series of mica-schists, limestones and quartzites, with numerous intrusive sheets of diorite, the whole having been metamorphosed by pressure, with frequent overfolding. Extensive subsequent metamorphism has been produced by the invasion of great masses of granite. Similar rocks come up along the Ox Mountain axis, and occupy the wild west of Mayo and Connemara. The quartzites here form bare white cones and ridges, notably in Errigal and Aghla Mt. in county Donegal, and in the group of the Twelve Bens in county Galway.

Following on these rocks of unknown but obviously high antiquity, we find fossiliferous Ordovician (Lower Silurian) strata near Killary harbour on the west, graduating upwards into a complete Gotlandian (Upper Silurian) system. Massive conglomerates occur in these series, which are unconformable on the Dalradian rocks of Connemara. In the Wenlock beds of the west of the Dingle promontory there are contemporaneous tuffs and lavas. Here the Ludlow strata are followed by a thick series of barren beds (the Dingle Beds), which have been variously claimed as Upper Silurian and Lower Devonian. No certain representative of the Dingle Beds has been traced elsewhere throughout the south of Ireland, where the Old Red Sandstone succeeds the uptilted Silurian strata with striking unconformity. The Silurian rocks were indeed greatly folded before the Old Red Sandstone was laid down, the general trend of the folds being from south-west to north-east. The best example of these folds is the axis of Leinster, its core being occupied by granite which is now exposed continuously for 70 m., forming a moorland from Dublin to New Ross. On either flank the Silurian shales, slates and sandstones, which are very rarely fossiliferous, rise with steep dips. They are often contorted, and near the contact with the granite pass into mica-schists and quartzites. The foothills and lowlands throughout southern Wicklow and almost the whole of Wexford, and the corresponding country of western Wicklow and eastern Kildare, are thus formed of Silurian beds, in which numerous contemporaneous and also intrusive igneous rocks are intercalated, striking like the chain N.E. and S.W. In south-eastern Wexford, in northern Wicklow (from Ashford to Bray), and in the promontory of Howth on Dublin Bay, an apparently earlier series of green and red slates and quartzites forms an important feature. The quartzites, like those of the Dalradian series, weather out in cones, such as the two Sugarloaves south of Bray, or in knob-set ridges, such as the crest of Howth or Carrick Mt. in county Wicklow. The radial or fan-shaped markings known as Oldhamia were first detected in this series, but are now known from Cambrian beds in other countries; in default of other satisfactory fossils, the series of Bray and Howth has long been held to be Cambrian.

All across Ireland, from the Ballyhoura Hills on the Cork border to the southern shore of Belfast Lough, slaty and sandy Silurian beds appear in the axes of the anticlinal folds, surrounded by Old Red Sandstone scarps or Carboniferous Limestone lowlands. These Silurian areas give rise to hummocky regions, where small hills abound, without much relation to the trend of the axis of elevation. The most important area appears north of the town of Longford, and extends thence to the coast of Down. In Slieve Glah it reaches a height of 1057 ft. above the sea. Granite is exposed along its axis from near Newry to Slieve Croob, and again appears at Crossdoney in county Cavan. These occurrences of granite, with that of Leinster, in connexion with the folding of the Silurian strata, make it highly probable that many of the granites of the Dalradian areas, which have a similar trend and which have invaded the schists so intimately as to form with them a composite gneiss, date also from a post-Silurian epoch of earth-movement. Certain western and northern granites are however older, since granite boulders occur in Silurian conglomerates derived from the Dalradian complex.

This group of N.E. and S.W. ridges and hollows, so conspicuous in the present conformation of Donegal, Sligo and Mayo, in the axis of Newry, and in the yet bolder Leinster Chain, was impressed upon the Irish region at the close of Silurian times, and is clearly a part of the “Caledonian” system of folds, which gave to Europe the guiding lines of the Scottish Highlands and of Scandinavia.

On the land-surface thus formed the Devonian lakes gathered, while the rivers poured into them enormous deposits of sand and conglomerate. A large exposure of this Old Red Sandstone stretches