LOUTH (County of), a maritime county of the province of LEINSTER, and the smallest in Ireland, bounded on the east by the Irish Sea; on the north, by the bay of Carlingford and by the county of Armagh; on the west, by the counties of Monaghan and Meath; and on the south by that of Meath. It extends from 53° 42'to 54° 6' N. Lat., and from 6° 4' to 6° 38' W. Lon.; and comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 200,484 statute acres, of which 185,568 acres are cultivated land, and the remaining 14,916 unimproved mountain and bog. It contained, in 182l, 101,011 inhabitants, and in 1831, 101,481, exclusively of the county of the town of Drogheda, which forms a separate jurisdiction at the southern extremity of the county.
It appears from Ptolemy that the present county formed, in his time, part of the territory of the Voluntii, which extended southward to that of the Eblani. It was subsequently included in the independent sovereignty of Orgial, or Argial, called by the English Oriel or Uriel, forming a large part of the province of Meath, including also the counties of Armagh and Monaghan. This principality is stated to have formed the subordinate territory of Conal Muirthemne, called also Hy Conal and Machuire-Conal, in which were the smaller districts of Fera Arda, or Fatharta, the present barony of Ferrard; Hy Segan, or Hy Seanghain, that of Ardee; Fera Lorg, Lorgan, or Lurgin, that of Lower Dundalk; Hy Mac Uais, the country of the Mac Scanlans, that of Upper Dundalk; and Ludha, or Lugha, that of Louth, which last was the country of the O'Carrols, chiefs of Argial. The last celebrated head of this race was Donchad O'Carrol, king of Argial, who founded the two great abbeys of Mellifont and Louth, and was likewise a prince of considerable prowess. Argial was conquered by John de Courcy, in 1183; and that part of it which is included within the limits of the present couuty of Louth (one of those erected by King John in 1210) being immediately peopled with English settlers, it continued ever after to be subject to the English jurisdiction; and thus the ancient Argial was divided into Irish Argial and English Uriel. The latter, from its situation, being much exposed to the incursions of the native chiefs, numerous castles were erected for its defence; but nevertheless, in the reign of Edw, II., it was overrun and ravaged by the Scots under Edward Bruce, who, however, received their final overthrow from Sir John Birmingham in this county.
The county of Argial, Lowth, or Louth, was one of the four counties of the pale in which, in 1473, a small standing force was appointed to be maintained; and the mayor of Drogheda, Sir Laurence Taaf, and Richard Bellew, were appointed commanders of the newly instituted fraternity of arms for the defence of the English pale. It was overrun by the insurgent chieftains in the reign of Elizabeth, at which time it appears to have formed part of the province of Ulster; for in 1596, in the conference held at Faughart between O'Nial and O'Donel, on the Irish side, and the archbishop of Cashel and the Earl of Ormonde on that of the English government, the latter proposed that the English should retain possession of that part of Ulster situated between the river Boyne and Dundalk, in this county, of which they had been in possession for a long period, together with the towns of Carrickfergus, Carlingford, and Newry, in the more northern parts: but these terms were altogether rejected, and ever since, Louth has formed a portion of the province of Leinster.
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