ANTRIM (County of), a maritime county in the province of ULSTER, bounded on the north by the Northern Ocean, or Deucaledonian Sea; on the north-east and east, by the North Channel; on the south-east, by the lough or bay of Belfast and the river Lagan, separating it from the county of Down, which likewise borders it on the south; on the south-west, by Lough Neagh; on the west, by Lough Beg and the river Bann, which separate it from the county of Londonderry; and on the north-west, by the liberties of Coleraine. It extends from 54° 26' to 55° 12' 16" (N. Lat.), and from 5° 47' to 6° 52' (W. Lon.); and, exclusively of the extensive parish of Carrickfergus (which is a county of a town in itself), comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 761,877¾ statute acres, of which 466,564 are cultivated land, 53,487½ are under water, and the remainder unimproved mountain and bog. The population, in 1821, was 262,860; and in 1831, 316,909.
In the ancient division of the island the southern and south-western parts of this county were included in the territory called Dalaradæ, or Ulidia, the western and north-western were designated Dalrieda, and the name of the whole was Endruim or Andruim, signifying the "habitation upon the waters," and strikingly descriptive of its situation. It was afterwards divided into the three districts of North or Lower Clan-Hugh-Boy, Claneboy, or Clandeboy; the Gyynnes; and the Reuta, Route, or Rowte. North or Lower Clandeboy, so called to distinguish it from South or Upper Clandeboy, now included in the adjacent county of Down, extended from Carrickfergus bay and the river Lagan to Lough Neagh, and consisted of the tract now forming the baronies of Belfast, Massareene, and Antrim: the Glynnes, so called from the intersection of its surface by many rocky dells, extended from Larne, northward along the coast, to Ballycastle, being backed by the mountains on the west, and containing the present baronies of Glenarm, and part of that of Carey: the Route included nearly all the rest of the county to the west and north, forming the more ancient Dalrieda, and, in the reign of Elizabeth, occasionally called "Mac Sorley Boy's Country." Within the limits of Clandeboy was a minor division, called "Bryen Carrogh's Country," won from the rest by the Scots. At what precise period Antrim was erected into a county is uncertain: it was divided into baronies in 1584, by the lord-deputy, Sir John Perrot, but this arrangement was not until some time afterwards strictly observed.
The earliest inhabitants of this part of Ireland on record were a race of its ancient Celtic possessors, designated by Ptolemy Darnii or Darini; and it deserves notice that Nennius mentions the "regions of Dalrieda" as the ultimate settlement of the Seythian colony in Ireland. According to the Irish annalists, Murdoch Mac Erch, chief of the Hibernian Dalaradians; early in the fourth century, by a series of conquests extended his dominions in the north of Antrim and the adjacent districts, while his brother Fergus succeeded in establishing a colony in North Britain. The first intruders upon these earliest settlers were probably the Danish marauders, to whose desolating descents this coast was for several ages peculiarly exposed. Subsequently the northern Scots harassed the inhabitants by numerous plundering inroads. and ultimately accomplished permanent settlements here, maintaining for a long time a constant intercourse with their roving countrymen of the isles. A right of supremacy over the lords of this territory was claimed by the powerful family of the northern O'Nials (now written O'Neill), who were at length deprived of the southern part of this county by the family of Savage and other English adventurers. Early in the 14th century, Edward Bruce, the Scottish chieftain, gained possession of this district by the reduction of Carrickfergus, which had long resisted the most vigorous assaults of his troops. The English, however, shortly afterwards recovered their dominion; but in 1333, William de Burgho, Earl of Ulster, being assassinated at Carrickfergus by his own servants, and his countess, with her infant daughter, seeking safety by escaping into England, the sept of O'Nial rose suddenly in arms, and, falling furiously upon the English settlers, succeeded, notwithstanding a brave and obstinate defence, in either totally extirpating them, or reducing them within very narrow bounds. The conquerors then allotted amongst themselves the extensive possessions thus recaptured from the English, and the entire district received the name of the Upper and Lower Clan-Hugh-Boy, from their leader, Hugh-Boy O'Nial. During the successful operations of Sir John Perrot, lord-deputy in the reign of Elizabeth, to reduce the province of Ulster into allegiance to the English government, he was compelled to lay siege to Dunluce castle, on the northern coast of Antrim, which surrendered on honourable terms: this fortress having been subsequently lost through treachery, in 1585, was again given up to the English by Sorley Boy O'Donnell or Mac Donnell, the proprietor of a great extent of the surrounding country, to whom it was returned in charge.
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