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Guy's Postal Directory of Munster 1886

County Kerry

Statistics -

The county of Kerry covers an of 1,815,918 statute acres, of which 63.5 per cent. is under culture, 1.5 per cent. under plantations, 0.4 under bog and marsh, 22.6 under barren mountain land, and 3.0 roads, fences, etc.

The number of persons in the county of Kerry in 1841 was 293,880; in 1851, 238,254; in 1861, 201,800; in 1871, 196,586; in 1881, 201,039 (101,208 males, and 99,831 females), or 2.3 per cent. less than in 1871. The number of families in the county in 1881 was 33,315; the average number of persons in a family being thus 5.94; the number of inhabited houses, 31,658, showing an average of 6.25 persons to each house.

Of the total population 96.6 per cent. were catholics, 2.9 protestant episcopalians, 0.1 presbyterians, 0.2 methodists, and 0.2 members of other denominations.

In 1871 47.3 per cent. of the inhabitants aged 5 years and upwards were illiterate, and in 1881 the per centage was 35.1. In 1871 the number of children attending school was 42.3 per cent. of persons aged 5 years and under 20; in 1881, 43.6.

In 1871 the number of persons receiving relief under the poor law system was 1 in every 118 of the population, and in 1881, 1 in every 55.

The marriages registered for last decade show an average annual rate of 4.1 per 1,000 of population, the number of births 30.9, and deaths 16.5. The number registered in the whole of Ireland during the same period shows an average of marriages 4.7, births 26.3; and deaths 18.3 per 1,000 respectively.

The number of emigrants from this county for the past 30 years amounted to 122,188.

Natural Features -

Kerry is the most westerly county in Ireland. It is divided into 8 baronies, and again into 87 civil parishes, sub-divided into 2,682 townlands. Greatest length north and south 60 miles; greatest breadth east and west, 58 miles. Bounded north by the estuary of the Shannon; east, Limerick and Cork; south, Cork and Kenmare estuary; west by the Atlantic.

The county is surpassed by many in fertility, but not in picturesque scenery. The climate is mild, and though moist - from its vicinity to the Atlantic, the height of the mountains, and the extent of the bog - is salubrious. The face of the country is formed of mountain ranges intersected by deep valleys, with some level ground. The sub-soil is slate and red sandstone, with limestone in the low districts. the northern part, towards the Shannon, is comparaitively low; the soil is of coarse quality, retentive of moisture, but in the summer very productive of grass, and chiefly depastured by dairy cattle.

From the river Cashen to Kerry head stretches a bank of upland, which as it proceeds westerly becomes chiefly a healthy moor, and near Kerry head rises to a considerable elevation. It is composed of thick beds of agrillaceous sandstone, nearly horizontal, in the partings of which the beautiful quartz crystals called Kerry stones are found. Steel-grained lead is also found traversing the formation. The coast towards the ocean is partly high sandhills, and partly steep cliffs on which the ruins of some dismantled castles are boldly situated. The western part of the north of the county is a great limestone basin.

The valley of Tralee, by Castleisland and down the river Maine, has a sandy and clayey loam on limestone. It has on its south a range of upland rising gradually into the mountains between Limerick and Cork; this upland in passing eastward expands to a great width.

Still more southerly is an extensive range of mountains, many of the summits of which are among the highest in Ireland. They commence at the eastern side of Dingle bay, qnd with little interruption pass along the southern side of the lakes of Killarney, and onward to the county of cork, embracing some deep and extensive vales. The general aspect of this part of the country is rude; the valleys are commonly occupied by bog, round the upper edge of which and along the margin of the streams are narrow strips of cultivated land, while behind the mountains rise to an elevation of from 1,500 to 2,000 feet, presenting bold rocky cliffs towards the bay of Dingle and the Atlantic.

The wildest and most uncultivated tracts in this county are the southern baronies of Iveragh, Dunkerron and Glanarought. The last-mentioned is seperated from the adjoining barony of Bere, in county Cork, by a range of lofty mountains, greater part of which formed the ancient territory of the O'Sullivans.

MacGuillycuddy's Reeks, in Dunkerron, are the highest mountains in Ireland, their most elevated summit, called Carran Tual, being 3,414 feet above the level of the sea. Towards the west are the mountains of Drung and Cullee. This chain proceeds southward to the south of the lakes of Killarney, along the Tomies, Glena, Torc, Mangerton, Crohane and the Paps, which latter are remarkable for the regularity of their convex or concave form.

North and east of Tralee are the ranges called Stacks mountains and Glanaruddery mountains; and between the harbour of Castlemaine and Tralee is a range of high mountains called Slieve-Mish, attaining an elevation of upwards of 2,200 feet; and hence mountains extend westward into the peninsular bay of Corkaguiny, under various names, among which one of remarkable conical shape is called Cahirconree.

Considerable tracts of the mountains of this barony have been improved and brought into cultivation. The northern side, called "Litteragh", is rendered very productive by the great facility of obtaining sea manure. From the southern coast a long peninsula of sandhills, called Inch island, extends into the bay of Castlemaine.

The lakes in the mountainous regions are numerous. The most remarkable both for the extent and the beauty are the celebrated lakes of Killarney, three in number.

Several of the mountain ridges form headlands projecting boldly into the sea, the intermediate valleys being the basins of noble bays and estuaries into which the rivers empty themselves.

The principal harbours along the coast are Tralee, Smerwick, Dingle, Valencia, Ballinskelligs, and Kenmare estuary. Tarbert is one of the most useful ports on the Shannon.

The principal islands are Valencia, the Blaskets, and the Skellig rocks.

The fishery is carried on principally from the ports of Valencia and Dingle. Salmon is also abundant; seals frequent the coast in great numbers. Dingle bay is famous for its lobsters; oysters and other shell fish are to be obtained in several places.

The rivers are numerous, but none of great length. The Feale rises in the mountains that seperate Kerry and Limerick, and in its course being joined by other rivers, the united stream takes the name of Cashen, and discharges itself into the estuary of the Shannon near Ballybunion. The tide flows up the whole of the Cashen, and boats can proceed as far as Lixnaw, on the Brick, at high water. The Maine rises near Castleisland and falls into the harbour of Castlemaine. The Leigh flows by Tralee to the sea. The Flesk discharges itself into the lower lake of Killarney. The only outlet for the waters of these lakes is the Laune, which empties itself into Castlemaine harbour. The Carn rises in the mountains of Dunkerron and falls into Valencia harbour, and the Inny into Ballinskelligs bay. The Roughty empties into the inner extremity of the arm of the sea called the river or bay of Kenmare, into the northern side of which the Finihy, Blackwater and Sneem also fall. Most of the rivers abound with salmon and trout. The Great Blackwater rises in the north-east of Kerry and flows through cos Cork and Waterford to the sea. A ship canal connects the town of Tralee with the bay of the same name.

The occupations are dairy-farming, tillage, and fishing. The dairy stock generally is of a good description, and the sheep of the mountain kind. The small native Kerry cattle are much esteemed as milchers. Numerous herds of goats are fed on the mountains; ponies of a superior description are occasionally offered for sale. Some of the wilder mountains are still haunted by the red deer.

Limestone is extensively used as a manure in those districts where it can be easily procured. The vicinity of the sea-shore furnishes an inexhaustible supply of sea-weed and sand.

The fuel invariably used is turf, of which the supply may be said to be inexhaustible. The bogs are not confined to the mountainous districts, but occur frequently in large tracts in all parts of the country.

The county was once almost entirely covered with timber of large size and of the best description.

Among other natural curiosities, the whole coast presents a succession of large sea caves, some of magnificent dimensions.

There are many plants peculiar to this county, and those that luxuriate in a moist climate are more numerous and diversified in Kerry than in any other county in Ireland.

Mineral springs, chiefly chalybeates, are numerous; of sulphuric chalybeates the principal is that called Spa, about 3 m. from Tralee