Emigration and Education Statistics, 1931, Co. Cavan

Extract from Thom’s Directory, 1931.

County Cavan is an inland county in the province of Ulster. It is bounded on the north by counties Fermanagh and Monaghan, on the east by Monaghan and Meath, on the south by Meath, Westmeath and Longford, and west by Longford and Leitrim. A long thin portion extends north west from the main body of the county. The extreme length from the north west of county Cavan near Lough Macnean to the south east near Kingscourt is 57 ½ miles, and its breadth from the south-west near Lough Kinale to the north east near Cootehill is 27 miles.


The name of the county is derived from the town of Cavan and means “”a hollow”” because of the situation of the town. The county was anciently called “”East Brefny”” or “”Brefny O’Reilly””, being the territory of the O’Reilly’s, and the county of Leitrim forming “”West Brefny”” or “”Brefny O’Rourke””. Croghan near Killeshandra, was the place where the O’Rourke’s were inaugurated Prince’s of Brefny. The plain around Ballymagauran, on the Leitrim boundary, was the ancient ‘Moy Slecht’ where the pagan Irish worshipped their chief God, ‘Crom-Cruach.’ The hilly country east and north of Balieborough was the ancient Slieve Gory


The county has or had a portion of the Connaught coal fields which extended into the north west near Lough Allen; coal was also found near King’s Court and Shercock; land near Swanlinbar produced iron ore; and lead and copper ores were found near Cootehill.

The chief mountain summits lie on the north-west side of the county, their height begin given in feet here. Cuilcagh (2,188) has its northern slope in county Fermanagh; to the south is Binbeg (1,774), north west lies Tiltinbane (1,949) on the boundary of Fermanagh, 2 miles west of Cuilcagh; near its base the river Shannon takes its rise. Separated from these by the valley of Glengavlin on it’s south west are Benbrack (1,648), and Slievenakilla (1,793). Four miles south east of Cavan rises Slieve Glah (1,057) and Bruce Hill (851). Three miles east of Balieborough is Carnasans (1,027) with the lakelet Loughanleagh (which was celebrated for it’s medicinal qualities) on it’s eastern slope.

The rivers are the Shannon, which flows from its source for seven miles until it reaches county Leitrim; next it runs 1½ miles on the boundary between Cavan and Leitrim; then enters Leitrim. The Owenmore joins the Shannon two miles below its source; the Owenayle joins the Shannon first before it enters Lough Allen; the Claddagh rises on the south eastern slopes of the Cuilcagh Mountain, enters Fermanagh, being joined at Swanlinbar by the Blackwater. The Woodford River rising in Leitrim in its course to Lough Erne forms the boundary between Fermanagh and Cavan. The Erne rising in Lough Gowna flows through the county to where it enters Upper Lough Erne. The Annalee flows west to Lough Oughter and is joined by Drommore River on the county boundary near Cootehill and later by the Bunnoe stream. The Blackwater rises east of Benbrack Mountain, and flows near the boundary with Leitrim into Garadice Lough. The Inny flowing through Loughs Sheelin and Kinale forms for some distance the boundary with Meath and Westmeath. The Meath Blackwater flows for about 3 miles through Cavan from its source into Lough Ramor; and the Moynalty River flowing from its source near Balieborough forms for 6 miles the boundary between Cavan and Meath.

There are many small lakes in the county, especially in the centre. There is Lough Oughter broken up by promontories, peninsulas and islands; on the southern boundary is Lough Sheelin, more than half of which belongs to Cavan and Lough Kinale of which half belongs to Cavan. Lough Gowna on the south western boundary belongs in part to this county. On the north western extremity are Upper and Lower Loughs Macnean; Upper Lough Erne touches on the north of the county but belongs to Fermanagh; Lough Ramor is near the south eastern border, Loughs Sillan, Tacker and Barnagrow are near Shercock; and Brackley Lough near Bawnboy.


There were 17,817 families in the county according to the 1926 Census for Ireland, the average number in each family being 4.2. The number of ‘inhabited houses’ was 19,038, with an average of 4.3 persons to each house. The Special Inmates of Public institutions are omitted from these figures.

There were in the county 14,230 ‘Occupiers’ or ‘Heads of Families’ who were in occupation of less than five rooms, this was 79.5% of the total for the whole county. Of these 344, or 1.9% occupied one room; 2,375 or 13.4% occupied two rooms; 3,636 or 20.4%, occupied three rooms; and 7,875 or 44.2% were in occupation of four rooms.

There were 169 tenements in the county, in which the room had only one occupant at that time; 139 cases where the room had two, three or four occupants; 30 cases in which there were five, six or seven occupants and five cases where the occupants of one room exceeded 7 in number, including one case where twelve persons occupied the same room.




Total Pop.
1821 38,821 40,131 78,952
1831 40,149 41,839 81,988
1841 42,428 43,800 86,228
1851 33,016 35,062 68,078
1861 28,139 28,998 57,137
1871 25,464 26,186 51,650
1881 23,078 23,490 46,568
1891 20,552 20,384 40,936
1901 19,009 18,739 37,748
1911 18,481 17,771 36,252
1926 17,802 16,702 34,476


In 1911, there were in the county 30,138 people aged 9 years and upwards; of these 26,972 or 89.4% could read and write; 970 or 3.2% could read only; and 2,241 or 7.4% were illiterate. As that census was the first for which the age for consideration had been raised from 5 years to 9 years, no comparison can be made with figures from earlier censuses. But – the percentage of those of five years and upwards who were unable to read and write in 1891 was 15.4%. By 1901 this figure was listed as 11.3% and in 1911 had fallen to 9.8%.

IRISH SPEAKING (1861-1911)

of people
1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911

Irish only
202 58 9 2 0 0

Irish & English
7,425 3,300 6,995 3,408 5,425 2,968

Irish Total
7,627 3,358 7,004 3,401 5,425 2,968
% of
4.9 2.4 5.4 3.0 5.6 3.3

RELIGIONS, 1871-1926(% of population)

1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1926

3,6 3.4 3.4 3.30 3.12 2.66

Church of Ireland
15.1 14.7 14.6 14.47 14.20 12.25

Roman Catholic
80.4 80.90 80.90 81.20 81.46 81.45

0.70 0.80 0.90 1.01 0.86 0.57

0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.36 0.37

EMIGRATION (1861-1911)

1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911
36,502 22,348 19,376 21,679 12,033 9,353