Emigration and Education Statistics, 1931, Co. Down


Down, a maritime county in Ulster, is bounded on the north by Co. Antrim and Belfast Lough on the east and south by the Irish Sea, and on the west by Co. Armagh. It’s length from Cranfield Point at the mouth of Carlingford Lough to the shore near Donaghadee is 49 miles, and it’s breadth from the eastern boundary of Lisburn town to near Donaghadee is 25 miles.


The name of the county is derived from its Assize town, Downpatrick, and is taken from the great “”dun”” or fort near the Cathedral. This was originally called Dun-Keltair, the fort of Keltar, and in commemoration of the association of St. Patrick with the place, the town received its present name. The county formed part of the ancient territory of Dalriada, and the two baronies bearing the name of Castlereagh represent Upper or South Clannaboy, part of the territory of the O’Neills. The ancient name of the Mourne Mountains was “”Beanna-Boirche.”” In the west the old rampart, which divided the Kingdoms of Oriel and Ulidia, south of Gilford, was known as the Danes’ Cast.


Ancient monuments in this County which have been placed in charge of the Ministry of Finance for Northern Ireland under the Ancient Monuments (N.I.) Act, 1926, include:

Earthwork and dolmen, Giant’s Ring, near Belfast (prehistoric)
Abbey Remains, Movilla, Newtownards (Mediaeval)
Cistercian Abbey remains, Greyabbey, near Newtownards (mediaeval)
Cistercian Abbey remains, Inch, DOwnpatrick (mediaeval)
Ruined churches, Loughinisland, near DOwnpatrick (early Irish and mediaeval)
Ruined Chapel, Ardtole, Ardglass (medieaval)
Ruined Chapel, St. John’s Point, Killough (early Irish)
Stone Cross, Dromore (early Irish)
Castle Shane (Jordan’s Castle) Ardglass (mediaeval)
Round Tower and Church, Maghera, near Newcastle (early Irish and mediaeval)


The Mourne Mountains, rising direct from the sea, extend westward from Newcastle for 15 miles; their principal summits are Slieve Donard (2,796), near Newcastle; Slieve Commedagh (2,512) a mile to the north-west; west of this are Slieve Bearnagh (2,394) and Slieve Meel (2,237). South west of Slieve Donard are Chimney Rock (2,152) and Slieve Bingian (2,449), Eagle Mountain (2,084) and Shaneleive are close together, and with Slieve Martin (1,595). The range terminates on the west over Rostrevor. The Slieve Croob (1,755), Cratlieve (1,416), Slievenaboly (1,069) and Deehommed (1,050).

The Chief Headlands are Grey Point at the entrance to Belfast Lough; Ballyferis near Donaghadee ; Ballyquintin and Killard Point at the entrance to Strangford Lough; St. John’s Point east of Dundrum Bay; Ringsallin Point at Dundrum, and Cranfield Point on the extreme south.

The principal of the many islands in Strangford Lough are Mahee, the ancient Nendrum, where Mahee established a monastery and a school in the time of St. Patrick; Beagh north of Mahee; Castle Island to the south and Chapel island near Grey Abbey. Outside Donaghadee are the Copeland Islands; Gun Island lies north of Ardglass and Green Island at the entrance to Carlingford Lough.

The Bays and Harbours are Belfast Lough between Antrim and Down; Bangor and Ballyholme Bays are at Bangor; Donaghadee Harbour a few miles further to the east; Cloghy Bay and Millin Bay on the eastern side of the Ards peninsula, Strangford Lough being on its western side. Ardglass, Killough and Dundrum Bays are on the south-east and Carlingford Lough lies between Down and Louth.

The principal Rivers are the Bann and the Lagan. The former rises in the Mourne mountans and flows through the county, passing Gilford, and enters county Armagh, two miles to the west of the town. The Lagan rises at Slieve Croob and flows through the county to near Moira, and for the rest of its course, until it enters Belfast City, it forms the boundary between the counties Antrim and Down. The Ravernat joins the Lagan above Lisburn: the Blackwater enters Strangford Lough at Ardmillan; Ballynahinch and Carson’s Damn Rivers form the Annacloy River, which lower down, is known as the Quoile River entering Strangford Lough, below Downpatrick. Ballybannon River, Burren River and Shimna River flow into Dundrum Bay. The Annalong and Kilkeel Rivers enter the Irish Sea at the towns of the same name. White Water enters Carlingford Lough near Greencastle, Kilbroney River at Rostrevor, and the Newry River, called in the last few miles of its course, the Narrow Water, enters Carlingford Lough at Warrenpoint.

The Lakes in the county are not of much importance. In the north-west a small point of the county near Moira extends to the shore of Lough Neagh. Loughbrickland lake is in the west; Lough Aghery between Ballynahinch and Dromore; near Saintfield are Long Lough and Creevy Lough. Lough Money and Loughinisland Lake are near Downpatrick. Near Castlewellan are Castlewellan Lake and Lough Island Reavy.


Comparative Statistics (1821-1926)




Total Pop.

156,599 168,811 325,410

169,416 182,596 352,012

173,538 187,908 361,446

152,763 168,054 320,817

140,688 158,614 299,302

130,457 146,837 277,294

117,028 131,162 248,190

105,334 118,674 224,008

97,869 108,020 205,889

97,951 106,352 204,303

101,202 108,026 209,228

Families and Houses in 1926

The number of families in the county was 46,807, the average number in each family being 4.5. The number of inhabited houses was 46,355, showing an average of 4.5 persons to each house. The special inhabitants of public institutions are omitted from these calculations.

There were in the county 29,419 Occupiers or Heads of Families, who were in occupation of less than five rooms, being 62.9% of the total for the county. Of these 500 or 1.1% of the families in the county occupied one room; 7,288 or 15.6%, two rooms; 9,919 or 21.2%, three rooms; and 11,712 or 251%, occupied four rooms.

There were in the county 279 tenements in which the room had only one occupant; 191 cases where the room had 2-4 occupants, 26 cases in which there were 5-7 occupants and 4 cases where the occupants of one room exceeded 7 in number, including two cases where ten persons occupied the same room.

Birthplace of Inhabitants

Of the population in 1926, 76.3% were born in the county, 14.4% in other counties in N. Ireland; 3.8% in Leinster, Munster and Connaught, 4.7% in Great Britain, and 0.6%, were born abroad.


In 1911 there were in the county 167,526 persons aged 9 years and upwards; of these 149,842 or 89.4% could read and write; 6,970 or 4.2% could read only and 10,714 or 6.4% were illiterate. As this census is the starting point where the age was raised from 5 years to 9 years; no comparison can be made with previous figures from other censuses. The report states that the percentage of those of 5 years and upwards who were unable to read and write was 11.1% in 1891, 9.6% in 1901 and in 1911 had fallen to 9.3%.

IRISH SPEAKING (1861-1911)

of people
1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911

Irish only
4 2 2 0 0 0

Irish & English
763 336 878 590 1,411 2,432

Irish Total
767 338 880 590 1,411 2,342
% of
0.3 0.1 0.4 0.3 0.7 1.2

RELIGIONS, 1871-1926 (% of population)

1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1926

41.84 40.01 39.92 38.87 37.98 37.3

Church of Ireland
21.95 22.77 23.22 22.89 23.04 24.1

Roman Catholic
31.74 30.90 29.75 31.31 31.56 30.4

1.32 1.57 2.10 2.13 2.18 2.7

3.15 4.75 5.01 4.80 5.24 5.5

EMIGRATION (1861-1911)

1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911
49,906 28,270 31,132 23,638 7,837 15,709