Emigration and Education Statistics, 1931, Co. Westmeath


Westmeath, an inland county in the province of Leinster is bounded on the north-west by county Longford. On the north-east and east by county Meath, on the south by Offaly (King’s county) and on the west by county Roscommon. Its length from Athlone to the boundary near Killua Castle is 43 ½ miles and its breadth from Lough Sheelin to Kinnegad is 26 miles.


The ancient districts of North and South Teffia represented respectively the west of this county and the adjoining county of Longford, being separated along the county boundary by the river Inny. The territory of the Mac Geoghegans was approximately the barony of Moycashel, its ancient name being Kinelagh. The barony of Kilkenny West was the ancient territory called Curene. Tuathal, King of Ireland in the first century erected and lived in a palace on the Hill of Ushnagh, between Lough Ennel and Ballymore, and here there was an annual gathering for games and pagan exercises. The five provinces into which Ireland was then divided converged on this hill, and a stone known as Ailll na Mirenn marking this spot is still to be seen, its name signifying “the stone of the divisions.”


The greater part of the county is level, there are no mountains, but in the barony of Fore, and other districts there are a few smaller hills, and there is a considerable tract of boggy land chiefly in the south and east.

The River Inny flowing from Lough Sheelin to Lough Kinale and again from Lough Kinale till it goes into Westmeath pursues its course forming the boundary with county Cavan, and afterwards at intervals, the boundary with county Longford, eventually flowing into Longford through Lough Ree. Its tributaries are the Glore, which rises near Castlepollard, the Gaine coming from Lough Drin, the Riffey from Longford, the Rath rising near the Hill of Usnagh, the Tang and its chief tributary, Dungolman River. The Brosna flows through Mullingar into Lough Ennell, and leaving it flows through Kilbeggan, subsequently forming the boundary with Offaly (King’s) county. The rivers on the western part of the county flow into the Shannon, those on the east contributing to swell the waters of the River Boyne.

Lakes are the principal feature in scenery of this county. Lough Ree is a large expansion of the River Shannon above Athlone, with Lough Killinure and Coosan Lake on the Westmeath side. Loughs Sheelin and Kinale are on the northern boundary; there are several small lakes on the east. Glenlough is on the north-west and on the north-east are Lough Naneagh, White Lough and Lough Bane. In the neighbourhood of Mullingar are Lough Ennell which is 5 miles by 2 miles;Lough Owel, 4 miles by 2; Lake Derravarragh, 9 miles long, widening at one point to 3 miles. There are many small lakes in this neighbourhood and elsewhere through the county.

The Islands in Lough Ree on the Westmeath side nearly all contain church ruins, they are Inchmore, Nun’s Island, Inishturk, Leveret and Hare island. In the latter St. Kieran who founded Clonmacnoise, first erected a church, and in Inisbofin there are ecclesiastical ruins, including those of a church built in the 6th century. Malachy, King of Ireland, is said to have died in 1022, at Croincha, one of the islands in Lough Ree.





Total Pop.

63,904 64,915 128,819

67,700 69,172 138,872

70,383 70,917 141,300

56,095 55,312 111,407

46,218 44,661 90,879

39,804 38,628 78,432

36,478 35,320 71,798

33,927 31,182 65,109

31,880 29,749 61,629

31,910 28,076 59,986

30,114 26,682 56,818

Families and Houses in 1926

The number of families in the county was 12,402, the average number in each family being 4.2. The number of inhabited houses was 12,231 showing an average of 4.6 persons to each house. The special inmates of public institutions are omitted from these calculations.

There were in the county 9,418 Occupiers or Heads of Families who were in occupation of less than five rooms, being 75.9% of the total for the county; of these, 516, or 4.1% of the families in the county occupied one room; 1,768, or 14.3% , 2 rooms; 3,622 or 29.2%, 3 rooms; and 3,12 or 28.3%, occupied 4 rooms.

There were in the county 217 tenements in which the room had only one occupant; 247 cases where the room had 2-4 occupants; 50 cases in which there were 5-7 occupants and 1 case where 10 persons occupied the same room.

Birthplace of Inhabitants

Of the population in 1926, 78.29% were born in the county, 19.07 % in other counties in Saorstat Eireann. 0.75% in Northern Ireland, 1.27% in Great Britain, and 0.62% were born abroad.


In 1911 there were in the county 50,410 persons aged 9 years and upwards; of these 44,876 or 89% could read and write; 1,579 or 3.2% could read only; and 3,955 or 7.8% were illiterate. As this is the first census where the age was raised from 5 to 9 it is not possible to compare figures for earlier censuses. However, the report states that the percentage of those of 5 years and upwards who were unable to read and write was 24.6% in 1891, 17.1% in 1901 and had fallen to 14.8% in 1901.

IRISH SPEAKING (1861-1911)

of people
1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911

Irish only
0 0 0 0 5 0

Irish & English
583 276 828 338 686 2,906
% of
0.5 0.4 1.2 0.5 1.1 3.5

RELIGIONS, 1871-1926 (% of population)

1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1926

Roman Catholic
91.5 92.2 92.23 91.96 91.32 95.41

Church of Ireland
7.7 6.9 6.88 6.93 7.58 4.05

0.4 0.4 0.43 0.52 0.57 0.26

0.2 0.3 0.32 0.41 0.34 0.12

0.2 0.2 0.14 0.18 0.19 0.16

EMIGRATION (1861-1911)

1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911
18,587 11,309 7,347 6,695 3,354 2,597