Leitrim (Irish: Liatroim) is one of the counties in the west of Ireland and is part of the province Connacht. Its name derives from the Irish Liath Druim – “grey ridge.” In ancient times Leitrim formed the western half of the kingdom of Breifne. This region was long influenced by the O’Rourke family of Dromahair, whose heraldic lion occupies the official county crest to this day. Close ties initially existed with East Breifne, now County Cavan, and the O’Reilly clan seated there. The Anglo-Normans invaded in the thirteenth century and occupied the south of Breifne until the exile of Irish landholders in 1620.
British Lord Deputy Sir John Perrott had ordered the legal establishment of “Leitrim County” a half-century prior, in 1565. Perrott also demarked the current county borders around 1583, enclosing the namesake grey mountains of the northwest and boggy glades of the southeast. Five forests are traditionally said to have stood in Leitrim up till the seventeenth century. Today’s vast marshes likely formed soon after the county’s trees were felled. Dampness quickly permeated the area’s reputation: locals boasted that farmland “wasn’t sold by the acre–it was sold by the gallon!”. With such soil suitable solely for cows and potatoes, Leitrim’s 155,000 residents (1841 census) were ravaged by the Potato Famine. After sixty years, the wounds had started to heal. William Butler Yeats spent the turn of the twentieth century fascinated with Lough Allen and the Sligo-march.
Today the county has one of the lowest population densities in the Republic and is one of the smallest counties by area. Leitrim also shelters Ireland’s shortest coastline: a mere two miles of beach surround the town of Bundoran. The county town is Carrick-on-Shannon (1,868 inhabitants). In 2003 the first sets of traffic lights in the county were installed around Carrick-on-Shannon.