St Mel's Cathedral, Longford
|Elevation||72 m (236 ft)|
|Time zone||UTC±0 (WET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (IST)|
|Eircode routing key|
|Telephone area code||+353(0)43|
|Irish Grid Reference|
Longford (Irish: An Longfort) is the county town of County Longford in Ireland. It has a population of 10,008 according to the 2016 census. It is the biggest town in the county and about one third of the county's population lives there. Longford lies at the meeting of Ireland's N4 and N5 National Primary Route roads, which means that traffic traveling between Dublin and County Mayo, or north County Roscommon passes around the town. Longford railway station, on the Dublin-Sligo line, is used heavily by commuters.
The town is built on the banks of the River Camlin (from Irish: Camlinn, meaning "crooked pool"), which is a tributary of the River Shannon. The name Longford is an Anglicization of the Irish Longphort, from long (meaning "ship") and port (meaning "port" or "dock"). This name was applied to many Irish settlements of Viking origin and eventually came to mean fort or camp in the Irish language, and so Longfort the modern Irish spelling, is the name of this town, which was one of the only Gaelic Irish market towns to arise without first being founded by Vikings or Normans.
The area came under the sway of the local clan which controlled the south and middle of the County of Longford (historically called Anghaile or Annaly) and hence, the town is sometimes called Longfort Uí Fhearghail (fort/stronghold of O'Farrell).
Places of interest
The Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre is located near to Longford, in Keenagh. The Centre houses an Iron Age bog road which was built in 148 BC across the boglands in proximity to the River Shannon. The oak road is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe and was excavated over the years by Professor Barry Raftery of University College Dublin. Inside the building, an 18-metre stretch of preserved road is on permanent display in a specially designed hall with humidifiers to prevent the ancient wood from cracking in the heat. Bord na Mona and the Heritage Service have carried out conservation work on the surrounding bog to ensure that it remains wet and that the buried road is preserved. There are other historical artifacts and some exhibits at the centre.
St. Mel's Cathedral in the town features several stained glass windows by Harry Clarke studios. These include one of his earliest works The consecration of St. Mel as Bishop of Longford which was exhibited at the RDS Annual Art Industries Exhibition in 1910, where it received second prize. It was also exhibited at The Arts and Crafts Society of Ireland fourth exhibition in the same year. The Cathedral was extensively damaged in a fire on Christmas Day 2009. St. Mel's Cathedral remained closed for exactly five years following the fire while it was the centre of one of the largest restoration projects undertaken in Europe. It reopened for services at midnight mass on Christmas Eve 2014 and has since become a significant tourist attraction. The two most intricated stained-glass windows in the transepts of the Cathedral have been faithfully restored – these depict St Anne and the Resurrection.
Longford town has a 212-seat theatre called Backstage Theatre just outside of the town, and a four-screen multiplex cinema, with restaurants. The mix and quality of housing is extensive and the Rural Renewal Scheme (1999–2006) has ensured that a steady supply of residential development has come about. Longford town has a decentralized government department which employs approximately 300 people and a further 130 are employed at the Irish Prison Service's headquarters in the Lisamuck area of the town. The Prison Service HQ has a sculpture by artist Remco de Fou which, apart from the Spire in Dublin is the largest piece of sculpture in Ireland. Connolly Barracks once employed approximately 180 soldiers, many of whom were involved in UN peace-keeping duties, until the barracks closed in January 2009.
The town serves as the cathedral town of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. St Mel's Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Mel, the founder of the diocese of Ardagh, was designed by architect John Benjamin Keane, who also designed St Francis Xavier's Church on Gardiner Street in Dublin.
There are a number of portal dolmens located around Longford.
Longford's main industries are food production, sawmills, steelworking, generator retailing, cable making and the production of medical diagnostics. It is the major services centre for the county as well as the location of the Department of Social Welfare and the Irish Prison Service. The town is also a local commercial centre, with many retail outlets including multiples such as Tesco, Argos and Homestore and more, German discount retailers, Aldi and Lidl and Irish retail outlets such as Dunnes Stores and Penneys.
Up until 2007, construction was a major local employer, mainly due to government tax breaks for property development provided under the Rural Renewal scheme. However the downturn in the construction industry, the withdrawal of Rural Renewal, and extensive local oversupply of property has caused large job losses in the construction industry and a significant increase in unemployment in the region.
Longford town has a number of primary schools (for ages 4–12) and three secondary schools (for ages 12–19): two single-sex schools, St. Mel's College, (a Catholic boys' school) and Scoil Mhuire (a Catholic girls' school run by the Sisters of Mercy), as well as a mixed school, (Templemichael College, formerly known as Longford Vocational School). Primary schools in Longford include a Gaelscoil and St. Joseph's. An extensive adult education centre exists in Longford.
St. Mel's College is the oldest and best-known of these schools, being founded approximately 150 years ago by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois as a diocesan seminary to train students for the priesthood. While the school only briefly functioned as a seminary, it served for many years as a boarding school, while also admitting day students. The boarding school was discontinued after 2000 and the school is now only a day school, with the largest student enrolment in county Longford. The College, known locally as Mel's, is best known for its strict rules of conduct and its success on a national level with Gaelic football, athletics, soccer, basketball and Rugby.
N5 road used to go through the town & there was a little traffic congestion except at peak times and this is mainly due to the traffic system of the town which has a number of one-way streets and traffic signals before N5 Longford bypass which was opened on 3 August 2012.
The N4 Sligo road has a bypass around the town, which consists of single carriageway with hard shoulders and four roundabouts. It was opened on 2 June 1995 and constitutes part of the planned Longford Ring Road which will encircle the town when completed.
Longford is about 91 kilometres (57 mi) from Sligo and 122 km (76 mi) from Dublin. It lies on the Dublin-Sligo line of the Irish railway network, and is served by Sligo-Dublin intercity services. Despite its distance from Dublin, the town also has a regular, well-utilised commuter service to Dublin. Journeys to Dublin Connolly by rail generally take about an hour and three-quarters. Longford railway station opened on 8 November 1855.
There are a large number of bus services to Dublin and other towns both outside and inside the county provided by both the state (Bus Éireann) and private bus companies (Kane's, Donnelly's and Farrelly's.) Third level colleges are well served by the private companies during the academic year.
Donnelly's Pioneer Bus Service, a longstanding local bus company based in Granard, operate a route from Longford to Granard via Ballinalee. There are three journeys each way daily (no Sunday service).
Whartons Travel, which is also a longstanding local bus service, operate a route from Longford railway station and Longford to Cavan via Drumlish, Arvagh and Crossdoney. As of 2014, this service is funded by the National Transport Authority.
Longford's main air transport centre is located south-east of the town, at Abbeyshrule, the local airport. Abbeyshrule Aerodrome receives a regular influx of small general aviation aircraft, including the Cessna 182 and 150. The airport also boasts two flight training centres; one for general aviation fixed wing aircraft training (Aeroclub 2000) and one for microlight aircraft flight training (Ultraflight). The airport is also the home of the Extra 200 aerobatic aircraft EI-SAM of acclaimed Irish international competition aerobatics pilot David Bruton.
Arts and Culture
The Backstage Theatre and Centre for the Arts is a major facility for arts and culture projects in the town and surrounding areas. It is funded by Longford County Council with support from the Arts Council. Backstage is a member of two arts touring networks: Nasc a nationwide network of seven venues and Nomad a north midlands based network. Through these networks the theatre has been able to bring major productions to the town.
The town has a wide range of sports clubs and facilities including the Gaelic Athletic Association, rugby and tennis clubs, a League of Ireland soccer club, two indoor swimming pools, an extensive gym and an 18-hole golf course. A new swimming pool was opened in Longford in 2007.
Gaelic football and hurling
The sport with most support in County Longford is Gaelic football. The headquarters of the Longford Gaelic Athletic Association is located in Pearse Park in Longford Town, with a ground capacity of around 11,000. The Longford Gaelic football team has been relatively unsuccessful at national level, in large part reflecting the county's small population size – although it succeeded in winning a Leinster title at Senior level in 1968 and a National League title in 1966. The minor (under-18) Longford county team won the Leinster title in 2002, and recently in 2010, and their teams at under-21 level have reached several Leinster finals over the last few years (including 2006). The major boys' secondary school in Longford town, St. Mel's College, also has a long tradition in secondary schools' football (known as Colleges A), winning 29 Leinster and 4 All-Ireland titles (in the Hogan Cup). At one stage, St. Mel's College had won more Leinster titles than all of the other Leinster colleges put together. The main local GAA Club in Longford is Longford Slashers, based in Longford town, who have won more Senior County Championships(16) than any other team in the county with their most recent success coming in 2013.
County Longford boasted arguably the best Gaelic football team which did not win the Sam Maguire Cup in 1968. The team was narrowly beaten by Kerry in the all-Ireland Semi final. The recently deceased T.D. John Wilson and G.A.A. all-Ireland medalist (with County Cavan) starred with St. Mel's College Gaelic football team. St. Mel's also boasted a cricket team which wore all black rig. St. Mel's holds the peculiar distinction: in the 1966/67 season it held two teams scoreless in Gaelic football. This feat has never been equalled by any other Gaelic football team in history.
Longford Hurling Team struggle to compete with the bigger counties as they only have three hurling teams in the county, Slashers, Wolfe Tones and Clonguish. The county team won the National League Division 3 title in 2002, In 2005 & 2006 they won the Leinster Shield. They won the Lory Meagher Cup, for the first time, in Croke Park on 3 July 2010 and won on a score line of Longford 1 – 20 to Donegal 1 – 12.
Longford town itself has a strong tradition in soccer, the game being introduced in the late 19th century. The town was a military base garrison when Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. Longford Town football club was founded in 1924 and was elected to the League of Ireland in 1984. The first Longford town football club team to play in the League of Ireland featured Jimmy Savage, Zac Hackett and Liam Madden. In the 1950s and 60s, Longford boasted such players as Willie Browne (UCD and Bohemian FC) who won 3 full international Republic of Ireland caps and captained Bohemian FC for 3 consecutive seasons, he made 177 appearances for Bohs in all competitions scoring 20 goals, Lal Donlon (Longford town and Arsenal), Mel 'Garrincha' Mulligan, John 'Hooky' O'Connor and the legendary Billy Clarke. Billy Clarke is arguably Longford's most famous football player to date. The Longford Town football club ground is at City Calling Stadium, in the townland of Mullolagher, to the west of the town, on the Strokestown Road. Previously, the club was based in the north of Abbeycarton town. The Longford Town football club has had notable success in recent years, twice winning the FAI Cup, in 2003 and 2004, and competing in the UEFA Cup as a result against Bulgarian, Liechtenstein and Welsh opposition, though without success.
For golfers, Longford has an extensive parkland course. Also within a 50 km (30 mi) radius of the county, one can play quality championship courses such as the Nick Faldo-designed Lough Rynn, Glassan and the Slieve Russell.
Longford is represented in basketball by two clubs. Torpedo's were formed in 1973 and have competed in the Meath, Cavan, Mid-lands and National leagues. The club have been very successful over the years and recently represented Longford in the Flanders Basketball Tournament in Ghent, Belgium. They now play in the Shannon Side League in Men's and North East League in Ladies'. Ladies and Men's teams play home games in Edgeworthstown. They hold an annual tournament at the end September start of October each season with 16 teams from all over Ireland and the UK entering. The second club which was a break away unit of the Torpedo's are Longford Falcons. The club has had numerous Leinster and national titles won at the junior level. The club is based at the Mall Sports Complex, in the east of the town.
Longford has an extensive sports complex/amenity, known locally as The Mall. The complex contains a swimming pool, gym, both indoor and outdoor football and basketball grounds and there is also new outdoor gym equipment all around the mall. The Mall itself is a popular walking spot in the town, a lap of which is approximately 2 km.
- Francis "Frank" Butler, (1847–1926), famed rifleshot who toured the US (1876–1884), and husband-manager of American sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
- Padraic Colum, (1881–1972), Irish poet, novelist and playwright.
- Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, (1932–2013), Irish Republican and founder of Republican Sinn Féin.
- Willie Browne, (1936–2004), Republic of Ireland international footballer.
- Ray Flynn, (1957– ), Irish mile record holder.
- Michael Gomez, (1977– ), champion professional boxer was born in an Irish Traveller family in Longford.
Climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year-round. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate/Oceanic climate).
|Climate data for Longford|
|Average high °C (°F)||8.1
|Average low °C (°F)||2.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||78.8
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