Coordinates: 54°11′34″N 7°42′22″W / 54.192738°N 7.706180°W / 54.192738; -7.706180
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An Muileann Iarainn
Shops in Swanlinbar
Shops in Swanlinbar
Swanlinbar is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°11′34″N 7°42′22″W / 54.192738°N 7.706180°W / 54.192738; -7.706180
Irish Grid ReferenceH190270

Swanlinbar (Irish: An Muileann Iarainn, meaning 'the iron mill')[2] is a small village on the N87 national secondary road in north-west County Cavan, Ireland, close to the Cladagh river and near the Fermanagh border.

The village is situated in the townlands of Furnaceland and Hawkswood, in the civil parish of Kinawley, in the barony of Tullyhaw. In the 1860s, Swanlinbar had the most celebrated of Cavan's numerous mineral springs.[3]


The earliest name recorded for the village was Sra[4]-na-muck, which means "The River-field of the pigs".[5] The current official Irish name An Muileann Iarainn, meaning "Iron Mill", reflects the foundation of an ironworks in the town in 1700[6] as does "Swanlinbar", which derives from the four entrepreneurs who built the iron foundry.[7]

Jonathan Swift in his 1728 essay, On Barbarous Denominations In Ireland, wrote:

"There is likewise a famous town, where the worst iron in the kingdom is made, and it is called Swandlingbar: the original of which name I shall explain, lest the antiquaries of future ages might be at a loss to derive it. It was a most witty conceit of four gentlemen, who ruined themselves with this iron project. 'Sw' stands for Swift (Swift's uncle, Godwin Swift, for whose memory he had no special regard, was the instigator of the ironworks and the person named. He lost his fortune due to the mismanagement of the business), 'And' stands for Sanders (Robert Saunders of Dublin), 'Ling' for Darling (Richard Darling of Dublin), and 'Bar' for Barry (Richard Barry). Methinks I see the four loggerheads sitting in consult, like Smectimnius, each gravely contributing a part of his own name, to make up one for their place in the iron-work; and could wish they had been hanged, as well as undone, for their wit."[8]

A lease dated 27 February 1682 from Adam Loftus to Goodwin Swift, Robert Saunders, Richard Barry, and Richard Darling of lands in the area was the start of modern iron mining in the district. However iron smelting had been carried on in the area from as early as the Iron Age as recent discoveries in the nearby townland of Tonyquin attest.[9]

The earliest mention of the town seems to be in the will of Richard Darling of Dublin City, dated 4 March 1706 (probate granted 30 November 1710),[Irish Genealogist, Vol I, No. 11, April 1942, pp. 335–337] which refers to- the iron works, land and town of Swanlingbar.

Another early mention of the town is in the will of Robert Saunders, a wealthy lawyer, landowner and politician, dated 8 March 1707, which states- I devise to my son Morley Saunders, my estate and interest in the Iron Works, lands and woods at Swanlingbar in the Countys of Cavan and Fermanagh.[10]

By a deed dated 9 April 1711 by Richard Darling and Peter Ward, their share of the Swanlingbar Ironworks were granted, inter alia, to Morley Saunders.[11] It is also mentioned in a lease dated 2 August 1714 where it is spelt Swanlingbar.[12] The lessor was the aforementioned Morley Saunders (1671-1737).[citation needed]

In his 1732 book, A natural history of the parish of Killesher, the local rector Rev Wiliam Henry wrote that at the spa in Swanlinbar the local peasantry joined in the festivities with the visiting gentry. He described an idyllic picture of

:"the fine beau and the country girl with her hair plaited behind, the nice lady and the ploughman tilting most merrily together in a country dance by five o'clock in a morning, with the bagpiper playing tunes such as 'The Black Joke' or "Westmeath Election'".

By 1750 the name 'Swanlinbar' was the common usage. Reverend William Henry in his 1739 book "Upper Lough Erne" writes:

"The River Duanim or Stragownagh sweeps by the small market-town of Swanlinbar where once was a great iron-work. Some time ago there were forests of oak along the bank of this river; but they have been so entirely extirpated in order to supply the iron-works at Swanlinbar, that there is scarce a stump left."[citation needed]

However, some people still referred to the town as 'Swadlinbar' (or 'Swad' for short) and this name is mentioned in John Wesley's journal:

"Thursday 4th May 1769 — I found near Swadlinbar, as artless, as earnest, and as loving a people as even at Tonny-Lommon. About six I preached at the town's end, the very Papists appearing as attentive as the Protestants; and I doubt not thousands of these would soon be zealous Christians, were it not for their wretched Priests, who will not enter into the kingdom of God themselves, and diligently hinder those that would."[13]

In the Cavan Poll Book of 1761, there were five people registered to vote in Swanlinbar in the Irish general election, 1761. Each person was entitled to cast two votes. The four election candidates were Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont and Lord Newtownbutler (later Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough), both of whom were then elected Member of Parliament for Cavan County. The losing candidates were George Montgomery (MP) of Ballyconnell and Barry Maxwell, 1st Earl of Farnham. Absence from the poll book either meant a resident did not vote or, more likely, was not a freeholder entitled to vote, which would mean most of the inhabitants of Swanlinbar.[14]

In the 1778 Irish Relief of Insolvency Act, there is a reference to "Redmond Mc Manus of Swadling-bar in the county of Cavan, merchant".

The Post-Chaise Companion 1786 states-

"About half a mile from Swanlinbar is the famous spa; the waters of which are excellent for scurvey, nerves, low spirits and bad appetite. They are to be drank as the stomach can bear them, preparing first with gentle physic. You go to bed at ten, without supper, in the morning you appear at the spa well at 6, drink till 9, taking constant exercise, and breakfast a little after 10. At one you return to the well, and drink two or three glasses, returning home at 3, to be dressed for dinner at 4. There is no particular regimen necessary, but to be temperate in wine, and to drink as little Chinese tea as possible. Your chambers are 8s.1d or 11s.4d per week. At Mr. Castle's ordinary, you have a most excellent table. Breakfast at 0.8d. Dinner at 1s.7d. Lady's wine 6d. The gentlemen pay the remainder of the wine bill. Your horse's hay 10d per night. Grass 6d per night. Oats 10d per peck. Servant's lodging 2s.8d. per week. Board 7s.7d. per week. Evening tea 6d per day. Washing very cheap and good. The Post from Dublin comes in Monday, Thursday & Saturday at 11 in the forenoon and goes out on Sunday, Thursday and Friday at 10 at night"

Poet George Sackville Cotter (1755–1831) wrote an amusing poem entitled "Epistles from Swanlinbar" in 1788, which recounts the adventures and upsets experienced by visitors to the Spa at Swanlinbar.[15]

In the Fermanagh Poll of Electors 1788 there were two Swanlinbar residents, John Castle and John Willis, who were entitled to vote because Castle owned land in Gortoral townland in Kinawley parish and Willis owned land in Aghatirourke townland in Killesher parish.[16]

John Jebb (bishop) the Protestant curate of Swanlinbar (1799-1801) wrote of his experiences there in a letter dated 18 January 1800. I began yesterday to write to you, when I was summoned, at no very seasonable hour, to visit a sick parishioner, through snow, and bog, and mountain. So disagreeable a walk I never before experienced. Some of the places through which I passed, were nearly impassable; and, to increase my annoyance, I was obliged to return, partly on foot, partly on horseback, through this bleak and marshy tract, in darkness and intense frost. However, I enjoyed the satisfaction of thinking I was discharging my duty.[17]

Charles Coote in his 1802 "Statistical Survey of County Cavan", wrote-

"It is to be regretted that the ravages of the fire, which happened in the village of Swanlinbar above 15 years ago (i.e., in 1786), have not yet been repaired, in which 22 houses were destroyed. A great deal of harmony and sociability prevails in this retired watering place. The celebrated spa is in an ornamented enclosure, which is very handsomely improved with pleasant walks and neat plantations. The breakfast room is contiguous to the well, and here the company generally partake of this sociable meal, at the same table drink the waters, and ride or walk till dinner, when an excellent ordinary is provided."

The 1836 Ordnance Survey Namebooks state- In this townland is situated the town of Swanlinbar...This small town was in great repute about the year 1800 owing to the healing virtues of its spa water. But this has long ceased to please the public taste, and the town is at present little better than a country village.

Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of 1837 states-

"SWANLINBAR, a post-town, in the parish of KinAwley, barony of Tullaghagh, county of Cavan, and province of Ulster, 8 miles (N.W.) from Ballyconnell, to which it has a penny-post; containing 398 inhabitants. This town is supposed to have derived its origin from a rich iron mine in the neighbouring mountain of Cuilcagh, which was worked at a remote period to a very considerable extent. The ore was smelted into pig iron in furnaces about half a mile distant, and manufactured into bars at some works erected upon a powerful mountain stream which flows through the village : these works were continued till all the timber of the mountains was consumed in smelting the ore, when they were necessarily abandoned. In 1786 a considerable part of the town was destroyed by an accidental fire, which consumed 22 houses. It now contains 79 houses, and is situated on the old road from Ballyconnell to Enniskillen, and surrounded by the wild mountains of the barony: it is chiefly distinguished for its mineral waters, which are strongly impregnated with sulphur, earth, sea salt and fossil alkali, and in their medicinal effect are both alterative [restorative] and diaphoretick and are esteemed highly efficacious as a restorative from debility. From April to September it is the resort of numbers of the gentry of the surrounding district. The spa is situated in an enclosure tastefully laid out in pleasant walks and embellished with thriving plantations. Contiguous to the well is a handsome pumproom, in which the visiters usually take breakfast, and on re-assembling an excellent dinner is provided. The surrounding mountains afford ample scope for the researches of the mineralogist, and contain several natural and artificial caves ; on the neighbouring townlands of Lurgan and Coolagh are strong indications of coal. A few linens are manufactured in the vicinity, besides other articles of clothing for the inhabitants. Fairs are held annually on Feb. 2nd, March 30th, May 18th, June 29th, July 27th, Aug. 18th, Sept. 3rd and 29th, Oct. 26th, and Dec. 1st and 29th. A chief constabulary police station has been established; and petty sessions are held on alternate Wednesdays. On the summit of the mountain of Cuilcagh, is a fine spring of excellent water: on this mountain, which is intimately associated with much of the legendary history of the district, the Maguires anciently invested their chiefs with supreme command over the adjacent country of Fermanagh."

By Claddagh's Banks is a book by Anthony Mckiernan about the history of Swanlinbar.[18]

That's the Way is a book by Joe Prior about growing up in Swanlinbar in the 1950s[19]

Notable people[edit]


Swanlinbar is served by three bus routes. Leydons Coaches operate route 930 linking Swanlinbar to Bawnboy, Ballyconnell, Belturbet, Cavan and Enniskillen.[20] Ulsterbus route 192 provides a commuter service to Enniskillen with one morning and one evening journey each way Mondays to Saturdays inclusive.[21] Thursday-only Bus Éireann route 464 links Swanlinbar to Enniskillen, Ballinamore and Carrigallen.[22] Until mid-October 2012 Swanlinbar was served several times daily by Bus Éireann Expressway route 30.[23] Until June 2011 Swanlinbar was served by Ulsterbus Goldline route 296 linking it to Longford and Omagh.


The local Gaelic Athletic Association club is Swanlinbar St Mary's.


For other years see Furnaceland and Hawkswood.

Year Population Males Females Total Houses Uninhabited
1831 398 187 211 79 11
1841 492 226 266 113 21
1851 406 203 203 76 6
1861 436 214 222 83 7
1871 314 156 158 67 1
1881 300 146 154 74 7
1891 402 179 223 84 6

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Swanlinbar". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Archived from the original on 31 December 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  2. ^ "An Muileann Iarainn/Swanlinbar". Placenames Database of Ireland. Government of Ireland - Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Dublin City University. Archived from the original on 20 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Cavan County Directory, 1862". Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2007.
  4. ^ Srath; noun translates as river valley
  5. ^ Crone, John Smyth; O'Cassidy, Seamus; Lochlainn, Colm O. (1946). "The Irish Book Lover ..." Archived from the original on 24 September 2021. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  6. ^ Gribbon, H. D. (1969). The history of water power in Ulster. ISBN 9780715344651. Archived from the original on 24 September 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  7. ^ [Swanlinbar and its ironworks from the Registry of Deeds, by Rev. Dan Gallogly, in Breifne Historical Journal, Vol. VI, No. 21 (1982), page 95]
  8. ^ Swift, Jonathan (1824). "The works of Jonathan Swift, containing additional letters, tracts, and ... - Jonathan Swift".
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 November 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Memorial extract — Registry of Deeds Index Project".
  11. ^ "Memorial extract — Registry of Deeds Index Project". Archived from the original on 19 August 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Memorial extract — Registry of Deeds Index Project". Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  13. ^ "REV. MR. JOHN WESLEY'S JOURNAL". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  14. ^ "1761 Co Cavan Poll Book". Archived from the original on 28 July 2021. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
  15. ^ Carpenter, Andrew (1998). Verse in English from Eighteenth-century Ireland. ISBN 9781859181041.
  16. ^ "Genuki: Cavan Residents in the Fermanagh Poll of Electors 1788, Cavan". Archived from the original on 28 July 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Thirty Years' Correspondence Between John Jebb -- and Alexander Knox--". Carey, Lea and Blanchard. 1835.
  18. ^ "By Claddagh's Banks: A History of Swanlinbar and District from Earliest Times". 2000.
  19. ^ "Printing the way to success". Archived from the original on 19 March 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  20. ^ "Leydons Coaches". Archived from the original on 8 June 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  21. ^ Ulsterbus Winter 2020 [permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Bus Éireann News - Bus Éireann - View Ireland Bus and Coach Timetables & Buy Tickets". Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2012.

External links[edit]