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The counties were created by the English, mainly, as Dr. Eoin
Mac Neill once colourfully phrased it, “for the purposes of the courts,
the sheriff and the hangman”. None
of them is older than the thirteenth century.
According to Thomas Larcom twelve of
the thirty-two counties now existing were created by King John in 1210.
The others were of longer gestation due to the re-emergence of
liberties and counties palatinate in the fourteenth century.
The western parts of the country were not shired
into counties until the final years of the sixteenth century. Clare as a county is first mentioned in 1570
although a sheriff of Thomond had already existed
for some years. The last county
to be declared was Wicklow, which was separated from
(1574 AD) “The division of Connaught and Thomond as it is now bounded, viz., the east and south parts, with the river of Shenon, on the west side with the great ocean sea, on the north with the great Lough Earne; which all are divided into several shires or counties as followeth:
Thomond in the one county to
be named the
nine triocha Céts were Ó mBloid, Ó gCaisin, Tradaree, Cineal Fearmaic, Uí Cormaic,
though the baronies are the largest sub-divisions of the county - the
average number for each county is ten - they no longer have any function
as public administrative units. Like
the counties, they, too, were devised by the English; but, since their
boundaries to a large extent were based on those of the old Triocha
Céts, they are amongst the oldest topographical
divisions we have. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries
the baronies were important units of reference for land surveys, plantations,
population censuses etc. They are,
therefore, of great interest to the genealogist and historian.
There are in all three hundred and fifty baronies in