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Longford Map and Tourist Information
Longford Town, sprung up along the banks of the river Camlin. Its strategic midland location saw it develop as a gateway to the north-west and the northern half of Connaught. Furthermore, this important location was recognized as early as the 1700’s when the British authorities sited both a cavalry and artillery barracks in the town. The present Great Water Street was the main centre of commerce and industry for much of the last century. Buildings of importance surviving from this era would include St John’s Church of Ireland 1760, Longford Court House (commenced 1793 - completed 1796) and the Longford Arms Hotel 1807.
With the arrival of the Royal Canal in 1830 and the Railway in 1855, the eastern side of town slowly assumed this mantle. The National Bank was set up in 1834, St Mel’s Cathedral in 1840 and the Garda Station circa 1842. In more recent times, there has been the development of Earl Street while the arrival of the shopping centres has re-kindled the central part of the town.
Since the 1960’s Longford has developed rapidly as a centre of excellence both in manufacturing and retailing. The rapid urbanization of Irish society is reflected in the growing town population, which is well served by some of the finest leisure and recreational facilities in the country.
The Royal Canal
To the rear of the swimming pool in the Market Square is an area which was occupied by the Royal Canal Harbour. The extension of the Canal was opened to Longford in 1830. The early years were prosperous ones when the grain stores and warehouses were packed to capacity with merchandise. Bricks, eggs, and non-perishable goods were loaded onto the barges. Lumber, raw materials as well as turf and livestock were unloaded. Some 40,000 passengers used the barges, as emigration was rampant in those years.
As technology surged forward the age old method of haulage became obsolete. In 1855 the Great Southern and Western Railway Company extended their rail-line alongside the canal. This development, coupled with a few tragic accidents, rang the death-knell for the harbour. Business decreased rapidly and passengers started to travel by train. It finally closed down around the late 1950’s. Access to the canal is via Park Road, also close to Harbour House, the site of the old canal harbour.
The Longford Union workhouse, which was once also located here, opened in 1840 to provide shelter and medical care for the
elderly. Throughout its existence the workhouse provided shelter for the poor and it was a last refuge for the sick and dying during the terrible famine. In the years 1841 to 1851 16,615 people died here, mainly of malnutrition, typhus or fever. The need for a graveyard was great and so the lands adjoining the workhouse were leased from the Earl of Longford and the graveyard was created. The workhouse has been demolished long ago but the famine graveyard remains. The graveyard has recently been renovated to commemorate the 150th Anniversary the Famine. A high cross and a famine memorial in the form of a tomb have been erected to remember the many people who came to rest here.
The Mall is a popular local recreational venue for young and old. The Mall Sports Complex has wonderful indoors and outdoors sporting facilities and is surrounded by beautiful trees and a stream filled with fish and ducks. Close to the town centre, The Mall is the perfect venue for sports activities, picnics, or leisurely walks.
St Mel’s Cathedral
This landmark building is of 19th century Renaissance style and built of grey
limestone. The foundation stone taken from the original cathedral of St Mel’s at Ardagh, was laid by Bishop O’Higgins in 1840, subsequently opened for worship in 1856, then consecrated in 1893.
The main body of the Cathedral is Romanesque and was designed by John Benjamin Keane. The large front porch “Portico” was erected some 30 years after the main body of the Cathedral was completed. The boulders 10ft high and weighing 5-8 tonnes had to be carted 11 miles from Newtowncashel and at one point the building ramp extended as far as St Mel’s College. The original High Altar and pulpit are located in the crypt.
Among the notable events of the Cathedral was the marriage of General Sean MacEoin to Alice Cooney which was attended by General Micheal Collins and Arthur Griffith in 1921.
St Mel’s College
Founded by Rev Dr Kilduff, the first Bishop to reside in Longford Town, it was officially opened to students in 1865. Eddie Macken, World Champion Show jumper and Ray Flynn, Olympic Runner are two of its past pupils.