Welcome to my weekly ‘5 Things Friday’ blog, where each week I take a look at some interesting random facts, famous sons and daughters, tall tales or folklore or even just my own observations about various counties in Ireland. This week, I am focusing on the lovely Co. Fermanagh.
Population of Fermanagh: 61, 805 (2011 Census)
Area: 1,851 Sq Km (715 Sq mi)
From the Irish words Fir Manach or Fear Manach meaning ‘men of Manach’ Fermanagh is a very pretty county with lots of lovely lakes (30% of the county is covered in lakes and waterways) and ancient forests. It is a very historic county and the Annals of Ulster, chronicling medieval Ireland from 432AD until 1540AD were written at Belle Isle on Lough Erne. I have listed 5 of my favourite facts about Fermanagh below. This is not an exclusive list, just things I enjoyed learning or that you might find interesting and there are many more to come in the months ahead…
Procter & Gamble is currently the world’s largest multinational consumer goods company and it all began with a Fermanagh native! It was founded by Enniskillen-born James Gamble and his partner William Procter. The two met when they married the Norris sisters in Cincinnati in the 1830’s. Procter was a candle maker and Gamble a soap maker (sounds a bit like the start of a nursery rhyme!) and their father-in-law persuaded them to become business partners in 1837 and Procter & Gamble was born. Years later, the company created the term ‘Soap Opera’ when they produced and sponsored the original radio and then tv soap operas in the US! Brands that the company owns today include household names like Ariel, Gillette, Olay, Pampers, Pantene as well as many, many more global brands.
You might know that Fermanagh, and its neighbouring county Cavan, is home to the brilliant Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. But did you know that the park is the world’s first international (borderless) UNESCO global geopark! Visitors can enjoy many amazing things to see and do here including the amazing Marble Arch Caves (try out an underground boat trip whilst visiting their show cave) and the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk (bring sturdy legs and lots of water!). It is a great place to visit year round and was 895 million years in the making.
The oldest tree in Ireland, and possibly Europe, is in Co. Fermanagh! There is some disagreement about this, with other nominees from Ireland being in Killarney & Maynooth, but at 800+ years old, my money is on one of the two Yew trees that stand at the entrance to the old castle at Crom Estate, not far from the town of Newtownbutler. A male and a female, they have leaned towards each other (how fitting!) over the years to form a little wooded archway that you can walk through. You really feel close to nature and the longevity of the estate here, hidden away from everything by the ancient branches, and a visit to Crom in early Spring when the untouched fields are filled with dandelions as far as the eye can see is a must and one of my favourite things to do in Fermanagh.
Near the North Shore of Lower Lough Erne, sits Boa Island, the biggest island in the Lough and home to the Boa and Lustymore stone figures. The Boa Island figure in particular is one of the most noteworthy stone figures in Ireland. Dating from the Iron Age or earlier, it looks male, but may in fact represent a female Celtic deity! The detail is remarkable, especially the face and head. Heads were very important in Celtic culture as they were thought to contain a person’s spirit after death and so severed heads were often removed and taken in triumph by victors after battle. A visit to this secluded graveyard feels almost like a Mayan-type ancient site, apart from the weather of course, which never fails to remind us that we are in Ireland.
As well as boasting several noteworthy sons and daughters, such as actor Adrian Dunbar and priest Fr. Brian D’Arcy amongst others, Co. Fermanagh can also lay claim to providing the secondary education of two of Ireland’s greatest writers. Although years apart, both Oscar Wilde & Samuel Beckett attended the Portora School in Enniskillen. In fact, the aforementioned James Gamble founder of Procter & Gamble was also educated there. So kids, don’t forget to study hard and do your homework, you’d never know where it might get you!
So as I’ve said folks, this is just a small snapshot of the interesting things I’m learning every day about Fermanagh. Of course, there are many, many more to talk about but, we’ll save those for another day! I hope you enjoyed the read. Please feel free to share my blog or comment below if you have anything to add!
Happy Irish travels,