Our Placenames and Townlands

Explore Gael Phobal Ard Mhacha Theas

March 2023

Droim an Tí – Ar leac an dorais agat

Explore Gael Phobal Ard Mhacha Theas

March 2023

Carraig na Gamhna – Ar leac an dorais agat

Irish in South Armagh 1901-1911

Ciarán Mac Murchaidh 


These maps are based on cross referencing and analysis I did when the 1901 and 1911 Irish census reports were digitised between 2009 and 2011. Our former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and Adams did great work before this but the pairs work was based on electoral districts, not town lands. The aim I had was to identify the strength or weakness of the language in the town lands and look at the the link between the different town lands regarding the strength of Irish at the start of the last century. More importantly these reports allow us to look at the state of the language from the Famine and the way the language declined from village to village and from age group to age group.

To get these figures I went through all the reports and cross referenced reports from both censuses, as many people claimed to have Irish in one of them but the same people didn’t mention the language in the other one. In some cases I found reports from houses where older brothers and sisters living there claimed to have Irish while others claimed not to. In these cases I presumed that they were all native speakers.

Of course the census doesn’t provide us with information about the level of Irish that the population had except for the odd person who claimed to have no English. We have to rely on other informations sources to discern the level of Irish, contemporary sources biographers and language collectors for the most part. Not surprisingly the reports show that the elderly had the most fluency, they actually had little English. Apparently the youngest generation were more comfortable with English but had ability in Irish also.

I divided those who claimed to have Irish into age groups to follow the decline of the language from the Famine onwards:

60 +

40-59 yo

24-39 yo

Under 23 yo


There were some problems regarding peoples ages in the reports. When comparing the reports from 1901 and 1911 I came across many cases where people have aged more than 10 years and in one case one person claimed that she was 30 years older in the year 1911 that she was 10 years prior! In these cases I had to take the age that was written down at the time.

These figures and maps offer only a glimpse into the amount of Irish speakers in the area or the amount of people who claimed to have Irish on 2 nights in the year 1901 and 1911. We can’t be completely sure how many Irish speakers there were alive in the Oriel area at that time. Having said that it gives us an insight into the state of Irish at the time and in the second half of the 19th century when the population of the area abandoned Irish and turned to English.