but densely populated
being Irelandıs smallest county, Louth is one of the most
densely populated boosted by the presence of two of the
largest towns in the country and a rich hinterland. A long
coastline and the fishing industry has provided an additional
source of revenue, employment and food when times were bad,
writes Liam OıRourke.
The most recent census of 2002 put the population at 101,802,
the countys highest since 1851 when it was 107,662.
At that time the country was emerging from the devastating
effects of the famine. Ten years earlier the population
of Louth stood at an all time high of 128,240.
Dundalk (population 32,505) and Drogheda (population 31,020)
are respectively the sixth and seventh most populated urban
centres in the state according to the most recent census
returns, behind Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford
in that order.
Over 60% of the residents of Louth live in these towns.
The next most populated town in the north-east is Navan,
with a population of 19,417 leaving it at number 14 on that
However in recent times the population of county Louth hasnt
grown as rapidly as other counties on the eastern seaboard
and its rates of increase between 1991 and 1996 was below
the national average. Between 1991 and 1996 the number of
people living in the state rose from 3,525,719 to 3,621,035,
an increase of 2.6%.
In the same period the population of county Louth increased
from 90,724 to 92,163 an increase of only 1.6%. By contrast
the population of Meath rose by 3.8%, Westmeath by 2.2%,
Wicklow by 5.3% and Kildare by 10%.
Figures for other counties also make for interesting comparisons.
Longford was the only county in Leinster that experienced
a drop in population, falling by 0.5% to just over 30,000.
The numbers living in Monaghan dropped marginally to just
Further afield, Galway was the only county in Connacht that
saw significant increase, while five of the six Munster
counties experienced increases greater than that of Louth
the exception being Tipperary.
The next census was delayed by one year due to the foot-and-mouth
outbreak in the Cooley Peninsula and by April 2002 the number
living within the jurisdiction was just short of four million
at 3,917,336, an increase of 8% percent in six years.
Figures revealed that the population of the county was the
largest since 1851. 101,802 were resident in the county
up 9,636 since 1996, an increase of 10.5%, slightly ahead
of the national average but well short of the increases
in neighbouring counties.
Within the same time frame the numbers in Meath increased
by 22.1% - the highest nationally just ahead of Kildare
which recorded an increase of 21.5. Fingal (North County
Dublin) recorded an increase of 17%, Westmeath 13.8%, Wicklow
11.7% while Laois and Carlow both of which are within
the Dublin commuter belt recorded increases of 10.2%
and 10.7% respectively.
In the same period every county in Ireland recorded an increase
in population, with Longford recording an increase of 3.2%
and Leitrim marginally higher at 3.3%. Monaghans population
was up 2.8% to nearly 53,000 while Cavans was up 6.6%
The census of 1841 was a landmark census, marking the first
time that households filed their own census returns and
in the following years the census acted as a barometer of
the countrys economic well-being.
On June 6 of that year the first reliable census of the
whole island returned a figure of 8,175,124 people, an estimated
increase of almost six percent over the previous decade
and reckoned to be an increase of 172 in sixty years.
Both Drogheda and Dundalk were well-established towns at
this stage. What is now County Louth was annexed by the
Normans in 1185 and was part of the Pale, that part of the
country that remained under English jurisdiction from the
earliest days of the Norman invasion. It was this influence
that led to the establishment of two large towns about twenty
In the middle of the 19th century the Louth-Monaghan-Armagh
area was the most densely populated part of the country
outside of Dublin.
Until the passing of the Local Government Act of 1898, Drogheda
was designated 'The County of the Town of Drogheda', a County
in it's own right, with its own local administration. Under
the act, all judicial functions for the County of
the Town of Drogheda were absorbed into the judicial
County of Louth. However the number living in the town are
included in the population statistics for the whole of the
Just like that of the rest of the country, the population
of Louth fell throughout the second-half of the 19th century.
By 1861 the population had fallen to 90,713 and the next
decade it dropped by a further six and a half thousand to
just over 83,000.
The census of 1881 recorded a population of 77,684 in the
county, a drop of nearly 50,000 in forty years or a fall
of about 40%. By this time the population of the island
of Ireland had dropped to 5,174,836, down nearly three million
on it peak of 1841 or about 37%.
Still County Louth, including the County of the town
of Drogheda was regarded as one of the most prosperous
in the country. In addition to being two well-established
towns, Dundalk and Drogheda were important ports as was
Greenore. The three outlets were important shipping points
for Meath, Monaghan and Armagh.
Clogherhead, about eight miles north of Drogheda, is one
the most important fishing ports in the state. The village
developed around the fishing industry and its harbour,
known as Port Oriel, was built in 1885.
Most of the census records for the latter part of the 19th
century were destroyed during the Civil War while others
were destroyed shortly after the census were taken in the
interests of confidentiality.
The population of the country and county Louth continued
to decline in the newcentury. The first census of the 20th
century, taken in 1901, showed that 3,221,823 were living
in the 26 Counties of which 65,820 resided in Louth.
Returns from the last census held in 1911 - before
the Great War and the 1916 Rising and the subsequent troubles
in the country showed that 3,139,688 were living in what
was to become the Free State with 63,655 living in Louth.
The first census after independence was held in 1926 and
revealed that 62,867 were living in the county, the lowest
in the last 150 years. Since then the number has steadily
increased, barring one hiccup when the population dropped
from 68,771 in 1951 to 67,378 ten years later.
In contrast the population of the country didnt reach
its lowest point until 1961 when it hit 2,818,341 down nearly
170,000 from 1951, emphasizing what a dismal decade in economic
terms the fifties were for the country as a whole.
In the last forty years the population of the country has
increased remarkably, rising by just over 39% from 2,818,341
in 1961 to 3,917,203 in 2002. In the same time frame the
population of County Louth has grown by 51%.
While the population nationally grew by 11.1% between 1991
and 2002 the number living in the county grew by 12.2%.
However the contrast between 1961 and 1991 is more pronounced
when the numbers living in the state grew by 25.1% while
those living in Louth grew by 34.8%, well above the national
Taken from Wee County 2004