Athough not on the Shannon River, Longford is the closest town featuring important or useful amenities to many of the villages on the river such as Clondra, Tarmonbarry and Roosky. The town has everything the traveller might need such as banks, supermarkets, pharmacies as well as a cinema and state of the art bowling alley.
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 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.
Lough Lea is made up of three small pools, and is particularly good for tench fishing and also has bream, rudd, perch and hybrids.
Lough Fin can seem inconsistent with fishermen as it can sometimes seem as though it is void of fish, and again it can yield good catches of tench and rudd.
Cloonfee lake is a large lake, but can be difficult to catch fish.
Annaghmore lake holds the distinction of providing the Irish record rudd, and also contains specimen tench and perch.
Market Square has been a centre of commerce in Longford, and as far back as the 1800’s traders brought corn, potatoes and pigs etc. here for sale. An old market house, now demolished, was used to store these goods. The square is still used as a market with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables sold from stalls. At the front of the square is a Celtic Cross memorial dedicated to the men who died in the First World War.
St. Mels Cathedral 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 1865, 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.
The Diocesan Museum is worth a visit and is situated in the Cathedral buildings. Among the treasures on display is the 10th century Crozier of St Mel, uncovered 80 years ago in the ruin of the original cathedral in Ardagh. It is a priceless relic of exquisite craftsmanship. The Episcopal ring of Bishop O’Higgins is also on show. Viewing by appointment (043) 46465.