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Maghaberry, County Antrim


Ir. Maigh gCabraí [my gabree] ‘plain of the poor land’ [Meigabery 1661].


3km NE of Moira

par: Magheramesk bar: Massereene Upper


The townland of Maghaberry is adjacent to Magheramesk and in the north of the parish.  The name seems to preserve an early feature, nasalisation following a neuter in Old Irish, in this caseMá (earlier magh) ‘a plain’.  (This feature is also seen in Lough Neagh, Loch nEachach, and see the discussion of the Derry townland name Moydamlaght, PNI v 32, for commentary).  The second element in the place-name is probably Cabrach ‘poor land’, which often forms a place- or townland name on its own.  The earliest reference is Ballimagaberie1605 in the patent from King James I to James Hamilton (CPR Jas I 15), and Ballymagabrey was held in 1609and 1625 by Sir Foulke Conway (Inq. Ult. Antrim §1 Car. I).  Initial bally/baile ‘townland’ was later dropped, the first example being meigaberry  in 1661 (Inq. Ult. Antrim §2 Car. II), and the modern spelling appeared on Lendrick’s map in 1780.  The Irish 1830s Ordnance Survey expert John O’Donovan often chose to anglicise magh in place-names as Moy (from dative/locative maigh), but there is no evidence of this in the pronunciation here.  In fact the present pronunciation, with Ma-, stress on the syllable –gab-, and elision of the apparent syllable written –ber, was clearly suggested in 1625 Ballymagabrey and Magabrey in 1669.  People paying Hearth Money in 1669included Donohey McIlreany, Hugh McCamble, and the English surnames Bullock and Whiteside (HMR Ant. 109).


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 103; Pat McKay/ Kay Muhr

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Meigabery1661Inq. Ult. (Antrim) Car.II $2
Magabrey1669HMR Ant. 109
Maghaberry1780Lendrick Map
~Macha Bearaigh ""Berry''s field""1832cJ O'D (OSNB) A 28
~Maigh gCabraí ""plain of the poor land""1999Dict. Ulst. PN 103
Massereene Upper
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
Place name type