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Murlough Lower, County Down


Ir. Murlach ‘lagoon' + Eng. lower; earlier Ir. Murbholg 'sea-bag'.


The name Murlough is now given to two townlands on the more southerly arm of land enclosing the inner bay of Dundrum. Murlough Lower is the tip of the promontory opposite Dundrum village.  Upper and Lower Murlough take their names from the old name for Dundrum (Inner) Bay which from its shape was called in Irish Murbholg, literally ‘sea-bag’ from muir ‘sea’ and bolg ‘a bag’.  This is the second element in Ráth Murbhoilg, a by-name for the parish of Maghera which is contiguous to Dundrum Inner Bay. 

The development of Murbholg to Murlough represents a late reflex and re-interpretation of a name which was no longer understood, under the influence of the word loch ‘lake, lough,’ and helped by the pronunciation of an extra ‘epenthetic’ vowel between the -l- and -g (and the loss of the internal bh).  This intermediate stage is evident in early spellings like Moroughlough 1617, which clearly represent a trisyllabic pronunciation.  The middle syllable was then dropped, to give Murloch which the local OSNB informant explained as ‘sea lake’. This would appear to be the word which is attested in Modern Irish as murlach which means ‘lagoon’ (FGB q.v.). 

Murlough is also the name of a bay to the east of Fair Head in Co. Antrim, and of two bays in Co. Donegal, one in Lough Swilly and the other near Lifford (Joyce ii 249).  The Antrim Murlough was referred to as An Mhurlag in the poetry of Aodh Mac Domhnaill c. 1845.  This Modern Irish form is a more direct reflection of the original, but should be masculine An Murlag to reflect the derivation from bolg.


MÓM 1993; KM, 2009; PT, MÓM 2013

Additional Information

See the parish of Maghera for historical forms of the related name Ráth Murbhoilg

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Lower Murlough

1767Map of Down (OSNB) 142
Lower Murlough1810Wm. Map (OSNB) 142
Murlough Lower1834cJ O'D (OSNB) 142
Lecale Upper
Parish in 1851
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