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Mourne Mountains, County Down


Ir. Beanna Boirche ‘the peaks of the peak district’;


SE corner of Co. Down

Ir. Múrna (tribe) + E. ‘mountains’.

The original Irish name of the Mourne Mountains was Beanna Boirche which appears to mean ‘the peaks of the peak district’ (see PNI iii 122-125). From roughly the 13th century onwards the area in which the mountains are situated was known as Mughdorna (Mod. Ir. Múrna) from a tribe of that name who had migrated here from their homelands in Cremorne (Irish Críoch Mhughdhorn ‘territory of the Mudhdorna’) in Co. Monaghan and gradually the mountains came to be known by the name of the district in which they are situated. Thus in early-17th century English documents we find the mountains being referred to as ‘the Mountains of Mourne’ (e.g. Mountainse of Moorne in Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Map), 1603) and this is the name by which the mountains are commonly known today. 

In early Irish genealogies their name is traced back to a mythological ancestor Mughdhorn Dubh ‘black Mughdhorn’. However, the name may in fact represent a combination of Mug ‘slave/servant’ and Dairine, the name of an early population group. Thus Múrna may signify ‘the vassal or subject people (called) Dairine’. There are townlands named MOURNE MOUNTAINS EAST, WEST and MIDDLE in the parish of Kilkeel which is coterminous with barony of Mourne [Benna Bairche c.800].


Ó Mainnín, M. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 3 p. 119-25; McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 112

Additional Information

See also the barony of Mourne

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

i mBairchiu, Terremotus

0601AU i 98

i mBairchiu

0611AU i 106

i mBoirche

0739AFM i 340

i mBairchiu

0753AU i 208

Benn mBoirchi

0800cTriads of Ireland 4

I Slán túaith Benna Bairche

0800cFiacc's Hymn 315 l.29

Bend Boirche/Bairche

1000cRennes Dinds. $98

Benn Boirchi

1000cRennes Dinds. $98

Benna Bairchi

1000cRennes Dinds. $98

Seanchas ríg Cuailnge is Boirche

1050cLebor na Cert 1332

do mílid Boirchi

1050cLebor na Cert 103

do ríg Boirchi

1050cLebor na Cert 1252

rí Boirchi

1050cLebor na Cert 1320

Tighernach Boirchech

1061AFM ii 878

Bend Boirche

1100cMet. Dinds. iv 144 & 146

Bairche .i. sliabh

1160cTBC (LL) l. 2980


1160cTBC (LL) l. 420


1165AFM ii 1154

Mugharna Iath Eathach

1180cTCD H. 4. 31 (Arthurs)

Modernie et Uuech, totius

1204Pontif. Hib. i $59

Mocorne, Ecclesia de

1306cEccles. Tax. 26

Bhoirche bheannaigh, ó

1350cTopog. Poems l. 419

Killchil al. de Morun

1446Reg. Mey 73

Killcil al. de Murnu, parroch. eccl. Sancti Colman

1446Annates Ulst. 110

an maidhm sin bheinne boirche

1493AFM iv 1206

i mbeandaibh boirche

1493AFM iv 1204

mudharnayb, terras de

1596O'Neill Letter

Morne, Decanatus de

1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 35

Tigernach Boircheach

1630cMart. Don. May 13(t)p474

Tighernach, Boircech

1630cMart. Don. May 13 p126

Beannaibh Boirche, láimh re

1633cCéitinn ii 224


1645cMacCana's Itinerary 48

ó Bhoirche go dtí an Éirne

1735cÓ Doirnín (de Rís) 2: 88

Mor-Rinn i.e. the great Ridge

1744Harris Hist. 11

Mor-Rinn, the great Partition, or great Hill

1744Harris Hist. 120

Sléibhte Múirn (MS: Mughdhorn)

1760cMac Cumhaigh (b) 83 l.28

Sléibhte Mhughdhorn, go

1760cMac Cumhaigh (a) 16

Sleibhte mora Mughorna

1808Neilson's Intro. 74

Sleibhte Mughdhorn

1834OSL 1909 edn map

Mughdorna - a trib[al] name

1834cOSNB: gen. sources E35

ó Bhoirche

1835cMac Domhnaill 3: 4 p31

Beanna Boirche

1988Éire Thuaidh

Beanna Boirche

1989GÉ 35

Beanna Boirche perhaps ""peaks of the peak district"

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 171

Múrn "Mugdorn tribe"

1999Cel. Ulst. Tds 29

Ir. Múrna (tribe) + E. "mountains"

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 112

Bennai Boirche

O.Ir.Cath MT $78
Moccherne in the earldom of Ulster1305Cal. Charter Rolls iii 53
the Mourne, Kylkeyl in1369Reg. Sweteman $38
Morne, church of St. Colman del1387Cal. Canc. Hib. (EA) 26-7 (i 131)
Morna, rector of1442Reg. Prene (EA) 210
Morna, rector of1456Reg. Prene (EA) 210
Mourne & Grenecastle, the manors & lordships of1506CPR Hen. VII ii 443
Cillcayl al. de Murna, plebanie Sancti Colmani de1531Annates Ulst. 115
Kyllghill al. Morne, the parish church of1536CPR Hen. IV (EA) 210
The parochial church of Kyllyghyll al. Moorne1541cCPR (Tresham) ii 16
Mourne1542L/P. Hen. VIII xvii 199, 219
Norne & Grene Castle, manor of1542Cal. Carew MSS $176 201
The Morne & the Green Castle1542L/P. Hen. VIII xvii 272
The Mourne & the Grene Castle1542Cal. Carew MSS $165 187
Mourne, rectory of1548CSP Ire. 78
Morne, lordship & manor of1552CPR Ed. VI iv 389
Mourne & Greencastle, the whole demesne & manor of1552CSP Ire. 126
Mourne & Lecale1553Cal. Carew MSS $201 248
Mourne & Greencastle, castle & manor of1562CSP Ire. 192
Mowrnele1564Mercator's Ire. (1564)
Mowrne, lordshyppe of1568cLythe Map
Morne1570cFiants Eliz. $1736
Mourn1570cNowel's Ire. (1)
Mowrne1570cUlster Map 1580c
Mourne, lordship of1571CSP Ire. 441
Mournele1573Ortelius Map
Morne, the lordshipp of1575Bagenal Rental 128
Mourne1580cIre map c.1580
Murne1590cJobson's Ulster (TCD) 17
Mourne1595Mercator's Ire.
Movrne1595Mercator's Ulst.
Murna with all its villages1596Spanish SP iv $658
Mowrne1599Boazio's Map (BM)
Moorne1600Bartlett Map (BM)
The mountaines of the morne1600Bartlett Map (BM)
The Moorne1601Bartlett Map (TCD)
The Mountaines of the Moorne1601Bartlett Map (TCD)
Moorne pars1602cBartlett Maps (Hayes McCoy) i
Mountaines of Moorne1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 2
Mountaines of Moorne1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1
The Moorne1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 2
The Moorne1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1
Mourne, lordship & manor of1607CPR Jas I 495a
Mourne, lordship & manor of1607CPR Jas I 103a
Mowrn1609cBoazio's Map (NG)
Mourne1610Speed's Antrim & Down
Mourne [district]1610Speed's Ulster
Mourne, the Mountaynes of1610Speed's Ulster
The Mountaynes of Mourne1610Speed's Antrim & Down
The Mourne1610cNorden's Map
Beani(e)borphies, Crotlewe &1611CPR Jas I 190a
Beannyborfy1611CPR Jas I 193a
Morne1613CPR Jas I 247a
Morne, Decanatus of1615cTerrier (Reeves) 39
Beamborphes, Crotlew &1618CPR Jas I 373b
Mo(u)rne, lordshipp of1625cInq. Ult. (Down) $15 Jac. I
Mourne, maner'' de1638Inq. Ult. (Down) $84 Car. I
Mourn, the mountaines of1655cCiv. Surv. x $71
Mourne1657Inq. Down (Reeves2) 11
Mourne, Mountaines of1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 95
Moorne, the Mountaines of1657cHib. Reg. Up. Iveagh
1/2 Mooure1672cHib. Del. Down
1/2 Moourne1672cHib. Del. Ulster
Moourne Mountaynes1672cHib. Del. Down
Moourne, Mount. of1672cHib. Del. Ulster
1/2 Moourne1690cLamb Maps
Half Bar[on]y of Mourne1743Harris Hist. map
Mourne1755Map of Down (OSNB) E35
Mourne1790Reg. Deeds abstracts iii $303
Morne1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E35
Mourne1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E35
Parish in 1851
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