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Aghaderg Parish, County Down


Ir. Achadh Dearg ‘red field’


Aghaderg is on the western boundary of Co. Down, beside the marshy valley, once called Gleann Rí (PNI i 40-2), which became the route of the canal from Newry to Lough Neagh and later of the Belfast-Dublin railway line. There are 30 townlands.  Most of the parish is in the barony of Iveagh Upper, Upper Half (12,841 acres, Knox Hist. 321), with the two northernmost townlands, Drummiller and Ballyvarley west of Banbridge, in the barony of Iveagh Lower, Lower Half (1075 acres).  Aghaderg parish, in the words of the Ordnance Survey Memoir (OSM xii 3a), "consists of a succession of hills with very little variation of height".  The parish slopes east to west, and the highest part is in the north-east, where Derrydrummuck townland rises to 579 feet. 

The two earliest possible forms of the name are both open to doubt.  Reeves (EA 204), O'Donovan (AFM ii 1082 n.p) and Hogan (Onom. Goed. 660b) identified Uchderc, the site of a battle in AD 1147, between the Ulaid and Cen‚l nEogain allied with Airgialla, as Aghaderg.  Battles often took place in boundary areas between the factions involved (Ó Riain 1974(a), 67-80).  However Dean Mooney has pointed out that the subsequent route of the Ulaid to Dundrum makes more sense if Uchderc were on the southern approach to Down in the area of the Crown Mound north-east of Newry, more accessible to a large army but still fairly close to the boundary (Mooney 1955(a)).  Nevertheless the prehistoric battle in which the Ulaid were defeated by the Three Collas was relocated at Aghaderg, and there were local traditions of battles (see below and Drummiller).

If the location of Uchderc is accepted the form is still problematic.  If the name, which is uninflected in the source, is taken as copied from an earlier text, and could be modernized as Ucht Dearg ‘red hill-breast’ or the like, it could be linked to the next oldest form Aghdyryg.  In 1795 the local explanation of the parish name involved the old church in Drumsallagh. “Tradition received in this country” was that several holy men had been killed by the Danes, who destroyed both church and monastery, and that the place was afterwards called Aghdurg, ‘the red or bloody ford’ on the boundary stream running close by the site.  This name eventually became the name of the parish. 

In 1834 the local explanation of the parish name was either ‘red ford’ or ‘red hill’ (OSM xii 1a).  However all the other spellings have a vowel after Agh-, suggesting achadh ‘field’ rather than ucht ‘hill-breast’ or áth ‘ford’.   The second element is probably dearg ‘red’, and the final syllable appearing as -rig in some forms up to 1834 could be explained as the epenthetic vowel pronounced in Irish between the r and g of dearg.  Thus the name would be Achadh Dearg ‘red field’, the Irish form given in the 17th century (LCAB). 

It is clear from later references that Aghaderg was an important parish, held by a prebend of Dromore cathedral, and associated with Tullylish which was a luminary, i.e. its revenues provided the cathedral with altar candles.  Neither Aghaderg nor Tullylish was named as such in the Papal taxation. 


Muhr, K. (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 pp. 17-23, where the name is discussed in further detail.

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

(?) ar bhrú Uchdearc

1147AFM ii 1082 see n.p

(?) Hacyglid, ecclesia de

1306cEccles. Tax. 112-3

Achadirg, prebenda de

1420Annates Ulst. 289

Aghadeyrge, ecclesia de

1422Reg. Dowdall 275 $129

p'ish of Aghederick

1641Wars Co. Down xi 60

Cath Achaidh Dheirg... taobh abhus do Ghleann Righe

1680cLCABuidhe 50

aith "ford" + dearg "red"

1834OSM xii 1a

Áth Dearg "red ford"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) NB62


1834cOSNB Pron. NB62

Aghaderg, "The Red Ford" Athderg

1875Knox Hist. 355
Achdyryg, vicar.1413Reg. Fleming 152 $210
preb. of Achadeyrg1419Cal. Papal Letters vii 122
Aghudyrke, perp. vicar.1427Reg. Swayne 61
Achedyrke, vicar.1440Reg. Swayne 183
preb. of St Congal Achadradeug1495Cal. Papal Letters xvi $336
Aechderdoch, perp. vicar.1505Annates Ulst. 292
Aechdirdoch, annates of1505Annates Ulst. 293
Achadeyrg, prebendary of1530cAnnates Ulst. 119n
Achaderyge, prebend, vicar of1546Reg. Dowdall 80 $113
Acaderige1547cCPR (Tresham) 286 $34
T. Aghaderick1600Bartlett Map (BM)
Temple Aghadericke1602Bartlett Map (Greenwich)
Achedericke1605CPR Jas I 85a
Aguaderrey1610Speed's Ulster
Aghaderick1611CPR Jas I 190a
Aghadricke1611CPR Jas I 190b
Achaderricke1634OSM xii 1a
Aghaderick1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 77
Aghaderig1657Hib. Reg. Lr Evagh
Aghaderrig1657Hib. Reg. Upr Eveagh
Aghedericke1659Census 1659 73
Aghaderigg parish1661BSD 105,106
Aghaderrick als Loughbrickland1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 14
Rector de Aghederrick als Loughbrickland1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 14
Aghederrick1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 24
Aghadarrige parish1666BSD 119
Aghaderge1667ASE 61b $39
Aghaderrig1672Hib. Del. Co. Downe
Aghadericke1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 46
Aghadericke Rectoria1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 46
Aghadericke vicaria1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 47
Aghaderrig1690cLamb Maps Co. Downe
I was made for Aghoderick church [bell]1698OSM xii 4b
Audory1729Deeds & Wills (Mooney) 1
Aghaderig1744Harris Hist. 83
Aghaderrig or Loughbricklan1744?OSM xii 1a
Aghederrig1755OSM xii 1a
parish of, old church of Ahaderig1802Stat. Sur. Dn (Dub.) 302,303
Aghaderrick1806Civ. & Ecc. Top. (OSNB) NB62
Aughaderg1810Wm. Map (OSNB) NB62
~Ath-derg ""red ford""1913Joyce iii 27
Achadh Dearg1992PNI 21
Iveagh Up., Up. Half
Parish in 1851
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