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Witter Parish, County Down

Origin

Ir. Uachtar ‘the upper part’

Background

O'Donovan's suggestion, in the OSNB, that Witter derived from an original Irish Íochtar “lowest extremity, part” cannot be sustained, as the 17th-century forms clearly indicate an earlier Gráinseach Uachtair.  Reeves EA (25 n. v) states: “The modern name [Witter] is a corruption of Irish uachtair ‘of  the upper part’; and is an abbreviation of the compound ‘Grange-oughter’, by which the parish was generally called”.  The qualifying element Uachtair refers not to an “upper grange”, but rather to the “grange of (the area known as) Uachtar”.  This probably helped to distinguish the grange at Witter from the many other granges in the corn-wealthy Ards peninsula.  

The name Uachtar, meaning “upper or higher region” was in existence long before there was an Anglo-Norman grange in this area, and it goes back to an Old Irish form Óchtar.  The “upper” meaning for Uachtar may possibly refer to the “upper part of the Ards”, or even to the relatively high land in the Witter area.  In early Irish genealogical material we have references to an Óchtar (form 1 above) which occurs as Óchtar Uillne, “the height of the elbow”.  This Óchtar, or Uachtar, is certainly to be identified as modern Witter, as its occupier is described (Descendants of Ír 46) as having been “in the Ards in the time of Conchobar mac Nessa” (isin Aird i n-aimsir Chonchoba[i]r maic Nessa), a pre-historic king of the first century AD.

References

Hughes A. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 123

Additional Information

subsumed into Ballyphilip Parish by 1871

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
grangia de Thewer1300cCharts St. Mary's Abbey i 4
Grange in Ardee, rectory of1570Fiants Eliz. $1659
the Grange in Ardee1592Fiants Eliz. $5767
Grangeoughter, ecclesia de1605Inq. Ult. (Down) $? Jac.I
church or rectory of Grangeower in1605CPR Jas I Jas.I 78a
in the Little Ardes1605CPR Jas I Jas.I 78a
Vochter1615Terrier (Reeves) 81
Grange-Owter, Rectorie of1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxvi
Grange-Owter, the Rectorie of1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxv; li
Grange-Owter, the Vicarage or church of1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxv; li
Grangecotter1644Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car.I
Grangowter1644Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car.I
Utter1657Hib. Reg.
Woughter or Granges, also Ballegallgatt1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 129
Woltar1659Census 1659 91
Vtter1661BSD
Wogher1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 9
Grangeouter Rector1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 20
Utter1672Hib. Del.
Woughter1683Descr. Ards 36
Whitter1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E.34
Witter1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E.34
Witter1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E.34
Witter1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E.34
Iochtar, i.e. the lower part or extremity""1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E.34

~Grainseach Uachtair "grange of the upper part"

1847EA 25 n. v

"the upper or farther grange"

1878O'Laverty i 390
Barony
Ards Upper
Parish
Ballyphilip
Parish in 1851
Witter
Townland
None
Place name ID
17351
Place name type
P