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Magheralin Parish, County Down


Ir. Machaire Lainne 'plain of the church'; earlier Lann Rónáin Fhinn 'church of (St) Ronan Finn'


Village is 3km SW of Moira

bar: Iveagh Lower, Upper Half

The parish is on the most western reach of the river Lagan, before it turns east to flow through Lisburn and Belfast.  It consists of 33 townlands in Co. Down, and three across the border in Co. Armagh: Clankilvoragh, Derrylisnahavil and Donaghreagh.  In the past much of the parish was church land, and the medieval parish church was in the townland of Ballymakeonan, where the ruins still stand across the road from the 19th-century Church of Ireland church.  The present village of Magheralin is in the south part of Ballymagin, and the south-west corner of Ballymakeonan, with the replacement church in the west of Ballynadrone.  The parish was once much larger.  All the townlands were included in the parish register of 1715, but 20 townlands were divided off in 1725 to form the parish of Moira. 

The church lands of Magheralin included the 10 modern townlands (called "six towne lands" in 1622) of Ballymakeonan, Ballymacateer, Ballymagin, and (earlier half-towns of) Ballymacbredan  Ballymacmaine, Ballynadrone, Drumlin, Edenballycoggill, Lismaine, and Tullynacross.  In 1609 this group of townlands was rented by the bishop to William Worseley, and in 1622 to Thomas Coats (CPR Jas I 395b, 190b; Buckworth (Atkinson) 127), although they had clearly been held earlier by erenagh families.  Many of the townland names in Magheralin contain surnames of families important in the area in the past.

The sources make clear that the earlier name of Magheralin was Lann Rónáin Fhinn 'church of (St) Ronan Finn', using the uncommon early Irish term Lann 'church'.  In ecclesiastical sources the parish of Magheralin is called both Lan (1306 to 1609 AD) and LanRonan, in Irish Lann Rónáin "Ronan's church".  These names probably indicate the same foundation, although Atkinson (Dromore 214-5) listed them separately for fear of confusing the evidence.  In the Irish forms Lann Rónáin is more common, but there are two examples of Cell Lainne 'the church of Lann'.  "The church of Rónán Fionn (Ronan the fair) in Iveagh of the Ulaid" is mentioned at May 22nd in four Irish martyrologies, and the marking out of the church of Cell Lainne in Dál Araidhe by St Ronan son of Berach is described in the 12th-century tale Buile Suibhne "The Frenzy of Sweeney" (§§2-3). 

It is clear from this history that the derivation of the current name must be Machaire Lainne 'plain of the church' and that the second element is not Linne 'of the pool' as suggested by Harris and O'Donovan, despite the association with water, also seen in the townland name Ballynadrone "the townland between two rivers" by Magheralin village, and the song mentioning the "ducks of Magheralin". 

In church sources the "rectory and vicarage" was referred to by this name in 1611 (CPR Jas I 190b), and Magheralin was used subsequently for both the village now containing the church (in Ballymakeonan) and the parish.  A common spelling by the early 19th century was Maralin, still in use locally and reflected in the local pronunciation, where the stress may shift to the first syllable.  The traveller Pococke's form Marling in 1760 (UJA ser. 3 48 (1985) 114) shows how early the name was shortened in speech.  However, the Ordnance Survey restored the fuller form Magheralin used on its maps and in the Topographical Index.


Muhr, K. (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 p. 213-17

Additional Information

also spelt Maralin some sources; see also the village of Magheralin.

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Machaire Lainne ""plain of the church""2001Arm. Terr, People + Place-names 319
Iveagh Lr., Up. Half
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
Place name type