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Warrenpoint Parish, County Down

Origin

Eng. Warren's or poss. Waring's (surname) + point

Background

Warrenpoint is a comparatively modern name; the earliest reference to it in the sources dates to 1744 and historically it formed a part of the district of the Legan and parish of Clonallan (see intro.). As late as 1780 there were only two houses in the village, ‘with a few huts for the occasional residence of the fishermen during the oyster season...’  In the succeeding 50 years, however, its scenic beauty and coastal location seem to have instigated its rapid development and in 1837 it contained 462 houses (Lewis Top. Dict. ii 675).

It has been suggested by both Mooney (p. 53) and Laoide (Sgéalaidhe Óirghiall 152) that Rinn Mhic Giolla Ruaidh, anglicized Ringmackilroy, is the old Irish name for Warrenpoint.  This is because the Irish element rinn ‘a point’ clearly refers to the same topographical feature as -point in Warrenpoint. The modern urban district is virtually co-extensive with the townland of Ringmackilroy but Warrenpoint was never referred to as Rinn Mhic Giolla Ruaidh by the last generations of Irish speakers in the area.  O'Donovan recorded the form Pointe an Bháirínigh ‘Warren's Point’ from Oyne McStay in 1834 whereas Irish speakers in Omeath at the beginning of the century simply referred to it as An Púinte or An Pointe.  The origin of the first element in Warrenpoint is, nevertheless, a problem.  McStay clearly understood it to be a surname but Lewis, writing in 1837, states that ‘the site of the present town was originally a rabbit warren, whence it has received its name’ (Lewis Top. Dict. ii 675).  These two interpretations are possibly reflected in varying spellings such as WarrenPoint and Warrenspoint on maps of Co. Down which postdate the first Ordnance Survey when the spelling of most Irish place-names was finally settled. 

Lewis's explanation is possibly a folk etymology but, if this is the case, does Warrenpoint derive from the surname Warren or Waring?  MacLysaght states that these two names are not related: Warren derives from the French de la Varenne whereas Waring derives from the Norman-French personal name Guarin (MacLysaght 1985, 296).  They are sometimes confused, however, and Harris spells Warrenpoint Waring's Point in 1744.  Waringstown in the parish of Donaghcloney, on the other hand, derives its name from a certain William Waring who purchased lands in the area in 1658.  It is interesting that in a document lodged by Waring with the Court of Claims in 1662 he spells his surname Warring and Warren (Atkinson's Donaghcloney 24 & 144).  While Waring is well attested in Co. Down, Warren is normally associated with the Pale (MacLysaght 1985, 296); but as neither surname is attested in this particular area the precise origin of the name Warrenpoint remains a matter of some doubt.

References

Ó Mainnín, M. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. I p. 165

Additional Information

Note that both the town and the parish were named Warrenspoint in the 1851 Census; the name later being changed to Warrenpoint.

Find further information about this place at:

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Warrenspoint1806Civ. & Ecc. Top. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Warrenpoint1830Reg. Free. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Warrenpoint, Parish of1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Warren''s-point1834cPost Chaise Comp. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Warrenspoint1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Barony
Iveagh Up., Up. Half
Parish
Warrenpoint
Parish in 1851
Warrenspoint
Townland
None
Place name ID
17637
Place name type
P