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Mourne, County Down


Ir. Múrna (Middle Irish Mughdhorna, name of a population group)


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 Mughdhorna’) in Co. Monaghan. J.B. Arthurs (Seán Mac Airt) suggested that the name of this population group was a combination of Ir. mug 'slave, vassal' and Dairine, another ethnonym.  If this is correct, the meaning would be 'the vassal or subject people (called) Dairine' (Arthurs 1952-3(b), 16-17). 

The name was subsequently applied to the Lordship of Mourne (CPR Hen. VII ii 443), later to become a barony.  In 17th century sources Mourne is termed a 'half-barony'.  It is co-terminous with the parish of Kilkeel, the largest civil parish in Co. Down.


Ó Mainnín, M. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 3 p. 119-25, where the name is discussed in further detail.

Additional Information

See also Mourne Mountains

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

do ríg Boirche (Ulaid)

1050cLebor na Cert 86 l.1252

Tighernach, Boircech

1630cMart. Don. May 13 p126

i mBoirche

1630cMart. Don. Oct 18 p278

i mBoirche

1630cMart. Don. April 1 p92
Parish in 1851
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