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Newry Parish (Down portion), County Down

Origin

Ir. An tIúr ‘the yew tree’

Background

The parish of Newry is not quite contiguous with the Lordship of Newry which is considerably smaller than the parish.  Thirty-six of the parish's townlands are contained in the Lordship, but there are a further ten on the far side of the Newry River in the Barony of Orior Upper.  The two detached townlands of Grange Upper and Grange Lower are situated in the Barony of Oneilland West in Co. Armagh, and the single townland of Shannaghan is sandwiched between the parishes of Drumgooland, Garvaghy, Annaclone, and Drumballyroney in the Barony of Iveagh Upper, Lower Half.

This name is particularly well-documented in native Irish sources where the earliest form seems to have been Iubhar Cinn Tráchta (modern Iúr Cinn Tráchta).  Harris translates this as ‘the flourishing Head of a Yew-Tree’ (Harris Hist. 90) but it is doubtless synonymous with the later form Iubhar Cinn Trágha (Iúr Cinn Trá) ‘the yew of the head of the strand’.  It was also called an tIubhar (an tIúr) ‘the yew’. 

The anglicized forms of the name must, however, come from an Iubhraigh (modern an Iúraigh), an oblique form of an Iubhrach (modern an Iúrach) ‘the grove of yew trees’.  This form, despite the fact that the anglicized form of the name derives from it, does not, with one possible exception, appear in Irish-language sources.  In an early 15th-century poem by Tuathal Ó hUiginn, Niall Garbh Ó Domhnaill, Lord of Tír Chonaill, is portrayed coming ‘ón Iobhraidh’ (from an Iúrach) after a raid on Baile Uí Bruin (Ad. Dána 85 §26) but, unfortunately, this instance of the name cannot be certainly connected to Newry.  Indeed, an Iúrach was the name of the stronghold of Rughraidhe mac Ardghail mac Mahon who is probably the chieftain whose death is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters under the year 1446, and it is very probably this house, rather than the settlement at Newry, which was attacked by Niall Garbh (Gwynn Cat. 208).

According to Reeves, Newry was sometimes latinized Ivorium and Nevoracum but it is more frequently called Viride Lignum (EA 116n).  Atkinson is doubtless correct in concluding that Viride Lignum, which he translates as ‘Green Tree’, refers to the evergreen character of the yews associated with the monastery at Newry (Atkinson's Dromore 7).  The Cistercians were fond of giving their monasteries clever, often paradoxical, Latin names such as (de) Melle Fonte ‘honey spring’ (Mellifont) and de Petra Fertile ‘fertile rock’ (Corcomroe), and Viride Lignum represents a further example of their ingenuity.

References

Toner, G. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. I p. 3-5

Additional Information

Other portion in Co. Armagh

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Barony
Newry, Lordship of
Parish
Newry
Parish in 1851
Newry
Townland
None
Place name ID
17820
Place name type
P