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Orlock, County Down


of uncertain origin


Orlock Point is mentioned several times in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs as defining the point on the southern shore of Belfast Lough where the lough ends and open sea begins.  Its importance is emphasised by the fact that it is mentioned in this connection in the memoirs for Carrickfergus and Island Magee.  Black Head defines the outer limit of Belfast Lough on the northern side.  In addition, Orlock Hill is also the site of a coastguard station, only recently closed.  Its construction was being planned during the writing of the OSM.  It is remembered in the road-name Coastguard Lane.  Orlock’s importance as a landmark also accounts for its occurrence on early maps.

In view of its position, it is possible that Orlock is derived from Ir. urloch / urloich ‘before / on the edge of the lough’.  The prefix ur- is attested elsewhere in the name Urmhumhan  > Ormond.  It also occurs as ar-, er- or ir- (DIL).  Arecluta was a region located around the Firth of Clyde.  There is mention of a place or territory named Urloece in TCD MS H. 2. 17 (folio 174 b). This manuscript, assigned to the 12th. century, connects Urloece with the tribal group Cruithin.  It is not identified more closely by Hogan (Onom. Goed.).

Another possibility is Lat. horologium ‘clock, sun-dial, water-clock’. Orlóg might be possible if this word were borrowed directly into Irish, though or(o)láiste, which has entered Irish via Middle English, is attested.  Is it possible that there was a clock(-tower) or sun-dial here in earlier times, or that the level of water on a rock could be used as a guide to the tidal phase by mariners entering Belfast Lough?  This would fit with its appearance on early charts and the forms from 1570 and 1595c with initial h-, which are very close to the modern French horloge. The 1570 and 1595c spellings may represent the true origin of the name, or alternatively they may represent a re-interpretation of the name by these map-makers. Re-interpretation is likely with Mercator, who was working in Flanders and was relying on other sources, although the maker of the 1570 chart probably had some direct knowledge of Belfast Lough. 

The historical evidence indicates that ceathrú ‘quarter’ was sometimes used as the first element in this townland name.  The element ceathrú ‘quarter’ may signify a quarter of a townland but it can also refer to a baile biataigh ‘land of the food-provider’, anglicized ‘ballybetagh’, in which case it refers to a unit containing three or four townlands. 


Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 165; revised PT

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Orlogh or Helen Mā Clanhoe

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye 17
Horloghe1570cEarly Chart B'fast Lough
Horologhe1595Mercator's Ulst.
Carrowerlogie1605Inq. Ult. (Down) $2 Jac. I
Caroworlog1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxx
Carroworlag1630Ham. Patent [1630] x
Carroworloye1644Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I
Orlog1659cCensus 1659 93
Orloge Quarter1661BSD 90
Carrowerloge1662Inq. Ult. (Down) $23 Car. II
Orlog1810Wm. Map (OSNB) No. 54
Orloch1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) No. 54

Orlag "golden hollow"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) No. 54
Orlock1834cOSNB: gen. sources No. 54
Ards Lower
Parish in 1851
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