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Maghery, County Armagh


Ir. An Machaire [an maghera] ‘the plain’.


The history of this townland and church where the Blackwater enters Lough Neagh is bound up with the Augustinian Abbey of Saints Peter and Paul in Armagh city, to which it belonged, although the name does not refer to the church.  The earliest reference seems to be that to the ‘church of Killreda with the lands of Magnegraim’, in a papal letter of 1322, in which the pope confirmed the title of the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Armagh, given in AD 1245 (Cal. Papal Letters ii 226).  Maghery grony with a roofless building which must be the church, although not marked by a cross, was shown on the 1609 map of north ONeill and beside Lough Neagh (Esch. Co. Map 29). Magherygreenan and the grange were granted by James I to Sir Toby Caulfield, who became the holder of many church lands in the diocese of Armagh (CPR Jas I, 392a).

It was still church land in the 19th century: ‘The townlands of Eglish and Maghery are both abbey lands and tithe free.’  In the 1830s, ‘The ruins of a small chapel in a very dilapidated state’ were standing within the burial ground (OSM i 121).  The last evidence of the longer name was Mahergrean in 1664, when hearth money was due from Stewart, Thomas, and three families called McCawell (HMR Arm. p.193).  In 1957 Arthurs found that the older name was unknown locally, but suggested the Irish original was Machaire Grianáin ‘plain of the little sandy place’; as Maghery was famous for its sand (Arthurs’ Arm. 45).  Both rivers bordering the parish, the Bann and the Blackwater, had bars of sand and gravel where they flow into Lough Neagh, which ‘impeded the navigation’ in summer time, in the days when barge traffic between Lurgan, Portadown and Tyrone was still important on the lough (OSM i 120).


McKay, P and Muhr, K. 'Lough Neagh Places: Their names and origins' (2007:84-85)

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