Mourne (barony)

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Location of Mourne, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Location of Mourne, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Northern Ireland
County Down

Mourne (named after the Múrna[1]) is a barony in County Down, Northern Ireland.[2] It lies in the south-east of the county, with the Irish Sea to its east. It is bordered by two other baronies: Iveagh Upper, Lower Half and Iveagh Upper, Upper Half to the north and west.[2] Mourne gets its name from the Múrna (Old Irish: Mughdorna), a people who hail originally from a territory of the same name in modern County Monaghan.[3]

Ancient history[edit]

The Múrna[edit]

The Múrna are described as being a powerful people in the "archaic" period and possibly either being a pre-Celtic or very early Celtic people who may have been rulers of Ulster before the ascendancy of the Ulaidh.[3] Early genealogists would claim that they descend from Mughdhorn Dubh, a son of Colla Menn, however this has been rebuked as a figment of imagination and as politically fashionable at the time.[3] Indeed Mighdorna is listed as being one of the territories conquered from the Ulaidh by the Three Collas with Colla Menn taking possession of Mughdorna.[3] The O'Hanratties are stated as having anciently possessed this territory.[3]


Bairche is the ancient name of the Mourne territory and originally the Mourne Mountains had also been named Beanne-Boirche ("Boirche's peaks").[4] According to the Dinnsenchus they were named after a shepherd called Boirche who herded on the mountains the cattle of Ross, son of Imchadh, a king of Ulster in the third century.[4] The Dinnsenchus states that his favourite look-out point was the highest peak in the mountain range, hence why the mountains received the name.[4]

According to the Annals of Ulster around 1165 the Ua Eochadha asked Muircertach Ua Lochlainn, High-King of Ireland, that the kingship of Ulidia be given to Eochaidh Mac Duinnsleibhe.[5] In return they gave pledges for everyone in Ulidia to Ua Lochlainn as well as many of their treasures.[5] Mac Duinnsleibhe also gave the territory of Bairche to Ua Lochlainn, who then gave it to Donnchadh Ó Cearbhaill (English: O'Carroll) of Louth, lord of Airgialla.[3][5]

Migration of the Múrna to Bairche[edit]

By the 11th and 12th centuries the Múrna in Monaghan had become subordinate to the Ui Chremthainn, ruled by the powerful Ó Cearbhaill (English: O'Carroll). The last king of Mughdorna, Maolruanaigh Ó Machainen (O'Machoiden), is recorded in the Annals of Ulster as being slain in 1110.[5]

In the latter half of the 12th century, a group of the Múrna emigrated from Cremorne (Irish: Crioch Mughdurna) to south Down where they settled in Bairche to form a new kingdom.[3] It is suggested that Donnchadh Ó Cearbhaill, being lord of Airgialla which included the original territory of the Múrna, having just received the territory of Bairche may have transplanted them to the area to reinforce his control over it.[3] They would rename Bairche and its mountains after their tribal name, hence the present-day names of Mourne and the Mourne Mountains.[3]

O'Dugan lists O'Machoiden as being rulers in the 12th century of Mourne in County Down.[6]

Annals of Ulster[edit]

The Annals of Ulster state for Bairche:[5]

  • 601.1 - An earthquake in Bairche.
  • 611.1 - The army of the Ulaid was struck by terrible thunder in Bairche.
  • 674.1 - The killing of Congal Cennfhatar son of Dúnchad, king of Ulaid. Béc of Bairche killed him.
  • 679.3 - The battle of Fínnechta against Béc of Bairche.
  • 707.6 - The pilgrim's staff assumed by Béc of Bairche.
  • 712.7 - The Ulaid were overthrown and Dubthach son of Béc of Bairche fell therein.
  • 714.7 - A battle between two sons of Béc of Bairche and Bresal's son, king of Uí Echach, and the victors therein were Béc's sons.
  • 718.2 - Béc of Bairche dies.
  • 730.6 - Oitechde son of Baithectde, Blamac's son, and Aengus son of Béc of Bairche, rested.
  • 753.13 - A whale was cast ashore in Bairche in the time of Fiachna son of Aed Rón, king of Ulaid. It had three gold teeth in its head, each containing fifty ounces, and one of them was placed on the altar of Bennchor this year, that is, in AD 752.
  • 1109.9 - A slaughter was inflicted on the Uí Méith, including their king, i.e. Goll Bairche, and some of the men of Fernmag fell by the Uí Bresail and the Uí Echach.
  • 1165.10 - ...and he [Mac Duinnsleibhe] gave Bairche to Ua Lochlainn [and] Ua Lochlainn gave it to [Donnchadh] Ua Cerbaill...

List of settlements[edit]

Below is a list of settlements in Mourne:[7][8]



List of civil parishes[edit]

Below is a list of civil parishes in Mourne:[9][10][8]


  1. ^ a b Ulster Place Names - Down Council Area, page 59.
  2. ^ a b PRONI Baronies of Northern Ireland
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Magoo - The Mughdorna
  4. ^ a b c Mughdhorna - The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places (6th edition 1891), by P. W. Joyce (volume I, pages 137–8).
  5. ^ a b c d e Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition - Annals of Ulster
  6. ^ Library Ireland - The Principal Families of Ulster: In Ulidia, or Down and part of Antrim
  7. ^ Logainm - Mourne
  8. ^ a b "Mourne". IreAtlas Townlands Database. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  9. ^ PRONI Civil Parishes of County Down
  10. ^ Baronies and civil parishes of County Down