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Rathfriland village. - geograph.org.uk - 1420523.jpg
Rathfriland is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population2,467 (2011 Census)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townNEWRY
Postcode districtBT34
Dialling code028
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°14′17″N 6°09′40″W / 54.238°N 6.161°W / 54.238; -6.161Coordinates: 54°14′17″N 6°09′40″W / 54.238°N 6.161°W / 54.238; -6.161

Rathfriland (from Irish: Ráth Fraoileann, meaning 'ringfort of Fraoile')[1] is a market town in County Down, Northern Ireland.


In older documents written in English, the town's name was usually spelt Rathfylan or Rathfrilan.[2] It was once the capital of the Magennis family, the Gaelic lords of Iveagh. They built a castle there in the late 16th century.[3] The ruins (south gable 30 by 25 feet (9.1 m × 7.6 m)) may still be seen on the hill upon which Rathfriland sits. It was a square building of 3-4 storeys with a stone barrel vault at the ground floor to lessen the risk of fire. The castle was battered down during the Irish Confederate Wars and much of the remainder was carried off by William Hawkins of London, the first Protestant landowner there after the war. The stones were used to build the Town Inn (the building of which still stands on the corner of The Square and Newry Street) and other houses in the village.[3] In 1760 the Market House, which dominates the main square, was built for the linen market by Miss Theodosia McGill. An old map of 1776 prepared for the Meade Estate shows streets, lanes, tenements and gardens forming the early village.[citation needed]

A clock-faced war memorial stands in the square on the southeastern side. To this day, the names Meade, Maginess and Hawkins live on in Rathfriland, most notably in Iveagh Primary School where the three surnames are the name of the 'sporting houses' or teams and used on sports day.

The Dolly's Brae conflict took place between Rathfriland and the nearby town of Castlewellan on 12 July 1849. Up to 1,400 Orangemen marched from Rathfriland to Tollymore Park near Castlewellan, County Down. When 1,000 barely armed Ribbonmen gathered and attacked the parade. There are reports that Catholic homes were burned and that an estimated 80 Catholics were killed.[4]

Rathfriland lies in County Down, the baronies of Iveagh Lower, Lower Half and Iveagh Upper, Upper Half, the townlands of Rossconor and Lessize, the district electoral area of Knockiveagh, and the civil parishes of Drumballyroney and Drumgath.


Education is provided by three schools:-

Primary Education

  • Iveagh Primary School, a coeducational primary school that educates around 350 pupils aged from 3 to 11.
  • St Mary's Primary School

Secondary Education


Rathfriland was served by Ballyroney railway station, only a few miles away. Goods and passengers were transported from the station to the village. The former GNR (I) line between Banbridge and Newcastle was shut down in 1955 by the UTA.[5]

Translink now operates daily services between Rathfriland and Banbridge, Newry and Newcastle.


Rathfriland Rangers F.C. play association football in the Northern Amateur Football League.

Other sporting clubs include:

  • Rathfriland F.C. - formed in 1962.
  • Rathfriland Bowling Club - level green bowls.
  • Rathfriland Junior F.C. - formed in 2002.
  • Drumgath G.A.C. - Gaelic games.
  • Rathfriland Angling Club - game fishing On the Upper River Bann and Drumlough Lake.


Rathfriland is classified as a village by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).[6] On census day (27 March 2011) there were 2,467 people living in Rathfriland.[7] Of these:

  • 21.44% were aged under 16 years and 18.00% were aged 65 and over
  • 48.24% of the population were male and 51.76% were female
  • 39.64% were from a Roman Catholic background and 55.41% were from a Protestant background


The town has had its own newspaper (The Outlook) since 1940.

Notable people[edit]

Famous personalities with local connections include:


  1. ^ Toner,G Ó Mainnín, M (1992). Place-Names of Northern Ireland Volume One. County Down I. Newry and South-West Down, p.126. The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, Department of Celtic, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast. ISBN 0-8538-9432-9
  2. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland: Rathfriland/Ráth Fraoileann (see archival records)
  3. ^ a b Place Names NI
  4. ^ "Parades and Marches - Chronology 2: Historical Dates and Events". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Ballyroney station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  6. ^ "NI Assembly" (PDF). Key Statistics for Settlements, Census 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Rathfriland Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Retrieved 9 June 2021.UKOpenGovernmentLicence.svg This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
  8. ^ Baker, Jeannine (2015). Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam. NewSouth.

External links[edit]