Barony of Coleraine

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Location of the Coleraine barony

The Barony of Coleraine, which is named after Coleraine town, is a barony in County Londonderry. It stretches from Coleraine and the county’s coast, inland along the west side of the River Bann. It is bordered by five other baronies: Keenaght to the west, Loughinsholin to the south, the North East Liberties of Coleraine, Dunluce Upper, and the Kilconway to the east. Before the creation of the barony there was in this area a territory known as "Firnacreeve".[1]

The largest settlement in the barony is Coleraine itself, which town also crosses the Bann into the North East Liberties of Coleraine.


Before its creation, the barony of Coleraine was a region known as Firnacreeve, or simply "the Creeve", a territory ruled at an early date by the Airgiallan people of Fir na Craoibhe (“Men of the tree/branch”).[2] At some point another Airgillian people known as the Fir Li (claimed to be descended from Colla Uais) came to dominance in the region between the River Moyola and the Camus (south of Coleraine), covering over half the territory of Firnacreeve.[2] The Fir Li would eventually fall under the domination of the Cenél nEóghain by the 9th century, with many being driven east across the River Bann.[2]

The Cenél mBinnigh and later Clan Conchobhair, both of the Cenél nEóghain migrated to the Creeve.[2] By the beginning of the 12th century the Ó Catháin (O'Kane), a sept of the Cenél nEóghain, had risen to dominance over the territories of Keenaght and the Creeve by subjegating the Ó Conchobhair (O'Connor) of the Cianachta Glenn Geimin (Cianactha of Glengiven) and the Fir na Craoibhe.

Along with the territory of Barony of Tirkeeran, Keenaght and Firnacreeve would form the basis of Tircahan or Cathanaght both signifying "O'Cahans Country"[3] and later County Coleraine, from which was formed County Londonderry.

References to Firnacreeve in the Annals

In the Annals, Fir na Craoibhe is noted by various names such as; Craebh, Craoibhe, Craibh, Firna-craibhe, and so on:[2]

  • M1138, Raghnall, son of Imhar Ua Cathain, lord of the Craebh, Cianachta, and Fir-Li, fell through treachery and guile, by the Ui-Eoghain of the Valley.
  • U1156, Aedh Ua Canannain, king of Cenel-Conaill, was killed by Ua Cathain and by the Men of the Craibh.
  • MCB1183, Giolla Críost Ó Cathain, son of the king of Fir na Craoibhe, was killed.
  • U1192, The door of the Refectory of the Penitentiary [of Daire] was made by Ua Cathain of the Craib and by the daughter of Ua Inneirghi.
  • MCB1197, Conchobhar Ó Cathain, king of Fir na Craoibhe and Cianachta, fell.
  • U1206, Maghnus Ua Cathain, son of the king of Ciannachta and Fir-na-craibhe, tower of championship and courage of the North, fell by the wound of an arrow.
  • U1213, Ferghal Ua Cathain, king of Ciannachta and Firna-craibhe, was killed by the Foreigners.
  • U1247, Eachmarcach Ua Catha[i]n, king of Ciannachta and of Fir-na-craibhe, was killed by Maghnus Ua Catha[i]n, on his going upon a foray to the latter, to Airther-muighi in Dal-riatai.

From Fir na Craoibhe to Coleraine

When the baronies of Ulster were being created around 1585, the general manner was to name it after the principal town or castle lying within the area, in which they held their court, baron, and gaol. As a result, the new area took the name “Coleraine”, not that old name of Firnacreeve, just as the barony created out of Kinel-Ferady was renamed “Clogher”.[1]

List of main settlements

List of civil parishes

The civil parishes in the barony of Coleraine are:

  • Aghadowey
  • Agivey
  • Desertoghill
  • Dunboe
  • Errigal
  • Formoyle
  • Killowen
  • Kilrea (split with the barony of Loughinsholin)
  • Macosquin
  • Tamlaght O'Crilly (split with the barony of Loughinsholin)