County Antrim

(Irish Aontroim, possibly from Endruim, "habitation on the waters")

As with so many other parts of the country, Antrim's geography has dominated its history. Situated on the 13-mile-wide North Channel, with the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland clearly visible across the water, the region has long been an entry point to the rest of the island. There is evidence to suggest that the earliest human settlers arrived in Ireland via Antrim.

In the period before the 17th century, when the county was part of the territory of the O'Neills, there was much migration from Scotland. The process accelerated after 1600, with the collapse of the old Irish aristocracy, and in addition to the Scots, many English settlers were given confiscated land.

The cultural diversity of the county can be seen clearly in the sheer variety of surnames associated with it. Matheson, in his 1890 Report on Surnames in Ireland, gives 133 surnames as associated with Tipperary, one of the largest counties, whereas for Antrim he reports no fewer than 643, including such English names as Ashe, Bell and Harrison, Scottish names such as Campbell, Hamilton and Boyd and the native Irish McDonnell, McCracken and O'Neill.