County Armagh (Árd Mhacha)



Up to the fourth century AD, the effective capital of the kingdom of Ulster was at Emhain Mhacha, just outside the modern town of Armagh. The cattle-raiding exploits of the kingdom and its conflict with the kingdom of Connacht under Queen Maeve are recorded in the epic Táin Bó Cuailinge, the Cattle-raid of Cooley. The political significance of the area is doubtless one of the reasons why St Patrick made it the centre of his mission to convert the Irish in the fifth century. Armagh is still the ecclesiastical capital of both the Roman Catholic church and the Church of Ireland. The remains of Emhain Mhacha are now a major tourist attraction.

In later times, the county formed part of the Gaelic kingdom of Oriel, which also included parts of the modern counties Louth and Monaghan. It was colonized by English and Scots settlers at the start of the seventeenth century as part of the Plantation of Ulster. Only the rugged (and less fertile) south of the county remained largely in the hands of the native Irish. The strong nationalist traditions of south Armagh have become well known more recently.

After Dublin, Co Armagh had the highest population density in Ireland in 1841.

Surnames associated with the county include O'Neill, O'Hagan, Heany, Haughey, and McParland (Gaelic Irish origin), Graham, Sands, Wright (English origin), and Campbell, Donaldson, Lockhart (Scottish origin).